Photo collage
WBEZ talked to Pitchfork Music Festival attendees about music in this moment. Top row, from left: Rashida Anderson-Abdullah; Iceage frontman Elias Bender Ronnenfelt; Shalyn Welch, center, and friends; Alister McGrath and Noami Guerrero. Bottom row from left: Lucy, Lennon and Finna Oceguera; Camiria Sardin; Julian Day-Cooney; Susan Cisneros and Paola Esparza. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

32 Chicago concertgoers on music for a complicated moment

“Sometimes I don’t know how to express myself, so I use music to do that.” Here’s what music lovers said about the power of music in these times and what currently soothes and grooves.

WBEZ talked to Pitchfork Music Festival attendees about music in this moment. Top row, from left: Rashida Anderson-Abdullah; Iceage frontman Elias Bender Ronnenfelt; Shalyn Welch, center, and friends; Alister McGrath and Noami Guerrero. Bottom row from left: Lucy, Lennon and Finna Oceguera; Camiria Sardin; Julian Day-Cooney; Susan Cisneros and Paola Esparza. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ
Photo collage
WBEZ talked to Pitchfork Music Festival attendees about music in this moment. Top row, from left: Rashida Anderson-Abdullah; Iceage frontman Elias Bender Ronnenfelt; Shalyn Welch, center, and friends; Alister McGrath and Noami Guerrero. Bottom row from left: Lucy, Lennon and Finna Oceguera; Camiria Sardin; Julian Day-Cooney; Susan Cisneros and Paola Esparza. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

32 Chicago concertgoers on music for a complicated moment

“Sometimes I don’t know how to express myself, so I use music to do that.” Here’s what music lovers said about the power of music in these times and what currently soothes and grooves.

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For Brett Karona, 24, a set of headphones and a streaming soundtrack provided salvation during two years in isolation and the long days staring down remote marketing work. For 18-year-old Camiria Sardin, music is a coping mechanism.

For Kassie Sandoval, 29, musicians are putting into words things she has struggled to. “With what’s going on in the world right now, with Roe v. Wade being overturned, women’s rights being taken back and things with immigration — my parents were immigrants — sometimes I don’t know how to express myself,” she said, “so I use music to do that.”

WBEZ recently set up a photo and interview booth at the Pitchfork Music Festival and spoke to dozens of Chicago artists, vendors and concertgoers — including Karona, Sardin and Sandoval — about the power of music in these times and which singers, songwriters and bands are providing their personal soundtrack.

The following answers have been condensed and edited for publication.


Elias Bender Rønnenfelt
Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

Iceage frontman Elias Bender Rønnenfelt, 30, Copenhagen

What does music mean to you in this moment?

Ronnenfelt: It’s a vessel to provide life a little meaning. But it’s also just sounds and grooves.


Sam and Hannah Chen
Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

Sam Chen, 27, Hyde Park, and Hannah Chen, 22, Boston

What singers and songwriters are you listening to right now and why?

Sam Chen: Hannah and I are Chinese and white. And I think seeing people who are similarly mixed [race], like Mitski, and Japanese Breakfast, who are also leaning into what it means to be both mixed and like Asian American is, I think, really important, especially in this moment. I think for a long time, whiteness was something that was all encompassing, and [it matters] to see artists who come from a similar background racially who are leaning into that, and saying this is the person I am.

Hannah Chen: There’s a Berlin-based DJ from South Korea named Peggy Gou. She mixes a lot of South Korean music with house music. It’s a full cross section, especially in a space dominated by men.


Susan Cisneros and Paola Esparza
Manuel Martinez

Susan Cisneros, 21, and Paola Esparza, 21, West Elsdon

What singers and songwriters are you listening to right now and why?

Cisneros: I really like Beach Bunny and the way that she talks about womanhood and her perspective.


Rashida Anderson-Abdullah
Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

Rashida Anderson-Abdullah, 25, Edgewater

What does music mean to you in this moment?

Anderson-Abdullah: Everything. It’s the way I rest my soul. It can be hard to navigate the constant political strife, and the social issues we have in the United States. Music has always been that foundation for me, to really just feel whatever it is, and be able to move on, and go on to the next day. I listen to music in the morning, every single day, as soon as I start my day, because I know that it will have an impact.

What singers and songwriters are you listening right now and why?

Anderson-Abdullah: Tierra Whack, CupcakKe, Noname — but really artists who can go outside the norm and who aren’t afraid to try new things, bend genres, and stand on their own without having to work off precedent.


Kassie Sandoval and Erik Schimke
Manuel Martinez / WBEZ
Kassie Sandoval, 29, and Erik Schimke, 29, Tinley Park

What singers and songwriters are you listening to right now and why?

Schimke: During the pandemic we started listening to Mayer Hawthorne, who would do a [virtual] wine and vinyl hour every Thursday.

Sandoval: It took us away from all of the chaos, of not being able to leave our house and see our friends. It was escapism.


Madeline LeFevour, Ken Lumb, Tessa O'Connell
Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

Madeline LeFevour, 24, Ken Lumb, 25, and Tessa O’Connell, 25, Old Town and Ravenswood

What does music mean to you in this moment?

LeFevour: The three of us have known each other for 10 years. I think our friendship started in music. It has been very important to us.

What singers and songwriters are you listening to right now and why?

O’Connell: I love Andy Shaw and Weyes Blood.

Lumb: Angel Olsen — I used to work at a coffee shop where she worked when she lived here.

LeFevour: I love my girl Phoebe (Bridgers). She holds a special place with me.


Karate
Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

Karate members Gavin McCarthy, Jeff Goddard, Geoff Farina and Eamonn Vitt

What does music mean to you right now?

Geoff Farina: “It’s a way to kind of calm your mind, whether you’re practicing with a band or playing our instruments on our own — it is something that really is a way to escape, to be in the moment, to see what’s right in front of us that’s happening right now instead of worrying what’s happening out there.

What singers and songwriters are you listening to right now and why?

Gavin McCarthy: Can I curse? OK, I won’t. An Australian band with the initials T.M.S.

Farina: Jazz from the 40s, 50s.


Bea Ross and Caitlin Robinson
Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

Bea Ross, 22, and Caitlin Robinson, 21, Rogers Park

What singers and songwriters are you listening to right now and why?

Ross: My dad was a big Clash fan. I think the meaning still stands and just withstands time.

Robinson: Phoebe Bridgers. Steve Lacy and the Internet. Songs that are deep, with lyrics that are cool.


Pitchfork trio
Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

Camiria Sardin, 18; Lucia Kleczka Katsiaficas, 5, and Nicholas, 2 ½; Jace Gregory, 23, and Syd Baluch, 25

What singers and songwriters are you listening to right now and why?

Sardin: Mitski, she’s my favorite artist. I also like Mac DeMarco. His music is very soft and smooth and I can almost visualize waves when I hear it.

Gregory: Mitski. I feel like a lot of people discovered her during the pandemic, especially through Nobody. It’s just the feeling of loneliness, not knowing where you’re at or where you’re going. I feel like she represents that.

Baluch: As a Japanese American, I just connect with a lot of what she says.

What does music mean to you right now?

Thomas Kleczka, father to Lucia and Nicholas: Music is a way to escape all of it — it’s like a religion in our house. We play music all the time and we go to concerts. We like to show that little kids can rock out.


Pitchfork Music Festival
Manuel Martinez / WBEZ
Ben Cresto, 20, Rohan Bajaj, 20, and Payton Stifflear, 20, Chicago/New York City

What singers and songwriters are you listening to right now and why?

Bajaj: One artist I’ve listened to a lot lately is Supertramp, from the ’70s. I just finally got myself to go through the discography. That kind of music just makes me feel good.

Stifflear: I’ve been listening to Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus.

Cresto: I’ve been getting back into Sufjan Stevens. He’s a Midwestern icon and has a lot to say about the state of the current world.


Pitchfork
Manuel Martinez / WBEZ
Brett Karona, 24, and Miriam Gavin, 26

What singers and songwriters are you listening to right now and why?

Gavin: Artists like Phoebe Bridgers and Mitski, and Lucy Dacus and Ethel Cain — they are part of a scene that’s putting out music that makes it alright to not be OK, that everything does suck. Sometimes you kind of need someone to like, speak back to you the things that you would write in your diary. And that’s where honestly, like, music has become even more important since the pandemic and the election and the insurrection and everything — because everything kind of sucks. So it helps you keep that nihilistic perspective at bay.

Karona: On the other hand, I’ve been listening to hyperpop as a form of escape — Charli XCX, Chappell Roan. If you need to get some anger out, I highly recommend Grandson. He writes very politically and very emphatically.


Pitchfork photo booth
Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

Finna Oceguera (left) with Lucy, 11, and Lennon, 6, of Cary; Lynn Weddle, 59 (right), and Bud Green, 60, of Savannah/Chicago

What singers and songwriters are you listening to right now and why?

Lucy: The Beatles, Billie Eilish, Nirvana, the Rolling Stones –

Lennon: The Beatles!

Weddle: Waxahatchee, The National, Big Thief, Lucinda Williams.


Pitchfork
Manuel Martinez / WBEZ
Julian Day-Cooney, 31, Portland

What singers and songwriters are you listening to right now and why?

Day-Cooney: The National. [My partner and I] have seen The National together and it was just this beautiful romantic experience. We were crying or kissing, you know, dancing together. As far as new stuff, I absolutely was obsessed with Dry Cleaning, and in this very, kind of dry, humorous, dark, but beautiful, insightful, lyrical way.