Lollapalooza 2016 Day One
Thursday July 28, 2016 - Grant Park, Chicago
Lollapalooza turns a quarter century old this year and to celebrate, the organizers are putting on the biggest festival to date with over 170 different acts covering more genres and sub-genres of music than even the most ardent music fan can grasp. In the festival's inaugurating year of 1991, the show had ten versatile artists who took their circus city-to-city for six weeks in July and August. It was a farewell tour for Janes Addiction, but it turned a profit and made industry heads turn. Wanting to repeat success again in 1992, which featured the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Ice Cube amongst others where it roamed through the summer of 1997, before going on hiatus until the summer of 2003 where Jane's Addiction once again headlined. The 2004 version never made it beyond a few pre-sales due to slow sales and it was then reborn as a destination festival in Grant Park, right in the heart of downtown Chicago. It started as two days in 2005, moved to three days the following year and in 2016 for the first time, it is a four-day festival. During either the last weekend in July, or the first in August, every summer Lollapalooza invades downtown Chicago with the largest and most eclectic line-up of any festival the city has to offer (although the superb Riot Fest which takes place in September definitely gives Lollapalooza a run for its money).
How do they maintain quality acts when your artist roaster swells to nearly 170 artists? With an extra day at their disposal, the line-up swelled. When outlining my schedule and route every year, the path is foggy but I can usually navigate based on my instinct and advice. For 2016, I had to do more research than ever before which paid off. That is the question and on day one of the 2016 edition, it became evident that even though the majority of the artists are not household names, these acts delivered a series of sets and music that reminds us there is never a shortage of great music, just a lack of quality filters. The ten hours of music staged was a remarkable sight from the serene and spacious to the ferocious and fierce. There was something for everyone at day one.
The brother-sister duo Tennyson, hailing from Edmonton, opened the festival with their wistful nightclub beats which were a bit chill for an opening slot. Tess Rain Pretty added some circular dimensions and she sat behind her drum kit. Their music but may have been a few hours too early or too late depending on when liquor licenses start and expire.
DJ Mel 12:25
Hailing from Austin, Texas, DJ Mel is widely recognized as "Obama's DJ" since he played the 2013 Presidential Inauguration, Election Night 2012 and the 2012 Democratic National Convention. His set varied from late night dance rave, to samples from The Lion King and the Ramones debut record. For an early slot, DJ Mel has quite a following at Perry's stage.
Six-piece band may appear inconspicuous but they provided a much-needed kick early in the day. They are rough around the edges the Replacements but has enough skill to channel Jimmy Eat World. Lead singer Evan Stephens Hall was a joy to watch and even spoke poignantly about the rights of women when he addressed the crowd; "Be cool- we are all in close quarters and don't touch anyone inappropriately"
Hailing from the UK, the auburn female vocalist radiated under the sky. Sitting behind her piano, she serenaded the Chicago crowd with sweet and soulful expressions with minimal accompaniment.
Lucy Dacus 1:15
There is something gritty and raw about Dacus who left no prisoners in her all too short set. With a guitar strapped around her, she delivered blues and garage indie pop. She spoke about coming to Lollapalooza four years ago explaining how this experience was surreal for her. She exudes realness yet manages to share a part of herself, a delicate intricacy for performers. The light has not blinded her and if this performance was any indication, she creates because she does not know any other way. "I Don't Wanna Be Funny Anymore" was not just a highlight of her set but of the entire first day.
Hailing from Melbourne, Australia, Kaity Dunstan took to the stage in Standing in a t-shirt and leggings, stepped up to the microphone and began to entrance the crowd. The songs were slow and somber with the highlight being "Don't Forget About Me" which saw her voice swoop and soar.
Heavy footed drums amidst a chorus of background vocals they delivered chunky chords and swinging rhythm all delicately sprinkled with aggressive melodies. The four-piece hailing from Los Angeles, lead was active on the smaller BMI stage and left an impression few will forget.
The Oakland born R&B singer took no prisoners during her racy set where she was like a wronged girlfriend who is not going to sugarcoat her experience. She unquestionably left some of the crowd uncomfortable with her uninhibited set, but she more than likely won many more over by singing the truth.
Melanie Martinez 3:05
Martinez is lightning bolt of musical fusion and energy. Barely old enough to drink, she owned the stage on Thursday afternoon. Her music while big and bright contained rare introspection one may not expect from pop infused with hip-hop. An alum of the UIS television singing series The Voice Martinez shows why she did not fit within the framework of the show. It's a competition built for ratings whereas Martinez dances and sings to the beat of her own drummer. Her fans turned out in droves to see her play the majority of her debut record Cry Baby. She had one of the more elaborate sets at the festival with big blocks of letters you would expect to find in a child's room. She held the crowds attention with the staging, her bright blue outfit and a high-powered set.
On the BMI stage, there was a thundering awakening from a band hailing from Canada. The band zigzagged through an extraordinary set of marriage of melody, rhythms and guitars ultimately exploding in an infectious manner. The energy infused the crowd as clouds draped the Chicago skies.
Fast, furious and without a moment to breath, Wavves leave no prisoners whenever they take the stage. They are the perfect soundtrack for punk surfers or maybe metal heads as bassist Stephen Pope swung his head and bass with more fury than most metal bands.
Danny Brown 4:20
Growing up in the worse conditions of Detroit, Brown claims to have known he wanted to be a rapper by the age of five. If true, then here been practicing his entire life for this Lollapalooza performance. Aggressive rhythms gripped the crowd as they thrust their arms to the air doing more than taking in his stories, but as a way to express themselves through his torrid tales.
When singer/songwriter Dan Smith named his band Bastille, he did so because of the day he was born, July 14th. Best known for their mega-smash "Pompeii", the band is a touring juggernaut in the UK where they headlined even before their debut record was released. Their sophomore record, Wild World will not be released until September 2016, but that did not stop them from performing a few cuts under Lollapalooza skies. Hitting the Samsung stage, they delivered a set worthy of a veteran headliner notable for drummer Danny Wood's locked-in that steered the band for the duration of their hour set. The set was dampened by unfortunate rain which meant not all the speakers available could be used (several were lowered to the ground anticipating inclement weather). "Pompeii" was a redeeming and crowd-affirming anthem full of genuine emotion spilled forth by the crowd.
A trio hailing from London, England, their music hearkens to the darkness of Kate Bush and Tori Amos accentuated by singer Elena Tonra while the propulsive rhythm by drummer Remi Aguilella that will shake your foundation. Swiss-born guitarist Igor Haefeli splashes wet chords over the crowd painting pictures that are serene but lined with a glimmer of hope. Their music evokes a late night roller coaster ride where the singer takes us through her dreams, desires and darkness. A band everyone should take notice of and support.
Dillon Hodges performs his acoustic guitar (left-handed), culling from his back pocket of extensive musical influences, it flies with a soaring songs fused with distinctive picking. The choruses are big arm-waving ready-made for festival crowds. Imagine Keith Urban taking on an indie alter ego and you have firekid. The music makes you want to move, shake and dance your worries away. He joked with the crowd about playing Pokémon Go before playing the "Pokémon Theme Song" from the animated series from the 1990s. If that wasn't enough, he wrapped the crowd around his finger a little more with a staggering cover of Michael Jackson's "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough". It is unlikely there was anyone else in the festival that sounded like this and could make the crowd smile as he did. This was a set full of joyous exploration of music not limited to one genre.
"Lolla what the f**k is up?" G-Eazy asked the crowd one song into his high-energy early evening set. Hip-hop used to be a genre that soared on the radio and the studio, but through festivals and word-of-mouth many of these performers are standing shoulder-to-shoulder with their rock n' roll peers. G-Eazy did this as he hooked the crowd and delivered one knockout track after another. Whether you love or hate hip-hop it's hard to not be utterly impressed with the command of the craft several of these acts display on the festival stages. G-Eazy had a crowd willing to listen, but he riled them up in the best way imaginable for a festival.
The 1975 7:15
Imagine a bunch of school friends putting a band together in a sleep town not far from Manchester yet whose music is uniformly pop with busty bass and infectious melodies that confounds what one would expect from a dreary England town. Turning the dreary skies off, the band dialed up sunshine for their debut on a rare record that continued to radiate beyond an initial listen. It was the sophomore record I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful yet So Unaware of It that really separated them from the hundreds of bands who make the trip to the US to play festivals and late night television. Their 13-song set was near perfect with the band eliciting a dance party on the north side of the festival while showing everyone that their career won't end with this festival date. They're evolving and will probably be back in a few years as a headliner.
Cashmere Cat 8:05
Norwegian producer Magnus August Haiberg uses Cashmere Cat as a production alias. At the smaller Pepsi stage, the crowd was teased and released with a clever DJ set that didn't rely on many samples but new novel beats and arrangements.
Battle Royale 8:35
Their bio says, "We are 3 producers and an idiot. Our only dreams in life are to create awesome music, and to hunt sharks with machine guns from space." I may not have seen any sharks but in contrast to Cashmere Cat, they provided a big robust set heaving on sampling that the crowd ate up waiting for Lana Del Rey to take the stage.
Lana Del Rey 8:45
When Lana Del Rey took to the stage, she looked like an angel out of a dream in a white dress with plastic doves on either side of her hair holding it in place. He video screens at the Bud Light stage projected her in stunning black and white and I'd be lying to you if it didn't leave an impression. When she emerged in the music industry several years ago, it was with great controversy. The opener "Cruel World" was vivid and is the type of song that Quentin Tarantino would rescue from obscurity for one of his films.
It was an unexpected masterstroke to have her close out day one. There is an unwritten rule that one should go for the jugular during the closing moments, but Del Rey delicately navigated the crowd masterfully during a 75-minute set that pulled on heartstrings inducing images of the past, present and future. This haunting nature heightens the intensity of her songs. I for one was relatively astonished. She is not the most charming or dynamic of performers you will ever see, but the images she conjures for her fans with her throwback vocals have an innocent quality that signal back to simpler times. "Ultraviolence", "Summertime Sadness", "Yayo" and "Video Games" did not just hit the right notes, it pulled on the right heartstrings capturing more than the crowds attention, but their adoration and memories that should last a lifetime.
More in-depth Lollapalooza coverage will be published all next 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, written more than 50,000 words on Lollapalooza and can transport objects with his mind. Two of the previous three statements are true. He can be contacted at tonyk AT antiMUSIC DOT com and can be followed on Twitter
Lollapalooza 2016 Day One
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