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Ms. Lauryn Hill, Raphael Saadiq, Chaka Khan & 7 more acts to catch at Pitchfork

Recording artist Lauryn Hill pays tribute to Nina Simone during the 33rd Annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at Public Auditorium on April 14, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. | Theo Wargo/Getty Images

Pleasing everyone is not always easy, but it’s a promise that the Pitchfork Music Festival upholds year after year. Now in its 13th edition, returning July 20-22 at Union Park, the weekend is known for its multi-genre, multi-generational, multipurpose ethos — a place to see buzzworthy acts, discover emerging talent and also engage with the CHIRP Record Fair, Renegade Craft Fair and the Book Fort among other on-site experiences.


When: July 20-22

Where: Union Park, 1501 W. Randolph

Tickets: Single day tickets $75; 3-day passes $175


This year in particular there is a focus on Pitchfork’s local roots — among the 40-plus bands playing, nearly a third of them are from or based in Chicago. That includes the youngest act, 19-year-old Ravyn Lanae (who recently toured with SZA), plus two artists fueling the city’s hip-hop renaissance, Bronzeville wordsmith Noname and Evanston Township DIY rapper/producer Kweku Collins. We talk to four of the homegrown acts, among our list of must-see sets this weekend.

The Curls | Provided Photo
The Curls | Provided Photo

The Curls

“It’s crazy what this city’s music scene is producing right now. We feel super privileged and humbled just to be included,” says Mick Fansler, guitarist and vocalist of the art rock sextet that pulls members from various other local groups including Ester, Tragic Trip, Tatsu Aoki’s Miyumi Project and the Caleb Willitz Ensemble. To produce the lush and funky psychedelic dream pop on their most recent record, “Super Unit,” the band will expand to 11 people and “there will definitely be a few surprises on stage,” says Fansler. (Friday, 1 p.m., Green Stage)

Melkbelly | Daniel Topete Photo
Melkbelly | Daniel Topete Photo


Pitchfork 2018 full lineup announced; includes Ms. Lauryn Hill


The Pilsen noise rock troupe has been on the receiving end of a lot of noise lately, spending the past year touring with The Breeders and recently inking an opening spot for Foo Fighters at Wrigley Field later this month. They were initially given a bump with the support of Speedy Ortiz’s Sadie Dupuis who signed them to her label. “Without her friendship and guidance we’d be in a different place entirely,” says guitarist/vocalist Miranda Winters, who adds that the band still feels very connected to the DIY community in Chicago. “Chicago’s scene is legendary [and] that’s one of the largest reasons we’ve remained [here].” (Friday, 1:45 p.m., Red Stage)

Circuit des Yeux

This haunting, evocative project is the brainchild of the talented Haley Fohr. Originally born in Lafayette, Indiana, Fohr has been immersing herself in the Chicago music community for the better part of the past half-decade, transforming Circuit des Yeux from a bewitching solo project, highlighted by goth-folk compositions and a four-octave range, to an ensemble of sorts pulling in some of the city’s music elite for her recordings. “I have been lucky to have the opportunity to be in a city with such talented musicians. By playing with so many well-seasoned players, I think I’ve pushed my artistry into new, exciting territory,” says Fohr, hinting at the Who’s Who that will join her on stage including collaborator Cooper Crain (CAVE, Bitchin Bajas). Look for Fohr’s alter ego, the alt country wreck Jackie Lynn, to possibly make an appearance, too. (Saturday, 4 pm, Blue Stage)

Circuit Des Yeux | Michael Vallera
Circuit Des Yeux | Michael Vallera

Nnamdi Ogbonnaya

Vice has called the experimental multi-instrumentalist “Chicago’s weirdest musician” and NPR has heralded Ogbonnaya as “Chicago’s rap oddball” in recent profiles. The jazz-hip-hop-gospel-rock fuser cut his teeth in the city’s DIY scene and still remains active in several projects including Monobody, Itto, the Sooper Swag Project and Nervous Passenger, as well as co-founding the imprint Sooper Records. “For me, inspiration comes a lot from life experiences,” says Ogbonnaya, a first generation Nigerian-American. (Sunday, 1 pm, Green Stage)

Tame Impala

Australian psychedelic rock act is a strong pick for the opening night headliner, with a retro-tinged sound that reinvents the best of the cosmic fuzz rock of the ‘60s and ‘70s. The loud, jangly guitars are matched in intensity by a hallucinatory light show. (Friday, 8:30 pm, Green Stage)

Recording artist Raphael Saadiq performs at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on February 18, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. | Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Recording artist Raphael Saadiq performs at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on February 18, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. | Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Raphael Saadiq

R&B is a running theme at this year’s festival, and no one artist encompasses the breadth of the genre more than Saadiq. Starting his career as a member of ‘90s smooth singers Tony! Toni! Toné!, his solo works (including 2008’s “The Way I See It”) and production work with Usher, TLC, Kelis and Mary J. Blige speak volumes. (Saturday, 5:15 p.m., Red Stage)


Pitchfork has done what other festivals have failed to do in recent years — curating almost half the lineup with representation of female or non-binary artists. Kelela is one of the standouts with an addictive mix of electro R&B songs that ebb and flow from pensive bedroom music to pulsating club anthems. (Saturday, 7:45 p.m., Blue Stage)

The War on Drugs

Philadelphia ensemble has been the pulse of the indie rock roster of the past decade, with strong songwriting chops inspired by a love of Bob Dylan and Neil Young and cinematic sways that are pure poetry. (Saturday, 7:25 pm, Red Stage)

Singer Chaka Khan performs onstage at the 2017 ESSENCE Festival at the Superdome on July 1, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana. | Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for 2017 ESSENCE Festival
Singer Chaka Khan performs onstage at the 2017 ESSENCE Festival at the Superdome on July 1, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana. | Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for 2017 ESSENCE Festival

Chaka Khan

Every year Pitchfork Music Fest throws in an unexpected curveball. For this year’s edition, that featured spot goes to Chicago-born “Queen of Funk” Chaka Khan. The ten-time Grammy winner is poised to serve up selects from her time fronting Rufus (like “Tell Me Something Good”) to her crossover 1984 R&B hit “I Feel For You.” (Sunday, 7:25 p.m., Red Stage)

Ms. Lauryn Hill

The Fugees singer found further acclaim when she released her hip-hop-soul-reggae solo debut, “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” in 1998 with hits like “Doo Wop (That Thing).” This weekend’s performance will mark a landmark 20th anniversary performance of the album. (Sunday, 8:30 p.m., Green Stage)