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July 26, 2018 - Image 6

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The Michigan Daily

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Thursday, July 26, 2018
The Michigan Daily — michigandaily.com

Cloudy, ominous weather wel-
comed me to Pitchfork Music Fes-
tival this year, and bracing myself
for the worst I strapped up in a
raincoat and boots for the first day
of the fest. But what was originally
daunting proved simply unreliable.
The weather circled through cloud,
rain and shine all weekend while
artists dealt with wet equipment
and herds of fans waiting patiently
in the rain to see them. But this
erratic weather didn’t do much to
dissuade fans. If anything, the rain
that poured down onto us during
the Tame Impala set Friday night
simply made their backlit bodies
and light show all the more spec-
tacular as beads of water could be
seen streaming through the lights.
A festival dominated by female-
fronted bands and artists, Pitchfork
stands out from more mainstream
festivals in its emphasis on female
and queer artists, especially this
year. The diversity of the artists,
genre, and its celebration of small-
er names alongside bigger ones is
what makes this festival unique; it’s
relative tameness and inclusiveness
of an older, less wreckless crowd
is what makes it still exciting and
bearable by day three. In the last
year the festival improved upon its
layout and welcomed more women
than ever before, and despite last
minute cancellations from artists
such as Earl Sweatshirt, the festival
carried on day after day as thou-
sands gathered in Union Park to
celebrate music, drink excessively

and participate in the hedonistic
rituals that accompany music and
those who value it more than their
own life.
Courtney Barnett
Steve Hyden claimed in his
recent novel that Courtney Barnett
is the best rock song writer of our
decade. Her lyrics and unsympa-
thetic electric guitar deliver what
the Sex Pistols or the Rolling Stones
did for a previous generation except
with one noticeable difference:
She’s a woman. And that makes her
even fiercer. In an all black outfit
accented by her blood red guitar,
Barnett greeted her adoring crowd
with the song “Hopefulessness”
which is off her recent release
Tell Me How You Really Feel. And
immediately, her crowd went into a
concentrated state of head-banging
until the set concluded more than
an hour later. It was as if I was
standing on the precipice of a mosh
pit the entire set; eagerly wanting
to break out into a push and pull
with other attendees, I held back.
For while Barnett’s songs reach
towards punk rock, they often
hold back just a little bit and show
restraint. This can be particularly
heard on songs like “Charity” and
“Small Poppies,” but becomes less
clear on more aggressive songs like
“Elevator Operator” and “Pedes-
trian at Best.” And perhaps this
is what made the performance so
thrilling. There was an element of
unknown over what was going to
happen next, whether the crowd
would burst into a mosh pit of con-
tinue banging their heads along,
holding back with every bit of

strength so to fully take in the rock
god Barnett has established herself
to be.
Blood Orange
Seconds into Blood Orange’s set
on Saturday, I gasped. The famil-
iar notes of Sky Ferierra’s “Every-
thing is Embarrassing” echoed
through the field as Dev Hynes,
Blood Orange’s lead singer, walked
on stage and immediately dove into
the 2012 hit he co-wrote with the
punk rocker. From this, the set only
grew exponentially better. Deliv-
ering familiar tracks like “Best to
You” as well as hints of new music
from their upcoming album Negro
Swan, Hynes and his accompanying
band put on one of the best perfor-
mances of the weekend, drawing
in a rapturous crowd and greet-
ing cheering fans with sly smiles
and matched energy. Closing with
two of his biggest hits, “You’re Not
Good Enough” and “E.V.P.” Hynes
captivated the huge crowd that had
gathered around the Green Stage,
the largest stage at the festival.
Japanese Breakfast
Along with Blood Orange, Japa-
nese Breakfast was my favorite per-
formance of the weekend. Between
their after show Saturday night at
Thalia Hall in Chicago and the Sun-
day afternoon performance on the
Blue Stage, Michelle Zauner cap-
tured my heart. For while Psycho-
pomp and Soft Sounds from Another
Planet are gorgeous albums in
their own right, hearing the songs
performed live and watching as
Zauner delivers them with fierce
energy and enthusiasm not easily
located in the recordings is a com-

pletely different thing. Yielding her
electric guitar and egging on her
fellow bandmates, Zauner pushed
through hits such as “In Heaven,”
“Everybody Wants to Love You,”
and “Boyish” and left me in a dis-
traught state — I wasn’t sure if I
wanted to dance or cry, so I did both
at the same time. Closing with a
cover of the Cranberries’ “Dreams”
and the song “Machinist” off of
their second studio album, Japa-
nese Breakfast left the crowd in
awe. Zauner is a bubble of happi-
ness on stage. One wouldn’t know
the grief that inspired and under-
cuts Psychopomp and Soft Sounds
unless they’ve read about their
background elsewhere (one was
written in the wake of her mother’s
cancer diagnosis, and the next in
the wake of her mother’s death).
The juxtaposition of this heaviness
with Zauner’s lighthearted deliv-
ery is perhaps why I felt so struck
by the band’s performances. In the
end, it proves to be a catharsis not
just for the crowd, but for Zauner
too at each and every tour date.
Last September I was lucky
enough to see Noname open for Ms.
Lauryn Hill at the Royal Oak Music
Theatre. At the time, it had only
been a month since she released
her debut studio album Telefone,
and while it would grow to garner
widespread praise from multiple
critics, it only had a small follow-
ing at the time. Six months later,
she would come to Michigan once
again, this time headlining her own
show at the El Club with opener
Ravyn Lenae. By this time, her
stint as Lauryn Hill’s opener would
become a verse in rapper Smino’s
song “Amphetamine”: “Said I’m
moving too fast, slow down, slow
down / Opened up for Lauryn
Hill, woah now, woah now.” In
six months she had grown from a
small Chicago rapper featured on
Chance the Rapper’s Acid Rap to a
woman being called the “musical
reincarnation of Lauryn Hill.” And
while her music does lend itself to
this comparison, her stage pres-
ence is much more reserved than
the mother of modern hip hop. “I
wanted to do one of my new songs,
but then I smoked and forgot the
lyrics,” the rapper said, after stop-
ping her band two minutes into the
first song. “Do you mind if I do it a
cappella?” She’s irresistibly charm-
ing, if untraditional in her delivery
of her music. The set continued on
in this vein, with her occasionally
stopping to start a song again from
the beginning or guiding the audi-
ence in the harmonies for a song
from her upcoming album Room 25.

With 20 minutes left in her set, she
brought out guest after guest from
Ravyn Lenae to Saba to Smino and
while they brought a boost of ener-
gy to her reserved stage demeanor,
she still remained the star.
(Sandy) Alex G
(Sandy) Alex G can be an ass-
hole. A primary feature of his per-
formances is often the antagonistic
way he treats his crowd, asking for
requests from his adoring audi-
ences and then blowing them off to
play a hardly recognizable deep cut.
This performance was no excep-
tion with the singer-songwriter
barely addressing the crowd during
his brutally short 45 minute set. But
for some reason, I, and all the other
fans gathered around the Blue
Stage Sunday evening, still dwelled
in every second he bestowed on
us. Throwing out the melody to
Weezer’s “Island in the Sun” dur-
ing soundcheck and then blasting
the Rascal Flatt’s cover of “Life is
a Highway” before taking the stage
with his band, (Sandy) Alex G went
right into a rendition of “Kute” and
“Forever” before even addressing
the audience. Strangely enough,
Alex G played several songs off
of Beach Music, his 2015 studio
release, and at one point Michelle
Zauner joined him on stage to per-
form the popular “Brite Boy,” a per-
sonal favorite of mine that hasn’t
made a setlist at his concert in quite
a while. And unlike the reserve fans
showed during Courtney Barnett’s
set on Friday, when her crowd
remained stationary despite her
rock songs begging for a mosh pit to
form, the second Alex screamed the
first lyric to his aggressive, punk-
heavy “Brick,” the crowd broke
into a mosh pit, his dedicated fans
throwing themselves at each other
in a religious fervor, only stopping
after a girl went down after get-
ting elbowed in the nose. After a
15 song performance, the set ended
suddenly with Alex G announcing
that despite what he thought, there
was no more time for another song.
While the crowd bemoaned this
and chanted “one more song!” Alex
G fittingly approached the mic and
screamed “Shut up, and thank you”
before finally departing the stage.
Ms. Lauryn Hill
The most popular topic of dis-
throwing out guesses as to how
many minutes would pass before
Ms. Lauryn Hill would finally take
the stage. Twenty minutes? Thirty?
Would she come at all?

Pitchfork 2018: Striking
performance, bad weather


SEAN LANG/Michigan Daily

Daily Arts Writer

Read more at MichiganDaily.com

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