Pitchfork Music Festival is back for its biggest and strongest iteration yet - now into its third year and already clearly-established in the autumnal London music calendar - the 2023 version packed a diverse, interesting and highly musical roster of performing artists spread around the town.
Opening night and what a coup - the most recent winners of the Mercury Music Prize, Ezra Collective, sold out the iconic Royal Albert Hall on an occasion that would have been fitting as a triumphant closing night for the festival as opposed to its opening gambit. Despite the huge audience and the prestigious setting, the collective fell over themselves to make this a warm and intimate evening. Members of the horn section performed opening track Ego Killah up in the gods/from the balcony - whilst a tape played introspective and humble comments from drummer/frontman Femi Koleoso explaining to the crowd just what selling out the Royal Albert Hall means to them. The whole evening was a fun, raucous affair - everyone stood up and danced from the outset and the multiple guest-vocalists and guest confetti certainly indulged the notion that this was a special occasion. Femi had already spread the word to the crowd of his mission to bring joy, and quite often the band had to sit on the stage and just reflect on their achievements both on the evening and throughout the band’s rise. When the musical troupe ended up actually performing one of their numbers from the middle of the crowd - we suddenly all became part of Ezra Collective.
On to north London in Chalk Farm, for what has already become a traditional centre-piece for the Pitchfork London week, with an all dayer with multiple acts playing in multiple rooms of the Roundhouse. Previous years have seen Stereolab and Courtney Barnett feature, and this Sunday’s extravaganza has the exceptional Washington grunge natives Sleater-Kinney - whose punk-bite and rock-anger rebellious spirit have not waned over the years and all of their album canon are displayed in their tight, arresting set. Politics also invaded the proceedings when Carrie Brownstein praises the London crowd for peace marching for Palestine the next day. Swiftly followed was a touching tribute to the band Low, who lost their band member Mimi Parker last year - and so Sleater-Kinney did a cover version of a cover of one of their own songs, by faithfully adapting Low’s Dance Song ‘97. Such was the huge array of different offerings from the festival, and being spread over the four corners of London, meant that those attending Sleater-Kinney couldn’t also attend Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood’s duo gig with Dudu Tassa on the same evening. Pitchfork London has always prided itself on a rich variety of offerings.
Highlighting the location spread, Hammersmith was the final setting of the week for the haunting Americana of the rapidly-popular Weyes Blood. Floaty and witchy, whilst also conversational and engaging with the young Apollo audience, including asking the crowd not to through Spongebob DVDs at her head, the headline show was a culmination of a strong year for Natalie Mering. The occasion did get to many’s heads despite a nicely air-conditioned venue - at least three people fainted during the night (two during the support act Ichiko Aoba!) which caused Weyes Blood to remark that fainting fans made her feel like the Beatles until she realised people faint at every show! Screaming and fainting fans aside, this was indeed another special night - and a delightful book-end to the high-octain energy of opening night’s Ezra Collective. The 2024 edition of Pitchfork has a hard act to follow - but will undoubtedly still be awesome based on three very strong iterations of the festival to date.
Another fab, diverse week!
Coming November 2023
Coming November 2023