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Thoughts on Pitchfork Music Festival 2019

Seth looks back on the three-day Chicago festival

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Having an outdoor festival always comes with its fair share of risks. In the case of Pitchfork Music Festival 2019, there was extreme heat, a torrential downpour, and finally, one gorgeous sunny day.

Held at Chicago’s Union Park every year, Pitchfork Music Festival is always one of my favorites, especially considering its smaller, three-stage setup. In keeping true to form, this year’s fest did not disappoint, providing a balanced lineup of legends and newcomers alike.

Now that I’ve had a week to cool off and catch up on laundry, here are some takeaways I had from Pitchfork Music Festival 2019.

Diversity Was On Full Display

Heading into the festival, I was especially impressed with the amount of women featured on the Pitchfork lineup. After doing some post-fest calculations, I’ve discovered that more than 50% of the acts on Pitchfork Music Festival 2019 were either solo female acts or groups that featured one or more female member.

More impressively, two of the festival’s three headliners (Haim and Robyn) were females. In comparison, Coachella only had one female headliner (Ariana Grande) out of three. Next weekend, I will again be traveling to Chicago for Lollapalooza, whose lineup only features one female headliner out of four.

Pitchfork’s diverse gender representation made for an incredibly refreshing experience, as a wide array of voices were given their chance to shine. After publishing an article in 2018 that documented the imbalance of gender at music festivals, it’s nice to see that Pitchfork is now leading by example with their own event.

Pop Reigned Supreme

A myriad of pop acts impressed at Pitchfork Music Festival 2019, including headliners Haim and Robyn. These marquee acts weren’t the only ones who lit up the stage, however. In typical fashion, Charli XCX’s performance was an all-out party, as the bona fide hitmaker even welcomed Chicago rapper Cupcakke to the stage at one point.

In addition to Charli, another new favorite was Japanese pop group Chai, who transformed the Union Park field into a bliss-filled blowout. Preaching their message of self-affirmation, the group’s on-stage orchestrations made for a very enjoyable show.

A Smattering of Other Highlights

As with any festival, I had my “can’t miss” acts. Of these, I would say the three that hit me just right at Pitchfork Music Festival 2019 were JPEGMAFIA, Parquet Courts, and Stereolab.

After catching JPEGMAFIA at Pitchfork Midwinter and being totally blown away, I knew I needed to see the Baltimore rapper again. Not surprisingly, he brought all the same energy and then some once again, while also cracking hilarious quips in between songs (At one point, he referred to the fest as Condé Nast Festival). For those not familiar with JPEGMAFIA, I would recommend checking out his 2018 album Veteran as a proper primer.

Not surprisingly, New York rock band Parquet Courts got the Pitchfork crowd moving, as they tore through a set of songs old and new. Over the years, I’ve made the claim that this band is one of the best live bands out there, and I can still stand by this claim after seeing them on a larger festival stage. In every setting, Parquet Courts rips. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.

Finally, I was grateful to see legendary avant-pop band Stereolab, as they returned for their first U.S. performance in 11 years. Following Saturday’s thunderstorm, the band was the first to get back up on the main stage, bathing an audience of devoted fans in glorious synth sounds. It was magical.

Following Stereolab, I also caught sets from Belle and Sebastian, Jeremih, and The Isley Brothers—a stretch of music that truly speaks to Pitchfork’s diversified nature.

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Seth Johnson, Music Editor at NUVO, can be reached by email at, by phone at 317-254-2400 or on Twitter @sethvthem

Writer - Music, Comedy & Sports

An Indianapolis native, I love all things music, especially of the local variety. My other passions also include comedy, social justice, and the Indiana Pacers.