Pitchfork Music Festival had its 7 year anniversary (Comin’ for you Lolla) this past weekend in Union Park, and like in past years, the carefully selected lineup did not disappoint. With three day passes selling out in a little over an hour, I showed up to the fest Friday to see a bunch of hipsters already in full concert mode.
Check out reviews of Curren$y, Das Racist (INCLUDING A FULL VERSION OF A BRAND NEW SONG), and James Blake here.
As Shante Scott Franklin, better know as Curren$y Spitta, came out on stage in a Michael Jordan Bulls jersey, best believe I had high hopes. Between the countless shout outs to the thousands smoking pot (including “Thank you, I don’t smell any reggie…!”) during his set, the New Orleans rapper delivered with songs from “Pilot Talk,” his new album “Weekend At Burnies,” and just about every single mixtape he’s ever been on.
I knew Curren$y could rap coming in (he was the cornerstone feature on Lil Wayne’s Dedication mixtapes years back), but I was pleasantly surprised with his delivery and stage presence. He seemed in another world while performing on the Blue Stage; animated and intense through each verse and engaging and funny in between songs. My personal favorite of the performance was “King Kong” which went acapella midway through, allowing fans to finish lines and feel on top of the world while shouting that King Kong in fact, did not have shit on them. He finished his performance with “Breakfast” (a capella again) and jumped into the crowd to sign everything and anything his “Jet Life” fans put in front of him.
Performance Grade: B+
The weeks leading up to Pitchfork, hype around Das Racist mounted. Announcing a release date (9/13) for their debut album “Relax” along with a nation wide tour, what would the Wesleyan grads show Chicago? As fans made every attempt to get as close to the stage as possible, Heems (Himanshu Suri), Kool A.D. (Victor Vazquez), and Dap (Ashok Kondabolu) ran out onto the stage with air horn sound effects blaring. “Who’s that? Broooown!” got the crowd singing along, and when Detroit rapper Danny Brown ran out onto the stage to perform one of the new songs from “Relax” (called “Power,” you can listen to the song in its entirety below), DR cemented their status as crowd favorites.
Watching Heems play with the mic throughout the entire set was downright hilarious. Using it as a guitar for almost every song, he pounded out solo after solo on that little guy while stumbling around stage (presumably really drunk). And although Heems may never capture the crowd with lyrical genius, Kool A.D. backs him up with glimpses of someone that could hold his own in underground battles and solo performances. Jokes galore with these three (including former hype man-turned official member Dap) combined with simple music that gets you singing along and enjoying yourself. They finished their set with “Rainbow in the Dark,” a crowd favorite, and Kool A.D. left the Pitchfork crowd by comparing his group to Harold and Kumar (“Tried to go to Amsterdam they threw us in Guantanamo”). Perfect ending for the “Weed rap” superstars.
Performance Grade: B+
Side note: Danny Brown is awesome. He came out wearing girl capris with his underwear completely out, and stole the performance for the brief time that he was out there. More on him in the future for sure. HYBRID.
Hands down the performance of the day. No need to give you a nice lead in or anything. James Blake came in and electrified the crowd of over 20,000 with his soul/big bass/dubstep? style that is unparalleled. Fans watched Blake in what seemed like utter disbelief, as he went through songs such as “CMYK,” “Lindisfarne II,” and my personal favorite “Limit to Your Love.” The melodious sounds of the piano shut any chatter that was going on up quickly, and his looping machine (whatever that thing was) gave the crowd a sense of 4 James Blakes singing in Chicago on one stage. When the electronic, big bass, face melting breakdowns did come, the crowd looked like robots bobbing their heads in unison.
It’s not often that I see a show that impresses the crowd as much as Blake’s did. It’s never that I attend a show and encounter the drop dead silence that was during Blake’s spine chilling vocals. As nervous as he was from start to finish (His first word was “Whoa…” after seeing how many people came to see him) the Brit conquered Pitchfork like it was no big deal, and left everyone wanting more.
Performance Grade: A
BTW…If you do get the opportunity to see James live, make sure to spend a song watching the rest of his band. When Blake is on the piano solo during the intro of almost all the songs, the rest of the band just sits around all awkward, maybe once in a while throwing in a head nod or something. Comedy.
Yeah yeah, I may be an easy grader, but it was Pitchfork’s best day in my opinion, and these three acts really showed Chicago one hell of a time.
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