Chicago is probably my favorite city to look at. Every time I’ve been here, I’ve spent my time taking in scenic views of the city: from the tall buildings and waterfronts to the graffiti-stained, rusty buildings and grimy side streets. It’s Friday morning and I’m on my way to my hotel to freshen up and meet up with my friends before the annual Pitchfork Music festival gets started. This is my second striaght year going to Pitchfork with the same group of friends that I’ve known for at least 4 years through an internet message board and it’s the first time that I’ll actually get to spend all my time here with them.
The day starts with drinking–because of course–and some waffle breakfast tacos (by the way, Taco Bell needs to desperately get on this) and then we finally make our way into Union Green Park to catch the bands for the day. Friday wasn’t my favorite really; I was really only excited for Bjork to get all weird and didn’t much care about anyone else that day. Joanna Newsom was lovely despite the fact that I was way too far away to really enjoy her harp-jamming and subtle and angelic vocals (it says a lot that she could command a crowd of hot, sweaty and intoxicated kids doing this by the way). Meanwhile my friend Katie was still stuck trying to find her appeal or why someone who looks 14 could get so many males to call her hot. Also, I guess it was cool hearing Savages play what sounded like the same song for 45 minutes–at the very least, it’s a good song. For me though, it was all about Bjork and she didn’t disappoint. Armed with a giant squishie ball helmet and a groovy alien choir backing her up, she put on a great set of noise that people like me somehow think of as music. Of all the sets this weekend, hers was the most technically impressive (M.I..A. was a close second); she had lights and funky screen projections and was all prepared to dazzle until Sharknado showed up to wreak havoc on Chicago and cut her set off early. Afterwards, we braved that hellrain to get to an aftershow featuring Classixx and Chromatics in order to dance ourselves dry and listen to some dreamy dance music. I’m running on almost 48 hours without sleep and still drinking so I’m trying to keep moving and dancing in order to not pass out on the dancefloor (and if you think I’ve never fallen asleep in a club before, you’re sorely mistaken). By the time I made it back to the room I was half-asleep, my feet hurt and at some point me and three people shared a pizza at 2 in the morning: it was a good day.
Saturday was a new day, I’d gotten about 5 hours sleep and I was ready to get the day started and see two of my favorite acts: Solange and Belle & Sebastian. But first we checked out Ryan Hemsworth’s set to dance to hip-hop mashups and donkey kong beats. I’ve never been big on Hemsworth:his mixes are pretty good but I’m not crazy for his original stuff. Still, it is pretty cool that a kid who looks like a castoff from Laguna Beach is playing 3 6 mafia over a Lyfe Jenning’s beat. He also won us over by calling himself Asher Roth and saying to check him out on Datpiff. After that it was on to my mission of getting front and center for Solange and possibly getting a chance to ask her for marriage or at the very least getting to be in her presence long enough to have some of her coolness rub off on me. And she did not disappoint: with a fall of Afro-centric jumpsuit and dance moves that could fit in a Morris Day set, she made the world perfect for 45 minutes. Swoon city. Before long, it was time for me and all my internet friends to get ready for Belle & Sebastian, a band that holds a special place in most of our hearts and also a band that surprisingly put on a really fun, lively set to dance and sing-along to. I wasn’t expect some of these songs to work live as good as they did and singing along to If You’re Feeling Sinister was probably a highlight that it nowhere near as lame as it may seem. That night, we all went to a bar to drink, shoot the shit, drink more, play connect four, sing the Friends theme song with strangers, eat Mcdonalds at 2 am, feel shitty about eating McDonalds at 2 am and then when everyone else had crashed, the few of us that still had energy left made the trek to Millenium Park to watch the sunrise. Easily a top 10 day of my lifetime.
Sunday was probably the only day I wanted to get to the fest early so, naturally, that didn’t happen. Instead I rolled out of bed at 1, grabbed a quick breakfast and went to meet up with everyone and head to the park on what was the busiest day of the festival. I had a debate with a few people about how the R. Kelly set would go with this type of audience. I made the point that there was no way R. Kelly would have a Chicago performance without a typical R. Kelly fanbase showing up in droves and I was mostly right. There in the midst of hipster paradise was what looked like the members of every black person’s family reunion camped out on lawn chairs awaiting Mr. Robert Kelly. I don’t know what racial harmony looks like persay but I imagine that’s the closest we’ll get. It was wonderful. Sunday was probably the most spiritual day of the fest. Between Killer Mike putting on a fun yet conscious show that grappled with faith, the fucked up nature of our country and the violence pervading Chicago. Mike encouraged us all to be decent human beings to each other, which sounds simple but a lot of times simple is what we need the most. I found it especially smart that Killer Mike and El-P used their two separate sets to put on one big show that allowed them to perform their Run The Jewels material–which is a really great record if you didn’t know–but unfortunately, I had to make my way over to the other side of the park to catch Blood Orange who absolutely killed it. Dev Hynes really might just be the new Prince and I’m all for it. R&B is a genre that’s still stuck in a rut musically but slowly it’s making a comeback by pushing it’s sound into different realms and Dev is a big part of that, both with his band and with his production for Solange and Sky Ferreira. Speaking of spiritual, look we can debate the authenticity or musical validity of lil b if you’d like but for me, if nothing else, the music is a lot of fun. Whether it’s genuine or some sort of intense performance art doesn’t really matter much, it’s a misfit kid genuinely enjoying himself making music and taking the time to tell people that they should love each other. That sounds alright to me. Next up was Toro y Moi, who’s actually a whole lot better with a live behind then just behind a keyboard. His show was a fun set to dance around to and enjoy yourself before M.I.A.’s distorted party carnival and R. Kelly’s big close. Speaking of M.I.A., I haven’t been a huge fan for awhile but I’ll give her major props, she puts on one hell of a fun show. The entire crowd was going crazy and she went crazy with them. By the time, She finished with Paper Planes and Bad Girls, it felt like she had the entire festival dancing and singing along.
Ok, so about R. Kelly, look I get that part of this has to do with whatever ironic love he’s gotten from hipsterdom since Trapped In The Closet, Chappelle’s Show and Aziz Ansari jokes, but the thing is 1) He’s actually a really good artist and performer and 2) I’m pretty sure he’s in on it; which is why I had faith he’d put on a really good set. Would there be people who are only there and singing Ignition remix ironically? Sure, but I mean those people obviously don’t have much going on in their lives so why get sour over it. From the moment Kels showed up in all-white and a sparkly T-shirt amongst a choir, I knew this show would be everything. He damn near spent went through the first verse of every song he’s ever done, while also freestyle singing about being hot and needing a towel, performing for 27 years and yes, being a grown ass man. When the set ended with a choir backing him up for I Believe I Can Fly while inflatable doves flew through the sky I knew I was in the right place and I was so happy that I got to share this with my friends before we all made our way back to our respective cities. Thank you Pitchfork and see you next year.