Lollapalooza 2023 continued during day two with sunny skies and a schedule that was overflowing with talent. There was a local Chicago punk band who stole the day, a movie star bungee jumping from the top of the stage and arguably one of the most important American performers from the last twenty-five years; all of whom delivered memorable sets no one will soon forget. Here are the best performances from day two of Lollapalooza 2023.
Skizzy Mars 12:45
Skizzy Mars is a rapper hailing from New York City. Born Miles Mills, his stage name while going to college for journalism. He eventually left journalism to be a full-time musician and his early set featured grooves and confessionals on "This City" and "Alcohol". The early stages are not always easy for the performers, but those who make it to the performances are often attentive which is exactly what Skizzy Mars audience was as they were in lockstep with the rapper.
On the opposite side of the festival, Cydeways brought their Santa Barbara alternative sound (by way of Boston) featuring "Lockdown" and "Shadows" the band showed promise during their set with good energy for an early set.
Sincere Engineer 1:25
Arguably the best non-headline performance of 2023 occurred on Friday was from Chicago's Sincere Engineer, a punk band formed by Deanna Belos. Belos has established herself as a DIY performer willing to open any show she can and her appearance on the Bud Light stage was exhilarating. Her refined melodies were paired with raging aggression and big slashing guitars. Belos and the band tore through their Lollapalooza set like festival veterans. Not only were their Chicago fans out in full support, but newcomers seemed to be impressed as well. Many up-and-coming acts do not always have the catalog to fill a full hour set, but Sincere Engineer performed the full hour they were given. Every song was delivered with true and utmost sincerity. Their brand of punk music is simple yet joyous. Deanna Belos performs with conviction & purpose. There is a deep sense of home and community throughout their lyrics, notably the song "California King" which is a fictional song about leaving Chicago, but it hit every emotion in just the right way. You could see the emotion come through from all three musicians; here are a bunch of kids who have attended Lollapalooza in Chicago over the years and is now playing on one of the biggest stages. This wasn't about impressing the audience so much as dialing into their strengths with loud, fast & melodic music and I loved every single second. Sincere Engineer have something that I don't see often - authenticity. Talent and drive comes easy to many, but to have an authentic voice and purpose is something that can't be taught.
The pop-emo-punk band, with vocalist Julian Comeau and Dylan Tirapelli-Jamail, delivered the goods with "Lighthouse" and "IS IT ME" under the shade of the Bacardi stage. The rumbling bass and drums were complimented with some wailing screams and vocals that stretched far beyond the stage. Comeau has a sincerity in his delivery you don't see every day and he showcased it at Lollapalooza.
The BMI stage delivered once again with Nigerian singer-songwriter Somadina performing a mix of alternative R&B and electronic music against the backdrop of tress and Lake Shore Drive. The music is refreshing while being unique with melodies awash with synth beats. She gracefully danced and sang across the stage during her set and ended it with a dedication to her father, "Paradise" which she told the audience "was his favorite song". Somadina also made some history at Lollapalooza this year as she was one of three Nigerian performers alongside Tems and Rema.
Emo Nite 3:15
Perry's EDM dance stage was created in 2008 to engage the massive EDM crowds coming to music festivals. Perry's is the place where there will be large swaths of people from the opening at no one until the last pyrotechnic is blown ten hours later. On day two, Emo Nite brought just what you would imagine, a heavy dose of mixes from the biggest and best emo musicians on the planet; Fall Out Boy, My Chemical Romance, Panic at the Disco, blink-182, and they even had time for songs like "Memory" by Sugarcult. The mixes were mostly straightforward with just enough to lure those walking by to sing dance and scream "What's My Age Again?" at the top of their lungs.
American rapper and singer Sueco was full of sway as he performed his streaming hits, many of which have gone viral on TikTok, including "Paralyzed". Digging into his 2022 album It Was Fun While It Lasted which captures the paranoia and self-demolition of the psyche, something that is no struggle to most of the audience who is trying to navigate their lives in a post-pandemic world.
Charlotte Sands 4:30
While she makes music our of Nashville, Charlotte Sands is originally from Massachusetts, and she has slowly been building a career the last few years and her presence on the BMI staged was most welcomed as she tore through a determined set highlighting songs from her 2022 release Love and Other Lies along with her recent EP Good Now EP. Sands glided across the stage with her blue hair with a purpose. "Dress", which was inspired by a Vogue Magazine photoshoot of Harry Styles, went over like a game winning touchdown with the crowd cheering Sands on and singing her song back to her.
"Runaway to Mars" has been inescapable on alternative and rock radio over the last year. It's a song that seeps into you and it feels like you've known it your entire life. If you arrived at the BMI stage to see this one song you would not have been disappointed as the song was delivered with poignancy and passion by Nicholas Durocher, whose stage name is Talk. Despite the larger-than-life single, his set held everyone's attention with a strong set of songs. Most notable with snippets of some covers including Bon Jovi's "Wanted Dead or Alive", Collective Soul's "Shine" and a rousing set ending "School of Rock". Durocher and his band were utterly delighted to be performing at Lollapalooza and when they pulled out "School of Rock" from the 2003 Jack Black film of the same name, I smiled because it's an incredible song more people should cover. If you see Talk at a future festival, their performance isn't just about the one hit, but is performed with enthusiasm and energy.
Thirty Seconds to Mars 7:00
Jared Leto is not one to do things low key. While acting has taken priority these last several years, his band with his brother Shannon, Thirty Seconds to Mars are in the process of performing their first shows in four years and prepping a new album for release in September. The band performed two shows at Chicago's House of Blues for a kick-off prior to Lollapalooza and as they opened their set, Jared Leto hung from the top of the mammoth Bud Light stage singing the opening song. This is several hundred feet above the stage and is not something I have ever seen any performer do at Lollapalooza. If this was not enough, he bungee jumped to the main stage during "Walk on Water". The rest of their hour-long set was headliner worthy with material from This is War being the key highlights; "Kings and Queens", the title track and the set closer "Closer to the Edge". Leto extended "Closer to the Edge to stretch beyond ten-minutes as he ventured into the crowd to bring fans onstage before he climbed the video tent to perform on top of it. The amalgamation of the band, the fans on stage and their choir on "Closer to the Edge" consolidated superbly into a psalm that connected memory to emotion. Drummer Shannon Leto pummeled the listener with his tribal rhythms while the choir flavored the song with harmony allowing Jared Leto the ability to whisper the verses and scream the choruses. Thirty Seconds to Mars delivered a knockout performance no one will soon forget.
Kendrick Lamar 8:45
Kendrick Lamar is not just one of the great artists of our time, but arguably one of the most vital of the last century. His work is on another plane of existence the same way Miles Davis was during his life. Lamar is part poet, preacher & rapper who melds difficult but important stories of American life. Lamar was clearly one of the most anticipated headliners of the weekend with the crowds spilling over into the streets at the south end of the festival, which is no small feat considering he played at the festival's biggest stage.
With half of the set from Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers and DAMN., Lamar weaved his tales of hardship and the path forward effortlessly. His recent albums have looked inward at more personal issues and since he's become a father, it is fascinating to see him navigate the trenches of fatherhood. For his Lollapalooza performance, the stage was mostly minimal compared to his excellent arena run in 2022 but it was every bit as potent. Lamar's voice & words were the star tonight & that is why the crowd stretched back to the street.
Towards the end of the set, he performed "Alright" from 2015's masterwork To Pimp a Butterfly, and as you heard him repeat "we gon' be alright", you could feel the tide turning. Lamar's art is more than merely songs, but pieces of his soul, that layout the evolving story about America: the good, the bad, its unforgivable sins & how we move ahead. On a personal level, I didn't expect to be so personally moved by his intense poetic presence delivered with the zeal of a Sunday morning preacher. If Kendrick Lamar never recorded another note of music, his legacy would be secure, but as he showed the crowd at Lollapalooza, he isn't going anywhere soon, and we will all be better for it.
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 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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