Lollapalooza ends on a high note on day two

Day two of Lollapalooza started out with sunshine and a lineup shake-up.

Greg Kot (GK), Bob Gendron(BG) and Andy Downing(AD) give us the rundown of day two.

12:01 p.m.: Austin, Texas, quintet the Wheeler Brothers kick things off on Lollapalooza's second day with a honky-tonk-inflected “Sleep When I'm Dead,” a fitting anthem for the hundred or so early arrivers crowding the stage. “How many of you had to set an alarm to be here right now?” the group asks from the stage. The band of brothers — three of the five are related — plays with a precision that comes from a lifetime of making music together. Still, this type of music is best when it's at its most rough and tumble, and tunes like “Heather” and “Portraits” are almost too manicured, making it appear the crew would only play roadhouses with, like, the cleanest bathrooms. An ill-advised cover of the Jackson 5's “I Want You Back” does little to alter this perception, though with news of Death Grips' cancellation spreading it's refreshing to see a band approach its performance with a degree of professionalism. (AD)

12:11 p.m.: "Everybody that's singing along, that's [expletive] awesome," says Cherub's Jordan Kelley. Uh, who are you talking to, sir? Chalk it up to wishful thinking. A few hundred early birds watch the Tennessee duo but nobody in sight mouths any words. People are swaying their hips instead. The pair's hybrid of white-soul funk and silky electropop generates the intended between-the-sheets swagger while the come-hither lyrics seem repurposed for a PG-13 version of "Penthouse Forum." Cherub owes a considerable debt to early Prince and Zapp records. Songs such as "Heartbreaker" and "Jazzercise '95" reference sweat and encourage sexual get-togethers. Vocoders and talk boxes help heap on the risqué vibes but this is all targeted for the nighttime, not the hour when everyone is still just waking up. (BG)

1:05 p.m.: "Do you believe in love," asks Shovels & Rope singer/multi-instrumentalist Cary Ann Hearst. She gets an affirmative reply. A male fan gets on his knee and pops the question to his girlfriend. Stunned, the woman accepts, and the band gets right back to business. The feel-good moment isn't the only highlight of a gritty set during which the South Carolina couple plays as if it's got nothing to lose and everything to prove. The husband-and-wife tandem boasts a genuine rapport, leaning into each other as they delight in the carefree fun of hillbilly country, raw country and dust-blown folk. Hearst and Michael Tandem effortlessly switch instruments, tackling drums, tambourines, harmonica, keyboards and guitar. Adorned in a blue-and-white-checkered dress, Hearst looks ready for a barn-dance hoedown or dinner at a formal Southern diner. But the duo isn't afraid to dirty its appearance, delivering words at an auctioneer's pace and filtering chords through cheap distortion. The sandpaper finishes and washboard-rubbed grooves suit a batch of shuffles and boogies tailored for being performed on wooden crates and with pawn-shop gear. D.I.Y.'s spirit lives. (BG)

1:06 p.m. DJ Cole Plante dons a Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls jersey for his afternoon set at Perry's stage, though at just 16 years old it's unlikely the Los Angeles native ever saw him play. The pint-sized Plante specializes in big-beat electronica, and his high-gloss set is heavy on flash, if not substance. Unlike some of Friday's better DJs (Monsta, Flux Pavilion), the youngster rarely varies the tempo, and his musical output is as uniformly outsized, shiny and characterless as a modern skyscraper. Though his music lacks texture, few DJs could match his energy. Plante climbs atop his rig, dances on the stage like a loose-limbed marionette and exults the crowd to “get your hands in the air!” Unfortunately his enthusiasm hasn't translated into actual ideas just yet, and he fills out a bulk of his hollow set spinning whole swaths of songs by Icona Pop, Zedd, Daft Punk and Basement Jaxx, among others. (AD)

1:26 p.m.: Brazilian band Planet Hemp bounces from surf to hardcore punk, psychedelia to heavy metal. It's basically a power trio with a versatile guitarist and two rapper-vocalists, but they sound like they're auditioning for a frat's 20-year reunion party. If you were jumping around in college bars to rap-rockers 311 in the '90s, this is your band, ganja presumably not included. (GK)

1:38 p.m.: Little Green Cars push delicacy to the extremes. The Dublin collective threatens to put everyone to sleep with genteel harmonies and barely-there acoustic frameworks. Sound bleed bombards the performance from two separate stages. For a while, it seems the band missed the memo to play the Kid's stage during nap time. At its best, the group conjures the pleasantries associated with the burgeoning Americana revival. Its songs might be good for dozing off, ironing a shirt or listening to when shaving. Yet the mediocrity primarily serves as a reminder that, irritating as it may be, pedestrian fare is almost inevitable at fests as large as Lollapalooza. At least vocalist Faye O'Rourke gets a lead turn on "My Love Took Me Down To the River (To Silence Me)" to salvage the waning moments of a cloying set. "Everywhere we go I say that it's my favorite city, but here I really mean it," adds leader Steven Appleby. Sure, dude. Whatever. (BG)

2:05 p.m. Jordan Cook, the singer/guitarist driving Canada's Reignwolf, appears onstage dressed head-to-toe in black and with a stocking cap pulled low on his face, looking as though he's going to make away with the instruments onstage rather than play them. Instead, Cook opts to play all of them, both drumming and playing guitar before two bandmates join him onstage a song into the set. Though in fine spirits (between tunes he thanks the crowd and expresses his wonderment at the city surroundings), Cook's guitar sounds downright cranky on dingy, blues-influenced rockers like the thundering “Are You Satisfied?” He also plows through a primal cover of Fleetwood Mac's “The Chain,” punctuating each verse with gnarly guitar riffs that mimic a rusty motorcycle engine firing for the first time in decades. (AD)

2:15 p.m.: Wild Cub, a Nashville quintet, excels in congeniality and an unrelenting flow of pleasantness, with two keyboardists cushioning any hard falls. When several band members play percussion, the rhythms never quite qualify as funky or even propulsive. It's the sound of frothy waves on a yachting excursion, with only scratchy vocals that aim for grittiness, but don't quite get there, to disrupt the flow. (GK)

2:28 p.m.: "Keep your head up/Keep your heart strong," Ben Howard and company sing as they attempt to convert the refrain into a chant that sticks in people's heads for days. The sentiment jives with the English troubadour's gentle, tender fare. Howard, who often plays guitar with his hand above the fretboard rather than below, makes music for cozy campfires, days spent lounging at a beachfront vacation home and candlelit dinners. Occasionally, the tempos jog and Howard slaps at his six strings as if batting away a pesky fly. He recognizes his pastoral niche and doesn't stray, handling dynamic build-ups with the gracefulness of an altar boy and expressing the obvious messages of tunes like "Only Love" with fragile vulnerability. Howard isn't a pushover, however. With Little Green Cars cutting into his time slot, he takes the stage, allows the amplifiers to feed back and refuses to stand down until the opposing band vacated across the way. (BG)

3:08 p.m.: The last soul man standing? Charles Bradley has been grinding for decades on the sub-chitlin' circuit without record deals or high hopes, while enduring homelessness, poverty and his brother's murder. Now that he's in his sixties, he's finally got his chance and he wrings every drop of feeling from each note he sings. "Do you want to go to church?" he asks. "Raise your hand if you want to go to church. I'l take you there." He's a James Brown disciple, preacher and confessional singer-songwriter rolled into one. He's also got a flair for theater in the finest Soul Brother No. 1 tradition. "Brother, don't leave me alone," he cries, then drops to his knees, the microphone stand slung over his shoulder like a cross. "How long, how long?" he wails, shaking his fist at the heavens. The next minute, he rolls into some suave stepping moves, breaks into a shimmy, slide, pop-and-lock and jack-knifing knee drop that has the fans howling in appreciation. He's not just here to testify about the hard times, he wants to lift himself -- and the audience -- back up, too. (GK)

3:18 p.m.: The last time the Blisters, a Chicago quartet that features Jeff Tweedy's son Spencer on drums, played the Kidzapalooza stage they were actual kids. Now two of the four band members have full-on facial hair. The band's music has matured in a similar fashion, and rather than bashing through a handful of snotty punk covers, here the band eases into an assortment of winding originals that touch on weighty subjects like regret (“It's been so long since I touched your hair or did you wrong,” sings frontman Henry Mosher on a stately “One Day”), the anticipation of new love (“If I call you up would you break me down?” he sighs on another tune) and how to properly say “I'm sorry.” “Don't say it with flowers,” offers sweet-voiced guest vocalist Alaina Stacey on “Flowers.” Perhaps next time around the still-improving crew will even graduate to one of the fest's actual stages. (AD)  

3:19 p.m.: Court Yard Hounds stomp and step during the retribution tale "Phoebe," yet little about the soft-peddled performance hints at the requisite vengeance needed to pull such a song off. Comprised of sisters Emily Robison and Martie Maguire, better known as two-thirds of the Dixie Chicks, the group brings a polished Nashville country-pop feel to easygoing back-porch cuts such as "I Miss You" and "Amelita." Perhaps it's the remarkably small crowd or the sun-baked mid-day slot, but laziness and formula pervade. Faded bluegrass-tinged elements that emerge via banjos and Maguire's bittersweet fiddle aren't enough to compensate for the fact that the singers miss Dixie Chick Natalie Maines' sass and spunk. Robison even forgets the words to a song. And the 5-piece backing band never gets an opportunity to engage in jamboree mode. If Court Yard Hounds want to be considered more than a side project, they need to up their level of investment. (BG)

3:48 p.m.: If the uber-peppy cheerleaders Will Ferrell and Cheri Oteri portrayed on “Saturday Night Live” opted to form a drum-and-synth duo, there's a good chance they would sound something like Brooklyn-based Matt & Kim. The pair, making its third appearance at Lollapalooza, is relentlessly, almost annoyingly upbeat, and watching the two musicians interact on stage it's easy to imagine they're the type of people who tend to use too many exclamation points in their emails. The music is equally over-caffeinated, drawing on hip-hop (the musicians even work in a snippet of Salt-N-Pepa's “Push It” for good measure), synth-pop and electronica. Of course, the crowd, among the largest gathered up to this point, eats it up. Credit the duo with knowing its audience, which goes wild when the two play snippets of Will Ferrell movies (“No one knows what it means, but it's provocative!”) and offer up their hopes for how the evening will unfold for the gathered masses. “I want everyone in here,” says drummer Kim Schifino channeling her inner Rodney Dangerfield, “to get laid tonight!” (AD)

4:15 p.m.: Local Natives salute the Talking Heads with a cover of "Warning Sign" and, thankfully, avoid any temptation to emulate David Byrne's unique vocals. The Los Angeles band's off-kilter grooves and suddenly shifting time signatures stem from New York's late 70s art-rock movement, yet the addition of acapella breaks and boomeranging beats lend its material a modern edge. An elusiveness in which anything can change in an instant contributes to the sense that the quintet is playing games of aural hopscotch. In spite of cramming multiple ideas into each piece, Local Natives resist any urge to do too much at once. Pauses that precede wordless harmonies and woozy atmospherics maintain balance. Songs get frisky and jittery, but always land on two proverbial feet. (BG)

4:45 p.m.: Ellie Goulding, decked out in a shirt that, from a distance at least, appears to be made of bubble wrap, straddles the line between soul and electronica, delivering her words atop an array of computerized beats and looped vocal samples. On “Starry Eyed” the British singer, whose voice has an appealing, slightly smoky quality, steps daintily amongst skittish drums. Then on “Burn” she lets it rip while riding a surge of electronic noise. At times, Goulding relies too heavily on prerecorded backing vocals, and the live band sharing the stage with the singer might as well be props. In spite of the sometimes robotic backdrop, however, the music itself still feels somehow human, particularly on a cathartic “Anything Can Happen.” Think of the performance as the Tin Man in the “Wizard of Oz,” with Goulding as the beating heart at the center of the mechanical mass. (AD)

4:59 p.m.: Unknown Mortal Orchestra conjures surf music for an imaginary sci-fi movie. Based on this performance, that movie would kill at the Cannes Film Festival next year. The drums-guitar-bass trio lines up next to one another across the stage, and it's as if a starter's gun goes off at the onset of each song with each musician flying to the front. Solos aren't so much about individual grandstanding as they are battles for space, with each instrumentalist taking a turn in the lead while the other two snap at his heels. It's a thrilling, acrobatic display, but it's also grounded in hooks and songs, with melodies weaving through the death-ray guitar noises, bobbing bass and rampaging percussion. (GK)

4:55 p.m.: Boom! Baauer tucks "Harlem Shake," the viral hit of the century, into the middle of his set. Fans run like lemmings toward the stage, limbs flailing as smartphones capture video of friends doing the dance that prompted countless YouTube versions. It's all over in about two minutes. The Brooklyn producer proves more than a one-hit wonder, however. Unlike many of his electronic contemporaries, his tracks keep people guessing where the tempos, beats and samples will go next. Variety and flexibility govern an undulating mixtape of electro-trap, hip-hop, crunk and funk. Baauer's creativity extends to visuals that encompass images ranging from an off-guard President Obama to the darting eye of a Blue Man Group member. Arms outstretched over his decks, the Brooklyn artist strikes a triumphant pose, the overseer of a throng enraptured by window-rattling bass and repeat chances to get crazy without worry of any consequences. (BG)

5:12 p.m.: Four years ago at Lollapalooza, Eric Church played a small stage during the opening hours of the festival. Today, the North Carolinian commands one of the four main stages and returns the favor with arena-scaled production and a muscular sound. The outspoken singer flies the redneck and rebel flags with pride, his chewing-tobacco-stained voice lacing songs like "Springsteen," "Creepin'" and "How 'Bout You" with backwoods tones. His eyes shielded by pilot sunglasses and a baseball cap, Church relays an experience to which many people at the fest no doubt relate. Having performed at Metro the night before, he confesses he's hungover, that his butt got kicked by his favorite whiskey. Of course, he still sips it onstage, and doesn't shy away from any of his other vices. Rambunctiousness and walk-it-like-he-talks-it honesty are largely responsible for his successful straddling of the country and rock markets. Hence, the banjo-assisted "Smoke a Little Smoke" and "I'm Gettin' Stoned," which Church sends up with a heavy metal crunch and type of hard-living attitude that elevated him to superstar status. (BG)