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Lollapalooza 2016 Festival Review: From Worst to Best

on August 01, 2016, 4:30pm
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The Strongest Draw at the BMI Stage

Flatbush Zombies

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Photo by Heather Kaplan

Flatbush Zombies took the BMI stage by storm Sunday afternoon with the biggest crowd the stage had seen all weekend, and the three Brooklyn rappers showed up for the people who came to see what they’re all about. Watching Flatbush Zombies operate onstage is like watching a perfectly executed three-man weave in basketball. It’s preternatural the way these guys know how to play off each other, and an outdoor venue suits their unhinged style really well. Set closer “Palm Trees” was a highlight, with the crowd matching the onstage energy and entirely losing their shit. This is what rap shows look like when it’s pure, unbridled fun. –Pat Levy

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Jukebox Underdogs

Drowners

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Photo by Heather Kaplan

The BMI stage tends to be a hit-or-miss affair at Lollapalooza, but man, when they strike gold, it’s a total rush. Drowners were one such winner on Saturday afternoon as the New York City hunktet brought an ample crowd to Manchester, England, circa 1983. No kidding: Similar to The Strokes, the band exists in this blurry, vintage universe, somewhere between the ’70s and 80’s, sounding like a forgotten cassette tape your older cousin made for a relationship that never came to fruition.

“Fuck yeah, you’re looking real good right now,” singer and guitarist Matthew Hitt observed behind a pair of Ray-Bans. The Welsh-born frontman kept mum for the most part, letting his sharp looks do all the talking — although, watching him finish off a Budweiser and chuck the can into the photo pit was a delight. Instead, he sang his heart out on driving would-be hits like “Human Remains”, “A Button on Your Blouse”, “Pick Up the Pace”, “Long Hair”, and “Another Go”.

On record, they sound similar to, say, The Arctic Monkeys, but live, they get the most out of their reverb and conjure up all the gooey feelings anyone has upon first hearing Modern English, The Church, Movement-era New Order, The Cure, The Smiths, et al. But this isn’t a pandering “covers band”; in fact, their newer material off this year’s On Desire find them taking their influences from their sleeves and placing them in their shirt pockets — right next to their hearts.

Fuck, I wish I was in this band. –Michael Roffman
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Rock Isn’t Dead

FIDLAR

After Jane’s Addiction’s Hindenburg crash of a set on Saturday, I spent the rest of the weekend thinking about who Perry Farrell could hand the keys to Lollapalooza to that could carry things forward for the next 25 years. SoCal pizza crust punks FIDLAR might be too drunk to drive the ship, but they sure as hell can point it in the right direction. These guys know how to embrace the mayhem of a live performance without letting the music suffer for it at all.

Look at how frontman Zac Carper flails around the stage, falling to the ground a half-dozen times throughout the show but never in a way that fucks up the song. People who say rock ‘n’ roll’s best days are behind the genre and then go for nostalgia trips to see bands like Jane’s Addiction putz around on stage need to wake up and smell the weed smoke, because thanks to bands like FIDLAR, rock is thriving. On a side note: That cover of “Sabotage” was so on-point. –Pat Levy
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Fortune and Glory

Lana Del Rey

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Photo by Philip Cosores

The excitement for Lana Del Rey couldn’t be contained. The crowd gathering around the Bud Light stage cheered long and loud before the lights went off. They marveled at the billowing curtains and neon “del Rey” sign that adorned the backdrop for the Honeymoon singer. As green-tinted fog spread across the scene, she appeared, dazzling in a white, long-sleeved babydoll dress with flowers and white doves in her hair.

“We’ve been waiting a long time to get here,” Del Rey confessed, before opening with “Cruel World”. If you recall, she last performed at Lollapalooza in 2013, back when The Killers and Nine Inch Nails took over the main stages. So, for her, performing her most favorite songs to date at one of the two biggest stages of the weekend was quite an accomplishment and further evidence of how far she’s come as an artist.

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Photo by Philip Cosores

While Del Rey often sings about love, she also shows that same love for her devoted fans. During her performance of “Born to Die”, she descended down a staircase to the barrier below where fans awaited her, signing photos, accepting kisses or gifts, and taking pictures with them. Midway through, Navy Pier’s infamous fireworks could be seen in the distance, but not even that spectacle proved to be a distraction from her performance.

While the night cooled down from the humid, rainy day, Del Rey could be seen trying to stay hydrated. “It’s hot up here,” she admitted, reaching out to her fans for a request: “Will you sing ‘Video Games’ with me?” Naturally, the audience accepted with the utmost enthusiasm, but that was hardly the end. To top things off, Del Rey capped her set with a devoted performance of “Off to the Races”, leaving a lasting impression for fans new and old. –Sonia Vavra
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Lollapalooza Valedictorians

HAIM

Hindsight is a lovely candy. Three years ago, Danielle, Este, and Alana Haim were just three California rookies without a record at Lollapalooza, owning a rainy Grove stage with a 10-song set that hinted at golden roads, greener pastures, positive things. It was the calm before the storm: Days Are Gone was still two months away, Saturday Night Live wouldn’t call until December, and they weren’t yet regulars on Taylor Swift’s Instagram. These were innocent times — their salad days, if you will.

Today, HAIM is one of the most popular rock bands in the Western hemisphere. But when it comes to their ties to Lollapalooza, it’s funny to pinpoint the similarities between now and then. On Sunday evening, they once again arrived with a stellar 10-song set and once more were without a new record. It’s another weather pocket in their ensuing career, only this time they’re bigger, better, and braver, at least enough to be one of the last acts of the weekend to grace the Bud Light stage.

“This is a very special moment for us — to be on this stage right now,” Este Haim confessed toward the end of their set. The ever-personable bassist regaled her thousands of fans with a story about how she and Danielle first came to the festival way back in 2007, when the two caught a rare performance of the late Amy Winehouse on the same stage. For them, it was an inspirational moment, one that urged them to keep playing music, to reach their dreams, and to tour the world.

In her trademark way, Este even pointed out where they were standing. (Unfortunately, Alana was much too young to attend, which elicited plenty of laughs.) From there, the trio surged into an incendiary closing performance of “Falling”, melting the entire spectacle into an Off-Off-Broadway performance of Stomp, as all three sisters beat the shit out of various drums. But really, it was the song’s last lines that were meant to hit the hardest: “never look back, never give up.”

Few graduation speeches are ever that inspiring. –Michael Roffman
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