Pre-Pitchfork Fest Roundup
Posted: by The Editor
It’s the heart of the summer and Chicago is gearing up for another Pitchfork Music Festival. It’s a blessing and a curse that all three days are stacked this year–the 2023 lineup is packed with must-see artists, but if you’re like me, you’re probably gonna have to kill some darlings! (What do you mean Snail Mail’s playing at the same time as Julia Jacklin? Will it be possible for me to split my time between Soul Glo, Jockstrap, and JPEGMAFIA’s sets before mad-dashing back to the Blue Stage to catch Illuminati Hotties? If I time it exactly right, will I be able to catch Kelela AND Mdou Moctar and still make it back to the Green Stage to see Bon Iver close out the festival?) Maybe you’re returning to Pitchfork fest as a seasoned pro, or maybe you’re a first-time attendee, armed with The Alt’s live music safety guide and this helpful guide. Here, I’ll be mapping out the lineup, highlighting the hidden gems among the heavy-hitters at Pitchfork Festival, 2023.
Friday, July 21st:
Nourished By Time, Green Stage, 1:00-1:40
Start the weekend off right–with the free-flowing, synthy R&B from Baltimore artist Nourished By Time, whose hazy debut album Erotic Probiotic 2 will surely charm Friday’s early birds. Vocalist, producer, and composer Marcus Brown’s “everything and the kitchen sink” approach to sampling makes Erotic Probiotic 2 stand out as one of the most innovative releases of 2023, imbuing it with impeccable vibes while also elevating it above the realm of “vibes-based” music. With his smooth grooves and hypotonic hooks, Brown’s set is one that’s worth showing up early.
Sen Morimoto, Green Stage, 2:30-3:15
One thing you can always count on at Pitchfork Festival is that the Chicago hometown scene will be represented. A longtime collaborator of fellow Chicago mainstays Kaina, NNAMDI, and Ric Wilson (more on him later!), rapper and multi-instrumentalist Sen Morimoto’s midday set is one you won’t want to miss. He recently announced the highly-anticipated follow-up to his 2020 self-titled record, and I know I’m not the only one who’s hoping to hear a live preview of what he’s been cooking up. And if you do happen to miss him at Pitchfork, you can still catch his aftershow at Schuba’s Tavern Staurday night.
Grace Ives, Red Stage, 3:20-4:10
Head over to the Red Stage to hear some of Grace Ives’ jagged, quirky pop come to life. Standouts like “Lazy Day” and “Loose” are bound to make for some of the most fun and memorable moments of the weekend; “On the Ground” and “Hold It” will get even the most too-cool festivalgoers dancing. I’m looking forward to an exhilarating live set that brings the bedroom pop of Ives’s 2022 breakout Janky Star out of the bedroom and into the sun.
Ric Wilson, Blue Stage, 6:30-7:15
Rapper Ric Wilson is something of a Chicago hometown hero, a political activist and advocate as well as a staple of the city’s vibrant rap scene. I was lucky enough to catch him at a college campus show a few years back, but it’ll be something else to see him play in the city that he loves so loudly and fervently. As captivating and charismatic as he is on the record, it’s doubled when he gets onstage, bouncing around like a tireless Energizer Bunny, turning every hook into a full-blown rager, and cracking jokes with the audience like they’re his longtime friends. An evening set at the woodsy, intimate Blue Stage sounds like the perfect homecoming party.
Leikeli47, Blue Stage, 7:45-8:30
As excited as I am to see Alvvays rock the Red Stage on Friday night, I might have to sneak out during part of it, because I am determined to catch at least part of what will no doubt be an electrifying set from enigmatic Brooklyn rapper Leikeli47. Last time I saw live her was back in summer 2019, and I’m sure that signature tracks like “Attitude” and “Girl Blunt” will hit just as hard now as they did then. Since that show, NYC rap’s masked singer has dropped what is– in my opinion –one of the best rap records of the 2020s so far with last year’s Shape-Up: The zany “Chitty Band” and “LL Cool J” are a little abrasive and delightfully hooky, the braggadocious “Carry Anne” and J. Alexander-featuring “Jay Walk” both burn with a bombastic fervor, and bonus track “Instant Classic” is exactly what the title would suggest.
Saturday, July 22nd:
Palm, Red Stage, 1:45-2:25
By now you may have heard the news that this Philadelphia cult favorite gang of math rockers are going on an indefinite hiatus. They’ll be kicking off their final run of shows with an official Pitchfork Fest aftershow at The Empty Bottle on Friday night, followed by a Saturday afternoon set at Pitchfork’s Red Stage. Though it’s sad to see this complex, cacophonous band go, Palm have had a truly impressive run, and anyone who has the fleeting chance to see the magic of Palm live show one last time should not pass it up.
Black Belt Eagle Scout, Blue Stage, 2:45-3:30
For her third LP under the moniker Black Belt Eagle Scout, Katherine Paul has not only continued to capture the sounds of the Pacific Northwest– she’s taken them to their most ethereal heights. The Land, The Water, The Sky, is a homecoming story, the shoegazey swell of its instrumental arrangements swirls around Paul’s intimate insights on her return to her ancestral Swinomish lands. I know I’m not the only one who can’t wait to see these sonic, emotional, and geographical landscapes bloom on the Blue Stage.
MJ Lenderman, Red Stage, 3:20-4:10
Asheville’s MJ Lenderman comes from the lineage of songwriters like Stephen Malkmus, J. Mascis, and Doug Martsch who have honed the art of writing songs that sound like they’re about nothing until a single blink-and-you-miss it turn of phrase changes that. Add to it some deadpanned, matter-of-fact humor in the face of not-so-ideal situations (think Drive-By Truckers or Silver Jews) and you’ve got MJ Lenderman, one of the most exciting figures in this current wave of fuzzy, twangy slacker rock. I can’t think of a better accompaniment for a sunny Saturday afternoon than Lenderman’s hazy musings on sports, love, and Jackass.
Vagabon, Blue Stage, 4:00-4:45
The forthcoming 3rd LP from Vagabon, the project of New York-based Cameroonian-American singer-songwriter Lætitia Tamko is one of my most anticipated of the year, and the breezy Rostam-produced single “Can I Talk My Shit?” is on my personal shortlist for song of the summer. The delicate sonic palette of her 2019 self-titled effort is sure to make for an unforgettable set, with highlights like “Full Moon In Gemini” and “Water Me Down” charming longtime fans and curious converts alike, and maybe if we’re lucky, she’ll debut some new material as well. Either way, anyone who gets to see Tamko talk her shit live onstage should consider themself blessed.
Sunday, July 23rd
Ariel Zetina, Green Stage, 1:00-1:40
Kicking off Sunday’s lineup is another hometown hero, Chicago DJ, producer, Ariel Zetina. Her electronic stylings draw inspiration from dance music on both a local and global scale, citing queer club scenes and Belizean punta as major influences. Smartbar’s resident DJ will be taking her set to the Green Stage, giving audiences a much-needed dose of high-energy bops for the third and final day of the festival.
Lucrecia Dalt, Green Stage, 2:30-3:15
Over the course of her musical career, Columbian-by-way-of-Berlin composer Lucrecia Dalt’s sound has spiraled outwards, becoming more and more abstract and difficult to pin down. Last year, this culminated in the release of !Ay!, her 6th and most ambitious LP yet. I’m looking forward to seeing how Dalt’s antigenre sci-fi visions translate to a festival stage. Her experimentation seemingly knows no bounds, making for a mesmerizing midday show.
Soul Glo, Blue Stage, 4:00-4:45
Slated for a Day-3 afternoon Blue Stage set, Soul Glo are so much more than just the token hardcore band on Pitchfork’s 2023 lineup. 2022’s propulsive Diaspora Problems is one of my favorite records of the 2020s so far. The Philadelphia group’s acerbic jazz-punk instrumentals and frontman Pierce Jordan’s explosive yet artfully streamlined gonzo energy make for a wild live show and an even-wilder midday moshpit–fan favorites like “Gold Chain Punk (whogonbeatmyass?)” and “Jump!! (Or Get Jumped!!!) ((by the future))” were the perfect storm of frenzied hardcore on the record, and I’m sure their live renditions will offer audiences even more opportunities for equally cathartic expressions of joy and rage.
Illuminati Hotties, Blue Stage, 5:15-6:00
Singer, songwriter, producer, and all-around delightful freak Sarah Tudzin wrote one of the most brilliantly hilarious and poignant bridges of the last decade on 2021’s “MMMOOOAAAAAYAYA” (had to spell-check that one!), and I can’t wait to scream along to her cartoonishly maniacal spray of “If you’re not laughing baby / Then you’re not making money!” Other most-anticipated moments include rocking out to early favorites like “(You’re Better) Than Ever,” waiting for the drums to crash into “frequent letdown”’s lyrical cold-open intro, and joining in a summer singalong to “Pool Hopping,” an album opener that’s as sweet and sticky as the “melty scoop of ice cream” mentioned in the second verse. To borrow Tudzin’s immortal words on “Pool Hopping,” her discography makes for a live set of all rippers, no skippers.
Grace Robins-Somerville | @grace_roso
The Alternative is ad-free and 100% supported by our readers. If you’d like to help us produce more content and promote more great new music, please consider donating to our Patreon page, which also allows you to receive sweet perks like free albums and The Alternative merch.