by Tracy May
Over at the midway’s Orchard Stage, Atlanta-based Gringo Star was well into their "little bit of everything" set of grungy alt-country-tinged doo-wop rock. Brothers Nicholas and Pete Furgiuele traded vocal duties over the big hooks and vintage-hued sounds. The slightly psychedelic "Look for More" proved great exit music as we headed to the next stage.
We popped into the amphitheater to see what Timeflies was all about, an electro-rap-pop performance featuring a crowd almost entirely made up of teenage girls — and immediately turned around and headed back across the fairgrounds. On the other side of the fest, the crowd was deep in front of the midway’s second Grove Stage for Brooklyn’s electro-synth-pop outfit St Lucia. Jean-Philip Grobler's retro sun-drenched sound couldn't have been more perfect for this sunny day, and he even dressed the part in tight white jeans and matching Hawaiian shirt. A pair of synths and the vocals of Patricia Beranek fleshed out the songs with lovely harmonies. Everyone was dancing right along with Grobler as he launched into "September," jumping up and down on stage while Beranek provided the distinctive cabasa percussion. Definitely a highlight of the day, and a new band I'm adding to my playlist.
The vendors seemed in great spirits since the sunshine finally had everyone wandering around a bit, and we went in search of food while wandering back across the fairground field to check out the next act. With some fancy schmancy Pop Bandits popsicles in hand (yay for local vendors!), we rode the Ferris wheel and enjoyed the best seats in the house for Walk the Moon’s set. After the ride we caught a bit of British six piece rock group Morning Parade. The guys were pleasant and chatty, and during our brief stay, we sang "Happy Birthday" to one of the band members and caught two songs, "Aliennation," and the title track from their new album "Pure Adulterated Joy." Both songs were slick and radio-friendly, entirely not my thing, but the musicians did offer a very sweet ‘thank you’ to those in the crowd who'd voted to get them onto the 97X playlist.
Ready for something a little rougher, we headed back into the (gratefully) air-conditioned Expo Hall for Chance the Rapper, who, at that point, was shirtless, soulful, and expressively pounding his fist against his chest as he paced the stage. It was a no-brainer to remain at this stage for a while, since you don’t see a hip-hop artist backed up by a trumpet too often. As Chance launched into the slow jamalicious "Paranoia," several people in the crowd held up lighters and swayed back and forth. He thanked the crowd for being respectful before dedicating the next song to the city of Chicago and his friend who was stabbed a few years ago. The expressive narrative was intense and swept the crowd into a frenzy, leaving us shouting for an encore.
We joined the flow of people heading back to the main stage to see Grouplove, the only act performing for most
Mr. Gregg Gillis, AKA Girl Talk, was the headliner tonight as far as I was concerned. I've managed not to see this man play more times than I can count, and experiencing the mash-up dance party at a festival was too great an opportunity to miss. Walking into the Expo Hall, to the extremely slowed down repeated words of "Girl Talk," energy built quickly as the demo did likewise. In case anyone had forgotten we were here for a party, an explosion of balloons fell from the ceiling, as Gillis took the stage followed by his customary group of fans to dance right there with him, techs blowing rolls of toilet paper out at the crowd like confetti. There was a lot of improvisation and differences from the Girl Talk studio albums, a new mash-up of Lorde's "Royals," and MIA's "Paper Planes" seemed a particular favorite to the group of boys at one end of the stage expressively lip synching along. Gillis danced through the entire set, dripping in sweat and ripping first his hoodie, then his entire shirt off. His performance seemed remarkably similar to the review of his Coachella set, replete with a cameo from Roc-A-Fella hip-hop artist Freeway, who appeared onstage for a track off Broken Ankles, the collaborative EP the two just released. Towards the end of the set, Gillis stopped and addressed the crowd: "If you're planning on turning this up, right now is the time.” Helium balloons were released and rose up in a nice counter play to the falling ones earlier and he launched right into possibly his best known track "Triple Double," the party closing with confetti, strobe lights, and Gillis jumping up on the table.
At this point, exhausted from being in the sun all day and dancing our butts off to Girl Talk, we were ready to call it and head home. I felt some guilt at missing the headliner though, so we stopped in briefly to see what was happening with Foster The People at the main stage. The crowd — which had grown much bigger as the day grew later — was clapping and chanting for the band when Mark Foster came on stage dressed snappily in a black suit and launched into "Life on the Nickel," playing to every single inch of this amphitheater and completely vibing off the energy being thrown at him. I must've missed the point where the "Pumped Up Kicks" guys became stadium megastars, but you'd never remember their start from the way they take so naturally to headlining. Perhaps not as huge of a headliner as the two nights before, but certainly well worth closing out a successful new festival.