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Pitchfork Music Festival 2015 Day Three: A Strong Finish

By Staff in Arts & Entertainment on Jul 20, 2015 7:00PM

After a strong Friday kick-off and an adventurous Saturday, Sunday was a mellower affair over all. It couldn’t help but be when compared to the activity of the previous two days of Pitchfork Music Festival.

But mellow doesn’t mean sleepy, and I know I felt the energy pulsating throughout the day as the fest reached its inevitable climax with Chance The Rapper’s headlining set. And at least in my experience, it was Chance’s day. The backstage area was filled with his friends in Social Experiment t-shirts, and there was a large contingent of folks sporting Kids These Days shirts too, showcasing how that small scene of friends, including Vic Mensa, has blossomed into something garnering international acclaim. Also, adorably, Chance’s friends were asking everyone what they were drinking, and if the answer wasn’t the Rapper’s 312 No Collar collaboration, they’d politely suggest you try that brew next. —Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

2:40 p.m. Waxahatchee’s set is just the right speed for the early afternoon in Union Park. It’s mostly a ballad-y affair, but Katie Crutchfield knows just when to spice the set up with a rocker or two to keep folks in the field on their toes. I’m standing near the back of the crowd, enjoying the vibe, and slowly slipping into a slightly hypnotic state as Crutchfield’s voice floats across the field under the midday sun. —Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

3 pm. “It’s a beautiful day to be alive,” says Kathleen Hanna in response to adoration from the Blue Stage crowd. While The Julie Ruin leader admits to being the world’s worst drummer, the buoyant set proves she’s still masterful at crafting progressively-minded pop-punk. The Julie Ruin’s songs are sugar-coated, but there are crucial themes at their core. “This song is about euthanasia. Happy afternoon Pitchfork!” keyboardist Kenny Mellman said before playing “Blueberry Island.” It’s a joy to watch Hanna dance onstage and deliver meaningful messages to the Pitchfork generation. As she sings on “Kids in NY,” which she dedicated to the younger generation of kids making art who inspire her, “there’s still a lot to say.” —Jessica Mlinaric

Of course the guy wearing a t-shirt with “Everything is Problematic” scrawled across it would intro a track “This song is about euthanasia. Happy afternoon, Pitchfork.” Never change, The Julie Ruin, never change. —Lisa White

Sadly, they weren't selling these at the merch booth, photo by Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

3:15 p.m. “It smells like a zoo here today,” says a fan waiting for Madlib and Freddie Gibbs to take the stage. This is true, but the grounds are in overall great shape after Saturday’s storm. From the middle of the crowd chants of “Fred-die, Fred-die” and answer of “Mad-lib, Mad-lib” resound. —Jessica Mlinaric

4:20 p.m. As promised, the crowd is thick with fans and professional musical admirers for Courtney Barnett’s set. Her earlier work was always a little too mellow and twangy for me—collected on The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas—so when I heard her explosive new album Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit I kind of couldn’t believe it was the same person. Barnett has morphed into an assured rocker, all swagger and biting wit, and occasionally, downright insightfully hilarious. Onstage her persona expands and she easily holds the crowd in the palm of her hand as she kicks out hit after hit, and abuses the strings on her guitar, pulling out great sheets of caterwauling noise to fill the spaces between her ear worm melodies. I’m going to assume anyone who didn’t already own her album before this set has it in their library now. —Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

4:29 p.m. Jamie xx’s giant disco ball is being raised at the Red Stage. —Michelle Meywes Kopeny

4:31 p.m. "Her name’s Courtney. Nice to see you all," Courtney Barnett introduces herself mid-set. I wasn’t so sure the first time I’d heard of her, but her songs have grown on me in recent months and her live set sealed the deal. This girl rocks. —Michelle Meywes Kopeny

5 p.m. Freddie Gibbs walks by me backstage and I swear he was at least a foot taller when I interviewed him a few years ago. One of the nicest dudes but I remember feeling so tiny next to him and he had the deepest voice of any artist I’ve ever chatted with at Pitchfork Festival. He just has such a strong presence about him. Then again, maybe I just grew a foot? We’ll go with that. Gibbs has only grown more assured on-stage as an artist, as evidenced by his Sunday set with Madlib, and he’s still as charismatic as ever. —Lisa White

5:10 p.m. Of course we can count on Jamie xx to bring his own mirrorball to the festival. It’s about to be a disco up in here! —Lisa White

The crowd for Jaime xx, photo by Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

5:15 p.m. The UK club block begins. Jamie xx’s set was a slow burner, just as we like these DJ sets from across the pond. What starts with chill beats and head nodding turns into dancing and hand waving before you know it. We even saw some crowd surfing. Hey, I think that’s the same guy we saw crowd surfing at the Blue Stage during A$AP Ferg yesterday! —Michelle Meywes Kopeny

5:23 p.m. Jamie xx has a huge mirrorball. It is magnificent, like a work of art. It looks similar to one that LCD Soundsystem would use on tour. Jamie xx opening with his set with Frankie Knuckles’ “Your Love” as the afternoon sunlight glistened on his mirrorball was a nice touch. I’ve never really been into The xx as a band, but Jamie xx solo as a producer is consistently solid. —Justin Freeman

5:35 p.m. As Justin pointed out, Jamie xx opened his set with a nod to Chicago’s House roots, as one should do when playing dance music in Chicago, and it set a perfect tempo for a breezy afternoon electronic set. Usually I prefer this brand of music in a dark club or swaying next to the speaker at Smart Bar, but with the sun starting to set and a cool breeze swirling over the crowd, it was a chilled out moment that was truly hypnotic. Jamie xx set wasn’t totally downtempo—it was bumping and funky at times—but it was just the right tone and pace for his late afternoon slot. I love his work with The xx, it’s full of subtle tension and simply lovely, but live I prefer this version of Jamie xx, where he digs deep into a catalog of his musical influences and turns out a fun, flirty and summery set. —Lisa White

Backstage, photo by Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

6:37 p.m. I’ve been a fan of Goose Island’s Chance the Rapper collaboration beer, No Collar, all weekend. A cursory bit of research tells me it’s based on the Ggerman Helles style with a bit of extra hops added. It’s really mellow, a solid working-class beer for a hardworking city. I wish at some point I remembered to grab a glass of the recently launched Blue Line, which is a Czech pilsner seasonal and a sequel of sorts to their Green Line pale ale, but oh well.—Justin Freeman

6:53 p.m. I finally make it into the crowd for Caribou. I’m admittedly moving a little slower on the final day of the festival, and I couldn’t ignore the need for some dinner. I’m excited to see that Daniel Snaith is joined by a full band, all dressed in white contrasted with a bright colored abstract backdrop. This set is another slow grower, and really picks up with a screeching track right as I’m settling into a spot in the grass. The Canadian producer himself even takes part in the live band beginning and ending the track “Can’t Do Without You” behind the drum set. Make that a double drum set. The two drummers were set up facing each other right in the middle of the stage. —Michelle Meywes Kopeny

Caribou’s “Can’t Do Without You” almost drives me to tears in the face of its mournful, yet deeply hopeful and sublime beauty. —Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

I’m finally taking a break to stand back and watch Caribou’s set. Festival euphoria hits as I eat a cheeseburger, hang with the best and revel in an extended version of “Can’t Do Without You” drifting over the sun-dappled audience. It’s just one of those moments. —Jessica Mlinaric

7:25 p.m. I’ve been completely smitten with Run The Jewels since day one and have seen them a handful of times live, so their Sunday set was probably the one I was most laser-focused on the whole weekend. El-P and Killer Mike have never let me down when it comes to offering up a super rowdy and super fun show. They put their usual antics into overdrive for Pitchfork Festival, bringing out a slew of guests and getting the whole field moshing and bouncing along. Entering the stage to Queen’s “We Are The Champions” as the crowd surged forward with fists in the air, they launched right into their title track “Run the Jewels.” The field was one giant tidal wave as bodies bounced up and down in time as El and Mike traded off rapid-fire verses. Heavy, heady thumping beats on standout fan favorites “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry” and “Blockbuster Night Part 1” dominated, toeing the line between infectious fun and an unnerving, discomforting sound that Run The Jewels does so well.

A few songs in, a guy behind me started jumping and screaming, and after momentarily wondering what he was on I looked in the same direction he was facing and noticed the cause for his full-on freak out. And I started freaking out as well. Dressed in a Bad Brains T-shirt was Zack De La Rocha, which meant Run The Jewels had at least one surprise up their sleeve. As a ‘90s child who grew up with Rage Against the Machine, I patiently waited for “run them jewels fast” to blare over the speakers, like a kid on Christmas morning knowing I’m about to rip open a sweet gift. The second De La Rocha stepped out the crowd turned into complete chaos, a visceral song that already hits so many truths cranked up even farther thanks to De La Rocha spitting his verse live. El and Mike trotted out even more surprise guests, including producer and wunderkind BOOTS featured on “Early” and Gangsta Boo joined the duo to perform her part from “Love Again (Akinyele Back).” All the surprises just added an extra level of fun to an already blistering performance, and their set was a true testament as to why El and Mike are two of the best rappers, and overall acts, around. —Lisa White

7:49 p.m. ZACH DE LA ROCHA JOINS RUN THE JEWELS ONSTAGE! I’m losing it. —Jessica Mlinaric

8:30 p.m. I’m thrust up against a fence by the rushing crowd as Chance the Rapper takes the stage. A security guard catches a glance of my flailing limb and helps me into the photo pit. Thanks dude! Chance is delivering a headlining set complete with dancers, a kaleidoscopic light show, a live band on an elevated stage, a gospel choir and a visceral dynamism. Later into his set Chance encourages the crowd to chant “this my show” in recognition of his hometown fans and mentors. It’s a triumphant performance signaling the next chapter for Chance. —Jessica Mlinaric

8:43 p.m. I’m totally under the Chance trance. He commands the stage and remains entirely likable. I’ve been excited to see him live all week, but it’s nights like this when you realize you’re witnessing something special. —Michelle Meywes Kopeny

Chance the Rapper wants you to have some Sunday Candy, photo by Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

9:02 p.m. Chance the Rapper sounds majestic, triumphant and seemingly at an existential crossroads throughout his performance. With his full band, Chance sounded absolutely tremendous as he went through selections from his assortment of mix-tapes. The sound of horns pierce the night skyline and Chance jukes around the stage as if his body is unable to contain his overwhelming joy during his cover of Towkio’s “Heaven Only Knows.” Chance has always been an impressive showman, and an impeccably tight band, charismatic dialogue and intricate dance moves have always been central to his routine, but where does he go from here? He’s gone from opening for Rockie Fresh at Bottom Lounge to taking selfies with Taylor Swift and headlining major international festivals in the space of about two years.

“I’m growing up,” Chance said at some point during his performance. "This is the last show in Chicago for this part of my life. If you participated, this is your show.” He then ceded control to trumpetist Nico Segal, otherwise known as Donnie Trumpet, for an interlude of material from the recent album, Surf, which finds Chance exploring his love of Herbie Hancock, Ramsey Lewis and other essential Chicago jazz artists. Shortly after, he quite literally takes Pitchfork to church as Kirk Franklin emerges. “Do you want a revolution?!” Franklin demands to know as everyone that grew up with gospel music lose themselves in the moment. Backed by Kirk Franklin and a full choir, Chance performed an absolutely touching rendition of “Sunday Candy” before ending his set with the crowd pleaser “Chain Smoker.”

As “Sunday Candy,” played, I watched a pair of dancers from Donda’s House dance in tandem with transgender black youth, as stars and city lights illuminated the night sky. It was a powerful testament to the power of community that music can bring. I don’t know where Chance is going in the future and it sounds like he isn’t quite sure either, but I’m excited for the ride to see where it goes.—Justin Freeman