Pitchfork Music Festival 2018: Meeting Noname

Where It All Began:
Sure, people go nuts over celebs like Beyoncé, Rihanna, or even SZA. They might fantasize about the day they finally get the chance to meet their beloved idol, practicing over and over what they are going to say and how they are going to react. An underground artist usually doesn’t seem to get the same amount of… “clout” as the kids say. But for the people who follow their music and call themselves fans of the culture, these artists are highly ranked. To put it in perspective, Noname is my Beyoncé. From the moment I heard her verse on Chance The Rapper’s Israel I knew I had to figure out who this woman was. I became entranced by the rise and fall of her artistic monotone and knew there was a story there. This curiosity led me to her mixtape entitled Telefone.  I became an instant fan. Before long, I knew every word and developed a one-sided friendship with the rapper. I hoped in the back of my mind that someday I’d be privileged enough to meet her.

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The Day:
It was the second day of the Pitchfork Music Festival and I was pumped to see acts like Moses Sumney, Berhana, and Kelela. I had no intention of meeting Noname this Saturday since she wasn’t performing until the following day. In fact, I was tired and began to lose hope that I’d even get close. I realized the first day of my coverage that a press pass doesn’t guarantee access to artists. There were still a few layers to get through before meeting an artist of interest. Before the festival, I contacted Noname on Instagram, Facebook, and even went as far as emailing her publicist.  I wanted to get a picture with her for WUSC’s blog, and I also wanted to chat with her if possible. It had been two weeks since I reached out and I still hadn’t heard back. I realized that if I had an encounter with Noname, it would either be by chance, or I’d have to make it happen on my own while I was there.

It had begun to rain that day adding to my discouragement but I wouldn’t let myself lose hope. I began to get crafty and made friends with a background vocalist for one of the acts. I decided to do so after watching him finesse his friends backstage with him. When I got the chance, I pulled him aside and asked for some tips. He told me to meet him at Green Stage after his set and he’d see if he could pull some strings. It seemed that things were finally starting to look up! Needless to say, I waited there at Green Stage as my new friend performed his set. I’d gotten tired of the tussle of the crowd and started to feel claustrophobic. There were people pushing, tugging, and jumping senselessly. I weaved my way through several bodies until I was on the outskirts of the massive and rather distracted crowd. Ahhhh fresh air!  Once I finally caught my breath, it was snatched away from me once again because I looked up and saw no other than Noname herself.

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Is This Really Happening?
She was walking up to Green Stage humbly joining the crowd of fans (many of them her own). She was so casual about the whole thing and was sipping on a beverage while chatting with friends. To my surprise, no one seemed to notice her, and the few people who did played it cool.  My heart sunk into my butt and I couldn’t breathe. I had to gather my thoughts and make sense of what was happening. I wanted to play it cool too, but the reality that Noname was standing less than 4 feet away from me, just by chance, seemed too good to be true. Especially after all the hard work I’d put in prior. I think it was at this point that I left my body.

The Moment:
From across the yard I watched myself walk up to my favorite rapper and before I knew it I was standing in front of her. I told her that Telefone had been on repeat since I first heard it and she seemed to think that was funny. Her gaze was intense as she listened to what I was saying. I immediately went on autopilot. I could feel the words coming out of my mouth but I never completely registered what I was saying. I remember them in fragments “Noname”… “WUSC”… “huge fan”…. It was an unreal experience to be that close to the person I listened to in the car, got ready to in the mornings, and meditated to at night. I asked her for a picture and she was happy to take one with me. She wrapped her arms around my shoulders as I snapped the pic. She was so kind and welcoming and that helped to make the experience even better. In the distance, I saw others approaching, hoping for their chance to get a picture as well. I can tell she probably just wanted to enjoy her time, and I didn’t want to be a menace so I said goodbye and that was that. It was a very brief encounter, but it meant the absolute world to me. As I walked away in a trance, thinking of how I accomplished exactly what I wanted, it suddenly dawned on me that I forgot to tell her my name. Oh well! I’m sure Noname didn’t even think twice about it. I chuckled at the irony.

By Autumn Smith
@strangefruitphotography