Traditional pop shows don’t always fit into a festival mold. With no time for costume changes, no ceiling from which to drop balloons or confetti and no time for pyrotechnics, pop sets are often at their most stripped down at festivals. As might be expected Lorde both did and didn’t play by those rules during her set last weekend. Backup dancers, and eventually Lorde herself, moved through a clear box suspended in the middle of the stage. Much like her forthcoming sophomore album, Melodrama, her live show walks through the stages of a party from the elation of the pregame to the loneliness of the hangover. She wove Pure Heroine tracks into the Melodrama singles, both released and unreleased, and brought her producer Jack Antonoff out for “Liability” and a cover of Robyn’s “Hang With Me.” It was, as her music is, both elating and melancholy — the sort of experience you’re nostalgic for even before it ends. As the sunset behind her, Lorde mentioned that she felt like a witch brewing up a perfect night. The sunset painted a golden halo around her wild hair, and she paused for a moment before launching into her final song of the night — “Green Light” — and everything was just as she described it: perfect.
Chance the Rapper
I don’t know if Chance the Rapper has slept since Coloring Book came out last May. He’s on the cover of Teen Vogue, he’s getting a BET Humanitarian award and he’s on tour. His Coloring Book-heavy set featured an interlude of Kanye covers (Chance is one of the best parts of The Life of Pablo) and a blink-and-you-might-miss-it moment of Acid Rap. He brought out Francis and the Lights, Donnie Trumpet and Ty Dolla Sign and was backed by his band the Social Experiment for a set that was as busy and bursting as Chance himself. I don’t think I’m alone in wishing for a little more Acid Rap and a little less Kanye, but nobody’s perfect. And Chance is probably closer to perfect than any of the rest of us.
I have a huge crush on Kehlani. Lorde does too, she admitted early in her set. And, honestly, how could you not? Kehlani is magnetic, her music makes you feel undeniably good the way “Sex With Me” makes you feel undeniably hot. Her live show is much the same. It’s fun and warm and makes you feel really, really good.
Danny Brown’s shows are so good because he’s so good. He doesn’t hide behind any layers of glitz or glam or theatricality. He has the one thing most of the weekend’s other hip-hop shows were in desperate need of: rawness. I’ve seen him play record stores and large festivals, and each time he’s more magnetic than the time before. On his albums, his rough voice draws you as much as it pushes you away. In person that feeling is magnified.
Francis and the Lights
By the amount of “3” hats in the crowd I could tell a good number of people were catching this set to try to catch a glimpse of Chance the Rapper, who recently collaborated with Francis and the Lights on a remix of “May I Have This Dance.” They got what they came for — Chance came out with seconds to spare to do the funny stir-the-pot style dance featured in the song’s video. But, they also got much more. Francis is a performer. He leapt and danced and climbed up the side of the stage. He makes you want to dance to songs you never thought were danceable. Not to mention, he makes incredible music. I’m glad my best friend slid her phone across a table in the back of Espresso Royale last fall to show me the video for “Friends” or else I might never have seen a show quite like that.
Special Mention: Marshmello
I recently admitted to having no idea who or what Marshmello is, and I still don’t. Apparently, no one has ever unmasked the bobblehead DJ (although it’s almost certainly Chris Comstock aka Dotcom). But, quickly stopped by his/her/their/its set last weekend to try to figure it out. People really love Marshmello. My festival companion said she liked all the parts that “didn’t sound like car crashes.” Those parts were mostly Justin Bieber songs, so I liked them too. That’s as close as I will ever get to understanding EDM.
This was the set to write home about (aka the set to brag about at parties). Donald Glover is a true showman — a charismatic lightning bolt of man, who jumps and dances and smiles with wild eyes. He put on a show for his fans last weekend, covering all the bases from his Camp hits to his twitter-meme-famous “Redbone.” Beyond all that, it might have been one of the last glimpses we’re going to get of Childish Gambino. The set was Gambino’s only show this year, and Donald Glover closed by saying his next album will be his last under the name Childish Gambino. I held out hope that he would chose one of the 100 possible ways out of that promise, but alas, it looks like the end of Gambino. Later, he said he was moving on from the project because it wasn’t punk enough anymore.
The pursuit of punk is a noble one. It’s been established that anything can be goth. The next step is to realize that anything can be punk, at least everyone on this list is. Childish Gambino is punk. Francis and the Lights is punk. Chance the Rapper was punk once (Acid Rap was totally punk, Coloring Book not so much). Lorde is definitely punk. It’s 2017, and everyone wants to be punk and see punks and listen to punk music. We’re living through a cultural punk-takeover. So go forth Donald, and keep chasing punk. No matter what.