The best of the ‘Fest: Cadenza’s picks on who rocked the weekend

The 2016 edition of LouFest may have suffered from mud pits and a severe lack of Beyonce, but there was plenty of great music to be found among both headliners and the less well-known names on the schedule. Yes, there was also a 20-minute set from Lauryn Hill’s DJ. But from the soul crooning of Charles Bradley to the dance remix stylings of Big Gigantic, the weekend had plenty of range between genres.

Big Gigantic:

The best blend of dance music and live entertainment, the duo of Dominic Lalli and Jeremy Salken (also known as “The Big G”) provided an hour of nonstop partying and fun for the thousands of LouFest goers who stuck it out in the swampy fields. Their new album, “Brighter Future,” was heavily featured in the set, but the group also did remixes of “Hotline Bling” and “Can’t Hold Us” and played their hits “Good Times” and “Get On Up.” The clear highlight of the hour was Lalli’s brilliant saxophone solos, which dominated the blaring bass notes and thundering drum lines of his counterpart Salken. The Big Gigantic was the follow up to Robert DeLong’s set from 2015, and the band delivered everything we could have expected.
—Peter Dissinger, Forum Editor

Chicano Batman:

For the third year in a row, I found my favorite act of LouFest hanging out at the Shade stage, the smallest of the festival’s four stages. Chicano Batman, who hail from Los Angeles, pump out soul-inflected grooves, love songs and sleazy barroom charm. The band toes the line between the sunshine positivity of Stevie Wonder and the mournful cry of Bill Withers, as well as alternating between English and Spanish throughout the songs. Though Chicano Batman has recorded two albums and two extended plays (the most recent being 2014’s “Cycles of Existential Rhyme”), their studio work isn’t quite indicative of their live set. On record, they’re soft-spoken—groovy but understated. Onstage, the four-piece put their full heart, body and soul into the performance, with lead vocalist Bardo Martinez leaning into his vocal lines like his life depended on it. Without a big hit to their name, the group opted for a more inventive strategy to close out their set: an all-out, punk-influenced version of the Motown classic “Money (That’s What I Want)” that had the crowd chanting along as the sun set.

—Noah Jodice, Senior Editor

LCD Soundsystem:

As former Senior Cadenza Editor Mark Matousek once said, “LCD Soundsystem is great, I swear.” Mark is right, I swear. After coming out of a five-year retirement, LCD Soundsystem has been making the rounds on the festival circuit (not unlike 2014’s former retirees OutKast). The band puts on a show that is equal parts visual spectacle and auditory trance. Beats and bass lines loop in and out as singer James Murphy trounces around the stage, hitting drums and other percussion pieces with precise yet careless force. It’s hard to tell whether the songs are timed out, exactly, or just long stretches of improvisation built around Murphy’s vocal lines, but the whole thing coalesces beautifully. There were crowd favorites, of course, such as “Daft Punk Is Playing at My House” and the wry satire “Losing My Edge.” As the show drew to a close, Murphy joked that there were only four songs left, but, with them, that could take a whole hour. As the band launched into “Home,” they certainly seemed in the spirit of the song, onstage once again after a long absence. LCD closed the show out with a trio of its biggest hits, “New York I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down,” “Dance Yrself Clean” (an apt wish for the muddy masses) and “All My Friends.”
—Noah Jodice, Senior Editor

Charles Bradley:

Charles Bradley checked off all the qualities I look for in a musical performer: silver bedazzled suit, mid-set costume change, gold bedazzled suit. The bulk of his set was my musical equivalent of a peanut butter sandwich: nourishing, familiar and consistent. He knows what he does well, which can be challenging in terms of crafting a set, as songs began to blend together towards the middle of the performance. But whatever energy was lost in the seventh-inning stretch materialized (law of conservation doesn’t apply here, sorry!) as soon as Bradley kicked off the closer, “Changes,” a real treasure of a song that brought tears to my eyes (Bradley’s vocals may also be to blame). On Tuesday night, I heard the song again, playing at Chipotle. I haven’t really stopped crooning the single line “I’m—going—through—changes” since. All in all, I look forward to Bradley gracing the stereo systems of fast-casual chain restaurants for many years.
—Megan Magray, Senior Video Editor

The Heavy:

The crowd at the Heavy’s Saturday set seemed to straddle the line between those who saw the band as a one-hit wonder and longtime fans who knew the band’s entire discography. This is likely an asset to the band, whose strong performance woke up a post-lunch, mud-logged audience. Even the uninitiated may have come away with the sense that The Heavy have more hits than meets the eye. The song everyone knows, “How You Like Me Now?” (featured in 80 percent of all car commercials and movie trailers in the past five years) closed out the set and brought the house down. But other hits, like “What Makes a Good Man?” and “Short Change Hero,” showcased the British band’s range and intensity. Say one thing about the Heavy: The band knows how to write a chorus. Lead singer Kelvin Swaby led the crowd in call-and-response sing-alongs during practically every song, and we were more than happy to oblige.
— Noah Jodice, Senior Editor