5 Under-the-Radar Acts to Catch at Pitchfork Fest This Weekend
Because you're gonna watch Sufjan either way.
The eleventh edition of the Pitchfork Music Festival goes down this weekend at Union Park in Chicago. With sets from Sufjan Stevens, Brian Wilson, Beach House, Miguel, Anderson .Paak, and a slew of excellent jazz acts, it’s arguably the best lineup the festival has ever put together.
In fact, it might be too good; trying to navigate the schedule feels like an exercise in the gridlock of desire. So to keep your FOMO from raging too badly, here are five lesser-known acts that are absolutely worth your time.
Admittedly, it feels a little weird to call LA folk-soul singer Moses Sumney overlooked. The dude sings on one of the biggest songs of the year, and he’s made fans out of everyone from Sufjan to Solange. Still, at a festival packed with soul, R&B, and jazz musicians, Sumney’s presence feels a little hidden. Don’t be fooled, though; hearing those ornate vocal arrangements come to life as the sun begins to set on Friday evening has the potential to be one of the most memorable moments of the weekend.
Chicago’s Haley Fohr has quietly made a name for herself in the excellent local experimental scene, collaborating with members of Bitchin Bajas, Cave, Little Scream, and more. Her music—tender instrumentation offset by Fohr’s striking baritone voice—is quietly insistent, the kind of thing you’d imagine putting on as background music until it slowly begins to overtake the room. Last month, she released a short, eight-song album of post–Daughn Gibson country under the name Jackie Lynn. There’s no telling which Fohr will open the festival on Saturday afternoon, but it’s worth showing up early to find out.
What you need to know about Girl Band is that you should be terrified of Girl Band. The Scottish group dropped their debut, Holding Hands with Jamie, just as the vitality and warmth of summer raged into fall, and the album’s incredible, horrifying whirr seems to suggest a body struggling against whatever forces take over near death. Singer Dara Kiely rolls around the roil, swinging his voice just beyond his actual range in a way that is incredibly discomfiting. This is the group’s first trip to our side of the pond (a tour last year was cancelled due to illness), and you’d better take advantage of the opportunity; who knows whether President Trump will allow this kind of thing to ever cross our border again.
Combining soul with punk is nothing new; just ask Mike Ness. But where plenty of bands have managed to water down both genres in the process of combining them, Sydney’s Royal Headache would be just as home playing with Leon Bridges at some swank theater as they would be playing Rough Trade with Sheer Mag (which they did last summer). Last year’s excellent High is built for this kind of gig: driving and heavy enough to fill out the field, but open and big-hearted enough to convert the skeptical.
Homme are Chicago-based singer-songwriters Sima Cunningham and Macie Stewart. Though they draw from Irish folk traditions and weave their voices together with a kind of wine-drunk fluidity, they’re adept at building complex, stippled structures with simple parts. They’re just as comfortable dicing their harmonies and flinging the pieces into the air as they are at dispensing their riffs at a controlled drip. Their Sunday afternoon set following Sun Ra’s Arkestra is their biggest gig to date, and they have the potential to be this year’s breakout act.