Lollapalooza Day Two: Indie artists charm fans; rock groups deliver throwback sets

On Lollapalooza’s second day, a star-studded lineup drew swarms of glitter-clad attendees to the festival. Read about the acts we caught below, and don’t forget to check out our recap of Day One and our various artist profiles

Chicago’s rock band ROOKIE, which kicked off the Tito’s stage, oozes retro energy. Cigarettes and 312 beers in hand, the six-piece played a set infused with ‘70s rock and cosmic country. The song “One Way Ticket” off their 2020 EP ROOKIE drew curious spectators and loyal fans with its infectious hooks and choruses. It’s clear ROOKIE is claiming its stake in Chicago’s burgeoning DIY scene. 

Immediately following ROOKIE, the R&B/pop starlet Tai Verdes took the Bud Light stage for his first-ever live performance. Few artists make their live debuts at Lollapalooza, but Verdes, whose song “Stuck in the Middle” went viral during quarantine, had millions of fans before he even played a single concert. 

Still, his lack of experience didn’t show. In all his charm and scrappiness, Verdes commanded the crowd as well as a veteran performer. Fans went ballistic as the singer galloped through the crowd and rolled around onstage. Backed by a solid horns section, he bounced through hits like “A-O-K” and “DRUGS” as spectators belted one song after another. When Verdes covered Weezer’s “Beverly Hills,” —  the first song he memorized on his iPod — the lyrics seemed prophetic: “Take my picture by the pool / ‘Cause I’m the next big thing.” 

On the adjacent stage, the southern/garage rock duo, Black Pistol Fire, reminded listeners that stripped-down rock-n-roll is not dead. It can take a few minutes to realize Black Pistol Fire is actually just two guys, because their music’s complexity creates the illusion of depth. Guitarist and frontman Kevin McKeown carried the show with his dexterity on the guitar, ripping through a mind-bending solo on “Speak of the Devil” that drew spectators to the stage like lemmings. But unlike some guitar/percussion duos that ride on the showmanship of the lead singer, shirtless drummer Eric Owen brought frenzied rhythms that were both supplementary and essential to the performance. 

Black Pistol Fire by Grant Hodgeon for Lollapalooza

Across the park, the five-piece White Reaper delivered a garage punk set that harked back to the early-aughts rock scene. On its recordings, the band from Louisville, Kentucky sounds like an alt-rock outfit, but live, the group’s punk inclinations come across. Twin guitars give their music a “Marquee Moon” vibe, while their choruses err on the side of pop-punk/emo. The keyboard stylings of Ryan Hater set the group apart, not just for the keys’ punchy sound, but because Hater’s a born entertainer with his dance moves and commitment to the music. 

White Reaper by Pooneh Ghana for Lollapalooza

Speaking of commitment, the indie pop singer Nicolas Muñóz, who assumes the stage name boy pablo, performed karaoke-style, using a laptop to queue his own backup tracks. 

“I’m from Norway. You can probably tell from my accent,” the Chilean-Norwegian singer said as he explained that his band couldn’t obtain U.S. visas to perform at Lollapalooza. Hinds, the indie rock band from Spain, also missed playing the festival due to visa complications

The bare-bones performance did not disappoint fans. The audience bopped along to hits that combine Latino swagger and Scandinavian synthpop, and what Muñóz lacked in instrumentals he made up for with endearing charisma. 

Featured image: Tai Verdes by Roger Ho for Lollapalooza