Lollapalooza 2017 - Day Three Report
Saturday August 5th, 2017
Grant Park, Chicago
The third day of Lollapalooza was welcoming with the sun covering Grant Park and the temperature in the high seventies, a solid twenty degrees warmer than the day before. The weather was perfect for a summer festival. One of the ongoing questions about the festival is the addition of the fourth day. The upside is there are fewer conflicts and it allows an additional day of headliners, but the downside is this is an endurance test for those who do all four days. I cannot see them eliminating it any time soon since a second weekend of Lollapalooza is a near impossibility, as it would cause a political quagmire for the city taking yet another weekend of public space for a festival. The third day had quite a line-up climaxing with quite possible the most attended headliner of all time, Chance the Rapper. While Chance dominated Saturday with an off-the-charts celebration for a hometown hero, there were several other high points reflecting the eclectic nature of Lollapalooza.
Nathan Scott 12:05
You have to admire the persistence of EDM fans. Fourteen-hours after the festival closed, they are out in full force for more swirling beats that churn through electric 7.1 surround sound swirls. Scott is a Chicago native whose hyperactive set enlivened and sent notice that day three was up and running. Ten minutes at Perry's stage is a lot like a roller coaster ride where when you get off you feel sick but somehow want to do it again. Scott deserved a spot later in the day where he could have filled the field.
Mt. Joy 12:20
An aggressive folk rock unit hailing from Philadelphia consisting of Matt Quinn and Sam Cooper. They met in high school and started performing songs together in 2005. As they went they separate ways in college, they continued their song writing partnership before they came back together again to form Mt. Joy. Their Lollapalooza performance featured some foot-stomping rhythm reminiscent of the Lumineers and the Head and Heart, which is praise because their songs evoke pure jubilation. Their performance proved to be multifaceted with shades of R&B, soul and folk rock.
The Shelters 12:45
The four-piece southern California rock band had a blistering guitar edge. This is a band built from all the classic elements of classic rock, gutter guitars, foot-stomping drums and resolute bass underpinning the songs. The band's debut album The Shelters was co-produced by Tom Petty, who took a liking to the band and eventually gave them the keys to his home studio. The opening of their set "Birdwatching", Really Want You" and "Surely Burn" feels like long lost Heartbreaker songs from the mid-seventies. Their Lollapalooza set was sadly too early for maximum impact, but if their set gave any indication; they have the potential to return to the festival in coming years.
Michael Christmas 1:05
The Boston rapper performed to his largest crowd early Saturday morning under the shaded trees of the Pepsi stage. Playing to a backing track, Christmas was working hard on the stage and while the material did not permeate, his excelled at his effort in engaging the crowd.
Lollapalooza needs more British bands. What I love about bands like Blossoms is their wonderfully distinctive English sound. Unlike American bands that tend to be heavily influences by a single genre, British bands cast a wider net and Blossoms are a prime example. Part indie rock, Britpop, new wave and disco, their sound is fresh while being instantly familiar. Tom Ogden, Charlie Salt, Josh Dewhurst, Joe Donovan and Myles Kellock make up the band who delivered a pristine hour-long set under the sun. "Texia" featured a snippet of the ABBA song "Gimme Gimme Gimme" at its end and elsewhere in the set, one song beautifully segued into the Beatles "I Want You" before steering its way back to their original. They were an engaging band whose music captured my attention for their entire hour, which included interaction with the crowd, including a girl who had recently broken up with her boyfriend "Kyle". They were playful, endearing and damn good. The set closer "Charlemagne" was led by this wondrous synth riff reminiscent of late 1980s Pet Shop Boys and paired with dance floor rhythm and gale-force guitars that stayed with the crowd long after the set had ended.
Jacob Banks 2:15
Jacob Banks has a baby-making voice. His voice stopped people en route to other stages. The breezy and bluesy guitar led to an ardent show of courageous throaty soul. His body was sturdy and focused as he belted out song-after-song from The Paradox and The Monologue. Born in Nigeria in 1991, he moved to Birmingham, UK in 2004 and has been recording for the last five years. Despite only being 26, there is philosophical wisdom in his songs, accentuated and elevated by his deep brooding voice. His instrument is his voice and what a voice it is. It bellows with deep reflections, most prominently on "Chainsmoking", an epic fueled cut where his three-piece band merged into an orchestra as the guitar, organ and drums swelled into a mountain of soul. I only wish he performed "Photograph" which name checks the 1993 Chicago Bulls.
The Japanese House 2:55
Led by Amber Bain, the Japanese House provided a tranquil and languid mid-afternoon chill with a three-piece band delicately navigating her songbook, including the dreamlike "Saw You in a Dream".
This Canadian indie-pop band (pronounced "Always") provided a breezy escape from the throbbing dance stages. Molly Rankin's vocals were nothing short of heartbreaking on "Archie, Marry Me". Taking pages from Best Cost and Blondie the band steered their music echoed to the shores of a beach on a perfect summer day, aside from the sand and ocean came pretty close to reality on the north end of Grant Park.
Before their first song "Gold" was over, the Denver based 888 was holding the audience hostage for the remainder of the set. Their synthesizers, mad drums and beseeching lyrics struck a chord with the audience. Each song intensified the connection between the band and the audience with lead singer Danny Stillman reaching for the masses.
LÉON was one of several acts hailing from Sweden at this year's Lollapalooza. Her parents were both musical in Stockholm and she's become part of the business. In her early twenties, LÉON performed a sprightly set that was nothing short of euphoric shifting between pop-rock and soul baring confessionals like "Think of You" and "Sleep Deprived".
Colony House 4:45
There is no denying the four members of Colony House has their caffeine fix for the day by the time they took to the BMI stage. With their drummer on the far left of the stage facing sideways, they reprimanded the audience with thick backbreaking bass, primordial drums and possessed guitars. Crunching their way through a set on one of the festivals smaller stages, they made you feel like it was a stadium. This did not stop them for making the stage feel like a coffee house as lead singer Caleb Chapman was not afraid to show his vulnerable nature on "Moving Forward" where he sang solo and acoustic. Call me a sentimental fool, but this was one of the most life affirming sets of the festival.
Royal Blood 5:15
Rock melts at 2,400 degrees Fahrenheit and this must have been the temperature on the stage within ten minutes they owned the Lollapalooza crowd, which took up a large portion of the south side of Grant Park. Their after show the night before had heavy buzz and their early evening skit had the same effect. Bass guitarist and vocalist Mike Kerr and drummer Ben Thatcher cracked the foundation of the city from the intensity of their set. Kerr enveloped the audience into his inescapable grooves while drummer Thatcher played out of his skin with the highlight of the set being "I Only Lie When I Love You". One gets the sense that a semi-truck could fly into their stage and would bounce off the two of them. The bass is more like a guitar with its penetrating melodies proving to be a sensory assault. The fan base was devoted and passionate, singing along during the unremitting sixty-minute set. They approach their instruments like master artisans set to dazzle, shock and awe. Their songs are surprisingly melodic but what elevates them is the daring nature of their arrangements. A throttling bass/guitar solo, double fisted drum fills which conjure the spirit of John Bonham and an merciless ability to break bread with their audience makes Royal Blood one of rock n' roll's greatest potentials in the coming years.
Random festivalgoer: "What's the name of this band?"
Random festivalgoer: "I know the music is live, but what's the name of the band?"
Me: The name of the band is "Live"; they had several multi-platinum albums dating back to the 1990s.
Random festivalgoer: "Oh that was before I was born".
Reunited after more than seven years apart, Live have reunited and performed a heavy dose of hits for the festival crowd. Lead vocalist Ed Kowalczyk had not played with the band since 2009, but they reunited late last year and made a surprising appearance at Lollapalooza. While the crowd did not match Third Eye Blind's from the previous year, they delivered a steady set of 1990s hits with the band's performances on the muscular side. It is easy to roll your eyes at bands who experienced their commercial peak when Lollapalooza was still a travelling festival, but the truth is Live's performance was vivacious. Thrusting arms-to-the-air anthems from the 90s sounded surprisingly fresh including "Selling the Drama", "I Alone", "Lanki's Juice" and a tribute to Chris Cornell of the Audioslave song "I Am the Highway". The set closed with the blistering "Lightning Crashes" featuring a burning desire from the crowd to sing-a-long. Many may have cracked jokes when Live's name appeared on the first 2017 poster for the festival, but it turns out the band had the last laugh.
The Head and the Heart 7:00
The Head and the Heart are just that and their performance exhibited an outright exuberant rush of elation in their performance. The Seattle band may be the antithesis of grunge but it does not mean that there music is not profound. "All We Ever Knew", "City of Angels" and "Ghosts" were performed in dream state of languid beauty many try to copy but few can touch.
When Jillian Rose Banks, strode out onstage in a black veil, black dress and thigh-high boots, she entranced the audience leaving many with their mouths agape for the entirety of her set. Banks creates mood music for the masses with languorous beats, pop choruses and sensual swagger. In a dress where she pranced in thigh high boots, she strode across the stage with a yearning mystical desire. Her performance was a work of art, with veiled backing singers, sequin blue lights and an intoxicating gaze. "Mind Games", "Drowning", "Judas", "Haunt" and "27 Hours" permeated the set with mystery, sexual tension and spiritual release few other sets dared to thrust on their audience, but Banks did just that…triumphantly.
Chance the Rapper 8:45
Lady Gaga, Paul McCartney, Arcade Fire, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Radiohead have nothing on a hometown boy. The south end of Grant Park was filled to near capacity. During headline sets in recent years, with the rare exceptions mentioned above, there is always plenty of room, but not for Chicago native Chance the Rapper, who owned Lollapalooza 2017.
The show began with a video introduction covering his awards and triumphs over the last year before, which included a one-million dollar donation to the Chicago Public Schools when they faced a budget crisis earlier this year. Besides making smart and emotionally gripping hip-hop, Chance puts his money where his mouth is. Kicking off with a fireworks display and the one-two punch of "Mixtape" and "Blessings", the set got off to an exhilarated start. His lyrics exude deep soul, profound reflection and graciousness. It feels like a revival. As he began to perform "Angels", Chance wearing a baseball hat, jeans and Champion t-shirt, looked simultaneously ecstatic and emotional. A Chicago kid who did not grow up far from Grant Park was performing to a crowd that may have surpassed most stadium capacities.
The pacing of his set was a bit off, but this was due to the discussions he has with the crowd. He explained why he didn't want to have his set streamed, "I want this just to be me...and Chicago" and yet when "Juke Jam" was performed, he had the audience turn their flashlights on making a sea of light that even a jaded cynic would have found overwhelming. "Waves / Father Stretch My Hands" featured another pyro blast while "Sunday Candy", "I'm the One" and an appearance by Vic Mensa on "Cocoa Butter Kisses" made this potentially the grandest of all Lollapalooza headline sets.
Chance the Rapper is crucial to the cultural landscape at this moment in time and like the Chicago Cubs, is a hometown hero, a treasure and someone we all hope continues to push the artistic envelope further and further entertaining us, educating us and making us a part of his ride and celebration.
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 Three Report