Lollapalooza Day 3 reviews: Willow shows she’s ready for rock opera

Also check out our takes on J. Cole, Tomorrow x Together, Idles, Prentiss, Dannylux, Hinds, Larry June, Grabbitz

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Willow performs on the Discord stage on the third day of Lollapalooza at Grant Park.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Saturday at Lollapalooza was a day lacking in blockbusters yet not short on talent. There’s a strong international component all weekend, but especially Saturday with Madrid indie rockers Hinds, bilingual Mexican-American troubadour Dannylux, South Korean boy band Tomorrow X Together showcased.

Competing with Willow and J. Cole as Grant Park headliners was Norwegian DJ/producer Kygo.

Willow

As Kygo and J. Cole commandeered the main stages, Willow was a sizable draw over at the smaller Discord Stage to help cap off Saturday night at Lollapalooza. Of course, she’s got the Hollywood appeal, as the daughter of actors and musicians Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith. Recently, Willow even reunited her mom’s former 2000s-era nu-metal band Wicked Wisdom for Mother’s Day, though they weren’t backing her tonight.

In fact, the abbreviated set (just 35 minutes) was absent of any guest-star muscle — even though, like Friday’s headliner Machine Gun Kelly, Willow features Travis Barker and Avril Lavigne on her latest album. It’s unfortunate the latter couldn’t crash this set for what could have been a total show of force. Regardless, Willow held her own, opening with the somber rock ode “transparentsoul,” showing off her powerful pipes that fit her alt-R&B meets pop-punk mold.

Another standout of the performance was the song “Lipstick,” one of her admitted favorites off“Lately I Feel Everything,” the new album. “I know this is kind of stupid, but I always dreamed of doing a rock opera,” she shared. “Laugh at me now or later, but it’s something I always wanted to do. I know that’s nerdy and weird but that’s me.”

It’s not implausible to think of Willow writing her own “Black Parade” given her melodramatic and theatrical artistic thumbprint. With years of development and just maturing in age, the latest output shows just how far Willow’s come from her playground “Whip My Hair” days.

The night did have one surprise: an offering of an unreleased track called “Hug Her Like a Goddess” that showed Willow at perhaps her most vulnerable as a vocalist, with a beautiful sing-song style that could even have Broadway calling. Even more reason for her to get on that rock opera. —Selena Fragassi

J. Cole

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J. Cole headlined Lollapalooza on Saturday night to one of the biggest crowds of the weekend.

Kate Scott/For the Sun-Times

J. Cole said he thanked Grant Park as he drove towards its south end to take the main stage. He reflected on his very first Lollapalooza performance back in 2016. He was on much a smaller, more “special” stage where he said he was grateful for the opportunity to share his music with a new crowd. He thanked fans for getting him where he is now: “I appreciate that s- - -.”

J. Cole brought J.I.D. out on stage just after that, and they went all in on “Stick.” J.I.D. encourage fans to mosh, and they happily obliged.

Fans packed in just to get a glimpse of J. Cole, who is famously known for going platinum without any features on his third studio album “2014 Forest Hills Drive” in 2014. In recent years, he’s broken that no-features run by collaborating on tracks with Joey Badass, Kendrick Lamar and many more.

As Lollapalooza’s Day 3 closer, he took the time to touch several fan favorites from that record before ending on his personal favorite, “Love Yourz.” J. Cole started out playing much of his newer music, unfamiliar to many in the crowd. As soon as the rapper started going back in time with his music, the energy changed and the crowd seemed to settle into the rest of the night. — Ambar Colón

Tomorrow x Together

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Tomorrow x Together performs Saturday, the third day of Lollapalooza at Grant Park. | Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

The K-Pop fandemonium officially hit Grant Park as of Saturday night. South Korean phenom Tomorrow x Together took over Perry’s Stage, marking the group’s debut at a U.S. festival—and fans were there in droves to mark the occasion.

Ear-piercing screams likely could be heard as far as the Hilton across the street, with the set clearly too big for the Perry’s Stage area, which is normally reserved for the weekend’s EDM acts. The stage also didn’t have the video screens of the main stages, forcing many dads and boyfriends to hurt their necks lifting loved ones on their shoulders to get a closer look.

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Fans cheer as Tomorrow x Together performs on the third day of Lollapalooza at Grant Park.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Tomorrow x Together were a late add-on to Lollapalooza, along with fellow K-Pop boy bander J-Hope (of BTS), who replaced Doja Cat. Clearly it was a smart move by festival organizers as the music has become hugely marketable in the U.S. Harkening back to the ’90s birth of ’N Sync and Backstreet Boys, Tomorrow x Together took the cues well with highly choreographed dance moves, well-coiffed and beautiful band members and earworm material that gets lodged in heads.

Though they were seven minutes late and ended four minutes early, Tomorrow x Together filled the 30-ish-minute set with a number of favorites like “Good Boy Gone Bad” and “Valley of Lies,” with the song’s guest star Iann Dior joining them onstage, though there was no J-Hope set-crashing as some had predicted.

“We’ve been dreaming of this moment a long time. We hope to be here next year,” said one of the singers to roaring applause. For those who missed the set, the whole thing was filmed on hundreds of smartphones, so just look for it on social media. —Selena Fragassi

Idles

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Joe Talbot of the British band IDLES on stage Saturday at Lollapalooza.

Kate Scott/For the Sun-Times

From the first ominous bass notes, the British provocateurs of Idles set the tone for the onslaught that was about to come. Those who ignored the warning, however, got access to one of the best sets of the day—fierce, unrelenting, unapologetic and savage in its frankness.

Each of the band members was his own sort of climactically bizarre—guitarist Mark Bowen a neanderthal in a sundress making noise with any instrument he could find; other guitarist Lee Kiernan jumping into the crowd within the first minutes, almost taking out the first few rows, and of course frontman Joe Talbot being the ultimate take-no-prisoners ringleader. He chomped at the bit of the opening few songs, looking absolutely rabid as he stalked the stage. Then, turning his Jekyll to Hyde, waving to the crowd with a goofy grin and saying “hullo!”

That is the beauty of the artist that is Talbot—his witty sarcastic flip of the switch is a mark of a mad genius, one who can make the hairs stand on your arms while keeping your eyes pinned to him. In one minute he was spinning tales of positivity, talking about people proverbially being the change, before changing tone, saying, “Unfortunately we are in the UK and this song is about that s- - -hole.” He also took swipes at the queen like any good punk band would, though Idles—jokingly or not—never likes being hailed as one.

Be that as it may, Idles; brutal delivery lies in that plot with a hard bit of post-punk thrust and even some hardcore fury mixed with the tortured soul poetics of Nick Cave on songs like “Mother.” “Are you ready to collide?” he screamed at the fans looking back up at him, inspiring a giant pit to form. By the end of the set, Talbot was singing Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone” because it was stuck in his head—if only they’d turn that into a cover. —Selena Fragassi

DannyLux

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Mexican-American artist Dannylux played to a crowd of fervent fans on Saturday afternoon.

Kate Scott/for the Sun-Times

At a festival as big as Lollapalooza, representation matters. And the organizers at C3 stepped up their game this year with not only an eclectic but a diverse lineup, with many acts proudly representing their heritage.

In particular there was DannyLux. The Mexican-American serenader is quickly becoming a bona fide celebrity crossing borders and music styles not unlike predecessor Selena. In a short span of time, he’s been signed by Warner Music Latina, named an artist to watch in 2022 by Billboard and even enlisted to open up on Coldplay’s most recent run of dates in Mexico.

“It’s an honor playing a festival with so many genres,” the artist, born Daniel Balderrama, told the large crowd gathered at the BMI discovery stage, translating every bit of stage banter into Spanish to accommodate his multilingual fans. His lyrics for the most part are also in Spanish. “For those that don’t understand my lyrics, my songs are about love and breakups. I hope you guys enjoy the vibe,” he added, noting he’s been playing guitar since the age of 7 and trying to make music “every day.”

DannyLux’s music is a cultural mashup of Mexican folk music and pensive ballads with a bit of edge, done on traditional acoustic guitar. As Spin aptly described, he’s “reinventing corridos through a Chicano rocker lens.” And he’s getting a lot of attention for it, even at just 17 years old. The rabid fan girls and boys who rushed to grab snaps with him after he wrapped his set and jumped into the crowd was something that might have been reserved for one of the K-pop bands this weekend.

“I’m grateful those who don’t speak Spanish are accepting this,” DannyLux said to end his performance. “I’m living the dream right now.” —Selena Fragassi

Prentiss

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Prentiss performs on the BMI Stage on Saturday, the third day of Lollapalooza.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

The follow-up to DannyLux on the BMI Stage was another young ’un gunning for the big leagues, 15-year-old Prentiss. Already given seals of approval by the likes of Justin Bieber, Blink-182 and Skrillex, and written up in top-shelf magazines like GQ and Fader, Prentiss has the career that some people twice and thrice his age could only dream of.

And he’s put in the hard work to get there, crafting jewels like viral hit “October” in his Jackson, Mississippi, bedroom and networking on YouTube to get his name out there. Which is why it was such a disappointment that his voice gave out on him in his debut at Lollapalooza. “I blew my voice out Thursday, I’m going to try my best,” Prentiss shared, noting his vocal cords were left behind at this week’s show in Nashville.

Sensing he was struggling to gain the confidence to continue the set, the crowd loudly cheered him on, chanting his name, in one of the most heartwarming displays of the festival. After apologizing profusely, he eventually warmed up and never gave up, reconciling, “We’re having fun anyways.”

Backed by a tag-team guitarist and drummer, Prentiss still made it work to showcase his craft with songs like “Running Back” and the unreleased “Where It Hurts,” the compositions and artistry defying his young age. His influences run deep: some hip-hop, a little deep South Americana, a dash of pop punk and hyperpop, and more than once, hints of a young Post Malone came to mind. A little more road wear, some more control over his voice and maybe some face tattoos and he’ll be angling for the throne soon. —Selena Fragassi

Hinds

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Carlotta Cosials performs with Hinds on Saturday, the third day of Lollapalooza at Grant Park.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Darcy was back on bass in Chicago during Hinds’ set. Well, not that D’arcy, but a close second. Noticing a pink-haired girl rocking out in the front row, the indie rock band plucked her from the crowd to take a spin on the instrument. This Darcy from Chicago was also a pure natural and have just as well have been rehearsing for a spot in the group.

“Ade, you’re out a job,” joked frontwoman Ana García Perrote as bass player Ade Martin gave her approval for the changeup and simply moved over to the drum kit, borrowing a stick to provide some added percussion.

“And they say females are not playing music, that’s why we’re not getting booked,” added Perrote, speaking her mind about how difficult it’s been for the all-women band from Madrid to keep pushing ahead the past eight years in the industry. She then turned her focus to the recent SCOTUS overturning of Roe V. Wade, offering the song “Burn” for any of the women in the crowd who “have been told to be more quiet and less annoying … we yell back.”

There were many moments in Hinds’ set where Perrote and fellow guitarist Carlotta Cosials took pause to comment on how great it was to see girl bands on stage. Even last night the quartet (rounded out by drummer Amber Grimbergen) was seen as fans taking in Wet Leg’s aftershow at Empty Bottle.

Both bands’ sounds are kindred spirits, stripped-back garage rock with a punk bent that boasts narrative storytelling in the lyrics and a whole lot of spirit in the delivery. In the case of Hinds, they also started embracing their cultural roots, writing more lyrics in Spanish on their latest gem of an album, 2020’s “The Prettiest Curse.”

After having their Lolla set originally thwarted last year due to visa issues, Cosials proudly declared, “We’re here now!” Now that they’ve wrapped up a successful tour with 5 Seconds of Summer this spring, expect to see more of them too. — Selena Fragassi

Turnstile

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Brendan Yates of Turnstile hopped offstage to get closer to his fans at Lollapalooza on Saturday.

Kate Scott/for the Sun-Times

They’re grungy, hard and heavy despite presenting as soft boys in bucket hats and pastels. Turnstile, a punk rock band from Baltimore, made its Lollapalooza debut in Brazil earlier this year. In Chicago, bassist “Freaky” Franz Lyons donned a White Sox baseball cap and bounced around from both ends of the Discord stage while fans banged their heads violently, moshing and pushing everyone in sight.

Every member of the band is pretty musically inclined, which makes Turnstile a great band to listen to live. Not every rocker can put on a show night after night, but Turnstile proves that they can go on tour and deliver great vocals, energy and riffs.

Turnstile is riding off the heels of “Glow On” (2021), its third album, inspired by the isolation and lonliness of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Underwater Boi” dropped with this record and it instantly became a fan favorite, as was proven on Saturday night by fans who knew every single word.

Lead singer Brendan Yates formed the band in 2010 with the help of Lyons and guitarist Brady Ebert, who were both playing for Trapped Under Ice. They’ve come a long way, as they’ve been loved by hardcore fans for over a decade now. Some fans of the pop-punk classics like Weezer and Green Day—headlining Lolla on Sunday—might say Turnstile is not hardcore enough, especially after dropping “Glow On.” But the group’s charisma might’ve helped gain a few Chicago-based fans. — Ambar Colón

Larry June

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Larry June performs on the Tito’s Handmade Vodka stage on Saturday, the third day of Lollapalooza.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

It’s a shame that Larry June drew a smaller crowd than some of the other Saturday acts. Having toured with big names like Post Malone and Curren$y, he kicked off his first Lollapalooza with a lot of positive energy, with his hypeman leading the crowd in “Good job Larry!” chants. Fortunately, there were plenty of passionate fans who knew his entire discography, verse for verse, track for track. Maybe Larry should give himself a bit more credit.

Maybe it’s his being from San Francisco—home of R&B and gospel legends like the Ballads and Joe Simon—that influences his music. He’s a rapper with plenty of bars and a lot of energy, but there are chiller elements of neo-soul throughout several of his tracks.

His lyrics are nostalgic, positive and grooving, yearning for a time when we didn’t have social media or cellphones. On “Smoothies in 1991,” he reminds us that he’s a ’90s kid who remembers where he started. He’s all about the simple things in life, like watering the plants (including the kind you might smoke), practicing self love, and staying humble.

Before he left the stage, Larry jumped into the crowd, greeted everyone he could, and told his fans to not “be afraid to take a shot on yourself.” He’s grounded and earthy, and it’s clear that he wants to spread as much positivity as possible. — Ambar Colón

Grabbitz

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Grabbitz drew a big crowd in the early afternoon on Saturday at Lollapalooza.

Kate Scott/For the Sun-Times

Making his Lollapalooza debut, the extremely versatile producer, musician, composer and DJ Grabbitz put on nothing short of an electric show. He’s known for his EDM, electronic rock and dubstep tracks, which had several dancers in the crowd shuffling, tutting and flexing. He’s most popular for his 2014 song “Here With You Now” with over 6 million views on YouTube. He can make the beat drop pretty well, but he’s set himself apart from some of his peers as a talented vocalist.

It wasn’t long before the singer let his hair down and changed out of his flannel and into a more comfortable white Cubs hat and jersey with “Grabbitz” stitched onto the back. The Buffalo-born musician is clearly in love with Chicago—and let’s be honest, who wouldn’t be? “If you don’t mind, I’d love to just sit here and take in the view for a minute,” he told the crowd. After asking fans to send him good vibes as he admired the Chicago skyline, he declared, “That feels real good.”

Grabbitz remixed a couple of the classics throughout his set, too. Because “Stranger Things” season 4 still hasn’t lost its grip on the world, Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” had to be one of them. He also made a few nods Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West and the classic hip-hop trio Run-DMC.

Before leaving the stage, Grabbitz debuted a brand new, never-before-heard song, “Pretty Melody 70.” Here he showed off his singing abilities yet again, and the fans screamed their heads off after he asked them to let him know if they liked the song by cheering. In a city with a booming house and EDM music scene, there’s no doubt Grabbitz remains on his ascent to popularity among festivalgoers. — Ambar Colón

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