Where to begin ― watching A Tribe Called Quest (ATCQ) at Pitchfork Music Festival was a once in a lifetime experience and the best show I have ever seen. Beyond the show, the experience was just as good. The people at the festival were friendly, crowds did not get out of hand and security guards were kind to over-enthusiastic patrons. It was also a beautiful day outside; everything seemed meant to be for a night full of hip-hop.
My anticipation for ATCQ started at 4 p.m. after I’d had some hot, fresh tamales. Openers George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic started at 4:15 p.m. and gave a super psychedelic set. Watching nearly 15 people at a time sing, dance and jam was very entertaining. Next on the Green Stage was Angel Olsen at 6:15 p.m. Olsen soothed our eardrums with chill sounds and harmonies, but we couldn’t wait for ATCQ to take the stage.
My friend and I were in about the 6th row by the time the show started. That was close enough to see celebrities Ice-T and Xzibit behind stage. Clearly they knew, like we did, that this show was going to be extraordinary. And every minute was amazing. Without much for lights and visuals, ATCQ focused on what mattered: their rhymes. The crowd shouted back at every verse and chorus, jumping for joy and bobbing their heads up and down.
There were four things that I’ll never forget about this show, besides the music. One was that at one point, ATCQ member Q-Tip was almost right next to me! He came out into the crowd during the end of the show and entered very near where I was standing. The second was how the group hyped us up for each next song. Multiple times they rapped one verse, then rewound ― a sound I normally dislike hearing from turntables ― all the way to the beginning to build anticipation and start again. I never saw it coming. Third was their tribute to Phife Dawg, a co-founder of ATCQ who died last year. There were many mentions and smaller tributes, including an unmanned microphone on stage the entire show, but the biggest was when the group played an entire verse of Phife Dawg’s “Butter” with no music or anyone on stage besides the DJ. It reminded me that this was one of their first shows after his death. The last were smiles my best friend and I exchanged during the show. It’s a great feeling to look over and rap an entire verse together with someone you care about.
Tribe played most of their hits, as well as new tracks from their 2016 release We got it from Here…Thank You 4 Your Service. I was really curious to hear what they would choose to play because that album features many other artists. Thankfully they performed what I wanted to hear: “Space Program,” “Dis Generation,” “Movin Backwards” and “We the People….” They used every minute of their time; they must have played close to 20 songs in 90 minutes. “Award Tour,” “Can I Kick It?” and “Buggin’ Out” were my favorites. They did not play, “Jazz (We’ve Got),” or “Scenario.” Most unexpected was “Let’s Ride,” from Q-Tip’s solo album, but with its groovy guitar it wasn’t frowned upon by any means. All-in-all the set was as good as gold. It served its purpose for them to have fun and for us to vibe with them. If ATCQ ever decides to tour again, do not hesitate to see them. I will never forget going to this show.