Pitchfork 2015 Festival Review: Top 10 Sets + Photos

The 10th annual celebration in Chicago's Union Park brought sweat, rain, and Chance


    Photography by Nina Corcoran

    When looking back at this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival, the first thing that will come to mind might just be the torrential thunderstorm that forced the temporary evacuation of Union Park midday Saturday. Early in the evening, the sky cracked open, heavy raindrops tilted sideways in the wind, and the sky turned black. Some fled, others hunkered under whatever shelter they could find. Modular carpeting company FLOR had been handing out samples to use as seating on the grass, but they soon became makeshift umbrellas and patches to cover the mud pits.

    Watching everyone run back in through the gates after the brief exodus was perhaps the most exuberant moment of the tenth edition of the festival. The rain did produce its share of hiccups: Vince Staples was stuck in a Detroit airport and Sophie’s set was cancelled (presumably weather-related, but as of typing I haven’t heard official word). But those that stuck around were rewarded greatly.

    Nina Corcoran, Crowd 8

    But more importantly, it should be remembered that all that cataclysmic weather couldn’t damper the spirits of the thousands of music-hungry attendees. That was only one of three days, after all. The rest of the weekend held up to the festival’s typical standard, combining tried-and-true festival staples with explosive new talents, jumping genres and pumping out jams.


    Ten years into its tenure in Chicago’s Union Park, Pitchfork Music Festival shows no signs of slowing down. The party continues to grow and the crowd with it. With that sort of growth and change, we decided to take a look at our ten favorite sets of the weekend and guess at what they might be up to ten years from now, as well as dish out some details on what exactly went into their performances.

    –Adam Kivel
    Managing Editor

    Best Internet-Leveraging Demonstration


    Nina Corcoran, ILoveMakonnen 3

    In 10 More Years: Makonnen is as well known for his endeavors in cosmetics and fashion as his music.

    Set in Five Words or Less: Big dreams web-hustled into realities

    Songs Performed Twice: “I Don’t Sell Molly No More” and “Tuesday”


    Loudest Crowd Reaction: “I Don’t Sell Molly No More”

    Attendees Made Up Like the Makonnen Mannequin: multiple

    Lyric Inciting Longest Pause: “I lost my friends in ’07”

    Lead-In To “No Ma’am”, His Mother’s Favorite Song of His: Makonnen FaceTiming his mother and panning the phone across the audience with, “I love you mom, thank you for your support. Shouts out to all your moms as well.”

    Things ILoveMakonnen is Best at Teaching: 1) how to whip it, 2) how to embed ideas into the public consciousness by releasing, promoting, and connecting online. –Steven Arroyo

    Most Sun-Averse


    Nina Corcoran, Chvrches, 2

    In 10 Years: Proudly headlining festivals like this one

    Set in Five Words or Less: Won’t Be Outdone By Wilco (Jeff Tweedy and co. dropped a full album after CHVRCHES released a single, and then immediately followed them on the big field at the festival — but the Scottish synthpoppers stepped up to the challenge and excelled)

    Harshest Words for Chicago Summer: “We’re all too British for this sunshine shit.”


    Best Assessment on Smoking: “It’s bad for you, mate”

    Non-Black Articles of Clothing On Stage: 0

    Biggest Hook of the Set: “Gun”. No, wait, “Recover”. No, wait, “The Mother We Share”. It’s too tough a call. The trio just has too many powerful choruses and dance party grooves to choose just one.

    Best Way to Introduce an Upcoming Album: Start a huge festival slot with the early single, as CHVRCHES did with “Leave A Trace”. Lauren Mayberry’s always-impeccable vocals led the way for this one, a glistening track that bodes well for Every Open Eye.

    Best Women’s Soccer … I Mean Football … Shout-Out: Mayberry asked for a beach ball and then kicked it into the crowd after congratulating the US women’s World Cup win. –Adam Kivel


    Most Significant Institutional Milestone


    Nina Corcoran, Wilco 5

    In 10 More Years: Wilco has maintained the same six-piece lineup for another 10 years and released three more studio albums, one of which is really, really good.

    Set in Five Words or Less: Unprecedented insta-classic from Chicago giants

    Songs Performed: 22

    Songs Performed for the First Time Ever: 11

    Genuinely Surprising Moves Wilco Had Made Since Launching Their Own Label in 2011: 0


    Genuinely Surprising Moves Wilco Made Between Thursday and Friday Nights: 4 (dropping an unannounced LP, naming that album Star Wars, releasing it for free, and performing it in full)

    Other Times Wilco has Performed an LP End-to-End: 0

    Odds of Star Wars and/or its Debut Performance Earning Some Commemoration at Chicago’s Upcoming George Lucas Museum: 14% –Steven Arroyo

    Most Made with Least

    Jamie xx

    Nina Corcoran, Jamie xx 1

    In 10 More Years: Jamie xx slots higher at this festival than his own band The xx.

    Set in Five Words or Less: “There’s gonna be good times”

    Minutes Before Jamie xx Played Something From his New Masterpiece, In Colourroughly 20


    Number of Times he Teased “Loud Places” Before Finally Ending on it: 3

    Albums Spun: 0

    Laptops Used: 0

    Knobs Turned: many

    Set in Five Words or More: A giddy curation of samples, many of which were spoken-word, that illuminated the thought behind his Gil Scott-Heron remix album We’re New Here as much as it celebrated his recent triumph on In Colour. –Steven Arroyo

    Most Inspirational Punk Rock Dance Party

    The Julie Ruin

    Nina Corcoran, The Julie Ruin 1

    In 10 Years: Considering 16 years passed between Run Fast and Julie Ruin, there should be at least one more album from Kathleen Hanna and co. Plus, Hanna will continue to be one of the most inspiring artists and people, so maybe her patron saint-hood will get promoted to full saint status.

    Set in Five Words or Less: Empowering honesty with a smile

    Kathleen Hanna’s Favorite Crowd-Shirt: Hanna took special time out to point out a dude in the VIP area with a tee that read “You Make Me Feel Like Danzig”


    Best Groove: Kathi Wilcox’s concrete bass and Carmine Covelli’s snapping percussion on closer “Oh Come On”

    Best Inspirational Speaker: Whether she was offering thoughts on feminism, inclusion, the best ways to stoke the fires of social movements, or just cutting toxic people out of your life, Hanna seemed to glow with thoughtful warmth

    Best Way to Undercut Your Totally Sincere Inspirational Speech: After Hanna’s effusive praise for the young people making art against all odds, she smiled: “Young people. That made me sound like a camp counselor.”


    Unknowing Sponsor of the Set: Ativan. Big Pharma probably didn’t expect to get a shoutout for helping the punk quintet get to Chicago, but knowing the storm they had to fly through to get to Chicago on Saturday and their bouncy energy on Sunday, the anti-anxiety meds Kenny Mellman and Hanna shouted out seem to have done the trick. –Adam Kivel