Friday was over in the blink of an eye. (It didn’t help that I was off to a late start because of work and had to miss Charly Bliss’ much-buzzed about set and Perfume Genius’ sashays.) The festival kicked off with some excellent performances from a lineup that was without a noticeably weak link:

Most Down-To-Earth: Noname

“Guys, let me be completely transparent. I’m a little drunk right now.” Chicago rapper Noname quickly collapsed the distance between her and the crowd baking under the late afternoon sun at the Green Stage as she complemented the technical fireworks of her four-piece funk band (including a backup vocalist) with plenty of jokes and laid-back bars that belied her technical talent. Puffs of smoke drifted from pockets in the crowd as she cruised through cuts off her debut album Telephone, restarting a few songs and casually working the left and right side of the crowd, divided by a small lane in the middle for photographers. Songs like “All I Need” recalled some of Anderson .Paak’s slower material, filtered through an extra layer of alcohol and sunshine. At one point, she tried to get the crowd of stoned grads and young professionals to sing “Thank you, Jesus,” but was unsuccessful. As she wandered to the left side, she caught eye of herself projected on one of the massive screens that bookended the stage. “Oh man, I look chunky,” she sighed. “Don’t laugh at me if my weave comes off.”

Most Likely To Time Travel and Attend Woodstock: Maggie Rogers

Alt-pop wunderkind Maggie Rogers has been doing numbers on Spotify ever since the release of her viral listening session with Pharrell. She shone in the relatively high-profile 6 PM spot at the Red Stage, twirling through her hour-long set in a 60s-inspired jumpsuit decked out in solar imagery and a star-spangled cape. The wizard-like quality was not just visual—she’s a musical alchemist, combining 60s visuals, 80s pop and lyrics, and cutting-edge 2018 production (see: Rostam). While her rise has been meteoric, a lot of her songs are deeply connected to the earth: her hit “Alaska” is built on a foundation of sound samples taken from nature, and “Split Stones” and new single “Falling Water” highlight her connection and love for the natural world. She covered a lot of ground, literally and musically—after leading a sing-along for the tracks off her debut EP, she played a few newer, 80s influenced pop cuts that show a lot of critical potential and songwriting maturity, along with a heartfelt cover of Macy Gray’s 1999 smash “I Try.” She also explained that this was her first time playing a festival with a stage area that extended into the audience, so she was highly mobile throughout her set, running down the small set of stairs and in between the crowd. Later on The National invited her on stage to sing “I Need My Girl” to help finish out the day. Dreams are coming true for Maggie at every turn.

Best Party Ever: Paramore

Hayley Williams and co. were the inarguable highlight of Friday’s lineup, lighting up a rapturous crowd of mostly white millenials who had clearly grown up with their records. In the power move of the century, they didn’t play “Misery Business”, and kept the energy up over the course of an hour-long hit parade. Williams is rare in that she is an incredibly strong vocalist and dancer who can commit to both fully without sacrificing one for the other. She carries the commanding energy of somebody who knows to fill an arena with her mere presence, so whether she was bantering with the crowd about the importance of looking out for one another or headbanging to “Ain’t It Fun,” she had the crowd wrapped around her finger. While there were a lot of technically-gifted backing bands over the weekend, Paramore have the advantage of shared experiences that make their onstage connection similar to the connection between the audience and Williams. As the bittersweet “Forgiveness” bled into “That’s What You Get,” there was question on everybody’s mind, and a good question at that: Why weren’t they headlining?  

Ballsiest Set: The Killers

The Killers closed out Friday night with a classic full-blown rock show, daringly opening their set with “Mr. Brightside” as festival-goers (including myself) legged it back from Paramore’s set across the festival—most of us got there around the second chorus. Frontman Brandon Flowers has the swagger of an arena vet, and his lounge-lizard-inspired stage presence felt strangely contrived, like a casino proprietor welcoming his wealthy guests, or Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s maddeningly unplaceable accent. Masculinity was a prominent, and at times, uncomfortable theme of the evening. Flowers sang from behind a giant mars symbol that gradually filled with red light, and his three older female backup singers were given three smaller venus symbols to perform behind—symbolism that felt more unnecessary than inappropriate. Hits like “Human” got the crowd moving, but the performance was lacking a connection between performer and crowd. Confetti filled the air, and “All These Things I’ve Done” neatly tied up the set.

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