The second day of Lollapalooza 2016 (July 29) was a little drier, and a little muggier, than the first. It was also a lot more packed (festivals with Thursday starts typically see a substantial increase in foot traffic on Friday), meaning there where more scalpers trying to buy second-hand wristbands, longer lines for the bathroom, and less Internet for everyone. But when you’re seeing one artist after another while soaking in a gorgeous skyline like Chicago’s, those annoyances disappear every time a new artist kicks off their set.
Here are the moments that stuck with us from Friday at Lollapalooza 2016.
Speaking of annoyances, Major Lazer’s hour-and-a-half set was marred by not one but two power outages. Apparently they blew the generators by partying too damn hard, and when the power finally returned (it was out for 3-5 minutes each time — an eternity at a festival), the lights and screens still frequently flickered or shut off. Major Lazer continued with the volume turned down for the final 45-or-so minutes without incident, but to some degree, the damage was done. People were already trickling out by the time special guest MØ (considering she played earlier in the day, we’re not even gonna call her a surprise guest) popped up at the end for a killer run through of “Lean On,” complete with a skronky breakdown that had everyone who remained — still a massive crowd — losing their shit. Even with the volume at half-mast, Diplo never gives up on the party.
On the opposite end of the festival (both literally and figuratively), Radiohead performed their brooding melancholia — be it draped in crunching rock, expansive U2-esque soundscapes, icy electronica or complicated Krautrock — for tens of thousands of fans. While Major Lazer’s audience was a multi-cultural crew of constantly moving twentysomethings, Radiohead attracted a slightly older, slightly whiter and significantly less mobile audience. One thing you can say about Radiohead fans, though, is that they’re devoted — barely a handful of people left their set until the very end, whereas Major Lazer’s attendance was far more fluid. Sure, Diplo and crew suffered from sound issues, but even after power was restored, their show was subject to a steady stream of people exiting, on the prowl for the next party.
But back to Radiohead. For a band whose aesthetic can be aptly described by the “low-flying panic attack” lyric from “Burn the Witch,” they’re still a mighty live act, pummeling their instruments on Bends-era songs and successfully grooving on electronic-leaning efforts. And, of course, Thom Yorke is an energetic frontman: He flailed his arms like an AirDancer at a used car dealership during their two-hour set, and even addressed the audience with a faux-cockney accent at one point.
As great as their Lolla set was, the rave reviews on Twitter were somewhat overshadowed by this incredible photo of Yorke and Ed Norton meeting with a contest winner earlier this week that just started making the rounds on social media. Check it out below and consider yourself warned — Thom Yorke will take a photo with you if contractually obligated, but he sure won’t like it.
Edward Norton introduced us to Thom and Jonny on Tuesday. They were so nice to us, considering we were just fans who won the Radiohead lottery. We ended up showing our sketchbooks to Jonny, and both of them asked us if we could do drawings for their kids. (They were both very excited that Cory worked on Spongebob. Thom didn’t know Adventure Time by name, but as soon as he saw my drawing, he told us his daughter loves the show.) We were just glad we could do something for them in return for being so generous with their time and playing an amazing show. #ConservationInternational #Radiohead
Day 1 surprise guest Chance the Rapper (he popped up during Flosstradamus’ set) returned as a Day 2 surprise guest during Future’s set, proving that if something is ostensibly good for Chicago, Chance the Rapper will do it. The Lollapalooza MVP performed “No Problem” from Coloring Book, which had the crowd — one tweenage kid wearing an Acid Rap shirt in particular — ecstatic. Future’s “Fuck Up Some Commas” was another throwdown moment for the audience. Even sitting at the Dobel Piano Bar in the Lolla Lounge (yes, there’s a VIP pop-up piano bar at Lollapalooza — Zoe Kravitz was spotted there later), you could smell the weed when that one came on. If the crowd was getting sloppy, Future sure wasn’t — he timed and executed his set like a pro, even joining four backup dancers for some synchronized moves at one point. One person who wasn’t impressed, however, was a 10-year-old kid who complained “you couldn’t understand 10 words!” after the Atlanta MC left the stage. Well, you can’t please everyone.
If you couldn’t tell by her breakthrough hit “Here,” Alessia Cara is a bit more thoughtful than your typical top 40 singer. Prior to “River of Tears” (which is less maudlin than it sounds), Cara gave a pump-up speech to anyone in the audience suffering from heartbreak. “You don’t need anybody to be happy — you’re responsible for your own happiness,” Cara said. “You think you’ll never get over that person, you’ll never be okay…. I want to remind each and every one of you that one day you wake up, and you are.” Even for those of us who’ve gone through that process more than once, a reminder never hurts — and when you’re in the midst of heartbreak, a few words of encouragement can actually go a long way. So thanks, Alessia!
Danny Brown Hanging with A$AP Ferg
While it’s nothing unusual to spot an artist in the media area at a festival, it is surprising when you see an artist hanging in the media area the day after performing. But Danny Brown isn’t your usual artist, or human, for that matter. He tagged along with A$AP Ferg while the Mob member did his media rounds, gamely supporting his friend.
While her dad is busy running a country and trying to get Hillary Clinton elected, Malia Obama is taking it significantly easier back in her hometown. The 18-year-old presidential daughter was spotted at Lolla, even standing in general admission at one point. Just like the rest of us! That is, if the rest of us had millions of secret security personnel watching our every move.
Day Wave is a great afternoon festival band — they’ve got a sunny but melancholy sound, and just enough rock muscle that you’ll end up bopping along to their jangly riffs. They debuted a new song at Lolla, but it would have fit comfortably alongside anything on this year’s winning Hard to Read EP. They also turned out a propulsive cover of New Order’s debut single “Ceremony,” and the drummer nailed the vaguely disco beat behind that post-punk-meets-dance jam.
Despite some technical difficulties, Saba’s Lolla set (dubbed Sabapalooza on Twitter), demonstrated that the Chance the Rapper collaborator (he established himself with a verse on Acid Rap) can comfortably handle the spotlight on his own. Promising his next project, Bucket List, will drop before the end of summer, Saba left the stage with this awwww moment: “This is one of the best days of my entire life.” His sound might be a bit darker than Chance’s, but he radiates optimism just like his friend.
It was clear that a portion of the audience watching their Lolla set wasn’t familiar with the U.K. band ahead of their afternoon performance. Lulled into a false sense of security via frontwoman Ellie Rowsell’s sweet vocals, several people looked noticeably startled when the band went over the cliff for the first time and started shredding faces to shit. Welcome to Wolf Alice, people.
A woman driving carts between stages for VIPs and Lolla staff shared an… interesting story about an older man handing her $1 and telling her to call him later. Chicago: Home of the Big Spenders.
Additional reporting by Shira Karsen.