The Shoulda-Seen-It Set of Pitchfork: Freddie Gibbs | Bleader

The Shoulda-Seen-It Set of Pitchfork: Freddie Gibbs


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Freddie Gibbs's headlining set on the side stage at Pitchfork on Saturday was full of firsts for the fest. First performer to bring a bottle of Hennessey out on stage with him. First stage banter aimed at keeping the audience (a couple thousand mostly white kids) away from gangs. And it was the first set of the weekend that really felt essential, one of those rare festival performances that feel like a moment, the type of thing that justifies all of the sun and sweat and eight dollar veggie burgers.

There wasn't anything gimmicky about his performance. He simply went out on stage, rapped, and tried to connect with his audience.

He connected.

It's purely a guess, but I can't imagine that out of those couple thousand people in the audience more than a couple hundred had really listened to Gibbs before this weekend. He was arguably the most underground act on the bill, with a fairly young career and media coverage that's been gushing but not exactly widespread at this point. But by the end of his performance they all looked like diehard fans for life. As his set ended you could hear LCD starting up their headlining spot on the main stage, but the crowd that stuck around the Balance stage demanded, and won, an encore—another first for the weekend.

Gibbs's only competition came from the main stages in the form of LCD, Major Lazer, and Pavement—all groups that have established fan bases, a measure of crossover success, and add-ons like dancers and light shows. Gibbs just had a couple of his dudes acting as hype men, a bunch of incredible songs, and a surfeit of charisma. He seemed like he had something to prove, and if anyone gave any more of themselves in their performance or seemed more genuinely grateful for the love they got from their crowd than he did I must have missed it. Directly after his set my Twitter feed included several slight variations on the sentence, "Freddie Gibbs just destroyed it."

I asked Gibbs about his unlikely popularity with the Pitchfork crowd during an interview for my recent profile on him. This is what he said:

It feels great because it let's me know that my music isn't in a box, y'know? That you don't have to be where I'm from to feel my music. You don't have to be in the same element that I come from to feel my music. Not just dudes in the projects, ya know what I'm sayin'? I just feel like my music can cross more boundaries without me having to conform or having to do some pop shit to get know. I think that, you know, people are gravitated toward my music just 'cause it's good music and it's well-planned and well thought out songs, I think. I think that Pitchfork crowd and that Fader crowd, they recognize that. I think you have to be able to touch more than the audience in your neighborhood.

This video only sort of captures what was going on there:

Directly after finishing this song I saw Gibbs walk straight back behind the stage and chugged down the rest of the bottle of Hen by himself. Dude is something else.