After a one-year hiatus, Chicago’s homegrown Pitchfork Music Festival returns this weekend.
It will be a typically eclectic lineup of new music and some legendary artists. We meet a few performers with local ties as they prepare for a moment in the spotlight.
Marc Vitali: In a West Side rehearsal space, the Chicago band Dehd gets ready for an important show.
Emily Kempf, Dehd: This is our first festival, like real show, where important people are watching. I’m usually never nervous for shows, ever, and for some reason I’m like, “Ooh, I better do good.”
Vitali: Singer, producer and multi-instrumentalist keiyaA was born and raised in Chicago. Now based in Brooklyn, we met her on the eve of her homecoming show.
keiyaA, performing artist: I’m so excited. This is like the first real solo show, at home, that I’ve ever had. And it’s at Pitchfork.
A lot of my family’s coming. My mom, my grandparents, my aunts are coming.
It feels very vindicating and rewarding and I’m very proud of myself.
Vitali: keiyaA and Dehd are just two of dozens of performers at the annual three-day festival organized by Pitchfork Media.
Since 2006 the event has brought a wide variety of music and musicians from around the world to Chicago’s Union Park.
keiyaA: I love that. I love that there are multiple different types of musicians playing there. I am somebody that pulls from a lot of different genres when I’m inspired by music, so it’s cool to see a lot of us together in the same place.
Vitali: This will be Dehd’s first big show since the shutdown when they were on their way to the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas.
The fest was canceled before they got there — at the same time movie stars and NBA players started catching the virus.
Jason Balla, Dehd: Tom Hanks got COVID and we turned around basically. That was the cultural moment. Everyone was like: NBA, Tom Hanks, and we’re like, “Let’s turn this car around and go back home.”
keiyaA: I dropped my album right at the beginning of the pandemic, and it felt super bittersweet to be getting recognized and received but having it being cut off or limited.
Vitali: The performers are eager to play to a crowd once again.
Kempf: I just want people to feel. I’ve always tried to write music that either encourages people to cry or laugh or feel uninhibited because that’s how I feel most of the time. This year everyone probably just wants to feel relief.
keiyaA: The power of music is its ability to make us move and make us feel and so I kind of like to do both – communicate strong things in a way that makes you want to groove or want to dance or want to cry or just feel something, you know?
Dehd performs Friday afternoon at the Pitchfork Music Festival. kkeiyaA performs with her band on Sunday. Headliners over the weekend include Phoebe Bridgers, St. Vincent, and Erykah Badu.