Screens are ablaze under the sun as the EDM stage goes from zero to sixty with strobe lights and a constant barrage of colors emitting from the stage. The field was one-third filled which is remarkable so early in the day.
Dream Wife 12:30
Dream Wife is a London based punk band, consisting of musicians Alice, Bella and Icelandic singer Rakel. They took to the Lollapalooza stage with a fury that reverberated across the park. Early morning slots are tough on the musicians since many in attendance haven't made their way into the park, but it's also a chance to see an act take that challenge and use it as fuel for their performance. Dream Wife was boisterous, loud and left a deafening impression. Their short set was full of spunk, blunt and defiance. "Let's Make Out" has just the right amount of sugary pop soul which contrasts magnificently with the sharp guitar chords, sputtering bass and crashing cymbals. They reinvent the term "girl power", with a no-holds barred set. This was a spectacular way to start the day and with Slaves performing the best set on the opening day on the other side of the field, this should be a signal for Lollapalooza to potentially get more punk into the mix for future years.
KUURO (pronounced "cure-oh") was up second on Perry's EDM stage on Friday and a devoted set of dance fans were engaged with the duo, arms-to-the-air, syncopated dancing, big beats and bass…lots of bass. Jordin Post and Luke Shipstad worked hard for their applause keeping the dance fans, happy, moving and shaking.
Welshly Arms 1:05
The Cleveland, Ohio group took to the vast Bud Light stage for a notable and lofty performance. The band swims in the waters of rock along with rhythm and blues on the second biggest stage of the festival. There's an undercurrent of gritty soul on display in Sam Getz's vocals which were impressive and you could literally feel his presence across the vast field. The Welshly Arms are a band to take note of and watch closely in coming years as they have the potential to become a festival headliner.
Alex Lahey 1:25
Dressed simply in a t-shirt and black jeans, Australian Alex Lahey brought a simple straight forward approach to the stage with gorgeous songs, picturesque lyrics and enough mojo to gut punch the audience with her guitar solos. Her most recent album is entitled I Love You Like a Brother which conjures all kind of feelings, sentiments and pictures in our heads. In concert, she conveys confidence most 24-year-olds could only dream about. Her music captures life for an early twenty-something giving the experiences significant weight making them feel more tangible and confessional. We tend to mock youthful experiences but Lahey's songs translate into something heartrending and unforgettable.
Lucy Kalantari & the Jazz Cats 1:50
Never underestimate the kid's stage at Lollapalooza, Kidzapalooza. Lucy Kalantari is an award winning children's artist based in Brooklyn, New York, making jazz age inspired music for families and she brought the roaring twenties to Lollapalooza. Her children record All the Sounds was released last year and many of the songs including "Sounds of Summer" were performed during their set. While the children were engaged by the sweet songs and winking lyrics, the parents were engaged with a band who flexed their musical muscle and who could stand shoulder-to-shoulder with most bands at the festival.
Dermot Kennedy 2:30
Dermot Kennedy hails from Dublin, Ireland and there's a gritty soul he brings to his brand of pop music. The 2018 edition of Lollapalooza was lacking introspective acts sharing a piece of themselves in unembellished arrangements and Kennedy provided the right balance in the afternoon sun. Taking a page from fellow Irish artist Glen Hansard, Kennedy's Music is full of soul searching that most will compare to Ed Sheeran, which if anything is a testament to his work ethic and the strength of his songs. Discussing the strength of women, friendship, defeat and love Kennedy stood out among the crowd with his affecting vocals and the bare arrangements which allow the songs to breathe and make one stand up and take notice.
Bebe Rexha 3:30
The Brooklyn native hit the stage with her fists up and ready to show the crowd there was more to her than what they hear on the radio. All too often, pop artists struggle in festival settings when they're not performing their singles. Most impressive about Rexha was the determination she brought to the stage, along with her band. There were a few pop stars at the festival where I had a hard time determining if they were live or playing to a backing track, whereas Rexha and her band were all-in in a entrancing set that covered all portions of her career from her recently released full debut album Expectations to "The Monster" (written for Eminem and Rihanna) to "Meant to Be" which Florida Georgia Line provided some vocals on the studio cut. Rexha was not afraid of the crowd or moving across the stage and her willingness to be vulnerable. Her performance was eye opening despite being short. The arrangements veered from the radio hits, but Rexha is someone who you should never hesitate to see in concert; her drive, songs and inclination to share is something all artists should strive for.
Tyler, the Creator 4:30
Tyler, the Creator has made a career diving into gloomy waters and despite wearing a Hawaiian shirt and dancing dynamically onstage, his set dived into treacherous hip-hop waters which the audience loved. The size of his later afternoon set was something to behold and signals what a force hip-hop has become in our culture and festivals, he outdrew some headliners at the same stage despite going on at 4:30.
James Bay 5:10
James Bay is one hell of a live performer; he knows soul and sings with utter conviction reaching to the further reaches of the festival making a connection. His set was a mixture of his new album Electric Light and Chaos and the Calm along with a few choice covers which included a rave up bluesy soul rendition of Tina Turner's "The Best" which left the crowd in awe. Bay is someone who shines in a festival setting where his musicianship comes to the forefront where you realize if he never made it as a solo star, he could have been a show off guitarist for someone's band, but what differentiates him from other performers is his ability to hold back when needed. "Hold Back the River" and "Let It Go" soared under the sun as the crowd hung on every note and word. Even the songs from Electric Light had new life injected into them making me think twice about the album.
The Neighborhood 5:45
The breezy charms of the Los Angeles rock band had a tough act to follow with Bay across the field but they delighted their die-hard fans with a satisfactory set.
Alina Baraz 6:05
Another resident from Cleveland, Ohio, Baraz has made a name for herself previously performing at Lollapalooza and even opening for Coldplay in 2017. Her smooth-jazzy-R&B-soul was a refuge from the more unruly aspects of the festival and her stage presence was something to observe, as was her voice which was seductive and serene.
Rusko is a 33-year-old British electronic dubstep and drum and bass producer and DJ whose real name is Christopher William Mercer. What makes his EDM journey more poignant was that fifteen months ago he was diagnosed with gastric lymphoma. After taking a year off and receiving an all clear from his doctors, he's back with an early evening set the that filled Perry's field to its fullest as the fans danced and jammed like they didn't have a care in the world while a man who faced the prospect of death over the last year knows just how fragile and precious life can be threw out dance jam after dance jam while it played out under him in the summer sun.
Walk the Moon 6:30
Originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, Walk the Moon have continually crafted easy-on-the ears pop rock where you can listen to the entire album and wonder how they found those hooks song-after-song. Their hour long set never wavered, opening with "One Foot" and closing with "Anna Sun", they had the crowd dancing, jumping and singing-a-long with every last word. Lead singer Nicholas Petricca was acrobatic in her engagement with the crowd and earned their respect and adoration on "Different Colors" and "Shut Up and Dance", which was easily one of the five most intense performances I witnessed at Lollapalooza in 2018.
Any of the acts playing Lollapalooza make more adventurous music than Walk the Moon but less than a dozen could probably match their power and fan interaction onstage. Sometimes you want to see a band that makes big splashy music that you can share with your friends, jump up and down and hug from the sheer joy the music brings you. Some acts are about the communal experience providing a foundation like a church and the music is like anchor that holds you together during life's most challenging moments; Walk the Moon is that band and makes this music. Will they establish world peace with it? Maybe not, but they make a hell of a lot of people happy and are worthy of every ounce of success they earn as they give their all onstage.
BØRNS, a Michigan native, played on the same field as Bruno Mars which began to fill up during his set. BØRNS was able to either win those fans over or was background music as they took their spots. Regardless of whether the fans were paying attention, "Electric Love" and a good portion of his set was chock full of big melodies and grooves that were easy on the ears but stimulating to your heart and mind.
Bruno Mars 8:40
The most significant moment of Lollapalooza's Friday was when Bruno Mars hit the stage for a ninety-minute headline set at the biggest stage at the festival. The attendance figures most likely rival Lady Gaga and Chance the Rapper's sets and may be the biggest crowd in the festival's history. There was literally no room on the field with fans overflowing to the streets on both sides of the stage. Sadly, it was also the most physically aggressive crowd I've ever witnessed in seven years of covering the festival. A potential solution for high-attendance acts like Mars would be to section off portions of the crowd, to reward those (many of them families) who camped out hours earlier without being pushed and squeezed out of their views due to latecomers who push their way to the front.
Bruno Mars went to work in a Chicago Bulls jersey and a red fedora and delivered a high octane set of first rate entertainment. Mars was the only 2018 Lollapalooza headliner who had never performed at the festival before and he more than made up for lost time. There was pyrotechnics, choreographed dancing and hits, lots of them including "Finesse", "24K Magic", "Versace on the Floor" and "That's What I Like". The show didn't veer too far off from his tour in 2017, which sold out three nights at the United Center last August, but what stood out was how strong his band is; a tightly wound machine capable of just about anything as they capture arena rock, R&B grooves and big-bright soul sounds compliments of a lively horn section. Mars has wide-ranging appeal across the board in a way few do in a climate of musical genre silos, but he appears to have credibility with just about everyone and as his set closed with the trifecta of "Locked Out of Heaven, "Just the Way You Are" and "Uptown Funk", no one walked away disappointed.
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 seven years. He can be contacted at tonykAT antiMUSIC DOT com and can be followed on Twitter
Lollapalooza 2018 Day Two Report
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