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Lollapalooza 2016 Festival Review: From Worst to Best

on August 01, 2016, 4:30pm
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Born to be a Balladeer

Lapsley

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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
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Brilliant Boogie Breakdown Bonanza

Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats

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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
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Most Unrealistic Expectations of a Festival Crowd

Kehlani

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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
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New Hunk on the Block

Day Wave

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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

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Craziest Crowd Surfing

Mutemath

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

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