There was a moment when I just sat staring at the scene in Chicago’s Union Park. It was on Sunday, the last day of the 2015 Pitchfork Music Festival. Caribou was playing on the main stage, the smell of marijuana was pungent, and I was enjoying a hot dog. There were people everywhere. Most crowded at the front of the stage for Caribou, some standing idly talking with their friends, and others, like myself, nodding along to the bassline of “Can’t Do Without You.” It was a moment of clarity that I experienced in a festival (my first) marked by a rush of emotional states which played out like a roller coaster through a grueling three day plunge. There was CHVRCHES’ maelstrom of synth, Freddie Gibbs putting Pitchfork on blast for previous line-ups, an actual maelstrom that shutdown the festival for all of 20 minutes, the dirge of listening to Panda Bear and the rowdiness of A$AP Ferg’s energetic dorkiness. Yet, throughout all of it, festival goers noticed a fair amount of community throughout the throngs of festival goers. We weren’t inundated with a slew of corporate sponsors, distractions and a disorienting amount of people. That community created an atmosphere in which we could enjoy the acts, no matter how close or far away we were from each respective stage. It was a community I was glad to be part of for three days.
Last Saturday night, a couple of us trekked all of a mile down the road to a bar with a stage, paying $10 ($12.50 with service fees) to see three artists perform. One of those artists, one Natalie Prass, took the collective breath out of Snug Harbor in Charlotte, North Carolina, inspiring such admiration that we had to get on G-Chat and gab about it Monday afternoon. What follows is a transcript of that conversation, edited for grammar, clarity and unnecessary buffoonery.
R&B has been at an interesting crossroads in 2013, with many new acts incorporating gender-bending vocals, subject matter about an artist’s sexual orientation and experimentation in weird, dark soundscapes. It may seem like a rather odd time for R. Kelly to jump back in the swing of things and record another album to give to the masses. But evidence suggests that this is probably the most opportune. From sharing the stage at Coachella with Phoenix to releasing a flock of doves during the Pitchfork Music Festival, Kelly has been received by crowds with all the enthusiasm of people who act like they’ve been sexually repressed for decades. This has translated into the surprise success that Kelly’s collaboration with Lady Gaga on “Do What U Want” has seen in recent months. The world wants the directness of R. Kelly again, and R. Kelly is what they get with Black Panties, perversion and all.