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Stage Buzz: Preview • Pitchfork Festival 2021 Undercard Picks

| September 6, 2021

ELA MINUS ({photo by Teddy Fitzhugh)


Canceled and delayed by the pandemic in 2020 and 2021, Pitchfork Fest returns to Union Park September 10. 11 and 12  on a crowded fall festival weekend. You’ve read about their celebrated headliners (St.Vincent, Phoebe Bridgers, Erykah Badu); now take a look at some of our favorite undercard performers.



On their 2020 release Flower Of Devotion, Chicago trio DEHD added some bulk to the muscle. Although, with this band, that could mean they’ve chosen to whisper louder. But don’t confuse quiet with wimpy. The band always makes the most from their minimalist approach, specifically on the song “Loner,” which best features the DNA blueprint of their sound: Deliver simplicity without being simplistic. To execute such a feat, the song structures have to be facelift tight, which they seem to compose effortlessly. And when Emily Kempf (bass) and Jason Balla (guitar) intertwine their shared vocals, it’s the indie-rock equivalent of Buckingham/Nicks you never knew you needed. (Friday, September 10 at 2:30 PM)

Ela Minus

The “former regime” might have kept tabs on Ela Minus like Hoover’s FBI did on music artists in the early ‘70s. The Brooklyn-based vocalist and Berklee-trained drummer earned her musical pedigree in performing in her native Columbia. She’s got the resume of a defiant Latinx, all the more threatening to old-schoolers with an album called acts of rebellion and empowering her listeners to “change the world” with standout instrumental club tracks “N19 5NF” and stripped-down trances like “mega punk.” (Friday, September 10 at 4:45 PM)

black midi

Black midi makes music that is ugly, non-commercial, and completely without compromise. It’s ego untethered, and you’re in, or you’re not. The London quartet does their take on Prog-Rock in a Post-Hardcore age. Their sophomore effort, Cavalcade, proves that they are continuing to do it their own way, as it is as unflinching and as beautifully messy as the 2019 debut Schlagenheim. In the live setting, they throw themselves into their performances, almost becoming subsumed by the noise they create. If there is such a thing as the “not to be missed” set, this is your weekend front runner.  (Friday, September 10 at 4:45 PM)


Horsegirl has shown tremendous promise on some of their earlier singles, but none more so than “Ballroom Dance Scene.” The lilting melody and two-part harmonics highlight not only taut songwriting skills but also a willingness to use the studio as an additional band member. The Chicago trio is faced with the unenviable task of playing Saturday’s earliest slot. What makes it less daunting is that Pitchfork alums Sharon Van Etten and Angel Olson once occupied similar acreage, and it proved to be a platform to success for both artists. (Saturday, September 11 at 1:00 PM)

Bartees Strange

Born in England, Bartees Strange backstory is almost as interesting as his music. Musically shepherded by his opera singing mom, his family ended up in Oklahoma (of all places). Learning to play guitar from “Dale the country music veteran” at a local guitar store, Strange was attracted to various emo and hardcore bands while working his way through multiple day jobs to pay the bills. You could call him a late musical bloomer which is our gain.  Live Forever is his debut LP, which redefines what a black musician can do with modern music. Mixing emo, soul, hip hop, electronica, gospel, and more. It’ll be great to hear him live. (Saturday, September 11 at 1:45 PM)


Tomberlin’s debut At Weddings broke the mold for a modern “folk” artist, blueprinting her feelings of loneliness, connected to her upbringing (this former Kentuckian was raised under a relatively strict religious household). Moving to Los Angeles brought her to a bigger audience both socially and commercially. Projections, her 2021 EP, finds Sarah Beth Tomberlin expanding her feelings of love and hope in a similar musical thread. A late addition to P4K, her Sunday appearance seems like fate.  (Sunday, September 12 at 1:00 PM)

-Curt Baran and John Vernon

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