Lollapalooza 2023 - Day One Report

by Anthony Kuzminski

Lollapalooza 2023 kicked off under ideal weather conditions as the sun shined down on just not the city of Chicago, but all the performers within Grant Park. Lollapalooza has called Chicago home since 2005 and over the years has morphed into an invigorating four-day music festival with forty-hours of music. There was a lot of great music during day one leading up to headliner Billie Eilish's set which set the bar incredibly high for the rest of the weekend. Her set was not just entertaining and absorbing but a piercing personal exploration that many in attendance could see themselves in. While Billie Eilish may have delivered one of the best sets in the festival's history, the day featured several highlights we review below.

Bad Neighbors 12:30
Kicking off the festival was a duo Bad Neighbors, Rage and Khaos, they hit the stage wanting to make an impression. Fusing hip-hop, sharp guitar riffs and a punk rock edge, the duo served notice early that they're swinging for the fences even if the festival just opened, they played the stage like it was a headline set on Saturday night. This may have been the Alabama duo's first time at Lollapalooza, but I would expect to see and hear more from them in the future.

Arath Herce 1:00
Every year the BMI stage, located in the middle of the festival layout underneath scenic trees, proves to deliver the biggest surprises. The opening day of 2023 was no different with the singer-songwriter Arath Herce who hails from Veracruz. He took to the BMI stage with just a guitar and sang some of the sweetest and most beautiful music of the day. Herce's voice is tender and composed and was absolutely lovely.

The Beaches 1:20
Canada's the Beaches formed a decade back and the four-piece female group really kicked the festival into high gear. Performing at the second biggest stage at Lollapalooza, the Bud Light stage, the Beaches brought big guitars and melodies to the fest. Lead singer and bassist Jordan Miller filled performed with gusto while Kylie Miller (guitar, backing vocals), Leandra Earl (keyboards, guitar, backing vocals), and Eliza Enman-McDaniel (drums) fleshed out their hour long set which was highlighted by "T-Shirt" and "Blame Brett". The Beaches take cues from the Go-Go's and have forged ahead with their own dance rock sound. They have a new album that will be released in mid-September entitled Blame My Ex and they will be touring in support of the release this fall.

Beauty School Dropout 2:10
Once again, the BMI stage delivers. This time a good jolt of pop-punk for the early afternoon crowd with Beauty School Dropout. The Southern California trio has been mentored by blink-182's Mark Hoppus and Fall Out Boy's Pete Wentz and it showed. Their set was tight, energetic, and featured many of the hallmarks the aforementioned bands thrived at. Taking their name from the movie Grease, the group performed a mix of high energy pop-punk music which gave the crowd a much-needed jolt. The band's set was ready-made for sing-a-longs, and they wasted no time in getting the crowd to sing and sway with every song.

Ax and the Hatchetmen 2:50
A local Chicago area band made some noise on the Bacardi stage Thursday afternoon. The seven-piece group formed in the northern suburbs of Chicago and have been touring most of the summer, while many of them are also college students. Consisting of guitarist and co-lead vocalist Axel Ellis, guitarist Sal Defilippis, Hunter Olshefke on bass, Kenny Olzewski on guitar, drummer Nick Deputy, Phil Pistone on trumpet and Quinn Dolan on saxophone the group fuses classic rock, jazz, and the blues into a wholly unique sound. The band brought a big, gigantic force to the festival with each player finding strength in each other. One solemn moment on the song "Utah" was particularly effective as a love song of exploration of the heart. I see several talented acts every year at Lollapalooza that I hope I will see again and Ax and the Hatchetmen were one of the best discoveries at day one of Lollapalooza and a band I hope to see more of.

Joy Oladokun 3:30
Joy Oladokun previously performed at Lollapalooza a few years back and this time around, she was on the huge Bud Light stage. Her set is minimal but that doesn't mean she didn't bring the heart. She's a self-contained performer and her set which featured a cover of Elton John's "Rocket Man" and a Weezer inspired set closer "We're All Going To Die". Dress simply in a short, sunglasses and a hat (which said "The United States vs Bruce Springsteen") she performed with grace and great confidence. Her 2023 album, Proof of Life is a revelatory listen as we hear a woman coming to terms with the world and her place in it. Oladokun performed a set I won't forget anytime soon and in fact, I hope she tours again soon, because she is someone whose live show will provide a knockout.

Austin Meade 3:45
The Austin, Texas native Austin Meade made a big impression with his wailing guitars bridging classic rock and Americana showing hard fringes, most notably on his hit "Happier Alone".

Spacey Jane 4:05
The Australian indie-rock band Spacey Jane are only seven years old, but they've begun to make their mark on the music world. The band has a swirling and dreamy sound with tight rhythm and glacial guitars. The set was well received and featured several sing-a-longs including their infectious single "Booster Seat".

NewJeans 5:00
The five-piece South Koren K-pop group was one of the biggest attractions on the first day of Lollapalooza. K-pop has become a larger-than-life force in pop culture. Their most recent release Get Up is currently perched at number-one of the Billboard albums charts and many of the lines or merchandise were for NewJeans. Consisting of one of the largest early evening sets in the festival's history, NewJeans delivered a dense and dynamic fifty-minute set. "Hype Boy", "Cookie", "Attention" and "Super Shy" went off perfectly with a crowd all too happy to see the band in person. Backed by a live band, several of the songs had their live debut at Lollapalooza. The Energy at the T-Mobile stage was manic as the band dance, sang and dazzled the crowd. NewJeans has a limited discography and the set featured nearly all their songs. Based on the reaction it seems likely NewJeans will return to Lollapalooza one day and quite possibly as a headliner as they have the talent, the songs, and the ambition to make them headliners.

Isabel LaRosa 6:00
Eighteen-year-old Isabel LaRosa performed at the BMI stage with her brand of alt pop highlighted by the languid "i'm yours" and a strong cover of Katy Perry's "I Kissed a Girl".

Carly Rae Jepsen 7:00
Carly Rae Jepsen is best known for "Call Me Maybe", the infectious 2012 single that has more than a billion streams on virtually every streaming service, but since then, while the singles may not have become as iconic, she has continued to craft smart pop records that feature greater depth than anyone gives her credit for. Emotion, Dedicated and her recent album The Loveliest Time are some of the best pop-dance albums of the last decade. When Jepsen took to the Bud Light stage, she danced her way into the audience's hearts as her band rose to the challenge and never wavered in their relentless drive for pop perfection. She turned the field into a dance disco with her broad and vast pop landscapes. Dressed in a light blue dress, her blonde hair waved in the wind as she danced in her high platform shoes. Part of her dress was getting in the way before she had someone bring her scissors to cut it before performing "Psychedelic Switch". "Cut to the Feeling" and "I Want You in My Room" were high points, but few other performances by any other act on day one could match the reception "Call Me Maybe" received, which found Jepsen making her way through the crowd while they sung the chorus at the top of their lungs.

Lainey Wilson 8:20
The Louisiana native brought country music into focus at Lollapalooza with his biting lyrics and a bristling band who tore through "Smell Like Smoke" and "Wildflowers and Wild Horses" with verve and zeal.

Billie Eilish 8:45
The opening day of Lollapalooza 2023 was all about Billie Eilish. While the day was sprawling with talent and several great performances, Eilish's headline set was one for the ages. Not only did she perform one of the largest headline sets of all time, but it was also one of the best. With a full extravaganza along with all the bells and whistles from an arena show, she brought fire, passion & purpose to the headline set. Dressed in a black number 23 Chicago Bulls jersey, Eilish commanded the stage like a veteran, which she is at this stage. The twenty-one-year-old has been creating & performing for more than half of her life.

The set began with an introduction by Chicago mayor Brandon Johnson before the set started. Opening with "bury a friend" the crowd wasted no time welcoming Eilish and singing along to every word. "Therefore I Am" featured blasts of fire and a hue of red lights, but the real fire was on the stage with Eilish performing every song like it was her last. There is a reason fans connect with her, it's because she articulates and creates art from their questions, their desires, and their loves of the world. Her performance at the United Center in 2019 still ranks as of the greatest live performances of my life. On that night the crowd overpowered her sound system as they sung along to every single word and Lollapalooza was no different, only bigger.

The show also served as the live premiere of "What Was I Made For" from Greta Gerwig's Barbie film, it was a ballad in the middle of a headline festival and her vulnerable lyrics were a highlight of the set. She finds a way to dig in deep and make it something from her soul. "Oxytocin" with its repetitive beat was nothing short of intoxicating with her whispers and wails which echo her inner instincts. She even had an acoustic set with her brother Finneas with "Your Power" being the highlight of this set which the audience hung on every note. Once the band and full stage was back, Eilish drove her set home delivering one knockout after another before the blistering finale of "everything I wanted", 'bad guy" and "Happier Than Ever" brought the night to a close with fireworks over the stage and park. Billie Eilish isn't just one of the great artists of this time, but of any time in popular music. She has found a way to transcend her bedroom confessionals to the largest stages in the world. Billie Eilish is one of our greatest artists and she delivered a set at Lollapalooza that was not only executed with precision, but it was one of the greatest headline sets by any Lollapalooza headliner of the last thirty years.

More in-depth Lollapalooza coverage will be published all this coming 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 and has covered Lollapalooza in-depth for over a decade. He can be contacted at tonykAT antiMUSIC DOT com and can be followed on Twitter

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