Music writer Piet Levy provides five picks for acts to see at the 2016 Lollapooza festival in Chicago’s Grant Park. Video by Chelsey Lewis
CHICAGO — Look at the bright side, Lollapalooza goers: the worst has got to be behind us.
The Chicago fest’s first night came to a sudden, and soaked, end when downpours forced a mass evacuation around 9:10 p.m., causing closers Lorde, Muse, Lil Uzi Vert and Porter Robinson to cut their sets short.
On Thursday, it seemed abbreviated sets were the trend nobody wanted. Under beautiful blue skies, Liam Gallagher only played for 20 minutes, and Migos for 30 minutes, even though they were both obligated for an hour.
Here are five takeaways from Lollapalooza’s first day.
Short sets aplenty: Has any man holding maracas looked more miserable than Liam Gallagher at Lollapalooza Thursday?
The Oasis co-founder was dour from the jump, and combined with the peak heat of the late afternoon, his set was doomed. After obliging fans with half-hearted renditions of Oasis favorites Morning Glory and Rock ‘n’ Roll Star (written by estranged brother Noel), Gallagher left the stage in the middle of a song after about 20 minutes, later suggesting on Twitter that a show Wednesday night had ruined his voice. (Although he honestly sounded fine Thursday.)
Right after that, hip-hop trio Migos took the stage 35 minutes behind schedule due to an “unplanned incident,” according to video screen messages. The Atlanta trap trio failed to find a rhythm, leaping from stunted, 10-second snippets to overlong, energy-sapping performances of blockbusters like “Bad and Boujee.”
Lorde’s set got off to a dramatic start, with the 20-year-old pop phenom dancing dramatically in the rain to Tennis Court and Disclosure’s Magnets while actors performed silent scenes in a transparent rectangular cube above the stage.
Jokingly implying that the bad weather was because her new album, Melodrama, was about a witch, Lorde got a big cheer telling the crowd that together they would “conjure the spirits.”
Well you just had to get the spirits involved, didn’t you Lorde, because moments later, she was summoned off stage due to incoming bad weather, promising she’d be back as she scurried. Moments later, everyone was told to evacuate.
Veteran rockers keep it fresh: Last month, the inevitable happened when rock officially lost its ranking as music’s most consumed genre, according to Nielsen. A couple of Lolla’s rock acts Thursday did show a way to stay relevant.
For Cage the Elephant, that means putting on a killer set. Sporting a glittery purple dress and black fishnet stockings Thursday, Matt Shultz is the closest any 21st-century rock star has come to capturing the renegade spirit of Iggy Pop and Mick Jagger; from mid-air scissor kicks from the mic stand, to a piggy back ride on his guitarist brother Brad’s back, who himself leaped into the crowd.
For Spoon, staying fresh means exploring new territory while maintaining amazing quality control after a quarter-century run. Britt Daniel’s band is part of a growing trend of seasoned rock groups drawn to the dance floor (fellow dabblers the Killers and Arcade Fire also play Lolla this weekend), but it was even clearer Lolla that it’s part of a natural evolution, with taut, 12-year-old indie rock stomper I Turn My Camera On flowing naturally into delicious new jams Hot Thoughts and Can I Sit Next To You.
Worth seeing again: It was only two years ago that Wiz Khalifa had a massive hit with See You Again, but maybe people didn’t want to see it again, since the crowd for Khalifa had thinned out a bit from the masses waiting at the same stage for Migos just two hours later.
The Migos guys could still learn a thing or two from Khalifa. Sure, his brand of hip-hop isn’t anywhere near as potent, diluting the beat with creamy pop melodies, but Khalifa is the better showman, staying on brand Thursday with his chilled-out, pop-loving persona, without so much as a whiff of disinterest.
Jumping for Jain: Newcomer Jain playfully spliced together Parisian house beats, Congolese percussion, jazz noir horns, even the Inspector Gadget theme song at her Lolla set Thursday. They were all samples, although Jain had plenty of charisma, with broken English no less, to make up for the lack of organic instruments, even convincing the crowd to take a seat and leap to the air for finale Makeba. She creatively turned the crowd into an instrument too, using the circular wave of her arm to control the audience’s unified vocal pitch, like a theremin powered by several hundred people.
EDM’s Next Superstar Act, For Better Or Worse: So who’s ready for the next Chainsmokers?
If reading that sentence makes you gag, guess what: it’s inevitable and unavoidable. And smart money suggests the clichés-embracing, pop-radio-ready Cheat Codes will break big; it’s already at No. 33 on Spotify’s list of most-streamed artists in the world.
Live at Lolla’s upgraded Perry’s stage Thursday, Cheat Codes channeled the Chainsmokers’ shallow bro swagger and went cheap and lazy with the clumsy, high octane mix, including a revamped “Seven Nation Army” that’d undoubtedly disgust Jack White.
There was one cartoonishly funny moment when Cheat Codes’ Trevor Dahl caught a fan’s flying iPhone from the stage, snapped a selfie, and threw it across the cavernous photo pit to the owner, unscathed. Dahl also tossed a massive wad of dollar bills into the crowd, so Cheat Codes has bribery going for ‘em.
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