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Photos: Lollapalooza Day 2 Belonged To Radiohead And The Struts

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Jul 30, 2016 3:38PM

Photos by Annie Lesser/Chicagoist. Additional reporting from Austin Brown and Michelle Kopeny.

Let's get this out of the way from the get-go: Radiohead's set is going to be the one to beat this weekend.

At the outset we had our worries because by the time the band took the stage the south end of Grant Park seemed to be impossibly congested by people that were showing the effects of a full day of revelry. And the bass thrum from Perry's stage threatened to overwhelm some of the band's more tender moments. Things took a turn when Thom Yorke exhorted the crowd into waving their arms during "Myxomatosis" though, and something clicked in the vast expanse of the field. Of course the really amusing part there was that his prompts were mocking usual fest behavior, and he ended the song saying, "It's good to get angry sometimes." Just in case anyone missed the point.

The band played two dozen songs during their set and broke the festival sound curfew (we wonder if Rahm will charge them for that) and took Lollapalooza for a wild ride that veered from sheer paranoia ("2 + 2 = 5") to exultant glimpses into the band's finest moments including "No Surprises," "Let Down," "Karma Police," and an especially blistering "Paranoid Android" that launched the entire field into bizarre contortions of tribal dancing. We could easily spend two thousand words dissecting this set, but take our word for it; it was one for the books.

Across the park Future held his own party. (And apparently Malia Obama showed up!) Looks like we’ll be seeing Chance a few more times this weekend—about halfway through Future’s bangers-only set, Chicago’s Very Own made an appearance to play “No Problem,” off of Coloring Book. The crowd, to exactly no one’s surprise, went wild.

But the true curiosity of Future’s set was in the focus of his song selection—all hard-hitters, all the time. “Same Damn Time” was there, as was “Thought It Was A Drought” and numerous cuts from his unfathomably prolific past year and a half. All stuck their landing, and all wound up and spit out the crowd with ruthless efficiency. But two years into “hard Future,” it’s getting a little one-note, and a little easier to miss his ever under appreciated other talents: nowhere in the set were any of the more melodic cuts from Honest (like the title track, or “I Won”), not to mention the soulful and cybernetic track that hooked pop audiences on Future in the first place, “Turn On the Lights.” Maybe he’s moved on, or grown a little more cynical. That’s fair. But seeing him give it his all at the Bud Light stage this year, somehow you just hope that the guy can fall in love again.

The break out set of the weekend may belong to the U.K.'s The Struts. Their blend of hard rock, glam and old school stagecraft absolutely slayed on Friday. Singer Luke Spiller not only went through costume changes—without the usual long-winded musical vamping such moves usually require—but he managed to keep a U.S. crowd unused to glam rock spectacle firmly in his grasp the whole way through. At one point he managed to get the entire north end of Grant Park to crouch down onto the ground during one of their songs, creating the spectacle of thousands of people grabbing fistfuls of dirt before getting them all to simultaneously jump up in the air to finish off the final chorus of the band's world beating anthem "Where Did She Go?" The band is equal parts Queen and Slade, and if Lollapalooza doesn't launch them into the stratosphere there is no justice in the world.

Alessia Cara also offered an outstanding set on Friday. The Canadian pop princess took the stage to screams from the super young audience and then proceeded to blow their minds. In jeans and a T-shirt, Cara strutted cross the stage delivering songs of empowerment; where most proto-divas work the sex angle, Cara was far more interested in the self-empowerment and confidence angle. Not many R&B singers would introduce a song by saying, "This next song is about refusing to conform to the standards of the world and just being you." But that's exactly what Cara did before "Wild Things."

Foals’ anthemic funk-rock also tore into our Friday afternoons, dragging us out of any stupor we’d been in from the previous acts and reminding us, just exactly, where we were. A mid-set downpour helped add some slippery momentum to “My Number,” “Inhaler,” and a wealth of tracks from last year’s What Went Down, but the real kicker was “Spanish Sahara,” off of 2010’s Total Life Forever. On that, they finally solidified their identity of U2 for the groove crowd, and owned it completely. Now if only I could figure out what any of their songs are about.

The biggest surprise of the day? Horns and swagger introduced Con Brio to the stage first thing at noon before jumping into funk jam "Liftoff." The Bay Area group, who describe themselves simply as "A Soul Supreme" in their bio, is led by Ziek McCarter who is like a young reincarnation of James Brown and Michael Jackson—right down to the falsettos, hip thrusts and splits. There was infectious energy coming off that stage-and not just from frontman McCarter, who by the way closed the show with three standing back tucks. There's something great about funky festival sets that get everyone in the crowd unapologetically shaking hips and nodding heads, especially as the first act of the day.

Biggest stumble of the day? At first glance, Cherub scans worryingly close to the LMFAO formula—a duo of party-crazed bros decides to get into the dance-pop scene, scores a few hits and pops right back out again. And there were plenty of moments that only seemed to vindicate that characterization. And yet… there was something singular, even yearning, about their songs and even their banter, grounding their dancing in something a little more complex. Of course, then they go into the song that goes “fuck that bitch,” and it all falls apart.

Safest bet? Lettuce isn't much to see. Just six guys jamming out on the Petrillo stage. Their straight up instrumental funk somehow made the afternoon rainstorm a little bit more bearable though. The crowd hardly thinned at all as it poured harder and harder during their set, but in the last ten minutes, the skies cleared, and a hype man came out to turn it up with vocals on "Do It Like You Do."

And finally, the band most likely to headline Lollapalooza (that isn't The Struts) in five years? Early in their set Saint Motel asked the crowd if they'd seen them in the past saying, "This is a lot different than Schubas. Anyone see us at Schubas? The band's set mixed rock with lighthearted '80s dance hooks and managed to fill the field with dancing despite going on at a relatively early hour. And they had a winning playfulness, at one point covering Tom Jones' "She's a Lady" while the singer draped his arms around a giggling festival camera-woman. To be honest, the band reminded us of what The Killers might sound like if they had a lighter sense of humor. Remember The Killers?

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