Chicago footwork producer Morris Harper, better known as DJ Spinn, had the best set at this summer's Pitchfork festival. His early-evening slot on the fest's last day overlapped with performances by reunited British shoegaze band Slowdive and electro-pop darling Grimes, but his turnout didn't seem to suffer for it. The tree-shaded Blue Stage felt like a family reunion; dozens of friends and collaborators joined in, including Mano's Treated Crew and hyperactive footwork dancers the Era. Cheered on by members of the Teklife collective, which he'd cofounded as GhettoTeknitianz in 2004, Spinn dove into a euphoric, high-energy mix—but hanging over the set was the melancholy awareness that DJ Rashad was supposed to be up there with him.
Spinn had been looking forward to the festival for months, but, as he says, "It was a bittersweet feelin'." His longtime collaborator and friend Rashad Harden, a footwork innovator who was considered the genre's best crossover hope (he released the breakout LP Double Cup last fall), had died in April at age 34 of an accidental drug overdose. Spinn's set was a life-affirming tribute to a departed talent and a high-energy celebration of the music he helped define—and the way everyone bounced around onstage, you could tell they meant for Rashad to feel their love all the way over in the afterlife.