Pitchfork festival kicks off today at Union Park in Chicago. While legendary artists like Chaka Khan and Ms. Lauryn Hill along with current big names like Tame Impala are bound to deliver some unforgettable performances, Pitchfork also presents an opportunity to discover artists you may have never listened to before. If you play your cards right, you might just leave the festival with a new favorite, and here we’ve rounded up 10 must-see artists to help you on your musical journey all weekend long.
The Curls are an art-rock/alt-rock group from Chicago consisting of five members and is known for their funky, exciting, and overall fun songs that they’ve provided throughout the years. The vocals from both male and female members are catchy, diverse, and sure to give you a laugh every once in a while with sly and humorous lyrics. They are the first group of performers to perform on Friday at 1 pm so make sure to get their early because you do not want to miss the energy that The Curls give.
Must-Listens: “Slice of Life, “Prickly Feelings”
Latest Album: Super Unit
Noise rock band Melkbelly are sure to literally shake the stage and your very core. The band also hails from Chicago, starting off in local D.I.Y. studios and eventually obtaining the opportunity to collaborate with artists like David Vettraino. Melkbelly are noise rockers to the core filling appropriately-named songs like “Piss Wizard” to the brim with lightning fast drumming, guitar riffs, and strong bass lines. They are also incredibly good at coupling these aggressive sounds with confident, catchy, and equally as aggressive vocals from lead vocalist, Miranda Winters.
Must-Listens: “Piss Wizard“, “Kid Kreative“
Latest Album: Nothing Valley
22-year-old Philadelphia artist Tierra Whack is having a moment right now, and after an already extensive career, the recognition is well-deserved. Her latest project “Whack World” would have been impressive on its own, but Whack kicked things into overdrive by dropping an all-out visual album that brings the colorful project to vivid life. Teetering a carefully calibrated balance beam of soulful melodies and lively flows, Whack consistently delivers heartfelt songwriting over RnB and funk-inspired production. A last-minute booking after Earl Sweatshirt canceled his appearance, Pitchfork no doubt turned an L into a W by getting Tierra Whack on the lineup, and if you’re planning to be in the crowd on Friday, you’ll know what I mean.
Must-Listens: “Hookers”, “Flea Market”
Latest Project: Whack World
Hailing from Evanston, Illinois, Kweku Collins is another Chicago artist you should have on your radar if you don’t already. Crafting alternative hip-hop that floats somewhere deep in outer space, Collins meets ambient production with syrupy flows and angst-ridden vocals. His discography so far has stayed true to this style while also maturing with each new release, culminating in his latest project, “grey”. He signed with Chicago’s Closed Sessions collective in 2015—a certified stamp of quality for local talent—and has been embedded deep in the city’s prolific hip-hop scene ever since, logging studio time with the likes of Taylor Bennett, Femdot. and Jamila Woods over the years. Making music in his own world, Collins has tapped into a sound that no one in Chicago, or anywhere as far as I know, has matched. Catch the 21-year-old artist on stage Sunday, 2:30 pm on the Green Stage.
Must-Listens: “Stupid Rose”, “Lonely Lullabies”
Latest Project: grey
Another local name on the P4K lineup, Nnamdi Ogbonnaya has thrived as a musical wildcard in the Chicago scene since settling in the city as a solo act and multi-instrumentalist for several bands. His most recent full-length, 2017’s “Drool”, functions as a smorgasbord of Ogbonnaya’s talents with his word-bending lyrical finesse and cunning rhymes at the forefront. With production elements ranging from jazz, synth-pop and lo-fi, Ogbonnaya is untethered to genre boundaries as a songwriter. When he’s not the main attraction, he’s bolstering other local talent as co-founder of Sooper Records, home to promising names like Sen Morimoto and Melkbelly front-woman Miranda Winters. The intriguing off-kilter spirit of Ogbonnaya’s music translates, and even accelerates, through his live performances, often joined by a full band to bring the nuances of his experimental compositions to life. Experience it for yourself Sunday at 1 pm on the Green Stage.
Must-Listens: “Cindy OsO”, “let gO of my egO”
Latest project: DROOL
RnB artist Berhana makes the type of soul music that feels timeless while also incorporating fresh sounds and songwriting that place him undeniably in the now. With that said, Berhana is just now returning from a hiatus of sorts: after dropping his self-titled EP around 2 years ago, the 25-year-old singer stayed quiet while his music started to gain traction. After receiving a highly-coveted stimulus package from being featured on Atlanta’s soundtrack, it seems Berhana is back in full effect. It’s tough not to smile a little upon maneuvering through Berhana’s discography so far, where music plays like a prolonged daydream. As he pens love songs that feel equal parts fantastical and real, his raspy vocal style is always accompanied by bright production, elevating the vibe with twinkling keys and lush guitars. His most recent release, a cover of Reckless Eric’s “Whole Wide World” follows suit, as Berhana offers an uplifting, laidback rendition of the English rock song.
Must-Listens: “grey luh”, “Whole Wide World”
Latest Project: berhana – EP
Electronic producer and vocalist Kelly Lee Owens’ music can’t be pinned down to any one niche in the wide-ranging world of electronic music, and that’s probably a reflection of the Welsh artist’s unorthodox path to making electronic music in the first place. Formerly a bassist for the band The History of Apple Pie, and working as a nurse before that, you won’t find overbearing bass or blaring synths in Owens’ repertoire. Instead, she opts for understated, dreamy sounds that build and subside with the dramatic effect of a film score. Her airy vocals hover naturally over these lush compositions, echoing in and out of the ambient, upbeat rhythms that resonate through her tracks. That isn’t to say Owens doesn’t also give us music to dance to, though, and her most popular track “Lucid” stands as a prime example of this. After two minutes of anticipation building, the song dissipates, leaving nothing but a pouncing techno bassline in its wake. From this blueprint, Owens rebuilds the track from scratch, adding in a ceaseless drum pattern that’s bound to light up a dance floor.
Must-Listens: “Lucid”, “More Than a Woman”
Latest Project: Kelly Lee Owens
Chicago has birthed tons of musical legends and Open Mike Eagle is one of those unique artists. Eagle is a fantastic rapper with great flow and bars that all end with punchlines that that’ll make you laugh or go “damn”. He’s a very comedic rapper that separates himself from the masses by just how perfect the synergy is between funny punchlines and introspective soliloquies. His more comedic album, Dark Comedy, contains songs like “Doug Stamper” where he gives the listeners advice on various things like who not to buy weed from and who to buy mixtapes from. He gets help on the song from his friend and fellow Chicagoan comedian, Hannibal Buress, who gives just as hilarious advice such as to stop pissing on toilet seats and to make sure to eat your fiber. Eagle gets serious and insightful on plenty of songs as well, rapping on smooth, chill beats where the focus is all on Mike and his story. His latest album, Brick Body Kids Still Daydream, is a concept album about the destruction of a public housing project in Chicago. It’s a beautiful album that invokes nostalgia and sympathy. A listen to Open Mike Eagle’s discography will make anyone appreciate the genius of a poet that he is.
Must-Listens: “Ziggy Starfish (Anxiety Raps)”, “95 Radios”
Latest Project: Brick Body Kids Still Daydream
Noname is a fantastic female rapper from Chicago that is a true poet at heart. Noname started out performing at open-mike poetry slams and poetry competitions. Her R&B style of music is incredibly Chicago-inspired and an incredible sonic backdrop to her poetic rhymes. She gained a surge of fans after appearing on Chance the Rapper’s Acid Rap and Coloring Book and went on to collaborate with fellow Chicagoan rappers, Mick Jenkins and Saba. Noname’s beautiful voice, gorgeous production, and spoken-word flow accompanied with inspiring lyrics are all there on her first studio album, Telefone. Her performance and expertise on this album make her an artist on par with the greats. If you’re a fan of artists like Ms. Lauryn Hill and Andre 3000, then you will love Noname. Her performance is bound to excite and inspire with chorus-like singing on the production and beautiful lyrics along with it.
Must-Listens: “Yesterday”, “Diddy Bop”
Latest Project: Telefone
The hometown talent on this year’s P4K lineup is undeniably strong, and if that wasn’t clear already, this next name will make you certain. At 19 years old, Ravyn Lenae has had a knockout year in 2018 so far, reaching a whole new stratosphere of recognition with the release of her “Crush” EP. But Chicago music heads have had her name on their minds for some time now, and for good reason. Since the release of her 2015 debut, “Moon Shoes”, when she was still in high school, Lenae has stunned listeners with her diaphanous vocal quality and impeccable falsetto. She’s also evolved with each new project she’s put out, opting for softer, dreamier tones on her first releases and moving toward funkier, guitar-driven RnB on “Crush”. Through it all, Lenae’s stayed true to her artistic voice in her songwriting, often penning love songs with a sense of self-assured cool that feels vulnerable at the same time. Lenae’s bound to deliver an unforgettable set, and you can catch her on the Green Stage, Sunday at 3:20pm.
Must-Listens: “Spice”, “Computer Luv”