Pitchfork Music Festival: Sleater-Kinney, Future Islands Triumph Following Weather Evacuation

Photo: Mark Horton, WireImage
Future Islands performs in Ottawa on July 14, 2015.

Vince Staples missed his set at the festival, and wasn't happy about it.

At 3:45 PM on Saturday (July 18), it seemed as if all was lost at Pitchfork Music Festival.

Ex Hex's roaring 3:20 PM set had been cut off after five songs, and a voice on the PA told concertgoers to head toward the exits. Minutes later, the heavy rain turned torrential, and a crack of thunder mangled the frantic cries in Chicago's Union Park. There was no timetable for the festival to reopen, if it were to reopen at all.

Then, the rain stopped, Pitchfork tweeted that the park was reopening at 4:20 PM, and the rest of Saturday was piercingly beautiful. Okay then!

The momentary evacuation affected very little of Saturday's lineup, aside from cutting short the sets of Ex Hex and Kurt Vile. The weather gods screwed Vince Staples -- who had been scheduled to take the stage at 3:45 -- in a different way: they left his plane in Detroit, preventing him from ever touching down at the Chicago festival. Needless to say, the rapper wasn't happy:

Fortunately, the thousands that weathered the storm on Saturday were treated to a stellar collection of indie rock, led by headliners Sleater-Kinney and highlighted by Parquet Courts, the New Pornographers and Future Islands, the latter of which delivered one of the best sets in the festival's history.

This time last year, Sleater-Kinney headlining Pitchfork Fest was but a pipe dream: the Pacific Northwest trio was nearing the decade mark of their hiatus following the release of 2005's The Woods. Luckily Corin Tucker, Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss reunited at the end of 2014, released one of 2015's most essential rock album in No Cities to Love, and brought that new batch of songs to Pitchfork and a deeply reverent crowd.

Tucker remains an awe-inspiring voice in rock music, and from set opener "The Fox" onward, her reverberating howl tore through the guitar pileups and demanded full attention. The rapport between Tucker and Brownstein's guitars was beyond crisp, and new tracks like "Price Tag," "Bury Our Friends" and "Fangless" fit in snugly next to "Jumpers" and "Dig Me Out." For rock fans who have yet to catch Sleater-Kinney on their current reunion trailer: do so, immediately.

Even with zero false notes during their headlining set (okay, a few were played during the encore of "You're No Rock 'n Roll Fun," which Brownstein had to start over), Sleater-Kinney was soundly upstaged by Future Islands, a Baltimore synth-pop act that is finally garnering the huge crowds it had deserved for so long. Casual fans who knew of frontman Samuel Herring's stage antics thanks to his viral Letterman performance were given the full package: the singer literally beat himself up, slapping and punching his way to emotional stability and barking into the microphone like a demonic pit bull.

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This, of course, is par for the course for the gleefully deranged showman. However, Future Islands reached a previously unseen high as a festival act at Pitchfork, keeping their set lean with dance tracks and goading the crowd into sing-alongs for unfamiliar songs. New track "The Chase" slayed, "Tin Man" was the unhinged high point and Herring unwittingly exposed his hairy belly after rhythmically gyrating his ass. He buttoned up his shirt, embarrassed of the exposed flesh but not of the booty-shaking.

The New Pornographers, Parquet Courts, Kurt Vile and Shamir also delivered standout sets during the second day of the festival, and Nashville punk newcomers Bully pulled in a surprisingly large early-afternoon crowd and took full advantage with a blazing string of songs. Hip-hop is set to dominate the final day of Pitchfork Fest this year, with Chance The Rapper, Run The Jewels and Freddie Gibbs all slated to perform on Sunday. Forecast: slight chance of rain.