CHICAGO — Each year more than 100 acts play Lollapalooza in Chicago’s Grant Park, but in the collective consciousnesses, the enduring memory of each installment largely boils down to a single act, from Daft Punk’s rare set, to Lady Gaga’s headlining show (and surprise side stage cameo).
For 2017, the one they’ll remember is Chance the Rapper, Chicago’s most celebrated artist in years, for good reason.
Finding a massive audience as an independent artist, with free music on streaming sites, Chance the Rapper defied the industry and broke the mold. With his charitable causes — including a $1 million donation to Chicago Public Schools this year — he’s transcended superstar artist and essentially become an ambassador for the city.
On Saturday, he had his biggest hometown show of his career, and possibly the biggest audience in Lollapalooza history.
Here are five takeaways from Lollapalooza’s third day.
Chance’s shining moment: A big moment needed a big entrance, and Chance didn’t disappoint Saturday night, riding across the stage on a motorbike, hoping off and letting it skid out of sight in an explosion of fireworks.
What immediately followed was more combustible, as Chance feverishly leaped across a color-saturated stage, spitting the verses to Mixtape with such intensity it’s like he was trying to set the microphone on fire.
He couldn’t maintain this momentum — although really, could anyone — so Chance frequently shifted gears, transforming his set into an uplifting church sermon with Blessings and Sunday Candy, then later, turning it up by turning on a firehose and spraying the crowd, with two Chicago firefighters on hand to hold down the headliner.
Vic Mensa appeared for Cocoa Butter Kisses, but several of Chance’s other Chicago collaborators — including Jamila Woods and Saba — were surprising no shows. Mentor West didn’t appear either, although there was a familiar face in the photo pit at the start of the set: Lollapalooza regular and former first daughter Malia Obama.
Hip-hop heavy: Chance the Rapper was the rapper at Lolla Saturday, but it was a stacked day for emerging hip-hop. Portland, Ore.-based Aminé recalled attending Lolla as a fan last year; this year, he had his own set, and a good crowd for an early Saturday afternoon, following his selection for XXL’s coveted 2017 Freshman Class. With his shout-out to a “Respect Women” sign in the crowd, a recurring “You’re Beautiful”/“I Know” call-and-repeat, and intriguing material like the Missy Elliott-indebted Redmercedes, Amine was easy to root for.
Later that night, he was rooting for fellow Freshman Madeintyo (pronounced Made in Tokyo) on Lolla’s smallest stage. A lot of people were, so many, that you could feel the body heat from the photo pit from the masses smashed against the front barricade. The scene recalled the massive crowd that checked out Chance on this stage for his first Lolla — except Madeintyo was competing not only with Chance’s impending set, but with more established, fellow Atlanta rapper 21 Savage. Savage too had a huge crowd — and he lost their attention with a run-of-the-mill performance. But Madeintyo seized the moment, validating his one-to-watch status with palpable intensity.
Piet Levy recommends eight must-see new music acts at Lollapalooza in Chicago next week. Wochit
Taking on Trump: We’ll never all agree whether politics has a place in music, but perhaps we could all rally against bad political music. Case in point: Highly Suspect was in the midst of a rollicking rock set Saturday — good enough to warrant a mid-song wine break during Better Days — before it squandered the set with Viper Strikes, a POTUS-targeting protest song undone by uninspired riffs and amateurish lyrics.
A good start: There’ll be no long slog up the ranks of the U.S. festival market for 19-year-old Zara Larsson. The Swedish, R&B-gone-pop singer-songwriter made her American festival debut to a large crowd at Lolla Saturday. That’s what happens when you have a billion-plus Spotify streams for just two songs.
Confidently kicking off her set with one of them, the starry-eyed romantic anthem Never Forget You, offered instant momentum, and other sticky and sugary trend-chasers — the tropical house of Sundown; the piano ballad-and-EDM blend of Tinie Tempah’s Girls Like — were pleasing, disposable ear-candy. But Larsson needs to develop a more distinct stage presence to truly be unforgettable.
Dance if you want to: “Is it too early to dance,” Warpaint singer Theresa Wayman asked early Saturday afternoon. “No,” the crowd cheered. “Alright prove it,” Wayman retorted.
They didn’t prove it. Despite a more expansive sound on last year’s superb High Up album, the all-female rock band’s dance music — heavy on brooding and Jenny Lee Lindberg’s angsty bass lines — didn’t gel with this unfortunately glorious, sunny day.
Glass Animals had better luck from the stage a few hours later, giving fans, and folks holding prime real estate for Chance, some slinky, psychedelic pop rock to groove to.
Dancing was definitely in demand for Sylvan Esso, with singer Amelia Meath literally doing the twist for Kick Jump Twist, and producer Nick Sanborn, a Milwaukee music scene veteran, frequently erupting into spasms when he touched a dial. In the beginning though, there were just quiet oscillating clicks fluttering around Meath’s softly soaring voice, an inspired intro symbolizing the duo’s striking balance of organic and electronic.
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