Photos: An Empowering Solange & Hometown Heroes Won Pitchfork Day 3
By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Jul 17, 2017 2:55PM
The final day of the 2017 edition of Pitchfork Music Festival was marked by one tragic let-down that led to one magical opportunity: the last-minute cancellation of The Avalanches followed by the news that Chicago soul singer and poet Jamila Woods would be playing on one of the main stages instead of the smaller Blue Stage tucked away amongst the trees. It was also a day that Chicago artists in general shined (aside from Woods, there was Joey Purp, Derrick Carter, NE-HI and—if you expand the "local" radius—American Football); and female artists snagged the headlines. — Jim Kopeny / Tankboy
Solange ended what felt like a watershed set at Pitchfork Music Festival with a move she tapped at various other points: waving clenched fists while whipping her hair—familiar performance sights in one sense, but loaded with significance in Solange’s hands.
Decked in svelte, monotone jumpsuits, Solange and band took a stage that was saturated in hazy orange-glow light. A similar bold minimalism also permeated the choreography (by Solange) that soon took a step: the musicians’ terse, synchronous movements felt loose and sculptural all at once—a bit reminiscent of Stop Making Sense. Then the music too kicked off with that mix of gravity and grace that has become Solange’s lodestar, tearing open with the same triple punch that begins A Seat at the Table ("Rise," "Weary," "Cranes in the Sky"), the R&B artist’s masterful 2016 consideration of black femininity and empowerment.
That record felt like such an evolutionary jump, we wondered how much Solange would turn back the page during her Sunday-night headlining set. But Seat’s “Don’t You Wait”—all skeletal-funk guitar and synth from the Italians Do It Better playbook—melding into the keytar-strapped True cut "Some Things Never Seem To Fucking Work" formed a perfect bridge. And the swaggering pre-Seat cuts (“Locked in Closets,” the indomitable “Losing You,” hit ballad “T.O.N.Y.”) felt like the very kind of salves prescribed in self-care anthem “Borderline”—in other words, completely of the same piece.
Among the most potent moments was "F.U.B.U."—with the liberationist, anti-appropriation rallying cry "This shit is for us!"—buoyed by a brass section of some two dozen young black horn players, delivering, Second Line-style, the black Louisiana DNA so key to Seat. (Is it just us, or did the stage design resemble a giant "LA," as in the Bayou State?) Anti-tone-policing anthem “Right to Be Mad”—in which Solange strangulated a belted note into something close to a primal scream—jabbed a similar nerve.
By the time "Don't Touch My Hair" closed it all out (the "headbanging" really was the perfect subversion), it was a step forward for her artistry, but for Pitchfork, too—and Solange proudly proclaimed as much.—Stephen Gossett
The cancellation of elusive collagist producers The Avalanches was a bummer. But it brought one happy side effect: hometown hero Jamila Woods was shifted to the big stage, and her set butted up against zero counterprogramming. The whole festival crowd was hers—and Woods shined in the light. From the relaxed burn of "Way Up" (dedicated to "all the introverts") to much-loved cuts "VRY BLK" and "Blk Girl Soldier" on the back end, Woods, like Solange, brought a vision of nuanced black feminist soul that's impossible to look away from—just like the Hiplet dancers she welcomed to the stage, in a lovely nod to the home crowd.—Stephen Gossett
RIDE started their eagerly anticipated set 15 minutes late, with Mark Gardener explaining, "I think we had a few gremlins but it all seems taken care of." Despite taking a 20-year break between their last album and this year's Weather Diaries, the band sounded fresh and exciting from the first notes of their signature blend of shoegaze and the poppier sound that would form the backbone of the '90s Britpop revolution. The set was equally split between "classic" and brand-new material, and it's saying something that you would be hard pressed to tell the difference between the two.
RIDE's gift is grafting beautiful hooks onto dreamy vocal harmonies and dressing that core in a wall of rolling drum fills and sheets of guitar volume and delay. And somehow there's a magical element at the center that holds the whole torrent of sound together to create something epic and wondrous. The set included the aching beauty of one of the band's (or any band's) greatest songs, "Vapour Trails," before closing with an ear- and speaker-shredding rendition of "Drive Blind." RIDE's set will probably stand as one of my favorites of the weekend, and makes me hope when they bid adieu by saying "see you soon" they meant it. — Jim Kopeny / Tankboy
“Are we still alive, Chicago?” asked Chicago rapper Joey Purp repeatedly to the throngs that packed his boisterous side-stage set. If all you saw was the artillery of water balloons and water-canon sprays coming from the stage and the seriously amped audience, you might mistake it as mere crowd hyping. But next to cuts like the great, introspective “Morning Sex,” it was clearly an acknowledgement to the violent realities of Chicago. Cameos from Savemoney friends Kami, Towkio and (especially) Vic Mensa lit a fire, but Purp himself was as thrilled as anyone. I “been in that crowd so many times” he marveled from his well-earned new vantage.—Stephen Gossett
Chicago quartet NE-HI's early afternoon set drew an attentive crowd and lots of press attention (the line to get into the photo pit for a chance to shoot the band rivaled the previous evening's headliner's line in length). It feels as if the young band is on the cusp of breaking through the buzz to become the next group of guitar heroes to conquer the Chicago scene, a la previous Pitchfork appearances by musically similar act Twin Peaks. NE-HI's spirited set channeled Southern swagger through jagged riffs, blasts of energy and yelping vocals that recall a sneering Tom Petty. Their performance might not have turned them into sudden stars—yet—but it certainly convinced me these cats are the real dal. Bonus points for closing out with Harry Nilsson's "Jump Into The Fire." Double bonus points if that choice was a sly wink at Friday's headliner LCD Soundsystem, who have also famously covered that song. — Jim Kopeny / Tankboy
There was a time, before I lived in Chicago, that I would travel into the city to hear groundbreaking DJs play. Chicago after all is the birthplace of house music, and local veteran Derrick Carter is a legend. His set on the Blue stage brought us back to those club days when things seemed a little simpler and you thought you could dance your worries away. Not many others could mix together bass thumping mixes that smooth and poignant. Though if you were listening close enough, near the end of his set Carter laid Gil Scott-Heron's vocals from "Bicentennial Blues" over the beat, intoning "Halfway justice / Halfway liberty / Halfway equality / It's a half-ass year," reminding the revelers that getting down on the dance floor doesn't mean you have to leave your social conscience at the door.—Michelle Meywes Kopeny
Hamilton Leithauser is best known as the singer for The Walkmen, but his solo material hews more closely to a mixture of raspy soul and roots rock. His early set was a pleasant diversion, even if it wasn't burning with a fire that would convert the casual listener into a devoted fan. And no, he didn't play "The Rat," and I suspect he would prefer if Walkmen fans would stop asking that. — Jim Kopeny / Tankboy
The fest's lone jazz act, saxophonist Colin Stetson wowed the early crowd with his virtuosic circular breathing technique (look ma, no loops!) on new cuts like “Between Water and Wind” and the mighty “Judges.” It’s technically jazz, but the quick-repeat figures also telegraph minimalism; and those doomy low end wails, paired with some mind-bending clack-of-the-fingers rhythm, were the closest we got to a metal act this year (ahem).—Stephen Gossett