Photos and words by Anna Selle
As I dip below the cloud line, Chicago’s skyline comes into view. Through the thick plastic window, the sun’s heat warms my bare arms while I listen to Madame Gandhi’s ‘Yellow Sea.’ In fifteen minutes, I’ll land at Midway Airport, rush through crowds of travelers across moving walkways, catch an Uber driven by a man name Mark who will go into too much detail about a motorcycle accident he witnessed earlier that morning, and eventually arrive at Union Park just minutes before Gandhi breathes positivity and warmth into Pitchfork Music Festival.
After Madame Gandhi’s set, I drift between the Red, Blue, and Green stages to catch Priests, Dawn Richard, Frankie Cosmos, Kamaiyah, Vince Staples, Thurston Moore Group, and Dirty Projectors. Each time I transverse the park, the crowd grows thicker and deeper in anticipation for Friday’s headliner, LCD Soundsystem. It’s a beautiful day in Chicago; at times I’m surprised to notice goosebumps rising on my forearms. But then I wonder if it’s in reaction to the crisp, cool air, or to the experience of flying solo at a major music festival: simultaneously surrounded by other people and entirely alone.
There’s a freedom that comes with experiencing something like Pitchfork without a partner or cohort of companions. You’re not tethered to a certain spot or stage. When you’re moving through the crowd, there’s no need to focus on following one person. Instead, you can embrace the chaos of mass migrations from stage to stage and flow with the current or not.
Trying to pick a highlight of this first day of the festival feels impossible, as if an artists deserving of recognition will be slighted by picking any one or two bands that stand out the most. Madame Gandhi introduces the festival with politically poised, percussion-heavy tracks and leaves the audience on a note of togetherness and empowerment. Priests deliver high-energy rock and roll that exudes an unprecedented level of not giving a fuck. Vince Staples is elegant and energetic, Frankie Cosmos walks a line between bubbly and brooding, Kamaiyah is met with a field-full of smiling and jumping fans. Thurston Moore shreds the hell out of his Fender, and Dirty Projectors are beautifully vulnerable. While finding a focal point of the day is difficult for me, I imagine that most attendees would say that LCD Soundsystem was the pinnacle of their Pitchfork experience. By the time Friday’s headliners took the stage, the crowd was densely packed with attention turned to the stage or closest screen as several thousand strangers concurrently danced themselves clean.