Everything you need to know about Pitchfork Festival Day 1

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The first day of Pitchfork Festival is on the books. The Chicago Sun-Times has four writers on the grounds of the annual music fest: Music writer Mark Guarino (MG), digital editor Brandon Wall (BW), Sun-Times reporter Tina Sfondeles (TS) and Pioneer Press editor Ben Meyerson (BM). For Saturday updates, follow our live blog, which also includes the live stream from Union Park.


A primer on all things Pitchfork

Here are the highlights from Friday: Describe your ideal music festival conditions, and the first day of the Pitchfork Music Festival in Union Park wasn’t far off. The first people in when the gates opened at 3 p.m. were greeted by clear blue skies, warm-but-not-sweltering sunshine, and a lazy, accommodating breeze. We should be so lucky! Chicago was more than ready to spend Friday afternoon taking it all in. By the time Hundred Waters took the stage at 3:20, the line at the main gate already ran up Ashland and down Lake Street, hundreds of people deep. But there was no rush, no sense of urgency to get in. It was too nice to worry about anything.

Slowly but surely, as steady as the synth-pop beats that filled the air, the crowd grew. By the time the second band had started, Pitchfork was in full swing. It didn’t come as any surprise, but rumors of guest appearances by Chicago’s Chance the Rapper or Sunday headliner Kendrick Lamar (SZA has songs featuring both) did not come to fruition. —BW

The music

• Music Writer Mark Guarino wraps up Day 1 Sharon Van Etten Sharon Van Etten’s music doesn’t really scream “let’s listen to her in sunshine,” but she gathered a nice crowd for festivalgoers just arriving for the first day day, perhaps after a hard day at work. She’s no stranger to giant outdoor shows. She played a free Millennium Park show last year, as well as many festivals. Van Etten’s melodies are often sad, but poetic and easy to listen to. Tunes from her 2014 record “Are We There” stood out. Definitely a welcome Friday evening set for festival goers settling in for the weekend. —TS SZA


As relaxed as neo soul singer SZA’s music is, her stage presence was anything but. She more than reciprocated the energy from the crowd, leading to friendly stage banter that ended up with the crowd deciding which song she should play towards the end of her set. —BW What’s more fun than a singer who loves to dance to her own music? SZA jumped around, moved her hips and nodded her head during her Friday evening set. She’s good because she’s from the Midwest. Just kidding. But she did mention her Midwestern roots! Proud to be from St. Louis, she told the crowd. Think of SZA as jazz meets indie rock with a little bit of soul. —TS Sun Kil Moon Pitchfork organizers usually have expert curatorial sense for fitting who works on what stage and when. They failed in the case of Sun Kil Moon, the ongoing project of Mark Kozelek, former of Red House Painters. For more than a decade, Kozelek has put out albums, and appeared in town, playing quiet and elegant songs that draw people in through his mournful voice and epic arrangements. Yet having him appear on the festival’s biggest stage under the bright sun, where his voice and music was lost in the mix, almost made it seem like he wasn’t there at all. He and his band sat amid Beck’s gear and did a set that would have flattened a crowd at Metro to silence. But the Pitchfork nation wouldn’t have any of it, and the only sound during his set was their chorus of conversations — An unfortunate circumstance for an artist who deserves closer ears. —MG


Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks

Avey Tare had fun, laughing, singing Happy Birthday to a bandmate and just enjoying himself as the crowd sang along. The band sounds like everyone from the Ramones to the Talking Heads to Real Estate at points. But it all came together for their big hit “Little Fang.” The band livened up the Blue Stage, the shady stage away from the two main stages. A nice wake-up call to an otherwise uneventful day at the stage. —TS Giorgio Moroder There’s something telling that the one performer that united the crowd from the lip of the stage to the hinterlands of the food area was a 74-year-old Italian composer and electronic originator Giorgio Moroder. No doubt many in the crowd were diving into Google on their mobiles to find out who was this man with the bushy mustache and fingers to the skies. In fact, he is an Academy Award winner (“Midnight Express”) and multiple film composer (“Scarface,” “American Gigolo,” “Top Gun”) who has been the focus of a revival thanks to a recent collaboration with Daft Punk. Psychedelic colors swirled over video footage of Moroder at his laptop and mixer, creating drama that wasn’t apparent on the stage. As he got deeper into his set and pulled out the biggest disco-era hits he worked on — remixes of Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love,” “Hot Stuff” and Blondie’s “Call Me,” as well as the aptly-titled “Giorgio by Moroder” by Daft Punk, which he demonstrated started with a single click beat. “This is by far the best gig in my life,” he said in broken English. But when his set finally took flight, it abruptly ended due to time constraints. He looked disappointed, and so was everyone else. —MG Beck

Beck cloaked the hurt amid lush guitars and sonic beauty. Isolation, he repeated during Wave while standing alone onstage with just a keyboardist drowning his tears in synths.

Here is the full review from Mark Guarino. —MG The sound tent is typically where crowd enthusiasm tapers off — audiences can be divided between those in front and those behind. Not so with Beck. The people 20 feet behind the sound tent were in their own little groovy world. —BW

There were so many expectations for Beck, but it seems he pleased the masses Friday night. “Devils Haircut,” “Black Tambourine,” and of course, “I’m A Loser” stood out as Beck, wearing a signature hat, danced and joked with the crowd. He said Chicago is “very very lucky” and that the “Pitchfork gods are smiling on us” for such pleasant weather. He said he’s no stranger to Chicago and had performed in some pretty miserable humid temperatures. The crowd looked a lot different at this set: wearing sweaters and in some cases blanket. Come on people! It’s only in the ‘70s. —TS

Beck and Chicago crime

Beck’s set of crowd-pleasers went over well, but I couldn’t get over the “crime scene” tape that was stretched across the stage before his first encore, “Sexx Laws.” I don’t usually get offended by art, but something about this just struck me as tasteless. With so many people shot every week — every day — in Chicago, police tape gets a lot of use.

I didn’t know it at the time, but at almost the same moment Beck’s people were declaring the stage a “crime scene,” a 10-year-old girl was shot in the head three and a half miles away on the West Side. Beck’s not a Chicagoan, of course, and he can’t be expected to read the local headlines every day to know our crime problems.

But when the gimmick’s not even funny to begin with, why perform such a distasteful stunt?

Festival style

The weather was beautiful, but I think it stopped the usual wild Pitchfork fashions. I barely saw skin, just a lot of coverups, sweaters and jackets. We’ll see if the wild and crazy styles come out Saturday. —TS Btw we’ve been keeping our eyes on fashion at #pitchforkfest. Midriffs are in. Here’s Sam Didier, 19, of Naperville. —TS Floral headbands and braids are in @pitchforkfest. Here’s Nichole Fuller, 25, and Noelle Duncan, 24. Both are from Austin, Texas. —TS Favorite male style so far @pitchforkfest. Hat, vest, suspenders. Also red vegan Doc Martens. Oscar Sjogren, 28, of Evanston. —TS A seapunk gathering. #p4k #pitchforkfest —Dustin Park, CSTtv executive producer She’s a brick house @lauramgray at @pitchforkfest —Tres Awesome, street style blogger on assignment for Splash

Shopping, eating and drinking


The pizza line. Is Chicago sick of pizza? The Connie’s Pizza line was the shortest. There must be a lot of vegetarians and vegans. The Chicago Diner line was packed all day. —TS As the Pitchfork Music Festival enters its 10th year, brands are on a bigger stage than ever before — literally. Ray-Ban’s set up a third faux-stage across the field from the festival’s two main stages, where employees of Logan Square mainstay Joe’s Barber Shop are dishing out free haircuts. But there’s a catch: You get no choice on your new ‘do. That didn’t phase Peter Ryan, 37, of Lake View, who left his scalp in barber Tyler Scott’s hands. “I didn’t feel like I had a huge risk of getting a mohawk,” Ryan said. “I was pretty confident he wasn’t just gonna buzz me.” —BM With sky-high prices for festival food and drink, there’s almost nothing as popular as free dinner. Chipotle’s set up a “VIP for the people” tent at Pitchfork, dishing out tacos to folks who won seats. There’s a line for general admission, too — guessing it’ll stretch all the way back to the fest’s entrance when word gets out Saturday. —BM There’s a Pitckfork bingo in the program. It includes: flatforms, e-cigs, maxi dresses and crying. #pitchforkfest Goose Island’s got a big presence at Pitchfork as the main beer sponsor, and they’re using their prominence to help other people get attention. The beer company has set up a giant “missed connections” board next to its flagship beer tent. Festgoers can write up a note on a typewriter and staple it to the giant wooden wall. Todd Ahsmann, Goose Island’s brand manager, said the idea was born from the brewery’s do-it-yourself roots. “Phones run out fast — you can never count on them,” he said. “We thought, ‘let’s go old-school typewriter.’” As of 8 p.m. Friday, there were already close to 100 posts on the board — and even a couple of connections, it seemed. “We didn’t know if people would say, ‘That’s cheesy and stupid,’” Ahsmann said. “But it looks like people are digging it!” —BM

What we learned from Day One

• Bring water! It gets warm out there. • But leave it sealed until you enter. The pile of confiscated water bottles at the gate could have filled a kiddie pool. • Phone batteries go fast. It’s a Lord of the Flies esque situation for access to the limited 4G bandwidth in Union Park, which will eat up your phone’s battery. Consider cruising in airplane mode until the moment calls for Instagraming. • In theory, the setup for buying beer makes sense for dispersing crowds: one line for a 21+ wristband, one line for buying tickets, and one line for buying beer. It didn’t stop long lines for both tickets and beers from queueing up early in the day. Thankfully, beer is a (relatively) reasonable $6, so you may as well take advantage of the two-per-person maximum. https://twitter.com/ConorAltier/status/490287748503199745

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