“Are you ready to rock and roll with me, baby?!” Luke Spiller, lead singer of The Struts, exhorted the audience early in the afternoon on Friday, July 29. It was an appropriate question to start the wild and varied day of Lollapalooza 2016, a day that featured cutting edge EDM, hip hop and indie rock alongside throwbacks to the 1970s.
The diversity the day’s lineup was best exemplified by the incongruous pairing of futuristic electronic act Major Lazer with throwback occult-themed doom metallists Ghost. The two acts hardly seem to inhabit the same universe, with Major Lazer’s gaudy EDM light show contrasting with Ghost’s unholy black mass metal theatrics. But there they were, playing not far from each other at the same festival at the same time.
As fantastic and hi-tech as Major Lazer was, they had some very down-to-earth problems, encountering a power outage not once but twice during their set. The delays didn’t dampen the fans’ enthusiasm, however. While fans came and went steadily throughout their set, the power outages didn’t seem to have much effect on their numbers.
While Major Lazer experienced technical difficulties and Ghost initiated the crowd in its black rites, Radiohead was mesmerizing fans for a full two hours, the longest set of the entire festival. The fans present were a little older than those at the other acts playing at the same time, and they were more loyal, with few people coming or going throughout the two-hour set. They’re a band that has a widely varied catalog, but they were able to pull off everything from the guitar crunch that culminates “Paranoid Android” to the haunting, sweeping soundscape of “Everything in its Right Place” with aplomb.
While Ghost may have been the final word on 1970s throwbacks for the day, the first was the Struts, a British band that is riding a wave of attention on the strength of its single “Kiss This.” They made a bold entry to an early afternoon set, stomping onstage with some serious guitar crunch and looking like the cousins of 1970s glam rockers the New York Dolls. They were nothing if not bombastic, and completely sincere in their mission to rock you. “Welcome to the cool club,” Spiller told the audience in attendance.
Hip hop had another strong day at Lolla, with Chance the Rapper making yet another cameo, this time during Future’s set. But A$AP Ferg may have been the big winner in the rap game for the day. While he played a smaller stage than Future, his hard-edged act had throngs of attendees enthralled, and they bobbed and waved their hands in the air at his every command.
Another genre that had a fine day - and one that seems to be harder and harder to find these days - was funk. The day started off with San Francisco-based Con Brio, but it was Lettuce, a New York-based funk outfit that played later in the afternoon amidst a light but persistent drizzle that really got the crowd moving. They played the majority of their groove-heavy set without vocals, letting the music do the talking. It was nice in the age of EDM to see a band playing traditional instruments still able to work a crowd up into a dancing frenzy.
The hidden gem of the day, though, was perhaps a trio called Sunflower Bean, who played a frenetic set to a few people at the small BMI stage. Driven by a propulsive backbeat and lithe basslines, with alternately heavy and psychedelic guitar work, the young band touched on everything from '60s garage rock to '90s noise rock but made it all their own, leaving the crowd shellshocked but disappointed when the set ended.
Check out our day one recap here.