The first day of Lollapalooza, one of the biggest music festivals in the United States and the gem of the Midwest scene, kicked off in dramatic fashion on Friday night in Chicago with headlining performances from Paul McCartney, The Weeknd, Young Thug and more. This is the first in a series of recaps from correspondent Ryan Book.
11:00: The gates at Grant Park open promptly, playing—as per tradition—John Williams' Star Wars theme. The lines to get in are as long as they'll get this weekend: As people get more tired and more drunk, fewer will be here at noon on Saturday and Sunday.
11:25: Approaching 90 degrees. Milk was a poor choice.
11:59: Spookyland takes the stage one minute early...a social faux pas...but we aren't going to complain. Frontman Marcus Gordon sounds plenty like Placebo's Brian Molko, and that brooding tone carries into the Australian group's music as well. That's not a complaint.
12:42: We're told prior to SZA—the first act on the main Samsung Stage today—that photography will be tough due to a 20-foot extension from the stage as part of Paul McCartney's set (it'll be gone tomorrow...unless Metallica offers a similar obstacle). #PhotographerProblems. As for SZA, she does her best to give us a good shot, grooving and pouring herself into the set. The rising R&B star recently signed to Top Dawg Entertainment.
1:10: SZA introduces new song "Sweet November," which features a Marvin Gaye instrumental, "Mandota." Surprisingly, she asked his estate for permission and they said "yes." Huh. Free advice for Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams.
1:20: Speaking of Williams, we've got a tip from an organizer that he'll be swinging by on Sunday to guest at Bassnectar's set. Stay tuned!
1:30: James Bay busts out a ballad, stating his intentions for the slower music to cool down his audience. Not sure about the science, but it sounds nice as we drift off into a siesta/heatstroke.
2:15: First cover: Bay gives a soft-rock version of Alicia Keys' "If I Ain't Got You." Fooled us with a Chicago blues lick before starting the song, but we're not complaining with the result.
2:30: St. Paul & The Broken Bones are the closest thing to The Blues Brothers band outside of Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi (and that's saying something in Sweet Home Chicago). Going along with that theme, the eight-piece takes the Bud Light Stage wearing full suits. If we didn't whine enough about it already: IT'S NEARLY 90 DEGREES.
2:40: Vocalist Paul Janeway chats us up about Chicago-style pizza during technical difficulties. He reminds us that it's a big day for Birmingham, the state capitol of the band's home of Alabama. Not only are the Broken Bones gracing Lollapalooza, so is Alabama Shakes.
3:00: Hopefully management isn't upset that your correspondent (and his telephoto lens) aren't shooting Tove Lo's set, as she's notorious for flashing the crowds at her festival sets. Father John Misty is on the other side of the park however, and we're kinda fans.
3:30: The Palladia Stage is classily decorated with flowers...which results in BEES. Your correspondent is stung (prepare for a worker's comp claim, Music Times). Father John Misty is not stung, but writhes around anyway, twisting his partner (the mic stand) every which way.
4:26: This kind of weather and this kind of drug/alcohol use is a disaster waiting to happen. The field in front of Perry's Stage is the worst, as friends try to drag the incapacitated to the shade. One, less helpful "pal" begings chanting "R-I-P!" as his friend collapses. The medical cart finds the situation less humorous.
4:40: We asked a number of patrons who was manning the DJ stand at the moment. All say "DJ Mustard" and, disappointingly, no one responds "Mustard on the beat, ho." Actually, we're grateful at how little the producer relies on his trademark phrase during the set.
5:10: Best T-shirt of the day: The cover of Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures with the Wu-Tang Clan's "W" visualized in the pulsar radio waves.
6:00: Alabama Shakes frontwoman Brittany Howard dedicates the song "Miss You" to Nicolas Cage...for some reason. Regardless of her intentions, she's rocking the coolest guitar of the festival thus far: her signature, turquoise blue Gibson SG (although some may argued for McCartney's Höfner bass).
6:23: Although not as dangerous as the bees at the Palladia stage, the number of dragonflies flying above the Samsung/Sprint Stages is more visually impressive.
6:27: It seems fate doesn't want the Shakes to finish a Lolla set: After the band's scheduled gig at the festival was rained-out during 2012, the P.A. cuts out suddenly mid-song, leaving Howard and company rocking out onstage...although we can't hear them. If this isn't fixed by 7:45, there will be hell to pay.
6:37: Alabama is back, as is our audio! The group launches into "Don't Wanna Fight" before the sound system doesn't allow it to pay their hit.
6:45: Howard ain't no slouch, but Gary Clark Jr. brought his own Gibson SG to the party (it's red). He and his band shine in a massive opening track, "Bright Lights." His brand of blues is distinctly Texan, but the Chicago guitar gods of yore are surely smiling during this set.
7:30: Good thing Gary Clark Jr. has his amps up loud. Every time he ends a song, the conflicting audio of Dillon Francis' set becomes obvious. We took an audio sample:
7:30: We didn't get out to Young Thug's set because of Gary Clark's excellent chops, but reviews are good, based on social media: "Young Thug absolutely killed it in Chicago," tweets @frankieboy17.
7:48: Interesting that Paul McCartney walks out onstage with the rest of his band, despite being the most influential musician alive. No false drama.
8:30: McCartney teases "Four Five Seconds" before transitioning into "We Can Work It Out." Your correspondent predicted a Kanye West guest appearance and this wasn't it.
8:40: Paul dedicates "Here Today" to John Lennon. The former Beatle is starring solo with an acoustic guitar, so Kaskade's set is evident, which McCartney takes note of: "I intended this. It's a mashup of this song and whatever sh*t they're playing." After finishing the song, he continues the diss, commenting "now that we've got amplification, we can blast them off the planet."
8:58: Paul informs the crowd that George Harrison was an excellent ukulele player, and thus dedicates "Something In The Way She Moves" (originally written by Harrison) while playing it on a uke.
9:00: With apologies, but with McCartney on the Samsung Stage, we didn't get the chance to check out The Weeknd or Flying Lotus this year. Reviews have all been great for the former online, with Twitter user @FarhanKaiyum exclaiming: "Holy sh*t, The Weeknd was insane during his Lollapalooza performance."
9:20: The highlight of the day: A one-two punch of "Back In The U.S.S.R." and "Let It Be" in succession.
9:25: The band sets off all of the fireworks during "Live and Let Die."
9:31: A boys-versus-girls competition to see who can sing the chorus of "Hey Jude" louder!
9:42: Spoiler alert...West never shows up. We'll settle with Brittany Howard, who comes on to rock out with Macca during "Get Back."
9:58: What does the man behind one of the biggest discographies in history end his set with? "The End" of course: In the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make."