The 2017 version of Lollapalooza got off to a stirring and wet start this year on the first of four days. It was one of the more eventful days since it has become a destination festival with Chicago at its home in 2005. Weather warnings were made several times throughout the day, but the rain came and passed with little incident until around 8:30pm when lightning cracked the sky. Lorde took to the main stage shortly thereafter amidst a downpour of rain. Her delicate frame, dressed in all red, graced the Lollapalooza stage with euphoric elegance as the audience became more enraptured with her until the announcement was made for the audience to evacuate the park for an imminent thunderstorm. They have done this previously in 2012 and 2015, but both of those evacuations occurred earlier in the day and even at the latter date, the headliners were able to perform the majority of their sets. This was the first time headliner sets were cut so heavily and despite C3 Presents, Lollapalooza's promoter, making the right and safe choice for the audience; it was a gut wrenching decision as many had come to see the headliners play full sets this year. The day was filled with some drama as Liam Gallagher walked offstage after four rather brilliant songs, without an explanation and the Georgia hip-hop trio Migos arrived very late for their performance cutting their set in half. Love it or hate it, no one can say day one was uneventful.
Chicago's Grant Park has served as Lollapalooza's home since it became a destination festival. Its attendance peaked in 2016 with over 400,000 attendees over four days. That attendance number will be matched in 2017 with this being the second year utilizing a fourth day. A lot of focus in placed on the 170 different bands covering eight stages, including Chance The Rapper, The Killers, Muse, Arcade Fire, The xx, Lorde, blink-182, London Grammar, Tove Lo, Jesse Malin, Temples, Hippo Campus and others but it's a full 360-degree experience. While music has always been at the center of the festival, there is a focus on food, art and fashion as well.
Lollapalooza began as a music festival forged around alternative music in 1991. When it relaunched in Chicago, it expanded its boundaries. Some have taken issue with this since it has drifted from its roots, but I have always seen it the move to be a broader artistic plan While Lollapalooza has grown, expanded and morphed from its alternative music roots, it has become something bigger and grander than anyone ever really could have expected. While many miss the immediacy with a smaller one-day line-up, by having a festival with 170 artists, it opens you up and the acts to a realm of possibilities and exposure. As a music writer, I receive more than 200 emails a day from the incredible music press. These are people passionate about music and want you to discover new acts along with what veteran acts have up their sleeves. It is daunting looking through your email every day and decide whom you have time to explore. However, at a music festival, you may walk across a field and listen to an act you never would pay to see. You may accidentally walk near a stage when a song, guitar or throbbing beat will summon you towards it. Many of the acts on the Lollapalooza stage I have not heard from again and others like Lorde, Temples and Hippo Campus have grown and returned to even bigger stages. In 2017, an all weekend music festival is a gift to music lovers everywhere. It shows you more than a genre you may love, but a world of incredible talent waiting for you.
Declan McKenna 12:00pm
The English singer-songwriter made his Lollapalooza debut on Thursday and despite being only 18-years old, he is wise beyond his years. His songs were snapping with biting rat-tat-tat rhythm. Organ and guitars fuse into a magnetic wall of celebration that kicked off Lollapalooza 2017. Wearing a jack, short and a red tie (with no short) he performed his heart out on the stage and even ended his set with his worldwide hit, "Brazil" by leaping into the crowd.
Golf Clap 12:10
It is early in the day but thump-thump music is beckoning the audience to get closer at Perry's the EDM stage. Amidst green neon lights and more than two dozen screens, grinding fans make their way towards the front. Many music fans do not understand EDM music, but it is about hypnotic escape which is apparently is never out of style, even at lunchtime.
White Reaper 12:45
Anyone who questions Lollapalooza's commitment to rock need look no further than White Reaper. A fury of guitars, bass and drums stormed the far end of Grant Park. Hailing from Louisville, White Reaper delivered fist-punching guitar chords that sock you. They may be the bastard children of T-Rex and Led Zeppelin, but the gut punch they provided the Lollapalooza crowd, early in the day no less, left an impression.
Elohim is a name for God used frequently in the Hebrew Bible but at Lollapalooza, it was a one-woman show. The performance delved into the divine with a spellbinding trance she held over the audience. Covered in a hooded white coat, she was mysterious and moody for an early afternoon slot but you could not take your eyes off her. "Love is Alive" slithered with sensuality.
"Lights Down Low" grooved amid syncopated beats with the crowd singing along to every word, following every stage move and capturing the imagination of the crowd who witnessed a fine display of hip-hop soul.
Hippo Campus 1:40
The band from Minnesota made their Lollapalooza debut in 2015 with their jangly guitar chords and refreshing melodies. In 2015 they had an EP but in 2017 they have Landmark their debut album. Hippo Campus includes Jake Luppen on vocals/guitar, Nathan Stocker on guitar/vocals, Zach Sutton on bass, Whistler Allen on drums/vocals, and DeCarlo Jackson providing some exultant trumpet. Hippo Campus stormed Lollapalooza two years ago with a charming set that made me a fan with their glacial guitars, quirky rhythm and winking melodies. They returned this year to a vast crowd at the Lake Shore stage where for an hour they swayed and seduced an entire field of music fans. You lose yourself in the daydream nature of their songs where the band of twenty-one year olds has refined over the last four years since they formed. The crowd was ecstatic for them. It raw I see such devotion from a crowd before early evening but Hippo Campus proved they are more than an average band but one on their way to greatness.
Temples has grown rapidly since making their Lollapalooza debut in 2014. They did not go for the jugular, but "A Question Isn't Answered" flexed their surprisingly melancholic side as the Chicago skies turned grey. This band knows their strengths and did not plan on changing it or following trends. Tapping into the British Invasion and psychedelic sounds of the 1960s, Temples taps into their influences on "Colours of Life", but they are so confident in their craft, you feel as if you are hearing something otherworldly for the first time.
Middle Kids 3:00
Grungy guitars, galloping bass and succinct drums highlight the Middle Kids sound who hails from Sydney, Australia. Lead singer Hannah Joy performed with great vulnerability and expression during their all too short set. Beneath the gruff guitar exterior of their songs is a pining and yearning that Joy exudes. The attentive crowd responded with increased appreciation with every song. I remember seeing Courtney Barnett on this same stage and they performed their set with the same delight and exaltation. You can feel the love of music with every guitar chord, crashing cymbal and punctuated bass riff. What a wonderful discovery Middle Kids proved to be.
$uicideboy$ / Capital Cities / Oliver Tree / Drums 3:45-4:30
This was the part of the day where one begins to question whether any music festival needs four days. I saw four bands over a 45-minute period that did not elevate the crowd or me. Despite some fine performances, each act may have been better suited for smaller venues.
Liam Gallagher 4:30
Kicking off with hands behind his back Liam Gallagher sang the Oasis classic "Rock 'n' Roll Star" with all the brashness and misery that only someone born in Manchester could muster. I say that as a compliment because hundreds may try but no one can duplicate the swagger of a Gallagher. Mixing Oasis classics with forthcoming solo material Gallagher's all-too-short set was high on intensity as the propulsive drums pummeled the late afternoon audience. After four songs, two solo and two Oasis, and twenty-minutes, Liam Gallagher stormed off stage. A few minutes later, his crew came on and began dismantling the gear. His fans were livid. He left the stage without any kind of an explanation. More than an hour later, he tweeted "Sorry to the people who turned up for the gig in Chicago lollapalooza had a difficult gig last night which f***ed my voice. I'm gutted LG x." It was a curious statement, because he would have been better off informing the crowd before leaving the stage only to have his fans carry their anger for over an hour.
One has to remember that Gallagher pulled out of Oasis' 1996 American tour and even their Unplugged performance, where his brother Noel had to carry those gigs. In the end, it was a disappointing display from truly one of the great rock n' roll frontmen. Saying fans were disappointed would be an understatement, most were disillusioned. He is returning to Chicago in November and its most likely going to be a tough sell after this series of events. He appeared distracted by something in the crowd but I was not in a position to see whether someone in the crowd led to his early dismissal or if it was sound issues, we do not know. It should be noted that one twitter user @lowestofthelow tweeted a picture of a fan with an "I Love U Noel" sign, which may or may not have angered Gallagher. Regardless, his early exit was an enormous disappointment.
The American hip-hop trio Migos performance was delayed due to a plane delay of sorts and it was not until well after their start time the group from Lawrenceville, Georgia, featuring Quavo, Offset and Takeoff took the stage.
George Ezra 5:30
The last time George Ezra played Lollapalooza in 2015, there was a weather evacuation and Ezra played a shortened set alone on his acoustic guitar. It was charming and endearing set, but all too short. This time around, he had his full band with him and they dipped into coffee house soul by were able to reach the festival crowd.
Cage the Elephant 6:30
Lead singer Matt Schultz took to the stage in a dress while guitarist Nick Bockrath went into the crowd performing before the barrier bringing back the party atmosphere of the festival after a few delays and walk-offs. Cage the Elephant were an explosive force right when the day needed it. They took the stage and showed the crowd the power of a band thrusting big riffs ready-made for the masses. Schultz took time to talk to the audience proclaiming "We celebrate love" and "There's one race on this planet". On a day where proclamations were in rare, it was good to hear a rock band make some human and heroic decrees from the concert stage. Schultz performed as if he was part Bowie, part Angus Young belting away his vocals while making the audience feel like he was getting away with something, which he was, our hearts.
Atlas Genius 6:50
Finite precision with guitar chords disguised as mammoth ocean waves and urgent vocals paired with propulsive rhythm, Atlas Genius were yet another breath of fresh air from Australia. Funk and precision go hand in hand with Atlas Genius. Grinding guitar chords by way of ska/ new wave were in tall order and were accentuated by a performance of Dead or Alive's "You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)". There was a heft to their performance accentuated by the snapping drums and their closing song, "Trojans". One of the standout sets from day one.
Wiz Khalifa 7:30
An enormous crowd welcomed Wiz Khalifa in Grant Park. His hip-hop grooves serenaded the field in a surprising headline set. Those looking to count hip-hop out often have not seen its power on full display. I believe hip-hop surpasses many rock headliners at festivals. There is a hunger and appetite for it and the crowd's attachments are quite intoxicating and shied the genre in a new light. Whereas rock bands have always steered towards arena and stadium rock, hip-hop has thrived in the age of festivals. Helping Khalifa's set was the closers "See You Again" and "Young, Wild & Free".
Electronic artist PHAM was born in Poland but has made a career without any musical training. Spending hours watching YouTube tutorials he learned the craft of creating electric music, which was overshadowed by the impending rainstorm approaching the festival.
Lorde performed at Lollapalooza in 2014 and it was one of the most gripping and enthralling live experiences of my life. She owns the stage and crowd and she was only 17 years old. Her command of her craft should terrify everyone else who does it for a living, because considering her age; she is only going to get better. Kate Bush's "Running Up the Hill" served as an intro before Lorde appeared, dressed elegantly in red. Opening with "Tennis Court", she serenaded the wet Chicago audience in a luminous manner. Despite a larger-than-life aura, she endears herself to her audience.
Melodrama is more than just a pop record, but a tour de force confessional that is among the 2017's best albums. Lorde has a unique ability to relate to her audience. Despite being older than her, the solitude and heartbreak embodied within Melodrama is real and profoundly authentic. Sadly, not one single song from the album was played at Lollapalooza due to an evacuation that forced Lorde to abandon her set after three songs. As she was introducing a song, she said they had never played live before, her production manager came on stage to inform the show was being called off. As I mentioned earlier in this review, without question, this was the right decision to make as the storm came in fast and furious, but it still stings to see an artist at this moment in time so in touch with her music and fans, and not be able to see the beauty of that bond in concert. Lorde will return in the spring for a full-fledged UA arena tour and it should be a must-see event for everyone.
More in-depth Lollapalooza coverage will be published all this week
Anthony Kuzminski is a Chicago based writer and Special Features Editor for the antiMUSIC Network. His daily writings can be read at The Screen Door. He has seen over 1,000 concerts in his life, has far too many CD's and has covered Lollapalooza in-depth for six years. He can be contacted at tonyk AT antiMUSIC DOT com and can be followed on Twitter
Lollapalooza 2017 - Day One Report