by Reader staff
Philip Montoro: I'll be honest, I didn't go to Lollapalooza on Sunday. I spent pretty much the whole day in my living room, working on a Beer and Metal post. But I followed the festival coverage happening on Twitter, so I knew that (for instance) Malia Obama had been spotted at Chance the Rapper's set, or that Bop King Dlow had joined Chance onstage to do the Dlow Shuffle for an estimated crowd of 60,000. I even experienced a moment of solidarity with the soggy fans in Grant Park—when I walked down to Thorndale to grab some gnarly Chinese food for lunch, the skies opened up and I got my dumb ass drenched.
Fortunately the Reader did have some folks on the ground at Lollapalooza, so I'll get out of the way and let them share their stories.
Emily Ornberg: The last day of Lollapalooza was about extreme highs and lows—not just the weather but the performances. Spastic and shirtless Cage the Elephant front man Matt Shultz dove headfirst into a three-foot-deep mud puddle just minutes into the band's boisterous set, and as the rain kept pouring down, he jumped off the stage twice more. "Last time we were here there was a torrential downpour," he recalled. "This is bringing back wonderful memories from 2011." The set was ragged and sloppy but rambunctious and fun—a little like Shultz himself, whose white jeans and six-pack abs ended up covered in mud.
British indie-pop puppies the 1975 coasted through cuts from their debut album, whose bumbling chillwave could almost pass for a John Hughes soundtrack. Lead singer Matty Healy has changed since their show at Lincoln Hall earlier this year: he was humble and shy before, but today he was cocky and apathetic, asking the audience to finish their applause faster so he could get on with the next song. Still, all the poncho-wearing people were elated to dance along to the dorky ditty "Chocolate."
Adorable Aussie pop star Betty Who jumped around the BMI Stage, enjoying her own glistening dance grooves, which she compared to the love child of Ashanti, Ja Rule, and Phil Collins. "OK Lollapalooza, I'm big into group participation, so please join me in singing," she said. "But I'm gonna ask you to be on nipple patrol—if I'm poppin' out, give me a wave!" Her charming stage presence and powerful vibrato made her one of the dark-horse surprises of the weekend for me.
Next, Childish Gambino burst onto the Bud Light Stage. No, seriously—actual fire was exploding all over the place behind him. He embellished familiar tunes from his recent album Because the Internet, most notably the wildly energetic "Worldstar," as well as his 2012 mixtape track "Black Faces." During his whirlwind of double-time freestyles, he started shedding his clothes, losing his Hawaiian shirt and only barely holding on to his shorts.
"This is the coolest show I've ever done," Chance the Rapper said. "This is what I worked for." He was amped, and with his band the Social Experiment, he delivered a wide range of neosoul, jazz, and solid Acid Rap weirdness, his rhymes riding on their full, horn-rich sound. We're a long way from last year's afternoon set on a too-small side stage. Sadly I didn't see the whole performance—Twitter tells me Chance gave a shout-out to the Chicago Reader and brought out R. Kelly for a surprise cameo, but I had to watch those parts online after spraining an ankle in the mud dancing too hard.
Lucy Wang: The midday storm cleared just in time for Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue. Trombone Shorty himself, aka Troy Andrews, sang and played trombone or trumpet. Brass instruments outnumbered all other types onstage by four to three, and in the crowd, bandannas outnumbered flower crowns 15 to 1. Everyone grooved to the smooth rhythms of this steel-lunged New Orleans powerhouse and his band.
RAC's set was awkwardly scheduled: it started before GTA, London Grammar, and Trombone Shorty ended, but ended after Run the Jewels and Cage the Elephant started. Add a torrential downpour, and the sparseness of the crowd was perfectly understandable. What RAC lacked in originality, they made up for with catchy beats that translated surprisingly well live—the fans who were there danced heartily. During a remix of "Sweet Disposition," the Temper Trap song of 500 Days of Summer fame, Toms and Summers alike jumped around happily in the mud. A sun shower lit the sky for the chorus, and for a moment, everything looked like a Marc Webb music video.
Glen Hansard caught the worst of the day's storms, but in classic rock-star fashion he turned it into an uplifting experience. "Lift your face up into the rain," he said, then leapt into the pit and did so himself. His charisma had the crowd swaying, ponchos and all, to soul-baring numbers such as "Love Don't Leave Me Waiting," "Revelate," and a cover of Marvin Gaye's "Baby Don't You Do It." Irish pride ran high too, especially when Hansard closed with "The Auld Triangle."
With a handful of big songs, a newish album, and a set time at sunset, Young the Giant had all the ingredients for a lively set. But the atmosphere at the Lake Shore Stage left much to be desired. Maybe the mud was too sticky for proper dancing. Maybe a day of stop-and-start rain had worn out the audience. Maybe bassist Payam Doostzadeh transfixed too many people with his uncanny resemblance to Jesus. At any rate, a wide path opened up in the muddy crowd, making a midshow exit too tempting to resist.
Will Greenberg: My ears are ringing, my legs are covered in mud, I can barely keep my eyes open—the third day of Lollapalooza just happened to me.
This was probably my favorite day, with the most impressive music. New York rockers Bear Hands were the only real exception—they kicked off Sunday with a high-powered sound that neither the crowd nor the band seemed ready for. Lead singer Dylan Rau thanked fans for "getting up early and having breakfast with us," but he probably could've used another cup of coffee himself. His voice wavered noticeably during the group's signature single, "Giants."
Trombone Shorty, on the other hand, was perfect. I can't say enough about his talent on trombone, trumpet, and vocals—most impressive, he can switch midsong without sacrificing quality. Everyone in his band, Orleans Avenue, got a chance to shine, and they won over the crowd with "The Craziest Things" and "Fire and Brimstone." The highlight for me, though, was a trumpet solo from Shorty where he showed off his circular-breathing ability: he played a continuous, rapid-fire three-note pattern for more than a minute straight, inhaling through his nose without stopping the sound. When I wasn't dancing at this set, I was standing there awestruck.
As El-P reminded the crowd during Run the Jewels, what started as a side project is now a "bona fide rap group." He and Killer Mike were almost boyish in their onstage antics—these guys are clearly having a ton of fun together. Mike told the crowd that earlier in the day a photographer had mistaken him for Big Boi. "They ain't paying us OutKast dough," he said. Near the end of the set, El-P stopped midsong and ran to the edge of the stage, yelling at security for roughing up a woman. The fan in question, though, turned out to be a man with long hair—somewhere between Lorde and Sideshow Bob.
Chromeo got people moving their feet, a nice change from the hand waving and fist pumping that often passes for "dancing" at festival sets. The duo was on point, playing all their fan favorites, including the most recent, "Jealous (I Ain't With It)."
I won't lie, even on a day with lots of rain, trying to watch the Avett Brothers was muddy and wet. I did catch the end and enjoyed a fun cover of the Lord Kitchener calypso classic "Jump in the Line."
And of course, there was Chance the Rapper. There's so much to report. He once again showed why he may very well be the next big thing in all of rap music. Chance brought out Vic Mensa for "Cocoa Butter Kisses," then really pulled out the stops by inviting R. Kelly onstage to perform "Ignition (Remix)" just for fun. A vibrant cast of band members, dancers, and guests electrified the night with tracks from Acid Rap and #10Day. Chance's honesty and emotional candor helped him connect with just about everybody in the huge crowd: he addressed Chicago's violence issues in "Paranoia," gave his mom a birthday bear hug just offstage during "Hey Ma," and whipping up a sea of nostalgia with his rendition of the Arthur theme song, retitled "Wonderful Everyday." Chance just wants Chicagoans to love one another (and his music), and it looks like they're all for it.