Sunday at Pitchfork has traditionally been reserved for some of the most anticipated hip-hop and R&B acts on the lineup, but this year the festival’s final day doubled as a showcase of Chicago talent. Seven of the 13 local artists on this year’s bill took the stage throughout the day, demonstrating just how much the event has come to rely on the city's thriving community of musicians.
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Before the day could get started, a certain notoriously tardy headlining act needed to check her levels. The gates at Union Park opened more than an hour after the festival’s scheduled noon start time on Sunday, leaving eager attendees stuck on the sidewalk. Tweets from Pitchfork attributed the holdup to weather, but Ms. Lauryn Hill and her band could be heard rehearsing songs throughout most of the delay, leading some to believe that Hill requested a soundcheck free of prying eyes.
When the gates finally opened, the procession of local acts began in earnest, kicking off with a joyous set from the multi-talented Nnamdi Ogbonnaya, who flitted between rap, punk and math rock—often in the span of a single song. Evanston native Kweku Collins was up next, transforming the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’s “Maps” into a hip-hop ballad and debuting new tracks from a forthcoming project before turning the crowd over to 19-year-old singer Ravyn Lenae, who showed off her acrobatic voice on bouncy R&B anthems about long-distance love and unrequited crushes. The parade of locals continued with Chicago-via-St. Louis singer/rapper Smino, who passed a comically large blunt through the crowd midway through a sultry set that drew heavily on his 2017 album, blkswn. Across the field, Noname delivered a comparatively loose performance, filled with barely decipherable vocals and guest appearances from just about every other Chicago rapper at the fest.
After DRAM amped up the crowd with renditions of “Broccoli” and “Cha Cha,” it was time for an appearance from the most recognizable Chicago native on the bill. Friends and family packed the wings as Chaka Khan took the stage, performing songs from her storied solo career as well as her time singing with Chicago funk band Rufus. While 65-year-old Khan doesn’t quite have the range that she once did, her trio of backup singers were more than capable of hitting all the high notes and harmonies that characterized tracks like “Tell Me Something Good.” By the time she launched into her 1978 disco hit “I’m Every Woman,” hips were shaking throughout the park.
Throughout the weekend, conversations about Lauryn Hill's headlining performance were often prefaced with disclaimers about her tardiness. Hill has a history of being less than punctual for her gigs (including a show at the Apollo Theatre in May, where the singer kept the crowd waiting for several hours), which didn’t bode well for a festival set that technically needed to end before the city’s noise curfew kicked in at 10pm. A DJ filled the tense 24 minutes before she stepped onto the main stage in Union Park, but when Hill appeared and launched into “Lost Ones,” all seemed to be forgiven. Making her way through the entirety of her 1998 debut, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, the singer stuck around 20 minutes beyond the 10pm cutoff. Still, plenty of attendees seemed happy to wait it out just to hear the staccato piano hook of “Doo Wop (That Thing)" and cap off another eventful year at Pitchfork with a sigh of relief.