PitchFork 2015 Recap

The Heavy Shit – By Emili Earheart
pitchfork gif
Pitchfork music fest seems to cover all the bases as far as genres go. This year, there was an especially strong electronic and dance representation among the lineup, making those dancy three days VERY fun (and quite exhausting, physically). There was also a great spread of rap, with Chance headlining, and sick sets from ILoveMakonnen and A$AP Ferg (to name just a couple). And of course, there was a predictably, overwhelmingly large amount of indie rock. But this year, the “indie” category seemed to replace much of the hardcore music that Pitchfork has always included in the past, with Iceage and Protomartyr being some of the heaviest it gets. That said, these two bands really pulled through for the punk fans at the fest.
Iceage graced Pitchfork with an angst-driven punk show on the Blue Stage just before heading back to Europe for a lengthy tour. These edgy, Danish boys dropped their latest album, Plowing Into the Field of Love, this past October on Matador, and represented it well on their set-list. I was particularly excited for Iceage’s appearance at Pitchfork and was very pleased with their tight ensemble yet laid-back, punk rock nature of their performance. The audience seemed to enjoy themselves as well, based on the playful moshing formed in the front of the crowd.
Protomartyr kicked off Saturday with an aggressive post-punk set. Based in Detroit, Protomartyr is off to a world tour in anticipation of their upcoming album, The Agent Intellect, to be released October 9th on Hardly Art. Although they have come through Madison a few times in the past couple years, this was my first time seeing Protomartyr, and I was very excited to catch them in the music festival setting. Despite the heat, Protomartyr tore up the Red Stage to a group of dedicated fans up bright and early to hold their spots in the front of the crowd. I look forward to the release of their new album!
I’ll say it again, I thoroughly enjoyed these two groups and heard great things about some of the other heavy acts at Pitchfork including Ex Hex and Viet Cong. That said, the fest seemed to represent only the grey area between harder indie rock and truly hardcore music. I thought maybe this past year was weaker in terms of noise and hardcore, but with new material from Pharmakon, METZ, Shellac, Lightning Bolt, Boris, Liturgy, and Chicago’s own Dead Rider (many of whom have been on a Pitchfork lineup before), 2014-15 seems to be a good couple of years for noise. That said, I do look forward to Pitchfork next year and loved everything I heard last weekend. We’ll see what happens in 2016!


The After Party – By Lorenza Zebell

Having never been to Pitchfork, I had no idea what to expect when I went down to Chicago last weekend.  Everyone told me it would be insanely fun, but exhausting, and that I had to check out some of the after-parties.

The highlight of my weekend was, by far, the Ariel Pink after-party at Lincoln Hall.  Earlier on Saturday, right before Ariel was set to play at Pitchfork, it rained horrendously and the festival actually closed for about an hour. Soaking wet and already exhausted, I made my way to the Blue stage, where I had planned on staying for most of the day to see my favorites on this year’s line up.

The lineup went like this: Ariel Pink, A$AP Ferg, Shamir, SOPHIE, and finally Vic Mensa.  A strange choice for the order if you ask me, but I was still beyond excited. But by the time Ariel Pink was set to play, a huge crowd had formed for the later rap acts, crowding out Ariel’s small but devoted fan group. Long story short, Ariel and his band sound checked for most of their set, I got my toe stomped to oblivion, and I realized that I’m an old grump that can’t hang with the cool kids.  Also, SOPHIE was cancelled (whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy).

Very disappointed with my day but trying not to care, I made my way with some friends to the Ariel Pink after party. The venue, Lincoln Hall, was awesome. We sat up on the balcony, gave our sore feet a rest and had a perfect view of the stage. I had never heard the opener Mr. Twin Sister before and they really blew me away.  Some tracks (like “Sensitive” and “Blush”) were so sexy, reminiscent of Sade and Portishead.  Singer Andrea Estella really commands your attention, moving around the stage like a mysterious water nymph. Their performance was gorgeous, and completely detoxed me from the events earlier in the day.

When Ariel Pink and his band of strange LA outsiders (?) took to the stage I knew it was about to get much louder. In total, there were eight people on stage including members of Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti like bassist Tim Koh. Also part of Ariel’s live band is Don Bolles, the drummer from LA punk legends Germs. All of these people on stage made for a full, clean sound. This was pretty cool to hear when you compare it to the fuzzed-out sound that Ariel’s albums have.

pitchfork afterparty

The whole set was punctuated with a harsh strobe sitting right behind Ariel, and a fog machine that made everything feel like an 80s electro-pop video.  I was really blown away by the sound and lights in Lincoln Hall. It’s a lovely venue that I most certainly will be returning to when I can.

Ariel played all of the favorites. The show opened with the panicky “White Freckles,” leaving the crowd in what felt like a caffeine-induced stupor. Best track of the night goes to “Black Ballerina” where I was surprised to see Bolles on the mic doing the voice of the creepy old man during the song’s strange strip club interlude. He closed the show with an electrifying version of “Round and Round,” from the beloved 2010 album Before Today.

“Hold on, I’m calling, calling back to the ball/And we’ll dazzle them all, hold on”

Even though we were up in the balcony, we danced our asses off and sang along, probably the most enthusiastic I’ve ever been at a show. But that’s what Ariel’s energy does: just whips you into a joyful frenzy.
I can’t recall a show that I’ve been so pleased with. A beautiful night.