RECAP: 2018 Pitchfork Music Festival: Day 1

By Gabrielle Powell

Pitchfork Music Festival 2018 kicked off with a bang. With a nonstop lineup, you would be hard pressed to not find someone you liked. The lineup focused on femme bands, something which is admirable in the current phallocentric festival climate. And it really was the women who stole the show. While Tame Impala wowed with light shows and their wavy sound, the true headliners in my mind were Lucy Dacus, Courtney Barnett, and Big Thief.

The day kicked off with Chicago locals The Curls. Their sound ranges somewhere between Radiator Hospital and Susto, winding between rocking and psychedelic. Check out their song “Prickly Feelings” for a feel.

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Photos by Gabrielle Powell

Melkbelly, another Chicago band, turned up the volume and let loose in the midst of the rain. The audience could not have cared less, though. Even in the rain, they felt free to slosh to the music.

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Lucy Dacus was a real star of the show. Her Mitski-like guitar and vocals captivated the crowd and I’m fairly certain she gained more than a few new fans, including me. Take a listen to her songs “Strange Torpedo” and “Addictions” as an appetizer before you jump in. Even the artist herself noticed how the audience was receiving her music, saying “Lesser people would be having a bad time, but you’re having a good time!”

Julie Byrne was next. I’m not going to lie, it was a weird choice for a festival. Byrne’s music seems better suited to be a score in a sad movie than to be played for thousands of people at an outdoor festival. At times, the crowd noise overtook her band, making for an overall so-so experience. Don’t get me wrong- I do like her music, but I would rather listen to it while studying than trying to have a good time at a festival.

Joshua Abrams & Natural Information Society took all the qualms that faced Julie Byrne and turned them on their head. In the same vein as Byrne, Abrams plays mostly instrumental music, but the rhythm section that was so lacking with the former set really propelled the latter.

Open Mike Eagle, representing Chicago, put on an honest, vulnerable show that would be a great introduction for those who claim to not like rap music. With a bigger focus on melody, he showcases the roots of hip hop and brings it all together in a tight package. Take a listen to “Legendary Hood Iron” to get an idea.

Next came Saba, another Chicago rapper. He definitely takes the prize for energy. His infectious smile and stage-traversing dancing would make anyone gravitate toward his live performances. Listen to “Photosynthesis” for a taste.

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Syd, legendary member of the band The Internet, took the stage next. Armed with her backing tracks and a mic, she delivered her unique brand of soul pop. I do wish, however, that she would take a step back on the backing tracks. Her vocals are amazing and beautiful on their own, and I think she could really benefit from the downsize. Check out The Internet’s brand-new album Hive Mind.

Julien Baker even attracted the likes of fellow performers Girlpool (Check them out in the Saturday review). To be honest, I don’t love Julien Baker, however, I would definitely see her live again. She delivered painfully raw lyrics and guitar almost as if it was the day she wrote the songs.

Earl Sweatshirt’s last-minute departure from the Pitchfork lineup pulled Tierra Whack into the mix. While her performance was so-so, her DJ was insufferable. Keep in mind, I almost never say anything that negative about someone who goes on stage to showcase their art. Remixing classics like OutKast was his only salvation.

Big Thief was a huge winner of the night. They brought a huge sound and energy to the stage, which easily translated to the audience. Taking their more mellow recordings and translating them into live show madness, the band showcased a talent that is rarer than you would think. If you want an introduction to Big Thief, start with “Shark Smile”.

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Next up was Courtney Barnett. Before this performance, I was a staunch anti-Courtney-er. Much like Big Thief, though, Barnett turned the dial to 11 for this show. I would see her again in a heartbeat. Plus, it helps that she totally laughed at my Hootie and the Blowfish hat.

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To close out the night, Tame Impala took the stage just in time for it to start pouring. Listen, I listen to my fair share of bands, and to me, Tame Impala just doesn’t stand out. That isn’t to say they’re awful, they just don’t show enough ingenuity to pull of the type of music they play. Their show wasn’t over- or underwhelming. It was… whelming? The confetti cannons and LCD background were at least interesting if nothing else.

Those who stood out: Lucy Dacus, Courtney Barnett, Big Thief

Those who could step their game up: Tierra Whack, Julie Byrne, Tame Impala

Stay tuned to Breaking And Entering for more from the 2018 Pitchfork Music Festival.

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