Pitchfork Music Festival 2015 – Day Three
by Ben Stas (Journalism/English), published July 27th 2015
photos by Ben Stas
Following suit from last year’s strong Sunday showing, Pitchfork Festival’s final day once again proved to be its best. The weekend’s most temperate weather combined with a near flawless lineup to close out the weekend with a bang.
Straight out of the gate, Canada’s Viet Cong belied their claims of having been drinking tequila until 5 A.M. the preceding morning by delivering a tight and energetic set of their clanging post-punk. The band ran through a solid chunk of their fantastic debut album, including an extended jam on set-closer “Death” that saw more than one guitarist sprawled out on the stage by its conclusion.
Waxahatchee’s Green Stage set angled to replicate the increasingly full-band approach of Katie Crutchfield’s latest, Ivy Tripp, but probably would’ve benefitted from scaling back a bit. With three guitars roaring in unison, Crutchfield herself often felt overpowered.
Over at Blue, Kathleen Hanna’s The Julie Ruin turned in a triumphant and powerful performance . Bouncing back from a string of cancelled shows due to illness last year (including the 2014 Pitchfork Fest), Hanna was in high spirits, performing to a packed and adoring audience.
Back at Red, Madlib and Freddie Gibbs delivered the first of the day’s several hotly anticipated hip-hop sets. Gibbs, admittedly several drinks deep, was talkative and surprisingly hilarious between songs, but all business in delivering his stunningly dexterous verses. Madlib, producer extraordinaire, acted as his stoic foil at the rear of the stage.
The juxtaposition of Seattle’s Perfume Genius and rising Australian luminary Courtney Barnett‘s overlapping sets was an unfortunate testament to just how stacked Sunday’s lineup was, as both proved to be among the day’s highlights. Perfume Genius’ Mike Hadreas put the serrated electronics of last year’s Too Bright out front and dramatically stalked the stage, clad in red lipstick he’d proudly refused to remove when accosted by some cretinous individual earlier in the day, he told us. It was a confident, intense and arresting performance.
Meanwhile Barnett, touring her proper debut record Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit, owned the massive Green Stage like a natural-born rockstar. Songs from both the record and her acclaimed EPs were often spun faster and louder on stage, but never to the detriment of their inherent wit and charm. The whole set was a hair-whipping, guitar-thrashing good time; a particularly strong showing from an artist who’s still new to playing stages this size.
Jamie xx delivered less in the way of outward charisma at his Red Stage set, but the U.K. producer’s set succeeded by letting the music speak for itself. Flanked by an enormous disco ball, he wove together cuts from his debut full-length In Colour as well a number of his sample sources and tunes from the various corners of his music library, resulting in a vibrantly unpredictable set that the crowd absolutely ate up. When was the last time you saw someone crowd surf to a remixed Drake song?
Caribou’s Dan Snaith and his merry band of white-clad “dance music scientists” (credit to Tastemaker Mike Doub for that observation) were all smiles at Green, delivering an entirely different but equally satisfying brand of dance music. The band’s current live iteration is a masterful electro-psych jam machine, knocking out entrancing ten-plus minute epics with ease. They looked and sounded just as much at home here in the late afternoon sunshine as they do in much more intimate club settings.
Run the Jewels pulled out all the stops for their sub-headlining Sunday slot, offering up a characteristically tight and focused set peppered with just about every noteworthy special guest one could ask for (give or take a Travis Barker). Rage Against the Machine’s Zack de la Rocha, Memphis MC Gangsta Boo and producer Boots were all on hand to enthusiastically perform their contributions to last year’s Run the Jewels 2. Even without the surprises though, Killer Mike and El-P on their own delivered a set to remember. The two have an undeniable chemistry and two records’ worth of killer songs that they have an evident love of performing; right now, they’re pretty much unstoppable.
Chance the Rapper’s headlining set was similarly marked by an ambition to rise to the occasion of high billing. Reportedly the work of more than 50 contributors, it was nothing short of a grand production. Video accompaniment, an elaborate light show, dancers, a gospel choir and the full might of backing band The Social Experiment were all on display here, with Chance himself acting as ringleader. It was a hometown performance with heart, and even if Chance’s “all for you!” positivity was laid on a bit thick, it was coming from a good place. The set drew the largest crowd of the weekend, and more than justified the festival’s somewhat surprising choice to book Chance as their weekend closer. Following last year’s underwhelming showing from an end-of-album-cycle Kendrick, this was a welcome burst of enthusiasm to go out on.