Pitchfork Festival: What you need to know about day 2

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The second day of the annual Pitchfork Festival was much like the first — beautiful weather, long lines for beer and water and great music. The Chicago Sun-Times has four writers on the grounds of the 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 Sunday updates, follow our live blog, which also includes the live stream from Union Park.


• A primer on all things Pitchfork

• Music writer Mark Guarino reviews Pitchfork Festival Day 2

The Music

Cloud Nothings

• Everything you need to know about Pitchfork Festival Day 1

• Mark Guarino reviews Pitchfork Festival’s first day of music

• PHOTOS: Pitchfork Festival 2014 front row fans

Cloud Nothings’ deliciously angsty brand of punk has brought out the best in the young festgoers. Moshing and crowdsurfing instantly begin as they rip into the infectious riffs of “Stay Useless.”

Frontman Dylan Baldi could use a haircut though. —BM

I had one main objective for Pitchfork heading into this weekend: get as close as possible for the Cloud Nothings set. They did not disappoint. A vanguard formed in the crowd formed as the opening chords of “Now Hear In” rang out. At the heart of it was a congenial mob moving with the ebb and flow of mosh pits, crowd surfing, and the occasional over-zealous shover. The band tore through its catalog and the crowd thrashed about, neither side showing any sign of slowing down. —BW

Cloud Nothings proved that the mosh pit is alive and well in 2014 #pitchfork —BW

One thing Pitchfork has in abundance each year are artists on the third stage who arrive relatively alone onstage with nothing but a vocal microphone and sideman playing pre-recorded tracks. This year’s lo-fi models were Kelela and Empress Of, both of whom looked like they were performing on karaoke night at a sports bar near you. Empress Of, also known as Lorely Rodriguez from the Bronx, did not have the vocal grit having a live drummer onstage might demand. R&B. Kelela played slow motion songs that did not have the sultry edge or pop ambition of her better-known peers. —MG

Pusha T

Being fashionably late is a good look for most anyone, but Kanye West cohort Pusha T took things a bit too far. Apparently his DJ ran late, forcing his set to start more than 30 minutes late.

Twitter reacted accordingly.

When the two rappers Danny Brown and Pusha T finally started, the pair arrived with minimal baggage — just a DJ and hype man. Brown, from Detroit, presented sunny, laid-back beat in high-pitched, almost nasal vocals that were carried to the outer edges of Union Park atop a fuzz-heavy bottom. Pusha T was slightly less imaginative: Not only did he show up 30 minutes late, he also paid homage to benefactor Kanye West (who signed the Bronx rapper to his GOOD Music label) by forcing the crowd to repeat the label’s name early and often. On “Hold On,” he came clean on his dark past (“I sold more dope than I sold records”) while balancing regret with swagger. —MG

Oh yeah, Pusha T was late, and then complained about his set being “rushed.” At least they got to hear him sample Chief Keef and play about 45 seconds of “Runaway.” —TS


St. Vincent

Annie Clark (a.k.a. St. Vincent) was a revelation on stage. There’s simply no other way to put it. Her signature crunching guitar, her pseudo-moonwalk stage moves, her power stance atop the stairs placed midstage — they all played into her powerful performance Saturday evening.

It was hard not to be entranced as she tore through her set, flashing strobes flanking her on either side. One of the best sets of the weekend. —BM

St. Vincent got on the stage with a confident attitude, guitar in hand. I heard festivalgoers make bets on what they thought she’d wear. Annie Clark, now a ash blond, donned all black — skirt, tights and black shoes, with a giant shimmery gold bow on her right shoulder. She didn’t speak to the crowd much, but she did say hello to the “f—— freaks and others.” She also did the cool dance move she perfected while performing on “SNL” this past season. A total crowd pleaser and a welcome lady addition to the male-dominated stage. —TS

Neutral Milk Hotel

Closing the day was Neutral Milk Hotel, the band that released only two albums in the late 1990s before disappearing from the public eye until last year when regrouping to hit the reunion circuit. At Pitchfork, the band played most of its 1998 sleeper hit “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” (Merge), complete with the full orchestration: a banjo, trombones, flugelhorn, accordions, and a Minimoog synthesizer, among other instruments.

The set showed why contemporary bands like The Lumineers and Mumford & Sons owe their success, by and large, to this modest band. Lead singer Jeff Magnum sang with a bellowing voice that was louder than the horn section, but he remained hidden inside a beard and cap. Unlike all other headliners at this festival, there was no video projection of his singing, nor was any spotlight allowed. Instead, Mangnum stood in the relative shadows and let his vocals earn his keep. The set featured intricate orchestration (“I Love How You Love Me”) and Magnum solo (“Two-Headed Boy”); in both scenarios, the music blended whimsy and mystery. —MG

I was expecting an odd show from Neutral Milk Hotel and the band’s enigmatic frontman, Jeff Mangum. I was slightly disappointed to be greeted instead with a raucous, entertaining rendition of tracks from the band’s two classic albums.

French horns, accordions, saws — they were all on display (and in use) during Neutral Milk Hotel’s set.

The only quirk was the lack of a giant video screen, which must have made the performance rather difficult to see for fans further back in the crowd. I’ve got a hunch a lot of folks left early — it was much easier leaving Union Park at the end of the night Saturday than it had been Friday. —BM

Festival style

Dean Renaud, 30, of Logan Square, and Whitney Adams, 33, from Los Angeles wear fresh floral headbands made by @thefoxglovestudio.—TS

Ashley Peterson, 28, of Lincoln Square wearing a patterned maxi dress at @pitchforkfest. —TS

Finn Schroeder-Lebez, 3, of Logan Square rocking out to Danny Brown. —TS

Doug Marello, 38, of Humboldt Park and his daughter Rowan, 3. Hippest kid I’ve seem so far. Violet hair! —TS

Shopping, eating and drinking

Water world

It was hotter Saturday that it had been on Friday, fueling sales for the water salesmen outside the Pitchfork gates.

Tony Bennett, 42, of Englewood, was sitting in a lawn chair just outside the festival gates with a cooler on either side. He’s a relative newbie in the water-selling business — this is only his third day selling water to passersby (the first was a Cubs game last week).

He recently lost his job at Advocate Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn after taking family medical leave when his father died — and then not having a job when he was ready to come back, he said.

“This is what I had to resort to,” Bennett said. “But it’s a lucrative business. I could be open to it long-term.”

For now, he’s happy to be outside doing good business — and looking forward to catching some of the hip-hop headliners scheduled Sunday.

“We’ve got an all-star lineup — Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q,” he said. “It’s gonna be a good time.” —BM

The loneliest person at Pitchfork

This poor man. One of many people tasked with directing the crowds towards a vendor tent, his job was to convince people to spend four minutes watching a video for one American dollar. He was on the prowl near the food and beer areas, obviously prime areas for people with time to waste. You can only imagine how many people took him up on the offer. —BW

Not so stuffy

What’s old is new again at the Taxidermy Jewelry booth in Pitchfork’s Coterie Handcrafts Fair section.

April Montiel, 29, of Albany Park, has long collected animal skulls, quail feet and other leftover animal parts. Seeing others cast aside those remnants didn’t feel right to her.

“I don’t like that it’s considered waste, so I’m giving it a second life, she said. “I’m Mayan, so there’s a deep respect for nature.”

Her wares — including pendants with gold-tipped deer antlers and skunk skulls — get a lot of passersby to stop and gawk, but that didn’t always translate to sales. Now she’s found her groove, though, selling at street fests, Riot Fest, Pitchfork, and at a consignment shop in Logan Square.

Montiel does some business online through Etsy, but not much. She prefers to meet the people she’s selling to.

“When you make things, you want to know the people they’re going to,” Montiel said. “There’s no romance in the Internet.” —BM

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