From Pitchfork Music Festival 2018: Patricia's Friday Sound Bites
A few hours later, Chicago-based rapper Saba, whose set was a definite highlight of the day, hit the Red Stage to a sizeable crowd of devoted fans. He burst onstage with an infectious energy, repeatedly asking the audience how they were doing before starting his set. His “how y’all doing?” grew louder and louder each time he asked it, building such an anticipation that, soon, the audience’s cheers drowned out Saba’s own question. At that point, he kicked off the set with an exhilarating performance of “BUSY”—a standout from his latest album, “CARE FOR ME”—then segued into a soulful rendition of “BROKEN GIRLS,” asking every girl in the audience to put her hands in the air. After a few welcome throwbacks from his debut album, “Bucket List Project,” Saba paused for a bit to speak directly to the crowd. “I’m from the west side of Chicago,” he shared. “This is the type of shit we dreaming about—look at how many people are here.” The audience roared in encouragement. Though there was never a dull or low-energy moment in the Chicago rapper’s set, the definite highpoint came towards the end, when after a 10-second quiet spell, the iconic bass line from “LIFE” burst through the arena, slowing down the tempo of the performance, but nevertheless taking the intensity of the energy exchange to a whole new level.
Soon after, Brooklyn’s Big Thief took to the Blue Stage and performed a captivating set, comprised of charming indie-folk songs from their 2016 record “Masterpiece” and last year’s “Capacity,” as well as a handful of completely new songs. Only two chords and roughly two seconds into the set, the audience roared in glee—it only took so long to recognize “Masterpiece,” the eponymous track and a standout from their 2016 LP. Watching lead guitarist Buck Meek and frontwoman Adrienne Lenker collaborating on stage was a mesmerizing thing to experience—both were co-founders of the band and have a long history of making music together, so the connection between them was palpable throughout their performance of “Masterpiece,” “Shark Smile,” and many other songs. A standout from their show was their live version of “Mary,” which found Lenker solo for the first time in the set. With only the golden tones from her guitar and her evocative, tender voice, Lenker quieted a crowd of hundreds as soon as she uttered the song’s opening lyrics. Her voice, though gentle and soft, proved to have that uncanny quality—the ability to stun an entire arena into silence for its tone alone. Even as the drizzles of rain from earlier in the day made a return, threatening to disrupt her performance, almost no one in the crowd reached into their bags to fumble for an umbrella or raincoat. As is typical for really any Big Thief performance, the audience remained completely transfixed until the song’s very end.
Rounding out the night on the Red Stage before headliner Tame Impala came out to perform was indie-rocker Courtney Barnett, who drew a sea of people so gigantic it was difficult to see its end. As the clouds cleared, the Aussie songwriter opened her set with a mellow rendition of “Hopefulessness,” then segued neatly into the upbeat “City Looks Pretty,” both taken from her latest record “Tell Me How You Really Feel.” Though the record only came out two months ago, that didn’t stop Barnett’s fans from yelling her signature tongue-in-cheek lyrics back to her, particularly throughout the deliciously wry “Nameless, Faceless.” Throughout her set, Barnett commanded the audience’s attention unfailingly, shredding up and down the fretboard and jumping on stage in infectious bursts of energy. As she darted from one song to another, the front lights painted her face a deep red, creating a real-time version of the album art from her latest LP. It was a gorgeous visual effect that only made the experience of seeing the songwriter in the flesh feel more surreal. By the time Barnett ended her set with a riveting performance of “Pedestrian at Best,” she had the entire crowd in the palm of her hand. “Give me all your money / And I’ll make some origami, honey!” Barnett howled, a sea of thousands howling right there with her.
—Staff writer Patricia M. Guzman can be reached at email@example.com.
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