Our Pitchfork Music Fest 2016 Picks
As our brethren at Pitchfork begin their annual mid-July load-in over at Union Park, anticipation within the walls of RFHQ has been steadily increasing since Monday because, as music fans housed in Chicago, our internal alarm clocks have been sounding off for one reason: Pitchfork Music Festival is only a few days away.
Although the Riot staff has a wide array of musical preferences, Pitchfork (July 17-19, Union Park, Chicago, IL) is one of the few festivals we all attend and enjoy.
Why? Simply, Pitchfork—time and time again—has proven that lineup curation is king. And few do it better.
So, instead of just gabbing about the lineup in front of the water cooler with one another, we all took some time to detail which artists we’re most excited to see this weekend.
Brian Wilson performing the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds (Riot Mike)
(Performing on Saturday, July 16 at 7:25 p.m. on the Red Stage)
Because of my mother’s kitchen radio and her musical sensibilities, a ceaseless stream of 50s and 60s melody-making hits became the first settlers to stake claim inside my young brain—well before I could even pen my own name. With local celebrity DJs like Danny “Who Moves Your Fanny in Morning” Neaverth, Oldies 104.1 out of Buffalo, NY, easily penetrated my impetuous attention span with something uncomplicated and perfect: melody, harmony and hooks.
While I primarily leaned on Buddy Holly, The Beatles, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Eddie Cochran and Jerry Lee Lewis, it was at this same point when another band stormed through my ever-growing world of imagination with a musical ad campaign of sunny beaches, bikini-clad girls, Woodies, and, of course, California surfing. And while the closest thing to a beach I saw growing up in post-steel mill, Rust Belt Buffalo, was a Florida beach souvenir snow globe my grandmother picked up for me at a garage sale, I was sold on what the Beach Boys were pitching me.
Granted, at that young of an age, it’s nearly impossible to recognize musical genius—and, I was no different. The Beach Boys were, to me, California-Americana at it’s finest. Nice boys singing about nice things—and with the best harmonies rock ‘n’ roll has ever seen. Decades later, I find myself listening less and less to the Eddie Cochrans and spending more time with Brian Wilson’s catalogue, including one of the greatest albums ever composed, Pet Sounds. Although, musicianship and harmonies have plenty to do with that, it has just as much to do with Wilson, as an artist.
Anything I write beyond this point about Wilson or the album has been stated a thousand times before, so I won’t bore you with those details. However, I will leave you on this note: Brian Wilson is one of the most beautifully dichotomous artists of our time. And while we were all able to visualize sandy beaches and rolling waves through his creations, like any great composer, real truths are nestled wonderfully within on handwritten staff paper.
Sufjan Stevens (Buck)
(Performing on Saturday, July 16 at 8:30 p.m. on the Green Stage)
My twin sister is responsible for introducing me to a plethora of incredible music. Our senior year of high school alone, she, in her subtle, non-intrusive way, introduced me to Belle & Sebastian, The Mountain Goats, Beirut, DeVotchKa, The Dresden Dolls, Arcade Fire, Sufjan Stevens and tons of other amazing artists.
The moment I heard the piano at the beginning of Concerning the UFO sighting near Highland, Illinois, I fell head over heels in love! Whether it’s Michigan, Corrie & Lowell, Sisyphus, or Songs for Christmas, if Sufjan puts out music, I’m going to love it. In 2006 he did two nights in a row at Metro and both of those shows take up two spots in my top ten favorite concerts of all time.
This year he’s playing the Saturday of Pitchfork, which, coincidentally, is the same day as my family reunion. While I would ordinarily be bummed about missing a Sufjan show, this time I’m totally cool with it because I get to spend time with the woman who I owe for loving his music in the first place.
Jeremih (Riot Fest Mom)
(Performing on SUNDAY, July 17 at 6:15 p.m. on the Green Stage)
Ironically, the first time I heard Jeremih was when I was having birthday sex with your father listening to the song “Birthday Sex.” You don’t want to know what I was doing when I heard his song “Down On Me.”
He also has really great parents. He credits them for teaching him the importance of education and for the academic pressure that pushed him to overachieve academically, and that a solid educational background would eventually allow him to find decent employment if his music career didn’t come to fruition. There is something about his smooth and sexy voice that just gets your father and me in the mood. And when the other moms and have GNOs (Girls Nights Out) this is always the first song we request from the DJ. Those lyrics!!!
Ms. Vicky, heard you got that sticky
Let’s go and take nine shots we’ll just call it 50
And I’m gonna licky licky licky ’til her hicky
Have-have-have her river runnin’ keep you gunnin’ ’til you empty
Woo! Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go find Riot Fest Dad.
Anderson .Paak & the Free Nationals (Jen)
(Performing on Saturday, July 16 at 7:45 p.m. on the Blue Stage)
I love sharing music with my friends. Tracks are passed back and forth like little pieces of ourselves, our lives, representing current moods or anticipation for upcoming shows. The second I find one that gets me excited, I send it to someone who I know will appreciate it. These musical gems can turn my whole day around and give me something to look forward to.
When a friend of mine shared the Pitchfork lineup back in February, I immediately asked for his top picks because he really knows what’s up. “Anderson .Paak is going to be a superstar,” he said and linked me to his album. I was hooked from the first note. Paak’s voice is as buttery as his beats are fresh. I did a little digging – singer, songwriter, rapper, drummer, and producer of R&B, funk and soul. Yes, please. I love a good multidimensional artist—someone who is fully involved in the production of their soul-pouring music.
It’s even better when it translates to a killer live performance. That’s what you get with Anderson Paak. I’ve watched his SXSW performance multiple times and he brings it all to the stage, lovingly talking shit to his band and humbly thanking his fans. The man has swagger for days and the chops (and band) to back it up. In “Am I Wrong” he sings, “I never wanna waste your time.” Well, A.Paak, I’m positive your set will NOT be a waste of mine.
The Hotelier (Jake)
(Performing on SUNDAY, July 17 at 5:45 p.m. on the BLUE Stage)
The Hotelier is a band that I’ve been excited about since I first listened to them, even back when they were still called The Hotel Year. A few years and a couple albums later, you can really see the band has realized themselves, consistently furthering the scope of their art while still maintaining their emo-tinged indie and alt roots.
Their latest release, Goodness, is a perfect follow up to their previous Home, Like Noplace Is There. While Home holds onto much of the angst and youthful uncertainty present in their first, pop-punk leaning EP, It Never Goes Out , Goodness is a mature progression that focuses more on the world surrounding us all than on introspective narratives and I have not been able to put it down since it came out a few months ago.
Their live show is energetic and engaging, and with no doubt you will see their dedicated fans, fists in the air, singing along to every song when the Riot Fest 2014 veterans take the stage.
Royal Headache (Riot Fest Twitter Guy)
(Performing on SATURDAY, July 16 at 2:45 p.m. on the BLUE Stage)
Kicking ass and taking names since their self-titled debut album in 2012, Australian band Royal Headache are playing Saturday at Pitchfork. With a mix of garage rock and punk, you should get ready for a loud, sweaty, frantic, mass of sound and people.
If you haven’t heard them before, check out the title track from High, their second release.
This is the band you want to drink beers while screaming and singing-along. You may not know every word to their songs before you see them, but there’s a good chance you will shortly thereafter. There is also a really good chance I’ll take my shirt off at some point during their set..
Moses Sumney (Christina)
(Performing on FRIDAY, July 15 at 5:45 p.m. on the BLUE Stage)
I first heard Moses Sumney while frantically trying to click off of a Youtube ad. (I know what you’re thinking – aren’t you in marketing? Shouldn’t you be studying digital advertising? No. Not when it delays Carpool Karaoke.) Not long after, I found myself spending my time watching a car ad purely to hear this man sing.
The ad allowed the viewer to experience Sumney’s performance of his single “Everlasting Sigh” through a 360-degree view. What made it so enticing was seeing him loop his own backing track. Every time he recorded a loop, the image of Sumney would stay in that space so you could track him around the room harmonizing vocals or tapping on a car to create a beat.
That’s when I fell down the Youtube video rabbit hole.
Watching this soulful singer’s live performances had me entertained for hours. In multiple videos, you could find him with just a mic and a guitar belting out his lyrics. In others, he’d be live looping his own created beats from the stage. But everywhere I looked, it was just him and his guitar. He’s a one-man band who creates an entire atmosphere of sound.
Come Friday night, you can find me at the Blue Stage finally watching this in real life. No computer screens. No one trying to stealthily sell me a car I don’t need. It’ll be just me, a drink and hopefully a whole lot of people sharing a 360-degree experience
FKA twigs (Kyla)
(Performing at Pitchfork on Sunday, July 17 at 8:30 p.m.on the Green Stage)
I have been an FKA twigs fan since her first major release, Two Weeks. Her voice caught my attention because it was remarkably different from what I was hearing at the time and was slightly reminiscent of Kate Bush. I am a fan of all kinds of music and I have a weak spot for electronic and R&B inspired music.
After FKA twigs second release, I discovered her videos were amazing performance pieces that blended music, dance and striking visuals. Before becoming a singer, songwriter, producer, and director, FKA twigs trained as a dancer. Her videos heavily incorporate dance elements and I am excited to see how that translates to her live performance. In preparation for Pitchfork, I searched for videos of past live performances. Her live performances span a stripped down performance of Good To Love on Jimmy Fallon featuring a dance solo and a small band to a full-blown stage production at Galstonbury in 2015. I am excited to see how she presents her set this weekend at Pitchfork.
Digable Planets (Emily)
(Performing at Pitchfork on SATURDAY, July 16 at 3:20 p.m.on the RED Stage)
Hip-hop was my first love and Digable Planets was one of the first groups I listened to as a kid. I remember dancing around in my living room with my dad to Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Time and Space), so if they play anything off that album, I’ll probably pee my pants a bit. ‘Cause I’m “Cool Like Dat”. I was also singing the words to “Nickel Bags” before I had a clue what that even meant. Sorry mom.
Carly Rae Jepsen (Dan)
(Performing on Friday, July 15 at 6:25 p.m. on the Green Stage)
I’m pretty stoked to see Carly Rae Jepsen at Pitchfork. Hear me out.
Carly Rae Jepsen transforms something that is typically vapid and ephemeral like Top 40 pop music into something meaningful and memorable, and the moment that I realized I was wrong for writing her off as a one-hit-wonder is when I became a fan.
Many of us remember “Call Me Maybe” as the most unavoidable song of Summer 2012. It was everywhere, staying at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for nine weeks straight, and going on to become the best-selling single of 2012 across the world. A few years passed and I thought “Call Me Maybe” was just another one-hit wonder story. Except Carly Rae Jepsen came back with her 2015 follow-up album, Emotion, and people were blown away by how unexpectedly good it was. Songs like “Run Away with Me” and “Emotion” were immediately recognizable as legitimate and authentic pieces of pop craftsmanship, and damn if they weren’t fun as hell, too.
I caught Carly Rae Jepsen’s set earlier this year at Metro, a less-than 1200 capacity venue. She commanded the stage like an artist playing an arena, and her fans knew every word. Many of them had their favorite lyrics and song titles glitter-painted onto their clothes. As I observed a group of friends un-self-consciously dancing through “I Really Like You,” I thought I just might really like Carly Rae Jepsen and her crazy fans. Hopefully I see some of them at her Pitchfork set.