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The Best Artists We Saw At Pitchfork Festival 2019

On July 25, 2019

Want to relive your sweaty, beautiful Pitchfork 2019 weekend, or just trying to figure out what concert tickets to start saving for next? We went to Pitchfork and brought back this list of live performances definitely worth seeing (or...seeing again).

Black Midi

Black Midi

With what was probably the most chaotic set of the weekend, Black Midi came out flexing in every way with a medley of tracks from their new record Schlagenheim. Drummer Morgan Simpson went absolutely bananas in the most calculated manner, as new time signatures came and went with ease. Improvisation from frontman Geordie Greep’s “what a magnificent purpose” ramble during the performance of the single ‘Bmbmbm’ made for a real firestorm as folks in the moshpit thrashed without end. — Jonah Graber


Since Clairo went viral in 2017 with her “Pretty Girl” music video, which features her lipsyching the lofi pop track into a webcam from what appears to be the privacy of her bedroom, I’ve enjoyed her music in intimate settings like late at night in my own bedroom or through headphones during a solo journey on public transit. Because of that, I was suspicious of how her laid-back tunes would translate to a live performance — especially on the massive stage of a large outdoor festival. But between her young, dedicated fanbase that populated the audience and seemed to know every work, tight vocals, undeniably charming stage presence, it became clear that there was nothing to worry about. —Amileah Sutliff


I’ve said it before and I’ll say it until every living creature has seen CHAI play: CHAI is one of the most electrifying live performances on the planet. Despite temperatures nearing 100 degrees during their midday set, Yuuki (bass), Kana (guitar), Mana (vocals) and Yuna (drums) brought the most joy and energy by far than any set I saw all weekend, no competition. “It's actually not just our dream to play America, but [to play] Pitchfork itself,” Yuna told The Grammys— and you could tell. It might’ve been the heat or the exhaustion, but strangely, I began to cry uncontrollably at music that could only be described as audible glitter of which I could understand almost none of the words. My suspicion is that the heat had nothing to do with tears, and they were solely due to moving happenstance of watching four talented, deserving musicians live their dream with every ounce of gusto in their bodies. Thank god I had sunglasses on and you couldn’t tell sweat from tears on my face so I could continue to dance without alarming anyone. — AS


Charli XCX

With Robyn, Charli XCX, and Sky Fierra all on the bill, this year’s Pitchfork was more pop-heavy than usual, and literally no one (that matters) is mad about it. Naturally, Charli’s set was the biggest party, as it was basically a scream-sing-along with a special appearance from Chicago-native rapper Cupcakke during which everyone (rightfully) lost their shit. Dancing at a full 100% through the entire show, her stage presence was just as delightfully coy and cocky as you’d expect. "Keeping it arrogant, but also fair, you know?,” Charli XCX joked after proclaiming herself “One of the top 15 pop stars in the world.” She has to be at least top 10 to anyone in attendance during that set. —AS


Having gained tons of momentum since the release of his early 2018 record Veteran, JPEGMAFIA’s performance felt like a homecoming. His set ran like a JPEG set always does — he came out, placed his own laptop that he would be playing instrumentals from, said hello, and got right into it. But this performance felt massive, beyond the fact that there were thousands lined up to see him. Peggy’s proven himself, and knows full-well how a moshpit in the blistering heat will react to the hook of “Puff Daddy.” His smoke breaks functioned as time for the audience to gasp for air, in between explosive performances that “might be a safety hazard.” — JG

Parquet Courts

Parquet Courts was one of the few sets cut short by the weather, the last before Saturday’s evacuation of the festival. For a band that regularly makes me wants to punch a hole through the U.S. Constitution, I was surprised at how easy, breezy, and fun the set felt. Perhaps this is partially due to the massive storm cloud that (literally) caused an instantaneous 20-degree drop in temperature, but nonetheless, folks who came out could not stop movin’ and groovin’. Once the announcement of the festival’s evacuation came about, the band did one last song: the title track from their most recent effort Wide Awake. The crowd spent almost no time sulking, and instead everyone danced like they wouldn’t be granted re-entry into the festival ever again. —JG

Parquet Courts

Pusha T

The duality of man: rapping “Infrared” as I look Pusha T directly in the eye — for about the fourth time in the past 45 minutes — with a Heron Preston limited edition Lil Wayne Tha Carter V airbrush t-shirt on. Indeed, I see what Push sees when I see Wayne on tour, but alas… I refuse to choose. I planted myself firmly in the front-right of the crowd, the white homie Caleb to my left and a group of Black folks I don’t know to my right. This don’t happen at Midwestern rap shows like that. This is a space where we may transcend the unknown… I turnt up with them niggas for the whole opening DJ set. That is, until an armada of shirtless white men bust the party up the moment “If You Know You Know” dropped. That shit blew me. I messaged one of the homies later about how quickly they fucked up the good time; he replied that his homie intended to fuck them up. I’m glad he didn’t.

Now back to Mr. Thornton: this was high-class rapping. He exuded control, a precision over the way he paces the frontline of the stage, allowing his freehand to illustrate the wrist motion or the vein tap. The ginger pace also aided in not fucking up his outfit. I was transported and horrified by the theater of it all, how quickly I was transfixed upon this cocaine shit. The 98 degrees may explain it better. I hesitate to call it an antihero execution because how heroic is that, actually? But damn, two decades make for a convincing stage show, morality line be damned. As Push kept locking eyes with his fans, sometimes rendering the festival masses almost irrelevant, I think he felt how we did: he kept looking at niggas. Niggas who might know it or know somebody who know sum’n ‘bout it. Or… use him as vessels for the thrill. I was far too exasperated to mosh during “I Don’t Like,” despite the Chicago thing; I have bad legs and it was too hot for allat shit. — Michael Penn II

Ric Wilson

I’m so proud of this nigga. He’s got the type of music that turns the brightness up on the most morbid, demented parts of my Black mind. It’s like a reminder to smile that doesn’t patronize me, but offers me a six-piece instead. This is the energy he brought to that early-ass timeslot, and the smattering of attendees who jumped back into the heat were greeted with 40 minutes of unbridled fun. Ric brought them bands out, and he ain’t even throw no guap in the crowd: he brought the Lane Tech marching band out! Then… he (unofficially) formed the World’s Longest Soul Train Line on both sides of the barricades! It’s unclear whether the sunshine made Ric activate, or whether Ric’s drip made the sunshine come correct. If you can catch a Ric Wilson show, * do * that shit: it’s an enriching affair every time. —MP


I copped a Snail Mail Aftershow ticket to Thalia Hall with the explicit intention to see Tasha in a quiet, air-conditioned room where folks would appreciate her. (No smoke intended for the folks who saw Tasha on the Blue Stage, I heard it was equally wonderful.) As I cradled into myself from the balcony, I saw a nervous-yet-enchanting Tasha giving her all to the adoration of a soon-filling sold out room. Alone at Last is a true delight to hear live, proving Tasha’s uncanny ability to fill the room with her joys and shortcomings via a backing band, and the power to siphon all the air from a room with her voice and a guitar alone. It’s one of the most permissive sets I’ve seen in recent memory. Permissive in the sense of my bones brimmed with all the tiredness and confusion of the two days of heatstroke-ready Union Park survival mode. Tasha pouring her heart not only stirred these overwhelming emotions, but brought a great sense of calm to the chaotic room. Kept my mouth shut, and the crowd did the same. Except for the breaks and silences between records — then the best of us gave her all the praise we could muster up. It’s truly a privilege to be in her presence, and you should make time to do so, expeditiously. —MP


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