From September 10 to 12, 60,000 music lovers gathered at Union Park in Chicago’s Near West Side. The return of Pitchfork Music Festival was highly anticipated in Chicago, as the festival’s 15th anniversary was canceled last year due to COVID-19. This year’s artist line up was especially attractive to Chicago college students with Phoebe Bridgers, St. Vincent and Erykah Badu headlining the event.
After a summer of fluctuating health and safety restrictions, vaccine and mask mandates along with the emergence of the delta variant, safety measures were put in place to limit the spread of the virus among the approximated 19,000 attendees.
According to its website, attendees were required to show proof of full vaccination or “a negative COVID-19 test result (obtained) within 24 hours each day” the concert-goer attended the festival.
21-year-old Devin Wright, a comedy arts major at DePaul University, attended all three days of the festival. This was Wright’s first music festival since the COVID-19 pandemic began over a year ago. She was impressed with the overall layout and music of the weekend.
“The first day was pretty tough, just with timing, finding food, water, being in the sun all day,” she said. “But the second two days (were) super eye-opening. I saw some of my favorite artists. I was in the front for all of them. I was just hopping all around that festival.”
When it came to COVID safety, Wright noticed mixed adherence to mask wearing. Face coverings were not mandated by Pitchfork, only “recommended and encouraged” when guests were not eating or drinking.
“There were definitely people wearing masks, but it was not a lot,” Wright said. People were “wearing masks while entering and then taking them off. Even in the really big mosh pits and during the closers and headliners, people were not wearing masks at all.”
Kate Apostolacus, a junior at Columbia College Chicago, attended the much larger Lollapalooza before attending Pitchfork. She noticed COVID safety was approached with more care at Pitchfork than at the August music festival.
Pitchfork Security “checked your ID and your vaccine card, which was a lot different than Lolla,” Apostolacus said. “At Lolla, they didn’t check your ID at all.”
By checking identification alongside vaccine cards and negative test results, security can verify that the names and birthdays of attendees matched their proof of health. By failing to verify this information, unvaccinated or COVID positive attendees could easily enter an event and infect others.
Apostolacus tested negative after attending all three days of Lollapalooza and has not experienced any COVID-like symptoms after her weekend at Pitchfork. “I wore my mask the entire time, just because I know a lot of individuals who are vaccinated and still recently have gotten COVID,” she said.
21-year-old DePaul senior Riley Reed felt comfortable at Pitchfork, where she saw Bridgers, Big Thief, Angel Olsen and St. Vincent.
“I felt pretty comfortable since there weren’t as many festival goers as something like Lollapalooza, people were pretty good about wearing masks and I wore a KN-95 each day I went just to be extra safe,” Reed wrote in an email. “Since it was outside I think people felt comfortable to not wear them and there definitely were people that weren’t properly masked. Overall I felt pretty comfortable though!”
Returning back to everyday, pandemic life after a weekend-long music festival was hard for Wright. “My post-concert depression for the past few days has been so intense,” she said. “It gives you a body high being around that many people, listening to live music, going all day with friends and doing fun stuff all weekend, non-stop.”.
After returning to her school work and daily responsibilities, her weekend at Pitchfork reportedly feels like a fever dream. The wrinkled, neon green wrist band was still intact on her right wrist.
“This is the only thing that’s reminding me it even happened at this point,” Wright said with a laugh.
Header image by Teagan Baker