Sunday @ Lollapalooza: Justice and Childish Gambino

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BY ANDERS SMITH LINDALL For the Sun-Times

If 2011 was the year dance music ascended to parity with other genres at Lollapalooza, this year solidified its rank. The Perry’s DJ stage shed its tentlike cocooon (not without consequence, it should be noted — sound bleed in Hutchinson Field increased exponentially) and was almost always packed. And two dance acts headlined the main stage, Avicii on Saturday and Justice Sunday.

It’s safe to say the guys spinning records and making beats 30 years ago at Chicago’s Warehouse nightclub never imagined a couple of French guys playing this music in Grant Park to tens of thousands of fans, but when Justice closed the festival, Butler Field was nearly filled.

Xavier de Rosnay and Gaspard Auge emphasized melody over rhythm at first, but the more bass they added to “Civilization,” the more the crowd responded. Live piano figured prominently in “D.A.N.C.E.,” while fans followed its lyrical instruction: “Stick to the B-E-A-T, get ready to ignite.”

Unless you’re fascinated by two dim silhouettes huddled amid stacks of amplifiers and other gear, Justice wasn’t much to look at. Their lighting was minimal, mostly pulsing white strobes, and the set negligible apart from the duo’s signature gleaming white crucifix at center stage. Fans adapted, making their own light show with glow sticks and green laser pointers.

***Stardom in one entertainment medium is never a predictor of success in another, but following Drake’s transition from TV sitcoms to hip-hop ubiquity, you can be sure countless others will try the same trick. One is Childish Gambino, aka comedian and actor Donald Glover, whose on- and off-camera credits include “Community,” “30 Rock,” and the forthcoming second season of the HBO hit “Girls.”

The most remarkable thing about Gambino’s side-stage headline set was the audacious ambition of his band. Nearly every note was played live, with at times three or four drummers and a violinist in addition to electric guitar, bass and keys.

With a few exceptions, though, his lyrics lacked the same widescreen vision. In a shouty, hectoring flow Gambino touted his rap skills, anatomy and the trappings of fame. He apparently intends this as escapism, not irony; in “All the Shine,” he got defensive: “I know it’s dumb, that’s the f—— reason I’m doing it/So why does everyone have a problem with talking stupid s—?”

Glover was more convincing, and interesting, when he dropped the pose. In “L.E.S.,” he admitted, “Yo, I’m a mess/That don’t rhyme with s—, it’s just true.”

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