Pitchfork Music Festival: Sunday recap

While Mutual Benefit’s sweet indie folk was a soft ease into the afternoon, my exhaustion-induced headache wasn’t having it; and judging by the mix of beers and iced coffee in tote among early attendees, most were a bit worn.

I grabbed an iced coffee myself and hunkered in at the Green Stage in anticipation of Deafheaven. Though I cannot claim to be a fan of black metal, Deafheaven’s brand is more shoegazing or post rock with a nearly pretty, whooshing quality. As one fan said in front of me, it’s “black metal for people who don’t like metal”.

Leadman and screamer George Clark, dressed in a black button up and pants with side-slicked hair, took to commanding the crowd with a series of come-hither motions as “Sunbather” opener “Dream House” began to rumble. The drum kicked, the crowd lurched, and I was shoved into the second row as Clark perched and growled into his mic, eyes glaring. The juxtaposition of beautiful, washed out licks and shrieks of death was played out live, like a sort of nihilist’s spiritual experience.

Clark is a powerful frontman and performer, only breaking his blank face at one point when laying atop the crowd. I spoke with another fan before the show who said he was friends with the band, claiming that they are “real nice guys”, though Clark’s devilish presence as he split frothy drool and demanded attention would not suggest it.

Odd Future’s own Earl Sweatshirt took to beginning his set by rousing the crowd with a “Don’t Stop Believing” singalong, accompanied by Domo Genesis. His 2013 debut, “Doris” was lauded for stepping away from the Odd Future formula of shock value humor, instead seeing the young rapper exploring more genuine issues.

But Earl seemed to struggle a bit with his more solemn tracks like “Chum”, perhaps a bit unsure how to convey those feelings live. His strength is still in his goony antics; Earl picked out a member of the audience who was not dancing to his standards and decided his name must be “Brett or something.”

“I’m going to figure out your name by the end of the show. If I like it, you can keep it; if not you’re Brett forever,” he said. Though his performance and certainly his acclaimed album proved Earl a promising young figure, it will take a few more years to tell if he can truly find his own voice.

Real Estate’s set was designated as naptime in my itinerary, not due to a dull sound, but because their jangly and soft tone make the ideal outdoor siesta background. I arrived just as the wandering bass lines of “Past Lives” began and it seemed as though others had the same idea; amid the plethora of blankets, it was almost a tight squeeze finding a spot to relax beneath the evening shade of a tree.

Midway through “It’s Real”, I wandered off to give Majical Cloudz a listen. Though I arrived ten minutes into their set, I found leadman Devon Walsh entertaining the crowd with a’capella versions of his already minimalistic tracks, telling jokes, and otherwise entertaining the crowd; it was clear that technical issues had impeded the use of their keyboard. Already slotted between difficult competitors, Walsh made the best of the situation, though much of the crowd in back left restlessly for Slowdive’s upcoming set.

Beforehand, I wanted to taste one of Goose Island’s collaboration beers, the Sharon Van Etten Kolsch. It is one of two limited releases for the weekend from the Chicago brewery, along with the “Pitchfork Recommended” pilsner. Both were crisp summer beers, but nothing terribly special; Goose Island’s yearlong ales – like Sofie, Matilda, and even Green Line – are much tastier.

Veteran shoegaze band Slowdive are in the midst of a now-extended reunion tour, and despite it being twenty years later, their huge wall of dreamy sound was still masterful. The outdoor setting damped them a bit, but Slowdive return to Chicago in the fall for a gig at The Vic.

Since DJ Rashad’s untimely passing, DJ Spinn’s set proved to be a sort of memorial for the Teklife pioneer. Surrounded by footwork dancers, Spinn rhapsodized that they “would not be here without my man”, referring to Rashad. Even though Teklife has not been on Pitchfork or mainstream media’s radar until the past few years, it still felt like a touching hometown moment.

The popstar of the indie sphere, Grimes’ last Pitchfork performance two years ago, months after the release of her monumental album “Visions”. Though still without a follow-up release, her live performance has improved: she has dropped the theatrics and a few backup dancers to make for a more mature performance. Judging from an unreleased track and her recent collaboration with Blood Diamonds, “Go”, her forthcoming LP will be more radio-friendly.

Two years after the release of “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City”, Kendrick Lamar has become a well-practiced, strong performer. Backed with a full band, Lamar ran through “Good Kid” cuts as a series of clips featuring home videos and a corresponding film played behind him. Lamar closed the festival with the confidence and presence of Kanye without the pompousness.

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