Following headlining sets by respected rock deities Beck and Neutral Milk Hotel on Friday and Saturday nights respectively, the third and final day (July 20) of the 2014 Pitchfork Music Festival belonged to hip-hop kingpin Kendrick Lamar, who brought his A-game to Chicago’s Union Park to wind down the ninth edition of the annual indie gathering. Pitchfork played a strong rap game on Sunday, with Lamar cohort Schoolboy Q and Odd Future superstar Earl Sweartshirt also drawing massive crowds, but the day also heard the return of British shoegaze giants Slowdive (who played their first U.S. show in more than 20 years), new electro-pop gems from Canadian producer Grimes, and standout sets from DIIV, Deafhaven, Dum Dum Girls and a host of other left-of-center artist on the rise.
Check out a collection of 15 highlights from the final day of the 2014 Pitchfork Music Festival.
2:08 PM — DIIV‘s Zachary Cole Smith, who, in typical fashion, wears a XXL button-up shirt over his petite XS frame, introduces a song as “an instrumental and a cover.” The latter happens to be a snarling rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone,” complete with blistering guitar solos and pained yelps during the chorus.
2:47 PM — San Francisco post-metal outfit Deafheaven is best experienced under shrouds of fog and lights, but the beaming afternoon sunshine does nothing to dilute the band’s doomy, gloomy intensity. Frontman George Clark prowls the stage, staring darkly into the audience and screeching like a man possessed as the band unleashes an onslaught of dense, black-metal mayhem on the unhinged audience.
3:20 PM – Pitchfork endured three unfortunate lineup changes heading into this year’s festival, but a drama-free, energized set from Earl Sweatshirt ensured that the curse had officially been broken. Having announced plans to cancel the remaining dates on his summer tour, detailing in tweets that he was suffering from exhaustion and weighing “a fraction of what i’m supposed to,” Earl was indeed looking freakishly thin, with a frame more akin to a 12-year-old boy than a 20-year-old young man. Still, he turned up to 100 to deliver an expected festival set with highlights from 2013’s “Doris” that inspired controlled mayhem — or, as he repeatedly asked of the crowd, “goin’ full World Cup.”
3:57 PM — After sorting out some pesky sound problems, Los Angeles outfit Dum Dum Girls finally begins its set on the shaded Blue stage. Audience members are as seduced by the band’s dreamy indie-pop as they are by the alluring looks of frontwoman Dee Dee Penny and her sexy, black-clad band members. Between songs, the booming bass of Schoolboy Q rumbles from across the park, shaking nearby trees to the roots.
— Alexis Owens (@alexicondevil) July 20, 2014
5:04 PM — While DIIV’s Zachary Cole Smith is being interviewed backstage, his girlfriend, a.k.a. indie-rock princess Sky Ferreira, gazes on admiringly and snaps photos with her phone. Ferreira is almost unrecognizable due to her newly brunette hair.
5:15 PM — The TDE crew continues to roll deep. Shortly after Schoolboy Q wraps his set on the Red stage, Friday-night performer SZA is seen hanging around backstage in anticipation of Kendrick Lamar’s festival-closing set.
— Robert Loerzel (@robertloerzel) July 20, 2014
6:20 PM — A 20-year wait finally comes to an end as recently reunited shoegaze band Slowdive take the stage to thunderous applause. Wasting no time with formalities, the British quintet — led by guitar virtuoso Neil Halstead and ethereal chanteuse Rachel Goswell – immediately crank their guitar amps and transport the crowd back to the ’90s with a set of dreamy, feedback-laden tunes from each of their three acclaimed albums.
6:28 PM — Majical Cloudz is forced to perform a “spoken word” set of sorts, since their broken MIDI controller couldn’t be replaced in time for the festival. After getting the audience to provide percussion (i.e., handclaps) for songs like “Childhood’s End,” the duo ends the performance by smashing the broken controller onstage.
7:04 PM — Sky Ferriera, as well as members of DIIV and Dum Dum Girls, take notes from the side stage as Slowdive roars towards its finale, a shimmering cover of Syd Barrett’s “Golden Hair” that leaves everyone’s hair (golden or otherwise) standing on end.
7:25 PM — Her newly released track “Go” may have been rejected by Rihanna, but Grimes (a.k.a. Canadian singer-producer Claire Boucher) made a proper bid for pop stardom during her Green stage performance. Armed with a diva’s fan that blew her flowing lavender hair back from her face, and two hard-working backup dancers, it was hard not to imagine Grimes auditioning for an opening-slot on Beyonce or Rihanna’s next arena tour as her dreamy falsetto attacked the dance beats of “Symphonia IX (My Wait Is U.)”
7:45 PM — “I like to test shit out,” Grimes declares before unveiling a new track, a snappy pop song with heavy drums. A few songs later, she blasts through “Go,” which is met with almost as much enthusiasm as her set-closing smash “Genesis.”
8:22 PM — As Grimes ends and everyone gets ready for Kendrick Lamar, the music playing from the Green Stage is all West Coast hip-hop, including Snoop Dogg and 2Pac. In the audience, lots of people are reenacting Dr. Dre’s song “Blunt Time.”
8:37 PM –- Kendrick is a tad late for his 8:30 timeslot, which gives a few ambitious gatecrashers a chance to scale the fence by the port-a-potties and rush into the crowd before the first beat drops.
— Robert Loerzel (@robertloerzel) July 21, 2014
9:12 PM — What’s the most important part of the evening for Kendrick Lamar? “At the end of the night,” he promises, “I’ll know that nobody’s vibe is killed.” The sentiment makes the crowd go wild, as Lamar launches into “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe.”
9:43 PM — Although most of Kendrick Lamar’s set is a celebration of his acclaimed debut album “good kid, m.A.A.d city,” he finally dips back into his mixtape days toward the end of the headlining showcase, trotting out the ‘Section.80’ favorite “A.D.H.D.” For Lamar, who played the smaller Blue Stage at Pitchfork Festival in 2012, the song is a reminder of just how far he’s come in two years.