Beating the Heat at Pitchfork Festival 2019: Day 1 Recap
Earl Sweatshirt encapsulated Day 1 at the beginning of his set in the late afternoon glow: “It’s hot as f***! For what? Why?” The weather was hot and humid, forcing festivalgoers to find respite under trees, at pop-up gazebos, and even inside CTA buses repurposed as mobile AC rooms. Despite the blanket of warmth smothering Union Park, the performers dished out set after incredible set, keeping the sluggish crowds from getting too irritable.
MIKE warmed up the Red Stage with his off-kilter beats, filling the park with chopped up vocal samples and urgent-yet-lackadaisical flow. Joining him on stage was King Carter, complementing MIKE’s energy with his own snappy bars.
Standing on the Corner
Standing on the Corner brought a full band to the Green Stage, with 6 sax players, 3 trumpets, a clarinet, two violins, a cello & double bass, not to mention the percussion section and white dude on electric guitar. Gio Escobar was at times MC and conductor, keeping the band together while rapping—it’s a small miracle he didn’t collapse of heatstroke in his long, dark clothing.
Fan-favorite Rico Nasty performed after a moving slam poem by a local artist to kick off the Blue Stage festivities. DJ Miles attempted to start multiple mosh pits, but the sweat-drenched crowd was slow to move. Nonetheless, Rico’s infectious energy reverberated through the crowd, and while they weren’t really moshing, the crowd definitely matched her energy.
Delayed by technical difficulties that continued throughout the set, Sky Ferreira’s performance on the Green Stage might not have been the one her fans envisioned but was still vibrant once she got going. Stealing the show, however, was the crew guy jamming out to “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)” by the Talking Heads while the other techs figured out what was going on.
With the latecomers rolling in, a tiny ocean of people gathered at the Red Stage in the late afternoon sun to hear Earl Sweatshirt deliver his trademark bars with DJ Black Noi$e. Ever the supportive mentor, he shouted out Standing on the Corner and MIKE at the beginning and end of his set.
Pusha T knows how to make an entrance. After 15 minutes of his DJ hyping up the crowd, he stormed onto the stage with a frown on his face, hands clasped, and feet spread wide in a power stance, he eyed the crowd with a performative disdain before going into “If You Know You Know”. The frenzied crowd at the Green Stage ate it up, and so did we.
As the shadows lengthened, Soccer Mommy played the soundtrack to hot, lovelorn summer nights on the Blue Stage. Hitting most of their fan favorites—”Your Dog”, “Cool”, and “Scorpio Rising”—but omitting “Still Clean”, their performance left us wanting more.
Kicking off their set by berating the crowd for choosing to see them instead of Mavis Staples, Low frontman Alan Sparhawk and his bandmates still gave it their all on the Blue Stage. Matching the lethargy of the day, their reverb-soaked arrangements and somber, longing vocals provided a change of pace for the softboys and sadgirls at the festival.
Chuckling halfway through the set, Mavis Staples invited the whole audience to join her on tour as the Chicago Acapella under the moniker the Staple Siblings. After this performance, teaming with her would have been a no brainer. Belting “We marched”, Mavis recounted how she fought for civil rights alongside Martin Luther King and how, rather somberly, the police demanded legal papers from the then jailed protesters. Her political commentary under the backdrop of infectious blues guitars and irresistible harmonies gave her performance an air of importance and inspiration.
The Chicago sun had set and the audience was viciously sweating (in the words of HAIM — schvitzing), but energy for headliner HAIM did not once think to falter. Strutting onto the stage with synced up strides, the sibling trio delivered a memorable, hard-hitting performance. Resounding beats from drummer Alana, beautifully delivered vocals from Danielle, and goofy facials by Este captured the powerful and enchanting noise from Pitchfork Day One.
Jess Eng is a DJ for Blues. James Gui is a DJ for RH and TDS.