Pitchfork Festival 2021 Preview

Modern music criticism was essentially reinvented in this millennium by Pitchfork, and even as its gone from its snarky earlier days to being a Conde Nast publication, it still...
Pitchfork Festival 2021 Preview
Pitchfork Festival 2021 Preview

Modern music criticism was essentially reinvented in this millennium by Pitchfork, and even as its gone from its snarky earlier days to being a Conde Nast publication, it still hews true to its indie music roots with the Pitchfork Music Festival, which returns to Chicago’s Union Park, September 10th-12th:



Green Stage


Phoebe Bridgers, 8:30 PM – 9:50 PM

Nobody in music has had as good a COVID pandemic as Phoebe Bridgers (QRO photos from just before everything shut down). Bridgers already had critical acclaim with records like Stranger in the Alps (QRO Top Albums of 2017), and a great team-up with Conor Oberst (QRO photos together) as Better Oblivion Community Center (QRO photos) on their 2019 self-titled record (QRO review), plus her supergroup boygenius with Julien Baker & Lucy Dacus.

But last year’s Punisher (QRO review) launched her into the stratosphere. Basically the favorite record by everyone you have a crush on (except for the hilariously self-depreciating Bridgers herself), songs like “I See You” (QRO review), “I Know the End” (QRO review), and “Savior Complex” (QRO review) all broke your heart – if not in-person, than in videos (like the “Savior” one directed by her near-namesake Phoebe Waller-Bridge) on TV (QRO review of “I Know the End” on TV). We all were desperate to see her live, whether in her trademark skeleton onesie in a livestream (QRO livestream review) or in her pajamas from home. So, maybe you didn’t see her when (QRO photos from 2017), but catch her now at Pitchfork (QRO photos at a festival), after she was supposed to play it last year.

Phoebe Bridgers

Animal Collective, 6:15 PM – 7:15 PM

Amongst the main highly praised experimental acts at Pitchfork, none is more highly praised or as experimental as Animal Collective (QRO photos at a festival). 2009’s Merriweather Post Pavilion (QRO review) got the kind of praise that makes one sick of a band (though it was certainly an improvement on their prior release, Strawberry Jam), and though 2012’s Centipede Hz was called a bit of a repeat by some (QRO review), 2016’s Painting With (QRO review) is a revived stance, and word is a new album is on the horizon. By this time, the electronics-and-more collective is commonplace, but this Baltimore outfit (QRO photos) still rule the roost (QRO live review). Like a lot of electronica, however, they do struggle live outdoors (QRO photos outdoors at a festival), but should do better playing their first Pitchfork in a decade (QRO photos at a festival).

Animal Collective

black midi, 4:15 PM – 5:10 PM

After playing Pitchfork 2018 in Paris, and 2019 in Chicago, England’s math-rock black midi will play not only Chicago again, but also London this year, behind May’s Cavalcade.

black midi


DEHD, 2:30 PM – 3:15 PM

Armand Hammer, 1:00 PM – 1:40 PM


Blue Stage


Yaeji, 7:45 PM – 8:30 PM

Blending hip-hop & house, English & Korean, is Queens’ Yaeji (QRO photos at a Chicago festival), who finally makes it to Pitchfork after being scheduled to play last year.


Kelly Lee Owens, 6:30 PM – 7:15 PM

Welsh producer Kelly Lee Owens was supposed to play Pitchfork 2020 in Berlin, but instead will return to spin at the original edition this year.

Kelly Lee Owens


Ela Minus, 5:15 PM – 6:00 PM

The Soft Pink Truth, 4:00 PM – 4:45 PM

DJ Nate, 2:45 PM – 3:30 PM

Ela Minus

Red Stage


Big Thief, 7:25 PM – 8:25 PM

It takes a lot for a band to name their album Masterpiece – their debut, in fact. But Brooklyn indie-folksters Big Thief (QRO photos outdoors in Brooklyn) pulled it off, and come to Pitchfork behind 2019’s acclaimed fourth record, Two Hands, after they were supposed to play last year.

Big Thief

The Fiery Furnaces, 5:15 PM – 6:10 PM

Oak Park, Illinois siblings Matthew & Eleanor Friedberger were loved virtually throughout the indie-sphere as the enchanting and orchestral Fiery Furnaces (QRO photos), but they went on a hiatus in 2011 that seemed permanent – until last year, when they were supposed to reunite at Pitchfork. Of course, that didn’t happen, but they’ve saved the reunion for Pitchfork 2021.

The Fiery Furnaces

Hop Along, 3:20 PM – 4:10 PM

From the folk-rock side of the City of Brotherly Love is Hop Along (QRO photos at a festival), who finally make it to Pitchfork in Chicago behind 2018’s Bark Your Head Off, Dog.



Dogleg, 1:45 PM – 2:25 PM

Hop Along






Green Stage


St. Vincent, 8:30 PM – 9:50 PM

After the one-and-only Annie Clark (QRO interview) made 2007 her break-out year, both as part of The Polyphonic Spree on The Fragile Army (QRO review) and with her own debut as St. Vincent (QRO photos), Marry Me (QRO review), she followed that up with even-better years (QRO spotlight on), gracing festivals (QRO photos at a festival), charming and surprising crowds with winning humor live (QRO live review), and bringing a stable of new songs (QRO live review). Those new songs, like “Laughing With a Mouth of Blood” (QRO video) and “Actor Out of Work” (QRO video) formed into 2009’s Actor (QRO review), which vaunted her into the even bigger time (QRO photos at a festival), including playing Lincoln Center (QRO live review) and other storied concert halls (QRO photos at a festival) & venues (QRO photos at Royal Albert Hall).

Admittedly, 2011’s Strange Mercy (QRO review) wasn’t quite as good, but then she teamed up with the one-and-only David Byrne (QRO photos at a festival together) for 2012’s Love This Giant (QRO review) and the holy St. Vincent (QRO photos) came back with a vengeance in 2014 on St. Vincent (QRO review), including an absolutely stellar live show (QRO photos), with her platinum grey hair and mannequin moves shining outdoors (QRO live review outdoors), at festivals (QRO photos at a festival) and in the Old World (QRO live review in Europe). In 2017 she had the massively seductive MASSEDUCTION (QRO review), and seductive stage show (QRO photos at a 2018 festival), followed by the stripped down seduction of remix album MassEducation (QRO review). And even COVID couldn’t keep St. Vincent down, with the seventies-channeling Daddy’s Home (QRO review), “Pay You Way In Pain” (QRO review), and live show (QRO Daddy’s Home livestream review).

A must-see headliner (QRO photos at a festival) as she returns to Pitchfork (QRO photos at Pitchfork ’10).

St. Vincent

Kim Gordon, 6:15 PM – 7:15 PM

You already know Kim Gordon (QRO photos) as an alt-icon member of the alt-icon-of-alt-icons Sonic Youth (QRO live review), who were basically the most reliably great alt-punk act for decades & decades – until her 2011 divorce with fellow Youth Thurston Moore (in which most people have naturally taken her side). But she was always much more than Girl in a Band (her 2015 memoir), including being in other acts such as Free Kitten & Body/Head, and in 2019 released her first solo record, No Home Record.

Gordon was supposed to grace Pitchfork last year, but now she comes for her first time since Sonic Youth did Daydream Nation there way back in 2007 (QRO Daydream Nation live review).

Kim Gordon

Waxahatchee, 4:15 PM – 5:10 PM

Katie Crutchfield’s acclaimed indie-folk project Waxahatchee (QRO photos) comes back to Pitchfork (QRO photos at a 2021 festival) off the back of last year’s acclaimed fifth record, Saint Cloud, and was supposed to play last year (QRO photos at Pitchfork party).



Divino Niño, 2:30 PM – 3:15 PM

Horsegirl, 1:00 PM – 1:40 PM


Blue Stage


Jamila Woods, 7:45 PM – 8:30 PM

Chicago’s own Jamila Woods brings her black feminist self-love perspective back to Pitchfork.

Jamila Woods


Georgia Anne Muldrow, 6:30 PM – 7:15 PM

Faye Webster, 5:15 PM – 6:00 PM

RP Boo, 4:00 PM – 4:45 PM

Maxo Kream, 2:45 PM – 3:30 PM

Georgia Anne Muldrow

Red Stage


Angel Olsen, 7:25 PM – 8:25 PM

Angel Olsen (QRO photos at a festival) began her career singing back up for Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy & The Cairo Gang, but has since found her own beautiful voice (QRO photos). In 2019 she released her heartbreaking All Mirrors (QRO review), and earlier this year put out her team-up with Sharon Van Etten on “Like I Used To” (QRO review), and now plays her third Pitchfork after missing out last year (QRO photos at a festival).

Angel Olsen

Ty Segall & The Freedom Band, 5:15 PM – 6:10 PM

California’s Ty Segall (QRO photos at a festival) has evolved from his ‘kick in the pants’ early work to a more effortless boot to the fanny these days (QRO photos), where he’s been quite prolific, a record about every year such as 2012’s Slaughterhouse (QRO review), 2017’s Ty Segall (QRO review), and many more, not to mention solo albums & team-ups (and doing the theme song for Comedy Central’s post-Daily Show The Opposition with Jordan Klepper).

Ty Segall


Amaarae, 3:20 PM – 4:10 PM

Bartees Strange, 1:45 PM – 2:25 PM

Bartees Strange






Green Stage


Erykah Badu, 8:30 PM – 9:50 PM

No festival is complete without an acclaimed diva or two, and Pitchfork got a good one in Erykah Badu (QRO photos at a festival). The Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter from Texas (QRO photos in Texas) blazed the neo-soul trail, earning comparisons to the likes of Billie Holiday & Nina Simone. She (QRO photos at a festival) stirred up controversy with her video for “Window Seat” by stripping down completely – and illegally, in Dealey Plaza (inspired by the video for “Lessons Learned” by Matt & Kim – QRO photos of Matt & Kim with Badu at a festival). She’s been promising a new studio album since 2010’s New Amerykah Part Two, though has dropped big-name mixtapes like 2015’s But You Caint Use My Phone, but hopefully there will be a preview of new material at Pitchfork.

Erykah Badu

Danny Brown, 6:15 PM – 7:15 PM

Detroit rapper Danny Brown (QRO photos at a festival) earned serious critical acclaim in 2011 with XXX, SPIN’s hip-hop album of the year (QRO photos at SPIN party). He’s since gotten even bigger (QRO live review), even as he got older with 2013’s Old, 2016’s Atrocity Exhibition, and 2019’s U Know What I’m Sayin’?. He returns to Pitchfork, after he was supposed to play last year.

Danny Brown

Caroline Polachek, 4:15 PM – 5:10 PM

Late-2000s New York City had its own wave, including numerous dreamy acts, with one of the best in Chairlift (QRO photos at a festival) in records such as 2012’s Something (QRO review). Since they ended in 2016, singer Caroline Polachek has forged her own dreamy career, including 2019 debut Pang and coming on her own to Pitchfork, after she was supposed to play last year.

Caroline Polachek


KeiyaA, 2:30 PM – 3:15 PM

Tomberlin, 1:00 PM – 1:40 PM


Blue Stage


Cat Power, 7:45 PM – 8:30 PM

There’s no one quite like Cat Power (QRO live review). Chan Marshall (QRO live review) is this signature mix of punk, folk, blues, and more, with a memorable stage presence. An inspiration of many of today’s indie songstresses, she comes back to Pitchfork behind 2018’s Wanderer.

Cat Power

Andy Shauf, 6:30 PM – 7:15 PM

Saskatchewan’s Andy Shauf (QRO photos) has quietly made a great career making quietly great music, such as last year’s The Neon Skyline.

Andy Shauf

Yves Tumor, 5:15 PM – 6:00 PM

Turin-by-Miami experimental electronicist Yves Tumor comes to Pitchfork behind last year’s Heaven to a Tortured Mind.

Yves Tumor

The Weather Station, 4:00 PM – 4:45 PM

Instead of some new blog-hype act at Pitchfork, check out the longstanding power and enchantment of The Weather Station, who come to the festival behind this year’s excellent Ignorance (QRO review).



oso oso, 2:45 PM – 3:30 PM

The Weather Station

Red Stage


Flying Lotus, 7:25 PM – 8:25 PM

While Flying Lotus (QRO photos outdoors) might be best known for making the music in Adult Swim’s bumpers (that text right before a show on the cable channel), he’s also an accomplished producer, as well as making & playing music in his own right (QRO live review), such as this year’s Yasuke – not to mention his alter ego, Sealab 2021-inspired Captain Murphy (there go my nipples again…).

Flying Lotus

Thundercat, 5:15 PM – 6:10 PM

Known for his psychedelic excursions, Thundercat (QRO photos at a festival) has worked with the likes of fellow Pitchfork ’21 performer Flying Lotus (see just above), and won a Grammy working with Kendrick Lamar on To Pimp a Butterfly. He (QRO photos at a festival) has been compared to the likes of Jaco Pastorius for his precise and experimental basslines, and last year (QRO photos in 2019) his fourth studio album It Is What It Is won him his own Grammy for Best Progressive R&B Album.



Mariah the Scientist, 3:20 PM – 4:10 PM

Special Interest, 1:45 PM – 2:25 PM

Mariah the Scientist