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Lolla 2016 Day 4 recap: Stories from the Stages

While Lollapalooza looked to be a rain-filled weekend, everything cleared up by the midway point. That's a good thing, because the expansion to four days tested everyone over 23's endurance and resolve to stroll through Grant Park's grounds for the whole day. Clear skies and agreeable weather were a welcome antidote to the several blisters currently on my feet.

But let's talk about the music. Today boasted arguably one of the fest's strongest overall days with Smino kicking things off, a moody set from XL-signed pop star Låpsley, a turned-up jam at D.R.A.M. and a super-cathartic and shaded performance at the BMI stage from Georgia's Mothers. Haim also made their triumphant return to the Lollapalooza stage, and Vince Staples riled up the crowd with his unsurprisingly killer stage presence. Of course, nostalgia reigned supreme as a recently reunited LCD Soundsystem closed out the festival. Nothing gave me more goosebumps than seeing several tens of thousands of people sing along to "All My Friends."

—Josh Terry, music reporter

Smino (noon, Pepsi stage)

Smino taught Lollapalooza the value of getting to the fest early. Kicking off the day at the Pepsi stage, the rising St. Louis rapper and member of Zero Fatigue, aka the collective featuring Monte Booker, Ravyn Lenae and more, gave one of the best performances of the entire weekend. Fresh off the re-release of his EP "blkjuptr," he ripped through songs off that effort as well as new ones from his forthcoming title-TBA full-length release. He may live in Chicago, but it's his home city that he repped, bringing his longtime collaborator and friend Bari Allen onstage. Backed by his longtime producer Booker, Chicago musician Phoelix, Silent Party Music and backup singers and dancers, Smino's set featured some smooth instrumentals to anchor his versatile flow and croon. He more than proved he could man not just this stage but a way bigger one in the future

Lapsley (12:45 p.m. Samsung)

Just after noon on the unprecedented fourth day of Lollapalooza is a tough spot to fill, and if Låpsley was expecting a packed audience, there were several factors working against her: 1) The majority of festgoers likely were still lying in bed at that point, wondering why they signed up for this. 2) She was playing on the Samsung stage, which always looks empty unless you have a 100,000 people or so packed in there. 3) The midday sun, back with a vengeance after three days behind the clouds, was beating down relentlessly overhead, taking its toll on those not in the shadow of the stage. But the 19-year-old English singer-songwriter openly acknowledged that she's just at the beginning of her career—"I should write more. I'm only one album in," she said apologetically, prefacing her last song, "Hurt Me"—and seemed to be happy just playing Lolla in any form. I could definitely see her returning in the future with more material, perfectly filling a sleepy afternoon slot.

—Elise De Los Santos, executive editor

D.R.A.M. (1:50 p.m. Pepsi)

If his carefree, party-starting debut at Pepsi stage proved anything, it's that Virginia crooner D.R.A.M. likes to have a good time. For those who only know him for his appearances with Chance the Rapper ("D.R.A.M Sings Special" on "Coloring Book" and "Caretaker" on Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment's "Surf"), he's responsible for song of the summer contenders two years in a row: 2015's "Cha Cha" and this year's "Broccoli." While both those songs were obvious highlights, his modest discography is beefy enough to fill out an entire 40-minute set that included a danceable rendition of The Sugarhill Gang's "Jump On It!" as well as a surprising but fitting cover of Radiohead's "Everything in Its Right Place." "Cha Cha" may have put D.R.A.M. on the map, especially when Drake arguably ripped it off with "Hotline Bling," but it's this velvety-voiced singer who's going to keep himself there for a while.

—Josh Terry, music reporter

Third Eye Blind (3:45 p.m. Petrillo)

I have to assume that when scheduling Lolla, the powers that be take supply and demand into consideration. If that's the case, they seriously underestimated the demand for Third Eye Blind. It wasn't just Petrillo that was packed—even the area on the other side of the fence, out of sight but within earshot, was densely populated. "If they start out with that one song that we know, then we're out of here," one girl said as others just gave up and left. When the band did get onstage, they sounded off and opened with lesser-known songs. In fact, they did a cover of U2's "With or Without You" before getting into anything that pumped the crowd up. When they finally played "Never Let You Go," things got livelier, but not enough to make up for the fact that everyone and their mom was condensed into way too small a space. They closed with the beloved "Semi-Charmed Life," offering, "Thank you for keeping our music alive."

—Lauren Chval, assistant entertainment editor

Halsey (4:25 p.m. Samsung)

It's no surprise that the 21-year-old singer was a huge draw for the Lolla youngsters, who have propelled her to great popularity in a short amount of time. Halsey's fans filled the area around Samsung but still left room to breathe. Her sound—what a voice—inspired mini dance parties between friends. On stage, she was a dynamo, serving as the conductor of her crowd. When she raised her arms, her fans raised their as well. She swung around the bars of her platform like the stage was her personal playground. Sometimes slow, sometimes fast, she always had a commanding presence. "You're gonna [bleep]ing sing this song," she ordered before launching into "New Americana," and of course everyone did. While performing "Hurricane," she raged across the stage with barely concealed madness. And in typical brash Halsey fashion, she didn't shy away from the heaviness of current events. "There's a lot of [bleep] going on right now. [Bleep] that makes it hard for me to get on stage in a pair of pink shorts and sing these silly songs," she confessed. "Whatever your race, sexuality, class, faith, I hope you're proud. Diversity in you guys is what makes music possible."

—Lauren Chval, assistant entertainment editor

Local Natives (4:45 p.m. Bud Light)

Local Natives' songs have the ability to send chills down your spine while playing only from your headphones on your morning commute. So imagine the effect their music can have played live with the Chicago skyline in the background, as an entire field of their fans clap along. That's all you need to know to capture the experience of their Lolla set.

The crowd was the only one I experienced in which there was no obnoxious pushing or shoving and where everybody was captivated by their performance for the entirety of it. They kicked things off with "Past Lives," moving between classics and songs off their new album, a project two years in the making.

After showing off his "Make American Afraid Again" emblazoned on his guitar, frontman Taylor Rice made a political in their newest song, "Fountain of Youth," released just over three weeks ago, proclaiming that he has "waited so long, Mrs. President."

For the first time all weekend, an audience stayed truly attentive through the entirety of a set and invested in the music, rather than milling around half-heartedly listening. It was the first time Lolla truly felt like a music festival and not a drunken spectacle.

—Shelbie Lynn Bostedt, social media coordinator

Mothers (5:40 p.m. BMI)

The BMI stage might be not only Lollapalooza's best-kept secret but also the best place to see a show during the four-day behemoth. Mothers, from Athens, Ga., are the perfect band to play that small, shaded stage because there's a delicateness to the group's jangly indie rock. As soon as frontwoman Kristine Leschper sang the first lines of single "It Hurts Until It Doesn't," bodies strolled into the crowd. Other songs off their recent album "When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired," like "Copper Mines," and even new songs had an extra snap in a live setting. Normally a band like this is best suited for a venue like the Empty Bottle, where they recently played, or even a sweaty house show, but this quartet has the chops for a major festival, even if it is on its smallest stage.

—Josh Terry, music reporter

Flume (6:25 p.m. Samsung)

Let me guess: You hate the idea of producers-slash-DJs who plug away at soundboards and laptops at music festivals. But if there’s anyone who can change your mind, it’s Flume. The Australian producer’s Sunday night set exceeded my Day 4 expectations with flawless festival vibes and sounds. Donning all white, Flume took the stage with a mix of sing-along remixes and new beats from his latest album, “Skin.” Though he didn’t need the help, Vic Mensa and Vince Staples were welcome guest appearances who kept the audience on their toes. The sprawling crowd swayed and clapped to the beat, eating up every last drop of the show. As the sun set on Grant Park and Flume tied things up with his take on Disclosure’s “You & Me,” I couldn’t help but feel like this was the epitome of summertime in Chicago.

—Morgan Olsen, Eat & Drink editor

Haim (6:45 p.m. Bud Light)

There was no dramatic entrance for Haim when they took the Bud Light stage on Sunday night. They came in running and jumping to their places, excited about being back at Lollapalooza and not afraid to show it. Between songs, each sister took the chance to tell the audience how much playing at Lolla meant to them (Este and Danielle saw Amy Winehouse play that very same stage in 2007, and they credited her with inspiring them to want to be singers and performers like her). Instead of stopping the show cold, their words only added a sense of specialness to their set, as they were clearly savoring their time up there and bringing the crowd with them. They opened with "If I Could Change Your Mind," then "Don't Save Me," before covering Prince's "I Would Die 4 U." And that's when the party really started. The band went on to play two new songs, the second of which showcased the strength of Danielle's guitar-playing. But they closed out their show by going full-out Blue Man Group—in a good way. All three, who had taken turns playing guitar/bass and singing during their hourlong performance, all jammed on the drums for their finale. Though it started off a little shaky, once they got in a groove, they stayed there—stayed there for two minutes longer than scheduled, in fact. I suspect this isn't the last time Haim will be on a Lollapalooza stage, and they can only go up from here.

—Elise De Los Santos, executive editor

LCD Soundsystem (8:25 p.m. Samsung)

The year LCD Soundsystem's "This is Happening" came out, I instated a strict house rule prohibiting anyone's feet from touching the ground during "Dance Yrself Clean," a song too good to not dance on a chair to. My thoughts upon hearing the Brooklyn dance punk band was headlining Lollapalooza were first a slew of nonsense words of excitement while double punching the air, followed by, "Wait, can they do that?" Can they just come back five years after an enormously hyped breakup that ended in the legendary farewell concert in Madison Square Gardens? And the answer is yes. Yes, they can. And it was the greatest Lollapalooza show I've ever seen, and the greatest dance party I'll probably ever live to experience.

A giant disco ball greeted the crowd during opener "Us v Them," followed by "Daft Punk is Playing at my House." James Murphy was as wild as ever, a good indication that five years was just long enough. The mix of hits nearly ranged the band's entire discography, including a most haunting rendition of "Tribulations" that seamlessly transitioned into the shredding "Movement" followed by an amazing triple drum solo on "Yeah" from the 2005 self-titled record. During "Losing My Edge," Murphy proved that he's anything but lost is edge, and it was an excellent precursor to "New York, I Love You but You're Bringing Me Down," a heavy ode any urbanite kid who's ever felt a breakup with a big city weighing on them.

While I'm bummed Coachella got a cover of David Bowie's "Heroes" and Lolla didn't, hearing my college anthem "Dance Yrself Clean," a song I never thought I'd have the chance to see live, was mesmerizing. Ending with "All My Friends" was pure magic, and if the band is serious about releasing a new record this year, now is as good a time as ever.

—Heather Schroering, nightlife reporter

Ellie Goulding (8:30 p.m. Bud Light)

Watching Ellie Goulding dancing, jumping and generally feelin' herself on the Bud Light stage, it's hard to remember that Lana Del Ray closed down that stage only three days ago. For all intents and purposes, Goulding is the anti-Lana. She pops across the stage, aggressive dance moves and all.

Her set started off loud and energized, but her energy was lost on the crowd starting with three songs nobody really seemed to know. The crowd, largely younger than even the Halsey crowd, lost their [bleep] when she finally pulled out her radio hits, like "Something in the Way You Move" and "Outside."

She lost momentum when she dove into a slow-paced acoustic love song, "Devotion." "I'm usually skeptical when it comes to love," she told the crowd. "But this is a genuine love song." The crowd wasn't buying it, causing a mass exodus of the youths who saw what they had come to see—her current Top 40 hits and nothing more. ("Just play 'Lights' so I have something to be excited about," somebody in the crowd said.)

When she did finally play "Lights," the crowd eagerly bit at her invitation to sing along to a subdued acoustic version, very obviously attempting to show off her impressive pipes—though not at all the right venue. Goulding needs to lean into the pop-star persona, rather than fight back at it by changing up familiar songs that the Lollapalooza crowd came to see. The end of "Lights" was met with another wave of Lolla-goers leaving as they got (kind of) what they had come for. Sorry, Ellie.

When you think Lollapalooza, you don't think Ellie Goulding. Without her generic easy-to-sing-along-to hits, her performance would've been nothing. She's a fabulous and energetic performer, as exemplified by her out-of-breath interactions with the audience, but nobody was interested in anything past her radio singles. She crammed in the majority of her hits at the end, but a lot of the audience had already checked out.

—Shelbie Lynn Bostedt, social media coordinator

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