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H.E.R., Ghostemane turn up the heat on Day 1 at Lollapalooza

In separate early evening sets, the artists were unstoppable for the thousands of fans assembled on opening day of the fest.

H.E.R. performs on day one of Lollapalooza in Grant Park, August 1st, 2019. | Santiago Covarrubias/For the Sun-Times
H.E.R. performs on day one of Lollapalooza in Grant Park.
Santiago Covarrubias/For the Sun-Times

Ghostemane, 3 p.m. Thursday, T-Mobile Stage

The live, on-stage tattooing during Ghostemane’s performance was the first clue this early Thursday set would be anything but conventional for the Lollapalooza crowd. Dressed in fishnets with smeared corpse paint on his face, the Florida-based artist (real name Eric Whitney) was a throwback to the glory days of Marilyn Manson while his bandmates, decked out in bloodied cloaks, Gwar-style special effects makeup and Slipknot-inspired masks, readily wore their influences on their sleeves.

A former hardcore punk kid, Whitney eventually found success in the underground rap scene with early albums like 2015’s “Oogabooga” and perfectly blends the slick beats and quick wordsmithing with aggressive metal tendencies in a way that nu metal should have done in its heydey.

Whitney dedicated “Car Bomb” to “all the hardcore kids” in the crowd (who formed what may turn out to be some of the only mosh pits of the weekend) and then gave a quick instructional on how to crowd surf — much to the disdain of the pit security.

His horror and BDSM-themed show was completely out of place in this setting in the best possible way, giving hope that more metal-inspired acts will be part of Lollapalooza’s future, especially considering how much the crowd reacted to songs like “1,000 Rounds,” his collboration with Pouya.

Ghosetmane continues his Chicago presence with an official after show at Reggie’s Thursdsay night.

H.E.R., 4:45 pm Thursday, T-Mobile Stage

Fresh off her breakthrough Grammy wins for Best R&B Performance and best R&B album this year, H.E.R.’s main stage set at Lollapalooza proved the Recording Academy made the right choice giving the relatively unknown artist the well-deserved accolades, even infamously beating out The Carters, Beyoncé and Jay-Z.

Halfway through Thursday evening’s set, H.E.R. pulled out the hit single “Hard Place,” which, like the Grammy telecast, was the turning point of the day, her backup singers sounding like a resounding gospel choir while the massive crowd swayed to the sweet love ode.

Though the artist, formerly known by her birth name Gabriella Wilson, was a whiz kid signed to RCA Records at the mere age of 14 in 2011, she has come into her own as H.E.R. at a still young 22 years old.

Her self-titled debut has churned out platinum hits like “Focus,” which she also performed with ease, equally devoting time to her wide register vocals as to her incredible mastery of instruments, including both electric and acoustic guitar solos, and pieces on bass, keyboards and percussion. H.E.R.’s attention to the great R&B descendants was equally standout, beyond just wearing an outfit straight from Aaliyah’s wardrobe.

“I’m a big fan of old school music,” she said, before delving into a beautiful cover of Deneice Williams “Free.” She also unleashed verses of Lauryn Hill’s “X-Factor” and ended with a Prince guitar solo that sounded like it was straight from the heavens.