Chance The Rapper entered the 2015 Pitchfork Music Festival as the weekend’s least proven headliner — Friday and Saturday toppers Wilco and Sleater-Kinney have been releasing album since before Chancelor Bennett entered kindergarten — and exited the three-day music marathon as the hometown fest’s MVP. With his exuberant set full of Surf, Acid Rap and 10 Day cuts, Chance gave Chicago’s Union Park its final and biggest thrill of the year.
So how did he do it? Here are the 10 things that Chance The Rapper did during his Pitchfork set that unequivocally ruled:
1. He danced his ass off. After teaching Chicago the Juke Slide last year, Chance shimmied, wiggled and leapt around the Pitchfork stage for a little under 90 minutes on Sunday night. He sweated profusely, but somehow never seemed out of breath.
2. He shouted-out his mom. More specifically, his “moms,” the three Chicago women who helped raise him, all in attendance tonight. At one point he located his actual mother, who’s cheering him on to the right of the stage, and appeared to wink at her while singing her praises from the stage.
3. He brought out the Chicago Bucket Boys. The kids who play drums on buckets at the Bulls games! They helped him expand the Arthur theme song, now a wondrous live staple for Chance.
4. He changed outfits multiple times. Chance started out with a padded black shirt that sort of looked like a laser tag vest, and ended in a custom Bulls jersey. A black White Sox cap was often the only mainstay in his ensemble.
5. He ceded the floor to Donnie Trumpet. A Surf interlude occurred in the middle of the set, with pieces of “Slip Slide” and “Wanna Be Cool” accompanied by the image of trumpeter Nico Segal, better known as Donnie Trumpet, parading around in a white tuxedo as dancers demonstrated their choreography behind him. The night was billed to Chance The Rapper, but this was very much a Social Experiment show.
6. He got more theatrical. The live band, animated graphics and dance routines have been part of Chance’s show for some time, but new details — like a revamped, eye-popping opening, and the Chance silhouette hovering behind a white screen during Donnie Trumpet’s string of songs — made the show feel like a show. Has anyone from Broadway contacted Chance yet?
7. He brought out Kirk Franklin. Chance made R. Kelly and Vic Mensa his guest stars at Lollapalooza last year, but having the lovable veteran Franklin come out this year nicely highlighted the gospel overtones of the hometown show. Speaking of which…
8. He played all of “Sunday Candy” with a gospel choir. Most of Surf was shirked off or quarantined into an interlude, but Chance closed out the set with the album’s high point as a white-robed gospel choir swayed behind him. The night-capping “Chain Smoker” was predictably explosive, but “Sunday Candy,” a large-hearted ode to his grandmother and now Chance’s best song, was downright heartwarming.
9. He was visibly moved by the evening. Chance is only Pitchfork Fest’s second hip-hop headliner (following Kendrick Lamar last year) and certainly the first artist to headline the festival before releasing a proper debut album; he graciously accepted the opportunity and stomped out onstage early, as if he was too eager to wait to play the hometown gig. “This whole show is for you!” he urged, repeatedly getting the crowd to reach new volumes by goading them into frenzied enthusiasm. Chance would not accept anything less than an A+ effort for his big Chicago show of the year.
10. He hinted at bigger things. On two occasions, Chance proclaimed, “I’m growing up,” and hinted at somehow leaving this younger version of himself behind. With a horns-filled, gospel-soaked, dance-oriented, Bucket Boys-assisted extravaganza, how can Chance The Rapper get even bigger? He’ll show us himself soon enough.