Pitchfork Festival 2014: Beck, SZA, Giorgio Moroder and More Day 1 Highlights

SZA performs at the 2014 Pitchfork Festival in Chicago

Now in its ninth year in Chicago's Union Park, Pitchfork Music Festival has always been a hodgepodge of alternative music approved by the long-running reviews hub, but the 2014 incarnation boasts perhaps the most diverse lineup ever. Although the opening night of Pitchfork Fest only took up six-and-a-half hours on Friday (July 18), festival goers were treated to the white-boy funk of Beck, the disco production of Giorgio Moroder, the icy R&B of SZA, the long-lost freak-funk of Neneh Cherry, the mournful acoustic storytelling of Sun Kil Moon, the twitching electro-goth of Factory Floor, and the mystical indie-rock of Hundred Waters, among many other styles. No two artists were in the same genre -- or in the same universe, for that matter. Similarly, the Billboard crew all had different experiences on the first day of Pitchfork, but in the end, all left deeply satisfied.

Check out the 12 things we glimpsed and overheard during the first day of 2014 Pitchfork Fest, from Hundred Waters' band shout-out to Beck's harmonica stylings:

Is Pitchfork Fest Cursed?

3:50 PM -- "I guess this is where we start playing Death Grips covers!," jokes Hundred Waters singer Nicole Miglis as the and eases the crowd into the day's first performance. The Grips' recent demise means the dreamy Florida quarter has Pitchfork's early crowd all to themselves. Weightless vocals and wistful flute solos (!) highlight the ethereal hour-long set.

4:35 PM -- Elusive U.K. soul sister Neneh Cherry takes the stage for her first U.S. performance since 1992 (and only her second Stateside performance ever). The crowd wonders why she waited so long as she we woos their ears with her cool, experimental R&B/ trip-hop tunes, including "Out of the Black," her recent collaboration with Robyn. Though she refuses to play the nostaligia card for most of the set, Cherry ends her comeback gig with a slick reinterpretation of her 1988 hit "Buffalo Stance." Sweetness.

4:49 PM -- Too early for crowd surfing? Not if you were in the pit for Factory Floor, whose haunting, guitar-heavy electronica (remember "witch-house" music?) was propulsive enough to send a few brave souls surfing in the congested afternoon crowd, the first at the smaller Blue Stage.

5:32 PM -- Pitchfork Fest always brings out the clever t-shirts -- here's to you, ironic Atlanta Thrashers hockey fan -- but 2014 is flooded by Death Grips tees, in honor of the duo that abruptly disbanded weeks before their scheduled performance at the festival. One memorable shirt showed rapper MC Ride's face on a Japanese laundry detergent box, an obscure "Simpsons" reference.

6:00 PM -- Sharon van Etten's latest album "Are We There" is a lot of things — cathartically beautiful, candidly honest about love turned shitty — but its decidedly downtempo arrangements are difficult to transfer to a lively festival setting. So by the time she trotted out her lone "jam," 2012's Aaron and Bryce Dressner-produced "Serpents," the crowd was ready for a little rocking out.

6:32 PM -- What would a slumber party look like with SZA, the leading lady of Kendrick Lamar's TDE imprint? Chances are, a lot like her set from the Blue stage, where the singer was clad in an oversized Leaders cut-off T-shirt and unidentifiable shorts (or was it a skort?) and singing selections from her debut album "Z" with effortless soul. Woozy album highlight "HillJack" worked particularly well in the intimate, shaded setting.

7:30 PM -- 74-year-old disco godfather Giorgio Moroder stakes the stage for his sunset DJ set and gets right down to business with Donna Summer's "Love to Love You." The late dance queen shimmers on the screen as a succession of the pair's classic collabs -- including "Hot Stuff" and "On the Radio" -- gets the crowd movin.

7:53 PM -- Moroder draws chuckles and cheers for dropping a remix of Berlin's '86 smash "Take My Breath Away," complete with cheesy 'Top Gun' visuals on the jumbotron. Irene Cara's "Flashdance ... What a Feeling," and more movie scenes, follows. Later in his set, after paying homage to Miss Summer one more time with their anthemic collaboration "I Feel Love," Moroder tips his hat to Debbie Harry with his production of Blondie's "Call Me." The crowd appropriately freaks.

8:52 PM -- Beck, Friday's well-recieved headliner, breaks into his own cover of "I Feel Love" 30 mins after Moroder drops Summer's original track in his. Lots of love for Donna today.

9:54 PM -- After cutting through a fake string of yellow crime-scene tape at the end of "Sexx Laws," Beck breaks another unspoken rule at Pitchfork Fest: he busts out a harmonica solo. Luckily it's pretty short, very good, and bookended by the night-closing "Where It's At," which gets even the most tired stragglers in the back to stand up and shimmy.


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