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9 Artists To See At Pitchfork Festival 2021: Yaeji, Kelly Lee Owens, Yves Tumor & More

Taking place this weekend in Chicago, we break down who you should be seeing at Pitchfork Music Festival.
Kelly Lee Owens

Kelly Lee Owens

There are perks to being vaccinated. High up on the list: being able to go to a music festival for the first time in 549 days (but who’s counting).

It’s been so long since I’ve been to a festival that I’m even looking forward to seeing (socially distanced) port-a-potty lines. Luckily for anyone in Chicago next weekend, it gets much better than bathroom queues.

The Pitchfork Music Festival is back at Chicago’s Union Park September 10-12 and it’s stacked with an incredible range of artists, from singer-songwriters to DJs-producers to dozens more multi-talented hyphenates. Like most festivals, last year’s edition was canceled due to the pandemic. Those who were looking forward to seeing artists like Yaeji, Phoebe Bridgers, Caroline Polachek, Cat Power, Thundercat, and Danny Brown from last year’s lineup will be pleased to see them on this year’s bill, with over 30 other artists also playing.

In addition to a lineup that showcases the best up-and-coming music, Pitchfork fest also promotes the Chicago arts and food scenes, and even has an on-site record fair, poster fair, and renegade craft fair.

With so much to see, hear, eat, drink, and enjoy, it can be difficult coming up with a plan. We’re here to help with 9 artists we’re most excited to see:

1. Ela Minus: Friday @ 5:15, Blue Stage

Wrap up work early on Friday (or call in sick, we won’t tell) to get to Union Park in time for Ela Minus’ set at 5:15. The Colombian-born, Brooklyn-based artist wowed us with her debut album, acts of rebellion, which she says touches on issues like racial inequality while showcasing her dexterity as a producer, writer, vocalist, drummer, and director.

2. Kelly Lee Owens: Friday @ 6:30, Blue Stage

When we chatted with Kelly Lee Owens last year, she talked to us about the healing power of music. After the year that we’ve all had, we couldn’t agree more. We named her album Inner Song one of the 30 best albums of 2020, and when Kelly performs live, it’s as if she’s floating above the stage, surrounded by synths, leading the audience on a multisensory journey. We couldn’t think of a better way to soundtrack a sunset.

3. Yaeji: Friday @ 7:45, Blue Stage

The NYC-based Korean American producer and DJ had to postpone her headline tour last year (like almost every other artist) but she returns to the stage for a handful of festival appearances in 2021. We loved Yaeji’s What We Drew 우리가 그려왔던 mixtape, released last year on XL Recordings, and her live performances are always delightful, good natured, and energetic.

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4. Maxo Cream: Saturday @ 2:45, Blue Stage

Larger-than-life Texas rapper Maxo Cream is sure to turn his mid-afternoon set into a performance worthy of a late-night bender. Maxo Cream’s debut album, Brandon Banks, features huge names including Megan Thee Stallion, ScHoolboy Q, A$AP Ferg, and more.

5. Jamila Woods: Saturday @ 6:30, Blue Stage

Chicago’s own Jamila Woods has been busy. Since the pandemic started she’s contributed music to a compilation benefiting voter rights, contributed vocals to a remix of a Gabriel Garzón-Montano track, collabed with oddCouple, performed on Colbert, and more. (Meanwhile, all I’ve done is buy new sweatpants.) Her hometown performance should be one for the books.

6. St. Vincent: Saturday @ 8:30, Green Stage

Saturday’s headliner is not to be missed. Annie Clark is bringing a new album, a new persona, and an entirely new stage show to Union Park that she describes as “what the hell happened to her.” Whatever that actually is, we’ll be there to take it all in.

7. Thundercat: Sunday @ 5:15, Red Stage

There are two types of people: those that love Thundercat and those that don’t yet know they love Thundercat. We’ll see both groups at the Red Stage. His latest album, released last year, features Childish Gambino, Ty Dolla $ign, Lil B, and BADBADNOTGOOD. Good vibes guaranteed.

8. Yves Tumor: Sunday @ 5:15, Blue Stage

Presenting the weekend’s toughest choice: Thundercat vs. Yves Tumor. Our recommendation: running shoes. Yves Tumor released one of last year’s best albums, Heaven to a Tortured Mind, on Warp records and his latest EP, The Asymptotical World, is on constant repeat. Yves Tumor is one of today’s most exciting and innovative acts and 100% worthy of a mid-set sprint between stages.

9. Flying Lotus: Sunday @ 7:25, Red Stage

FlyLo is no stranger to festivals, but what makes this appearance noteworthy is it’s one of only three shows he’s playing this year and it comes after the release of his soundtrack for the hit Netflix anime Yasuke.

Catch all these artists, and more, at Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago’s Union Park September 10-12. In accordance with City of Chicago requirements, full COVID-19 vaccination or negative COVID-19 test results will be required to attend. While 3-day passes are sold out, single day GA tickets are still available. 

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