Pitchfork Fest’s 2020 lineup looked pretty good, but this year’s is even better. And considering the 2020 event never happened, I can say with certainty that this year’s experience will be a massive improvement! I’ll be in attendance during the festival’s three-day run this weekend, September 10-12, and to get ready I’ve prepared a list of my top 10 must-see artists. Check out https://pitchforkmusicfestival.com for the complete lineup and to grab some single-day GA tickets while you can.
In the era of Merriweather Post Pavilion, Animal Collective meant everything to me. When I saw them live in 2011, they delivered an ecstatic set, even though it was composed mostly of songs from the then-unreleased Centipede Hz. Now that ten years have gone by, much has changed in the world and my life, but in anticipation of Animal Collective’s set at Pitchfork Fest I feel a sense of deja vu. During their most recent shows (in 2019) they were mostly playing songs from an as-yet-unannounced 11th studio album, and this will likely comprise most of the setlist at Pitchfork. Cursory listens to these new tracks reveal an inspired burst of songwriting from the quartet, with rolling epics like “Defeat” and Avey Tare singing in auto-tune on “Cherokee”. This band is bursting with talent, and Pitchfork Fest should be the perfect stage for them to make a highly-anticipated return.
Big Thief are not only one of the best bands on record of recent times but, up until quarantine, they were a touring machine. In a span of five years they played about 500 shows, and although I have yet to see them, I’m guessing their live show is pretty damn good. As they prepare to embark on another American tour, they have four albums, one new single, and 0 bad songs under their belt. As they continue to impress and build a bigger fanbase, I’m expecting their Friday night set to be one of Pitchfork 2021’s biggest highlights.
The Fiery Furnaces
It’s been over a decade since the last live performance from The Fiery Furnaces, the Brooklyn-based sibling duo known for their epic, often experimental albums like Blueberry Boat (which nabbed a 9.6 from Pitchfork in 2004) and Bitter Tea. The Friedbergers were set for a return performance at Pitchfork 2020 before its cancellation, but thankfully they remain on the docket for this year’s show. As relative veterans among many newer indie bands, their jaunty song-cycles could be mana for a crowd long-starved of live music. And given this is an anticipated return, we may be in for some new songs and other surprises.
Angel Olsen can do it all. Moving from acoustic folk to garage-rock and again to a kind of maximalist orchestral pop on All Mirrors (which she then reworked on Whole New Mess), I am not certain exactly how her set will sound. In any case, she’s developed a catalog full of gems, and given the recent release of her 80s covers EP Aisles, it seems likely that Angel will bust out a “Forever Young” or “If You Leave” cover, which would be sick.
A friend who is a longtime St. Vincent fan recently told me she was disappointed by the new album Daddy’s Home. I think I get it: St. Vincent switched styles (again), trading in meticulous art-pop for drugged-out 70s rawk, and this might not work for some fans. But for me, it’s the first time I’ve been drawn to her music in many years. By taking things a little less seriously, I anticipate St. Vincent to have more fun on stage (full disclosure: I’ve never seen her live) with new jams like “The Melting of the Sun”, while also including old favorites like “Cheerleader”.
Cutting her teeth around her friends in Atlanta’s influential Awful Records crew in the mid-2010s, Faye Webster has since become a notable musician in her own right, and at the age of 24 is something of a Gen-Z icon in the singer-songwriter department. The yo-yo-toting Webster will be touring in support of her new album I Know I’m Funny haha, and her late-Saturday afternoon set should be appropriately chill for the middle of the Festival.
At the age of 50, Erykah Badu is one of the most seasoned musicians taking the stage at this year’s Pitchfork Festival, and perhaps the most iconic. Unlike most other Pitchfork performers, it’s been years since she released any music, but her catalog is so classic that it doesn’t even matter. Every Badu album is superb, if not downright classic, and she’s been killing stages for decades (check out 1997’s Erykah Badu Live if you don’t believe me). New Amerykah Part 1 is a personal favorite, and I’ll go nuts if she does “Soldier” or “The Healer”. And given that they’ll be playing shows together soon, there’s a good chance she brings out Thundercat.
Last time I saw Danny Brown, he was touring his album Old, which featured a back-half of MDMA-inspired bangers. Needless to say, it was a good-ass time. Having released two albums since, there are many tracks that I can’t wait to see in concert, including uknowwhatimsayin? highlight “Savage Nomad”. Danny Brown setlists have remained pretty consistent over the years, with fan favorites like “Lie4” and “Grown Up” near-guarantees. After two-and-a-half days of festing, this set should be welcomed to pump some energy back into the crowd. Expect Danny to bring the party.
After a decade in Chairlift, Caroline Polachek released one of 2019’s best albums in her solo debut Pang. Even before COVID, she played a pretty limited number of solo shows, but by all accounts her performances have been superb, including a recent show at LA’s Greek Theatre where she brought out Charli XCX. Now set to embark on a Fall tour, she’s poised to crush stages on her own. She’s one of the few pop artists right now reaching transcendence in her music, and this should translate to an ecstatic live experience. Plus, I can’t wait to dance to “So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings”.
Thundercat is amazing. He made 2020’s song and video of the year with “Dragonball Durag”, and when his tour got cancelled, he spent quarantine being really fucking funny. I last saw Thundercat in 2015, and that was an excellent set. Now, with a decade of solo music under his belt and even more experience touring, he’s sure to deliver again and should not be missed.