Quentin's Pitchfork Music Festival 2023 Recap

  • Post Author
    by Music director
  • Post Date
    Tue Aug 29 2023


Pitchfork Festival was an incredible experience. It was my first true music festival experience and it most certainly did not disappoint, with every band far exceeding my expectations. The lineup on the Blue Stage was packed to the brim with high energy acts, spanning the genres of funk, house, techno and hip-hop. Pitchfork certainly knows how to book a music festival.

Although day two of Pitchfork Festival was marred by cancellations and delays, my time at Union Park that day was unforgettable. Folk was on full display during day two, featuring sublime acts from Weyes Blood to Big Thief to MJ Lenderman. I had the biggest musical renaissance that I have ever experienced, falling head over heels with folk music, a genre I was routinely bored with before the festival.

I dreaded the final day of Pitchfork even before the festival began. Pitchfork was one of the greatest weekends ever and Sunday was the perfect sendoff to the festivities. My one qualm with the final day was the scheduling- too many closely-related bands played at the same time. I would have loved to see full performances by JPEGMAFIA and Soul Glo or Mdou Moctar and Kelela, but their sets overlapped so I was only able to see snippets of each. Despite that, the bands I saw perform on Sunday were some of the best of the entire weekend.

Leikeli47 (Hardcover)


Recommended song: “Money”

Years ago, I discovered Leikeli47's 2018 track “Girl Blunt.” In the midst of the peak of what I would call “novelty rap” (think: bbno$, early Lil Nas X, Yung Gravy), I dismissed Leikeli47 as yet another member of that camp. I was painfully wrong. When looking through the lineup for Pitchfork this year, I revisited her music and fell in love with her discography. Skillfully produced and filled with memorable hooks, her most recent release Shape Up is one of the best hip-hop releases of last year. While most Pitchfork attendees opted to see Alvvays on night one of the festival, Leikeli47 was a can't-miss performance. She brought an energy to the Blue Stage that was unmatched throughout the entire festival, getting the entire crowd moving and bringing up members of the audience to perform on the stage with her. By the end of the set, everyone in the audience was in love with her music, culminating in her final track “Money,” which was the perfect end to her high-energy soirée.

Ric Wilson (Free Disco)


Recommended song: “I'm Not A Leader I'm A Mouthpiece”

Ric Wilson is an exciting newcomer into the world of hip-hop. In March of this year, he released his debut full-length album CLUSTERFUNK, one of the best releases of 2023. Produced by the duo of A-Trak and Chromeo, CLUSTERFUNK combines a slick synth-funk sound with socially-conscious rap. His 2020 EP with Terrace Martin, They Call Me Disco,is another favorite of mine. As a major fan of both funk and hip-hop, Ric Wilson was one of my most anticipated performances at Pitchfork. His Friday show did not disappoint. A Chicago native, Ric Wilson was surrounded by his friends and family who helped make the set feel very intimate and full of life. My favorite moment of the entire set came right after Ric Wilson performed “I'm Not A Leader I'm A Mouthpiece,” when he brought out his aunt to recite her spoken interlude off of the album. 

Nourished By Time (Scenic Route)


Recommended song: “Daddy”

The sound of Nourished By Time is hard to pin down. Their album Erotic Probiotic 2 is one of the greatest releases of this year, combining a wide cast of influences from psychedelic rock to house. Their performance was the perfect first show of the festival, bringing plenty of energy to the Green Stage with songs like the Yves-Tumor-esque “Quantum Suicide” and the house banger “Daddy,” which has quickly become one of my favorite singles of this year. Nourished By Time was a late addition to the festival, replacing the duo of Roc Marciano and The Alchemist, leaving some festival goers disappointed. I for one am extremely thrilled that they managed to make it to the festival. Nourished By Time was my favorite new discovery at Pitchfork this year. Start listening to their music before they make it big!

Jlin (Planet Mu)

Crowd during Jlin, PHOTO: AMANY

Recommended song: “Hatshepsut”

Inspired by her time working in the steel mills of her hometown of Gary, Indiana, Jlin's signature style of experimental electronic music really resonated with me while I was researching the artists headlining this year's Pitchfork Fest. Her 2017 album Black Origami is fantastic, with barebones electronic production that emphasizes the groove over all else. Jlin got the crowd moving during her afternoon set at Pitchfork with a non-stop barrage of danceable electronic beats. Her set was the best electronic performance I have ever seen- not a moment passed where the crowd wasn't completely entranced by her music. In the crowd throughout the performance was electronic music legend RP Boo, who was loving the set as much as the audience was. 

Axel Boman (Pampa Records)

Pitchfork crowd, PHOTO: AMANY KHREIS

Recommended song: “Atra”

While Axel Boman usually performs solo sets, he switched things up for Pitchfork, bringing along flute/saxophone extraordinaire Kristian Harborg for the festivities. Joining the duo on stage was a third mysterious being who carried a single drumstick around the stage. We were all quite confused during the set until this character sprung into action at the very end, swiftly smacking a crash cymbal a single time right before they left the stage. The audience had a great time during Boman's performance, which was one of the most danceable sets of day one. The combination of house beats with live instrumentation was unbeatable; unfortunately most of our favorite tracks from the set are unreleased. Here's to hoping that Boman's studio releases incorporate more live elements in the future. 

MAVI (Mavi 4 Mayor)


Recommended song: “High John”

An electrifying hip-hop artist on the rise, MAVI reminds me immensely of Earl Sweatshirt, another rapper I am incredibly fond of. I unfortunately missed MAVI's performance for WUD Music's WUDstock festival back in 2021, but I was finally able to see him perform at Pitchfork and I had a wonderful time. Nobody was more grateful to be performing at the festival than MAVI, whose shining smile and positive attitude was contagious. 

Weyes Blood (Sub Pop)


Recommended song: “Andromeda”

Weyes Blood has one of the most powerful and soulful voices in modern music. She's the only vocalist that I have ever heard that manages to perfectly emulate the classic soft-rock sound of the 1970s that I love dearly. I've heard of how magical her live performances are and the stories are all true- something dramatically altered my brain chemistry following Weyes Blood's breathtaking set on Saturday night. After a long day of cancellations and misfortunes, I was extremely worried that her set would be canceled, but thankfully this catastrophe was narrowly avoided. “Andromeda” was spectacular and “Something to Believe” was a spiritual experience. The rain began to pour during her performance of “God Turn Me Into a Flower” which created the most magical concert-going experience of my life. I will never forget this legendary set. Listen to her 2019 album Titanic Rising if you haven't before- you will not regret it. 

Big Thief (4AD)


Recommended song: “Spud Infinity”

I hadn't listened to any Big Thief before their headlining performance on Saturday beyond the occasional single off of their 2022 album Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You. This live set was the perfect introduction into their music. I had the time of my life jumping around and dancing with my beloved WSUM and EMMIE friends during tracks like Big Thief's most recent release “Vampire Empire” and “Simulation Swarm,” the most popular track off of last year's LP. The energy of Big Thief's set was perfect for the final performance of the day, bringing down the energy after a long day of weather-related stress and high energy sets. My favorite moment of the performance came during their final track “Spud Infinity” when the group brought out a jaw harp. After witnessing an exhilarating jaw harp solo during the aforementioned tuber-themed song, it's my firm belief that more bands should incorporate silly and quirky instruments into their live sets.

MJ Lenderman (Anti-Records)


Recommended song: “You Have Bought Yourself A Boat”

Having grown up in a small town, I would consider myself a well-versed expert on rural America. MJ Lenderman's music epitomizes what it is like to live a country lifestyle, with aptly-named songs including “You Have Bought Yourself A Boat” and “Someone Get The Grill Out Of The Rain.” Joining him on stage during the performance was Jeff Tweedy's son Spencer, who played drums during the set. While some festival-goers were a bit upset at Lenderman's more stripped-down sound at the festival compared to his studio work, I didn't mind. MJ Lenderman's set had the perfect energy for a mid-afternoon show. 

King Krule (Matador)


Recommended song: “Seaforth”

King Krule is quite beloved here at WSUM. I never got around to listening to much of his music in spite of that. I've always wanted to get into King Krule and Pitchfork was the perfect place to start this journey. While I didn't catch the full set (shoutout Yaya Bey over on the Blue Stage) every song that I listened to from King Krule was superb. As the first performer after the lengthy storm delay that occurred earlier that afternoon, the crowd was incredibly energetic and happy to be seeing King Krule perform. I still haven't gotten around to listening to his new album Space Heavy, released earlier this year on Matador Records, but I most certainly will soon. 

Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul (DEEWEE)

Pitchfork crowd, PHOTO: AMANY KHREIS

Recommended song: “Ceci n'est pas un cliché”

I had no idea who Charlotte & Bolis were before 8:20 PM on day two of Pitchfork. Weyes Blood had just finished her magical set and I quickly ran over to the Blue stage to catch the tail end of their performance. I only managed to see a few songs, including my newfound favorite track of theirs “Ceci n'est pas un cliché,” but in the short amount of time I saw them I was very impressed. Charlotte had a wonderful stage presence, leading the audience in chants and dance throughout the performance. Check out the duo's debut 2022 album Topical Dancer– an exceptional LP that combines infectious beats with funny yet socially-conscious lyrics.

Deeper (Sub Pop)

Pitchfork crowd, PHOTO: AMANY KHREIS

Recommended song: “This Heat”

With a great indie-rock sound, Deeper was an excellent opening soundtrack to day two of Pitchfork Festival. Deeper is the only band I had seen pre-festival that was on this year's Pitchfork Fest lineup- I saw them open for Spirit of the Beehive at The Sett in early 2022. They were good back then but have truly stepped up their live presence since that performance. Deeper's set was cut off a few songs short due to weather, but the group's set was amazing nonetheless. They recently got signed to Sub-Pop and have a new record out later this year that is looking to be pretty great.

Bon Iver (Jagjaguwar)


Recommended song: “iMi”

I'm from Wisconsin. It was Bon Iver. What more can be said? I hadn't listened to much Bon Iver before Pitchfork but I was still insanely hyped to see Bon Iver headline the final day of the festival. I was taken aback by Bon Iver's heavily experimental sound, which was a byproduct of the group's setlist which highlighted their recent albums 22, A Million and i,i over their more iconic releases like 2008's For Emma, Forever Ago. I have been binging Bon Iver's discography in the weeks following the festival and I am so glad that I can finally call myself a fan of Bon Iver. Their set was truly the perfect end to a fantastic weekend of music.

Mdou Moctar (Matador)

Pitchfork crowd, PHOTO: AMANY KHREIS

Recommended song: “Afrique Victime”

A WSUM Global Music Club favorite, Mdou Moctar has one of the most interesting and inspiring origin stories of any artist. Born in the Nigerian village of Tchintabaraden, frontman Mahamadou Souleymane built his first guitar using bicycle cables for strings and garnered acclaim throughout North Africa after his earliest work was spread over cellphone throughout the late 2000s. Mdou Moctar performed at the same time as Kelela on Sunday night but I still was able to catch some of the set and it was unbelievable. While the crowd over by the Red and Green stages was awful by the end of the final night, the Blue stage crowd was obsessed with Mdou Moctar's music.

Soul Glo (Loma Vista)

Pitchfork crowd, PHOTO: AMANY KHREIS

Recommended song: “Driponomics”
With an aggressive punk sound that incorporates hip-hop elements, Soul Glo is doing something wholly unique and different from anyone else at Pitchfork. Their 2022 LP Diaspora Problems was a favorite here at WSUM and over at EMMIE Magazine. Although the group performed at the same time as Jockstrap and JPEGMAFIA, I still managed to catch a fair amount of the set and I enjoyed it a lot. Soul Glo's Pitchfork set was quite possibly the best punk performance that I had ever seen.

Jockstrap (Rough Trade)


Recommended song: “50/50”

What can't Georgia Ellery do? Graduate of the prestigious Guildhall School of Music & Drama, member of indie heartthrob band Black Country, New Road and omnipresent session musician (she has worked with beabadoobee and Injury Reserve!), Georgia Ellery has one of the most impressive resumes of any active musician. One of Ellery's newest ventures is Jockstrap. With the aid of producer Taylor Skye, Jockstrap has crafted a sound with no parallel, melding together an immense assortment of musical styles. Some songs like “50/50” and “Greatest Hits” lean more in an electronic direction, while others like “Glasgow” take a folky approach. Their 2022 album I Love You Jennifer B is a recent discovery of mine and I am so glad that I finally got around to listening to it. Seeing the rise of the British musical scene has been magical, yielding some of the best art of this decade including black midi, shame, Squid and the aforementioned Black Country, New Road. Jockstrap is yet another addition to this legendary group. Their performance on Sunday was one of my favorites of the entire weekend.

Kelela (Warp)


Recommended song: “Happy Ending”

Kelela's 2023 LP Raven is an incredibly bright spot in an otherwise lackluster year of music releases. In the midst of the house music revival, plenty of artists have released mediocre house music (what was Drake thinking?) yet Raven is a major exception. Raven is the best house album in years, featuring otherworldly production and trancelike vocals. It took Kelela six years to make this album and her hard work shines through. At Pitchfork Fest, Kelela delivered a strong performance, playing both her biggest hits off of her new LP including “Contact” and “Happy Ending” while also kicking it back with classic picks like her 2017 track “Waitin.” Unfortunately, by the time Kelela's set began Pitchfork Fest was infested with people who had only traveled to the grounds to see Bon Iver. They really killed the energy of Kelela's set, not only planting their blankets down in the middle of the crowd but also flat out ignoring and talking over her wonderful set. 



Recommended song: “1539 N. Calvert”
Combining charismatic yet quirky lyricism with ethereal self-produced beats, it is easy to see how JPEGMAFIA has become one of the largest forces in the world of alternative hip-hop. His 2021 album LP! was one of my favorite releases of that year. I'm a little less hot on his collaborative project with Danny Brown that was released this year, but despite this I was very excited to see him perform. I ended up splitting time with Soul Glo on Sunday afternoon and missed some of my favorite JPEGMAFIA tracks like “1539 N. Calvert,” “BALD!,” “HAZARD DUTY PAY!” and a JPEGMAFIA concert mainstay: his cover of Carly Rae Jepsen's essential 2012 track “Call Me Maybe.” Regardless, every other track I saw him perform was amazing. The energy of JPEGMAFIA's set was unmatched, creating one of the most fun performances of the entire weekend. It's really funny to me how the only two Pitchfork Festival sets that had mosh pits happened at the exact same time.