Migos, Cage The Elephant, Zara Larsson & More Share Festival Season Highlights

Barry Brecheisen/WireImage
Cage the Elephant perform during Lollapalooza at Grant Park on Aug. 3, 2017 in Chicago.

Michael Blume, Whitney, A-Trak, Vance Joy, Kweku Collins, Skott all weigh in as well.

Typically, Chicago's Lollapalooza (Aug. 3-6) signals summer's impending end. While at the festival this year, Billboard caught up with big name acts like Migos, Cage The Elephant and others, as well as rising artists like Michael Blume, WhitneyZara Larsson and more to look back on some of festival season's best moments, biggest surprises and to hear about what's next.


MIGOS

What’s your favorite part about festival season?

Takeoff: The festival.

Quavo: And the kids. All the young kids, essentially all the young people. They look like mosh pits and everyone's so hot, people coming out exhausted, passed out. It looks fun.

Takeoff: They crowd-surf and they look out for each other.

Offset: I’ve seen some crazy shit. Somebody passed out and they’re helping them, everybody crowd-surfing them out to the paramedics.

Takeoff: The energy is different than any other show at a festival. It’s crazy.

If you could reunite any musical group or act, dead or alive, to play a festival, who would that be?

Offset, Takeoff, Quavo: OutKast, Jackson 5, N.W.A., The Temptations.

How do you guys celebrate when a new songs charts on the Billboard Hot 100?

Offset: You see all these bottles? We get to pop it.

Takeoff: Pop, pop, pop, pop-pop! Woo!

The first time that you had a Hot 100 hit, what did you do?

Quavo: First time that we had a Hot 100 hit, we thanked god first. We called our moms and told them, “we on.”

What are you guys working on now?

Quavo: Culture II the album. It’s already ready to go.


ZARA LARSSON

You just made your U.S. festival debut here at Lollapalooza, how was it different from European festivals you’ve performed at?

I think, honestly, it was calmer. Not in the way of the audience not enjoying themselves, but like I said, from the stage, they were being very respectful, which I’m not used to. People are going crazy out in the audience, usually. But I feel like people were just having a good time and enjoying the music.

What’s your favorite part about festival season?

I love to go to festivals. But they don’t camp here, right? So you can go home and shower and all that? I like the woods, being dirty for four days.

Has anyone given you good advice about how to play for a festival versus your own show?

Not really. I think I could need some, though. It’s very hard, because it’s so big, I just feel like I need to really put my energy out there, or you just kind of disappear.

What song have you had on repeat all summer?

Ever since it came out, I’ve had “Wild Thoughts” and SZA’s album on repeat. I never get tired of it, it’s crazy. To be honest, I’m not really that type of girl that plays albums from top to finish. But hers, I can just listen to start to finish, again and again and again and again.

What are you working on now?

I am actually going back into the studio this Tuesday. What I want to do is basically to release an album a year. But we’ll see. I’ve got to start early. 


CAGE THE ELEPHANT

Can you see yourself performing any songs off Unpeeled at a festival like this?

Brad Shultz: I think ideally, I would like to mix both vibes into our set for good. On the next record maybe we’ll start to do that. I think it would be cool to shift the dynamic within the set and pull all the strings out there and just do a full acoustic set for two or three songs.

Have you become friends with any other artists or bands from constantly seeing them at festivals?

Oh yeah, totally. I’ve got a bunch of my friends that are in bands from Chicago that are coming out [this weekend]. I met them all at festivals. Twin Peaks, The Orwells and a band called Post Animal. We’ll be kicking up the dirt, doing some friendship stuff.

Is there one performance that stands out at a festival that you think was your best one?

Yeah, 2011 Lollapalooza will probably go down in the books, as far as in our band, as one of our favorite shows to play. It’s one of those things where everything kind of felt perfect. It started storming during our set, right as we played “Shake Me Down,” which, it’s kind of a perfect song for the storm.

What is best festival performance that you’ve seen?

There’s a couple times that we’ve seen LCD Soundsystem this year and it was amazing. I saw Black Sabbath here one time. The whole original group got together for Lollapalooza and it was an amazing show. And my favorite one, though, is I saw Paul McCartney at a festival. I actually saw Paul McCartney twice, at two different festivals. And both times, best show that I’ve ever seen.

Have you ever felt starstruck when you’re walking backstage?

To Paul McCartney. He was eating a veggie burger and he was standing literally five feet from us. Me and Matt were like, “Oh my god, that’s Paul McCartney.” Matt went to talk to him, I chickened out. So now he gets to tell everybody he talked to Paul McCartney and I get to tell everybody I chickened out and I was starstruck.

What advice would you give to an artist who’s maybe playing a festival for the first time? 

Give an honest performance, it connects with people. That’s what people want in a festival -- they want to feel some kind of connection with new bands that they haven’t seen before and maybe know a song or two, but don’t really know the band in-depth. No matter what size the crowd is, play like it’s 10,000 people.

If you could reunite any musical group or act, dead or alive, to play a festival, who would that be?

The Beatles, that’s easy.

Are there any artists or bands that you think might have a breakout moment in the coming months?

I think Twin Peaks are one of those bands, Whitney is a band that I really love. I feel like they should be having a breakthrough. And then also, me and Matt’s little brother just released his first single. [His band] is called Dan Luke And The Raid. I think he’s going to start to do his thing.


A-TRAK

What is your favorite part about festival season?

Running into a lot of my music friends at the festivals, I think is the best part. Because we’re all busy doing our own touring and what have you and then whenever I play these festivals, I get to watch my friends’ sets, we all go say hi to each other at the little artist village. That’s cool, always.

Who are some of the good friends you’ve either made through a festival or who you always see?

It really varies, because I’ve been doing these shows for years and years. But even today, I’m only here for one day and I know I’m going to go see Migos, I’m going to see Baauer, I’m going to see Porter Robinson, Lil Uzi Vert.

What was best festival performance you’ve ever put on?

I think one of the most memorable ones was when Duck Sauce closed off Coachella in 2014. It was the week that our album came out and we put together a new show. We had this giant duck onstage and it was shooting lasers out of its eyes. It’s also one of my favorite ones because sometimes you can really tell when there’s a connection with everyone that’s in the tents, no matter if it’s 20,000 people. The joy, the love of music -- when that really, really connects, people talk about it years later. It’s one of those things like, “I was there.”

Can you think back to a standout performance that you’ve seen from someone?

When Dre and Snoop played Coachella, that was crazy. That was when they had the Tupac hologram. For me, it wasn’t even about the hologram. It was seeing all of California come together at that one stage, because that’s the music that people grew up with for so many years. As a DJ, that’s interesting to me, because there’s songs that people like year after year, but there’s songs that people live with. When people live with certain music, it touches them in a deeper way.

What advice would you give to an artist who’s maybe playing a festival for the first time? 

Festival sets are typically shorter and often higher-energy than club sets. At festivals, everyone plays an hour. A DJ plays clubs at least and hour and a half. But at a festival, what’s interesting is you’re playing for an audience that is going to see probably 10 acts that day, if not more. They didn’t buy a ticket just to see you. So if you have them there, you want to make a lasting impression. It’s a combination of wanting to keep the energy up to make a strong impression, but also not doing that in a way that’s too cheap. You want to make an impression so that when the weekend’s over, you want that person in the crowd that saw 20, 30 people to have something to remember your set by. To me, that has to do with style and identity -- what makes your set different from everybody else’s.

If you could reunite any musical group or act, dead or alive, to play a festival, who would that be?

I’d love to see Gang Starr. Guru, rest in peace, bring him back for one last show.

Why do you think your new song, “Believe” is a perfect summer song?

It just has that sort of joyous feeling, you know? It’s a fun song. The lyrics have a bit of a dirtier side to it, but the emotion that comes out from the music, it fits the summer.

What song have you had on repeat all summer long?

Cardi B, “Bodak Yellow.”‚Äč


KWEKU COLLINS

This your first big festival performance, how did it feel?

I was a wreck the last few days. I’ve been losing sleep and I had dreams I’d get up onstage and forget the words to my songs. I just haven’t been eating right. When I get really bad anxiety, it eats away at you. But now that it’s over, it feels really good.

So how’d the set go?

It was crazy. I mean, I had the first show of the day, essentially. I really didn’t think anybody would show up. Like, who’s going to show up to Lollapalooza -- think about the people that go to Lollapalooza. Think about the time that they usually wake up. It’s like, an hour before I go onstage. But I got out on that stage and it was packed all the way back.

What was the best part about playing such a big show? This is kind of your hometown.

Looking down among the crowd and seeing people that I’ve grown up with. Like, I look into this little pockets and I could [point people out] by name. I was just bugging out because of all these people that I know and love who came out. For them to know me then and to see me do this now, is just kind of a culmination of a lot. Not that I did this to impress nobody, but it’s a culmination of a lot of hard work and I’m glad that people who knew me before any of this were able to see that. But as far as the crowd in general, it was amazing. They knew the words. I put on a song and people would start screaming.

How do you think being from the outskirts of Chicago influences your music, the way you produce and write?

Being in Evanston, all the music would kind of trickle up into Chicago or into Evanston. So in high school, you know, Chance The Rapper, Joey Purp, Saba, Noname, Sterling Hayes, Taylor James, Vic Mensa, all of Savemoney, Pivot Gang… this renaissance started just blossoming. Being in such close proximity to that is infectious. When Chance came out with 10 Day, when Chance came out on Acid Rap, I was a junior in high school. The things that he was talking about, I could relate to. Talking about just being a teen and being in high school and the shit that goes on, but also being a young brown boy and what that’s like. It had a lot of influence on me, it also motivated me to make my own music. I was just like, “I want to at least make music that’s good enough for me to be considered to be a part of this.”

Do you feel like you’re sort of working your way into that scene?

I know I’m not from Chicago, you know what I mean? So when I’m in Chicago, I never feel like I’m going to be one of the great Chicago musicians. I always feel like I’m going to be the cousin to Chicago. All these people are siblings -- Chance, Noname, Vic, Saba, all them -- they’re siblings. Regardless of the politics of music. And me, it’s not even that I’m related. Musically, I’m their cousin and I’m still kind of in that limbo. Some people have let me into their spaces and I’m so thankful for that, but there’s a lot more work to do, especially before I consider myself on that tier.

What are you working on next?

The next album is coming, for sure. I’m just working on music without an agenda. I think agendas kind of taint the actions. So I’ve been relaxing, just making this music for me that may never come out, or it will. It doesn’t matter.


SKOTT

What was best festival performance you’ve ever put on?

I had a great time in Ireland at Body and Soul, I got to perform in a forest they'd decorated like a fairytale, it was like Alice in wonderland. I felt at home in that setting.

What is best festival performance that you’ve seen?

I caught Frank Ocean's show at Way Home in Canada, that was unexpected. We actually played on the same stage, which was pretty wild, by far the biggest stage I've ever been on. Frank is a true artist -- you could tell he put his heart into it. He had this crazy custom stage setup too, with a lot of storytelling involved.

What’s some of the best advice you’ve gotten about playing a festival versus playing your own smaller show?

I'm mostly concerned with giving the best vocal performance I can, so I was nervous about sound check, or the lack of them. My sound engineer told me to expect a certain amount of total chaos during festivals and that often you just have to roll without a soundcheck at all -- so he gave me that heads up.

If you could reunite any musical group or act, dead or alive, to play a festival, who would that be?

I would reunite the greatest band that never was -- Prince on lead vocals, [Kurt] Cobain backing him up with [Jimi] Hendrix and Michael [Jackson] doing the arrangements together with one of the Beatles. Maybe McCartney?

What song have you had on repeat all summer?

When I'm not on the road, I'm in the studio and don't really listen to much at home. But I'm into video game soundtracks, so I'd say the Ballad of the Goddess theme from Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword. I haven't played the game but that is my jam.


ARIZONA

What was best festival performance you’ve ever put on?

Zach Hannah: I think festivals are always just so hype that it’s always a party. So it’s like, “What’s the best party you went to this past year?” I don’t know, they were parties. I had fun at all the parties. That’s kind of what it’s like for us at festivals.

What is best festival performance that you’ve seen?

Nate Esquite: Sigur Ros was great until it got rained out. That was Hangout Fest in Alabama.

Zach: It’s like the one we went to last night where Muse and Lorde got cut off.

Nate: Five songs into Sigur Ros, one of my favorite bands of all time. But just those five songs was still one of the best sets I’ve seen.

Zach: Everyone was at Twenty One Pilots, we were at Sigur Ros. We were like, “Damn!”

Have you ever felt starstruck when you’re walking backstage?

Zach: At Gov Ball, Wu-Tang was bopping around on golf carts and shit, they had their whole posse right next to us and were standing around, hanging. I was like, “Damn, this is Wu-Tang.” They were literally just kicking it. And we could’ve rolled over. I was thinking about going over and being like, “Wu-Tang!” But I was like, “Nah, that’s probably not cool to do that.”

Nate: We had just got off tour with Andrew McMahon. Who I’ve been listening to since I was like 16. Before we were going on tour with them, we ran into them at Hangout Fest and I went up to him in my most cool fashion, just being like, “hey, Andrew, big fan of yours, I’m Nate from Arizona, just wanted to say hi.” And he immediately comes up to us, “Arizona! I love you guys, I’m so excited to tour with you guys. You guys have been one on my radar, one of my favorite bands, on the top of my list of who I wanted to tour with.” He’s like, “what’s your number, man? Let’s watch Weezer together later.”

Zach: Then we were walking away and Nate couldn’t even move his arms back down to the side of his body. He was just like, “Oh my gosh, I have his number.”

Did you guys see Weezer together?

Nate: We did. That happened.

If you guys could reunite any band to headline a festival, dead or alive, who would you like to see?

Zach: The Jonas Brothers just because they’re our homies. We’re homies, the Jo Bros, so let’s bring them back.


ALISON WONDERLAND

What is your favorite part about festival season

Being exposed to other musicians and hearing what’s out there. I feel like every time I go to a festival, I discover a new act. And I get to play music, which is the best part.

Can you think back to a festival performance that you put on that stands out as really special?

I actually run a music festival in Australia and the first year that I did that in 2014, it’s called the Wonderland Warehouse Project, it was pretty crazy, because it’s something that I kind of came up with in my head one night and my vision came to life and it was full and it was exactly how I saw it. Another one was obviously Coachella in 2015, because that was the first time I played a real show in America. That was crazy and my parents were there. It was actually the first time I’d seen my parents next to each other in 10 years. I looked down at the stage and I didn’t even think about the massive crowd. I was just seeing my mom and dad and I’m like, “Oh my god, I parent-trapped my parents.” It took 10 years of my life to get a show at Coachella so my parents could see each other.

If you could reunite any musical group, dead or alive, who would it be?

The Knife.

What are you looking forward to, what’s next for you?

I'm finishing my second album. I’ve worked on that with Joel Little who did Lorde’s Pure Heroine, Illangelo who did The Weeknd, Peter [Cottontale] who did Chance. I really tried to push myself with this record. Even with the last album, the best thing I ever did was not really care and just do what I was feeling. Same thing with this one.


MICHAEL BLUME

You’re fairly new to festival season. What has been your favorite part so far?

My own performance. I love to be onstage, I love to connect with fans and audience members through music. That’s what I do. The press, the photos, the interview, it’s all the cherry on the top. The reason I got into this work is because I’m a theatre artist. We make theatre, we make music, we choreograph, we make the band, we write the songs. So that creative work is my favorite.

At the festivals that you’ve been to, have you seen a really good standout performance that you remember?

Chance The Rapper. I saw him at Gov Ball, I’m going to see him again here. Man. That dude’s killing it. He’s doing really important work that I think artists should be doing. He’s cultivating a community, it’s not all about him. It’s about the community that he’s facilitating. He’s facilitating conversation, he has real musicians onstage playing and singing real music and it’s really exciting for me as a musician to see real musicians winning and succeeding at that level.

What’s some of the best advice you’ve gotten about playing a festival versus playing your own smaller show?

At festivals, a lot of times, [you’re playing to] new fans. I have some downtempo, ballad-type stuff and even between the Gov Ball set and now -- I have this one song called “How High,” that’s a long ballad about being gay -- we cut the intro, we added the beat earlier. People at festivals, it’s daytime, they want to go and I respect that. I think that’s a cool part of the culture. So at festivals, we definitely want to pack in the action. Whereas, myself, if I’m playing an hour and 20 minutes, yes, let’s do the eight-minute ballad and have people crying. Because those fans came to see me. Whereas a lot of people at festivals might not stop and listen if we’re doing a long, kind of slow molasses situation.

If you could reunite any musical group or act, dead or alive, to play a festival, who would that be

Destiny’s Child. The Beatles. ABBA. Fuckin’ Queen.

What’s next for you?

I’ve been in the studio, I’m working on an EP that’s going to come out this fall. We just put out the first single last week, it’s called “I Am Not A Trend.” I feel like my sound is expanding and growing and I’m really proud of all the records I’ve put out, but i feel like the new records have a really strong point of view. There’s a cohesive narrative that’s about self-empowerment and doing what you’ve got to do to make yourself happy. And it’s a balance between selfishness and self-care.


WHITNEY

What would you say is your favorite part of festival season?

Julien Ehrlich: I like comparing all the different catering, honestly. Festivals are so similar all around the world that you can sometimes forget actually which country you’re in. Which continent you’re on. But the food usually reminds you.

What are some of the biggest differences between playing your own smaller shows versus a festival crowd?

Julien: You get to meet more bands.

Max Kakacek: We ran into Mac DeMarco, their crew, like, 10 times.

Julien: They’re kind of friends that you have that are extended friendships. You don’t get to see each other often. Drink Bud Lights together, or something.

Do any of your performances stand out as being particularly special?

Max: In the recent shows, I think Newport Folk Fest was one of our better ones.

Julien: Yeah, it was a really good set. And the festival is pretty amazing too, because I think everyone’s really respectful and it’s basically the opposite of Lollapalooza. Even though we like Lollapalooza, [Newport] is just an older crowd that only comes to actually check out new music and probably smoke weed. Probably not take molly and dress like they’re in a Christina Aguilera video.

Max: We took the train here and it was pretty gnarly on the train.

Julien: I did that when I was a teenager. I can’t judge.

Can you think of a favorite performance that you’ve seen at a festival?

Max: I remember Coachella, we saw Tame Impala. I don’t know how many beers we drank, but it was up there. Maybe 20 to 25 each.

Julien: We’ve since grown up, I think. But that was our last college year hurrah. We played Coachella with Smith Westerns and I think we drank like 25 beers each and took adderall or something. It kind of all fell on us during Tame Impala.

What’s some of the best advice you’ve gotten about playing a festival versus playing your own smaller show?

Max: I think for festivals, you learn to just be really quick for getting set up and comfortable on stage.

Julien: You have to do your warmups like, an hour before the show. There’s a big hectic 30 minutes before you play the set. You have to get zoned in at a different time. At a different pace. Where if you’re doing a headline set, you can go about your normal stuff.

Max: I feel like you learn that from messing up a couple times, essentially.

Julien: You have to go through that experience to really learn from it.

If you could reunite any band, dead or alive, to headline a festival, who would you want to see?

Julien: I would love to be at a festival doing whatever drugs, listening to The Band. I don’t even like all that many of their songs, but I’ve read a lot about their story and I feel like I know so much about each member’s personality that I would love to see them. Musically, I don’t really know.

Max: The Zombies or The Kinks would be sick.

What’s next?

Julien: The second album. We’re really busy touring as well and I think we’re not emotionally or mentally capable of writing on tour. We can make little progress here and there, but as far as writing whole songs goes, we kind of need space to do that.


VANCE JOY

Do you remember the best festival performance that you’ve given?

I remember feeling really buzzed after the first time I played Lolla in 2014. That was really great. And then Osheaga in 2014 is a pretty special one. People in Montreal are pretty crazy and excited and enthusiastic.

Do you remember the best festival performance that you’ve seen from another act?

I saw St. Vincent at Coachella and that was pretty amazing.

Have you ever felt starstruck backstage?

I was starstruck when I opened up for Taylor Swift. I was starstruck around her regardless of being on tour for, like, six months with her. I want to get better at that, but it’s hard.

What’s some of the best advice you’ve gotten about playing a festival versus playing your own smaller show?

When you’re choosing the songs, you want to make sure if you have some upbeat songs, put them all in there. [Also], you don’t necessarily have time to do a one-minute monologue between every song. Do that in your private show.

If you could reunite any musical group or act, dead or alive, to play a festival, who would that be?

The Beatles, but that would like, cause the world to stop, so I don’t know if I want to create that. That would be a healing thing, it would be amazing.


ATLAS GENIUS

What's your favorite part about festival season?

Short shorts.

What’s the best festival performance you remember giving, why?

Life is Beautiful, 2016 in Vegas. Epic stage, sun had just gone down and the crowd was ready for it.

Most starstruck moment at a festival?

Die Antwoord at Life is Beautiful in 2016.

What advice would you give to an artist who’s maybe playing a festival for the first time?

Just hold on tight.

If you could reunite any musical group or act, dead or alive, to play a festival, who would that be?

Rage Against The Machine, because nobody does it better.

What song have you had on repeat all summer?

“Glorious” by Macklemore & Skylar Grey.