Lollapalooza 2018 got off to a dry, but slow, start Thursday afternoon in Grant Park with performances by Tyler Childers, Stars, The Wombats, Franz Ferdinand, Chvrches (with special guest Matt Berninger of The National), Virgil Abloh, Arctic Monkeys and more…
One of the most rewarding elements of the Lollapalooza experience is discovering new artists you may not otherwise have been exposed to.
From a little known Lady Gaga stage diving from the BMI stage in 2010, or Chance the Rapper there in 2013, to an early set in the sun by burgeoning star Courtney Barnett in 2014, the opportunity to catch an artist before they break through to the mainstream is generally in play at Lollapalooza.
As always, it pays to get to the festival early in the day as there are gems to be unearthed before the sun sets on each of Lollapalooza’s eight stages.
Tyler Childers is a country singer and songwriter from Kentucky (think country as in Waylon and Willie as opposed to what passes for country music in America today). Following breakouts in the last few years by more authentically minded country artists like Chris Stapleton and Sturgill Simpson, there’s a buzz now around Childers and his music too.
Over the course of forty-five minutes early Thursday on the Lake Shore stage, Childers and his four-piece band taught festivalgoers what country and western music should actually sound like, featuring instrumentation like slide guitar, violin and electric mandolin.
“Whitehouse Road” was a fiddle and slide fueled hootenanny which told the story of an artist addicted to the road and more. “Universal Sound” slowed things down while touching on some of those same vices.
“Um, this is my all time favorite Miley Cyrus song,” joked Childers to surprising success, launching into about five seconds of “Wrecking Ball” before moving along.
Six-piece Canadian indie pop outfit Stars took the stage just across Grant Park on the south main stage. Featuring the wonderful harmonies of Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan, the group conjured up images of New Order in the live setting moving from electronically informed pop to more rocking guitar driven numbers.
“Thanks for coming out early. We haven’t played Lollapalooza in like ten years. Look at this,” marveled Campbell of Lollapalooza’s unique urban, downtown environment. “This is a song about friendship,” added Millan as the group launched into their new single “Ship to Shore,” a danceable keyboard and synthesizer drenched affair.
A song about Bumble seemed right at home in the festival crowd and the pulsing live bass groove which highlighted “The Theory of Relativity” was an early Thursday Lollapalooza highlight.
U.K. rockers The Wombats were a blast live early Thursday as well.
“Moving to New York” came early in the group’s set and was quickly followed by “Turn.” “We’ve basically flown around the world to do this,” said Wombats singer Matthew Murphy of the group’s festival appearance in Chicago before closing with “Greek Tragedy.”
Franz Ferdinand was on hand from Glasgow, Scotland and finally brought a slow arriving crowd to the festival’s south end. The park began to swell with the electro-dance sounds of “Do You Want To” opening the group’s energetic set on the Grant Park stage.
And it was a Scottish afternoon Thursday on the Grant Park stage as Chvrches singer Lauren Mayberry brought out National vocalist Matt Berninger for a duet on “My Enemy.”
The National would go on to perform later that night in a stellar aftershow at Chicago’s Metro.
Rockford native, and fashion impresario, Virgil Abloh spun everything from Aerosmith to Kanye West during a packed DJ set at Petrillo Bandshell.
But Thursday night belonged to English rockers Arctic Monkeys. The group conjured up images of Devo via their mix of live guitar and electronic elements.
From their brand new studio album Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, the group began their set with “Four Out of Five” before kicking things up a notch with the scorching guitar licks that characterize “Arabella.”
– Jim Ryan ( @RadioJimRyan )