Lollapalooza 2016 Festival Review: From Worst to Best

Perry Farrell's blockbuster festival celebrates 25 years with four days in Chicago

  • misc-friday-lolla-kaplan-7Photo by Heather Kaplan
  • Lollapalooza-2016---Cosores-0002Photo by Philip Cosores
  • misc-thursday-lolla-kaplan-5Photo by Heather Kaplan
  • Lollapalooza-2016---Cosores-0001Photo by Philip Cosores
  • big-grams-lolla-saturday-kaplan-3Photo by Heather Kaplan
  • big-grams-lolla-saturday-kaplan-2Photo by Heather Kaplan
  • big-grams-lolla-saturday-kaplan-12Photo by Heather Kaplan
  • Jane's-Addiction---Cosores-0005Photo by Philip Cosores
  • Jane's-Addiction---Cosores-0001Photo by Philip Cosores
  • Jane's-Addiction---Cosores-0008Photo by Philip Cosores
  • Bryson-Tiller---Cosores-0002Photo by Philip Cosores
  • Bryson-Tiller---Cosores-0003Photo by Philip Cosores
  • Bryson-Tiller---Cosores-0001Photo by Philip Cosores
  • lindsey-stirling-lolla-sunday-kaplan-8Photo by Heather Kaplan
  • lindsey-stirling-lolla-sunday-kaplan-19Photo by Heather Kaplan
  • lindsey-stirling-lolla-sunday-kaplan-1Photo by Heather Kaplan
  • bobmoses-lolla-thursday-kaplan-7Photo by Heather Kaplan
  • bobmoses-lolla-thursday-kaplan-14Photo by Heather Kaplan
  • bobmoses-lolla-thursday-kaplan-2Photo by Heather Kaplan
  • nothing17Photo by Carlo Cavaluzzi
  • nothing18Photo by Carlo Cavaluzzi
  • nothing40Photo by Carlo Cavaluzzi
  • M83-cosores-0007Photo by Philip Cosores
  • Lollapalooza-cosores-0001-2Photo by Philip Cosores
  • M83-cosores-0010Photo by Philip Cosores
  • tdcc-lolla-saturday-kaplan-1Photo by Heather Kaplan
  • tdcc-lolla-saturday-kaplan-10Photo by Heather Kaplan
  • tdcc-lolla-saturday-kaplan-11Photo by Heather Kaplan
  • tdcc-lolla-saturday-kaplan-5Photo by Heather Kaplan
  • mutemath-lolla-saturday-kaplan-16Photo by Heather Kaplan
  • mutemath-lolla-saturday-kaplan-17Photo by Heather Kaplan
  • mutemath-lolla-saturday-kaplan-19Photo by Heather Kaplan

    Twenty-five years of Lollapalooza.

    It’s hard to believe that a quarter century has gone by since Perry Farrell rolled out the blueprints for what was then simply a fun way to say goodbye to Jane’s Addiction. Since then, the blockbuster brand has seen its fair share of lineups, shakeups, and breakups. Now, it’s an annual Chicago tradition, one that C3 Presents hosts at Grant Park every summer.

    “The record industry loves success,” Farrell recently told Chicago Tribune hero Greg Kot. “They wait for something to hit, they go to the hilltops. They go right to next year — hey, the Red Hot Chili Peppers want to do it (in 1992). I didn’t have much else to do that year, I knew I was going to put Jane’s down for a time, and I figured why not? I was up for another party.”

    misc friday lolla kaplan 11 Lollapalooza 2016 Festival Review: From Worst to Best

    Photo by Heather Kaplan

    He’s been up for one almost every year, and he went all out for 2016. The 25th anniversary celebration sucked the Day-Glo-colored marrow straight out of the “-palooza,” featuring veterans like Radiohead, Jane’s Addiction, and Red Hot Chili Peppers alongside young visionaries like Future, Lana Del Rey, and Vic Mensa. There’s something for everyone.


    Although the festival “started out as a scene for the alternative kids,” as Farrell also argued, it’s essentially become a beacon for all things pop culture. This past weekend alone saw Dwyane Wade welcomed back to the 312 during Flosstradamus’ set, Malia Obama floating about with her flanneled detail, and random pop-ups by that hunky boyfriend from Stranger Things.

    Still, Lollapalooza’s evolution into a four-day fiesta wasn’t without its fair share of growing pains. Thursday felt like a complete toss-up, headlined by two acts at the tail end of their press cycle and supported by a hodgepodge of genre-ruling talent that was spread too thin. Meanwhile, Perry’s Stage continued to bring out the worst in everyone by simply bringing out the worst people.

    Case in point:

    Farrell arguably summed it up best with his rallying confession: “I hate EDM. I want to vomit it out of my nostrils. I can’t stand what it did to what I love, which is house music, which was meditative, psychedelic — it took you on a journey. I sometimes cringe at my own festival.” The feeling’s mutual, especially when you see hundreds of teens either fighting or puking on each other.


    One major win for the festival was avoiding another evacuation. They came close, admittedly, with several long stretches of garbage weather on Thursday and Friday, but the gates remained opened and nobody had to run into hotels or overpriced bars on the Michigan strip. Instead, most festivalgoers huddled under trees as their crisp Cavs gear turned soggy.

    There’s been plenty of discussion as of late about the festival bubble bursting. Sagging sales have affected titans like Bonnaroo and promising rookies like New York City’s Panorama, urging analysts to reconsider the once booming business. Yet that isn’t a problem for Lollapalooza, which continues to sell out before the lineups even hit the newsstands.


    Photo by Philip Cosores

    Much of that has to do with the overall experience, how both Chicagoans and tourists can enjoy the Second City and escape into this insane metropolis-within-a-metropolis. Still, this lax accountability has in turn affected the curation of any given year’s lineup, which is why some of the bookings may feel either safe, predictable, or worse: dated.


    “When you book 170 acts per festival and don’t want to repeat yourself, you run out of greatness and you start compromising,” Lollapalooza co-founder Marc Geiger explained in the same interview. That “compromise” has been a nagging issue of the festival for years and with Thursday now in the mix it’s likely only going to get a lot worse.

    Maybe not, though. One of the more inspiring facets of Lollapalooza is its graduation process, namely how the festival tends to invest on an act’s reputation, moving them up the ranks from the side stages to the main stages that anchor the opposing sides of Grant Park. This year alone saw several graduates pulling their own weight — it was inspiring, to say the least.

    Looking back, the term “moment” was thrown around a lot over the weekend. Chance the Rapper coming out for Future was a moment. Tom Morello and Jimmy Chamberlin assisting Jane’s Addiction was a moment. The whole D-Wade appearance was a moment. Are these calculated? Sure. Are they pedantic? Somewhat. Does anyone care? Absolutely.


    Because there’s really nothing more lucrative than a rare moment, especially in a world so hideously fascinated with bragging rights and personal narratives. Lollapalooza’s greatest strength is providing those opportunities, and while that’s a depressing departure from its halcyon days, it’s a smart business strategy, and one that will keep this afloat for some time.

    Rest assured, there’s plenty of music to be had and we saw and heard more than anyone needs to see and hear in any given season. So, click on ahead to read about our thoughts on the best and worst of Lollapalooza, and if you’re still recovering, we recommend you drink plenty of water and eat the largest sandwich you can make before taking some Hibernol.

    –Michael Roffman


    Biggest Clusterfuck

    Major Lazer


    Photo by Philip Cosores

    While blowing the generator twice certainly didn’t help Major Lazer’s headlining set, what truly did them in was the general lack of direction. Being the esteemed producer and DJ that he is, Diplo is known for his fabulously curated set lists. Whether he’s blasting his latest Beyoncé cut or chopping and splicing mainstream’s meanest club jams, he always runs a tight show. Until this year, that is.

    After opening with early hit “Pon De Floor”, the set jumped everywhere. New Major Lazer stuff was followed by old Major Lazer stuff, which was mixed with a “Heads Will Roll” remix, which was interpolated by “Boom Boom Boom” by The Outhere Brothers. The set list was incoherent and exhausting. But hey, at least it matched the stage production. In case we weren’t stimulated enough, strobe lights, pyrotechnics, and voluptuous twerkers interjected at any and all times.


    Photo by Philip Cosores

    When Major Lazer first blew up, the stage production served as a way to excite the crowd. These days, it’s meant to distract them from the set’s biggest problem: that Diplo, Jillionaire, and Walshy Fire look totally exhausted up there. And let’s face it, they probably are. It’s no secret that Diplo spreads himself thin. Switching between three active side projects (Diplo, Major Lazer, and Jack Ü) and performing multiple shows per day would kill anyone’s spirit over time.


    As a longtime Major Lazer supporter, I truly had high hopes for this set. Of all Diplo’s side projects, Major Lazer has always been the most conceptual, exciting, and exotic. However, the show hasn’t changed much since I first saw it four years ago, and that was more noticeable than any of the spastic antics onstage. Major Lazer is by no means dead, but it’s about time they rest, regroup, and restructure. –Danielle Janota

    Daughter Stormborn, Mother of Drizzle



    Photo by Philip Cosores

    Let’s be clear: Daughter’s Thursday afternoon set sounded great. Elena Tonra’s voice was sumptuous and piercing, and the band’s ever-swelling orchestrations crested with power. But, man, they are really not suited to the devil-may-care milieu of an outdoor festival, even one splayed beneath storm clouds. “It looks like we brought the bad weather with us,” the London-based band joked as steady rain segued way into the hell that is a sunny, humid drizzle. In a way, it’s a complement: The band’s arrangements are tumultuous, starting slow before roaring like so many thunderclaps, and Tonra’s voice is as overcast as they come. But that voice is as sad as it is beautiful, and it seemed to carry a weight the damp audience simply didn’t want to bear. On record and onstage, Daughter’s music is rich with detail and emotion; those qualities, however, are better suited for the dim club than the open field. –Randall Colburn

    Most Obvious Growing Pains

    Big Grams

    Two of the best tracks on Big Boi’s second solo album, 2012’s Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors, were co-written with nocturnal electronica duo Phantogram, which eventually yielded a more long-term collaboration in Big Grams. But their afternoon Lolla set saw the newly formed trio working their way through a choppy-sounding mix and stage banter that hadn’t quite gelled yet: Repeated exclamations of “Oh shit, I love this song!” were about as funny and creative as Sarah Barthel and Big got. Whether it was the off-kilter levels or the lack of a nighttime environment that helped make their Bonnaroo appearance so successful, Big Grams struggled to find the crossroads where their two respective genres meet — something they seem to have no problem doing in the studio. –Dan Caffrey

    Saddest Strip Club Confession

    Jane’s Addiction


    Kudos to frontman Perry Farrell for 25 years of Lollapalooza, and speaking his mind to Chicago Tribune veteran Greg Kot about the stupidity of his own stage and the disaster that EDM has become. Still, that doesn’t change the fact that his ’90s outfit Jane’s Addiction is about the closest approximation to a Guy Fieri installment at this festival. One gaudy pink suit, dangling Suicide Girls, shirtless Dave Navarro, guest appearances by Tom Morello and Jimmy Chamberlin, and all of Ritual de lo habitual  –“I think the folks are in a Flavortown food coma.”

    To be fair, it was everything anyone might expect (or want) from the Los Angeles sleazeballs, but it just felt inessential, dated, and overblown. One intriguing anecdote, however, was during a fiery performance of “Just Because”, when Farrell squeezed in an anecdote about his first trip to Chitown: “The first time I came here, I was so fucking cold. I was waiting for a ride and addicted to heroin.” Swiftly after, he dove straight back into the next verse, leaving the chilly memory behind him. It was a supremely human moment within a supremely inhuman set.

    Needless to say, he’s come a long, long way. –Michael Roffman

    Worst Picture Show!!


    towkio lolla thursday kaplan 5 Lollapalooza 2016 Festival Review: From Worst to Best

    Photo by Heather Kaplan


    Note: This entry was written by 57-year-old guest reporter Gunther Guthrie.

    “Guess who’s back/ back again/ Gunther’s back/ Tell a friend.”

    Yep! It’s me. Your friendly neighborhood (older!) rock critic. First off, an apology. As you probably know, last year, I had quite the hedonistic time at the musical monster that is Lollapalooza. This was not by design; let’s just say a young man at the Perry’s tent took advantage of my naivety, fooled me into thinking a tab of lysergic acid diethylamide was an offshoot of TaB® the soda, and gave me quite the fright at A$AP Rocky’s set. Two pants-pissings later, I swore to my wife, Gilda, and my daughter, Jordan, that I would never attend the festival again.

    And believe me, dear reader, that was very much my intent! But as an artist (yes, rock criticism IS an art form!!!), I don’t always get to decide where my path takes me. And after the enthusiastic response to my writing in the previous years, Editor-in-Chief Michael Roffman (Hi, Mike!) thought it was important that my voice continued to be represented. The sad truth of the matter is that there just aren’t many middle-age music critics (make that UPPER-middle age, lol) out there. So I am their tongue. I am their bullhorn. I am their megaphone.

    towkio lolla thursday kaplan 7 Lollapalooza 2016 Festival Review: From Worst to Best

    Photo by Heather Kaplan

    I’m also their stomach! One of the best things about music festivals is the media tent, where we journalists get rewarded with all manner of free exotic foods. My favorite will always be the kobe sliders (duh!), but this year, I sampled gourmet Oreos, tiny waffle cones filled with nacho toppings, and even gin popsicles! Be still, my tummy…


    But I’ll get to these gastronomic “misadventures” later. Right now, you’re here to read about the music, and that’s what I will give you, oh loyal reader. The first act I was assigned to cover was a local rapper called Towkio.

    towkio lolla thursday kaplan 2 Lollapalooza 2016 Festival Review: From Worst to BestWait a second. Towkio? You mean Tokyo. Surely you mean Tokyo. Right? Tokyo is the capital of Japan and is spelled T-O-K-Y-O. I should know; I once spent a few hours in their wondrous airport during a trip for Prudential (side note: thanks for giving me the Thursday AND Friday off this year for the festival, Rog!). So why is this guy spelling his name Towkio?

    It’s indicative of a troubling pattern at Lollapalooza, where more and more musicians each year are adopting names of cities, then spelling those cities incorrectly. Apparently, another young act called PVRIS was playing the next day.


    Um, what? I’ve heard of Paris or even PARIS, but PVRIS? Hey, I’ve got an idea. Why don’t I start a band and call it SHICAGO? I’m sure everyone will love that. Maybe I can even get myself a slot at Lollapalooza!

    As far as Towkio’s music goes, it has a lot of pep and I liked that he brought a lot of other performers (both dancers and rappers) out onstage with him. I’ll always prefer musicians playing INSTRUMENTS as opposed to just pushing BUTTONS (grrr), but I can usually get over that to enjoy a type of music that me, The Gunth, isn’t quite accustomed to.

    towkio lolla thursday kaplan 12 Lollapalooza 2016 Festival Review: From Worst to Best

    Photo by Heather Kaplan

    But there was another problem, a problem shaped like a misused projection screen. A$AP Rocky used a projection screen last year, and although the images scared me, I appreciated that I could at least see them. But in the case of Tokyo (sorry, Towkio! Ugh), he blocked his screen with metal panels that kept me from seeing what movie was playing. It looked like he was playing a movie where he and all his friends were hanging out on the basketball court, but I can’t be sure. Maybe they had filmed a sequel to The Basketball Diaries? They’re the right age for it, and today’s youth can always benefit from a cautionary tale about drugs. Hell, today’s middle-aged folks like me can always benefit from a cautionary tale about drugs. Just look at what happened to me last year.


    But alas, I’ll never know what Towkio and his pals were warning us about on that basketball court, because I couldn’t see the picture show. Towkio, look: you’re clearly talented, and I admire that you’re a filmmaker as well as an enterprising rapper (my daughter Jordan likes your music quite a bit), but pleeeaaase take a few spelling lessons and maybe watch a couple of Marty Scorsese pictures, okay? Thanks, Towkio. –Gunther Guthrie

    Worst Crowd

    Chris Stapleton


    Photo by Philip Cosores

    Chris Stapleton is easy to love. He isn’t afraid to fortify his soulful country music with blasts of distortion or the dirty swagger of Southern Rock, nor does he shy away from vulnerability. His mass appeal was obvious during his Saturday evening set when the masses poured into and clogged the Petrillo Music Shell’s sloping concrete expanse. But though they seemed well-versed in Stapleton’s breakthrough album, Traveller — nearly everybody mouthed along to “Tennessee Whiskey” — they also seemed perpetually disengaged.

    A few rock horns and a smattering of fists rose from the diehards at the front of the crowd, but elsewhere the stoned, sunburnt audience seemed interested in everything that wasn’t happening onstage. Not that a festival crowd is expected to always pay rapt attention to the performers, but there was a palpable disconnect here, one that wasn’t helped by Stapleton’s tepid banter (which rarely extended beyond a “how y’all doin’” or “y’all got a drink in your hand?”). His hour-long set essentially embodied the worst part of festival culture: that the crowds like the idea of music more than the music itself. –Randall Colburn

    Winnie the Pooh (And Stephan Jenkins, Too!)

    Third Eye Blind


    Photo by Philip Cosores

    Note: This entry was written by 57-year-old guest reporter Gunther Guthrie.

    A lot of people were introduced to Third Eye Blind through their hit “Semi-Charmed Life”, and so was I. But most of these folks remember hearing it for the first time on the radio. I remember hearing it somewhere else though: the trailer for The Tigger Movie, a 2000 animated film produced by DisneyToon Studios. You see, my daughter, Jordan, turned two that year, and it was the very first picture we took her to. So “Semi-Charmed Life” will always have a special place in my heart as a family-friendly song. And outside of the Kidzapalooza stage, where else can you hear a family-friendly song at Lollapalooza?


    Stephan Jenkins, the singer for Third Eye Blind (or 3eb, as their hardcore fans call them), seems very nice and is very concerned with people being kind to each other. During the breakdown of another hit of his, “Never Let You Go”, he told us all, “I’ve got this sense of aliveness in me and this sense of joy and this great big sense of I don’t give a fuuuck.”


    Photo by Philip Cosores

    This is very much in line with Tigger’s worldview of just bouncing around and having a good deal of fun, only with more swearing, which I didn’t mind. After all, this is a rock ‘n’ roll show! But if we’re speaking in Winnie the Pooh terms, the sound quality reminded me of the time Winnie got stuck in the honey tree. The bass and the drums were mixed so poorly that it was like our ears were all clogged with honey! It wasn’t the band’s fault, but the sound technicians’ fault. I glanced over at him, and one of them — the long-haired one — appeared to be falling asleep. Hey, buddy, how about actually giving a crap — no, giving a SHIT (if Stephan cursed, then so can I!) — about the music? Oh, bother! –Gunther Guthrie

    Most Likely to Give You a Black Eye

    A$AP Ferg


    Photo by Philip Cosores

    At this set, the term “mosh pit” was thrown around more times than “shabba.” Perhaps it was the mud, or the fact that most attendees were still high off Future’s set, but the general vibe at the Pepsi stage was war. A$AP Ferg tore through fan favorites like “Hungry Ham” and “New Level” while reaching new peaks of bro-iness with “Hella Hoes”. There wasn’t a single second of breathing room, which is why hyper-speed lyricist Twista made the perfect surprise guest.


    Twista managed to lift the mood of such a vicious set by coasting through “Overnight Celebrity” and showing off some of his signature chopper style rapping. All in all, though, he added little to such an inflated performance. Given Ferg’s widespread critical acclaim, it was pretty disappointing that he decided to satisfy the needs of turnt-up festivalgoers over those of longtime fans. At a different festival and set time, Ferg may have had more substance. For Lolla, though, he sufficed. –Danielle Janota

    Most Disappointing Lack of Original Material (and Chance the Rapper)



    Photo by Philip Cosores

    “I just need to hear ‘All My Friends’,” the teen next to me earnestly proclaimed to her friends as we all waited for Snakehips. Perhaps that was a little uncharitable to the British DJ duo, who have produced more tracks than just the hit song featuring Tinashe and Chance the Rapper. Unfortunately, their set was curiously devoid of those original collaborations, despite names as familiar as Saturday performer Tory Lanez (“Dímelo”) and as big as Zayn Malik (“Cruel”). That’s not to say the crowd wasn’t hyped — Soulja Boy’s “Crank That” and recent viral sensation Rich Chigga’s “Dat $tick” were standout inclusions — but only “All My Friends” really set things off … at the end of their set, sans the ever-elusive Chano. –Karen Gwee

    Please Dance…


    baio lolla saturday kaplan 9 Lollapalooza 2016 Festival Review: From Worst to Best

    Photo by Heather Kaplan

    If a DJ makes dance music and nobody dances, did they make a sound? Baio’s Saturday set was fun, bolstered by pleasant temperatures and a warm breeze, but the audience simply swayed when they really needed to dance. The side project of Vampire Weekend’s Chris Baio, Baio finds its namesake frontman crooning over sunny, sophisticated beats that he bolsters onstage with electric guitar. Baio himself is a charming frontman, cracking cheesy jokes in tones that’d befit a small-town Bingo caller as he shakes his hips like a vintage crooner. The vibe was right, the music was good, but something was missing. Music’s a two-way street, after all; artists need the crowd as much as the crowd needs them –Randall Colburn


    Most in Need of a Second Chance

    Bryson Tiller

    Like Chance the Rapper in 2013, Bryson Tiller gained traction after he was booked for Lolla, consequently making his stage far too small for the crowd. Thousands of fans clawed their way through the triangular death trap that is the Petrillo Shell just to get a glimpse of their beloved crooner. Unfortunately for Tiller, this excitement was short-lived. Following the Louisville singer’s sultry rendition of “Exchange”, a large chunk of fans cleared out. Tiller, himself, performed beautifully.

    The stage was rather bare, which allowed Tiller’s voice, alone, to paint the mood. However, with such a limited discography and vague personal brand, he wasn’t able to keep the crowd put. He admitted that this was the largest group he’d every played for and that he couldn’t believe how far he’d come in just a year. “Louisville is a hard city to break out of,” he lamented. With another year, another album, and a few more hits under his belt, Bryson Tiller will get the love he deserves. –Danielle Janota

    The Most Unnecessary PSA


    pinegrove lolla thursday kaplan 5 Lollapalooza 2016 Festival Review: From Worst to Best

    Photo by Heather Kaplan

    On record, Pinegrove embraces kindness and self-reflective humility, both of which are just as vital to their music as the hesitance of Evan Stephens Hall’s falsetto or the emo/country hybrid of Mark Levine’s guitar strings. But those same traits — admirable in the young Montclair, New Jersey, band as people — often result in a politeness that can make their live show feel a little rigid, despite them having one of the best records of the year. Even though their Lolla debut boasted an added guitarist and keyboardist that gave their set more texture than their performance at Lincoln Hall in April, there was still something stiff about them onstage, as if giving in completely to the joyous caffeine of tracks like “Then Again” would be rude.


    The risk aversion extended to the stage banter, too. While it was nice for Hall to marvel at the size of the crowd, him repeatedly beseeching people to keep an eye out for rough behavior shortly before closer “New Friends” felt like overkill. How do you let loose at a Pinegrove show when they seem so afraid to let loose themselves? As their peers Modern Baseball proved the next day at the festival, it’s possible for a young band to exhibit both kindness and wildness at the same time. –Dan Caffrey

    Lift Yr Skinny Drumsticks Like Antennas to Heaven



    Photo by Philip Cosores

    Here’s a fact: No one at this year’s Lollapalooza loves music more than the drummer for PVRIS. It’s not often a drummer can upstage the band he’s playing with, but Justin Nace pummels his kit with a loopy flair that’s downright inspiring. His arms move like they’re either dislocated or part octopus; he’s basically that wedding band drummer with toned arms and emo hair. PVRIS’ music is fine; it’s an arena-friendly blend of hardcore and EDM that feels focus-grouped to death. It plays infinitely better live than it does on record, however, and Nace wasn’t the only reason the band worked its passionate Friday afternoon crowd into an audience. But the dude certainly knows how to work a crowd — the countless times he’d signal a beat drop or forthcoming chorus by dramatically pointing a drumstick skyward evolved from a cheesy tic to a curiously charged rush of catharsis as the set went on. The power of live music, ladies and gents. –Randall Colburn

    Vomiting? In Line?? No Thank You!!!

    Torey Lanez


    Photo by Philip Cosores

    Note: This entry was written by 57-year-old guest reporter Gunther Guthrie.

    Ah, there’s nothing quite like a peaceful morning in Arlington Heights. Gilda and I often enjoy sitting on the front porch with our coffee, soaking in the picture-perfect view of our grand city’s water tower.


    Wait, what’s this? A text? Editor-in-Chief Michael Roffman — the Commissioner Gordon to my Batman — needs someone to cover rapper Tory Lanez? And he plays at 2:50 p.m.??? Start up the Metra, Robin. We’ve got to get to Grant Park, pronto!

    But lo and behold, even though I arrived 25 minutes before Mr. Lanez’s set, there was a huge line, bigger than the line I had to wait in to see Emerson, Lake & Palmer at the Dane County Coliseum back in 1977 (the Works Tour, for anyone keeping score at home). Even worse, they switched the expedited press entrance to the left instead of the right, a fact I didn’t realize until I was halfway through the line. So I was stuck among the riff-raff: a sea of gacked-to-the-gills, misguided youth, most of whom were also in line to see Mr. Lanez and some DJ whose talent lies solely in wearing a giant marshmallow on his head.


    Photo by Philip Cosores

    Seriously? A marshmallow? What is this, a cereal commercial? Oh, it is? Well, okay then! Just as long as you know.


    One young man who looked like Jim Belushi wore a Hawaiian shirt, a CamelBak filled with what I HOPE was water (but let’s face it, it probably wasn’t), and a floppy safari hat, which seemed to be the trend among the fellas at this year’s Lollapalooza. After attempting to cut in line a few times, he stumbled around, as if he were Goliath just struck in the head by David’s slingshot. Or perhaps he was the wall of Jericho, about to tumble from the blast of divine ram’s horns. If you want additional biblical references, I’ve got them out the wazoo. I wasn’t an acolyte in my youth for nothing! To use a hip-hop turn of phrase, Saint Simon’s Episcopal Church for life.

    Anyway, this Belushi-looking guy clearly had taken too much of whatever he had been taking (NOT water; I can tell you that!).

    “I’m gonna…I’m gonna…”


    Photo by Philip Cosores

    And with that, he vomited on the pavement, parting the crowd like Moses parted the Red Sea. Instead of helping him, most attendees took advantage of the opportunity and rushed through the gap he had formed to move up in the line. Being a father, though, I couldn’t help but console him. But as I patted him on the back, he wretched again, this time all over my left Teva® sandal. I couldn’t even scream. I was too shocked.


    As the vomit baked in the afternoon sun and eventually encrusted on my Teva® sandal strap, I worriedly eyed my phone. There were only 10 minutes left in Mr. Lanez’s set. I was going to miss it! Some nearby teens shared my concern.

    “I’ll give a Tory Lanez concert right here!” slurred a shirtless lad trying to grow a tiny wisp of a mustache. With that, he rapped the lyrics of a Mr. Lanez song called “Say It.” It was pretty good!


    Photo by Philip Cosores

    By the time I got to the stage, Mr. Lanez was just finishing up, and the crowd was loving it. He had plunged into the audience and was rapping from the audience, which was neat.


    “We went from the front to the back!” he shouted. “I’m the new Toronto.” He said this because he was Canadian.

    From what I can tell, Tory Lanez has a lot of gusto and did a really good job. But as he finished, a colony of ants began forming on my Teva® sandal, undoubtedly gobbling up whatever remnants of foodstuff Jim Belushi, Jr. had expelled onto my shoe. They weren’t fire ants, so it didn’t hurt, but it didn’t exactly feel good either. I felt confused, lonely, and couldn’t wait to get to the press tent. Hey, Mr. Laaanez (imagine that in a Dennis the Menace voice)! How about an encore next time, hmmm? –Gunther Guthrie

    Most Likely to Deliver Thesis Statements as Song Introductions

    Alessia Cara


    Photo by Philip Cosores

    Alessia Cara’s only 20 years old, but she seems to have life all worked out. The Canadian pop singer is a self-professed lover of “music with a message,” as she put it in her hit song “Here”, and during her set at the Pepsi stage, she took pains to make sure she was understood. “This is a song about refusing to conform to the standards of the world,” she said of “Wild Things”. “Every dream is valid,” she said before “Four Pink Walls”, a song about getting out of her hometown, “no matter if they are similar or dissimilar to mine.” These earnest introductions played like elevator pitches after a while, but they also showed how Cara has taken her responsibility to her young fanbase to heart. Even though she’s best known for “Here”, the sullen, anti-social anthem she closed out her set with, she’s certainly not that person any longer. –Karen Gwee


    Earliest Available Turn Out

    Jazz Cartier


    Photo by Philip Cosores

    Jazz Cartier provided an invaluable service with his 12:50 p.m. slot on Thursday afternoon: the earliest available turn out. As soon as he took the stage and the bass started slapping, teens sprinted towards the vibrations as if summoned by a pied piper with FruityLoops. Cartier ran through his discography like a seasoned vet, and dropped a few crowd work gems along the way. Most memorably, he asked his fans to start a circle pit towards the end of his show before launching into a mini-speech about the importance of keeping women safe in concert environments. Not too many renaissance men play early afternoon time slots; props to him for bringing it so hard right off the bat. –Pat Levy

    Stay Classy, Perry’s

    Lindsey Stirling

    Walk by Perry’s Stage at any given moment and you’re bound to see something out of Dante’s Inferno. Or maybe the closest the festival can get to a scene out of Saving Private Ryan. It’s a never-ending hell hole, chock-full of bad decisions, underaged drinking, and undiagnosed STDs. To be fair, though, there were some slight reprieves over the weekend — ahem, Joey Purp’s sick performance on Friday afternoon comes to mind — but few offered up as much class as Lindsey Stirling.

    Wielding a violin and signature dance moves, Stirling added a decadent touch to the area with her dramatic compositions, exhaustively pouncing and prowling about the stage as she wittled away. Her performance of “Something Wild” off Disney’s forthcoming Pete’s Dragon reboot felt a tad too commercial, no thanks to the promotional footage playing on all screens, but it was a minor distraction from her rare talents. If only more folks at Perry’s offered bold left turns like this. –Michael Roffman

    Best Midday Raindance Sesh

    Bob Moses


    Severe weather threats are never really a surprise at any music festival. So there was some concern over at the Pepsi stage — formerly The Grove (the name changes confuse me every year — prior to Bob Moses. Would we have to evacuate? No one really knew. Nevertheless, the crowd was half full at the tree-sheltered stage, erupting when Tom Howie and Jimmy Vallance hit the stage. “I wanna see everybody’s best rain dances,” Howie screamed, prompting a sea of vibrant plastic raincoats and umbrellas to flood the patchy grass. The duo’s upbeat energy and rocktronica sound admittedly deserved to thrive at a later slot, but when everyone’s clapping and jumping around despite getting completely soaked … that’s a big win. –Sonia Vavra

    Rock n’ Roll’s Not Dead, Just Incentivized

    Frank Turner & the Sleeping Souls


    Photo by Philip Cosores

    It’s not uncommon for musicians to pit sides of the crowd against each other, but Frank Turner upped the stakes with a signed drumskin for the winning side. Perhaps the Englishman felt he needed to give Lollapalooza, sorely lacking in good ol’ rock n’ roll, a jolt. He needn’t have — the crowd sang along enthusiastically to songs like “Recovery” and “Get Better”, and roiling but convivial moshpits ignited during “Out of Breath”. It was show number 1,935 for Turner, a workhorse musician given to punishing tour schedules. He looked pretty ragged, even at the start of his set, but certainly didn’t lack the energy to sincerely exhort his American audience not to vote for “the racist with the bad haircut.” –Karen Gwee

    Punks in a Sea of Hunks


    I saw several acts this weekend that never quite connected with their crowd, but none of them acknowledged it except for Nothing, a band of Philly-based punks that released one of this year’s most quietly powerful records with Tired of Tomorrow. Their sound is heavy, sure, but it’s definitely not alienating (I’d even call it inviting), so it’s a wonder that their small Saturday afternoon audience was so silent. The band, amused and self-aware, seemed to understand that this wasn’t the best setting for their brand of shoegazey, ‘90s-style alt-rock, and filled the awkward space in between songs with sarcastic jokes (“We’re Jane’s Addiction”) and intros informing listeners that “this song’s about kidnapping” and “this song’s about death.” Nothing’s casual disdain may not have won them any fans, but it certainly provided a refreshing break from the fest’s relentless flashiness. –Randall Colburn


    Turn Off the Bright Lights


    After several dreary hours of gray skies and London rain, the asshole sun decided to finally come around and do its job. By then, though, it was too late and somewhat intrusive — actually, it was very intrusive. Especially since M83 were minutes away from taking the Samsung stage, where they’d warm the floorboards up for Radiohead. Similar to Sigur Rós’ afternoon set a few years back — on the very same stage, in fact — the whole thing felt hideously out of place. Hell, who wants to hear “Midnight City” six hours before midnight? Or dance their socks off to “Couleurs” when the lights are bleached out from the daylight? It’s just not very sexy, and that’s always been Anthony Gonzalez’s forte. “But…?” But, they played their hearts out, and even the junk off their new album sounded okay. The real highlight, however, was seeing Jordan Lawlor lose his fucking shit on “Sitting”, a stellar deep cut that goes way, way back to 2001’s self-titled debut. Please come back, folks, and preferably indoors. –Michael Roffman

    An Exercise in Patience for Rap Bros


    mothers lolla sunday kaplan 5 Lollapalooza 2016 Festival Review: From Worst to Best

    Photo by Heather Kaplan

    God bless Mothers for enduring what must have been a humiliating last show of their tour, facing a crowd of bros who wanted nothing more than for the band’s set to end so they could wild out to Flatbush Zombies. Mothers played expertly to the utterly uninterested crowd, nailing atypical time signatures and nimble guitarwork on tracks like “Fat Chance” and “It Hurts Until It Doesn’t”. Frontwoman Kristine Leschper’s vocals have more personality than some entire bands in indie rock today, and it was frustrating when the crowd drowned her out with cheers upon spotting members of Flatbush Zombies backstage. “You have not been listening,” she sang during their last song, “No Crying in Baseball”, and it felt like a fitting admonishment. –Karen Gwee

    Best Preview of New Material

    Lucy Dacus


    Photo by Philip Cosores

    On Lucy Dacus’ debut, No Burden, the burgeoning singer-songwriter dresses up her confessionals in two different styles: delicate and mighty. At Lollapalooza, she wisely favored the latter, opening her set with a beefed-up version of “Troublemaker, Doppelgänger” that probably shook more than a few of the branches that canopied the BMI stage. Likewise, the quiet military drumming of “Map on a Wall”‘s intro eventually gave way to its more explosive finale that felt right at home at the behemoth music festival. But the highlight of the set was an unnamed new song that stayed rooted in the bluesy groove of her harder material. It’s too early to say whether her next record will lean towards heavy, soft, or both, but as her rock-solid performance at Lolla proved, we’re anxious to hear more. –Dan Caffrey

    Most Bro Tanks/Ray-Bans/Snapback Combos

    Two Door Cinema Club


    The sun was beginning to set as Two Door Cinema Club took the stage Saturday night. The crowd waited with anticipation for the Irish indie rockers to emerge, as fans held up record sleeves, shirts, and even scarves with their emblems. After several moments, the band and later lead singer Alex Trimble emerged, introducing themselves. “We are Two Door Cinema Club, and we are so fucking excited to be here,” Trimble exclaimed. “Let’s make this a good time.”

    The attendees of the show were ready to make that a reality, and the band returned the favor by pulling economically from their three albums, opening with “Cigarettes in the Theatre”, transitioning into “Undercover Martyn”, before introducing upcoming single, “Bad Decision”. Concluding with hit single “What You Want”, Two Door Cinema Club became a magnet for passersby, which coupled with the die-hard fans, turned the Bud Light stage into a field-sized dance party.

    “Have a great night, great weekend, great festival, great fucking life,” Trimble concluded. –Sonia Vavra

    (Annual?!!) Case of Indigestion

    Red Hot Chili Peppers


    Photo by Philip Cosores


    Note: This entry was written by 57-year-old guest reporter Gunther Guthrie.

    Anyone who reads my concert reviews knows that I suffer from chronic indigestion. It’s just something I deal with, and I try not to let it ruin my good time at a music festival. More importantly, I NEVER let it dictate what I eat. If concertgoers who don’t suffer from indigestion can eat anything they want, why shouldn’t I?

    It’s led me to some … let’s just call them “interesting” concert reviews, to say the least. By that, I mean I once reviewed the METERS from inside a port-o-john. Many of you ridiculed me for it. You called me weak. You called me disgusting. You called me a hack writer. You said you only wanted to hear about the music and not my gastrointestinal problems. Well, I hate to be rude, but…

    Fuck. OFF.


    Photo by Philip Cosores

    That’s right! It’s gonzo journalism, baby. Every heard of it? It’s only been practiced by … oh, I don’t know, a little writer named HUNTER. S. THOMPSON. Ever heard of HIM??? To write about a festival is to write about the experience: how the entire day shaped you as a human being and informed your opinion of the music.


    So how did my eating habits inform my experience of watching the Red Hot Chili Peppers? Pull up a toadstool, and I’ll tell you. Upon arriving at the press tent earlier that day, Editor-in-Chief Michael Roffman (Hi, Mike!) and I noticed they were serving gourmet Oreos® with tiny glasses of milk. Now, these weren’t regular Oreos®, mind you, but soft, deliciously mushy Oreos®. Almost like whoopie pies made by the Lilliputians. Oh, you don’t know what Lilliputians are? Try reading a book sometime. Oh, you don’t like reading? Don’t worry, they made a movie of it, too! Cretin.


    Photo by Philip Cosores

    After scarfing down about eight of these cute little desserts (with milk!) apiece, Michael and I played a few rounds of ping-pong in the media tent. It was fun, but after a while, I felt a rumbly in my tumbly, just like Pooh Bear before me (see my entry on Third Eye Blind, or, as their hardcore fans like to call them, 3eb).

    Right as I was about to use the bathroom, though (the press area has very nice air-conditioned facilities), I heard the sweet, sweet sounds of the Peps echoing from the Samsung stage. I was about to miss their set! Most people are surprised I like the Red Hot Chili Peppers (or, as their hardcore fans like to call them, RHCP), but the band actually have some proggier inclinations once they start to jam out, just with a little more sex talk. Their sex talk doesn’t bother me that much, though, because they use clever metaphors about finger-painting and pastries and what not, instead of just being flat-out filthy.


    Anyway, I was excited to see them, so I mentally pictured my fecal matter getting pushed back up into my body, converting itself into golden sparks, and rushing out of my mouth in a majestic cloud. That usually does the trick to keep my BMs at bay.

    And I was able to do just that for a few songs. I got to enjoy the RHCP deep cut “Can’t Stop”, as well as their little-heard Tom Petty collaboration “Dani California”. I always felt bad that Sam Smith got sued by Mr. Petty for unknowingly stealing from him. I guess he should have just teamed up with everyone’s favorite Rebel Without a Clue like the Chilis did. Then everyone could have made like Blockbuster Video® and gone home happy. Oh well.


    Photo by Philip Cosores

    But back to my tale. It was “Dark Necessities” that did me in. Every time Anthony Kiedis sang those two words, it made me think of the pitch-black color of the Oreos®. Suddenly, they didn’t seem so golden anymore. The mind-sparks melted back into feces and sent me running to the nearest port-o-john. Some of the port-o-johns this year were made by Honey Bucket®, which made me think of Winnie the Pooh again (see my entry on Third Eye Blind, or, as their hardcore fans like to call them, 3eb), and that softened up my bowels a little bit in a good way.


    Once I found a suitable throne, I expelled myself almost as soon as my jockey shorts were down around my ankles. The funny thing about Oreos® is that they more or less convert your excrement into black powder, so it actually doesn’t hurt that much when they start coming out of you. Powder … powder … Looking down at what had just escaped my body, I was suddenly reminded of black cocaine. Seriously, that’s what my stool looked like! I don’t know if there is such a thing as black cocaine, but if there is, the Peppies undoubtedly know a thing or two about it. By that, I mean they’ve done a lot of drugs in their time, and I’m so happy they came out on the other side. That’s the thought that went through my head when they started playing “Otherside”, showing me that we’re all connected: me, the Peps (more like Pepto-Bismol®!), and my own bodily functions.


    Photo by Philip Cosores

    Oh, you think I’m getting too weird? Too hacky? Too REAL??!! Then I guess you just don’t understand music journalism. The best rock critics know that all the disparate parts of the world are connected through the power of music. Why shouldn’t we be able to string together, RHCP, Honey Bucket, and me for a review? These are my crazy thoughts, ladies and germs. I don’t think ’em, I just deliver ’em. I am the vehicle. That’s it. Period. If you can’t handle my wild imagination, then find another festival. This is just another day in the life of The Gunth, baby! –Gunther Guthrie

    Born to be a Balladeer


    lapsley lolla sunday kaplan 3 Lollapalooza 2016 Festival Review: From Worst to Best

    Photo by Heather Kaplan

    Låpsley is an English singer with a rich, robust voice and a backing band that looks plucked out of a Sprockets sketch. That aside, their arrangements rang with clarity and grace across the sun-baked audience on Sunday when Låpsley serenaded a rapt early afternoon audience through tracks from this year’s solid Long Way Home. She’s mostly known for upbeat bangers like “Operator” and “Love Is Blind”, but both onstage and on record it’s her ballads that truly resonate. I was pleasantly surprised, then, when she sat down at a piano to pound out the gorgeous “Painter” and album closer “Seven Months”. For some, sadness comes easy. –Randall Colburn

    Brilliant Boogie Breakdown Bonanza

    Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats


    Photo by Philip Cosores

    Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats filled a very necessary spot in the Lollapalooza tradition: the midday, sweat-drenched soul-funk-folk-blues boogie bonanza. Usually Sharon Jones, Charles Bradley, and Lee Fields take turns driving that car, but this year Rateliff took the wheel and absolutely floored the crowd. Onstage, Rateliff inhabits an almost Jekyll-and-Hyde-type frontman persona, where his former folk self acts as the more subdued version that only comes out occasionally while the wild-man, musical, whirling dervish runs things for the majority of the set. While his lower-key songs have their place, Lollapalooza was the perfect stage to unleash the beast on a sweaty Saturday afternoon, and that’s exactly what Rateliff and the Night Sweats did. –Pat Levy

    Most Unrealistic Expectations of a Festival Crowd



    Photo by Philip Cosores

    Sure, Lollapalooza might be the festival of Chicago, where Chance the Rapper holds court. But it was still a mistake for Kehlani to expect the early afternoon crowd at the Samsung stage — which diminished as the rain rolled in — to rap Chance’s verse on You Should Be Here cut “The Way” with any finesse. Some lifers tried, but as the rising R&B singer cheekily noted, Lolla summarily butchered it. Kehlani was far better when flexing on her own, such as on recently released anthem “CRZY” or the vulnerable “Tore Up”, which saw her dropping the dance moves to knock out run after vocal run. –Karen Gwee

    New Hunk on the Block

    Day Wave


    Photo by Philip Cosores


    Day Wave is the work of Jackson Phillips, a Berklee whiz kid who logged time in synth pop outfit Carousel before setting off on his own. I was surprised to learn that Phillips was the driving force behind Day Wave, as his backing band not only sounded crisp and practiced, but also provided rich, resonant harmonies throughout. New Order is an obvious influence (they even covered “Ceremony” near the end of their set), but their sound is also redolent of the recent output of Turnover and The Sidekicks, who Pitchfork’s Ian Cohen brilliantly described as “suburban operatic, a small voice for big spaces.” You could also apply that phrase to Day Wave, who lace simple, repetitive melodies with a sense of awestruck wonder. It’s a blissed-out sound, fuzzy and enveloping; it’s music you swim through. During their early afternoon set on Friday, the band’s trim catalog sounded better live than it does on record (and it sounds great on record, FYI). Expect big things. –Randall Colburn

    Craziest Crowd Surfing


    At a festival where sitting on someone else’s shoulders earns you a swift reprimand from security, you have to admire Mutemath’s commitment to safe and effective crowdsurfing. The electro-rock band hauled out a mattress with goofy blinking LEDs along its sides for vocalist/keyboardist Paul Meany to perch on, allowing him to triumphantly coast atop the Lakeshore crowd. Mutemath were a presence alright, buoyed by Meany’s theatrics (he did a handstand on his broken keyboard) and Darren King’s no-holds-barred drumming (he used duct tape to keep his headphones on his head, and it still wasn’t enough — he had to redo it mid-set). They lit up a set filled mainly with peppy and crowd-pleasing, but ultimately unremarkable alternative rock, excepting newer, liquidy song “Changes” and “Reset”, an old but thrilling track that made a solid case for more instrumental rock at Lollapalooza. –Karen Gwee

Personalized Stories

Around The Web