The Chicago vibes were real at Pitchfork on day 3. The morning rain ran into the afternoon which caused a delay in the festival opening. Lauryn Hill’s soundcheck was delayed and the gates couldn’t open until they got that all figured out. Things got underway about 20 minutes late and Nnamdi Ogbonnaya was first up on the main stage.
This was a Chicago baptism for anyone unfamiliar with what is going on in the scene. Nnamdi has been making interesting sounds on his own and in groups for a while, and having him on the main stage to kick off a day full of local acts was a really good way to kick the day off. He was joined by a small horn section, some backup singers (including KAINA), bass, and drums. As a performer he switched off between vocals and guitar, but it was his energy and attitude that made the set one of the best of the festival.
Kweku Collins is technically not from Chicago proper, but he’s been a part of the music here for a while now. 2 years ago his name caught a lot of buzz and it’s been going straight up since then. He’s a fun performer to watch. Mostly he hustled from side to side, hyping up the crowd and making sure everyone was having a good time. He announced a new project with an indeterminate release date and played songs from that to great applause.
Ravyn Lenae could be the most talented of the current crop of Chicago singers. She’s also the youngest. I first saw her at a festival in Des Moines in 2016 and thought the way she presented herself on stage was impressive for someone her age. She’s only gotten better since then, and her latest EP Crush is very good.
I didn’t get to see much of Japanese Breakfast’s set, but they sounded good for the little bit I could catch. This was the one scheduling conflict I ran into over the weekend, so I can’t complain too much. They’ll be back for Lollapalooza in a couple weeks, headlining a free after show. I’ll try to catch them there.
Smino is a St. Louis singer/rapper, but he’s very much a Chicagoan after he moved here for school. He collaborates with everyone-Ravyn, Noname, Saba to name a few. His record blkswn that came out last year displays his great mind for melody and beats. He’s also a funny guy. His stage banter was probably the best of the weekend, especially the story about learning music in church so he could go on to write songs about getting his dick sucked.
I took a quick break after Smino to eat and then headed to the Blue Stage to see (Sandy) Alex G. I’d previously seen him open for Porches and enjoyed the set. He put out a song called “Bobby” last year that ended up on my list of best songs of the year for 2017. That one got played and then Michelle Zauner of Japanese Breakfast came on stage to do “Brite Boy” with Alex.
I left a little bit early to get a spot at Chaka Khan. It was shocking to see how many young people were there to watch the funk queen. Her old band Rufus were based here in Chicago, so there was a cool, hometown feel to her set. She basically turned the whole park into a big dance party. It was really great and I was surprised how many of the songs I knew.
For my review/pics of Lauryn Hill’s headlining set, click here.