For the last three installments of Chicago’s Pitchfork Music Festival, there has always been a sprinkle of rain of to muddy up Union Park. However, the torrential weather was more relentless than before as it dominated most of the festival. Thankfully, it was not enough to stop the fans and performers from making Day 1 of the 2018 edition an overall good time.
Alternative standouts like Julie Byrne and Courtney Barnett delivered compelling performances while Chicago underground mainstay Open Mike Eagle gave fans a one of the more creative and original shows during the daytime. The evening’s headliner Tame Impala, despite the band’s volume being a bit low, still rocked the house with their psychedelic light and colors with mellow jams. But it was hip-hop and R&B acts, along with Tame Impala, who certainly stole the show.
Because of the disappointing absence of Earl Sweatshirt who dropped out earlier in the week, Philly’s rising newcomer Tierra Whack filled in at the last minute to make her debut performance in Chicago. As many artists and fans are aware of, the Windy City is a stout “go hard or go home” land for any entertainer. The crowd initially had mixed responses, ranging from being excited to lukewarm. While many knew her jams from her Whack World project and other loose singles, others were being introduced to her for the very first time. (It is also important to mention that some fans were expecting Saba to be on stage, as the printed schedule passed out was made prior to Earl Sweatshirt’s sudden departure from the festival.)
However, it was Whack’s high-octane energy when performing songs like “Color Blind,” matched with her zany and gleefully inappropriate and charming sense of humor, that made her set one of the most fun shows of the day. She captured the audience with spirited performances of tracks like “Fruit Salad” and “Pet Cemetery” while making some hilariously outlandish call-and-response chants like having the attentive crowd give (loud) whispers and making slurping sounds. If Whack proved anything that day with her set, it is that she has the personality, lyricism and stage presence to be an even brighter groundbreaking star in the near future.
The “Whack” Part: Her set was unfortunately cut short a few minutes early when fans were finally warming up to her. Although she performed for a respectable amount of time, the set ended abruptly with Whack having to say goodbye before she wrapped things up on her own terms.
As the weather gradually improved to being warmer with spots of sunshine, Chicago’s hometown hero Saba delivered one of the festival’s more upbeat moments. Kicking things off without a hitch, he went straight into performing memorable cuts from his latest album, Care For Me, along with bangers from his stellar debut, The Bucket List Project.
The crowd was red hot as the Westside storyteller captivated fans with his turned-up performances of tracks like “LIFE” and “MOST,” along with a performance of “Broken Girls,” tailored just for the ladies. And to seal the deal, a shirtless Saba had the packed crowd going insane as he brought out the entire Pivot Gang to give fans an electrifying encore performance of “Westside Bound 3.”
The Gentlemanly Moment: When Saba was transitioning to perform “CALLIGRAPHY,” he took a moment to commend Tierra Whack for having great set for her Chicago debut.
Syd’s set was the point where the dreaded rain came back with a vengeance. However, all the rain managed to do was to set the mood for a steamy and exciting performance that had her lady fans screaming and the fellas equally as enchanted. Fans up close could feel the Syd’s radiant aura as she hit the stage to a spellbinding performance of “All About Me” from her self-titled debut.
While making smooth wisecracks about the ongoing rain (“It’s about to be a wet T-shirt contest in here tonight!”), Syd and all of her charisma transitioned from performing the empowering “Got Her Own” to a medley of her sensual slow jams from her solo debut like (“Know,” “Drown In It”) and The Internet tracks like “Special Affair” and their brand new lesson in slick talking seduction, “Come Over” from Hive Mind. It was certainly ladies’ night that rainy evening, all as she was arguably one of the strongest performances of the festival thus far. And to hammer the point home, she took the crowd home with The Internet’s romantic and uplifting classic, “Girl.”
The Lit Part: When Syd brought out The Internet to sing a few of their classic hits and brand-new cuts from their fifth album, Hive Mind, along with her amazing duets with Steve Lacy. The fans let loose as they were given a more that deserving treat when she managed to bring the whole band to Chicago to make the album’s surprise release that more satisfying.