For most New Yorkers, it’s easy to believe that Manhattan is the center of the universe, since all tours and events seem to comb through our lovely island. However, coming from a New Yorker, I can confirm that musical Mecca, otherwise known as Lollapalooza, is the sole reason why you should pack your bags and buy a plane ticket (or a very expensive Uber) in order to be a part of this iconic Chicago event. After 25 years of operation, Lollapalooza has perfected every element of the festival experience. Although the festival’s high-end production value is partially due to the support of major sponsors like Bud Light and Samsung, there’ s a certain inexplicable “something” that just makes this festival special in its own way. Perhaps it’s the linear layout of the grounds that makes it impossible to lose members of your squad; maybe it’s the delectable food options (can you believe Lobster corn dogs are a thing?). Even things as simple as phone charging areas or free water filling stations are the little details that are essential to maintaining peace of mind and satisfaction while you run from stage to stage.
With over 100 diverse acts, Lolla brought an eclectic lineup that would satisfy any fan’s taste, and with major headliners like Major Lazer or Disclosure, no one can deny the heavy presence of electronica this year. After four days of musical perfection, we’ve synthesized our notes and have come up with an objective verdict to support which acts comprise our “Top Five” list for Lollapalooza 2016.
There is no question that mysterious producer, Marshmello, dominated SoundCloud in 2015. It’s amazing to see the leaps and strides this young producer has made in a year, considering he started out with a couple thousand plays on SoundCloud and has now leveled up to performing for a couple thousand people at Lollapalooza.
His loyal following, appropriately dubbed the “Mellogang” packed in front of Perry’s Stage on Saturday afternoon, but not even the most die-hard Melloganger could predict the set that was in store. Now Marshmello has accrued such a loyal following in a year’s time through his use of blending melodic trap sounds and future bass elements in perfect harmony, evident in his 2015 performances and in the mixes he’s put out for Diplo & Friends or HARD Day Of The Dead. By heavily utilizing these musical stylings, he captures the heart of anyone on the dance floor looking to simultaneously twerk and be in their feelings. However, Marshmello has grown as an artist, and his Lollapalooza performance is clear proof of this evolution.
For those New Yorkers who saw him at Pier of Fear last Halloween, you may remember his light show included whimsical images of marshmallows riding on unicorns, which further captured the lighthearted “bounce” of his melodic trap beats. While some of these light show elements have remained constant (I mean who wants to get rid of unicorns?), Marshmello has upgraded his visuals to look like something out of an acid-induced Willy Wonka dream. Additionally, his set was filled with heavy dubstep influences that had you headbanging as hard as possible, even in the July heat. Of course, he threw in his signature originals and remixes, including his “Where Are U Now” remix and “Keep It Mello,” which appealed to loyal Mellogangers. To make his set even more special, he brought out A$AP Mob to perform “New Level,” which you can take see a snippet of below:
— EDMNYC (@EDMNYC) July 30, 2016
Regardless, Marshmello didn’t need special guests to make his set special. He was a necessity to our top five, as he’s clearly proven himself to be more than a name on SoundCloud, but an actual entertainer.
4.Louis The Child
For all future-bassheads, Louis The Child was one act you could not miss this year, and these Chicago natives brought a set to make their city proud. On Sunday, their performance packed out the entire Pepsi Stage to the farthest back corner. In fact, many fans climbed up the trees that lined the stage’s perimeter, just to get a clear view of the duo’s antics (this did not please festival security). Naturally, Louis The Child played the remixes that helped launch their success, like their remixes of Ty Dolla $ign’s “Blasé” or Miike Snow’s “Genghis Khan,” and they also paid tribute to the future bass community by playing anthems like “Helix 2.0” by the Moving Castle boys.
Not only did they preview a new track off their upcoming EP, but Louis The Child took it upon themselves to bring out some friends to help make their Lolla performance more memorable. You may have heard of them, Griz and Big Gigantic? Within seconds, fans began to push to the front of the stage to get closer to the sexy-sax-masters.
After seeing this young duo play alongside mega-talents like Griz and Big Gigantic, the only question fans were left with asking is, “When can we expect Louis The Child to take the Main Stage next year?” Certainly an up and coming act to be on the look out for in the coming months.
3. Cashmere Cat
If you had to describe Cashmere Cat in one phrase, it would be “enigmatic perfection.” However, his set on Thursday was so incredible that people couldn’t stop talking about his performance, even days after the festival concluded. His light show portrayed abstract, black and white visuals of nature, like running streams and the woods. This may have been a thematic choice considering the fact that the day after his performance, Kanye released his music video for “Wolves,” which Cashy produced, and this music video had a similar look and feel. Even if this is a stylistic coincidence, the imagery worked perfectly with the ominous introduction to his set. Opening with “Frank’s Track,” the set transitioned towards heavier bass instrumentals and then uplifted into originals like “Mirror Maru” and “Pearls.”
For a while on Twitter, Cashmere Cat has teased fans by letting them know that he will include songs from his upcoming album in his live sets, and the folks at Lollapalooza were lucky enough to experience this in the flesh. While his 2014 EP, “Wedding Bells,” utilized vocal samples, after hearing a sneak peak of his new album, we believe we can expect a greater range of soul-shaking lyrics, evident in the snippet we’ve captured for you all below. There’s no doubt that his debut album will be an undeniably brilliant body of work, but all we can hope until we get an actual release date is that he doesn’t play the Frank Ocean game … Drop the album Cashy!
— EDMNYC (@EDMNYC) July 29, 2016
Aside from outstanding originals, Cashmere Cat also included tracks like MssingNo’s “XE2” and Travi$ Scott’s “Pick Up The Phone.” His ability to blend beautiful electronic melodies and trapified rachetry is what makes Cashmere Cat the ultimate DJ talent, as he can connect with any listener looking for a song to echo however they are feeling on the emotional spectrum. Cashmere Cat didn’t need a special guest to make his set stand out, but he did have some very special spectators, including Malia Obama who was spotted in the front row jamming out. What greater level of approval do you need as an artist than from a fourth of the Obama family?
Flosstradamus is notorious for shows that are tailored for the kids who’re too hip hop for EDM, and the kids who’re too EDM for hip hop. Little did anyone suspect, the Chicago natives used Lollapalooza’s 25th anniversary and the duo’s 10-year anniversary as the perfect excuse to turn up the absolute most. Their set included the most diverse track list including club anthems like DJ Khaled’s “All I Do Is Win,” metal jams like “Bodies” by Drowning Pool and even a remix to 90s line-dance smash: “The Macarena.” Needless to say, these emcees know how to get anyone at the party moving.
Now if you’re a member of Floss’s #HDYNATION, you know how deep that fam rolls. As a way to rile the members in the crowd, they naturally waved the HDYNATION flag on stage, which only lead to mosh pits and screams of excitement. It’s an interesting phenomenon to try and explain, but Floss has the power to make thousands of people happily push each other around and cheer in unison, and I’m sure if aliens were watching overhead, they’d be nothing but confused. However, this is the exact type of oxymoronic catharsis that only a set from Flosstradamus can elicit. To make the crowd even more crazy, Floss brought out Post Malone to provide live vocals to their new collaboration, “Came Up.” See a snippet below!
For those who downloaded the handy Lollapalooza app, a push notification was sent out on Thursday night to notify everyone that Bud Light had a special surprise during Flosstradamus’s performance. As an ode to Chicago, they brought out fellow Chicago natives: Michelle Williams of Destiny’s Child, Dwayne Wade and Chi Town’s unofficial mayor, Chance The Rapper. This iconic moment immediately divided the entire festival into two groups: the ones who were lucky enough to witness this live vs. the ones who sadly missed out. For those in the first group, they got to see Michelle perform “Survivor” and Chance perform “No Problem” and “Summer Friends” off his 2016 album, “Coloring Book.” Yeah, that really happened. The only issue is now we have no idea how Bud Light can possibly top this next year.
— EDMNYC (@EDMNYC) July 29, 2016
As the afternoon fell into dusk on Sunday night, nearly half the festival crowded the Samsung Stage for Flume, filling up the equivalent of approximately two baseball fields. You could say there was some hype for his show. Although his set lasted only an hour, he indulged fans in classic originals from his debut album, including “Sleepless,” as well as songs off his 2016 album “Skin,” including “Wall Fuck.” Now Flume is no novice performer. After putting out platinum music and kicking off a mostly sold-out world tour, there was certainly a lot of pressure to make his Lollapalooza performance extra special. And boy did he deliver. In the beginning of his set he brought out Vic Mensa to perform “Lose It.”
But was that all Flume had in store? Hell no. Of course he had to bring out Vince Staples to help him hype the crowd for a live performance of their hit collaboration, “Smoke & Retribution.”
— EDMNYC (@EDMNYC) August 1, 2016
It’s impossible to have gone your life in 2016 without hearing Flume’s platinum record “Never Be Like You” once, but after experiencing his live performance, it makes it difficult to listen to the simple recording when the memory of his flawless live set burns so brightly in your mind. Naturally hits like this as well as his Tove Lo collaboration, “Say It,” had every girl in the crowd singing along as loudly as their lungs would permit. Regardless of how poor or great this sing along sounded, it generated an overall feeling of bliss that blanketed all of Grant Park. Greater than Flume and greater than the music itself, it is this feeling that we will always associate with these kinds of festival moments and with Lollapalooza 2016.
Thank you to all the artists, across all genres, for sharing your art with us, and thank you Lollapalooza for the greatest weekend any music lover could ask for. I can guarantee you will keep this New Yorker coming back for your next 25 years of operation.