It never rained on Lollapalooza, but that didn’t stop the fest’s organizers, C3, from both evacuating the whole fest Sunday afternoon under threat of thunderstorms and then, later that night, shutting down the festival’s closers 30 minutes early. That kind of rainy speculation put a damper on the annual event, which brings about 300,000 spectators to Chicago’s Grant Park every August.
All that being said, tens of thousands of scantily clad teens still seemed to have a great time, roaming the grounds in drunken packs and getting down to everything from A$AP Rocky to Paul McCartney. And, as always, The A.V. Club was there, covering the whole damn thing. Below are some of our picks for the best, worst, and most whatever moments of the three-day musical slog.
Sound bleed can never be completely eliminated when there are multiple stages at a music festival, especially when it comes to Perry’s stage at Lollapalooza. The bass from the EDM oasis carries farther than sound from the other stages, and it particularly affects the nearby Sprint and Samsung Galaxy stages, the latter being one of two big headliner spots. Paul McCartney took the Samsung stage Friday night half an hour before Chicago-bred Kaskade performed at Perry’s, which meant Sir Paul began to notice the incessant thumping coming from the north about right when he was making a heartfelt dedication of “Here Today” to John Lennon. McCartney started to play the song, then stopped. “This is a mashup of this song and whatever shit they’re playing,” he said, motioning to Perry’s. Granted, a quiet, acoustic song isn’t always the best choice for a big outdoor festival—though “Blackbird,” which immediately preceded “Here Today,” was pretty great—but McCartney wouldn’t stay somber for long. The second half of the nearly 30-song set was wall-to-wall hits, particularly a stretch that went “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” “Band On The Run,” “Back In The U.S.S.R.,” “Let It Be,” “Live And Let Die,” then closed out with “Hey Jude” before the encore. “Live And Let Die,” in particular, took the whole set up a few notches, with pyro and fireworks. The crowd went ballistic, and sound bleed from Perry’s was no longer an issue. [Kyle Ryan]
Proving there is occasionally such a thing as truth in advertising, Bud Light’s “Up For Whatever” area fulfilled the belief than an executive somewhere was ordered to create a space for random weirdness, picked a few ideas out of a hat, and said, “whatever.” While drinking my surprisingly not-awful cocktail (a blend of the company’s Lime-A-Rita and Straw-Ber-Rita beverages), I was encouraged, in no particular order, to:
1. Play dress-up with a bunch of random “rock star” accouterments like cobbled together from a high-school drama department props room.
2. Watch graffiti artists create images in a diorama-like enclave.
3. Get my hair styled.
4. Get a temporary tattoo.
I opted for the first choice, and a very friendly woman named Mignon (yes, like the steak) helped me get gussied up like a low-rent Slash. I let her pick out all my sartorial choices, and this was the result:
After that, I was accosted by a high-energy bro who insisted I record a video asking Bud Light to do “something crazy” for me and four of my friends—the crazier my idea, he said, the better the chance the beer company would select my entry and make it come true. He handed me an iPad and pressed the “record” button. I panicked—I think I said something about waterskiing down the side of a mountain? I don’t even know how that would happen, but it sounded pretty “extreme,” I guess. [Alex McCown]
All respect to G-Eazy, Travi$ Scott, and Young Thug, but A$AP Rocky delivered the best rap set of Lollapalooza this year and it wasn’t even close. The Harlem native had no “Fuckin’ Problems” drawing in a massive early evening crowd and getting them to collectively lose their shit. Rolls of toilet paper flew threw the air, multiple mosh pits broke out in numerous areas of the crowd, and men, women, teens, and even a dude in a wheelchair surfed over the heads of the gathered mass. Rocky incessantly implored the crowd to make some noise and helped fuel the fire with fiery cuts from his first two albums like “Wild For The Night” and “Holy Ghost,” out-of-nowhere cover bangers like “Jump Around” by House Of Pain and “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana and an extra special cameo by Chicago native Vic Mensa for a performance of his breakout hit “U Mad.” Needless to say, we were all happy to oblige his many requests. [Corbin Reiff]
Was it a motivational seminar, or was it a performance by Walk The Moon? Probably both. Singer-keyboardist Nicholas Petricca prefaced his group’s songs with positive affirmations, reassuring the crowd that everything was okay and we’re all good people, etc. Toward the end of the set, he asked the audience to send all of their negative energy his way, all the troubles in their hearts and anxiety on their minds, so that only positive energy remained inside them. If you believe in that sort of thing, that’s a lot of bad mojo to take on, but this is a guy who wrote a song called “I Can Lift A Car,” so he can take it. [Kyle Ryan]
People hoping to secure a spot early for a festival-closing set by Norwegian DJ/producer Kygo had to sit through the avant-garde R&B of FKA Twigs first, which made for some amusing confusion in the audience. “We came early for Kygo,” said a guy standing next to The A.V. Club speaking to some other bewildered Kygo fans, “and we’re like, ‘What is this?’” Even fans of Twigs were likely thrown by seeing it performed live, her halting voice atop songs that defy easy melodies, not to mention her highly sexualized stage presence. One thing’s for sure: Kygo fans won’t forget what they saw (especially after his set was cut short by the day’s second evacuation). [Kyle Ryan]
Though she made a huge splash in the back half of 2014, most of the attention directed toward FKA Twigs this year and has been focused on who she’s dating and that’s a damn shame because she is one hell of a performer. Thankfully, the late Sunday set found the singer-songwriter-dancer reminding the audience that she is a force to be reckoned with. Smoke filled the stage, masking all of the tape and wires, ensuring that this was no one’s moments but hers. As she writhed and contorted to otherworldly beats, twigs hypnotized the crowd with her delicate vocal work and smoldering sexuality. When FKA Twigs on stage, she is all that matters. [Cameron Scheetz]
When Metallica took the stage Saturday night, nary an amplifier could be seen. When Charli XCX played the smaller Sprint stage that afternoon, she performed in front of a wall of 12 guitar cabinets. The disconnect was especially pronounced considering the sugary pop songs on XCX’s thoroughly enjoyable 2014 album, Sucker. None of those cabinets appeared to miked, so they were purely ornamental, but XCX quickly showed she didn’t take any of it seriously: During her second song, “Breaking Up,” she “played” an immense inflatable guitar, the kind a giant would win at a state fair. She could’ve used its help when she decided to “perform” Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy”; she sang the hook, like she does in the song, but then danced around while a backing track of Azalea rapped. It was a weird, pad-out-the-set, you-might-know-me-from-this moment that landed awkwardly. [Kyle Ryan]
If any band at Lollapalooza had reason to hook up 12 guitar cabinets, it’s Metallica, but the metal godfathers stripped down the stage to emphasize the performance: Besides each member’s respective instrument, no gear appeared on stage, and two simple banners, showing what looked like stylized construction trusses, hung down on the interior sides of the stage. Metallica made up for that simplicity by packing the stage with people—maybe the VIPs whose views were now obstructed by the banners—who stood behind the band on risers (and still managed to look at their phones for a good chunk of the show). The band wisely adhered to the classics during its lengthy set, which stretched longer for all the other performers closing out Saturday night. The band may not have had clearance to keep playing, but who’s going to them to stop during “Nothing Else Matters” and “Enter Sandman”? [Kyle Ryan]
The biggest casualty of the day’s storms had to be the abbreviated headlining show from Florence And The Machine. The afternoon showers had already pushed the start time back a bit and, just as the show was hitting its stride, lighting began to rip in the distance. Florence stopped to comment on the beauty of it all (and she wasn’t wrong), but the real magic was happening on stage. With leaps and bounds and an unmatched voice, she converted everyone into a believer, and the inclement weather only seemed to feed into her power. It certainly stung to hear that the set would have to end early, but that didn’t stop anyone from leaping like maniacs and singing along to a finale-worthy rendition of “Dog Days Are Over.” [Cameron Scheetz]
Ohio duo Twenty One Pilots freely incorporates hip-hop, electronic music, pop, and screamo into its immensely popular mélange, so it’s not shocking the band put the brakes on its set about halfway through for a faithful rendition of Bob Marley’s “No Woman No Cry.” Also not shocking: that it was terrible. [Kyle Ryan]
When dude-bros would furiously book it toward the Perry’s stage, terrified they’d miss the beat drop. Guys, another beat will drop in 30 seconds. That’s what happens at the Perry’s stage. Beats drop. And, ya know, drugs. [Randall Colburn]
As it’s aged and adapted to the times, Lollapalooza has come to focus more and more on EDM, pop, and hip-hop. This is awesome, of course, but all the beats, synths, and wubs can become overwhelming. That’s where The Tallest Man On Earth’s Kristian Matsson comes in. As gentle breezes carved holes in the heat on Saturday afternoon, so did the Swedish songwriter’s cracked, emotional caterwaul, which rang out with tender selections from his entire body of work. And though he now plays with a full band—piano, strings, saxophone, and more—he went solo for a trio of early songs (“Love Is All,” “The Gardener,” “A Lion’s Heart”). There was something wounded about Matsson during his set, however, a pain no doubt associated with his recent divorce. “I am lost all the time,” he said with melancholy at one point between songs, which made his performance of cuts from the Sometimes The Blues Is Just A Passing Bird EP a touch more heartbreaking. Sometimes, it seems, they aren’t. [Randall Colburn]
The War On Drugs is amazing. It’s also, well, predictable. If you’ve seen ’em once, you know what you’re in for. Sure, there’s sometimes a surprise or two, a deep cut off Slave Ambient, perhaps, or a performance of “Arms Like Boulders,” both of which we got from the band on Friday night. Sound issues hindered frontman Adam Granduciel’s killer riffs in the early going, unfortunately, but the audience breathed a sigh of relief when all was fixed before “Red Eyes” could explode into its chorus. As usual, the band cycled through cuts from last year’s Lost In The Dream (“Burning,” “In Reverse,” “An Ocean In Between The Waves”), but, when we’re talking a record as good as that one, it’s not like anybody’s complaining. [Randall Colburn]
Country music is not a genre known for packing them in on the big-time festival circuit, but then again Sturgill Simpson does not exactly fit in with the typical country set. With his Waylon Jennings vocal tone, it’s easy to confuse him as a throwback, but he’s something different altogether. The themes he explores are typically metaphysical, mystifying, and mysterious and he wraps them up in music that is manifestly vintage. Let’s just say, you won’t find him singing songs about drinking a beer in his truck by a fishing hole with his dog anytime soon, but you will get excellent tracks like “Turtles All The Way Down” and “It Ain’t All Flowers.” He’s the anti-bro. Quick aside, I’m not sure what Simpson is paying his guitarist Laur Joamets, but even without knowing the figure, I think that that man deserves a raise. From classic rock sounds, vintage country twang, fast-paced bluegrass, even a simulated lap-steel section, the guy seemingly did it all on his beat-up Gibson Firebird. Hats off to you sir. [Corbin Reiff]
It was very bright and very hot as Tame Impala took the Samsung stage in the early evening of the festival’s second day. “You sure do like your sun don’t you?” singer Kevin Parker posited rhetorically from the stage. Yes Kevin, after the continuous blizzard that was our winter a few months back here in Chicago, we’ll take it when we can get it. Tame Impala’s music actually matched the atmosphere perfectly. The heat added an extra dimension of sensory overload to a showcase already brimming with trippy visuals, dense clouds of manufactured smoke, and the dizzying sounds from the band’s back catalog. Songs from the band’s latest record Currents fit in fantastically with the band’s older songs with the set-opener “Let it Happen” being a real highlight. [Corbin Reiff]
It’s been seven years since Kid Cudi debuted with A Kid Named Cudi, and the Brooklyn rapper has done well on subsequent releases, but to see the enormous crowd gathered on the north side of Grant Park, festival-goers would be forgiven for thinking Kendrick Lamar was about to take the stage. Cudi, who recently took over band-leader duties on Comedy Bang! Bang!, seemed a little surprised by the size of the crowd himself. But the elation was clear on his face, and the timing was auspicious: Cudi released a new single, “Confused,” the same day. [Kyle Ryan]
Headlining the second night of Lolla opposite Metallica—how could fans of both choose?—clearly affected Sam Smith, who spent a lot of time during his set discussing inspirations for his songs (a careerist producer for “Money On My Mind,” a drunk-dial for “I’ve Told You Now”) and generally getting personal with his audience. Judging by the screams and cheers, they loved it, and they were overwhelmingly female. Before “Nirvana,” he mentioned how his breakthrough album, In The Lonely Hour, was the first where he allowed himself to be honest in his music. The testimonials continued all night, along with dedications (Amy Winehouse for his cover of her “Tears Dry On Their Own”) and effusive praise for his band. Lollapalooza likely felt like a victory lap for Smith after two years of touring In The Lonely Hour, and he enjoyed himself taking it: “This has been one of the most amazing festivals I’ve ever done in my life,” he said before “Stay With Me,” the finale of playing all of In The Lonely Hour’s songs. [Kyle Ryan]
I’m not sure I’ve ever been won over as quickly by an artist I was previously lukewarm on as I was by Sylvan Esso on Friday night. Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn walked out on stage with a friendly wave, the first beat started up, and Meath’s dancing didn’t seem to stop for the next 40 minutes straight. And not just any old dancing; Meath moves with ebullient abandon, like tiny aliens have just taken control of a human body for the first time, and are reveling in all the fun stuff they can make it do. She slinks around the stage like an animation breaker on So You Think You Can Dance, as Sanborn tweaks his instruments, and the songs have a joyful potency that transcends the recordings. Even the usual annoying people in the festival crowd who seem determined to talk through every performance they attend can’t deny the immediacy and electricity of the performance, and soon, everyone is moving to the beat. “You’ve all chosen to forsake McCartney—all of you,” Sanborn teased, and the roar that greeted his comment is proof enough that not a single person regretted their decision. [Alex McCown]
Los Angeles group Lord Huron lost some time on its set after the rain delay on Sunday, but the amiable indie-folk band ambled through its set with an easygoing charm. Lollapalooza generally doesn’t offer much in the way of folksy Americana, so it’s nice when some of that breaks onto the lineup. The songs from this year’s Strange Trails have a polish and accessibility that should portend bigger things for Lord Huron—maybe even a full set at a subsequent Lollapalooza. [Kyle Ryan]
Josh Tillman is clearly a man who spends a great deal of time thinking about, writing, and recording richly orchestrated and heavily personalized music. His alter ego Father John Misty seemingly expends just as much time and effort savagely ripping away at any of the self-seriousness that that process inevitably breeds. For the hour that Tillman spent on the Palladia stage, his body language became sarcasm incarnate and he constantly needled the crowd for their boisterous reaction to his songs with offhanded comments like, “What do you care, you’re all on ecstasy anyway,” and, “Shh my feelings!” In lesser hands, the shtick could grow old rather quickly, but Tillman remained totally committed to the bit. It didn’t hurt that the music itself, songs like “When You Are Smiling And Astride Me” and “True Affection” sounded absolutely fantastic. As his time came to a close he took one final parting shot at himself and all of us by introducing his I Love You, Honeybear centerpiece “Bored in the USA” by drolly saying, “That’s what gets you the big 2:30 pm slot; the ballads.” [Corbin Reiff]
If you had genetically engineered a rock band to be the ultimate arena-ready ensemble, you couldn’t get closer to the ideal type than Coasts. The band cannily melds anthemic mid-’90s alt-rock with the bombast of U2, but set to the pulsing beats of a New Order-meets-Britpop rhythm. In short, it’s the perfect fusion for 21st century mainstream success—danceable Madchester beats harnessed to soaring melodies. Frontman Chris Caines even has the moves and vibes of a young Bono (and it doesn’t hurt that he looks like a well-coiffed male model version of a young Jason Patric). It’s all pealing guitars, grand sweeping refrains, and the most heartfelt, emotive vocals this side of a Shania Twain tune. If you dislike it, it all probably comes across as incredibly calculated; even the song names (“Modern Love,” “A Rush Of Blood,” “Oceans”) seem geared to conjure up associations with other superstar arena-rock acts like Coldplay and Pearl Jam. But this park full of people clapping along would disagree with such a cynical assessment. Mark our words, this band is going to be goddamn huge. Guys, if you need a Jon Landau once you get more famous than Jesus, I’m throwing my hat in the ring. [Alex McCown]
At any given moment during Twin Peaks’ sun-soaked set, there were hundreds of hands raised to the sky, clapping along to the chaos, but you could also point out quite a few flailing feet, as feisty audience members surfed through the crowd. The Chicago natives let loose and the fans were right there with them: Jumping, head-banging, and shouting along to seriously infectious jams like “Making Breakfast” and “Strawberry Smoothie.” At one point, a few people used a blanket to repeatedly bounce a girl up into the air. The band watched from the stage, but seemed unfazed: When you’re putting on shows this deliriously fun, you’re probably used to seeing bodies get tossed around. [Cameron Scheetz]
Nashville’s Bully made their mark on Chicago just two weekends ago with a rousing set at Pitchfork, but that didn’t mean they were going to bring anything less than their A-game to Lolla. Ripping right into a brief set of some thrashing cuts from this year’s Feels Like, Alicia Bognanno and company impressed. If the crowd seemed less enthused this time around, it was only due to fatigue from the festival beginning to set in. As was noted post-Pitchfork, Bully feels like a huge new presence in the punk rock scene and their magnetic set this time around only solidified the claim. [Cameron Scheetz]
After he repeatedly shout-requested that Toro Y Moi play a specific song, one dude grabbed his friend by the shoulders and assured him, “Relax, man, it’s Toro.” Initially, the late afternoon set was plagued by unbalanced sound, with blaring bass and strangely hushed vocals, which would’ve made it easy to write off, but, by taking the advice of the chilled-out friend, all thankfully was worked out with time. As the audience eased up and let the proverbial “vibes” wash over, the atmosphere transformed from a sleepy mass of head-bobbers to one funky dance party. [Cameron Scheetz]
There were a number of very impressive guitar players gracing many of various Lollapalooza stages throughout the three-day festival; Kirk Hammett of Metallica, Kevin Parker of Tame Impala, Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes to name a very few. None of them however, approach the instrument with anything close to the ease and natural ability of Gary Clark Jr. There’s a real fluidity to the way he plays. The notes just pour out of him even during infernos like “Grinder” from his upcoming record The Story Of Sonny Boy Slim that closed out his set and “Bright Lights” which opened it. On a night where Sir Paul McCartney threw in a tribute to the late-great Jimi Hendrix in his own set by performing “Foxy Lady,” there was only one guy in the area fit to carry forward the torch of his particular brand of psychedelic-blues rock. [Corbin Reiff]
With everything post 4 p.m. shuffled around on Sunday, most bands set to play right as the park re-opened faced an uphill climb. Tens of thousands of people were still trying to get in the gates, and those who were in were trying to re-hydrate, re-plan, and re-pack their one-hitters. Strand Of Oaks was one of those bands that faced down the reopening precipice and did it with aplomb. The group got everyone lazing around the Pepsi stage up and moving with tracks like “Goshen ’97” and “Shut In,” with lead singer Timothy Showalter even offering a heartfelt thanks to Lolla, a festival he said he’d admired since he was a “weird kid growing up in Northern Indiana.” [Marah Eakin]
Much has already been made of Alabama Shakes’ incredible stage shows, so it shouldn’t come as a shock that they would absolutely kill it, but it was hard not to be floored by their presence. Brittany Howard is the real deal and, as would become obvious during her cameo in Paul McCartney’s set later that night, ranks among the top live performers working today. The festival setting is where a band like Alabama Shakes thrives, and their main stage set did not disappoint, with Howard’s unmistakable howl carrying through the entire southern half of Grant Park. Even a small hiccup that temporarily cut out the sound couldn’t weigh things down for long. Closing things out with a rousing “Gimme All Your Love” sing-along, the band further proved why they are worthy of all of the love they’ve been given. [Cameron Scheetz]
In a year without any major hip-hop headliners, it wasn’t surprising to see rap fans flock in droves over to the smaller BMI stage to catch Young Thug’s early evening showcase. Like an old pro, the 22-year-old artist commanded attention, keeping things moving, fun and fast, only stopping every so often to ask: “How many of y’all are stoned?” The question was redundant the first time he asked though, as clouds of smoke were already wafting through the trees surrounding the crowd. Nevertheless, the energy was high and the audience ate it up. Young Thug knows how to start a party and already act like he’s been doing it for years. [Cameron Scheetz]
The spirit of ’70s folk-rock is alive and well and living in two charming sisters from Sweden. Johanna and Klara Söderberg—a.k.a. First Aid Kit—mix country harmonies and old-school musical stylings with such aplomb, you’d swear you’d entered a portal back in time. And with their only accompaniment a drummer and pedal-steel player, there’s nothing on the stage to indicate it’s 2015. Well, maybe the digital projection of their name on the backdrop, but still. The siblings rock pretty hard for such a non-rock sound; Johanna often head-bangs like she’s at a Soundgarden concert. (Actually, that becomes really fitting during the group’s rousing cover of “War Pigs.”) Plus, the sisters are charming as hell, all smiles and polite exhortations to sing along, like they were standing in for Raffi at a kids’ birthday party. It’s a winning show, and we even overheard one scowling teen gutter-punk grudgingly admit that the sisters “kind of rocked”—which, in cynical teen-speak, is the equivalent of a perfect 10. [Alex McCown]
Watching MisterWives play music is like talking to someone who calls everything “awesome.” Fortunately for them, that type of bland positivity was what the young, hungry Friday afternoon crowd at the Sprint stage craved, and there was ample participation in the band’s numerous whoo-alongs. At their best, the members of MisterWives evoke vintage No Doubt with a vibrant horn section and skank-friendly melodies, but, too often, the songs melted into the sort of saccharine mixture you’d find at the bottom of an orange slush. Shout-out to the guy smoking weed in the Spongebob hat, pineapple button-down, and denim shorts for serving as a sentient embodiment of the band’s music. [Randall Colburn]
From the moment we saw that comically oversized bed—cast in powdery shades of yellow and blue—we wanted to see Tyler, The Creator sit on it, looking small and fragile. Flanked by an oversized chair and dresser, it’s a brilliant piece of set dressing, namely for the ways it acknowledges Tyler’s reputation as a mouthy, immature brat, a label that’s only been inflated as his Odd Future cohorts Frank Ocean and Earl Sweatshirt “mature” in their solo work. Tyler, of course, embraces such criticisms, weaving them into a self-mythology that he’s been crafting with a wisdom beyond his years. So, when he did plant himself at the center of that giant bed for Cherry Bomb’s explosive “IFHY,” it framed the song as the childlike tantrum it is as it cemented Tyler’s identity as hip-hop’s obnoxious, apoplectic grandson. Sure, Tyler may be fading in relevance as his contemporaries ascend, but he is nothing if not an entertainer. Saturday’s set was a goddamned firecracker. [Randall Colburn]
Brand New doesn’t like playing its old stuff. Well, it doesn’t really seem that way, at least. On Saturday evening, the Long Island rockers only played two tracks off cult favorite Deja Entendu—“Sic Transit Gloria…Glory Fades” and “Okay I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don’t”—and neither of them sounded particularly good. In a way, this makes sense. Since they released 2001’s impossibly catchy (and comically hateful) Your Favorite Weapon, the band’s been distancing themselves from the pop-punk scene that spawned them to make aggressive post-punk that mirrors the thrashiness of their onstage antics. It’s no surprise, then, that the set leaned heavily towards their latter LPs, with a blessed emphasis on 2006’s incredible The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me over 2009’s disappointing Daisy. One surprise, however, was “Seventy Times 7,” a Your Favorite Weapon track that, along with the rest of the album, wasn’t played at all at their headlining set at the House Of Blues the previous night. Frontman Jesse Lacey called it a “bonus song,” not without at least a hint of disdain. He also chucked his guitar against the amps at the end of the set. This is, perhaps, the most believable response a thirtysomething would have to having to play a song he wrote as an immature, pissed-off teenager. [Randall Colburn]
It’s not that Night Terrors Of 1927 frontman Jarrod Gorbel is a bad singer, it’s just that he’s got Blake Sennett and Lauren White, two extremely talented vocalists, relegated to harmonies. It’s especially disappointing to not hear Sennett take the lead, as his work with Rilo Kiley and The Elected has always exuded a depth of character and vulnerability that Gorbel’s Springsteenian croon just can’t muster. Not that Sennett isn’t pulling his weight; in fact, he’s the driving force behind the band’s anthemic sound, which evokes anthemic pop bands like Fun and Walk The Moon in its naive grandeur. Songs like “It Would Be An Honor” and “Dust And Bones,” as urgent as they are catchy, rained like Perrier over the parched crowd, making for a cathartic start to Sunday’s festivities. Now, if only we could peel back those harmonies to reveal the talents beneath. [Randall Colburn]
Albert Hammond Jr. loves guitars. Onstage, he shreds beside two other guitarists, one of whom displayed his utter devotion to all that is rock during “Everyone Gets A Star.” In short, his guitar strap broke, but when a roadie brought him a new one he waved it off, intent on nailing every note of the riff-heavy anthem. There was something thrilling about watching the dude balance the axe on his knee, his fingers scaling the fret with absolute precision. Of course, everyone sounded on point as Hammond led his crew through burners from the just-released Momentary Masters and 2013’s excellent AHJ EP. I hope somebody bought that guy a beer. [Randall Colburn]
Get Wet, of course. In a perfect scheduling move, the smooth jams of the Brooklyn-based trio were able to flourish in the shady cove of the Pepsi stage. Something like a hybrid between Chvrches and The xx, Wet played a short but impressive set that offered a cool respite amid the craziness of the weekend. It was a hot one, to be sure, but the second the guitar kicked in on favorite “You’re The Best,” a breeze rolled through the crowd. There’s such a sincerity behind their heartfelt slow-burns that it’s hard to not let their sound completely wash over you and make you forget that you’re completely drenched in sweat. [Cameron Scheetz]
“Get your hands up!” Daye Jack wastes no time pulling out the time-honored moves during his noontime set, even though a good number of his songs involve exhortations to be okay, feel all right, do what you wanna do, and so on. There’s a relaxed, day-drinking vibe to his performance, with the early Lolla crowd swaying gently in the midday sun. It’s the hottest part of the day, but thankfully, the BMI stage is in a location that casts maximum shade over the audience area, creating an inviting atmosphere for the chilled-out onlookers. It might be too mellow of a vibe, judging from the steady stream of people wandering in and out as he performs. Daye’s flow is confident and measured, but he’s still finding his voice as an artist. He toggles between multiple vocal stylings—often within the same song, as some choices work better than others. He almost takes it too easy during his set, content to ride a decent hook through the entire duration of a track. Sure, it’s an early, laid-back performance, but he should push himself harder; there’s plenty of potential in his material, and with some further growth as a performer, he could become a formidable talent, indeed. [Alex McCown]
Heavy winds swept throughout Grant Park this weekend, which was great for potential heat stroke victims but bad for partiers at the Perry’s stage, various sections of which are carpeted with sand. Curtains of the grainy stuff often accompanied the gusts, stinging eyes but also conjuring the spirit of DJ Darude’s 1999 trance hit, a likely influence on the EDM stage’s numerous acts throughout the weekend. [Randall Colburn]
New Zealand’s Georgia and Caleb Nott form Broods, a glitzy synth-pop outfit that, at its best, evokes the moody romance of a moonlit disco. It’s no surprise, then, that a midday set on a scorching summer day was not their ideal venue. Still, the Notts oozed energy and thick, weepy synths as they blazed through bangers like “Everytime” and “Mother & Father” from last year’s enjoyable Evergreen, lathering the audience into hop-happy frenzy. But as the set went on, more and more concertgoers fled to the pockets of shade circling the Pepsi stage. Don’t blame Broods, blame that blasted sun, which perched itself directly above the tip of the stage and poured directly into the eyes of the audience. As if their name wasn’t already an indication, it’s kaleidoscopic disco lights, not UV rays, that bring their music to life. [Randall Colburn]
Holychild wants it both ways. Usually, you can’t have it both ways. But Holychild has it both ways. Fronted by the deliciously magnetic Liz Nistico, Holychild makes crystalline pop music that, in much the way that multi-instrumentalist Louie Diller alternates between real and synthetic drums mid-song, leaps back and forth between satirical and inspirational. It’s not like they cancel each other out, after all, and it’s fascinating to watch Nistico flash a bubblegum smile before lacing her voice (and her eyes) with a scrim of genuine menace. During “Tell Me How It Is”—one of many solid bangers from this year’s The Shape Of Brat Pop To Come—Nistico climbed deep into the crowd, where she was swallowed in a sea of flashing smartphones. What made this all the more affecting were the lyrics she was singing: “You cannot know me, no you cannot.” Onstage, in her music, and in the crowd, Nistico shows you everything, but I believe her when she says we cannot know her. She’s having it both ways, and it’s amazing. [Randall Colburn]
Arizona-born musician Zella Day makes melodrama. That’s not a slam, necessarily. Melodrama works: the sentiments are simple, the emotions run high, and it’s all immediately affecting, if not horribly resonant. During her Saturday set, powerful, hook-heavy songs like “Jerome” and “Ace Of Hearts” had crowds swaying in the hazy, midday heat. But when she dedicated “1965,” a track from this year’s Kicker, to a family friend, cryptically uttering, “I just want to say her name,” it felt a bit too weighty for her crowd of sweaty teens and CamelBak-packed bros. Day’s music belongs in movie trailers, not the Pepsi stage at 1:50 on a Saturday. She does, however, look absolutely badass holding her orange Gretsch guitar, a truly gorgeous instrument. [Randall Colburn]