Beyond the headliners, there are a number of awesome acts scheduled for this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival. Here are our must-sees:
Kweku Collins is from a suburb just north of Chicago, but has been lumped in with the rest of the Chicago artists on the scene. Collins’ music is a unique blend of self-produced beats over his own lyrics, which float somewhere between rapping and droned-out singing. He performed a wild set at Lollapalooza last year, and is sure to bring that same energy to the Pitchfork stage.
Pitchfork is notable for bringing a collective of artists together at this festival, but something they’re especially good at is tailoring the talent to represent not only the diversity of the industry, but also the Chicago acts who are hustling to the top. Ravyn Lenae is one of these special acts, along with Saba, Noname, Chicago transplant Smino, and northern suburban Kweku Collins. Ravyn Lenae recently released an EP with one of The Internet’s members, Steve Lacy, and went on tour as an opener for Sza, both have which have skyrocketed Lenae’s career this year. Lenae has migrated from a local Chicago favorite to a worldwide obsession. Still, she hones in on her city’s spirit and is sure to have a truly magical set.
Smino is a St. Louis native, but moved to Chicago to pursue his career as a rapper. He slept on studio floors while working non-stop and was eventually welcomed into Chicago’s tight knit music scene. Along with Ravyn Lenae, Smino was on tour with Sza, helping boost his tunes up the charts as well. His punchy lyrics and riffs of deliverance set him apart, so his set is sure to smash.
Syd is the breakout star hailing from two of Los Angeles’ most notable artist groups, The Internet and Odd Future. She worked with The Internet’s album Ego Death, which was nominated for a Grammy and has helped shape the sounds of many of LA’s influential artists. Since her debut album, Fin, Syd has been receiving nothing but accolades for her sultry blend of current hip-hop production with a voice that harks back to 90s R&B pop. Syd is a hallmark artist of our generation and an openly gay female who started off in two all-male rap groups and hustled her way into the world’s most competitive music scene.
Listen to our must-see artists on our Pitchfork playlist:
Saba is one of Chicago’s most special artists, and is the performer you should count yourself lucky to catch this year. At only 23 years young, Saba not only writes some of the most powerful lyrics you’ll listen to, he has also started a foundation and scholarship in the name of his recent friend John Walt. He’s an artist that not only puts on for his city, but he puts on for people. He dropped his second album prior to touring this year called CARE FOR ME, which is a migration from his previous sound but retains his incredible ability for raw storytelling (listen to “LIFE” for a reference on this ability).
Dev Hynes, better known by his stage name Blood Orange, brought his ethereal sound to Pitchfork a few years ago and we’re more than excited to see his name on the lineup again. His 2016 album, Freetown Sound, combined a blend of sounds in and outside of music to create a textured landscape unlike any other. He claims he sat in Washington Square Park in New York City to write most of this record. It was there where he caught and recorded a lot of the extra sounds you hear throughout this album, such as a saxophone being played in the distance. The integration of these environmental sounds creates a mysterious, diary-like experience for the listener. You won’t want to miss catching these vibes in the late afternoon sun on Saturday.
Brooklyn indie rock band Big Thief are bringing their synth-tinged guitars and rock-influenced siren-like vocals to Pitchfork’s fest. Their songs are a nice mix of slow, dreamy tunes and more aggressive rock beats. This sonic mix has landed them on a tour with Conor Oberst (frontman of Bright Eyes, one of indie rock’s most legendary acts), as well as an NPR tiny desk concert.
Being compared to the likes of Joni Mitchell takes a special person, and Julie Byrne is evidently one of the rare ones. Leaving home at 18, she stumbled into music to quench her own happiness and has since established a name for herself. Living a wandering lifestyle prior to her recognition has molded her music into a soft and observant sound, which will sound beautiful outdoors at Pitchfork.
Joshua Abrams will be bringing some much needed jazz to Pitchfork, a genre too often underrepresented especially at festivals. An early member of the group The Roots, Abrams has built up his career in Chicago’s strong jazz scene. His set will be a unique vibe on Friday, and will set the weekend off perfectly for any music enthusiast.
The War on Drugs
Indie rock veterans The War on Drugs recently won a 2017 Grammy for “Best Rock Album.” They tell fantastic stories in their lyrics while also making some thought-provoking statements, simultaneously rocking into immense guitar tangents that take listeners to another dimension, and Adam Granduciel’s voice has a hauntingly beautiful tone guaranteed to give a listener chills.
All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.