Another sunny day in Chicago, I started my day off with Tai Verdes at the Bud Light Seltzer Stage. Tai Verdes, who stands at 6 foot 7 inches, came on stage to thunderous applause. He embodied everything that’s great about Generation-Z artists: contagious energy, casual atmosphere and modernity. Though he only recently began to experience fame outside of TikTok, he seemed well acclimated to the stage. He pulled out hits like “Stuck in the Middle,” “Drugs” and “A-OK,” as well as some surprising covers like “Beverly Hills” by Weezer, which fit him perfectly.
On the way to another performance, I stopped by the BMI and discovered a hidden gem, Sa-Roc, relentlessly rapping on the small stage. It felt like a block party; the crowd was clearly engaged, and her flow was impeccable. Her powerful voice commanded the attention of everyone there. One benefit to the BMI stage is that artists are much closer to the audience, and clearly, Sa-Roc used this to make a good connection. She slung out endless streams of syllables, never missing a beat. Her DJ, Sol Messiah, didn’t get left in the dust either. She paid tribute to great rappers, including MF Doom and the Wu-Tang Clan. Like many smaller artists, she touched on topics of staying true to yourself and not letting the industry commodify you; it felt genuine.
Elohim took the GrubHub stage by storm. Part DJ, part vocalist, she was a busy woman up on the stage. She took the audience on the wildest trip. Her special brand of weird psychedelic electro-pop was addicting. “Free” is a characteristic of her style—it doesn’t seem overly rehearsed, but rather a stream of consciousness coming from a pop sorceress. She played “Journey To The Center Of Myself,” an intoxicatingly funky tune. There were all kinds of eclectic sounds in her samples — Chopin’s Fantasie-Impromptu and a Mariachi band both found their way in. She seems to have pulled the best parts from rave and pop music and mixed them into a great kind of strange.
I returned to the BMI stage to catch Contradash, a rapper-singer with a small following. It was his first live performance, and he seemed to straddle the line between nerves and excitement. It was very youthful, with certainly no lack of energy. His enthusiasm reached the crowd — an underdog worth cheering for.
Lauv took the Bud Light Seltzer stage during sunset, which fit his vibe perfectly. As the sun set on the Chicago skyline, he sang his heart out, serenading us with love ballads. Lauv came out in a crochet vest and pants, an interesting fashion choice, especially during the summer. Amusingly, he later changed into something more comfortable. Though Lauv isn’t that sonically adventurous, he has a knack for writing catchy hooks, and the whole crowd was singing along to “Paris in the Rain,” “Lonely Eyes” and “Drugs and the Internet.”
But the performance I was most looking forward to on Friday, and probably all of Lollapalooza this year, was Tyler the Creator. Late in the night, a huge crowd had gathered around the T-Mobile stage. Jack Harlow was finishing up from across the field, and people were migrating over. Tyler’s team was putting together his set on stage, setting the tone with an insane production value. There was a boat, a dock, clouds and more. This wasn’t just a concert — he was creating a world. Especially after his recent album drop, expectations were high. He had done a smaller show in Brooklyn just a few weeks earlier to great reception. As 8:45 p.m. approached, the crowd grew more and more restless, cheering whenever “Happy Birthday Huston” appeared on the big screens out of boredom.
Tyler entered. As “SIR BAUDELAIRE” played, he came in dressed as a bellhop with a bellman’s cart — our entry into his universe. The warm lighting lulled the rowdy audience into a trance, focusing them on what was happening on stage. As “CORSO” came on, an explosion of energy erupted from onstage and was conducted right into the crowd. Everyone understood what was going on: we were witnessing a legendary performance. He sang “LEMONHEAD” while on a boat and “SWEET” in the clouds. “MASSA” was a highlight; no theatrics, no tricks, just Tyler with ominous blue lighting rapping like he was possessed.
He played older songs like “Who Dat Boy,” “See You Again,” “Boredom” and “911” to the delight of the audience. Towards the end of the concert, he switched into IGOR costume with a neon green suit and ushered in a completely new atmosphere. When the drop in “NEW MAGIC WAND” came, flames engulfed the stage, though the fieriest thing on stage was still Tyler. He embodied the characters that he created. The whole set was well-paced, with peaks and valleys and never a dull moment. This was truly a masterpiece.
Day two of Lollapalooza had an extremely strong lineup and undoubtedly drew one of the biggest crowds of the festival. The mark of a great artist and performer is the ability to engage with an audience and draw them into their world; I traveled to many different worlds that day.
Daily Arts Writer Jason Zhang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.