Pitchfork feels the heat on a blistery opening day in Chicago

Attendees of the first day of the music festival braved record-setting temperatures in Chicago.

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Pitchfork Music Festival gets under way in Chicago’s Union Park, July 19, 2019.

Pitchfork Music Festival gets under way in Chicago’s Union Park, July 19, 2019.

Santiago Covarrubias/For the Sun-Times

It’s hot in Chicago. That applies to the weather and to the music happening this weekend at the annual Pitchfork Music Festival.

Chicago is currently in the midst of a massive heat wave, with an excessive heat warning being issued by the National Weather Service. And while some of the city’s residents may spend the weekend planted in front of an air conditioner, attendees of Pitchfork at Union Park in the West Loop are tackling the heat head-on.

Festival-goers showed up early Friday for day one of the three-day extravaganza, with a crowd already lined up in front of Gate 1 prior to the noon opening time. The heat was not lost on this crowd, with people making makeshift fans out of handy festival maps.

The CTA provided air conditioned “cooling buses” for Pitchfork Music Festival attendees on the first day of the music festival. Fans braved record-setting temperatures in Chicago, July 19, 2019.

Plenty of CTA air conditioned “cooling buses” were on hand at Day 1 of the Pitchfork Music Festival in Union Park. Fans braved record-setting temperatures in Chicago, July 19, 2019.

Santiago Covarrubias/For the Sun-Times file photo

In preparation for the extreme weather, three “cooling buses”— CTA buses blasting air conditioning — were available for attendees to lounge in to escape the heat.

Tyree Williams and James McGee, two of the CTA employees operating the buses, expressed concern about the danger associated with the heat and advised that patrons “drink a lot of water,” in addition to stepping into the vehicles as needed.

Some fans went above and beyond for their favorite acts, choosing to camp out for hours in front of the various stages in order to be in the front row.

Xavier Fynn, a 20-year-old Chicago native was parked in front of the Red Stage, hoping to be in the front for Earl Sweatshirt’s 5:15 p.m. set. Fynn had a towel draped over his head as a measure of protection against the blazing sun.

“I figure [that I] might as well get used to it, if we’re gonna be out here all day,” Fynn said. “We have bags of ice, ice towels and water, so we can stay hydrated throughout the day.”

Fynn said he was slightly worried about the heat, but felt he was up for the challenge of camping out.

“Its not my first concert, I know how it goes,” Fynn said with a laugh.

New York native Natalie Sanchez had an even taller order: sitting in front of the Green Stage for eight hours in order to have a front-row view for HAIM’s set at 8:30 p.m.

Sanchez wasn’t nervous, however, as she’s camped out for HAIM before.

“I’ve done it so many times,” Sanchez said. “This is my 17th show. I would see them if my flight got cancelled.”

The fashion was reflective of the extreme temperature, with nearly every male attendee wearing shorts and a hat. The women got a bit more creative with their clothes, ranging from airy sundresses to bikini tops and shorts.

Fans start to settle in for Rico Nasty’s afternoon set at Pitchfork in Union Park. The intense heat wave in Chicago caused at least one attendee to require emergency medical assistance.

Fans start to settle in for Rico Nasty’s afternoon set at Pitchfork in Union Park. The intense heat wave in Chicago caused at least one attendee to require emergency medical assistance.

Emma Oxnevad/Sun-Times

The heat began to take its toll for some in the massive crowd awaiting Rico Nasty’s 2:45 p.m. set, as a group called for a medic to assist an ailing attendee.

Still, some felt the festival could have done more to help accommodate with the weather.

“I wish there were people walking around handing out water bottles, as well,” said Ariana Gomez, a 22-year-old Chicago native. “I hope I don’t have to walk back to the entrance every time, but they always have the refill stations and the cooling buses are cool. It’s an OK job.”

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