Photos by Max Blau.
“You guys look great,” Superchunk frontman Mac McCaughan jokingly says to the crowd on the last day of Pitchfork Music Festival. It’s late in the afternoon and the crowd has endured a 90-degree day in Chicago—one of the hottest in the festival’s history. “I feel bad for you guys,” he quips moments before the band launches into their set. It’s an impeccable performance, but that isn’t surprising from the veteran indie rockers who helped define the music scene in North Carolina. The energy from their set is contagious, the driving drums and bass are powerful and precise. It’s a shock of refreshment in the sweltering heat.
Fresh on the scene, Yuck released their self-titled album only five months prior to their early-afternoon performance. The whiny vocals and grunge guitar are instantly enjoyable. “I don’t want to let you down, I just need to be around,” frontman Daniel Blumberg sings. There’s a believable sincerity to his vocals combined with a stripped down intensity. Unfortunately, technical difficulties prevent them from fully exhibiting their musical impetus. They’re visibly flustered and struggle to recover, finishing only one last song before ending their set.
Where Yuck struggled, Kurt Vile and the Violators succeeded with a mid-afternoon performance that stood among the festival’s best sets. Vile has evolved in only a few years into a musician that rivals those of old. His stage presence is effortless as he lets his shy persona slip away into the cosmic folk sounds of his music. It’s a performance that’s an easy contender for the best of the afternoon.
It’s confusing when the somewhat mellow crowd following Kurt Vile abruptly turns into a sweat-drenched, fist-throwing mess during Odd Future’s set. The head-turning hip-hop collective waves t-shirts with upside down crosses, seemingly playing a game of ‘how many times can we say bitch in one set.’ Things are thrown, Tyler the Creator stage dives regardless of his bright pink cast over one leg and people continuously chant “kill people, burn shit, fuck school.”
Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti takes the stage after Odd Future, combining grungy vocals with a classic psych-pop sound. His movements are almost animalistic, precariously jumping around the other band members and arching his back to let out shrill screams. After the somewhat wild sets of Odd Future and Ariel Pink, The dreamy sounds of Deerhunter calm a riled crowd. The intricate layers of vocals and guitar make the set energetic, but at the same time refined and spiritual.
As the oppressive sun finally retreats behind the red stage, a confetti-laden dance party takes place as electro rockers Cut Copy play a full set for the first time at Pitchfork. In only three short years this band has boomed from only playing a 20-minute set at the festival in 2008, to becoming sub-headliners. Dan Whitford controls the energy of the crowd with sweeping waves of his hands. At one point, he tells the crowd to “go crazy” on the count of three, causing masses to erupt into a jumping and dancing frenzy.
It’s apparent as the last moments of the festival slip away that the musicians on the Sunday lineup prove to be the music-making giants of the weekend. The dust is rising up in a cloud for the headlining set of TV on the Radio. Their music traverses culture and genre, offering a perfect cap to a weekend filled with such a wide-range of talented performers.
See Max Blau’s photos from day three at Pitchfork Music Festival, which featured TV on the Radio, Cut Copy, HEALTH, Deerhunter, Superchunk, OFWGKTA, Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, Yuck, Toro Y Moi and more.