We were collectively robbed of a music festival last year that would have featured headlining performances from The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The National, and Run The Jewels. Despite every person I talk to under 30 having no idea who Run The Jewels are, that’s a ridiculously good headliner list. The make-up festival that took place last weekend, featuring a lot of the same undercard performers, lacked a little star power with all three of 2020’s proposed closers bowing out of the fest. The replacements, Phoebe Bridgers, St. Vincent, and Erykah Badu all put forth a great effort, though, and Pitchfork 2021 was, by all accounts, a great success.
One of those headlining performances even made my list of favorites from the weekend. Can you guess which one? Yep. You got it.
I didn’t see everything, of course, and my own personal biases weigh heavily in my ranking. Having said that, one of my favorite bands did not make the top 5. Hop Along’s festival performance was good, but lacked the intensity you can only get from being in the close quarters of a club. I did see their after show at Metro on Saturday night, and it was fantastic. I do not count that as a festival performance, though, so let’s call that an Honorable Mention.
Another Honorable Mention goes to Yaeji, who closed out the Blue Stage on Friday night and somehow managed to keep the energy at a high level for the full set. It was a brutal contrast to the sleepy, quiet lullaby of a set put on by Bridgers to finish off the night.
Without further ado, because I know you don’t want to read too much, here are my 5 favorite festival performances of the weekend.
Number 5: Waxahatchee
No surprise here. Saint Cloud was one of the best records to come out last year. I only wish she had played that “Streets Of Philadelphia” cover instead of ending with Dolly Parton’s “Light Of A Clear Blue Morning.”
Number 4: The Fiery Furnaces
First show together in 11 years? No big whoop. The Friedberger’s picked up right where they left off and played a wonderfully weird set.
Number 3: black midi
These kids can play, man. Loud and hard and fast and it just all spills out everywhere and it’s exciting and fun and I want more of it
Number 2: Yves Tumor
Holy smokes. I liked the last couple things Yves Tumor has put out so I was looking forward to seeing them and my expectations were pretty high. A minute into the set all those expectations were shattered. Crazy energy and connection with the crowd. Amazing to see up close and I can’t wait to do it again.
Number 1: St. Vincent
No surprises here. St. Vincent was already making great music and putting on interesting shows before she worked with David Byrne in the early 2010’s, but I think being around and working with him allowed her to tap into an even deeper passion for imagery and performance art. Her production design and costumes and lighting are all the kinds of work that win people Oscars in the movies, so I’m nominating her for whatever the award would be for live music performance.
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