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Pitchfork Music Festival 2015 Day Two: What A Roller Coaster

By Staff in Arts & Entertainment on Jul 19, 2015 6:30PM

We broke our cardinal rule: No matter what the weather forecast says ALWAYS BRING A PONCHO. But more about that later. Overall Saturday was a bit of a roller coaster ride at the Pitchfork Music Festival, going from a heat wave that had this writer literally dripping all over the grounds to a massive and violent thunderstorm that led to a temporary evacuation and finally resting on a beautifully breezy evening. Despite the ups and downs of the day, the mood was again a good one. In fact, so far this Pitchfork Fest has been one where the crowds are incredibly cool and folks seem to be largely eschewing the fest aesthetic of “get wasted and forget about the bands.”—and that's been really refreshing. —JIm Kopeny / Tankboy

1:15 p.m. I’m still at home wrapping up our posts from Friday, but decided to flip on the festival live feed to catch the early acts I’m missing out on (and honestly gauge how miserably hot everyone looks). The nice thing about modern festivals are the live feeds, which afford us numerous opportunities like watching an early act we might have missed or giving us a different vantage point of performers (where are my fellow short people who never see the full stage?). There's also the chance to catch up on acts we missed due to scheduling conflicts when later rebroadcasts air the previous day’s content. Obviously you can’t have a “live” review from this experience, but as someone who consumes a lot of live music, I wonder how different the experience really is in the grand scheme of things. And when I’m sweating under the sun and distracted by the mob of people around me, am I really more focused on the music than if I’m watching it at home with a cold drink and central A/C? It’s something to think about in our increasingly instant gratification digital world. —Lisa White

1:35 p.m. On the live feed, this Jimmy Whispers fella is rolling around in an ill-fitting dress, crawling through the crowd, running backstage and throwing flowers to the audience. He’s leading a crowd sing- and dance-along to “What a Wonderful World” played from his iPod/Phone on the stage. He’s passed out on top of a speaker looking like he’s about to experience heat exhaustion. Although I’m not a fan of the few suicide comments or “jokes” he made (I’m guessing it was supposed to be artistic or something, but after having enough friends commit suicide it’s not a topic I find provocative in my personal taste of art), overall you have to give it up for Whispers working hard for his audience. Whether you like his off-kilter brand of pop or not, you at least are offered up an entertaining performance. —Lisa White

1:43 p.m. I’m getting ready to head out to Union Park when I discovered a series of tweets that Vince Staples wrote in annoyance.

Huh. I wonder if he’ll make it in time. Probably not. That sucks. —Justin Freeman

1:50 p.m. Protomartyr is at the top of a solid set, but their aggression feels like it dissipates over the large field in front of them. There’s a decent crowd showing, but their attack is best mounted in a dark and sweaty club than in sweltering heat under a bright blue sky. I decide that Bully is the better bet and make my way over to the relative shade of the Blue Stage. —Jim Kopeny

1:53 p.m. The lead singer of Protomartyr is out here in a double-breasted all black suit. Damn dude, that is some dedication to your overall look. The lyrics “I’m going out in style” in one of their songs makes perfect sense now. —Lisa White

Protomartyr plunge into “Blues Festival” and I scan the stage in search of collaborator Kelley Deal, just in case. But it’s just the Detroit foursome getting Saturday started with gritty guitar and dark attire. I’m cursing the set time conflict with Bully as I scamper over to the Blue Stage. —Jessica Mlinaric

1:55 p.m. Bully opens their set with screamer “I Remember.” The set is a ‘90s revival complete with gnarly guitar and bleach blonde posturing. Just like my grade school days, I’m singing along with every word. I want to scrawl “U Rock” in my Trapper Keeper and pass the origami-folded note to Alicia Bognanno. It looks like the kids in the mosh pit feel the same. A sped-up “Milkman” is the thrashing finale and as Bognanno yowls “I’ve got this feelin’ makes me wanna run,” I’ve got adrenaline enough for the rest of the day. —Jessica Mlinaric

1:58 p.m. Bully is the real deal. Ripping off the '90s and making it their own, and Bognanno truly is a force of nature. I see her later by the press tent and while it may sound cliché, her physical presence literally does crackle with silent intensity. I’ve gotta make the Nirvana comparison though, because her style of screaming mixed with the swaying in front of the mic with her hair in her face totally conjures up thoughts of Kurt Cobain. Heck, she’s even worked with Steve Albini already! Bully's sound is great as well, but we expected that since Bognanno is a pro behind the boards and wouldn’t let anyone mess that up. — Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

2:25 p.m. BEER. Been enjoying Chance the Rapper’s Goose Island collaboration called No Collar all weekend. —Michelle Meywes Kopeny

2:45 p.m. We expected more from Future Brown’s four capable producers, but what we got was kind of a mess. Fatima Al Qadiri, J-Cush, Asma Maroof and Daniel Pineda stood unenthused behind a table with one laptop while “guests” ran around the stage. It seemed more like friends freestyling in their living room after a long night out at the clubs. With tracks mixed together like a DJ set, there weren’t many discernable songs, but we did hear the familiar Sicko Mobb-featured track “Big Homie” around 3:05, just as we were taking cover for the impending storm. —Michelle Meywes Kopeny

Photo by Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

2:55 p.m. Spotted Benny the Bull in the crowd! #bennytracker —Michelle Meywes Kopeny

2:56 p.m. Today was supposed to be the one day with no clouds, but the sky is looking pretty ominous. —Michelle Meywes Kopeny

3:02 p.m. On the bus headed to Union Park and saw that Vince Staples just tweeted:

Pitchfork hasn’t officially cancelled his set yet, so who knows what will happen? —Justin Freeman

3:05 p.m. The clouds look ominous so I check Accuweather and it tells me a storm is three minutes away. We take shelter in the mostly empty media tent and discover Accuweather was wrong. It actually takes eight minutes for the storm to hit. And two minutes after that the media tent is jam-packed with soaked bodies and we see fest attendees running hither and tither for cover. Ex Hex gamely tries to kick off their 3:20 set but are shut down almost immediately as the rain intensifies, winds get stronger and lightning flashes. A few minutes later word comes down that, at the height of the storm, the grounds are being evacuated. —Jim Kopeny

3:35 p.m. As the downpour begins I take shelter inside the letter “D” of the Mankind installation on the baseball field to double-wrap my camera in garbage bags. As I prepare to exit through the VIP area I notice that all the bartenders have left and their table of pre-poured beers have been inherited by my friends. This is not a bad way to wait out the weather. —Jessica Mlinaric

3:37 p.m. At the Blue Stage. The sound guys are just playing random things over the speakers until they figure out what to do. People are getting restless and kinda drunk awaiting Staples. That he’s trapped in Detroit is slowly circulating around the crowd and the people sound displeased. The fervor of the crowd matches the gloomy weather as they both feel like they’re about to explode. —Justin Freeman

3:44 p.m. EVACUATION. —Michelle Meywes Kopeny

3:45 p.m. Oh shit. It’s raining torrentially and they’re evacuating the park. Everyone has to leave immediately and Ex Hex, who are mid-set on the other stage, have to stop playing. Staff quickly escorts everyone out of the park. —Justin Freeman

3:45 p.m. We all missed Ex Hex (sigh) but thankfully I was able to avoid the rain. Score one for procrastinators everywhere! Confusion was king as numerous people on Twitter insinuated the festival was canceled for the day. A friend working crew onsite told me otherwise, so I tell friends to ride out the storm and stay safe. —Lisa White

4:02 p.m. The streets are flooded with water as people make a run for shelter. The line for entry at Cobra Lounge is impossibly long. People are stuffed into every nook and place available as street vendors take this moment to sell their wares. Confusion reigns in the rain as people try to figure out what's going on. Wait. The Pitchfork app just pushed a notification that they’re reopening at 4:20. —Justin Freeman

I curse myself for not bringing a poncho but luckily I’m able to stay under cover and stay dry, while covering the evacuation, which goes remarkably smoothly. A few minutes later, the storm died down and word came through that the grounds would reopen at 4:20 (heh heh). When the gates do open, people stream back in quickly—not to be a cynic, but if you didn’t have a ticket, that would have been the time to get in—and while we now will eventually encounter inevitable mud people, the fest is back on! —Jim Kopeny

4:03 p.m. The first “Wait, they’re reopening at 4:20” weed joke was made and it was amusing. —Justin Freeman

4:05 p.m. Free show outside! Some girl rappers are tearing it up on the sidewalk on Ashland. In fact, this whole fest is about to be free. No wristbands, no probl—--they’re letting everyone in when they re-open the gates. Could this be the last year for no wristbands/no re-entry for general admission? —Michelle Meywes Kopeny

4:07 p.m. The eighth “Wait, they’re reopening at 4:20” weed joke was made and all I could manage was an eyeroll. —Justin Freeman

4:08 p.m. Sorry Justin, I couldn’t resist. —Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

4:15 p.m. Back in the park at the press area and looking at the grounds. I wonder if Pitchfork immediately evacuated with the response Riot Fest received in mind, so worst-case scenario, they could say that “we evacuated and surveyed for damage.” —Justin Freeman

4:20 p.m. The people are allowed back into the park. It’s made known that going forward, the schedule will proceed as planned. Ex Hex will not resume. Vince Staples is officially cancelled. Moments later Staples tweeted:

—Justin Freeman

How did this guy stay dry?! Photo by Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

4:48 p.m. Uh oh. I think those random carpet squares scattered around the park are starting to symbiotically fuse to the ground after that storm. —Justin Freeman

4:56 p.m. CHEESE FRIES! Every fest. Every year. —Michelle Meywes Kopeny

5 p.m. Kurt Vile takes the Green Stage after the post-rain triage is complete. There’s only 15 minutes until the next Red Stage set. That’s time for like one Kurt Vile song? —Jessica Mlinaric

5:05 p.m. Ariel Pink in humid swamplike conditions surrounded by wet trees and literal dirty hippies? :sigh: Oh OK.

:twenty minutes later:

Nope. I do not like this. Ariel Pink is very talented at what he does and the musicians he’s surrounded himself with are solid, but the freak-folk genre is something I’ve never really been able to get into. For the most part, I find it, and by extension him, to be slightly grating. The crowd is totally into this though, which is what matters. Because of the rain, there was a delay and Pink was only able to do a shortened set. —Justin Freeman

5:13 p.m. Kurt Vile’s short set draws to a close and as if on cue the sun breaks through the clouds, bathing the field in light as if to say, “Congratulations, you made it through, it’s all gonna be okay from here.” —Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

5:29 p.m. I’m hate watching Ariel Pink. He’s got a pointless bongo player. This is terrible goth lite and the dude’s a total poseur. So why is the field packed with people that seem to like this? The joke’s on you, kids, and Ariel Pink is laughing all the way to the bank because of it. —Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

5:45 p.m. Parquet Courts have got this party back on track. The garage rockers have turned the tempo way up and there’s body movin’ to be seen even back on the dry haven of the baseball field. —Jessica Mlinaric

5:50 p.m. After saying hello to my friend working crew this weekend, I somehow wandered into an area I shouldn’t have access to, and the very nice security guard isn’t mad, but won’t let me back out into the crowd at the access point I find. I stroll around a bit and find myself behind the vendor area with all the beer kegs, and as some crew members push open a gate to head into the crowd, I just follow along like I’m supposed to be there. The gate opens into the mud pit that is now the Blue Stage and a cliché-sounding set from A$AP Ferg sounds about as muddy as the pit I’m standing in. It’s music I don’t mind in the background but nothing I’m willing to stick around and sink into mud for. —Lisa White

6:05 p.m. The soundcheck took forever but A$AP Ferg makes sure his set was worth the wait. The Blue Stage is shaking as he and his guests hop around non-stop and spit rhymes that zap the crowd into a frenzy. There’s massive crowd surfing going on and EVERYONE is hopping up and down in tandem. THIS is what an electrifying hip-hop show looks like, and should lay to waste anyone who mistakenly believes live hip-hop can’t be just as out of control as a punk rock show. It’s also the only show you’ll see an incredibly nerdy suburban teen in a fisherman’s hat crowd surfing and having the absolute best fucking time in his life. Everyone is happy, everyone is out of control. Pitchfork is officially back ON. —Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

6:19 p.m. The New Pornographers’ A.C. Newman says, "Sometimes I have a quarrel with Pitchfork. Sometimes I wish they gave us 0.5 more." Their set is the safest of the weekend, but only because their pop is so finely constructed it couldn’t be anything but a solid crowd pleaser. At one point I realize that this feels more Hideout Block Party thank Pitchfork Fest, and I’m okay with that. The crowd is definitely on the older side here as well, with most of the kids heading to see Shamir, and act I admit I’m super curious about it so I leave The New Pornographers behind and head to the Blue Stage. —Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

7:30 p.m. We get an alert from the Pitchfork app that SOPHIE is being replaced by Towkio at 7:45 on the Blue Stage. This is a major bummer because we were really looking forward to seeing what SOPHIE's weird bubbly pop art was all about. There’s also no way they’re going to hit the 7:45 mark because we’re still sitting at the Blue Stage watching soundcheck for Shamir. —Michelle Meywes Kopeny

The crowd for Shamir, photo by Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

7:31 p.m. Shamir, looking fabulous in a braided updo and pink flowing shirt, takes the stage about 45 minutes late as the Blue Stage struggles to get back on schedule after the evacuation. He spends the first couple of songs building the tempo before hitting the dance tracks “On The Regular” and “Hot Mess.” The crowd was eating it up, bouncing up and down with hands in the air, and we couldn’t help but think that Titus Andromedon would totally dig Shamir’s style. The rest of the set was heavy on the ballads, which was a little bit of a letdown because we were expecting one big gay dance party. It should be noted though that the 20-year-old’s voice on those ballads was heavenly. —Michelle Meywes Kopeny

7:40 p.m. Future Islands is not my jam personally, still a pleasant band to enjoy if you are relaxing at an outdoor festival, but damn they are working hard for the money. Also for some reason lead singer Samuel T. Herring reminds me of Tom Jones. That is a compliment. —Lisa White

8:30 p.m. It was about ten years ago when I danced frenetically around another Chicago park as Sleater-Kinney played “Entertain” at their “last” show at Lollapalooza. Almost a decade later and so much has changed, but at the same time nothing is different. And that’s why we need a band like Sleater-Kinney back in this world. The powerhouse trio reunited from their lengthy hiatus, picking back up as visceral as they ever were, releasing a new album and touring for the first time since closing the book many moons ago. If there were any suspicions that the band would show rust after the break, those were quickly blown out of the water as Corin Tucker’s gut punch vocals howled across the field, “land ho!” during opener “The Fox.” Never shying away from the ugly and bruised parts of life, “Jumpers,” a song that attempts to find meaning, logic and comfort in taking one’s own life, was as poignant and thoughtful as ever. Tucker and Carrie Brownstein’s commanding vocals backed by the wail of guitars and Janet Weiss ripping apart and setting a frenzied pace on drums were as crisp and urgent as ever. New tracks like “Price Tag” and “A New Wave” were nestled in perfectly alongside classics like “Words and Guitars,” “One More Hour” and the back-to-back punch of “Entertain” and “Dig Me Out.” Barely coming up for air, it was a dazzling set that showcased a band and body of work that is a force to be reckoned with.

Besides educating and provoking thought with their music on a bevy of political and social issues, Sleater-Kinney are demigods for any young girl looking for a roster of women simply existing while being total badasses. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how important having bands like Sleater-Kinney around was to me as a young woman. Besides personally teaching me a side of politics, sexual identity and call to action I wasn’t exposed to growing up in the more rural Midwest, they exude a cool, effortless confidence that isn’t instilled in most girls raised in the gender norms of America. To hear Tucker’s abrasive howl of a voice, watch Brownstein flail about while commanding and dominating her guitar and witness Weiss, a woman in complete beast mode with her aggressive drumming in overdrive, it’s a feeling of finding where you belong for so many people. Sleater-Kinney and the movement they helped foster produced a generation of women unafraid to be seen and heard, and ready to continue the call to arms that keeps us questioning, fighting for and moving forward in a world still dominated by antiquated ideas. —Lisa White

Carrie Brownstein introduces “No Cities To Love” saying, "This song is not about Chicago." After the song she comes back to the mic and says, "I take it back. I actually wrote the lyrics to that song in a hotel room in Chicago." —Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

8:37 p.m. Right. So, the Blue Stage has been having issues ever since the storm. Shamir got a really late start, SOPHIE cancelled and was replaced by Towkio who is on stage right now doing his very best to get the crowd hyped for fellow SaveMoney rapper Vic Mensa. —Justin Freeman

9:19 p.m. Vic Mensa continues his ascension towards seemingly inevitable stardom. In between things from his stellar mixtape Innanetape, Mensa dedicated a large part of his set to experimenting with new upcoming material. Songs like “High Right Now” and the cover of Future's “Codeine Crazy” are dark and introspective tracks that find Mensa channelling “House of Balloons”-era The Weeknd as he examines the addictive nature of excess and fame. Mensa then got the crowd to split in half and run into each other at full speed, doing the wall of death, as he performed bludgeoned moshpit-inducing warhammers such as the Kanye featured “U Mad” and the Skrillex produced “No Chill.” This dichotomy of despair and anger continued throughout most of the set reaching a crescendo with “Down On My Luck” which remains a quintessential Chicago summer jam. —Justin Freeman

Ex Hex, photo by Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

10:20 p.m. We end our evening at the Virgin Hotel. I hadn’t planned on doing anything after the festival, but the promise of the chance to see Ex Hex perform a full set is too good to pass up. The Orwells opened the show in a tiny room in the upper reaches of the hotel, but only after their singer had thrown a long tantrum about people in line outside the hotel not being let in. I wouldn’t be bothered by this if he wasn’t trying to adopt such a “punk rock and for the people stance” while also taking a nice corporate sponsored paycheck. But hey, rock and roll, man. The staff put up with his antics and eventually they do start and perform a short but really good set.

And then Ex Hex takes the stage and sets the room on fire. It’s as if they’ve kept all the energy that lay in wait for their canceled afternoon set and it's been percolating in their collective belly, just waiting for release. It’s probably the closest thing to a basement show we’ll ever get when it comes to seeing the power trio of Mary Timony, Betsy Wright, and Laura Harris, and it’s a thrilling experience to take in. My wife has never seen the band, despite my attempts to drag her to every Chicago show they’ve played, but after last night she’s a convert as well. Their taut songs burn and crackle with energy, and the intimate space just allowed the electricity of their music to permeate every molecule in the room.

Afterwards we stumble into the cool Chicago night, excitedly recapping the roller coaster of a day to one another, happily exhausted and looking forward to the final day of Pitchfork. —Jim Kopeny / Tankboy