Reviewed: Pitchfork Music Festival 2018
It seemed almost impossible to be in Paris during the first week of November and not have an awareness of Pitchfork Music Festival. The festival took over the city, with its eclectic, colourful line-up that befitted its location. In the run-up to the main event, multiple smaller venues around the young, trendy Bastille area were lit up by ambitious new performers such as JPEGMAFIA. Who literally threw himself, head first, into a rambunctious crowd, craving fresh musical talent. Armed only with his laptop, the larger than life rapper created a ravenous presence and a promising glimpse of what was yet to come across the weekend.
In the following nights, the Grand Halle de la Villette played host to an international selection of talent, with British, American and French artists all topping the bill. Speaking to some of the Parisian natives, they were in amazement, nonetheless welcoming, when faced with an equally international crowd flocking to their hometown. When it came to the actual shows, the audience didn’t seem as excitable as those at, say, a London-based festival. Perhaps it was due to the fact that the space itself was pretty huge, with a stage at either end of the hall, bars and merch stands in the middle and a collection of shops, bars and restaurants lining the upper mezzanines. Meaning there was a greater freedom to move and dance, however, I didn’t spot many people really going for it.
The first day gave us performances from the likes of Canadian singer-songwriter Mac DeMarco, French pop-rocker Etienne Daho and Julian Casablancas’s avant-garde rock group The Voidz. However, the most notable performance of the evening, for sheer emotional value, comes from John Maus. Now, John Maus is famed for his emotive performances, however, this took things to another level. After his brother and bandmate Joseph passed away earlier this year, questions were raised as to whether or not John would still perform. Taking to the stage alone, he delivered a captivating performance of cinematic, 80’s-esque pop that was almost tear-jerking. Throwing his body up and down to his thighs, punching the air, and bashing his head with his fists, as synths blasted and bright lights poured behind him, songs like ‘Touchdown’ and ‘The Combination’ had an added intensity.
Heading into the second day, there were two acts that I was particularly keen to catch, Kaytranada, who I had seen deliver an impressive set at Lovebox last year, and Blood Orange, who I had wanted to see for at least three years. Blood Orange aka Dev Hynes was an instant knockout, performing a welcomed blend of old and new tracks, with classics like ‘Never Good Enough’ and ‘Best To You’ providing moments of jazz, funk and pop all blended into one, and new tracks like ‘Augustine’ delivering a synth heaven. Soon after, we were all rushing to see what goodies Kaytranada had stored away for us. Throwing in some of his famed remixes, hip-hop blended with house tracks as Kali Uchis, Anderson Paak and The Internet all got the Kaytranada treatment. Of course, the hits from 99.9% were played, with ‘You’re The One’ and ‘Glowed Up’ popping off.
The last day was for the big guns in dance music, as a heavyweight line-up featured Jeremy Underground, DJ Koze, Peggy Gou, Avalon Emerson and Daniel Avery. Kicking off the DJ performances, Jeremy Underground gave an invigorated crowd disco fever with tracks like Dale Howard’s ‘I Feel Like’ going down a treat, along with Ricky Razu’s ‘Never Left’. DJ Koze then followed on from the other side of the hall, taking to a florally-adorned set of decks, blasting Motown to coax the audience to his end of the stage, before hitting them with awe-inspiring beats. Following on, with some relatively big boots to fill, was Peggy Gou. Delivering a star-spangled set of techno perfection, we were treated to mesmerising light shows and equally astounding tracks, a favourite being ‘At Night (Peggy Gou’s Acid Journey)’. Avalon Emerson was next up, armed with her effortlessly cool set made up of groovy, almost psychedelic plethora of tunes in the build-up to Daniel Avery’s grand finale. Taking to the decks until the early hours, he mesmerised the crowd with acid-tinged techno before bringing the whole party to a close. The atmosphere was positively electric as the lights came up and we stumbled off home.
In the rising Parisian sunlight, we contemplated the last few days, filled with stunning performances and positive vibes. There was nothing but love at Pitchfork, befitting as Paris is the city of love itself. We will be back next year to see what more will be in store at this vibrant, eclectic festival.