Artists have always served as crucial members of the community finding ways to inspire, represent, make heard, and empower oppressed groups across the globe but today’s modern artists are some of the most radical and exciting this world has ever seen. With the population steadily growing, we find the world becoming more diverse and beautiful than we could have ever imagined but with this beauty comes a dark underbelly. Millions of people face discrimination for their identity be it their race, gender, age, economic class, religion, culture, or their beating heart in general. Luckily, today’s artists are some of the bravest artists to arise during these poor conditions of human rights.

    A powerful ensemble of musicians have begun paving and painting the way for the next wave of marginalized youth, many of them can be found at this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival hosted at Union Park on July 14th-16th. Their voices and messages will be heard throughout the beautiful fields of Union Park in Chicago’s diverse Near West Side neighborhood. These are performances and rallies of great magnitude, voices and souls not to miss!  

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Gavin Russom from LCD Soundsystem

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Photo Credit: Gavin Russom/Pitchfork

Gavin Russom became an official member of the musical collective LCD Soundsystem when the band recorded their third studio album, “This is Happening,” in 2010. She’s largely responsible for the band’s distinct sound as she’s worked as a veteran technician, creating a variety of analog synthesizers which continues to mold LCD Soundsystem’s roaring sound.

In an interview with Pitchfork, Russom stated that she’s taken steps towards making her trans identity known to the public and fans but it wasn’t until recently through the inspiration of another amazingly talented artist, the renowned sci-fi author Octavia E. Butler, and the support of New York’s grand trans women community, that she decided to become a ‘whole person’. After taking a short hiatus from music to focus on her self-care, Russom revealed her trans identity to the public on July 6th of this year. Russom stated, “Over the last year and a half, I went from my trans identity being something I was in touch with and worked through in one way or another, to suddenly this shift where it’s on the front burner. Now it’s time to become a whole person.”

If you would like to read the full detailed account, you can check out Russom’s full Pitchfork interview here

Vince Staples

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Photo Credit: Danny Clinch

“Pray the police don’t come blow me down ’cause of my complexion”

Vince Staples is a rap artist hailing from Long Island who has never strayed from political discourse. Often within his music, he relays messages concerning America’s sore topics such as the devaluing of black youth, police brutality, and censorship. On “Bagbak,” from his new album Big Fish Theory, Staples raps,

Clap your hands if the police ever profiled
You ain’t gotta worry, don’t be scary ’cause we on now
Ain’t no gentrifying us, we finna buy the whole town.

Vince Staples places himself at the forefront of conversations regarding the institution of racism in the United States, a systemic problem which targets and discriminates against people of color through the usage of violence, abuse of power, microaggressions, gentrification, and cultural appropriation.  

Solange

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Photo Credit: Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

The big star headlining for the fest on Sunday is Solange. Her latest album titled “A Seat at the Table,” has received outstanding praise and highlighted her as one of the most important voices in pop music today. A Seat at the Table is both the breath of fresh air which breezes smoothly into one’s ear and the forceful gust of wind that challenges and empowers listeners alike. This album reaches out and offers encouragement for African-American women while criticizing white transgressions with authority, as heard in “Don’t Touch My Hair.”  This album is equally a celebration and a critique, it’s explicitly anti-complicity. Solange has been a prime example of how powerful one’s voice can be as she sings over wispy melodies. It’s her lyricism which adds depth to her sound, not necessarily the instrumental production, but rather her spirit in relation to the album’s context.

See Gavin Russom, Vince Staples, Solange, Thurston Moore, American Football, PJ Harvey, Mitski, A Tribe Called Quest and many others at Pitchfork Music Festival at Union Park on July 14th-16th.

    Cooper-Moore does it all. He builds instruments and he plays them too. Currently jamming at the age of 71 with no foreseeable end in sight, Moore will be performing at Krannert on Thursday at 7:30 PM. A wide array of instruments and sounds will be played/produced; his style ranges from jazz and blues to improvisational and gospel.

    I had the pleasure of seeing Cooper-Moore perform this Tuesday in UIUC’s very own Allen Hall through the guest-in-residence program. He performed playing a variety of instruments. One instrument appeared to be a half-string half-flute hybrid which utilized a violin bow to pluck the string. Moore strummed a beautiful song on his homemade eight dollar harp in which he had a charming story to accompany it. Moore was planting in his garden when suddenly his new hoe broke. Left only with a wooden stump, he knew that this broken piece was crying to be whole again. One day when Moore woke up, it hit him what he had to do to make the broken hoe into something splendid and that’s how the eight dollar harp came to be. I can assure you that Moore will have many more stories to tell, stories of ingenuity, resourcefulness, and reconstruction. So go to the free concert at the Krannert Center this Thursday, you have nothing to lose but yourself in his music and brilliance.

Cooper-Moore   

    A final question to chew on that Cooper-Moore pondered during his Tuesday show, “When the bow was first made millions of years ago, what do you think it was used as? A weapon or an instrument?”

For the die-hard EDM fans of Central Illinois, Bear Grillz’s stop for his ‘The Void’ tour in Urbana last Tuesday was ‘one of the best I’ve ever seen’, says Canopy Club regular Andrea M. Members of the crowd confirmed after the show that Grillz brought everything they had come for: his trademark sample choices, always interesting, eclectic, and hilarious; the relentless injection of wildly intense, earth-shattering bass drops and enough energy to keep the crowd alive for seemingly endless hours of head-banging.

The Canopy Club’s Big Room quickly filled at the start of the night, soon packed tight with eager fans from far and wide to witness the madness about to ensue. The show began with seamless transitions between openers wooli, P0gman, and Midnight Tyrannosaurus, who all brought their own distinctive brand of EDM to the stage but nevertheless progressively hyped up the crowd with tastes of what was to come.

 

The three performances brought the sense of anticipation in the audience to a peak with Bear Grillz’s dramatic entrance, an hour and a half into the night; the infamous bear costume was met with flashes of strobe lights and the unrestrained cheers of the crowd. One audience member vividly recalls the setup of the stage for his performance, a ‘futuristic honeycomb’ with visuals pulsing along with the tempo of each track, pairing with the flashing lights to create a thrilling scene for us in the crowd.  

Grillz’s set ranged from downtempo beats to high intensity, wobbling uprisings, always culminating in massive drops that never failed to electrify the audience. Fans in the crowd agreed that the intensity of the bass and the elated atmosphere in the room could only be fully comprehended by attending the performance live; hearing about Grillz’s shows from friends and listening to the tracks online couldn’t do it justice.

What I found most interesting about Grillz as an artist, however, was the tongue-in-cheek nature of his songs; several of his tracks used samples from Rick and Morty, one concertgoer commenting that his songs were almost ‘filthy’ as the comic samples played off of in his songs added a satirical element to the set. It seems that Bear Grillz’s appeal lies in his ability to transform these sound bites into supremely danceable songs that create a sense of unity in his crowd through laughter, dance, and euphoria.

Conversations with audience members later that night gave me the impression that the majority of the people there were very familiar with Grillz’s work, so that a rush of excitement swept over the packed room as the chorus of his most popular song, ‘Fuck Bitches, Get Honey’ played out over the speakers. The performer encouraged the audience to chant along with it, leading to a great highlight of the night when the track broke from the chorus and careened into the familiar thrill of jarring rhythm and synths. All in all, those that attended emphasized to me that Grillz gave them an incredible night fueled by the power of his songs to intertwine every person in the crowd in a chaotic, riotous harmony, an experience that they weren’t soon to forget.