Lollapalooza 2016 Day Two
Friday July 29, 2016 - Grant Park, Chicago
Every year new acts emerge at Lollapalooza in a rare opportunity to activate their musical muscle and talents for one of the largest audiences of their careers. It is a moment in time for many that will one day become a distant memory. For other acts, it may be the stepping-stone to bigger and better stages at other festivals. Several of the acts I have seen in Lollapalooza's past have gone on to have great careers of their own making music on their own terms. Others who displayed so much promise on the summer stage, showing me worlds I was not aware of, have never able to fulfill on that promise for one reason or another. Regardless, in that moment in time, Lollapalooza serves as a bridge between the underground and the mainstream. As anyone knows, the underground can be a traffic jam of distortion. Acts go unnoticed despite colossal talent and this is why festivals like Lollapalooza are essential to today's landscape. In the absence of trusted radio and MTV, festivals have become the curators of taste with Lollapalooza being one of the two or three most important and as day two, Friday July 29th, proved, they bring artists to the forefront allowing us to revel in their talent and hopefully support them going forward so they can create sustainable careers.
Con Brio 12:00
Con Brio consists of seven musicians from San Francisco and they knocked it out of the park for the opening performance of the day. This is why Lollapalooza exists to expose an artist of profound ability and talent. It was an impressive performance I will never forget where they met at the intersection of old school R&B and soul and concocted a sound made for sunshine. Onstage they were bursting with heady vitality rarely seen so early in the day. This band made their mark. Con Brio will constantly be the barometer for the remainder of my festival experience. They showed the crowd what is capable when a band gives their all playing together as a band, fueling one another and reminding us that music at its best is the sum of several talented musicians working together with a single goal.
Day Wave 12:45
Jackson Philips lived in Los Angeles but he knew he needed a change of scenery and headed to Oakland where he lost himself in his favorite records looking for a sound and energy he could channel through his own talents. The result is Day Wave who made their Chicago debut at Lollapalooza. Tipping his hat to the new wave bands that defined the early 1980s, most specifically New Order and Joy Division, Philips has infused Day Wave with the darkness that made those records classics but matches it with airy splendor that envelopes you like a warm hug. Their harmonies beef up the delivery of these songs in concert. Con Brio performed on the stage opposite Day Wave and it was refreshing to see people love their influences and infuse themselves into this music. They performed "Ceremony" from New Order towards the end of their set and bassist paid homage to Peter Hook, steering the band with his four string melodies. It is available on their "Come Home Now" digital single at digital stores. Day Wave was a beacon of light so early in the day and set the bar high once again for the festival.
Saint Motel 1:30
Frontman A/J Jackson commented how the Lakeshore stage was a lot different from Schubas, a legendary music club on the northwest side of Chicago. Jackson dressed in a hat and sunglasses had his keyboard perched behind an oversized tiger. The Los Angeles based band served up tight music made for a party but with the impending showers inching closer to the festival many fans took the set in rather than celebrate it.
The Struts 2:15
Guitars howled before the band kicked their set into high gear. Taking a page from the 1970s glam movement, they capture the essence of T-Rex, David Bowie and the New York Dolls. The band have come a long way from Derbyshire, England and they made it known that they belonged on the largest Lollapalooza stage. Their debut record Everybody Wants is a delicious slice of bombast with soaring anthems fueled by larger-than-life guitars, bass and drums. They remind us of a time when guitars ruled the world. Before "Kiss This" lead singer Luke Spiller told the crowd "Welcome to the cool club!" with a snarl that only Freddie Mercury or Liam Gallagher could do better.
The Struts are the embodiment of rock. As a unit, they were tight and piloted the festival crowd with ease. They stimulated participation, basked in the adoration, and delivered the goods on "Dirty Sexy Money" and "Let's Make This Happen Tonight". The Struts have the DNA to be a great rock band and they carry every single qualification; smarmy charm, brash guitars, a grinding rhythm section, rowdy chemistry and a frontman who relishes the spotlight not for his ego but for the satisfaction of the crowd. Every song delivered was with a winking sincerity. They are what everyone wanted the Darkness to be and more. They have a firm understanding of rock history and are not afraid to be bold in the process. Long live the glory of rock n' roll.
Mě grew up on an island in Denmark, and went by the name of Karen Marie Arsted. Intoxicated with music from an early age she has made music her life passion. With her hair braided into a ponytail, she maneuvers across the Lakeshore stage with tenacity, looking out to the crowd eye-to-eye and at times reaching for the heavens. Despite growing up on a steady diet of rock n' roll, I am startled every year by what new acts Lollapalooza brings to the stage. Mě was yet another revelatory performance, which started at the same time as the rain, but it did not matter. She threw out her lure to the audience and the entire field took hold as she routed us through personal and political tales urging us to listen and make the right decisions not just in our lives but to make the world a better place as well.
Most of the set came from her No Mythologies To Follow album. Her arms stretched out to the crowd amidst beats and drums that weaves together into a submission that was dreamlike and releasing. Despite some technical difficulties, I could not bring myself to leave her stage as her presence warranted further introspection. At the end of her set, she entered the crowd and they carried her just as she carried us with her music.
Guitars and bass gush under a sky of rain and the opening howls on "Snake Oil" tips the hat back to early Zep records. Reliable and loud, Foals are festival veterans who know how to manage to engage and enrage.
Frank Turner 4:30
Inside the Toyota Music tent, Frank Turner showed up for a couple of songs with his voice and acoustic guitar. "Love Forty Down", "Mittens", and a cover of Queen's "Somebody to Love" was amongst the most intimate and gripping of day two. Festivals are sprawling affairs and even on the smallest stages, they are still vaster than a club is, so it was refreshing to see Turner's veins pop from his neck as he sung.
The rest of the set was a gut-punch of passions accentuated by his zealous vocals that cannot be denied.
You do not expect an electronic indie band to hail from Nashville, but Jordan Kelley and Jason Huber created music in the country music capital that gave them a spot on one of the largest stages of the festival. The late afternoon dance party took place under a cloudy sky but I do not think anyone told the fans on the field as the bumped and grinded to soft synths and late night lounge pulses.
Alessia Cara 5:15
A recurring theme of this year's festival is artists who are prepared to let their fans in and be part of their expressive journey. It is the breaking of bread that makes fans want to know more, listen closer and follow an artist. Alesia is a mere 18 years old and yet she was not reserved. She did not hold anything back. This was a full-on autobiography. Dressed in an unassuming shirt and black pants, she did not come to dazzle the crowd with her fashion, but her affecting music. She is young and it is anyone's guess where she will end up in the future, but we need to hope and pray her wide-eyed openness continues. If it does, she will be an artist to watch. Anyone who attends festivals like Lollapalooza know that the fashion sense of the audience is often questionable or leaves very little to the imagination so it was refreshing to see Cara not make it her sole focus. Diving deep into her Know-It-All record from 2015, she helped define how music can be beautiful with impassioned performances of "Overdose", "River of Tears" and the fall to your knees closer "Here".
M83 is Anthony Gonzalez, who comes to Lollapalooza from France by way of Los Angeles for the last half decade. At the start of their set, the sun glistened through the clouds as rain began to fall; my first sun shower at Lollapalooza. With a guest singer, Gonzalez led his band through a strident set big on wailing synths and gentle melodies that crescendo into a high intensity finale. Throwing delicately sequenced synths and percussion, M83 took the Lollapalooza crowd on a journey through rhythm chambers.
Mike Snow 7:00
Another self-proclaimed indie pop band from Sweden whose hour-long set concluded with their single "Animal" which sizzled but the set that proceeded "Animal" lacked the same heat.
For their first Chicago performance in four years, Radiohead opened the show with "Burn the Witch" off their ninth album A Moon Shaped Pool with blinding red lights beaning off the stage. This was the weekends most anticipated set as they have made a career of confounding expectations time and time again. "Daydreaming" deftly inched the show forward with a solemn piano and bare white back lighting. On "Ful Stop", Johnny Greenwood had his chance to shine his guitar echoed like city sirens. The crowd was as attentive as one could be for a festival headlining set. Being a Radiohead fan requires fortitude and focus. The fans were rewarded with spirited performances of "My Iron Lung" and "Morning Mr. Magpie" which the crowd ate up.
A Moon Shaped Pool is ambient art record whose cuts worked in the live environment but it was the classic cuts that gripped the crowd. The crowd went into overdrive upon hearing the opening piano chords of "Everything In Its Right Place". The atmospheric and morose piece transformed in concert into an anthem made for the masses. Colin Greenwood's bass laid down an insurmountable wall of defense and the incessant kick-drumming drove blood into the heart of the song. "Everything In Its Right Place" was a turning point for the band in 2000 as it was the first thing people heard from the band's career defining Kid A record. Used beautifully in Cameron Crowe's Vanilla Sky it set the tone for an icy and mysterious tone to the album and Crowe's film.
There was anticipation the band may perform "Creep", long left out of their set lists and a song that has not been performed in Chicago since 1996 at the Metro. Lollapalooza would have been an ideal place to bring it back out, but it was not to be. Instead, Radiohead closed the show with two solemn ballads "Karma Police" and "Street Spirit (Fade Out)". The somber songs riveted the crowd, while other stages at the festival involved dancing and celebrating, Radiohead turned down the volume for a few moments of reflection, in a way only Radiohead could pull off. Radiohead has always proven itself an anomaly. They've never played by the rules and have made a career of challenging not just themselves but their audience, who to my surprise has followed their lead down some of the most divergent valleys ever trekked in popular music. They defy convention and somehow can play to sold out arenas and stadiums and they closed out the second day of Lollapalooza in the only way they know how, the Radiohead way.
Check back this week for more in-depth Lollapalooza coverage here on antiMUSIC
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 and has covered Lollapalooza in-depth for five years. He can be contacted at tonyk AT antiMUSIC DOT com and can be followed on Twitter
Lollapalooza 2016 Day Two
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