REPEAT were lucky enough to catch two nights packed full of talent at Pitchfork Festival in London, Village Underground, seeing some of the best that music has to offer, all under one roof. The dark and dingy venue provided the perfect backdrop to both the calmer sounds of the first night, and the more aggressive, chaotic acts of the second night.
The first night was excellent, but felt merely like a warm-up. Due to tube delays we slimly missed Feux, but Jeshi provided unrivalled energy upon entrance, getting up close to the barrier for standouts from his latest LP Universal Credit like Protein and 3210. As Jeshi stood on top of the speakers, he confidently looked over the crowd whilst everyone cheered and chanted for their favourite tracks. His stage presence was effortlessly strong, as he rattled through banger after banger.
Ivy Sole was up next, someone I thought I hadn’t heard of until that day, but realised her 2022 LP Candid was in my Spotify library – I gave it a quick listen before the show, and encourage anyone else to, as it was definitely something special. Her catalogue spans sounds similar to the likes of Saba, Noname, and Mick Jenkins - soulful, poignant, conscious and thought-provoking raps that were the perfect breather before Lil Silva.
Whilst waiting for Lil Silva to bless the stage (with his unexpectedly immaculate vocals), we grabbed a pint and bumped into Jeshi, who was in the crowd amongst everyone else, enjoying the high calibre of ability on stage.
Lil Silva’s comeback over the past couple of years has been huge, with the biggest moment being the release of his LP Yesterday Is Heavy, with guests like Sampha, Ghetts, BADBADNOTGOOD, and Skiifall (secretly keeping my fingers crossed at least one of them might show up during his set). We were treated to some of the best tracks from that record, Like Another Sketch, Backwards, and Still. We were even lucky enough for George Fitzgerald to grace us with their collaboration Roll Back. It was an amazing curtains-close moment to the night.
After walking home with a promotional poster the size of a bedroom door, it was time for some well-needed rest before the far more hectic second night. They Hate Change, Billy Woods, and Injury Reserve awaited us, and we didn’t quite know the level of energy we were in for after a fairly tame but terrific evening.
As we made our way back to Village Underground, we unfortunately missed the up-and-coming South London collective Nukuluk, and their abrasive, experimental Hip Hop soundscapes, but as soon as we stepped through the doors the booming 808s and Florida twang of They Hate Change was already commanding everyone’s attention. Mosh pits formed and people parted like the Red Sea. The duo were going back and forth with each other, trading bars head to head, and echoing the on-stage charisma and presence of a young Southerplayalistic Outkast. Their beats come equipped with added UK breakbeat and drum and bass texture – something that makes their sound so unique, mixing traditional southern Hip Hop and Atlanta bass sounds with samples fit for UK dancefloors. Performing mostly tracks from their energetic 2022 LP Finally New (which everyone should immediately give a spin, their performance set the standard for the night, and exceeded any already sky-high expectations.
Billy Woods followed shortly afterwards, becoming my new favourite abstract rapper over the few days after the event. The New York emcee was always a name I’d heard of, and known of his acclaim and praise, but for some reason never dived into properly, despite spinning a couple Armand Hammer records over the years. The murky, grimy production was so sinister, fitting the dimly lit venue well, yet still the perfect come down from They Hate Change, drying off any sweat and dusting off any moshpit bruises. Sounding slightly like Danny Brown when he raps in a lower register, with beats that sound fit for any Griselda veteran, Billy Woods has been rapping this good for a long time, so to draw any comparison here is silly, but that night he was new to me, and I’m glad I got to witness tracks like the eerie Wharves and fan favourite Spongebob.
Despite seeing Injury Reserve just a few days earlier at Belgrave in Leeds, I was ready for the front-to-back listening odyssey of their latest album once again. Whilst in Leeds they had time for a few classics too, but they only had an hour slot at Village Underground, so we were only treated to Jailbreak The Tesla after the frantic, chaos-inducing sounds of By the Time I get to Phoenix. That only immersed us in the otherworldly, doomsday sounds of the album more.
Ritchie delivered his menacing raps through a silhouette that you could only just make out through all the blinding lights, and the only chance you really got to get a good look at him was when he lifted his microphone to the sky, paying tribute to band member Groggs. The star of the show, however, was the DJ, who delivered noisy electronic and industrial transitions between songs which at points almost deafened some, but brought out the animalistic nature in others, as more and more pits emerged. Cuts like Knees, SS San Francisco (feat. Zeelooperz), and Outside were particular highlights, and we were lucky to witness what’s bound to be a cult classic album performed in such a mind-altering way. It was truly a unique way to take in what was already one of 2021’s most flawless LPs, heightening the anxiety and tension of the album through the transitions and almost performance art style.
Pitchfork Festival at Village Underground was a wonderful way to spend two nights in London, and we hope the roster of talent is even bigger next year.