While capacity crowds swarmed Lollapalooza last weekend, some 400 lucky music fans enjoyed a more intimate experience about two miles away in Chicago’s West Loop—no sunscreen required.
On Saturday, July 30, the House of Vans hosted Rolling Stone Live: Chicago. Now in its 10th year, the showcase was headlined by 23-year-old pop rocker (and recent Rolling Stone digital cover star) King Princess, a.k.a. Micaela Straus, with additional support by German songstress Zoe Wees and DJs Coco & Breezy. Attendees filed into the massive indoor skate park, collecting House of Vans and Rolling Stone branded tote bags along the way. Once inside, guests could customize their tote (or whatever they had handy) at an embroidery station, grab a neon-hued fanny pack from sponsoring partner, ticket marketplace Vivid Seats, nosh on empanadas and tacos from local favorite Café Tola, and grab drinks at the skateboard-studded bar, where Goose Island beer flowed on tap.
Like Straus, Wees is a fast-rising pop wunderkind—she turned 20 earlier this year, not that you’d guess it from her performance. She captivated the House of Vans crowd with a soulful, ballad-forward set and the world-weary vocals of a much older artist. Crowds swayed to the chorus of an especially aching “Hold Me Like You Used To,” and Wees closed with her breakout 2020 single “Control,” inspired by her experience growing up with benign Rolandic epilepsy (BRE). Between them, Wees’s heartbreak converted into rocket fuel for her set’s biggest headbangers: the grungy “That’s How It Goes” and up-tempo, supremely danceable “Third Wheel.”
King Princess took the stage about a half hour later, clad in a gray halter top, pleated plaid skirt, and Doc Martens. As she later told the crowd, Straus was still on cloud nine from a Lolla afterparty concert the previous night at the House of Blues, timed to the release of her sophomore full-length LP, Hold On Baby (Zelig/Columbia). Several fans from that show also held down the front row of her Rolling Stone Live set.
“I love seeing you guys,” Straus said. “You know, it had been a while [since I was touring and performing]. I was like, ‘Oh, s—t, can I still do this?’”
Her set answered that question with a resounding, guitar-streaked yes. Straus led with a high-octane version of “Little Bother” that immediately sent the crowd by the stage bouncing. And, as usual, Straus expertly played to her most ardent audience. She scanned the crowd just before “Change the Locks” and flashed a mischievous grin.
“Can we have a little lesbian moment?” She was greeted by screams. “All right. Get your diva cups out.” From there, Straus directed the crowd in a call-and-response to “Pussy Is God,” notching its falsetto lines down to a sultry contralto, and cheekily swapped “Wake up next to you” in “Talia” for “Wake up next to pussy.”
Just before “1950,” the song that catapulted King Princess into international stardom, a crowd member tossed a powder-pink trucker hat onstage, with “I [HEART] MILFS” emblazoned on the front. Straus gleefully donned the cap for the rest of the song and her final number, “Let Us Die,” her self-professed favorite song off Hold On Baby.
Before, after, and between acts, Coco & Breezy kept attendees moving with high-energy DJ sets. Sporting their signature shades, the twin sisters spun snatches of disco, Latin beats, and house tracks contemporary and classic—including a take on “Get Get Down,” which doubled as an homage to a hometown hero, the late Paul Johnson.
By the time Rolling Stone Live wrapped at 5 p.m., guests wouldn’t be faulted for wearing out their dancing shoes. Luckily, all attendees went home with a pair of new ones, choosing one of about a dozen different styles of Vans to take home—or slip on before another night of moshing on the festival grounds.