Though rain clouds and light showers plagued Grant Park on this year’s opening day, the energetic atmosphere could not be dampened. This impervious spirit was embodied by the day’s early performers — namely Melanie Martinez and Wavves.
Commanding one of Lolla’s largest stages, Martinez strutted and cooed to the damp masses. The rising Voice star sounded impeccable, working the large stage like a seasoned veteran. Sticking with her childlike imagery, the pastel stage was littered with larger-than-life alphabet blocks and an adult-sized crib. Against the gray sky, Martinez’s colorful performance shone.
Creating an opposite atmosphere, California punk band Wavves stepped onto the much smaller Pepsi stage shortly after Martinez wrapped. With high energy and even higher volume, Wavves egged on the thrashing crowd. The mountain of sound fueled the audience’s fervor and made for the best punk performance of the weekend.
Drawing in much younger crowds, especially compared to the festival’s other headliners, were The 1975 and Lana Del Rey. Performing on the large Bud Light stage that Martinez graced earlier, The 1975 delivered exactly the show one would expect from the British indie-pop group. Singer Matt Healy flounced around the stage, prompting the young female throngs to swoon and shout every word even louder. But the intensity of The 1975’s crowd looked like child’s play once Del Rey took the stage hours later. Sauntering and crooning, Del Rey moved through her set with grace and nearly perfect live vocals. Her set was retro and dreamy, mimicking the singer’s on-stage persona. Though the set largely catered to Del Rey’s more mainstream successes, the audience drank in every song, light change and movement with rapt adoration.
Again, a mass of rain clouds rolled over the festival grounds. Again, the potential storm in the sky did nothing to darken the day’s festivities. With headliner Radiohead on the horizon, crowds once again flocked to Grant Park and enjoyed the day’s entertainments before swarming the Samsung stage that night.
Early in the day, amid a steady rain and splatters of mud, MØ absolutely crushed her set. Performing hits like “Final Song” and “Lean On,” MØ had the crowd dancing despite water-related technical difficulties. Even during less well-known tracks, the poncho-wearing masses could not stop moving. She killed it. Abolished it. Any and all phrases for rocking a performance can and should be applied to MØ’s set.
But for the older sector of Friday’s crown, all sights were set on Radiohead, who played a two-hour set to end the night. Opening with “Burn the Witch,” off its latest release A Moon Shaped Pool, the seasoned group rolled through its set list with ambition and oddness aplenty. Thom Yorke, in his usual fashion, gyrated and grooved about the stage. The band’s sound — melodic, otherworldly and droning — steadily washed over the eager crowd, prompting new cries of enthusiasm with each new song. Though long, the set was never dull or dragging. The stage lights and big screens were flickering and fantastical, often projecting the band members upside-down or disjointed. After two encores, the set wrapped with “Karma Police,” which resonated with the masses well after the final chord sounded.
For those souls brave enough to take on all four days, Saturday marked the halfway point of their Lollapalooza experience. But the crowds were not quelled — they continued to rage on, even if the blisters on their feet were doing the same. The highlights of this midpoint included Grimes and Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Grimes took the stage sporting patched pants, a sheer top and, not one, but two sprained ankles. She told the crowd of her injury and warned them that she may not be able to dance as much as usual. She then proceeded to jump, bop and roll about the stage for the remainder of her hour-long set. Grimes embodied many roles on that Lakeshore stage; one of producer, singer, dancer and art angel. Focusing mainly on material from Art Angels, the Canadian opened with “Realiti” but mixed it up with the inclusion of “Be a Body” and a cover of “Ave Maria.” Her passion and prowess were unmistakable. This passion was especially palpable during “Scream.” Singing the verses in Russian, the chorus was marked by Grimes flat on the stage, shouting. Every aspect of the set oozed Grimes’s ingenuity — from the lights to the stark stage setup, to the fluid, languid motion of her dancers. Wrapping with “Kill v. Maim,” Grimes had the mass gathered in front of her writhing. She was not some holier-than-thou figure, but rather an artist who gets just as much enjoyment out of performing her art as her fans do listening to it. Undoubtedly, Grimes’s set was one of the best of the weekend, if not the top performance.
Directly after Grimes stepped off Lakeshore, the Red Hot Chili Peppers walked onto the Samsung stage. Opening with an introductory jam that bled into “Can’t Stop,” the Chili Peppers made it evident from the first note that they are still going strong. Singer Keidis has maintained his chops, as has the rest of the group, performing with the zeal of a group fresh to the rock scene. Their large sound and even larger stage presence made the Chili Peppers the perfect choice to close out the penultimate Lolla evening.
Sensing the end, the clouds parted on this final day and brought sunshine and heat to Grant Park. The early half of the day was smattered with groups ranging from FIDLAR to Years & Years. The latter brought a bouncing energy, enticing audiences with their electropop sound. Singer Olly Alexander flexed his pipes, spitting of riffs with ease. Upping the energy, Yellow Claw took the stage at Perry’s shortly after. Ever the party spot, the Perry’s stage is known for hosting some of the rowdiest of Lolla’s acts — with Yellow Claw being no exception. The bass was reverberating and the sweat was dripping.
Drawing in a much more subdued, but nonetheless enthusiastic, crowd was Halsey. Opening with “Gasoline,” the 21-year-old commanded the open, industrially designed stage from the first note. Taking the time to talk and joke with the crowd, Halsey connected with her fans rather than running through the set nonstop. Her performance made clear why this young artist has had such exponential success with her debut album.
Following Halsey was Flume — an EDM artist that found himself outside the Perry’s realm. Stepping onto the large Samsung stage, Flume was accompanied only by his equipment and a geometric stage design. But the music spoke for itself. Washing over the human sea gathered there, Flume’s mixture of EDM beats and other genres and voices had the crowd moving for the entirety of his set. Showcasing this diversity, Vince Staples also made an appearance to perform the artists’ collaborative song.
Ending the four-day marathon was LCD Soundsystem. The expert group took the same stage earlier graced by Halsey and Flume — a testament to Lollapalooza’s assortment of ages and genres. Though its songs are relatively long in length, LCD performed with such feeling that the crowd never lulled. The funky jam band vibe given off prompted unabashed dancing, even during some of their lesser-known songs. The sprawling sound of LCD Soundsystem’s layered instrumentation seeped over the grounds and onto the surrounding streets of downtown Chicago — calling listeners to return to Grant Park next summer.