Pitchfork Music Festival returns to Chicago this weekend and so do Wuog’s media correspondents! Over 30 artists will be performing, from fresh up-and-comers to hyped comeback artists.
Here are the artists that Wuog’s two music directors are most looking forward to seeing. Keep up with the excitement via Wuog’s Instagram this weekend!
With members as both house show hosts and frequent performers at DIY events, Melkbelly has been climbing the ranks in Chicago’s art and music community since 2014, finally landing, well, here. Melkbelly finally released their first full length, Nothing Valley, in October of last year, and to say the least, it lived up to the years of built excitement. Melkbelly’s noise rock wraps you in feedback and teases you with mathy rhythms until you are captive to Miranda Winters’ distinctive deadpan vocals. While their record deserves praise paired with more praise, their live show is what I suspect will deserve even more; the Chicago DIY scene doesn’t just lift any performer to its top. To spell it right out, Melkbelly has been one of the most influential and important bands in the Chicago music scene in the past few years, and if you haven’t been paying attention to them, I suggest you either start right now or on Friday at 1:45 at the Pitchfork red stage.
Historian is one of my favorite albums of 2018 so far. While not doing anything incredibly unique, (Mitski has been doing essentially the same thing since at least 2014) the confessional lyrics and anthemic song structures on here have particularly resonated with me. With an absolutely commanding voice and guitars that crunch at all the right moments, Dacus will be a great way to kick off Pitchfork this year if you arrive too late for The Curls and Melkbelly.
Tierra Whack’s Whack World is one of the most intriguing visual albums from the past few years. 15 tracks, all just a minute long, each featuring its own brief video concept. While the final product is musically a mixed bag of some strong to average hip-hop and alternative R&B vignettes, I feel as though Whack has the potential to really thrive in a live setting. Her 4 non-album singles all show what she can do when not held back by these 1 minute time constraints, and her visuals are consistently unique and exciting. If she extends some of the best Whack World cuts for her Pitchfork performance, it’ll be one you don’t want to miss from an exciting new face.
Dear god, help me. That’s a phrase I’ll be mumbling as I await Big Thief’s first note on Friday evening at the treefort-like blue stage. The devastatingly intimate lyricism and hushed atmosphere of the band’s 2018 record Capacity etched its way into my heart (and inspired my tear ducts) like no other record of 2017. While Adrianne Lenker’s dark tales are deeply intimate, their sentiments demand to be felt by all, making Big Thief a band centered around empathy. With this in mind, I recommend bringing either some tissues, dark sunglasses, or maybe somebody to hold, depending on your style.
It’s always interesting to see how primarily electronic artists adapt their music to a live setting, weather they opt for one man behind a PC turning knobs, or a full band bringing a different life to the performance. Mount Kimbie may find it easier than most to pull off a mix of both. The seamless blend of post-punk tinged indietronica on last year’s excellent Love What Survives seems as though it’d translate well to a combination of its chugging guitar lines and vocal features alongside drum machines and warm distortion. The UK based duo are hitting plenty of festivals this summer, but are certainly one of the must catch electronic acts at Pitchfork this year if you don’t have a booked festival schedule.
Paul Cherry kicks of Saturday’s festival with his jazzy, synth-drenched psych pop. The Chicago-based artist creates music with style, and as the title of his 2018 album suggests, a lot of flavor. Why don’t you give it a taste.
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith textured soundscapes evoke an alien atmosphere on record, and watching her mix these layers live will be a sight to behold. In stark contrast with Zola Jesus who plays around the same time, this will be the set for people who need a bit of a breather on the final day. The slow burning cuts from The Kid have plenty to pay attention to and pick apart, but they award the patient, and her set will be an experience for anyone who loves an ethereal tone to their shows.
An early afternoon set will be a strange time to see Nika Roza Danilova, better known as Zola Jesus, perform. Her music is dark, brooding, and seemingly designed for listening at night. While the timing is less than ideal, Danilova’s darkwave art pop is certain to keep you entertained early on the final day of the festival if you want something with pulsing bass and operatic vocals reminiscent of a gothic Sia.
Speaking of Chicago DIY royalty, Nnamdi Ogbonnaya is another artist worthy of an early Union Park arrival. Ogbonnaya has been in countless Chicago bands and co-founded Chicago’s rising Sooper Records. As such a contributor to the scene here, it’s the cherry on top that Ogbonnaya’s music is a synthesis of many of the flourishing genres that make Chicago’s music scene great. Come for a sampling of Ogbonnaya’s combination of math rock, punk, indie rock, gospel, and hip hop and receive a dose of Ogbonnaya’s bursting on-stage energy free of charge.
Kelly Lee Owens
Kelly Lee Owens’ self-titled debut arrived like a dark horse and remains deeply underrated. With wispy vocals, a vast soundscape, and elements of techno, Kelly Lee Owens brings to mind the work of Jenny Hval, with whom she has collaborated with, and creates a universe of her own on every track: one I’m most looking forward to getting caught up in. The tree-covered blue stage with late sun shining in seems like the perfect time to be drenched in her hypnotic sound.
One of the more buzzed about breakout artists of the past few years has been Japanese Breakfast. Michelle Zauner and her backing band have been touring extensively behind last year’s Soft Sounds From Another Planet. Zauner isn’t one to stick to one sound on this album, hopping from driving indie rock like “Diving Woman” to explosive synth-pop on “Machinist”. She seamlessly works these sounds into her performance and commands the stage, and if you haven’t gotten a chance to catch her yet, her mid-afternoon set on Sunday is sure to be a dreamy affair.
(Sandy) Alex G
A true pioneer in what we at WUOG like to call “post-country”, Alex Giannascoli’s indie darling status was cemented with 2017’s Rocket, his second release for Domino. While (Sandy) Alex G has never leaned more into these country elements than on tracks like “Bobby” and “Proud”, seeing these intermixed with the chaotic industrial “Brick” and the synthetic piano-driven “Sportstar” is something I’m not totally sure I’m prepared for. We’re also sure to get at least a few of his more lo-fi cuts from earlier album scattered in there. As one of the last few acts of the festival, this is one that is sure to surprise.
Noname is an artist that can’t be labeled with just one word. Both poetry and hip hop are essential elements to Noname’s Fatimah Nyeema Warner’s sound during every verse. Warner’s voice carries with a dewy cadence as jazz and lounge inspired instrumentation surrounds her. This creates an atmosphere of sincerity, through which her lyrics bloom. I’m curious to see how Noname’s set further intertwines art and hip hop and can’t wait to hear tracks off her awe-inspiring album Telefone live.