For most, Lollapalooza is an escape. It’s a four-day summer camp for glittered suburbanites, a breezy weekend for wealthy one-percenters who prefer to watch things from cabanas, a detour from the Magnificent Mile for music-loving tourists, and an exercise in endurance for veteran fans, who mostly saunter around Grant Park wondering where they can find more alternative rock. More often than not, the whole thing is a total chore, but everyone goes through the motions because it feels like you’re part of a moment. For one weekend in August — or July, depending on when C3 secures the dates — Lollapalooza sells itself as the center of the musicverse, and they’re traditionally on point. However, something felt off for its 2017 incarnation.
Despite some behind-the-scenes hiccups with regards to booking — losing Kanye West and later The Weeknd; gaining a zombified Blink-182 and another predictable night with The Killers — the lineup managed to find some semblance of narrative for itself. Young and trending performers like Lorde, the XX, and Chance the Rapper would be able to shift to headliner status alongside past graduates like Muse, The Killers, and Arcade Fire. But that’s not exactly how things went down: Rain destroyed what would have been a heroic night for Lorde, and the XX were literally left in the dark alone as the majority of the festival squeezed into the southern portion of Grant Park to witness Chance the Rapper’s highly anticipated Saturday night homecoming.
What a sight to behold, though.
As the sun drifted behind Chicago’s iconic skyline, rich purples and dark blues glazed over a sea of people waiting anxiously to see the city’s prodigal son. Never in the 12 years that Lollapalooza has taken over Grant Park has a performer amassed such an expansive crowd. Less than a half-hour before the show was scheduled to begin — let’s just say, Chance was a little late (perhaps soaking it all in backstage?) — it was nearly impossible to get on the fields as festivalgoers claimed every inch of the area. There was nowhere to stand, not even off to the side or off to the back; all real estate was claimed. It was an unprecedented scene that elicited a range of emotions, from the good (wonder, inspiration, and pride) to the bad (claustrophobia, frustration, and exhaustion), but above all, it felt incredibly important. You felt like you needed to be there.
That wasn’t exactly the case for the rest of the weekend. With the exception of a few notable acts, all of which we’ve outlined ahead, the weekend felt mostly like a distant echo, and for all the obvious reasons. Yes, Arcade Fire delivered another sweeping closing set on Sunday night, but it was never going to reach the epic highs of their 2010 headlining performance, even if Everything Now was a better album. The same goes for The Killers, whose collection of inspired covers only cemented the idea that the set was designed to celebrate the past. And while, no, the festival can’t be held accountable for the horrific weather that plagued its opening-night ceremonies — though, they should maybe start preparing for these occasions by perhaps allotting time the next day for canceled headliners? — it did reveal the lineup’s lack of a bench.
Of course, that fourth day isn’t doing any favors for Lollapalooza. Look, it’s tough doing a four-day festival, and Perry Farrell’s tentpole fiesta is no exception. Much like last year, the talent spread over the weekend was quite thin, leaving major gaps where nothing particularly interesting (and certainly not revelatory) was going on. With so many festival leftovers forced to pick up the slack — here’s to you, Capital Cities, George Ezra, Vance Joy, and Wiz Khalifa — it was no wonder that most of the crowd appeared to be in a perpetual shuffle each day. Though, to be fair, they did have some new amenities to pass the time at, particularly a pop-up roller rink straight out of the ’70s. That was very cool.
Lately, there’s been a lot of talk about The Festival Bubble and whether or not it’s burst. Depending on where you stand, it either popped long ago or continues to expand. Walking through Lollapalooza this year, it was hard to find a proper vantage point for some clarity on the issue. On one hand, it’s still a thriving mini-metropolis teeming with youth. (At one point, a festivalgoer asked me, “Does this place always have so many 12-year-olds?” I could only shrug.) But on the other hand, it feels like something’s gotta give. Maybe it’s scaling back? Good luck with that hope. Or maybe it’s something more economical, like shortening sets for the majority of the acts? After all, not everyone needs an hour to deliver the goods. It might behoove all parties — the artists, the festivalgoers, the booking agents — for a less-is-more approach to the set times. Who knows.
What we do know is that Lollapalooza will remain a focal point of the summer. Maybe not for all of us, but for someone, and as long as that stays the same, so will everything else.
Liam Gallagher cut things short only four songs into his set, walking offstage without any explanation — basically, at this point, something that could be called pulling a Gallagher. Afterward, he tweeted an apology, explaining that he “had a difficult gig last night which fucked my voice. I’m gutted.” As someone who attended the previous night’s performance at the Park West, that explanation feels extra frustrating and perplexing. He and his band cranked every amp to 11, paused between songs only long enough to repeatedly say “nice one,” and then returned to shouting out the massive rock tunes — some of his own, with plenty of Oasis sprinkled in. It seemed easy, effortless, in the relatively small space full of zealous fans. In short, the show was fantastic, setting the bar high, and leading to even higher expectations for a mid-afternoon follow-up. At his official Lolla set, Liam got through classics “Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” and “Morning Glory”, as well as a pair of songs from his upcoming solo debut, As You Were, before shutting it down. Gutted. –Lior Phillips
Save Money, Go Clubbing
I get that a Lil Yachty show isn’t going to be about finesse. I get that it isn’t going to be about admiring his mic skills or hearing most (or even some) of the words. But his crowd at the Tito’s stage was so massive and his performance so sloppy, we may as well have been listening to his songs in a club. His DJ merely played the backing track while he and his crew hopped around and yelled — the lower vocals on “Wanna Be Us” and “All Night”, clashing with the words being shouted in real life. Lil Yachty has personality to go around, but being all bounce, all the time isn’t very interesting in a live setting. As Big Sean would prove just one hour later on the adjacent Bud Light stage, there can be levels to it, too. –Dan Caffrey
Most Hungover Set
Pup’s live shows usually have a feral quality that I’m sure was on display during their after-show at the Empty Bottle. I also wouldn’t be surprised if that show (or the after-party) maybe got a little too wild — at least to the point where the band was too tired to bring their A game to an early Lolla set. Even frontman Stefan Babcock climbing a stack of amps to summon a circle pit during “Sleep in the Heat” wasn’t enough to lock the crowd into apeshit-mode — the enthusiastic thrashing died down as soon as the song was over. The same could be said for him and his band mates, who hammered out the rest of their set with competency, but little enthusiasm. –Dan Caffrey
Lil Uzi Vert
Even the oldest, grouchiest, rap-is-just-noise music fan would have a hard time denying the combustible energy Lil Uzi Vert brings to the stage. Unfortunately, the unforgiving weather cut his set short — as in almost nonexistent. Of all the Thursday night headliners to get shafted by the rain, Lil Uzi arguably received the worst fate, as his DJ spent several minutes introducing him. That means most of his short-lived performance was occupied by an artist that wasn’t even him. If only he had crashed Migos’ set earlier in the day for his verse on “Bad and Boujee”. –Dan Caffrey
Most In Touch With “The Kids”
“Here’s a song about what you will experience today,” Kevin Devine chuckled, before leading his band into “Daydrunk”, off of his 2016 album. The wild and wobbly crowd surrounding the stage certainly appreciated the connection — at least the ones that weren’t too busy attempting to dig their flasks out of their boots or crying while being handcuffed and pulled away, both of which I observed before 3 p.m. on a Thursday. The solid “No History” and “Redbird” provided a powerful one-two punch at the set’s climax, the shot in the arm that the somehow already too tipsy afternoon needed. Devine’s songs are so powered by youthful energy and connection, and his love was absolutely contagious. “I love you, too, sir, single person,” he grinned after one fellow’s spontaneous combustion of adoration. “I’m sure I could love you if I got to know you. You seem fine.” –Lior Phillips
Lost to the Clouds
London Grammar may not be the most dynamic live act, but they’re certainly a dramatic one. Hannah Reid, Dan Rothman, and Dot Major plant themselves in a triangle, carefully calibrating movements as their bold, plaintive songs unfold like reams of billowing silk. And Reid’s rich vocals sounded heavenly as they sailed over Grant Park’s sunlit fields on Sunday afternoon, with the band oscillating between material from 2014’s If You Wait (“Hey Now”, “Wasting My Young Years”, “Metal and Dust”) and this year’s Truth Is a Beautiful Thing (“Oh Woman Oh Man”, “Who Am I”, “Big Picture”). But there’s a meditative quality to London Grammar’s music that doesn’t quite lend itself to festival culture, which more or less demands a banger for every ballad. Though the band had a few moments of head-turning catharsis — the climax of “Nightcall”, their exciting cover of Kavinsky’s modern classic, for example — but much of their 60-minute set found itself floating off into the clouds rather than rolling around in the grass with the sun-baked masses. –Randall Colburn
More Instruments, Plz
Mike Kerr running his bass through pedals until it sounds like lead a guitar is a good gimmick. Playing it like a lead guitar is an even better one. But they’re still gimmicks, and like all good gimmicks, the real question is whether or not it can sustain an entire set. I’m guessing the crowd at Royal Blood’s Saturday afternoon show would answer with a resounding “yes,” judging from their wobbly devil horns and mechanically pumped fists. Personally, few bands can pull off an effective robot-rock groove with just two members. It’s why Queens of the Stone Age has always rounded out their lineup with a loose, revolving-door policy. Although there are undoubtedly QOTSA fans who dig Royal Blood, the latter has neither the hooks nor the heft of the former — the entire set sounding like one big guitar solo. With some drums, of course. –Dan Caffrey
When Keeping It Chill Goes Wrong
Mood music isn’t always the worst thing at Lollapalooza. If it’s the middle of the day at the shaded Pepsi stage (formerly The Grove), for instance, it can be refreshing to tune out to a band that gets by on vibe alone. The problem with Warpaint is that they always tease moments where it seems like their iced-over dream pop is going to accelerate into something more lively and danceable, only to drift back into trance mode. And this made vocalist Emily Kokal’s request for the audience to dance on “Undertow” all the more redundant. –Dan Caffrey
Strong Start, Flat Finish
Cloud Nothings aren’t showmen, nor do they need to be. Their music — loud, melodic, and often vicious — usually compensates for Dylan Baldi’s distant presence and TJ Duke and Chris Brown’s workmanlike approach (drummer Jayson Gerycz exudes the most charisma of anyone onstage). Their Friday afternoon set started strong, with “Modern Act”, “Psychic Trauma”, and “Internal World” conjuring circle pits and impassioned shout-alongs. The set only faltered in its second half, when the band failed to congeal during an extended jam of routine closer “Wasted Days”, resulting in a set that petered out 10 minutes early, a space of time that could’ve easily accommodated two more songs. Cloud Nothings usually scorch a path to the finish line; here, they sorta fizzled out. –Randall Colburn
Welcome to Hell on Earth
Daggers. Jason masks. Tens of thousands of the most obnoxious Perry’s Stage regulars. You tell me if that sounds like a total fucking nightmare. If so, you probably would have hated 21 Savage’s set on Saturday evening. But for the ADHD crowd that couldn’t decide if they wanted to get closer or veer off to the side or stay back or “go find Jessica,” it was heaven. And by all accounts, it perfectly captured the post-apocalyptic excess of 21 Savage’s greatest anthems, from “Savage Mode” to “Mad High” to go-to summer anthem “Bank Account”. Abandon all hope ye who enter here. –Michael Roffman
Band Least Likely to be Confused for Phish
Halfway through its Saturday afternoon set, Canadian dream rockers Alvvays told a so-weird-it’s-gotta-be-true story about being mistaken for Phish, everyone’s second-favorite jam band. Not only does Molly Rankin look nothing like Trey Anastasio, but Phish makes noodly, improvisational epics where Alvvays makes tight, focused pop-rock that rarely surpasses four minutes. They proved as much during their 45-minute set, hitting all the right notes during charming renditions of “Adult Diversion”, “Party Police”, and “Atop a Cake”. We even got a taste of their forthcoming album, Antisocialites, which promises more of the same — “In Undertow”, “Dreams Tonite”, and the as-yet-unheard “Plimsoll Punks” are as bright and charming as everything we’ve come to expect from the band. All that said, I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing what a drugged-out Alvvays jam session looks like. –Randall Colburn
Got The Whole Neighborhood Doing The Diddy Bop
While Chance and Vic may have been grabbing all the headlines, another young Chicago rapper more than justified the growing attention coming her way. Noname, also known as Fatimah Warner, spent time at YouMEDIA with Chance, and as such has a similar poetic bent. Noname, however, plays it from the pocket, her widescreen nostalgia, somber memories, and empowering lines coming in through a skewed, jazz- and blues-tinted lens. Her afternoon set hit an early groove with the stunning “Diddy Bop”, a track which will never lose its breezy charm and familiar impact. Later, she cleverly adapted from “fuck bitches, get money” to “love women, get money,” bringing the whole crowd along for the shift. Noname and guest Eryn Allen Kane kept the large crowd bobbing and weaving, catching onto all of the many emotions that come with a Chicago summer, from joy to fear, love to heartbreak. (We’d suggest sacking the sound guy; she deserved better). –Lior Phillips
Band That Most Resembles ’80s Movie Bullies
Steady showers gave way to a miserable drizzle when Brooklyn’s The Drums took the stage on Thursday afternoon. It wasn’t the ideal setting for the band’s buoyant dance-pop, and frontman Jonny Pierce had the unenviable task of motivating a horde of wet, grumpy fans. It makes sense, then, that the band built their set mostly around cuts from its beloved first two albums, with songs like “Let’s Go Surfing” and “Days” igniting the crowd in the way one should be for a Drums show. New songs from this year’s solid Abysmal Thoughts also came off well — the delicious “Blood Under My Belt”, especially — but neither they, nor Pierce’s charming, off-the-cuff dance moves could summon the feel-good energy of their best shows. Pierce remains a charismatic frontman, however, if only because he so resembles Billy Zabka, ‘80s film bully extraordinaire. You can’t unsee it. —Randall Colburn
Only Good When You Were Young
A headlining set at any festival, particularly Lollapalooza, is one that is guaranteed to draw the largest crowds. Ideally, it’s also an act with some combination of a massive catalog of hits, something exciting to promote, a legendary cache, and an innovative live performance. Add to that the pressure of having to be the rock follow-up making up for the cancellation of Muse the previous night, and The Killers faced a tall task. Judging from the huge crowd attending their headlining set on Friday, you’d think the Las Vegas outfit had checked every one of those boxes. But at the end of the day, they had just enough memorable songs to sing along to and a few more recognizable covers, but still felt like they were grasping for something momentous and not quite reaching it.
The band are gearing up for the release of their fifth studio album and only chose one song from the record for their set: the flaccid, new single “I’m the Man”. Covers of Joy Division and Smashing Pumpkins were engaging but felt calculated, the former a signifier of their influence (rubbery Peter Hook bass lines and cold cribs on new wave tones abounded) and the latter a touch of the festival’s locale. “We thought since you missed out on Muse yesterday, we could give you a little something,” frontman Brandon Flowers offered before launching into a take on “Starlight”. But his chuckling attempt to reach Matt Bellamy’s falsetto on the chorus were honest, but showed the band’s inability to hit the ecstatic highs of a more bombastic band.
Their biggest successes were, undoubtedly, their long-established sing-along singles, primarily “Somebody Told Me” and “Mr. Brightside”. And while The Killers’ oeuvre is tailor-made for sing-along choruses, there were few that were very memorable. They were, reportedly, a last-minute fill-in after The Weeknd dropped out, but performing next to no new material since their 2013 performance left things feeling retreaded and static. –Lior Phillips
Gone for Good? Gone for Great!
The Shins released a new album this year, but James Mercer knows that Lollapalooza is no place for new songs. Sure, “Name for You” and “Half a Million” made an appearance, but the set itself was defined primarily by the pleasures of the band’s first three albums, all of which have cemented themselves in the minds of elder millennials. “Caring Is Creepy” opened the set, while “New Slang” helped usher it to its finale, and songs like “Saint Simon”, “Australia”, and “Mine’s Not a High Horse” served as its anchoring buoy. Perhaps most notable, however, is the band’s refined take on Chutes Too Narrow standout “Gone for Good” — while the emphatic, yearning acoustic version is a classic, its live version is even more powerful. Here, they slowed it down, amped up the melancholy, and brought the song’s pedal steel to the forefront, resulting in a new, freshly moving version of a song that anyone between the ages of 24 and 38 can recite by heart. –Randall Colburn
Ceaseless, Soulful, Sublime
By this point, I’ve now listened to Sampha’s “(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano” about 7,000 times; during his Lolla set, at first I felt as if I was just waiting for the heartbreaking, soul-crushing song to arrive. But not long later I realized I was dancing along to every note, mesmerized by his angelic voice, the fractal arrangements, and the complex rhythms. Heck, I was standing two feet from Jack Garratt and didn’t even notice until I saw fans demanding selfies from him. Sampha’s a magnetic performer, a subtle yet powerful presence who makes even the smallest moments feel monumental. Songs like “Plastic 100°C” and “Under” showcased the strengths of debut album Process, its depth and emotional heft. But then the synth became a rich, resonant piano, and Sampha let furl the haunting, soulful notes of “(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano”, and the tears started falling. Sampha let shine his beautiful soul in all of its glory, and it soared through the park. –Lior Phillips
Most Convincing Argument for an Aftershow
Had I not already attended Ryan Adams’ aftershow, his midday set at Lolla may have felt more distinctive. But despite a crackling version of “To Be Young (Is to Be Sad, Is to Be High)” and a warm synth drone added to “When the Stars Go Blue”, so much of what worked the night before failed to register here. The blue lights that hit the audience during the finale of the latter song didn’t exactly show up in the afternoon sunlight, nor did the accompanying visuals on several stacks of television screens. That raises the question: Why haul all the extra gear onstage if you can’t even use it properly? Somewhere, there’s a roadie seething with bitterness, not to mention a bad back. –Dan Caffrey
The Blow Your Fucking Ears Out Award
The Strokes’ Nick Valensi formed CRX last year, releasing an album, New Skin, that sounded built from riffs deemed “too metal” by Julian Casablancas. CRX is loud; they might not resonate as such through a pair of $12 headphones, but live the band is a veritable wall of noise. Songs like “Broken Bones” and “Give It Up” positively thundered throughout the Pepsi stage’s shaded grove, where a small crowd blossomed into a robust one by set’s end. The bright, snaking riff that courses through “One Track Mind” was as electric live as it is on record, though the set’s true standout may have been the band’s cover of Devo’s “Girl U Want”, a song that no doubt had an influence on the sound Valensi was looking for when starting CRX. Expect big things. –Randall Colburn
Confidence Speaks Volumes
It takes backbone to open up with your biggest hit, but that’s exactly what Hippo Campus did when they arrived on the Lakeshore stage with “Way It Goes”. Maybe the calcium consumption is ridiculously high up in St. Paul, Minnesota? Or maybe they’re just super confident these days? Probably the latter. After all, these guys have played everywhere from Bonnaroo to Conan to Reading and Leeds, they’ve opened up for everyone from My Morning Jacket to Modest Mouse to Walk the Moon, and they took their sweet-ass time to drop their debut album by waiting until this past February to deliver Landmark. At this point, festivals are second nature to them, and that was quite obvious on Friday afternoon as they amiably sauntered through chummy indie slices like “Western Kids”, “Suicide Saturday”, “Boyish”, and closing jam “Violet”. In fact, singer Jake Luppen was so goddamn comfortable, he even took off his socks. Peak indie swagger. –Michael Roffman
Teenage Angst Has Paid Off Well
The weird thing about seeing an artist at the beginning of their career is that they often don’t have enough material to fill up anything more than a half-hour set. Songwriter Maggie Rogers faced that dilemma when she was given an hour-long set at Lollapalooza based on the strength of her five-song EP, Now That the Light Is Fading, and she acknowledged as much during her Sunday afternoon set. In addition to mega-hit “Alaska”, new single “On + Off”, and the rest of the EP, we got to hear songs she penned as a teenager and college student. While a few certainly lacked the refinement of her latest work, others made a strong impression, especially when she strapped on a guitar to segue from the energetic dance pop that made her famous to more confessional ballads that highlighted the singer’s more tender side. Who knows whether they’ll have a place on any forthcoming releases, but hearing them felt special nevertheless. –Randall Colburn
The Sixth Spice Girl
Four songs into Charli XCX’s Sunday afternoon set, I started feeling strong Spice Girls juju. She’d just finished roaring through takes on “I Love It” (a song she penned and Icona Pop made famous) and “Break the Rules”, boisterous songs performed by a star completely comfortable rebelling while remaining firmly in the pop mold. She felt at that moment, essentially, like Charli Spice. And, as if on cue, Charli followed that with a cover of the Girls’ “Wannabe”, bringing out fellow pop star Halsey. After that came recent viral smash “Boys”, which got the younger half of the crowd going — i.e., the half that, unlike myself, didn’t still know every single word of the Spice Girls tune. Rapper CupcakKe added some energy later in the set when it started to lag, and closer “Boom Clap” sealed things powerfully. Throughout, the backing track was almost too loud to hear Charli, though her writing always shone through even when her vocals didn’t — a good encapsulation of her career thus far. –Lior Phillips
Dad Rock: The Next Generation
Maybe it was the midday set, the shaded setting, or the fact that Blink-182 and The Killers were that day’s headliners, but Mondo Cozmo’s Friday set was filled with dads. Dads in hats. Dads with beers. Dads with babies. It makes sense, too, as Josh Ostrander and his band make bold, anthemic rock that layers a radio-pop sheen over songs channeling stadium rockers like Bruce Springsteen, U2, and John Mellencamp. As one might imagine, there weren’t many crop tops or jerseys on hand. As such, the vibe was unabashedly feel-good, with the crowd dancing in ways that would no doubt humiliate their children as Ostrander led his band through cuts from his solid debut album, Plastic Soul, which dropped that very day — “The best day of my life,” he proclaimed at one point. In between soaring renditions of “Shine”, “Higher”, and the title track, Ostrander name-checked his dog, checked a text from his mom, and led us all in a round of “hip-hip-hoorays!” Was it cool? No. Was it fun as hell? Absolutely. –Randall Colburn
French synth popster Jain was apologetic early in her Thursday afternoon set. She was worried that it might be too early for her modest crowd to jump, dance, and wave their arms with her. She was also concerned that her accent might be too thick to understand. But quickly both of these factors became an asset, her quaint speeches striking as endearing and her fans relishing in the space to stretch out and move on request. Musically, Jain’s melodies are instantaneously accessible, infusing the day with warmth that the humid afternoon hardly needed. But as early sets go, Jain’s personality sold the performance as much as her songwriting, providing Thursday with its first surprise. –Philip Cosores
Saxiest Sax Man
Car Seat Headrest
For being so lyrically cerebral, the music of Car Seat Headrest translates fairly well to the Bud Light stage at Lollapalooza, its big hooks and mid-’90s snarl a throwback to a time when Pavement would have played the same festival to a much less receptive crowd. But Sunday’s audience ate up “Vincent” and other smarter-than-they-sound cuts from last year’s knockout Teens of Denial. They indulged Toledo’s goofier side as well (a side of the frontman that, so far, seems to only rear its head at blockbuster summer music festivals), being game for a wonderfully square cover of James Brown’s “I Don’t Mind” and a guest saxophone player on “War Is Coming (If You Want It)”. In fact, the sax man was loved so much that Toledo kept him onstage for closer “1937 State Park”, asking him to replicate Death’s xylophone ribs with his beloved woodwind. –Dan Caffrey
You’re *Not* Gonna Need a Bigger Boat
“T-Rex doesn’t want to be fed. He wants to hunt,” Dr. Grant tells Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park. Sorry to go all Spielberg, but when it comes to White Reaper, those Kentucky boys need to prowl around their fans. So, it wasn’t the best decision to place them on the festival’s biggest stage (Grant Park) and at such an early time (12:45 p.m.). Anyone who’s ever seen the band knows they thrive on human connection, and being so high up and at least 10 feet removed from the crowd just isn’t their thing — the energy gets lost in translation. Aware of this, singer Tony Esposito humorously pleaded, “If you all go off on this one, I’ll tell you all the wi-fi passwords, but please wake up.”
They did, and the vibe eventually turned into something great, especially as they stormed through favorites like “Make Me Wanna Die” and “Half Bad” or the sweeping arena rock of their latest effort, The World’s Best American Band. Bassist Sam Wilkerson swept in for the big assist, too. “This is the part of the set where my brother Nick will take his pants off if you chant loud enough,” he teased. Naturally, their fans obliged, Nick went pantless (and shirtless), Sam applauded their efforts by crowd surfing over them, and White Reaper flipped the switch on yet another one of Lollapalooza’s miserable wake-up slots. In other words, um, “Life found a way.” –Michael Roffman
The Strongest Cover Game
The Lemon Twigs
The music of Lemon Twigs is amusing and likable enough on its own — a curious hybrid of psychedelic mischief and classic-rock glam that hits harder than it has any right to (no wonder Tim Heidecker is a fan). But Long Island’s D’Addario brothers stood out on Friday for their playful yet still powerful covers from the late ’70s and early ’80s. Kudos to them for further exposing the world to the tragic wonder that is Roky Erickson with “I Walked with a Zombie” and slathering John Prine’s “Fish and Whistle” with — what else? — some extra tin whistle. Shining a headlamp on these kind of odd gems is always refreshing at Lollapalooza, a festival where FIDLAR opened their set with a blistering cover of the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” in 2016, only to see Grouplove perform a much shittier version of it just one year later. –Dan Caffrey
Dancing Under The Glow
“Are you ready to get it? We got 45 minutes, let’s do it!” smiled Sylvan Esso’s Amelia Meath. From many points around the Pepsi stage, a glowing red clock showed the time, giving an extra sense of urgency to performances, like a ticking time bomb. Considering their set fell just before a massive headliner like Chance the Rapper, the pressure of the clock felt even stronger for the Durham, North Carolina, electropop duo. But Sylvan Esso made the most of every minute, jamming as many tunes into their set as possible and making sure every dynamic moment hit home — and hit home they did. There was an audible sigh of ecstasy when the duo shot into “Hey Mami”, a roar of amazement when Meath growled out the climax of “Dreamy Bruises”, the pitter patter of dancing feet as Nick Sanborn spun the groove for “Coffee”. Tracks from their recently released What Now proved just as successful, the large crowd grooving and dancing as much as any electronic act at the festival. Sylvan Esso’s songs seem to come from an internal memory of happiness, a groove from the heart that can’t be contained. “That was fun,” Meath smiled as the set neared its end. It’s that kind of simple, understated, yet ultimately true statement that powers the duo’s emotionally powerful dance. –Lior Phillips
Most Demonic Entrance
Banks’ signature brand of R&B and pop is laced with a scrim of darkness, but the opening of her Saturday evening set was downright demonic. Harsh, red lights welcomed the black-clad singer onstage, where she was backed by dancers adorned in constricting tulle shrouds. Severe, distorted barks served as a prelude to Banks’ ghostly, vulnerable vocals, as did uncanny dance moves that evoke Aaliyah by way of J-horror. As she cycled through cuts old and new — “Waiting Game”, “Fuck with Myself”, “Drowning” — Banks and her dancers cut blunt, emphatic movements — swinging heads, jerking arms, robotic waists — that worked to emphasize the psychological over the emotional and corporeal. It’s Banks’ focus on the internal, after all, that makes her special in the realm of pop. –Randall Colburn
Here’s something no one expected to see in 2017: A packed set from a recently reunited Live at one of the country’s foremost music festivals. But Lollapalooza’s roots reside in ‘90s alt-rock, so there’s typically a spot or two on the lineup saved for 120 Minutes alumni. Last year it was Third Eye Blind, and this year it was Live, with frontman Ed Kowalczyk back in his rightful place after a split that lasted seven years. The good news is that he still sounds great, as do the band’s litany of hits, all of which were on display during the band’s Saturday evening performance. “All Over You” kicked off the proceedings, with “Selling the Drama”, “The Dolphin’s Cry”, and “I Alone” ushering us towards the glorious climax that is “Lightning Crashes”.
The good vibes and clear sense that Kowalczyk and his colleagues were legit stoked to be back together helped compensate for the set’s more unfortunate qualities, including a weird, unnecessary alt-rock cover of “I Walk the Line” and a well-meaning, but ultimately forgettable, tribute to Chris Cornell in Audioslave’s “I Am the Highway”. The weirdest thing, though? During the band’s fiery, pitch-perfect performance of “Lakini’s Juice”, Kowalczyk bizarrely kept miming the revving of a motorcycle during the song’s epic chorus. Am I crazy or was this song not about sex and actually about motorcycles? Look, it rules regardless, but I sure as hell hope not. –Randall Colburn
Most Innovative Groove
Electronic music’s foothold in Lollapalooza has grown ever more massive, the orbit around the Perry’s stage heavier with each year. While he might not have been spinning from that spot or using the bombastic tropes of those that were, Kaytranada certainly brought a unique wrinkle to electronic music that drew in dedicated fans of the genre and curious listeners alike. His remix of Solange’s “Cranes in the Sky” was mesmerizing, slippery and cool yet retaining all the power of the original. His production on hometown hero Chance the Rapper’s “All Night”, though, may have received an even bigger response. “You all tired?” he asked, halfway through his set. Considering the heart-thumping beats, incredibly fluid production, and masterful control, Kaytranada’s mystic set left people feeling more alive than ever. –Lior Phillips
Migos was always going to be an event at Lollapalooza: “Bad and Boujee” is the hottest song of the year, Culture was just certified Platinum, and the Georgia rappers are the most in-demand act in the industry right now. By scheduling them on the first day of the weekend, and at a time when generally nothing else was going on, C3 more or less ushered in The Moment in a neat little package. But, things didn’t go as planned, seeing how Migos delayed their set for nearly 40 minutes, turning a rising sea of people into a maddening ball of confusion. As the minutes inched past the 10-, 15-, and 20-minute marks, more and more fans began to get restless, moving in and out of the area in frustration. To make matters worse, thousands of curious festivalgoers from the south end of the park were migrating north following Liam Gallagher’s short-lived set, creating more of a traffic jam for the already agitated. One highlight was seeing two hunky bros straight out of a CW drama threatening to fight one another in a circle of rabid spectators. How cute.
So, when Migos finally did go on, all of those people who had already left came rushing back towards the stage. Seriously, it was like that stampede scene in The Lion King, only we were all little Simbas stumbling around, trying to find somewhere safe to stand. But, you know what? It was a brilliant move on Migos’ behalf. By then, the energy was unstoppable, and as the trio plowed through catchy tracks like “Get Right Witcha” and “Deadz”, you could feel the ground shaking below your feet. Mind you, this is Grant Park, not some weak venue floor, so the idea that the surrounding energy could cause minor tremors on the ground was a little awe-inspiring to say the least. Of course, chaos reigned supreme during their’ juggernaut closing medley of “T-Shirt”, “Bad and Boujee”, and “Handsome and Wealthy”, which saw everyone jumping up and down, likely crashing Instagram and Snapchat in the process. It was a perfect capper to an absolute clusterfuck of an hour, and the guys earned every second of it. –Michael Roffman
Lord Have No Mercy
What fucking timing. All Thursday, the weather had threatened Lollapalooza with grey skies and the occasional bursts of rain. Nothing too disconcerting, at least not enough to evacuate the premises like in previous years. But then, it happened, and only 20 minutes before Lorde was set to take the Bud Light stage and headline her first Lollapalooza. Lightning rippled across the Chicago skyline, igniting the field, where thousands of fans huddled together — some with ponchos, some by their lonesome — in hypnotic and hopeful anticipation. It was cold, it was confusing, and it was a little unnerving. Relief washed over everyone, however, when the lights came down, Kate Bush boomed over the PA, and the New Zealand star arrived and introduced herself: “My name is Lorde. I’m from New Zealand, and it is my great pleasure to be here.” As everyone welcomed her, the rain even appeared to subside, as if the Lord above was looking out for the Lorde below.
After a spirited beginning, which saw her tease “Green Light” and revisit past favorites like “Tennis Court”, Disclosure’s “Magnets”, and “400 Lux”, Lorde’s set came to a depressing halt. It all happened like a movie, complete with a tantalizing stinger. “I want to do something I’ve never done before, Lollapalooza,” Lorde told her fans shortly after “400 Lux”. “I want to play you a song I’ve never played before!” Right on cue, her production manager signaled that the set was over, leaving everyone flummoxed — including Lorde herself. “The festival said the weather is too crazy for us to play right now,” Lorde announced, speaking for everyone when she screamed, “Fuck!” Hearts dropped, people booed, and she looked absolutely torn apart. This was her big moment and she did not want to leave, and it was quite apparent that she knew just as much as we all did how special this moment was for her career. But, there was nothing she could do.
As the evacuation signs flashed across the screens, Lorde turned to her fans and insisted, “I will be back for you. I promise!” She’s right. She will be back, next year, when she plays Allstate Arena in March. But come on, that’s a lifetime for any die-hard fan, no matter who the artist is, and she knew that. In fact, less than an hour later, she had tweeted that she was desperately trying to put together an intimate club gig somewhere, the likes of which sadly never came to fruition. No, this was highway robbery for the singer, who had previously shown she could easily headline the festival back in 2014, when she commanded one of the biggest crowds at literally the same stage. For that reason alone, fans should take solace in knowing that whenever she does return, Lorde will be bigger, better, and even stronger. Of course, it’ll be a year after Melodrama, and the moment will have changed considerably, but hey, all good things come with patience.
Having said that, her short performance proved two things for this writer: 1.) Had she been able to continue, there’s no doubt that she was going to win the weekend and 2.) Given that such an iconic performance was taken away from us, there must really be no god watching out for us above. –Michael Roffman
Most Interested in VIP
Tegan and Sara
Tegan and Sara might be the very last band you’d be expecting to focus on the expensive “seats,” but there they were, dedicating a verse to the Lolla attendees who had forked over a little extra cash. “Sara is a people person who really loves the VIPs,” Tegan joked, as her sister eventually wandered over. The jokes kept coming when a plane flew overhead dragging a banner for Trojan. “I myself practice safe sex, and as a gay woman, I would like you all to wave to Trojan BareSkin,” Sara grinned.
But when they weren’t joking around about the very important people or condoms, Tegan and Sara delivered a stellar set that soared on the back of their remarkable voices. Heartthrob highlight “I Couldn’t Be Your Friend” and last year’s “Hang On to the Night” kept the crowd warm and bouncing even as the rain started to fall. Once the VIP jokes subsided, the classic tracks like “Nineteen” and “Living Room” showed just how much Tegan and Sara have been there for everyone, like intimate friends growing, learning, and sharing their deepest feelings. The many smiling and crying faces, kissing couples, and joyous sing-alongs show just how inclusive their love and sweetness is. –Lior Phillips
Headliner By Default
Spoon would never headline a festival as big as Lollapalooza, but that’s more or less what they got to do on Thursday night. Because the rain only began to fall in the second half of their set (“Rainy Taxi” was regrettably absent), they were able to play their entire show — a privilege not granted to the actual headliners of the evening — while also gaining some theatrical muscle to their performance. If the songs of Britt Daniel and co. are wiry and occasionally danceable on a normal day, they’re groovy yet foreboding — downright dramatic, even — in inclement weather. The thunder rolled in with “Got Nuffin”, “My Mathematical Mind” picked up even more slow-burning menace from the fog (some of it natural, some of it from a machine), and forks of lightning punctuated the bridge of “Anything You Want”, a song Daniel wrote just a few miles away in Chicago’s Ukrainian Village neighborhood. –Dan Caffrey
Saturday Morning Fever
You kind of knew Blossoms were going to have a good set when they walked out to Dre’s “What’s the Difference”. And to their credit, the UK indie pop outfit built upon those vibes, delivering an hour-long set filled with rock ‘n’ roll disco that had everyone forgetting it was Saturday afternoon. Try to imagine Phoenix obsessing over ABBA and Nile Rodgers, only in that neon dimension that The Strokes started operating in post-Room on Fire. It’s an excellent place to be, and lead singer Tom Ogden is a wonderful chaperone to have, a lanky cool kid that seemingly strut off the set of Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides. Behind a pair of Lennon shades, he exuded all the right level of chill, both behind and away from the guitar. His crowd work was A+ too, especially during “My Favourite Room”, when he asked if “anybody had been recently dumped.” Several hands went up, but it was a young woman named Sarah who came out on top and who he would serenade, throwing shade to her ex-boyfriend Kyle. It was only one of many awesome moments in Blossoms’ set, which is likely why Ogden told everyone, “it’s been one of our favorite festivals.” Rest assured, it won’t be the last. –Michael Roffman
Most Reliable Headliner
Most of us can admit that Arcade Fire’s latest album, Everything Now, is a bit of a letdown. But every moment of that record still feels custom-built for a festival stage, from the ABBA-nodding disco of the title track to the mechanized romance of Régine Chassagne’s vocals on “Electric Blue”. Even on their weaker songs, Arcade Fire have always gone big, whether it be sonically, emotionally, or both. And that translates well to an event as epic in scope as Lollapalooza.
Always being epic also does make it harder to surprise the audience, but then again, does Arcade Fire really need to at this point? Is it ever not thrilling to see Will Butler pound on his marching drum like a revolutionary soldier during “Rebellion (Lies)” before running into the crowd? Is it ever not uplifting when thousands of people chant the “whoa-oh” intro of “Wake Up”? Is it ever not heartwarming to see Win Butler express gratitude to Chicago for reaffirming his faith in America during the biggest political nightmare of modern times, then launch into “Keep the Car Running”? Hell no. Arcade Fire knows this, and if you’re in the crowd, chances are, you do, too. That’s why you go and see them. Go big or go home. –Dan Caffrey
Whitney’s biggest — and perhaps only — weakness is that the onstage smugness of frontman/drummer Julien Ehrlich clashes with the camaraderie found in the band’s music: both the spirited playing and the songs themselves. Simply put, the dude’s deadpan banter isn’t half as funny as he thinks it is (“What’s up with Blink-182?” he quipped at one point. “Nah, they’re chill.”), particularly when dispersed throughout a set of earnest country soul.
So it was a welcome surprise when Ehrlich announced that, because the band had some friends who were going to be taking the stage, he wouldn’t be talking as much as usual. As he stayed relegated to his falsetto singing voice, the constant stream of cameos proved that Whitney is that rare band that, like Broken Social Scene, gets better with every person added to the lineup. “Red Moon” evolved into an honest-to-God showstopper when fellow Chicagoan Joey Purp dropped a verse over the trumpet-laden instrumental. Later on, a small string section that included frequent Chance the Rapper backing vocalist Macie Stewart (also of Marrow and OHMME) gave other Light Upon the Lake cuts the same lushness that they have on record.
But the evening’s finest moment came with closer “Golden Days”, when Aaron Scott (most famous for his gospel remix of the Golden Girls theme) joined Whitney for the song’s final “na-nas”, his booming voice contrasting good-naturedly with Max Kakacek’s tasteful guitar lines. –Dan Caffrey
Most Exclusive Aftershow
Arguably, the best tradition to come out of Lollapalooza over the years has been the exclusive aftershows at the Metro. The place only holds about 1,000 concertgoers, which is why seeing a juggernaut act like Arcade Fire becomes its own event altogether. As expected, that’s exactly what went down on Saturday night in Wrigleyville when Win Butler and the gang stopped by the iconic venue to shelve out 19 songs. For nearly two hours, the Canadian misfits unlocked a majority of their new album, Everything Now, and paraded through their critically-acclaimed catalog, even sprinkling a couple of surprises here and there in the form of a bizarre deep cut (a lyrical version of “Dimensions” off Her) and a meandering cover (John Lennon’s “Mind Games”, which featured snippets of Radiohead’s “Karma Police” and David Bowie’s “Oh You Pretty Things”).
Somewhere in there, Win Butler slummed it with the crowd, Régine Chassagne prompted everyone to turn on their cell phone lights, Tim Kingsbury remained Tim Kingsbury, and Will Butler couldn’t decide if he wanted to wear his jacket,.
It was exactly what you’d want from them, even if you don’t actually like their new album. They’re unbelievable live performers, and although songs like “Electric Blue”, “Chemistry”, and “Signs of Life” are pretty, pretty … pretty rough, it doesn’t matter. At any given moment, the band can turn to their dozen proven anthems and conjure up some sort of religious experience, no matter the venue. But let’s be real, seeing them play gargantuan favorites like “Rebellion (Lies)” or “Afterlife” or “Wake Up” at a place like the Metro felt out of this world, and it also brought them back down to Earth. Ever since they won the Grammy for The Suburbs, they’ve felt untouchable, some enigmatic force that’s been above it all. Not so on Saturday. Once again, they were the super weird art punks that we all fell in love with on Funeral, and that was incredibly reassuring. –Michael Roffman
Bass So Loud It Rattles Your Goddamn Nosehairs
Hip-hop shows are notoriously hard to review, often more about the energy of the crowd than the actual performance. How do you marry these two seemingly disparate elements? How do you satisfy those who came to see impeccable showmanship and those who just want to go hog wild?
It’s simple, really: Crank the bass to 11,000, cut down on the hype men and backing tracks, and, you know, play whole songs instead of snippets cut short by a gunshot. All of these simple yet effective moves are what made Big Sean’s Sunday evening set such a juggernaut. While he embraced spectacle by using projections, well-timed fireballs, and performing on the steps of a temple facade, he also embraced craftsmanship by restricting the stage to just him and his band. This allowed him to nail every syllable on the fast-paced “Sacrifices” — a feat that would have been much harder with Migos onstage for their guest verses.
The absence of a posse also gave him a direct line to the audience, who exploded into dance at Big Sean’s behest on the G.O.O.D. Music version of “Don’t Like”, then stood at rapt attention just one song later for the ballad “One Man Can Change the World”. Sean’s motivational speech during the verses was brief, heartfelt, and humble, thanking fans and urging them to follow their own dreams like he did. As cheesy as that sounds on paper, the sincerity was effective — a testament that, as a performer, the mid-career rapper knows how to work the crowd in ways that go beyond just pumping everybody up. Any idiot with a microphone can do that.
And that’s the secret to Big Sean’s Lolla set. There’s no disputing how popular he is (one only needed to look at his crowd), but he doesn’t have the critical respectability of Chance, the ego and personality of his mentor Kanye West, or the ubiquity of Drake. In other words, he has more to prove. And on Sunday night, he proved it, bass and all. –Dan Caffrey
Legend Has It…
Run the Jewels
At a festival as massive as Lollapalooza, at a set with a crowd as amped as this one, for a duo as huge as Run the Jewels, Killer Mike and El-P could have easily coasted on their excellent songs — hell, there were other acts doing so without half the catalog. But then Run the Jewels are too concerned about the well-being of the world, from the fans at the front of their stage to the people around the globe. When the kids at the very front of the stage looked like they were getting crushed, Mike called for everyone to take a few steps back. Later, they addressed the rise of sexual assault at festivals: “If you came here looking for love, part of that process is probably not you sticking your dick on the back of some chick’s leg,” El-P said to the crowd, with Mike then chiming in, “Don’t violate people, or we will punch you in the motherfucking face.” They even addressed the recent suicide of Chester Bennington, urging attendees to not succumb to negative feelings. “I’m here to fucking tell you that if you stick around, that shit will change,” El-P said. “We need you to stick around. We need you here.”
When one eager fan held up a sign offering to rap “Legend Has It”, they could’ve just ignored it, but instead they offered him 30 seconds to make it to the stage (“Crowdsurf if you motherfucking have to!”). It only took half that time, and when he did, the result was nothing short of magic. The spindly, unassuming young guy proceeded to give a spot-on rendition of the opening of “Legend Has It”, leading to Mike picking him up and spinning him around — without the young rapper missing a beat. But Mike and El were the rappers that the masses had come to see, and they topped even that high. “Panther Like a Panther”, “Lie, Cheat, Steal”, and “Stay Gold” were highlights, but there truly wasn’t a track that didn’t result in raised firsts, massive applause, and head-banging intensity. “This is a very fucking surreal and very fucking amazing moment,” El said. “Thank you so much for spending time with us. We never thought this would get this fucking big.” But it certainly was big, and Run the Jewels show signs of getting even bigger as they reach out and make an impression, one set at a time. –Lior Phillips
Thursday Night Heroes
Ryan Adams and The Districts
It’s easy to crap on Lollapalooza, and so many of my colleagues often do. I’ll even do it myself if it’s the last day of the festival and things are getting rough. “It’s too big! It’s too dirty! It rains! There are too many teenagers!” All of this is true, but if you focus too much on the negatives, you overlook the fact that, at the end of the day, this is a festival that gathers so many incredible artists from all over the musical map into one place for a few days. While it does turn downtown Chicago into a circus, it also makes for some concert experiences you’ll never forget.
For me, one of those happened Thursday night at Ryan Adams and The Districts’ after-show at The Vic. The entire set lent extra momentum to songs from Prisoner and Adams’ self-titled album, but if I was going to distill the magic of the night into a single moment, it would be during “When the Stars Go Blue”. After his band switched out the acoustic guitar with a reflective synth line (the same great trick Adams pulled when covering Taylor Swift’s 1989, the blue stage lights took aim at the venue’s giant disco ball, bathing the entire theater in a midnight hue as the song picked up around the minute-and-a-half line.
Although the effect would get lost to the daylight (and absence of a disco ball) at Adams’ Lolla set the next day, here, one light and sound cue summed up the vulnerability that makes his music so great, even when it rubs up against the artist’s adolescent sense of humor (there were plenty of jokes about Star Wars and Slayer throughout the evening). When a stage manager from The Vic came on the PA to inform Adams that he had gone over curfew (probably thanks to an overlong jam on “Magnolia Mountain”), it didn’t matter; the crowd had already been part of something special. They would have gladly listened to more songs, but, at that point, they also didn’t need to.
The Districts struggled more than Adams, even while bringing their usual hypnotic abandon to their playing. Although this molds older, road-tested material like “Chlorine” and “4th & Roebling” into full-on sonic cannonballs, they could stand to take more time with their newer, more avant-garde songs from the upcoming Popular Manipulations. On record, the weird rock flourishes are refreshing (think Expo 86-era Wolf Parade), but the band’s reliance on effects pedals during “If Before I Wake” and “Ordinary Day” muddled the live performance to the point where it was hard to understand anything frontman Rob Grote was singing or even saying.
That’s okay, though. The young band has spirit and talent to spare. They also have plenty of future Lollapaloozas to create some unforgettable moments of their own. Getting to open for Ryan Adams is probably already one of them. –Dan Caffrey
Pure Fucking Romance
The xx had what may have been the most undesirable slot on this Lollapalooza’s schedule. The London trio may have been headlining on Saturday night, but they were headlining opposite Chance the Rapper, a hometown hero who drew one of the largest crowds in the festival’s history. As such, the band’s crowd was, by Lollapalooza headliner standards, shockingly small, especially when set against the sprawling, grassy expanse leading up to the Bud Light stage. But The xx is the kind of band people obsess over, so everyone who was there was there not because they’d just wandered over, but because they wanted to dance their way into the dreamy, melancholic spiral that consumes everyone it touches.
“Intro” and “Crystalised” set the tone straightaway, erecting a silver aura where heartbreak is as beautiful as it is destructive. But it was the sumptuous, starry-eyed splendor of “Say Something Loving” that really got our hearts fluttering. We know the xx are cool, but Christ, they’re also so completely, stupidly sexy. “All my hesitations are fading, fading,” they sing, and you feel it. “I can’t give it up,” Madley Croft purrs during “Infinity”, sexual yearning oozing through every echoing, escalating note. Her vulnerability was palpable (and painful) during “Brave for You”, and, later, during the ecstatic “On Hold”, there’s genuine love in lyrics like, “I don’t blame you, we got carried away.” The xx is every kiss you couldn’t control. And Madley Croft and Sim’s dual vocals are the conversation you need to have about them.
The band’s 75-minute set passed like a dream, but peaked with the their revamped rendition of “Shelter”. On album, “Shelter” is spare and desperate, but live it’s transformed into an unlikely banger by the club-ready dance track Jamie plants beneath it. Here, the song’s descending guitar line restrains itself, appearing only in its final moments to suck us back to reality like the midnight breeze beyond the club’s doors. The track’s central conflict is maintained, but its central plea to “make it better with the lights turned off” resonates as less desperate and more confident.
Confidence is something The xx exude these days. They’ve come a long way since 2009, and it shows in both their advancement as artists and their presence onstage, which remains strikingly vulnerable and so, so graceful. Anybody who wasn’t yearning already that night was feeling it as the closing chorus of “Angels” signaled the end of their set. “Being as in love with you as I am/ Being as in love, love, love…”
For The xx, love isn’t something you trust. Not at first, at least. It’s something you savor. And we were all savoring it that night. –Randall Colburn
Got The City Doing Front Flips
Chance the Rapper
When not displaying the acts on the jumbo video screens, the Lollapalooza videographers have largely stuck to panning shots of giddy fans for ambiance — that is, except for Chance the Rapper. The hometown hip-hop hero’s set opened with a montage of press coverage, awards presentations, and celebrity recognition, from Kendrick Lamar to Michelle Obama. The video celebrated his million-dollar donation to Chicago Public Schools and his Grammys. And once he hit the stage, the cameras cut away to lingering, romantic shots of the Chicago skyline as much as the teeming masses. Chance certainly shared in the appreciation for his hometown; his first word upon taking the stage was a screamed “Chicago!” Later, he took time to note exactly what part of the city he was from, that he’d gone to high school just around the corner, and exactly how much he loved Chicago food.
But then the young rapper is already a Lolla veteran, now three editions in. Add to that his increasing fame, the critical and commercial good will, a spot on one of the biggest songs of the summer in addition to his own continuously trending Coloring Book jams, and one of the largest crowds in Lollapalooza history, and the stage was set for a sterling performance.
Granted, the set didn’t differ much from Chance’s other recent festival performances, but the differences were important. The fireworks were a nice touch, reminiscent of the ones that cap off night games for his beloved White Sox. While other performers might spray the crowd with water bottles, Chance opted for a full-on fire hose, with the help of two Chicago firemen. And while he didn’t bring out local collaborators like Noname, Saba, or Jamila Woods, one guest was more than a pleasant surprise. Chance’s longtime compatriot/sometime friendly rival Vic Mensa came out for two songs (Chance’s “Cocoa Butter Kisses” and his own “Didn’t I (Say I Didn’t)”), theoretically burying whatever hatchet had been rumored to be stuck between them. “Fame will take you a lot of places, but don’t let it take away your family,” Chance said, his arm wrapped around Vic.
Family, as always with Chance, was a running theme. In addition to Vic, Chance showed plenty of love to his Social Experiment band mates and sang songs full of love for his family (his grandma-indebted “Sunday Candy” is always a smash). The massive field united in sing-along, dance-along bliss to songs like “All Night”, “No Problem”, and “Friends” near the set’s end. Everything’s all about friends and family, Chance bringing the entire city together. –Lior Phillips
Meet Your New Headliners
Cage the Elephant
Is there any other modern band as consistent as Cage the Elephant? With every release, from their 2009 self-titled debut to 2011’s Thank You Happy Birthday to 2013’s Melophobia to 2015’s Tell Me I’m Pretty, the band have continually crafted infectious, emotional singles that can instantly pop an adoring audience. “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked”, “Shake Me Down”, “Cigarette Daydreams”, “Telescope”, “Trouble” — they’ve got the hits to be headliners. And now, after what felt like a landmark set on Thursday night, the band has proven it has the talent and control to captivate an audience in the tens of thousands.
Frontman Matthew Shultz buzzsawed onstage with fishnets and a tiny, purple dress clinging to his wiry, muscular frame, quickly establishing himself as the feral offspring of Mick Jagger and David Bowie through explosive renditions of “Too Late to Say Goodbye”, “Punchin’ Bag”, “Mess Around”, and “Cold Cold Cold” that took on an added dimension through his crackling, electric passion, which pulsed atop pitch-perfect instrumentation. As Shultz caterwauled his way across the stage and, on multiple occasions, the photo pit, the band sang along, sometimes into mics and sometimes just into the audience, a testament to just how much this band thrives on the sounds of its own music. They’re still having fun, and that is so, so important.
Schultz finished the set by climbing the sound island’s scaffolding; so untethered was he during the set that everybody was prepared for him to leap off into the crowd. Wisely, he didn’t. Nobody needs an injured frontman when your band is about to be in demand at every festival across the country. — Randall Colburn