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Pitchfork Festival Day 1: Heat, dance music and the search for shade

It’s day one of the Pitchfork Music Festival in beautiful Union Park, where at least 20,000 are expected to attend a day of music that will wrap with Chicagoans Wilco, who just released a surprise free album entitled “Star Wars.” We’ll see if they’ll play some new tunes.

Mac DeMarco

Mac DeMarco

5:30 p.m. Mac DeMarco: Check out this guy’s press photos. He’s wearing suspenders and staring up in disbelief. He kind of kept with that persona during his very cool rock ‘n’ roll performance at Pitchfork Festival’s Red Stage. His band looks trapped in the ’80s – its guitarist shirtless and headbanging with his long blond hair. DeMarco himself wore a Nirvana t-shirt and faded shorts. The Canadian singer-songwriter is talented. He plays many, many instruments, including guitar, bass and drums. He was having fun out there, as the crowd cheered. It’s sometimes hard to get fans going as sweat trickles down every part of their body but DeMarco didn’t care. He went all out and the crowd was with him.

6:15 p.m. Tobias Esso Jr.: Esso Jr. started out like many musicians do, moving out to Los Angeles to try to make it big. The Canadian singer-songwriter was playing bass back then. But things didn’t pan out and he moved back home to Canada, where he decided to take up piano. Flash forward a couple of years, and he released his piano-centric album Goon. Esso’s song’s are sweet. He played his hit “Without You” as the crowd waved hands, many knowing every single word. It was a pleasant break from the sunshine at the shady Blue Stage, which is typically where Pitchfork schedules its calmer rock.

Lauren Mayberry of CHVRCHES performs Friday. | Matt Lief Anderson/Pitchfork Music Festival

Lauren Mayberry of CHVRCHES performs Friday. | Matt Lief Anderson/Pitchfork Music Festival

7:20 p.m. CHVRCHES: The band from Glasgow took the giant Red Stage as the humidity started to drop. The band started a dance party, as expected. CHVRCHES has a very distinct sound — dance-y synthesizer pop with definite hints of the ’90s. Lead singer Lauren Mayberry danced around in an all-black ensemble, clearly excited to be playing such a big gig. Crowds were already swelling to the adjacent Green Stage, where Wilco fans camped out to get a good look.

8:30 p.m. Wilco: A day after releasing a free new album called “Star Wars,” Jeff Tweedy’s band headlined day one of Pitchfork and got fans a lot more accustomed to the new songs. Wilco played the entire album — a bit more than 35 minutes.  Some in the crowd audibly complained about not knowing any of the songs. But Tweedy had some nostalgia in store. After the new songs ­— which were on the mellow side — the band played some of its fan favorites, “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart,” “Via Chicago” and “Handshake Drugs.” “It’s good to be home,” Tweedy told the hometown crowd.