This review previously appeared on Alt Philanthropy, an online music publication active from March 2016 to April 2020. PITCHFORK MUSIC FESTIVAL, NAMESAKE OF THE INFAMOUS ONLINE MAGAZINE, TOOK PLACE IN UNION PARK FROM FRIDAY, JULY 19TH TO SUNDAY, JULY 21ST. Amidst record high temperatures, Pitchfork Music Festival worked to maintain the safety (and sanity) of its guests with copious amounts of free water and cooling vans - a ploy that, for the first time ever, had me thrilled to be sitting on a CTA cooling bus for hours on end. There was something poetic about sweltering heat coinciding with an event designed to bring together the Windy City's eclectic music scene, as if it gave Pitchfork an outlet to make  all of the Chicago nuances I have grown up with seem infinitely more charming. For a weekend, I practically survived off of Intelligentsia cold-brew and copious amounts of Connie's Pizza, all to a soundtrack of Mavis Staples and Whitney tunes.  Looking back, here are six acts that made the Pitchfork 2019 experience spectacular:

#1: Sky Ferreira After a multi-year touring hiatus, Sky Ferreira made her comeback performance on Friday afternoon. Her aspirations for a tenacious comeback were cut short when, after a performance full of technical errors, she was forced to leave the stage with only a parting wave to her fans. Despite it all, she performed beautifully - giving her audience her all amidst a situation that shined light on her candor and professionalism. While I would have loved to hear more from Sky, what she was able to give was more than enough to convince the crowd that she would return full-force. ​#2: HAIM Friday night I watched sister trio HAIM crush a discography that they have been curating for the greater part of the decade. All multi-instrumentalists, Danielle, Este and Alana began their set with a drum intro to "Falling" before moving onto old favorite "Don't Save Me". It was the first festival that they headlined, so bookers take note...HAIM shines, through original hits to Paula Cole covers.  To indulge trendy wording, these "left-of-center" folk icons will surely permeate the genre for many more years to come. This was their first festival headline gig but I am sure it will not be their last. #3: Clairo Bedroom pop queen Clairo stunned with a set of chill favorites, from star-making "Pretty Girl" to amply covered "4EVER" (loved by the likes of Alt Philanthropy staff favorites San Cisco and Sara King). Clairo provides a soundtrack to adolescence, engaging her listeners with stories of conformity, crushes and finding yourself. Growing up is hard enough to figure out and listening to Clairo make songs about what it means to be young is oddly if a melodic 'we're all in this together' moment. #4: Whitney Watching Whitney, Chicago local legends and token soundtrack of my youth, was a pure delight. Fans were mesmerised by their set of both tried-and-true tunes from Light Upon the Lake and songs they debuted on the day. I am seldom touched by stage speeches, but I was particularly taken by an anecdote they told about "Follow" being about lost loved ones. I was touched by the emotional breadth contained in a song that I have sung, cheery and clueless, from the passenger-side of a friend's car since I was sixteen. I greatly enjoy that duality - and the idea that traditionally difficult subjects do not have to be met with melancholic piano ballads. #5: Charli XCX The Charli XCX name speaks for itself. From the get-go audiences expected a high energy set with stunning outfits and fearless dancing. These expectations were so palpable that, standing in line for the photo pit, I found myself rivalling another photographer to recreate her most iconic moves. Much to our dismay, our erratic arm movements looked nothing like the refined spectacle that Charli provided that day. And maybe that's just it. You can try to recreate the magic behind Charli XCX by wrapping yourself in extravagant trappings and filling your soul with as much girl-power as your chest can hold but she is above mimicry. At the end of the day, all you can do is watch and marvel. #6: Robyn With long-running hits like "Call Your Girlfriend" and "Dancing on my Own", Swedish pop sensation Robyn is an unparalleled talent. She brought her all to her Pitchfork set, surrounded by gaudy, flowing linens and background dancers that shined without detracting from her own splendor. Like Charli, Robyn is a masterful performer, gaining iconoclast status with edgy pop hits that seem to grow in notoriety every year. During some of her most well-known songs Robyn took a step back, allowing her audience to scream her lyrics into the dead, night air. The crowd lacked no enthusiasm and the space was quickly filled with a sense of spirit that replicated the feeling of dancing, unhinged in a European dive-bar. I've seldom felt that close to an audience. I was just as engaged as a reviewer as I would be if I was there with my closest friends. ​It takes someone like Robyn to curate that kind of magic, and it takes a festival like Pitchfork to sustain it. You can keep updated on next year's Pitchfork Festival here.

This review previously appeared on Alt Philanthropy, an online music publication active from March 2016 to April 2020.

For as long as U2 has been in existence, the band has been intrinsically linked to raising awareness of social issues. Their first number-one album was War (1983), a harsh plea for nonviolence. Smash-hit tracks off of War include the protest-anthems “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “New Year’s Day” – both subtle odes to resistance movements.

Late last October, I had the opportunity to attend the final show of U2’s eXPERIENCE + iNNOCENCE tour at the O2 Arena.  I was not surprised that with such origins, the show was political since its first moment.

An audio-visual display featuring a voiceover by Adenoid Hynkel, a character from Charlie Chaplin’s famous film The Great Dictator, ushered the audience into the action. In the voiceover, Hynkel spoke of peace and tolerance while the visuals displayed a war-torn European city. The audience was immediately immersed in this through the use of a massive LED screen surrounding an interior walkway that connected stages at either end of the arena. By the end of the introduction U2 was revealed to be already positioned behind the screen, ready to sing “The Blackout”.

The set carried on with stunning visuals and vaguely autobiographical storylines, detailing the progression that propelled U2 from school-boys to international superstars. The design thrived graphically and continually offered stunning videography and animation that brought new life to classic tracks. I was particularly taken by the audio-visual elements that introduced “The Fly” and “Even Better Than The Real Thing”. ​ Mid-show, there was an intermission where the political symbolism of the eXPERIENCE + iNNOCENCE tour only intensified. Taking centre stage on the main screen was a visual of a female solider, the same solider that was featured on the cover of Songs of Experience, along with an accompanying acoustic cover of Ivor Cutler and Linda Hirst’s “Women of The World”. The song urged women to play a role in social change “because if [they] don’t the world will come to an end and it won’t take long.” The presentation ended with a message of support for Bono’s Women of the World Takeover campaign and an outcry against the sexism of poverty.

In what was perhaps the most poignant moment of the night, Bono dedicated “One” to Brexiteers while standing in front of a massive European Union flag. He addressed Britain on behalf of the other European Union member states, proudly proclaiming his love for the United Kingdom and his belief that the UK would be greater if it retained European Union membership. The European Union flag became the pulpit of the O2 Arena and three-levels of seating echoed in rebellious song. I soon found myself singing lyrics that I had heard countless times before with new, revitalised meaning.

In line with this political critique there was an ode to MacPhisto – Bono’s devilish alter ego. After gracing a smaller stage and being nearly one with the general admission crowd, Bono donned his MacPhisto persona through an augmented reality device. The performance was strikingly similar to that of the 1991 Zoo TV Tour (albeit without the grandeur of MacPhisto’s trademark platform boots). My only criticism is the lack of true activism in this performance. With the grandeur of MacPhisto’s past, I expected an impassioned telephone call instead of a nostalgic accessory, but the authenticity displayed in the rest of their performance made this easily forgivable.

Even though technology was interwoven with every aspect of the show, it never felt as if U2 was grasping for relevancy. With the days of iPhone stunts behind them, they delivered an excellent performance that was as focused on social issues as it was showmanship. The band stands by their convictions and commitment to easing global suffering, no matter the political sphere, which may be their most endearing quality in the modern age.

U2 is charmingly socially aware, talented and just a hint hedonistic. They don’t just know that they’re good, they indulge it. In a moment of well-deserved narcissism, Bono shouted “Paul is dead, I’m fucking Bono” as the audience screamed his praises. It was a justified acknowledgement of success from the frontman of one of the greatest bands of the last century, and in that moment, I felt as if I too could be something.

​You can purchase the Songs of Experience album here.