Pitchfork Music Festival 2018: Ravyn Lenae at Red Stage

My day started early that Sunday. Ravyn was the first performer I was eager to see amongst other big names like Noname and Smino. Once I got to Union Park, I waited at Red Stage hours before her performance. I just knew I had to be front row. As a fan, I couldn’t settle for being in the press pit because my heart would’ve broken the moment we were escorted out by security.


To my surprise, the front row was even better than the pit because I could photograph Ravyn from an audience member’s perspective during her set. Before long the music began and Ravyn became visible for everyone to see. She approached her bright red feathery microphone, the crowd produced a roar that could be heard all around Chicago. “Can I sing for you Chicago?” she asked. The crowd cheered once more in response. Her high energy seemed to directly translate to the audience.

As she sashayed across the stage in her silver luminescent wardrobe the crowd became electric neon. There were screaming fans all around belting the lyrics to “Venezuela Trains”, the first song of her set. Ravyn never seemed to tire, and the energy never seemed to die down. This was due in part to her rhythmic and soulful music but was also a result of Ravyn’s willingness to speak directly with her audience. She kept everyone engaged and excited. She started nearly every song with a question directed at the crowd. She’d ask about long distance relationships, and even addressed being in the friend zone. The mix of murmurs amongst crowd goers seemed to vibrate in my chest as each person spoke their own private response. They didn’t feel judged or burdened by their experiences, but they were instead freed for a moment in time. Even though we couldn’t hear one another, there was still a mutual sense of community with this crowd of strangers who’d most likely never cross paths again. This was the magic of Ravyn’s performance. Her ability to make everyone feel like part of something bigger than themselves, and her willingness to withhold nothing in her art.

By Autumn Smith