Lollapalooza 2018 Day Four Report
Sunday August 5th, 2018 at Grant Park, Chicago: This isn't your parents' Lollapalooza and if we're being honest, it's not even your older sibling's Lollapalooza. Over the course of the last decade, Lollapalooza has evolved from a alternative rock presence to one that has a little bit of everything for everyone; dance music, country, rock, hip-hop, world music, soul, reggae, punk, EDM, synth-pop, new wave, metal and more. However, based on observations from 2018, it appears that the hip-hop, pop and dance acts are the primary draw. Jack White's searing closing set Sunday night had about half the crowd he drew in 2012, ditto Artic Monkeys and Vampire Weekend. Make no mistake, these rock acts still had good sized crowds, but they couldn't touch the overwhelming size of The Weekend, Bruno Mars, Travis Scott and several other pop acts.
So where does this leave Lollapalooza? It's a juggernaut of a festival and will continue to be one for the foreseeable future. People will continue gripe about the lineup, the length of the festival, the corporate sponsors and all, but it's also still an invigorating way to discover music. Lollapalooza has always been a festival that celebrates the mainstream, the underground and the up-and-comers. I've always viewed the festival as a discovery zone. The line-up of the 180+ artists is a blessing; it allows you to navigate new waters discovering new acts. Throughout the history of the United States, different cultures have found a way to come together and after initial resistance, they've often been able to embrace other cultures, admire them and love them. The same goes for music, much of American music was rooted in the African American experience from ragtime to the blues to jazz to gospel to rock n' roll to soul to rhythm & blues to hip-hop and rap music, whose DJ's and turntables planted the seeds for what would eventually become EDM. Lollapalooza is at its best when clashing genres battle often giving us a new view of the world, taking us out of our comfort zones, exposing us to new sounds and sights we may have once defined as "weird" that ultimately become mainstream.
Lollapalooza in 2018 was another weekend full of escape and forty hours of music and a city-in-a-city. The food vendors are varied and showcase the ethnic flavors of the city. The CTA (Chicago Transportation Authority) provided cooling buses with charging stations while the festival had other standalone charging stations, a merchandise store, lockers, a record store, recycling in every way imaginable. A friend returned a lost cell phone to the lost and found and discovered that they plug the phone in so it's charged and if someone calls it, they can tell them to come to the lost and found. It's these extra little things sprinkled throughout the festival that make it worthwhile. Props need to be given to the Chicago Police Department who upped their presence around the festival providing an enduring safe and secure atmosphere.
The Regrettes 12:45
There's no way to hide the fact that Sunday mornings are the least populated of Lollapalooza. Chalk it up to Saturday night hangovers, after shows and the fact that there has been thirty hours of live music over the previous three days. Despite the slow motion crawl of attendee's, the Regrettes, an all-female punk band from Los Angeles, brought zealous fury to their set which they performed in Chicago Bulls jerseys (a trend throughout the festival this year). For such an early slot in the day, they were masterful in getting some genuine movement from the crowd as they pushed, pulled and walloped the crowd with their four chord force. They even had a mini mosh pit that kicked up some serious dust during their closing song, a choice cover of "Ballroom Blitz".
The Him 1:20
Hailing from the dance capital of the world, Amsterdam, the Dutch team of Jeroen Kerstens and Steven Berghuijs, The Him have been playing dance halls and festivals over the last three years, and you could hear them delivering their set in stride knowing full well the crowd at Perry's EDM needed a breather.
Durand Jones and the Indications 1:30
I watched soul God Charles Bradley at Lollapalooza several years ago, and it's not an exaggeration to say he was one of the best performances I've ever seen at the festival, so the additional of another soul band was most welcomed. Durand Jones & the Indications brought their soul stylings byway of Bloomington, Indiana and they came to serenade their sweetened sounds to Chicago on a Sunday morning where it was needed. On the opening day of the festival they did a mini two song set inside the Art Institute of Chicago, but this performance featured the full band in all their glory with horns, audience outreach and deep knowledge of the genre. Jones stretched his arms to the air like a preacher looking for connection and the crowd and band followed his every move. On his knees singing "Make a Change", Jones carefully guided his band through a tight set hitting emotional highpoints for the weekend. This wasn't about rushing through the song but rather letting the arrangements linger so the music would pierce your soul.
Q Brothers 1:45
Everything about the Kidzapalooza stage is underrated from the activities, to the workshops, to the painting, to the $3 snow cones that are superior to those sold elsewhere in the festival. Porno for Pyros guitarist Peter DiStefano even appeared at the end of the Q Brothers set for a song. The Q Brothers have the distinction of being the only performers to have played Lollapalooza every year since it relaunched in 2005 and are always a highlight of the festival, not just Kidzapalooza. Brothers GQ and JQ, hail from Chicago and are creative forces to be reckoned with. Their family friendly hip-hop event deserves more credit than it gets as they slice and dice intrinsic rhymes, the brothers collaborate with friends and kids who have visited their hip-hop workshop. The collaborative nature of the performance makes it an unforgettable experience where the Q Brothers stand toe-to-toe with the majority of hip-hop performers at Lollapalooza. The free style section of the performance allows them to stretch their legs. Watching the Q Brothers washes away your cynicism with a top-to-bottom experience that will not just invigorate you but leave a lasting smile on your face. The Q Brothers have a free family hip-hop album suitable for children on their website (http://qbrothersofficial.com/). A Q Brothers' Christmas Carol will return to Chicago this Christmas season. Check out www.chicagoshakes.com for more information.
The rock group Dorothy is built around Dorothy Martin, a Budapest born singer reared in San Diego. The band is filled out by guitarist Owen Barry, guitarist Leroy Wulfmeier, bassist Eliot Lorango and drummer Jason Ganberg who tip their hats to old school power chords and distortion. Inside the Toyota side stage tent the most fundamental basics of rock n' roll provided a blustering set that left you wanting more.
Van William 2:20
Van William carried the weight of the world on his shoulders under the shady trees of the BMI stage. His sweet melancholy acoustic rock was the perfect remedy for our despair culture. "Fourth of July" and "Revolution" show great vulnerability for an artist who isn't interested in dressing his music up to hide the pain. During the set, he provided a silver lining to the world where he spoke about the world being a place of promise. His idealism was refreshing and his music made me smile, dance and have a little faith in the future.
Anderson East 2:45
Anderson East was born in Georgia, bit now resides in Nashville. He brought bluesy soul to Lollapalooza and wasn't afraid to let his organ flag fly as it worked in tandem with his horn section to swell and crush his songs. East sounds like an artist from another time who has been transported to the future. He and his tight band didn't leave anything on the stage other than blood, sweat and tears.
Kali Uchis 3:30
The Los Angeles based producer - singer - songwriter was seductive on the Lake Shore stage during her late afternoon set as she swayed to the jazzy r&b beats. The Colombian-American singer sang some of her set in Spanish to the delight of the crowd, bringing some international diversity to the festival which was refreshing and much needed.
Knox Fortune 4:00
Chicago's own Knox Fortune celebrated his brother's wedding the night before in Milwaukee and apparently even took the CTA "L" to the festival on Sunday. His work with 2017 Lolla headliner Chance the Rapper won him a Grammy a few years back and his afternoon set was nothing short of enchanting.
Lykke Li 4:30
Lykke Li came to the Lollapalooza stage for the first time in four years with an hour long set that was hypnotic, mysterious and deeply conflicted. The set was heavy on her latest album so sad so sexy an album of poetry with slick beats birthed from a place of purgatory. Before the ethereal "Just Like a Dream", she commented "this is a good song to smoke that weed to", before picking up a tambourine and keeping rhythm with the starry-night vocals which take her audience to that place where anguish and adoration try to come to terms with the past for a restored future. On "two nights", "hard rain" and "sex money feelings die" she teetered between a Good Friday dread and Easter morning resurrection. There's a theme of finality to much of the new album. When I hear her music I feel her tussle and her inherent need to share these experiences with others. Her music evokes the end of something profound that altered our life course, but her gentle vocals are like soothing words from a kind friend who helps us find our way onto the correct path.
Manchester Orchestra 5:30
Manchester Orchestra has evolved, developed and turned into one of the great rock bands of the 21st century. In the past, they've relied on heavy distortion and wails to make an impression but with the release of their masterful A Black Mile to the Surface, they've found a new hushed way to be crushing and real. The widescreen landscape of the album is luminous, mesmerizing and will leave the listener grasping for breath. On "The River", the audience could feel the blistering pain via the blood curling wails from vocalist Andy Hull who left a piece of his soul on the stage. "The Gold" took on the most spiritual of qualities at Lollapalooza as it begins with a hushed acoustic number but as the song builds, the band solidify into a strength that few acts can match. Drummer Tim Very's drums were galloping before reaching a crescendo where the audience sang the song back to the band. Manchester Orchestra delivered a crushing set on volatile guitars and surging emotions. They channel their anger and aggression through the instruments and it showed on the stage.
Portugal. The Man 6:30
Alaska's Portugal. The Man's "Feel It Still" has been impossible to escape on radio over the last year. The alternative psychedelic funk band took to the stage at Lollapalooza for the year's most surprising set and one of the greatest set openings I've ever seen. The video screens started showing the video for "Feel It Still" before Beavis and Butt-Head began providing commentary just like they did on their classic MTV show. There were comments about the band's "complicated" facial hair, fire, and the realization that there was more to the band than they realized that lead to them encouraging the crowd to "Bow down to the greatest band in the world". As the band took their place on the stage, they opened with Metallica's "For Whom the Bell Tolls" with a quick Red Hot Chili Pepper segue before sliding into Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)". They could have left the stage after that and it would have been one of the most memorable sets of the weekend, but they kept on surging forward for an entire hour with one of the most eclectic, exciting and memorable sets in recent memory. Their hour long set was peppered with little teases of songs by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, T. Rex and Black Sabbath close to a dozen originals that were exhilarating.
The Canadian electro-funk duo Chromeo brought their smooth grooves and glistening guitars to the festival for the second to last of the festival. The band's closing song "Fall Back 2u" featured an extended break that hearkened back to the late seventies and as they led the crowd in a clap-a-long, they brought their set to a close amidst rapturous applause.
Jack White 8:30
Under a hue of blue, Jack White took to the stage to close out Lollapalooza and his four-piece band cranked the bluesy distortion up to 11 and went to work. I miss Meg White beyond words; she kept White grounded and has impeccable timing and the criticisms against her were largely unwarranted and hearing some White Stripes songs with the larger band, which are brilliantly organic, I can't help but miss the feel she gave the material. The flipside of having White as a solo artist is watching his interplay with his band. This is a man who lives for the challenge of creating something out of nothing and he is fueled by their musicianship.
Even on the biggest stage at Lollapalooza watching the interplay between White and his band is surreal. The eye-to-eye connections that lead to musical combat are a sight to see. The brilliant band consisted of the fantastic Carla Azar on drums, Dominic Davis on bass, Neal Evans on organ and keyboard and Quincy McCrary on keyboards. All have played with White before, but never in this configuration and they are best suited to cover all aspects of his career. The stomp of the White Stripes "Hotel Yorba" never sounded better and the Dead Weather's "I Cut Like a Buffalo" and the Raconteurs "Steady, as She Goes" had new teeth to them.
White was in a jovial mood talking to the crowd and taking in the entire atmosphere. He spoke about his 2012 performance how he was rushing to the stage and his then six-year old daughter tried to give him something which he later found out was a pick. He had the same pick with him and dedicated "We Are Going To Be Friends" to his children. Throughout the evening, White appeared more vulnerable than I have ever seen him before and this was a deep and profound moment not just during his set but for the festival. The band accentuated the White Stripes songs with a familiar but new texture. "Icky Thump", "Catch Hell Blues" and "Feel In Love With A Girl" all benefitted from the meticulous musicianship of his band, who is ready for anything to be thrown at them. When the band began "Seven Nation Army" the crowd chanted, sang and held onto the song, the man and his band as long as they could. Jack White is still a towering figure in the world of music and his ninety-minute closing set solidified his importance to those in the audience. It wasn't the most attended set of the festival but it was one of the most emotional. Jack White and his band tore down the walls of desperation as their instruments chipped away at the barriers to make that connection with the audience and to find salvation on the other side.
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 seven years. He can be contacted at tonykAT antiMUSIC DOT com and can be followed on Twitter
Lollapalooza 2018 Day Four Report
Share this article