DUCKWRTH, IDLES, COIN, And Gracie Abrams Highlight Day Three At Lollapalooza

Following it’s run as a touring tastemaker for alternative music between 1991 and 1997, and again in 2003, Lollapalooza settled in Chicago’s Grant Park as a two day destination festival in 2005, expanding to three days the following year and to four in 2016, each Chicago installment defined by an increasingly diverse array of artists.

During that initial Chicago incarnation, the lineup still skewed heavily alternative, with headlining performances by artists like Weezer, The Killers and a reunited Pixies.

Alternative emo group Dashboard Confessional hit the main stage on day one, five years removed from their debut album The Swiss Army Romance.

“It was always a big deal. But it did feel slightly more homespun – maybe boutiquey in an artisanal way,” said Dashboard Confessional singer Chris Carrabba Saturday prior to a performance on the Coinbase stage, observing how Lollapalooza has evolved over 17 years in the Windy City. “It’s always been about community – community of bands, community of fans, all of that coming together – but then there were these weird moments of grandeur that you remember. I remember we were about here where we’re sitting, and Billy Idol came in to do a press conference. And he took his shirt off. And it was just very… charismatic. It was like, ‘Oh, right. OK. There’s that. This is big rock and roll.’”

In 2020, Dashboard Confessional launched a 20th anniversary tour that was ultimately cut short amidst pandemic, releasing their ninth studio album All the Truth That I can Tell earlier this year. On tour alongside Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, Armor For Sleep, Cartel and The Juliana Theory, Carrabba is acutely aware 20 is not a point most groups reach.

“Nobody thinks about that. You know for a fact that’s not going to be the case,” said the singer. “I remember thinking to myself, ‘If I do everything right here, maybe I could do this for five years,” and feeling like that would be an amazing accomplishment and a beautiful accomplishment to have. And then I could get on with the business of living a quote unquote ‘regular life’ and feel really fulfilled from that experience,” Carrabba said. “I just can’t believe that I’ve never had to get a square job after that. I’m in awe of it. And I’m really grateful quite frankly. At the risk of sounding too earnest – though I famously will always risk that – I’m really grateful to have this. And shocked. I hope I get another 20 years.”

Fresh off her first ever tour, as opening act for pop mega star Olivia Rodrigo in mid-sized clubs and theaters across America, L.A. singer songwriter Gracie Abrams made her Lollapalooza debut Saturday on the Discord stage, backed by a two piece band during a 45 minute set where lyrics mattered.

“Can you believe this is Lollapalooza and we’re all here?” Abrams asked the audience. “I’m so overwhelmed by you showing up!”

Following “Better,” Abrams moved to her right, sitting down at the keyboards as she delivered the emotive lead vocal on “minor,” waving to a group of fans assembled on the side of the stage. Abrams also pointed fans in the direction of the National Network of Abortion Funds, which seeks to promote a more open conversation on the subject.

“We had our aftershow last night but this is my very first time playing and attending. So it’s all very new to me,” said Abrams backstage, taking stock of her Lollapalooza experience prior to her set. “It was unbelievable. It was the greatest learning experience of my life and it ripped me right out of my comfort zone – but I have made the best friends that I have,” she said of the Rodrigo tour. “Meeting everyone that comes to the shows has been the coolest thing that I’ve ever been a part of.”

Abrams, 22, has frequently mentioned artists like Joni Mitchell and Simon & Garfunkel as influences. Saturday at Lollapalooza she added Aaron Dessner of The National, drilling down on the importance of storytelling as she continues to grow as a songwriter and artist.

“Narrative is the coolest thing to me. Storytelling, and passing that down, is one of the most human things that we can do,” she said. “And to learn, as a fan of music, from the greatest songwriters of all time is something that I hope to continue to do for the rest of my life.”

One of the highlights of the weekend was a late afternoon performance by singer, dancer, rapper and artist DUCKWRTH, who took to the Discord stage for an energetic, uplifting 45 minutes.

Following tour dates alongside Billie Eilish, DUCKWRTH made his return to Lollapalooza for the first time since 2018.

“Chicago! I feel like we’re getting closer today,” he said, setting up “Coming Closer,” a beautifully rhythmic affair which saw him backed by a full band, the highly danceable “Power Power” coming later.

In addition to self-expression, an array of influences spill out during DUCKWRTH’s Lollapalooza set, a sound defined by an immediate catchiness that belies what he was hearing early on.

“Mainly gospel. Gospel and classical. My mom wouldn’t allow me to listen to much of anything else. So not being classically trained but hearing those complex compositions and super musicality, it definitely built my ear,” he explained Saturday. “It’s a fact that most modern music came from gospel. R&B, soul, pop, they still use gospel arrangements in certain ways. So the fact that there’s so many genres that came from that lets you know how thick and layered and intentional and how powerful the music was.”

DUCKWRTH studied graphic design at San Francisco’s Academy of Arts and applies the idea of branding to everything from his look and sound to the presentation of his music, a significant impact on the storytelling that ties much of it together.

“I think you need to have kind of like a stitch between everything, where the songs are not just random assorted thoughts. It’s best to have some type of theme in mind. Because it helps a person walk through it,” DUCKWRTH explained. “It’s like anything else. A lot of what we take in as entertainment, in everything that we watch, has some type of plot. There’s a beginning, climax, end and crescendo. Branding continues the story. Having a stitch between the music, the visuals, the performance, what you wear, your color palette, your font type – it’s everything. But I think it’s important to tell the story.”

Performing on the Tito’s stage at Grant Park’s Petrillo Music Shell, Nashville’s COIN rocked out in front of a fun backdrop with a summer vibe, a video screen flanked by grassy hills and a giant ladybug, one of the weekend’s cooler stagings.

With fans still streaming in early in the set, the band performed in front of one of the larger crowds at Petrillo all weekend, rolling out the gnarly guitar riff that defines one of the summer’s biggest alternative hits in “Chapstick” second in the set.

On the group’s fourth full length album Uncanny Valley, released at the end of March, the impact of technology on the human experience emerges as a theme, tying together 14 songs written during the pandemic.

“We explored this idea of kind of writing from a more objective standpoint and using artificial intelligence as almost a literary device,” explained singer Chase Lawrence before COIN’s set. “We’re just a collection of our own experiences. But it was fun to kind of play dress up and write from a different perspective. A lot of the time we would actually just treat ourselves like we were the AI. Our brains were the engine and we would input Gorillaz, Rolling Stones, Talking Heads, The Cure – put all these things in the human blender and just see what came out. And I think it’s the most uniquely COIN thing to date,” he said, summing up Uncanny Valley.

“Humans made the parts but that is technically how we went about it: blurring the lines,” added guitarist Joseph Memmel.

“Blurring the lines big time,” Lawrence agreed. “That was the first day we started writing for the album,” he said, recalling “Chapstick’s” formative moments. “We used that like AI device where we were like, ‘OK. We are the computer. Let’s write from this objective standpoint. Let’s see what happens if we write from like this idea of artificial intelligence having the first kiss.’ We said, ‘’Rolling Stones’ ‘Start Me Up’ versus Gorillaz ‘Feel Good, Inc.’’ That’s what we’re putting into our engine. And we just pressed compute. Two hours later, that wacky song came out.”

One of Saturday’s most anticipated Lollapalooza sets came courtesy of British rock act IDLES. Drawing on everything from noise rock to punk, the group put forth a relentlessly raucous set during their hour on the Bud Light Seltzer main stage.

“Hello!” said singer Joe Talbot. “Are you ready to collide? Are you ready to love?” he asked the Lollapalooza crowd. “Good.”

The VIP section in front of the stage was virtually empty as the group got going in front of a throng of fans in Chicago, name checking “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and more during a rollicking take on “Colossus.” Making their way out into the crowd, a feedback-drenched cacophony of sound greeted band members upon return to the stage, IDLES making their way into “Car Crash.”

“We’re very grateful. We’ve learned a lot about gratitude over the last few years,” said IDLES guitarist Mark Bowen about returning to the stage. “We knew how lucky we were in the pandemic and what we were coming back to. So now we’re just making sure that we show that gratitude with gumption and writing.”

Following a frenzied Thursday night aftershow, the focus for Talbot three hours before IDLES’ Saturday evening performance was squarely on the live set.

“The shows are always great. In between is always alright,” he said with a smirk. “To be honest, apart from playing, I don’t care about anything else. I’m here to do the best job I can. I don’t know who else is playing. I don’t care about anything else. I just want to play. Do you know what I mean? Nothing else is important to me right now.”