Pitchfork Music Festival 2015, Saturday: Faces in the crowd
Attendees endured rainy weather to catch sets from Sleater-Kinney and Vic Mensa on Saturday at Pitchfork Music Festival 2015
This year's edition of Pitchfork Music Festival will be remembered for Wilco's live album debut, Future Islands' triumphant late afternoon dance party and Sleater-Kinney's furious closing set. But it will also be remembered as the year the park was evacuated, shortly before a bout of sideways rain turned Union Park into a series of mud pits.
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The day got off to a great start, as Jimmy Whispers donned a red dress and belted out his "deep and depressing love songs" backed by a cast of Chicago musicians. Protomartyr turned in one of the most intense sets of the festival, underscoring frontman Joe Casey's stoic cries with maddeningly precise rhythms. Meanwhile, Bully woke up anyone within earshot of the Blue stage with an energetic deluge of eardrum-piercing rock.
Things began to fall apart around 3:40pm, a few songs into Ex Hex's set, when storm clouds rolled in, rain began to fall and lightning reportedly struck the nearby United Center. A voice came over the PA asking attendees to evacuate the festival and security guards ran through the grounds making the same request. The smaller, midday crowd made for a fairly orderly evacuation, but many people refused to leave, squeezing under trees and tents while the heavens unleashed gallons of water.
The evacuation felt safer than Lollapalooza's exodus a few years ago, but it was no less confusing. Most attendees didn't have anywhere to go upon exiting, so they huddled in the nearby CTA station or stood in the streets. Early reports from a few prominent Chicago media figures made it sound like the remainder of the day would be canceled. Thankfully, a dispatch from Pitchfork's Twitter account set the record straight: Union Park would reopen at 4:20 (naturally).
With a hard 10pm curfew still in place, organizers moved forward with the planned schedule, nixing a set from Vince Staples (who was already a no-show, after his flight to Chicago was delayed). As the crowds began to re-enter the grounds, Kurt Vile took the main stage with a saxophone player in tow and debuted a few laid-back tracks from his upcoming record, B’lieve I’m Goin Down.
The remainder of the afternoon was an upbeat, albeit muddy, affair, boasting Parquet Courts’ rapid fire punk rock, The New Pornographers’ (minus Neko Case and Dan Bejar) jubilant power pop and a late afternoon appearance by Las Vegas singer Shamir that destroyed what little grass was left around the shady Blue stage with the dancing it incited. Feet were also moving back in the main field, most notably those of Future Islands frontman Samuel Herring, who delivered an inspiring performance of unrelentingly earnest synth-pop.
As the evening wound down, fest-goers were forced to decide between seeing Sleater-Kinney on the main stage or trudging through the muck to catch Vic Mensa’s homecoming at the Blue stage. There was no wrong choice. Those who opted to see Corin Tucker, Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss learned why a Sleater-Kinney reunion was inevitable—together, the trio is a musical force to be reckoned with. Vic Mensa demonstrated why he could be the next (pre-Kardashian) Kanye West, with a set that delved into moody new material from his forthcoming album, Traffic. After two headlining sets that proved to be worth the wait, the only real downsides to the soggy Saturday were the damage done to Union Park and the thousands of pairs of ruined shoes responsible for it.
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