Union Park hosted one of Chicago’s most iconic music festival for the eleventh straight year. The lineup this year offered a whole different array of acts such as pop star Carly Rae Jepson and music legend Brian Wilson. Out of all of the three days to go, I chose Saturday, because I thought it was the best day the festival had to offer. I arrived at the festival grounds about two hours before the first act who I wanted to see. Inside the festival there were numerous vendors selling everything from vinyl to handmade leather goods. After I got my fair share of seeing what the vendors scattered around Union Park had to offer I went on to see my first act.
The first performance of the day was Kevin Morby. He is a singer-songwriter from Kansas City who has played in a few bands including Woods and The Babies before starting his own solo career. This year he released his third solo album titled Singing Saw, which gained him much critical attention including being named best new music by Pitchfork. Morby’s performance went on for close to an hour and featured songs from all three of his albums. For a few of songs he had three backing vocalist with him as well as a trumpet player to make his music sound as good as possible in the live setting.
After Morby was Martin Courtney. He is the lead singer of the New Jersey based indie band Real Estate, and he is no stranger to the festival. He has played it three times before with his band. In October of last year he released his first solo album titled Many Moons. There are many similarities and differences between Real Estate and Martin Courtney. Courtney has a voice which I find both soothing and comforting which made me calm and relaxed on a beautiful summer day.
Once I was done listening to Martin Courtney I raced across the park to the red stage to catch Blood Orange. Blood Orange is the work of Devonte Hynes a British musician who has done work with many other musicians including Florence and the Machine. The crowd was packed with thousands of people ready to see Blood Orange. I was barely able to see the stage so I watched most of the show on the screen. Within a short time of the performance, Hynes proved to the crowd that he was a performer worth seeing. From dance moves while he was singing to him to picking up a guitar and soloing on it for a brief minute, he proved his talent. The performance was also filled with many surprises such as a short cover of John Coltrane’s “Love Supreme” and guest singers such as Carly Rae Jepson.
After the Blood Orange’s show that was full of energy ,I patiently waited for about two hours to see the last act of the day Brian Wilson. As most people know Brian Wilson is one of the founding members of the Beach Boys. This year marked the 50th anniversary of Pet Sounds. In light of this, Wilson has been embarking on an anniversary tour playing the album from start to finish. The crowd was packed with many different people of many different ages. Some the same age as me born long after the album was released in 1966 and some who were the same age as me when it released. Despite the varying ages, everyone in the crowd had a deep appreciation for Pet Sounds and the rest of the Beach Boys music. When seventy four year old Brian Wilson entered the stage there was a thunderous applause from the audience. The show began with the first single off of Pet Sounds “Wouldn’t it be Nice”. Once it began, all the conversation within the crowd came to a halt to watch a living legend perform. Surprisingly, Joan and John Cusack came on stage to sing with Brian on “Sloop John B”. John and Joan are both Chicago natives and John played Wilson in the 2014 Film Love and Mercy.
After Wilson played Pet Sounds from start to finish, he played some classic Beach Boys songs like “Surfing USA” and “Barbara Ann.” Not only did me and audience get to listen to one of the best albums ever made we also got to listen to other classic Beach Boy songs.
Even though I was only there for one day of the festival, I ended up having an enjoyable time. Listening to new and emerging artists such as Kevin Morby to influential ones like Brian Wilson who made a lasting impact on music as a whole. Pitchfork 2016 was truly the best of new and old.