Authors: Jake Walczyk & David Heinrich
What a year for Lollapalooza. 26 years in, this festival knows what it’s doing. For the most part, Lollapalooza has remained consistent from year to year, but it turns more into an adult playground every time. From installing a roller rink to urinal stations, Lollapalooza has made it a priority to keep the interests of their patrons in mind. Along with this, this year’s performances were some of the wildest the festival has ever seen. Lollapalooza has established itself as one of the most iconic festivals in the U.S. right now, and because of this, bands tend to save their special sauce for this fest. This means Matt Shultz in a dress, Barns Courtney in a hospital bed, guest appearances during the many headliner sets, and far more. There’s simply too much music history and fun to pack into four days, but somehow they pull it off time and time again. There may now be Lollapaloozas around the world, but none will ever match the party in the park that Chicago puts on every year.
If you’re into reality TV but stuck at a festival, The Walters are the culmination of drama in music. These local Chicagoans with soothe you with a sweet serenade and 30 minutes later take off their shirts, roll around on the stage, and scream into your face about how no one ever believed in them. The Walters take their music seriously, but their show is about far more. They show all of their cards (and chests). Lead singer Luke Olson had goofy yet groovy moves the entire performance, and was not afraid to shake his rear. Less than halfway through the set, he announced that their “fearless leader”, Walter himself, had a “surprise” for the audience. The hairy Walter then took off his shirt. Olson proceeded to throw the shirt into the crowd to Walter’s apparent dismay. Olson eventually threw off his own shirt when screaming into the microphone about the people that never believed in his music career, and that he never had a “plan b”. This bitter honesty was both shocking and inspiring. During their last song, he leaped into the crowd, surfed a bit, then jumped back on stage to hug each member of the band and roll on his back screaming into the microphone some more. My eyes have never been more glued to a stage.
The indie rock heroes of Chicago have returned to the homeland, and they couldn’t have done it in a more special way. They have been touring constantly since their release of Light Upon the Lake, and the practice has resulted in an even more incredible show. Both fans of the band and newbies alike were mesmerized by the band’s soothing performance. Chicago rapper Joey Purp came on stage for their instrumental “Red Moon”. This tune seems to be transformed into a completely unique song each performance, as there is quite a bit of room for improvisation. However, Joey Purp took over the dynamic of the song, making it my personal favorite rendition. The band also previewed a song off of the new album they are currently working on named “Rolling Blackout” which circled around the theme of depression. The band finished with what has become a staple of their shows, playing the Golden Girls theme with a guest appearance by the Social Media star Finally Aaron. It was heartwarming to see the band that has traveled the world return to their city with the hometown crowd singing along to every word. Pepsi stage, surrounded by beautiful trees allowed for an intimate performance, but I have a strong feeling Whitney will be playing on a far larger stage their next time around.
Another Chicago Native, the 18-year-old Ethan Snoreck made a big impression on his hometown at Lollapalooza, letting them know this is his time. In the past year, Whethan has released some major hits, and he is still has many in his pocket, so his career trajectory is set to skyrocket soon. Whethan brought out some of his close buddies on stage including Louis the Child, Oliver Tree, and MAX, all of which are hitting their stride of popularity nearly simultaneously. They have often helped each other get exposure in a variety of ways, but seeing them all on stage at the same time made for an exhilarating set. Each guest came out amped to make their mark when they got their shot. Many songs reminded the audience of Whethan’s vast repertoire of hits as “Oh this is him too?!” was echoed throughout the crowd. He also released his new remix of Lorde’s “Perfect Places” at the show, which he claims is already one of his favorites. At such a young age, a creative mind, and strong connections
Unexpectedly, The Shins put on one of the best performances I saw at Lollapalooza. Their music is simply too happy to not bring a smile to your face. As golden rays shined through the clouds and skyscrapers onto the stage on the last day of the festival, I would have been fully satisfied leaving after such a pleasing performance. The band has been together since 1996, so it was no surprise that they know how to put on a good show. While many artists at the festival throughout the weekend seemed tense as if they had something to prove, The Shins were just trying to have a good time. During breaks between music, instead of rattling off scripted crowd banter, lead singer James Mercer just seemed to bring up whatever came to mind, and made himself seem like just as much a comedian as a musician. Even when they were performing, their music sounded nearly identical to their recorded music, if not better. They played much of the music off of their latest album Heartworms, as well as the classics at the very end. It was great to see that a band that’s been around for 21 years can not only consistently produce quality music, but also put on a fantastic show.
This was my third time seeing this band in three months, and each month they seem to get exponentially better. While many bands seem to be more comfortable playing club shows rather than festivals, Hippo Campus always seems right at home, and more energized than ever. When it comes to style, they are not shy guys at all. In fact, it often looks like they walked into a thrift store dressed in the wildest attire they could find. This time, lead singer Jake Luppen wore a dotted long sleeve shirt and black overalls in the burning heat of the sun. Once again, the guys drew a large crowd, and the majority of fans there knew nearly every word to their tunes. Hippo Campus is one of the most balanced bands I have seen in the indie rock scene today. Each band member plays their part extremely well, and each puts on an electric performance. If you’re near the front at their shows, your neck is sure to be sore by the end, as each band member is a joy to watch. Though festival season is coming to an end, the thousands of fans this band made at each stop on their tour are bound to stay loyal, eagerly awaiting the release of their next album.
Run the Jewels
Run the Jewels walked onstage Friday afternoon in front of an enormous crowd. A lot of fans were there for the evening’s headliner, The Killers, so not everyone was ready for what was about to go down. As soon as Killer Mike said “We’re gonna burn this shit to the motherfucking ground”. Killer Mike, El-P, and (Madison native) DJ Trackstar tore their way through a high-energy and action-packed set. Unfortunately they didn’t touch on Run the Jewels, but the 15-song set dug deep into Run the Jewels 2 and Run the Jewels 3, as well as “Nobody Speak”, a collaboration with DJ Shadow. They started strong with “Talk to Me”, “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry”, and “Blockbuster Night Part 1”. The best moment of the set came towards the end, where the duo recognized a fan with a sign that said “Let Me Rap Legend Has It”. They invited the fan up to rap the first verse a capella, and Jacob killed it. I can safely say my prediction that RTJ was going to be the best set of the weekend was 100% true.
Earlier that day, Mura Masa played the Pepsi stage for a quick 45-minute afternoon set. If only he’d gotten an hour. Mura was incredible. His set was filled with smooth DJ transitions, bouncing baselines, and a crowd that was really grooving to it. He brought singer and frequent collaborator Bonzai with him too, and she did live vocals for most of the songs (hers and others). He played most of my favorite cuts from his debut mura masa, starting with fan-favorite “Love$ick” and also hitting “Firefly”, “1Night”, and “What If I Go”. I’m a big Mura Masa fan, but it was really cool to see most of the audience, who was unfamiliar with his work, get really into his set. He’s coming to Turner Hall in Milwaukee this fall, don’t miss it!
Blossoms played a great set early on Saturday. The British indie rockers played a lot of songs from their smash-hit debut Blossoms. They killed it on every one, especially my favorite song “Honey Sweet”. They, like Mura Masa, had a crowd of some big fans, but mostly festival-goers who had heard good things about them. They retained their audience throughout the set and ended up wowing the crowd. I got a chance to sit down with the guys from Blossoms afterwards to talk a little more about their show and their new album, and you can listen to it here!
Man, did these guys put on a show. Glass Animals drew a huge crowd to the Grant Park stage on Saturday afternoon. Pineapple-print clothing and signs as far as the eye can see. A few devoted fans brought the actual fruits in as well, but according to Dave Bayley, the lead singer, security was taking a lot of fan’s pineapples at the door. “What’s up with that?” Dave complained jokingly before playing “Season 2 Episode 3”. The setlist played by the Oxford quartet mostly touched on How To Be A Human Being, but they played fan-favorites from ZABA like “Black Mambo”, “Pools”, and “Gooey”. The best moments of the set were when they played “The Other Side Of Paradise” and closer “Pork Soda”, two tunes that really got the crowd moving. Since I last saw them two years ago, these guys have really brought it in live performance. Their stage presence and sound is more refined and developed, and is just a pleasure to be a part of from start to finish.
Chance the Rapper
Hometown hero Chance the Rapper headlined Saturday night in front of a crowd of adoring fans. No official number has been given, but it seems like Chance’s crowd was one of the biggest of all time for Lollapalooza. Chance played mostly material from Coloring Book and Acid Rap, with a few other surprises mixed in. Two DJ Khaled covers, a medley of three Kanye songs, and guest appearances by Vic Mensa and Francis and the Lights rounded out an impressive set for the local favorite. Fireworks were present throughout the set, as Chance strove to create really memorable moments for his audience. Francis performed his “May I Have This Dance” routine to perfection with Chance. During “Chain Smoker”, a highlight of the set, Chance sprayed the crowd with a fire hose, with the help of two Chicago firefighters. During the Kanye West medley of “Famous”, “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1”, and “Ultralight Beam”, the stage raised up to mimic Kanye’s iconic floating stage from the Saint Pablo Tour. All in all, it was a magical spectacle to behold. Chance couldn’t have been happier to be up there with his city, and his city won’t soon forget the passion he brought to the stage that evening.
Sampha played an intimate set on Sunday afternoon at the Pepsi stage. While some of the crowd was there for Joey Bada$$ and Rae Sremmurd, who were playing the stage after the British crooner was done, Sampha wowed everyone with his incredible voice and musicianship. He played with three backing band members, but Sampha commanded the attention of the audience from start to finish. Not so much in an energetic way, it was more of a speechless awe. Crowd favorite “(No One Knows Me) Like The Piano” was beautiful and tender, “Under” was dark and groovy, and “Blood On Me” was powerful and full of passion. His talent left me speechless, and I can’t wait until I get to see him again.