Day two at Lollapalooza rebounded in a wonderful way with a line-up that was stacked with surprises, reveals and some discoveries over its ten hours. The weather gods smiled down upon Chicago with flawless summer weather once again for what was without question, the best line-up of the four days. Here's our day two report from Lollapalooza 2019.
The electronic pop trio from Washington, DC glistened under the sun with a bubbly set. Singer Chelsea Lee is a star which was apparent by the band's cover of Hozier's "Take Me To Church", which wasn't reminiscent of the rest of their catalog, but it rose nevertheless due to Lee's superlative vocal delivery. Before the song she removed her heart shaped sunglasses and as a result, the crowd was able to see an artist reach deep within for a riveting and inspiring performance. She pushed the envelope further on "Name On It" and "Trampoline" which gave her band members multi-instrumentalist band members Max and Spencer Ernst their moment in the spotlight.
Omar Apollo 1:00
Omar Apollo is a twenty-one year old first generation Mexican-American who hails from Indiana. His set was a showcase for soul, which he crooned as he backing band swayed in perfection unison. In a festival that relies on a steady diet of dance beats, Apollo's vocals shimmered under the Friday afternoon sun.
The New Respects 1:15 & 3:00
Much was made about the state of rock n' roll at the end of 2018's Lollapalooza and while 2019's schedule has more dance and pop acts, I am happy to report that rock is alive and well as best demonstrated by the New Respects who slayed the crowd twice Friday afternoon, once at the BMI stage and a little while later at the Toyota Music Den. They are a four piece band who hails from Nashville, Tennessee. They consist of twin sisters, their brother and a cousin; Singer Jasmine Mullen, bass player Lexi Fitzgerald, guitarist Zandy Fitzgerald, and drummer Darius Fitzgerald. The roots rock, steeped in Motown R&B and the British Invasion, made them standout in a crowded festival. They attacked the stage with fierceness many talk about but few can express. Singer Jasmine Mullen swung her hips in tandem with the music, one arm reaching out to the crowd while her voice stretched where her arms couldn't, making an imprint on every one in attendance.
Throughout their all-too-short set, their musical dexterity was on full display as bassist Lexi and her brother Darius locked-in with each other while their sister Zandy was able to shred away on her guitar. They have a big sound for only four people, but so did Led Zeppelin and the Beatles. The latter band was covered on a blistering rendition of "Come Together" while the material from their 2018 album Before the Sun Goes Down was conveyed with a primal force. "What Makes the World" was performed in a more stripped down manner at the Toyota stage which they introduced as them trying to be a "Black Mumford and Sons" when they started. They even have a new song called "Coffee" that did more for the audience than caffeine ever could. Both of their Lollapalooza sets were performed with high velocity with all four members flexing their musical muscle in an intoxicating manner. The New Respects are one of the greatest bands ever to grace a stage at Lollapalooza.
Boy Pablo 1:50
Continuing to defy the "Rock is Dead" trope, Boy Pablo essentially silenced those naysayers with their fused jazzy-rock shreds. The youthful Norwegian band consists of Nicolás Muñoz, Gabriel Muñoz, Eric Tryland, Henrik Åmdal, and Sigmund Vestrheim. Nicolas "Pablo" Munoz is only 19-years old, but his fusion of rock, jazz, dance, indie and garage rock was a joyous moment as the crowd was dancing and swaying with along with him. The band provided a shuffling rhythm, hip shaking and some grin inducing jams. The crowd was rather large for a bandshell show so early on the day (the area in front of the stage is the only stage to be on concrete and the heat intensifies under the sun).
Alec Benjamin 2:05
When you think of music festivals, everything is big; big stage, big guitars, big chorus's, big beats, but tucked into the corners of the festival you often find acts that reveal so much and surprise you. Alec Benjamin is a twenty-five year old singer songwriter on acoustic guitar whose music you would associate with John Mayer and at Lollapalooza his earnestness shined through making him a charming act to watch.
Against the Current 2:25
Against the Current were the second truly great find of the day, a band best designed for the Warped Tour, but they found a happy home at Lollapalooza. The pop-punk band is a throwback to Paramore and No Doubt with a focus on guitar melodies, but it's the delivery of each song in concert that makes the band stand out from others. Frontwoman Chrissy Costanza was a sight to behold on every song. She sung as if her life hung in the balance while simultaneously sharing a piece of her soul. On the mini shaded stage, she put herself out there for all to see. On "Personal" she hit the audience with a steely resolve while never holding anything back. On every song, she had the eye of the tiger, performing each song like it was a different round of a boxing match; "Almost Forgot", "Voices" and "Wasteland" were highlights from the set. Guitarist Dan Gow and drummer Will Ferri elevated the material and while the recorded versions of these songs glistened with pop sheen, there's ferocity to the live versions allowing Costanza to put herself out there as someone with something to prove.
Tessa Violet 3:30
Underneath the trees of the BMI stage Violet, born in Chicago but raised in Oregon, Tess Violet became a well-known vlogger before deciding to tackle the world of music. Her set focused on songs from her Bad Ideas album with "Bad Ideas" and "I Like (the idea of) You" bristling with organic pop energy ready to break out.
The twenty-one year old hails from Norway and she took to the Lollapalooza stage ready to make her mark. Inspired by her parents classic rock records by Joni Mitchell and Neil Young, she has injected the spirit of those seventies albums into a pop hybrid that was outrageously effective. "Sucker Punch" with its robotic beats builds until the chorus where the arms-to-the-air anthem walloped the crowd into shape for the remainder of her set that signaled that this won't be the last time we hear from this young woman with several larger-than-life choruses that weave their way into our brainwaves.
Tunde Olaniran 4:45
Shifting between spacey R&B arrangements and more soulful cuts like "Vulnerable" that showcased his mouth gaping vocals, the Flint, Michigan native is known for his flamboyancy, but it was the vulnerability in his vocals that are most memorable.
Maggie Rogers 5:05
After appearing during Hozier's set the night before, Rogers had her chance to take to the stage, which she did in an outfit that came from the Grateful Dead's sound engineer and was gifted to her by her publicist, who was also the daughter of said engineer. Roger strutted across the stage with great confidence and even when there was a technical snafu during "Alaska" she had the crowd singing along with it into a big arm-waving moment that was followed by "Light On" which was received rapturously.
The indie-pop nineteen year old can wrap a melody around a song and her performance at the BMI stage was full of rather intoxicating pop songs that wouldn't find a home on traditional pop outlets, but takes a page from Billie Eilish. "Drugs" and "Can You Hear Me Know" elicited passionate reactions from the crowd, signaling that the next time she appears at Lollapalooza it will be on a much bigger stage.
Janelle Monáe 6:45
Janelle Monáe is one of our great artists; forging in bold, brave and wild new directions while tipping her hat to the past. If there was anything we all could agree on this year, her hour long set was entirely too short, but she made use of every second of it as she celebrated being a woman, a member of the LGBTQ community and a person of color. The set opened with the anthem "Crazy, Classic, Life" while "Primetime" segued into "Purple Rain" from her friend and mentor Prince (Ironically, the last time I saw Monae in concert was when she opened for his holy purpleness at the United Center in 2012). This was a tour de force performance where she matched the passion and creative energy of her music with an equally enthralling stage show with back up dancers, costume changes and substantial choreography. Before her set closer, "Tightrope", she took some time to talk to the audience about how she was an African American making her way through the 21st century. "What I'm seeing now is a memory I will never forget. We will never forget". She talked about making memories that will comfort us on our darkest days before telling the audience, "We are fighting for the rights of black folks. We are fighting for the rights of immigrants. We're fighting against the abuse of power...the abusers of power. We are fighting to have Donald Trump impeached and voted out." Monáe delivered one of the best sets I've ever seen at Lollapalooza. The anger, encouragement and inspiration were built on the foundation of a decade of continually reinventing herself and pushing her art further and farther with each release. People will talk about this set for years to come and will debate why she wasn't one of the headliners.
The Michigan rapper had a legion of followers at the Lake Shore stage as he opened the set with "WHY" and later on performed the live debut of "When I Grow Up", a song that already has 22-million streams just in Spotify. NF proved to be the perfect mood setter for that evening's headliner; Childish Gambino.
Childish Gambino 8:45
The last time Childish Gambino (aka Donald Glover) performed at Lollapalooza, he was a late afternoon / early evening performer, but in 2019, he's one of the festival's most significant performers. Many know him from his acting career from his television show Atlanta or from the movie Solo: A Star Wars Story where he played the iconic Lando Calrissian. However, in 2018, he elevated his music career to new heights with "This is America", a timely, epic and sprawling commentary on the state of America featuring one of the most informative and inventive videos ever made. With all this activity from the last year, one could imagine that the headline set wouldn't live up to the hype, but it did. Appearing on an elevated platform without a shirt, it slowly brought him down to the stage where he proselytized about the state of the world while constantly engaging and egging the audience on. Gambino's songs were delivered with a real band, adding an extra heft to the material that separates him from many of his contemporaries. The latter part of his set was penetrating with "Have Some Love", "Riot", "Feels Like Summer", "Human Sacrifice" and "This Is America" played in succession of one another taking the audience to new worlds where he cracked them open for them.
Glover is at the intersection of art and entertainment making bracing music while injecting it with political overtones, a tricky feat few artists have ever pulled off successfully. The performance was equally spellbinding as it was inspirational. He was a headliner not afraid to go eye-to-eye with the audience while complimenting them. Not every headliner at a festival deserves the slot, but Childish Gambino made every note of his 75-minute set count and it's a set no one will be forgetting any time soon.
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 2019 Day Two Report
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