Pitchfork Music Festival turned 15 years old in Chicago this year after being cancelled last year because of the pandemic. This lively celebration of eclectic music continued in the same spot (Union Park) with the usual three main stages: Red, Blue and Green.
The headliners originally scheduled for the festival in 2020 were rockers Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Run the Jewels and The National. The main acts were completely different this year, with just a few of the previously planned musicians still performing. Coincidentally, some of the solo singers have now left their previous bands behind, such as Suicidal Tendencies' Thundercat, Chairlift's Carolina Polachek and Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon, to name a few.
Overall, the lineup adhered to the usual wide range of artists, beginning with hip-hop group Armand Hammer on Sept.10. Vocalist Billy Woods requested his face be blurred for photos from the press, but his fans didn't seem to notice, with plenty of amateur photography and video found online after the show. The first day ended on the Green Stage thanks to the talented Phoebe Bridgers and her haunting melodies. After some troubling rainy weather in the past, Pitchfork finally had found some luck in this department.
Sept. 11 continued that trend with peaceful breezes and incredible sets by musicians including out artist Angel Olsen, who sang "Gloria;" Southern-sounding Waxahatchee, rescheduled from 2020; and the nighttime creativity of the sexually fluid St. Vincent.
On the last day, the crowds embraced non-binary artist Yves Tumor, who moshed with the fans; bright anime video art by Flying Lotus; and a red-light set from Cat Power, who just opened for Alanis Morissette the night before at Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre in Tinley Park, Illinois. Erykah Badu wrapped up the weekend after arriving a bit late, albeit with a cool vibe that couldn't be denied. Badu sang some of her classics, such as "Appletree" and "On & On," while wearing a hat bigger than Pharrell Williams' and displaying her usual stoic attitude.
There was much more to Pitchfork this time than music. The Renegade Craft & CHIRP Record Fairwhich Chicago's community radio station CHIRP Radio manageshas grown in size each summer. What originally was a long row of vendor booths that sold vinyl and posters has now expanded into a massive merchandise area with crafts, clothing and accessories to accommodate shoppers hungry for more than the usual merchandise tents.
Another addition to the festivities this year was the Backstage DashPass area. Presented by DoorDash and located in the northwest corner of the festival, this exclusive chance to see artists up close and sample free bites was a rare treat.
Snacks and beverages were offered in large food trucks and vendor tents along the perimeter. Hamburgers, cheese fries and shaved ice seemed to appease loyal patrons waiting in the sometimes long lines.
COVID-19 vaccination or negative tests results were required to enter the festival. Masks were mandatory for the photo pits; St. Vincent went a step further to ensure everyone close to her was vaccinated by showing his/her/their card at check-in.
Pitchfork has a strict code of conduct every year and encourages attendees to speak out about unacceptable behavior. There was a zero-tolerance policy against harassment at this music festival and this was a rare chance for many to express themselves openly in a safe space. The LGBTQ+ community was well-represented throughout the weekend for the event's 15th year of artistic expression. Blurred gender lines, far-out fashion and rainbow accessories were all part of the fun ithis year.
Visit PitchforkMusicFestival.com for updates on next year's lineup.