Jill Hopkins Reviews Pitchfork 2019
Written by Jill Hopkins on July 24, 2019
The 2019 Pitchfork Music Festival is now in the books, and the only thing that covered more categories than the lineup was the weather.
Chicago showed up and showed out to support international superstars, game-changing icons, and hometown heroes.
And, the Morning AMp’s interns might be honorary Isley Brothers backup dancers?
Let’s take a look back at the weekend that was.
You know that scene in Pootie Tang where Chris Rock and Mario Joyner are going back and forth about the heat and Joyner says, “Yeah. And, it’s hot out, too.”? That 30 second scene summed-up every conversation had during the first day of the festival. But, it didn’t stop folks from spending the whole day in the park. The Great Black Music Ensemble, and MIKE started the day off on an upbeat note that Standing on the Corner ran with. The eleventy-seven member jazz group, led by Gio Escobar, played lush urban jazz reminiscent of 1970’s blaxploitation soundtracks. One of the city’s busiest and most talented horn players, Sam Trump, joined the band’s expanded lineup that served “Hot Time Summer in the City” realness.
Here’s what we’re too jaded for: A mosh pit in 110 degree weather. But thankfully the folks up front for Rico Nasty’s set were more than willing to oblige her request for one. And thankfully for them, there were ambulances and medics nearby to cart off the one man and one woman who didn’t take the heat of the set into account when factoring in their tolerance for the weather.
We were certain that if Earl Sweatshirt and Pusha T looked like flowers wilting on a Louisiana windowsill, the 80 year old Mavis Staples would surely melt in the not-dropping temps of early Friday evening. We were so very, very wrong. The legend of soul and gospel (and my unofficial grandmother) was escorted on stage to join her band by a well dressed man and that was the last time Muvva Mavis needed anyone’s help. She sang, growled, danced, pointed, preached, laughed, and joked (mostly about who she called the “Orange Face in the White House”), all while showing nary a hint of her age. We all learned lessons from a master that day.
Disco Ric Wilson was in full effect at the start another scorcher of a day, and he showed why he’s one of the MCs to watch here in Chicago. He brought puppets, a Soul Train line, and the Lane Tech marching band, but nothing outshone the megawatt smile of someone absolutely crushing thier first festival appearance.
It was a great pairing with another local act, LaLa LaLa, who had the dynamic duo of Kaina and Sen Morimoto joining her on stage.
Shortly after, though, the entire festival went from hot to cool. A little too cool, as it turns out as the same weather front that dropped the temperature 20 degrees in the span of a half hour also brought enough rain and lightning to force the full evacuation of the park. We were allowed back in just in time to shimmy to the sounds of Belle & Sebastian on the way over to catch another Chicago act: Jeremih. When we ran into Kurt Vile later on in the night, we thanked him for sacrificing his set to the weather gods.
But, Saturday night belonged to the mighty Isleys. The brothers were commemorating 60 years in the game. But, something else happened, too. We watched minds being blown as Gen Z figured out that these old men in bright white wrote the samples borrowed by their favorite rappers, in their favorite songs. Those old men brought the house down with hit after hit after hit.
At one point we looked up from dancing to fine the Morning AMp Super Interns Elise and Olivia ON STAGE with Ernie and Ron, doing some dancing of their own. A younger, pettier AMp would’ve been VERY jealous, but we couldn’t help but smile at their good fortune, and surprisingly good dance moves.
Oh thank Jesus, the heat stayed away. An early rain postponed gates being opened, so we all missed Dreezy, but all was sunny and shiny by the time Chicago singer/songwriter Tasha took the Blue Stage. Her music set us all adrift on memory bliss, which was a stark contrast to JPEGMAFIA’s aggressive hip hop happening across the lawn on the Red Stage.
The sisters of Ibeyi have really grown as performers in the years since we discovered them, and had the crowd in the palms of their hands. We often forget that there are only two of them, since their sound takes up so much space.
Full disclosure: We came to see Neneh, and it felt like Miss Cherry knew and wanted us to be happy. She complained of monitor issues, but if that was the performance of a woman having a hard time hearing herself, we can only be left to wonder what 100% must be like. She provided a wall of sound that we thought we’d only get to hear during Low’s Friday night set, drifting effortlessly between jazz, techno, big beat, and hip hop, letting her voice and her band explore the vastness of her catalogue and influences. She finished with a live remix of the club classic, “Buffalo Stance”, before leaving the stage, but 40 minutes just didn’t seem like enough time for her or for us.
Chicago is a weird town, in that so many dances have been invented here, but so few people actually dance at shows. The “Chicago No-Step” is real, but no one told everyone who came out for Charlie XCX and Robyn. If there’s one thing that the bookers of the Pitchfork Festival know how to do, it’s end the weekend on a high note. We got to dance in the mud, like we should, and though she sings about it, no one in the crowd had to do so on their own.
We’re in the thick of festival season, and Pitchfork has set a high bar. See you in two weeks at Lollapalooza, everyone.
Photos and Copy by Jill Hopkins
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