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Tag: Earl Sweatshirt (1-2 of 2)

Pitchfork Music Festival was more than just indie rock

The online music magazine Pitchfork is synonymous with indie rock, but as it’s grown in reputation and influence it has also branched out stylistically to give nearly equal space to rap, metal, dance music, and other genres that aren’t based on fuzzy, jangly guitars. (Full disclosure: I was a regular contributor there until recently.) This year’s installment of its annual music festival was a reflection of that diversity, and of the expanding listening habits of the contemporary counterculture.

One of the first performers to take the stage on Friday night was Neneh Cherry, whose 1989 Raw Like Sushi was an unprecedented collision of pop, punk, R&B, rap, and dance music, and whose “Buffalo Stance” remains one of the best singles of the ’80s. Since she came out of retirement in 2012 she’s traded the brashness of her early years for a subtler approach, particularly on her most recent album, Blank Project, where she traded the hard-edged beats she built her career from for an emphasis on texture. Her performance, backed by the group RocketNumberNine, used the same approach, peaking with a rendition of “Buffalo Stance” that was considerably softer and smoother than the original, but still delivered the same crowd-moving energy.

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Image Credit: Barry Brecheisen/AP

While Cherry may have moved on from her ’80s template, there were a number of performers over the weekend who are working from the style-crossing template she created. Kelela is an R&B artist who songs over propulsive beats by dance music producers who occupy some of the genre’s darker corners. While her collaborators still reside in the underground, the massive crowd at her side-stage performance indicates that she’s on her way to a much larger audience. FKA Twigs also brought a big crowd to the smaller stage for a set of heady electronic R&B that pulls from a variety of sources–from Houston rap to the post-dubstep UK dance scene–and ends up sounding like a batch of Aaliyah songs drifting psychedelically through outer space.

R&B is a recent addition to the festival. Hip-hop, on the other hand, has been a part of it nearly from the start, but never to the extent that it was this year. Danny Brown and Pusha T both delivered performances from one of the big stages on Saturday that overflowed with sing-along hooks and swagger. Brown has spent most of his time since 2011′s XXX blew up on the road, and onstage he delivers energy as tightly focused as his raps.

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Image Credit: Barry Brecheisen / AP

Rap dominated Sunday, with performances by up and comer Isaiah Rashad, Odd Future’s Earl Sweatshirt, and Schoolboy Q in quick succession, the latter two back to back on the big stage, which hasn’t happened before at the Pitchfork Festival. Kendrick Lamar closed out the festival on Sunday night, which was another first. Backed by a full band and some gorgeous cinematic visuals he blasted through a set of already-classics from his 2013 Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City to a crowd several times the size of the one he played to from the side stage at the 2012 Pitchfork Festival. In scale, ambition, and crowd response it was the biggest set of the festival, its one true rock-star moment.

Dance music still isn’t Pitchfork’s strong suit, and lackluster sets by Jon Hopkins and Hudson Mohawke never quite ignited. But the genre did provide the most moving moment of the weekend, during a Sunday afternoon performance by Chicago producer DJ Spinn, whose creative partner DJ Rashad died in April. Spinn and Rashad are to of the most important figures in a style called footwork, and Spinn brought out a stage full of footwork dancers—whose speed and acrobatic dexterity can seem almost superhuman—to accompany him. It felt something like a wake, and a celebration not only of the music that he devoted his life to but the very power of music to make us move, sometimes in extraordinary ways.

On the scene: Earl Sweatshirt and Vince Staples stir up Odd Future fans in Brooklyn

“Y’all ’bout to cry with me, or what?” Earl Sweatshirt asked last night at Brooklyn’s Music Hall of Williamsburg. He was introducing “Chum,” a rumination on life with too many ugly temptations and no father, from his transfixing 2013 debut album, Doris. But when the crowd — rowdy fans of Odd Future, the rap collective for which the 19-year-old Earl provides the quick-witted conscience — loudly showed their support, he shot back, “You just cheer for that? You weak, dog!”

Earl, playing his second New York show of the week to end the East Coast leg of his tour, maintained a similarly haphazard balance of confrontation, self-awareness, and silliness for his entire hour on stage. “Chum” proved to be a highlight, with Earl delivering his most slippery and scrupulously honest lyrics at the edge of the stage, bathed in a cool blue light and gesturing precisely with his free arm.

Most of the night he teamed with the gregarious rapper Vince Staples, who served on Doris as a kind of friendly foil for Earl to step out from behind and deliver his intricate rhymes. Together they traded off opportunities to brandish their skills, rapping entire verses a cappella, and teasing everyone else. “I wanna see who’s a loser and who’s not a loser!” Staples told the sold-out crowd, who jammed the main floor and were eagerly stage diving, but weren’t always receptive to the dense songs, which the rappers doled out in fragments. “My n—- picked a love song to stage dive to,” Earl marveled when “Sunday,” a slowly uncoiling track he recorded with Frank Ocean, was interrupted.

But the messiness and small miscues gave the show an intimate feel — that coupling of weakness and strength that Earl thrives on. Lyrically, he impressed, delivering his rhymes with exactness and force. But some of his artfully produced music, played off of a MacBook Air, disintegrated into washes of overpowering bass. It was as if Earl and Staples, who roamed the stage dressed in baggy jeans and simple white T-shirts, had simply invited everyone into their basement. Schoolboy Q — a rising star whose highly anticipated new album, Oxymoron, comes out Tuesday — appeared near the end of the set to perform his mini-hit “Man of the Year.” But the show didn’t end with a big climax or an encore. Instead, Earl and Staples drifted into a crowd of friends at the end of the stage as “Praying for a Brick,” a deliberately dopey track by prankster rapper Lil B, played. When a roadie came out and closed the laptop, the music just stopped. It was, somehow, a perfect ending.

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