10 essential sets at Pitchfork Music Festival 2017

Photo by Matt Lief Anderson

This coming weekend will see Pitchfork host its 12th annual festival at Chicago’s Union Park, and – though it may be a bit far removed geographically from Portland — Pitchfork Fest has the draw to attract music fans (and frequently music nerds) from across the country and beyond. It’ll be my seventh year in attendance, and Pitchfork Fest has grown into something of a home away from home for me. That’s a big part of why I’m excited to be returning to Union Park in a few short days with the purpose of covering the festival for The Pioneer Log. In preparation for the weekend, here are some of the performances that I view as highlights of Pitchfork Music Festival 2017.


Thurston Moore Group (Friday, Red Stage, 5:00)

Photo by Phil Sharp

Nearly 35 years have elapsed since Sonic Youth released their debut full-length Confusion is Sex, and Thurston Moore is still overflowing with inventive guitar moves. He released his fifth solo record Rock N Roll Consciousness earlier this year, and — as was the case on 2014’s The Best Day — assembled something of a supergroup for both the recording and touring. The Thurston Moore Group features Moore alongside fellow Sonic Youth alum Steve Shelley on drums, My Bloody Valentine’s Deb Googe on bass and Nought’s James Sedwards joining Moore on guitar. Half the rock bands at Pitchfork Fest wouldn’t exist without Thurston Moore, and his Friday evening set will serve as a reminder that he’s still leading the pack.


Arca and Jesse Kanda (Friday, Blue Stage, 7:45)

Photo by Arca

Though his fingerprints are across recent work by huge names like Kanye West, FKA Twigs and Björk, Arca’s solo music can prove a bit alienating upon first listen. The Venezuelan producer works with sounds as refreshingly unique as they are grotesque. The same can be said about the art of frequent collaborator Jesse Kanda, who will be joining Arca on Friday night (and presumably providing visuals).


LCD Soundsystem (Friday, Green Stage, 8:10)

Including LCD Soundsystem on this list feels slightly redundant, seeing as how every single person in Union Park will be at the Green Stage Friday night already. Still, I’ll never pass up an opportunity to rave about James Murphy and co. The NYC band has already made stops at quite a few high-profile venues and festivals since reuniting last year, and some Chicagoans were able to catch them during last summer’s Lollapalooza. This time around, however, LCD has a new 10-song record to pick and choose from. We may hear no more new material than the two singles already released, but most people won’t mind—there’s not a song they could play that Pitchfork attendees wouldn’t be ecstatic to hear.


Jeff Rosenstock (Saturday, Red Stage, 1:45)

One of the true flagbearers of modern DIY music, Jeff Rosenstock has been a key member of quite a few projects throughout the course of his career. Among the most notable of these are ska-punk band The Arrogant Sons of Bitches and rock collective Bomb the Music Industry!, both of which he acted as the frontman of. It’s his solo music, however, that has captured my attention throughout the past several years. 2015’s We Cool? and 2016’s WORRY. are packed with anthemic choruses and creative songwriting, and his Saturday morning set is sure to be attended by a dedicated fanbase that knows every word of both records.


Madlib (Saturday, Blue Stage, 6:30)

From constituting half of Madvillain to producing for nearly every relevant hip-hop artist of the past two decades (I’m hyperbolizing, but not really), Madlib is easily one of the most influential living figures in music. He also has one of the most impressive record collections I’ve ever (digitally) laid eyes on. I can’t say with certainty what a DJ set from him will entail, but I do know that a) it’ll be cold as hell and b) we can expect to hear some of the deepest of deep cuts.


PJ Harvey (Saturday, Red Stage, 7:25)

Photo by Maria Mochnacz

I don’t know quite what to expect from a PJ Harvey set these days. The English songwriter and multi-instrumentalist has an extensive catalogue of acclaimed records to select from, but also released her ninth studio LP last year. Whether she plays heavily from classic albums like Rid of Me and To Bring You My Love or focuses on her recent output, a PJ Harvey performance doesn’t happen often enough to justify missing out on her Saturday evening set.  


Derrick Carter (Sunday, Blue Stage, 2:45)

His criminally early set time may suggest otherwise, but Chicago house legend Derrick Carter will likely put on one of the weekend’s most high-energy performances. Carter’s DJ sets (supposedly) tend to focus on disco, soul and jazz cuts, but — much like Madlib — there’s little telling what he’ll be playing on Sunday morning. Don’t overlook this living legend spinning in his home city.


Ride (Sunday, Red Stage, 5:15)

Photo courtesy of Red Light Management

British band Ride are one of many shoegaze groups to reunite in recent years, and last month saw them join the list of those that have also released new records. Weather Diaries is their first LP in over twenty years, and, though it doesn’t pack the same punch as their genre-defining debut Nowhere (and how could it?!), it does prove that Ride haven’t lost their edge. As one of the “Big Three” torchbearers of shoegaze alongside My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive, they’re a pretty exciting grab for the fest.


Nicolas Jaar (Sunday, Red Stage, 7:25)

Chilean-American producer Nicolas Jaar’s music ranges from dancefloor-ready burners to experimental, soundscape-type compositions, and something tells me his Pitchfork set will lean towards the former. His second studio album Sirens was released last year, and performance set will likely be heavy on material from that release.


Solange (Sunday, Green Stage, 8:30)

Photo courtesy of Columbia/Saint

If you somehow slept on Solange’s A Seat At The Table last year, you’re probably not attending Pitchfork Fest to begin with. That sounds harsh, but I think there’s some truth in it. Her third LP was deservedly acclaimed by just about everybody for its lush production, urgent lyricism and brilliant performances, and her recent live sets have received almost as much praise.

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