Aleesa Kuznetsov, Audrey Bachman, Carlton Cook, Conor McGinnis & Izzy Fradin
Opening the entire festival, with a somewhat small but energetic crowd, Madame Gandhi brought her vibrant yellow crew to the stage. With just one solo EP out Voices, the MIA drummer, Kiran Gandhi, preaches female empowerment and feminism in her music. A drummer at heart, she played her drum kit whilst singing and had some solo drumming as well, something you don’t see often, let alone from a woman. Gandhi took it down a notch as well, using a voice looper as her only background as she recited a poem from “The Feminist Utopia Project.” Gandhi didn’t fail to let her audience sing along with her, and I sure didn’t refrain, when her hit The Future is Female, proceeded. Madame Gandhi fully embraced the challenge of opening all of Pitchfork, and she did not disappoint.
Coming after a recent sophomore release of his Big Fish Theory project, the 24-year-old Long Beach rapper took the Green Stage solo with authority Friday afternoon. Vince followed his entrance with new tracks like “Party People”, “BagBak”, “Little Bit of This” & “Homage”, along with some older work like “Birds & Bees”, “Senorita” & “Norf Norf” (nothing from his Prima Donna EP which was somewhat surprising). While there were several moments that felt as if he was dragging on and allowing his songs to play through entirely, at no point was his show lacking any energy. At times, he would just stare wildly into the crowd, letting the music bang out. His rave-style, rap set would’ve been even crazier had it been later on in the night. Ending with “SAMO”, “Yeah Right” & “Big Fish”, Vince reminded us again of the relevance and vitality of Big Fish Theory and him as an artist.
Even during the thick of an overpowering Danny Brown show the park, Kamaiyah lit up the Blue Stage. Supported by DJ Vision another hype-man, Kamaiyah opened up with her brand new single “Build You Up” and made the most of her 30 min performance, ending several songs with some a capella bars. Since her debut album A Good Night in the Ghetto, the Oakland MC hasn’t spent much time on tour — for those that weren’t as familiar with the 25-year-old artist, she most definitely made a strong impression. Closing with “Freaky Freaks” & “How Does it Feel”, her show was everything I expected it to be: full of feel-good West Coast, 90s bounce hip-hop.
Few people went into this show expecting anything but greatness, but most of us out there had our expectations blown right out of the water. James Murphy has refined his abilities to rip at a crowds heartstrings over the years. And the way they broke down “New York I Love You” in a way where each single phrase was a cry for something comfortable, something genuine, and something you can wrap your body around and hold… it moved many of us in the crowd in a way we probably haven’t felt since the first time we ever heard the song. LCD was without question in my opinion, the best act of the weekend, and probably one of the best shows I may have seen in my lifetime.
Jeff Rosenstock and his band have been touring pretty much nonstop since the release of their most recent album, Worry, in October of 2016 (they played at The Sett in November of that year), and you can tell just by listening to them. They blasted through forty minutes of catchy pop punk tunes with almost zero mistakes. Jeff and all the members’ energy was infectious – the crowd couldn’t help but get involved while watching Jeff dance around the stage. The set featured about half material from the newest album, and the rest being made up of cuts from 2015’s We Cool?.
An eccentric character, Weyes Blood was guaranteed to be a spectacle in some form or another. Playing almost every track from 2016’s Front Row Seat To Earth, Natalie Mering captivated the crowd with her haunting melodies and charming personality. One of my favorite moments was at one point, mid-set, she removed her sunglasses and told the audience “I think we could all use a little more honesty”. The dry, genuine statement spoke to her ability to hammer an idea home in with an honest sense of self-awareness that is found so often in her lyrics. The only complaint I have of the whole show was that she stuck to new material. Her voice is truly an energy all its own, and she put on a killer performance.
One of my most anticipated acts of the weekend, Angel truly established herself as a rock goddess at Union Park. While her music varies from quiet whispers to fiery cries, her stage performance was strong and solid. She kept her distance from the acoustic guitar, but demonstrated her mastery over volume. She took just about everything she’s ever done from a performance aspect, and brought it to another level. Watch her perform the single from last year’s release “Shut up Kiss Me” here.
A Tribe Called Quest
A Tribe Called Quest’s first ever performance without Malik “Phife Dog” Taylor on Saturday night went off without a hitch. The set started off with a bang as the group ran through a handful of tracks from their comeback album, We Got It from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service, including ‘Mobius’, ‘The Space Program’, as well as some older tracks, such as ‘Oh My God’. The entire set was very well balanced, with the group featuring lots of new tracks as well as the classics that everyone knows. About halfway through the show, Q-Tip formally introduced Chicago rapper Consequence as a new member of the group – or rather, Consequence introduced himself by performing his verse from the Kanye West track ‘Spaceship’. After that, ATCQ ran through a handful of classics from all of their albums – including their debut, People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm (‘Bonita Applebum’), The Low End Theory (Buggin’ Out), Midnight Marauders (Stir It Up), Beats, Rhymes, and Life (Phony Rappers), and even their 1998 album, The Love Movement (Busta’s Lament). The entire show was a giant dedication to recently deceased founding member, Phife. Throughout the set, Phife’s verses played over the loudspeakers, and an empty mic stand was featured on stage. It managed to be a touching tribute to Malik Taylor while not seeming cheesy or overdone, like a hologram of him would’ve been. The night ended with an encore consisting of fan favorites ‘Award Tour’, ‘Can I Kick It?’, and an emotional ‘We the People…’ (although the emotion was drained when Q-Tip started the song over four separate times). Overall, the set was jam-packed with beats and rhymes, and the energy Q-Tip exerted on stage was truly stunning.
On his albums, American musician Nicolas Jaar creates dark soundscapes with minimal dance beats and a good helping of experimenting with feedback, static, and glitchy electronics. His set started off with a good 5-10 minutes of just that – eerie, pretty quiet electronic noise, creating an ambience which was only added to by the cool video effects on the giant screen behind him and the screen facing the crowd, stage left. Pretty soon the bass came in, however, and the entire crowd became a dancefloor for nearly an hour. Jaar transitioned between tracks incredibly smoothly, including some from his newest release, Sirens, and 2011’s Space Is Only Noise. This was one of the best sets of the weekend, being a great mix between experimental electronics and house dance beats.
Closing out the entirety of Pitchfork, Solange brought a mix of raw emotions to the stage that I think everyone in the audience felt. Her record setting album A Seat at the Table confronts the struggles of being a black woman in America, and she did not hide that in her performance. She started her set with Weary and Cranes in the Sky, two of the biggest songs on the album, which came along with crisp dancing from her and her band, choreographed and produced all by Solange herself.
For Us By Us commenced as she came out into the crowd and sang the powerful interlude directly to a few black women in the audience, something she does at every one of her shows. She continued to amaze by bringing out a 20-30 piece brass ensemble on stage multiple times throughout her performance, bringing the energy of the audience to another level. She closed out the show with an encore, singing Don’t Touch My Hair, a plea for white people to erase the microaggression which denies black women respect. Solange interweaved her set with songs from her earlier work, acknowledging her dedicated fans.
“Thank you all for giving me the space to grow and change.”