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Photos: Lana Del Rey Wears A Pigeon Crown On Lollapalooza Day 1

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Jul 29, 2016 3:15PM

Austin Brown and Michelle Kopeny contributed reporting.

The opening day of the new four-day Lollapalooza was topped with a headlining set from Lana Del Rey. She took to the stage looking like a '50s country star out of a David Lynch film, in a baby doll dress and impossibly big hair topped with a crown made of two pigeons.

Flanked by two similarly-outfitted singers/back-up dancers and a full band, Del Rey immediately set about creating a dreamy, otherworldly mood. Her voice was strong, supple and confident, and she was in full command of her setting—even if half the time, she and her dancers' choreography looked like go-go dancers moving through Jello. We find her records mostly wan and thin sounding, but we were surprised at how they took on vibrant life in a live setting. We often hear her sound described as decadent or drugged out, but we think what she's really going for is the hazy state just between waking and sleeping that opens up new dimensions of possibility. We were won over.

That is, we were, until Del Rey performed "Born To Die" and walked down stairs into the photo pit in front of the stage to grace fans with her presence, take selfies and sign autographs. It would have been endearing had it not continued long after the song ended, bringing the set to a screeching halt. The set recovered somewhat, though, and for the penultimate song of her set, she turned to the crowd and said, "It's hot up here. You going to sing 'Video Games' with me?" We did.

It’s easy to make fun of J. Cole, and tonight was no exception—at one point the rapper broke off into an extended monologue about the importance of L-O- V-E, complete with the demand to “hug your neighbor, doesn’t matter who they are.” But if you play J. Cole, you end up playing yourself, and despite his unenviable slot, head-to-head with Festival Queen Lana Del Rey herself, J. Cole tore through not just his hits—of course, psychodrama and party-ruiner “Wet Dreamz” was there, as was “No Role Modelz”—but deep cuts and mixtape tracks with aplomb, grinding the energy of the thousands watching and dancing along into a fine, aggressive dust. There were plenty of other attractions to distract you from J. Cole’s set: the aforementioned siren call of Del Rey’s set never abated, and rumors (soon confirmed) of appearances by Dwayne Wade and Chance the Rapper at Flosstradamus were tempting beyond the self-control of some. But we decided to stay at Cole’s set and really dedicate ourselves to it, and we found it the most rewarding and consistent of the night.

(Except the “Planez” verse. Cole should never perform that, ever.)

At 6 p.m. security was already pleading with the crowd gathering at the southern main stage to take three steps back and give each other room. It was still 30 minutes before G-Eazy's set and the crowd was already crushed against the barrier and only getting larger. By the time the opening strains of "You Got Me" play out across the field, people are running to the stage and the south end of the park is filled with more people than most of Lollapalooza's headliners draw.

We were confounded, especially for the first half-hour, as G-Eazy churned out the hip-hop equivalent of angry, super-dumb hard rock. The majority of his verses seemed simplistic and we couldn't understand how he had such a huge crowd following his every move. And then, at the halfway point, he led a chant of "Fuck Donald Trump" over and over before launching into a new song about the Republican presidential nominee (opening with the lines, "How'd he make it so far, how'd it begin?") By the end, it appeared G-Eazy had exorcized most of the anger in the crowd by directing it at Trump, and the rest of his set was a groovy, relatively laid-back affair that revealed his softer side. He also gave props to all the Chicago venues he loves, including Schubas and Reggie's, but stopped short of praising one: "Lincoln Hates us and cussed us out." He closed with his massive hit "Me, Myself & I" and the crowd all jumped in unison with their arms in the air. It made the hairs on our arm stand up.

A photo posted by krysmarie81 (@krysmarie81) on

Like Mick Jagger, but with better lyrics. As The 1975 frontman Matty Healy strutted, slinked and eye-rolled his way around the stage for their hour-long performance, that’s all we could think of. We've been less than inspired by the recent crop of rock music, both indie and “mainstream,” and it’s a rare pleasure to see a band as both full-bodied and self-conscious (“sycophantic prophetic Socratic junkie wannabe” is one of their best/worst lyrics) as The 1975 make its way to near-headliner status in today’s music world.

They released I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it this year, and their new tracks translated seamlessly to a live show, which only bolstered our good impressions. Highlights included: an abundance of gesticulations and real performance from Healy, who seemed destined at points to inherit the throne not just of Mick Jagger, but also David Bowie; everything surrounding the band’s final and still best song, nu-emo anthem “Sex”; “this song is about Jesus, or something,” sardonically intoned before going into “If I Believe You.”

The first time Wavves played Lollapalooza, back in 2010, they were sloppy and derisive of the crowd that had gathered to see them. This time around, singer/guitarist Nathan Williams led his California-bred band through a tight and massively entertaining afternoon set that was a true crowd-pleaser. Their tight pop songs, slathered with fuzz and feedback, sometimes makes us think of Nirvana crossed with a '60s one-hit bubblegum bands. Of course Williams couldn't wholly admit he was having an awesome time, at one point pausing to say, "Shout out to Danny Brown! I can hear him from here. I wish I could see him." Tough break, Nathan.

For those tired of the big dumb version of EDM that was the staple at Perry's Stage, Magnus August Høiberg, a.k.a. Cashmere Cat, offered a welcome respite. The first half of his set was filled with squiggles, burps and beats that kept the crowd guessing, but that didn't stop anyone from dancing. You can't just mindlessly lose yourself in a Cashmere Cat set; it demands you engage in the music as he twists and pulls it apart from his mixing set up. Later on, he did start to pepper the music with more popular hooks—the crowd definitely went nuts when two Kanye West songs, "Wolves" and "Waves," made their way into the mix—but he never tempered his experimental bent.

We arrived at Towkio’s set late, and found Joey Purp, one of the other two SaveMoney crew members officially on Lolla’s schedule, just finishing up his verse on “Playin’ Fair.” A large crowd was gathered for Towkio, a rapper/ singer and jack-of- all-trades for SaveMoney, and they stayed through bangers and ballads. The singing hit us harder than the rapping, though, and when Towkio brought out yet another SaveMoney operative (this time Peter CottonTale) we had to wonder—who is Towkio, really?

A couple of female vocalists helped ease fest-goers into the day early. UK singer-songwriter Frances took the Bud Light stage solo at 1 p.m. Seated at a small piano at the front of the enormous stage with no other adornment, her bold, beautiful voice cut through the expanse with romantic ballads like “Let It Out” and “Grow.” She’s just finished her debut album Cloud Nine, and had been in Chicago once before to open for James Bay, she told the audience in the mid-day sun. Cloves then took the shaded Pepsi stage with a full band backing her up. The Melbourne-born artist has also toured with Bay and has a haunting, trailing vocal that we can’t help but compare to Adele. The 20-year old offers a little more rock and soul in her songs, and is at work on her own full-length; it was a pleasant way to open the day.