The indie kids motherland, Pitchfork Music Festival has returned with its annual roster of obscure talent.
This year’s headliners included the likes of Tame Impala, Fleet Foxes, and Ms. Lauryn Hill. Below, are my personal reviews of the acts I was able to catch on Sunday.
Nnamdi Ogbonnaya is a Chicago multi-instrumentalist who has recently begun pursuing rapping under a solo moniker. He fused a variety of genres together including experimental hip-hop, emo, pop, jazz and R&B. He rapped in a multitude of pitches and sang with a pretty sizeable vocal range going from a deep gut-based baritone to a really really nasally high falsetto. Despite this wide array of influences, his style became a bit repetitive over time. After the first few set of songs, a clear pattern began to arise.
Chicago R&B singer, Ravyn Lenae performed several cuts from her new EP, “Crush,” which was primarily produced by The Internet’s Steve Lacy. Her voice’s peculiarities are enjoyable on record, but they did take awhile to translate well into a live setting. She did have quite the range, however, and she continued to have incredible control over her silky vibrato.
Australian synth-pop and soft rock singer, Alex Cameron brought his 80’s homage to the secluded Blue Stage. He sounded surprisingly similar to how he did on in-studio recordings. His singing was not all that versatile which did become a bit grating after awhile. Fortunately, Holiday Sidewinder joined Cameron on keyboards and vocals and she managed to bring a girlish melodic sense to Cameron’s songs.
(Sandy) Alex G
Given that (Sandy) Alex G’s folky bedroom pop aesthetic has an amateurish quality to it, I wasn’t expecting a whole lot of talent in the singing department. But God was his singing lackluster. He had this really bad habit of singing through his teeth. I’m not sure what he thought he was doing, but all it did was make his voice sound super garbled. The guitar chords from him and his band were decent, but even they were occasionally rudimentary. Fortunately, Alex had some diversity with keyboard oriented tracks like, “Sportstar” as well as the distortedly noisy, “Brick.”
Every year, Pitchfork Music Festival likes to throw a curveball with an unexpected veteran act. This year’s was 80’s funk diva, Chaka Khan. Unfortunately, performing for over 40 years has not allowed the superstar to age gracefully in her music. While she still had the vocal talent to enter into her upper register, she struggled to hit all of the higher notes exactly, especially when she elongated them. Even her backup singers managed to outshine her throughout the show. She did have a killer vibrato and her backup band was very virtuosic.
The creator of one of hip-hop’s most essential classics of all time, “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill,” Ms. Lauryn Hill is back for one of her scarce performances. Ever since “Miseducation,” Hill has been very secluded in her personal life making it difficult to see her in person. Now in 2018, in honor of the 20th anniversary of her solo debut, she is making a world tour performing that album and God was her live show glorious. Not only did she have a rapid fire flow that just would Not. Let. Up. but, she also had a dynamic voice that was much more soulful in person than it is on record. My one and only complaint is that towards the latter half of her set, she repeatedly seemed to scold the production team, as well as her backup singers for God knows what reason. This became a little distracting after awhile. Other than that, her show was fantastic. Even if you’re just starting to get into hip-hop now try to catch her live on tour, because this truly is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of show.
Pitchfork Music Festival delivered again with its diverse lineup of underrated acts who need some more exposure. While some acts were underwhelming, others surpassed my expectations in ways I did not expect. The festival did a great job of showcasing the potential talent of the future.
Best act: Lauryn Hill
Worst act: (Sandy) Alex G