Whereas Friday was the day to sample a variety of acts at Pitchfork Music Festival, Saturday was the day I knew there were full sets I wanted to catch.
My day started off at the Blue Stage with Cherry Glazerr, a four-piece from Los Angeles who nailed mid-tempo grungy indie-rock. I was reminded at times of Fugazi and Blonde Redhead. Their songs have a tendency to erupt in riff-heavy catharsis.
The set standout was “Told You I’d Be With the Guys,” the opening track to this year’s Apocalipstick. Like Frankie Cosmos the previous day, the side stage seemed to be more crowded than the main stage area, perhaps signaling an upgrade to the Red or Green Stages in Cherry Glazerr’s future.
Following them on the Blue Stage was Mitski, who’s album Puberty 2 was one of my favorites of 2016. Her set did not disappoint. Backed up by a drummer and guitarist, the trio managed a set full of minimal indie-rock and power-pop, with Mitski’s chugging bass providing a low-end counterpoint to her (at times) Joni Mitchell-like falsetto.
The set featured a lot of Puberty 2 including “Happy,” “Thursday Girl,” and “Your Best American Girl.” She also played a bit off of 2014’s Bury Me At Makeout Creek including “Drunk Walk Home” and “Townie” with it’s heart on the sleeve lyrics like “I want a love that falls as fast / As a body from the balcony.” “I hope your dreams come true,” she said before closing out the set solo with “My Body’s Made of Crushed Little Stars.”
After taking care of water and food needs (a delicious Doner Kebab from the Donerman food truck) and watching the overly-poppy Francis and the Lights in hopes that Chance the Rapper might have made an appearance (he didn’t), I headed over to the Green Stage for the first time of the day for Angel Olsen.
The former Chicagoan had one of the biggest crowds for the day. The sun was shining directly on the stage, almost to an inappropriate extent for the rainy-day balladry of Olsen’s music. Her set was filled with tracks from 2014’s Burn Your Fire For No Witness and last year’s My Woman like an extended and brilliant “Not Gonna Kill You,” “Intern,” and “Shut Up Kiss Me.”
Olsen has always had a fierce intensity to her performances and songwriting. Her lyrics have always been poignant, heart-breaking, and pensive without being sentimental. Her backing band, in full suits and bolo ties, were tight as always and all six members had some of the best chemistry I saw all weekend.
Needing a break from the sun after Olsen’s set, I decided to check out the record fair and say hi to some friends at Chicago labels Maximum Pelt and Midwest Action, as well as to stop by the Book Fort and pick up Kevin Coval’s A People’s History of Chicago from Haymarket Press and Anne Elizabeth Moore’s Body Horrors from Curbside Splendor.
With one of the most anticipated sets of the weekend, headliners A Tribe Called Quest closed out Saturday with their first full performance since the passing of Phife Dawg. A microphone on a stand paid solemn and subtle tribute to the late member, but the set was anything but depressing.
Q-Tip was joined onstage by Consequence, Jarobi, and DJ Ali Shaheed Muhammad. They performed one of the most buoyant sets of the weekend, covering a bit of their entire ouerve. From 1990’s People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythms to 2016’s We got it from Here…Thank You 4 Your service.
It’s hard to single out the highlights from an overall brilliant set. “Find A Way” from the The Love Movement found the three emcees on stage in a semi-circle repeating the chorus over and over. Consequence rapped his verse from Kanye West’s “Spaceship.” Q-Tip rocked a beatbox before going into “Bonita Applebum.” And Phife Dawg even got his own spotlight, with a recording of his verses from The Low End Theory‘s “Butter” played over the speakers.
While I tend to enjoy the daytime acts at Pitchfork, Tribe managed to make one of the most memorable headlining sets in recent years. It’s hard to think of a better tribute to the Phife Dawg and all of Tribe’s accomplishments over the past three decades than what happened on that Saturday night.