Chicago – While for most people July triggers images of fireworks, American flags, grilling, and BBQ, for music festival junkees, this wonderful month ushers in thoughts of relaxing with a nice Goose Island beer, on the baseball field in Chicago’s Union Park, while listening to some of the best new bands around, at one of the best festivals around: Pitchfork Music Festival.
Every year, since its inception in 2005 (yeah, yeah it officially started in ’06, but Pitchfork was the music mastermind behind Intonation Festival in ’05, so there you go) Pitchfork Music Festival tops itself, bringing in magnificent line-up after magnificent line-up, as well as fantastic food vendors, pop-up shops, and magical brews. 2016 brings the esteemed Brian Wilson – performing the Beach Boys album Pet Sounds – and the legendary hip hop trio Digable Planets to Union Park. On top of that, local brewery Goose Island teamed up with local band Twin Peaks to create the beer “Garage Lager” in celebration of the band’s second Pitchfork performance. Man, did the guys slay in 2014!
Pitchfork is also known for bringing up and coming bands, like Twin Peaks, to its festival, which of course leaves a special place in our hearts for Pitchfork, over here at Best New Bands, and 2016’s newbies list is especially heart-warming, bringing together some of our favorite new bands, from a wide-range of genres. Here we present to you our Top Ten New Bands to See at Pitchfork 2016.
We caught Chicago country-soul act Whitney last month at Bonnaroo, where the band played its first ever festival. Let’s just say that Bonnaroo was the warm-up for Pitchfork. With a festival cherry popped – though, the guys did join Jimmy Whispers on stage last year during his Pitchfork performance, so perhaps Pitchfork really deserves the credit – Whitney is ready to show off on home turf. Whitney is comprised of Julien Ehrlich (lead vocals, drums), Max Kakacek (guitar), Will Miller (trumpet), Malcolm Brown (keys), Print Chouteau (rhythm guitar), and Josiah Marshall (bass). Though, the band has a seventh, adopted member: master sound engineer Charles Glanders. After forming 2014, the band began to build quite the name for itself within the local music scene, regularly playing DIY venues and beloved clubs, like Empty Bottle. Now Whitney is ready for the Blue Stage, Friday 4:15-5:00.
Photo of Whitney by Sarah Hess for Best New Bands.
When the Chicago dudes of Twin Peaks played Pitchfork in 2014, they put on the best performance of the weekend, with Cadien Lake James playing guitar while scooting around stage in a wheelchair, thanks to a broken leg, and Clay Frankel smashing his guitar, then tossing the pieces into the crowd. Of course, bassist Jack Dolan and drummer Connor Brodner also kicked ass and helped energize the crowd, who thrashed around, mashed, and crowd surfed the entire set, with the hot sun blazing. Twin Peaks – who recently released album number three, Down In Heaven – is well known for putting on some wild shows, with a sound that mixes old and new, inspired by greats like David Bowie, The Beach Boys, and The Rolling Stones. With the addition of keyboardist Colin Croom, Twin Peaks’ 2016 performance is sure to top 2014’s. Let Twin Peaks show you what it’s all about at the Red Stage, Friday, 5:30-6:15.
Photo of Twin Peaks at Bonnaroo by Sarah Hess for Best New Bands.
Pitchfork alumnus Shamir Bailey is on fire! The twenty-one year-old Las Vegas native has been gaining more and more attention since his 2014 debut EP Northtown. Last year Shamir released one of the best albums of 2015 – his fabulous debut LP Ratchet – and shortly after, made his first appearance in Chicago, impressing the crowd at Pitchfork. The singer, who infuses pop and electronica with R&B, lead Best New Bands to question if perhaps Shamir will the next King of Pop? He will no doubt impress again over at the Blue Stage, Friday, 8:15-9:15.
Photo of Shamir at Bonnaroo by Corey Bell for Best New Bands.
If you’re looking for a powerful performance, filled with emotion from start to finish, you’ll definitely want to check out Savages! Best New Bands last caught the U.K. post-punk foursome – comprised of guitarist Gemma Thompson, bassist Ayse Hassan, drummer Fay Milton, and vocalist Camille Berthomier, who is better known as Jehnny Beth – in April, when the ladies performed at Metro, in Chicago. All night long, Jehnny Beth entertained, between fiercely owning the stage with her powerful voice, walking atop the barricade like a gymnast balancing on a beam, and surfing the crowd over and over again. Let Savages show you a good time at the Green Stage, Saturday, 4:15-5:10.
Photo of Savages by Sarah Hess for Best New Bands.
Oh man, what’s not to love about the sweet grooves of Blood Orange? London native Devonté “Dev” Hynes began making music with his band Test Icicles, before moving to New York City, where he began performing as a solo artist under the moniker Lightspeed Champion, mixing a wide range of genres, and working with numerous bands and musicians, such as Bright Eyes, Florence Welch, and Alex Turner. In 2011, Hynes released his first single as Blood Orange, focusing on a mix of R&B and electronica. Last month, Blood Orange released his third album, Freetown Sound, which followed the critically acclaimed Cupid Deluxe, and in true Hynes fashion, the album features plenty of collaborations with notable artists, including Carly Rae Jepsen on the track “Better Than Me.” With Jepsen performing at Pitchfork on Friday night, the question is: Will Jepsen join Blood Orange on the Red Stage, Saturday, 5:15-6:10?
Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals
At the start of 2016, hip hop artist Anderson .Paak released his outstanding album Malibu, which has been compared to Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly and features the collaborative single ”Am I Wrong,” with ScHoolboy Q. Anderson .Paak, born Brandon Park Anderson, had been involved with the L.A. music scene for years, but it wasn’t until Dr. Dre enlisted .Paak to work on Dre’s 2015 comeback album Compton that .Paak caught the attention of music lovers outside of California. With his band, the thirty year-old musical genius becomes the soulful Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals, unleashing heavy lyrics, taking you on an intense journey into the life of Brandon Park Anderson, growing up bi-racial in the U.S. Anderson .Paak’s music is honest and smart. It’s also extremely relevant given the challenges and injustices people of color find themselves still facing in 2016. You must see the brilliance of Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals at the Blue Stage, Saturday, 7:45-8:30.
A late addition to the Pitchfork line-up, HOMME - pronounced “ohm” – is representative of what Pitchfork Music Festival gets so right: featuring a large array of music from the city the festival inhabits. Homme formed in 2014 and is comprised of Macie Stewart, of Marrow and Kids These Days, and Sima Cunningham, who developed a name for herself around Chicago with her solo work. Together these two friends, who’ve known each other since high school, create magnificent art-rock, infused with touches of indie, psychedelia, and even traditional Irish music. Last year, the duo began to turn heads after releasing a self-titled EP, which features the haunting single “Woman.” Give these women your attention over at the Blue Stage, Sunday, 2:50-3:30.
Photo of HOMME by Sarah Hess for Best New Bands.
Neo Jessica Joshua, better known as NAO, is a marvelous singer-songwriter from London, who mixes electronica with soul, funk, and R&B. NAO released her first EP, So Good, in the Fall of 2014. Last year, she released her second EP, February 15 (II MMXV) and was featured on Disclosure’s Caracal track “Superego,” and this year NAO awarded us with two singles: “Girlfriend” and “Fool to Love.” With all these teases, fans were left wondering when NAO would grace the world with a full-length. Well, earlier this month, NAO announced her highly-anticipated debut studio album, For All We Know, is set for release on July 29, so it’s a safe bet NAO will share with Pitchfork attendees plenty of new songs from the upcoming 18-track album, just as she did at Primavera last month. Head over to the Blue Stage, Sunday, 3:45-4:30 for a sneak peek!
Stephen Bruner, better known by the stage name Thundercat, has been making music for years, contributing his talents to the albums like Erykah Badu’s New Amerykah, Flying Lotus’ Cosmogramma, Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly, and Kamasi Washington’s The Epic. But Thundercat has proved time and time again that he can stand alone, shining brightly in his solo endeavors, such as 2015′s The Beyond/Where the Giants Roam and 2013′s Apocalypse. Though, he’s sure to bring some friends on stage, especially Kamasi Washington given he’s playing the festival too. Be prepared to have your mind blown at the Blue Stage, Sunday, 6:45-7:30.
Photo of Thundercat at MusicFest Northwest by Chris Davis for Best New Bands.
When FKA twigs performed at Pitchfork in 2014, it seemed only those in the know knew of the gifted British alternative R&B singer and dancer. However, that soon changed when word got out that twigs, born Tahliah Debrett Barnett, was dating actor Robert Pattinson. Sadly, FKA twigs experienced backlash from some of Pattison’s fans and found herself making headlines more so for her personal life rather than for her immense talents. Though, as time has passed, more and more people have discovered that Barnett is brilliant. That is partly thanks to her stunning debut LP1, but it is also thanks to her stunning, intricate live performances, which often feature several backup dancers, blending performance art and modern dance. You’d be a fool to miss FKA twig’s return to Pitchfork on the Green Stage, Sunday, 8:30-8:50.
Photo of FKA twigs at Lollapalooza by Sarah Hess for Best New Bands.
Pitchfork Music Festival 2016 takes place July 15-17. Tickets are available for purchase HERE.
After attending The School of the Art Institute in Chicago, Sarah went on to study education at Dominican University, earning a degree in history. When not teaching, writing, or taking in a show, she is most likely to be found with a camera to her eye or hanging out in a darkroom.
You can follow Sarah Hess on twitter at @Sarahhasanh and view her music photography on her website: smhimaging.com.