By Kelly Clausen
Photos: Courtesy of C3 Presents / Lollapalooza
Summer in Chicago brings us a number of things we can always count on like eating a Chicago style hot dog in one of your favorite ballparks, hanging out at an amazing ribfest/beerfest and of course, admiring the dragonfly’s in Grant Park during Lollapalooza. Without a doubt, the largest live music festival in Chicago. This year marks the fests 11th year at Grant Park in Chicago.
Thursday July 30th,
It all started Thursday with Aftershow parties. This has become something just as popular as the main event it supports. They too always sell out fast to a few lucky fans who get a more intimate experience to their favorite performers. Two of the hot tickets this year were for Tove Lo at the Concord Music Hall and alt-J at the Aragon Ballroom. Neither of which disappointed.
Day 1: Friday July 31st,
Friday was the beginning of the main event. It’s main stage headliners were The Weekend at the Bud Light Stage, Flying Lotus at the Pepsi Stage, Kaskade at Perry’s stage and the former Beatle himself, Sir Paul McCartney. (see Terence Wenslow’s complete review on that in another article posted here)
Our highlighted artists were as varied as Lollapalooza itself. Starting with the mighty, St. Paul & his Broken Bones Band, Father John Misty, Tove Lo, Cold War Kids, MS MR, alt-j, Alabama Shakes, Gary Clark Jr and Paul McCartney.
St. Paul, aka Paul Janeway, brought his soulful show to the Bud Light main stage. The Broken Bones band ruled that stage. This was one powerful performance from the guys from Alabama. If you’ve not seen or heard of him, think what it would be like it James Brown, Cee-Lo Green and Black Francis from the Pixies had a baby. Great, live, R&B with plenty of soul.
Father John Misty performed on the Padilla Stage (or Petrillo Music Shell as we know it the rest of the year). A great stage, but seemed a bit too small for this performer. Misty brought a serious crowd with him. He could have filled another larger one easily. Who knows, maybe next time he’ll be back to do just that. While he was on this stage, he took command of it. He worked the crowd over, jumped down from the platform and leaned into the fans as much as he could. At one point an over excited fan tried reaching for his face and asked it they could touch it, at which Misty quickly responded with, “No you may not touch my face, and that’s just kind of odd to ask isn’t it?” He seemed to win them over more and more with each song and interaction.
The Sprint stage had Tove Lo in the early part of the afternoon on Friday. The crowd really turned out for her. There wasn’t room for “Talking Body” anywhere. This Swedish pop start won over the heart of David Letterman before his retirement and apparently much of North America as well. Her debut album Queen of the Clouds, just released this year, has already won several awards with even more pending. Her sultry dance moves, catchy beats and straight from the loins lyrics got everyone’s attention.
Returning for the 5th time, The Cold War Kids proved why they should be here. They still can pack the field. This American Indie Rock band from California got the kids jumping and kept things moving from the first riff to the last.
MS MR, a New York based American Indie Pop duo that also got the crowds dancing and moving on the Sprint Stage, as well as got a special appearance by Tove Lo who joined them on stage for a song.
English Indi Rock hipsters, alt-j, played the Bud Light stage. This was the second time fans got to catch the band at Lolla. Their first appearance was in 2013. This time, they played a little longer set to a larger crowd. They are on tour in support of their new album, “This Is All Yours”.
The Samsung Galaxy stage was filled with talent today. Alabama Shakes went on right before Paul McCartney, which worked out pretty great for signer/guitarist Brittany Howard, as she became a guest of Sir Paul. (see Paul’s review below). A.S. played through 13 powerful songs before walking off and saying goodbye.
Gary Clark Jr started right after Alabama Shakes set. He rocked out 9 songs including “Bright Lights”, “Our Love” and “Grinder”. Clark Jr brought the rock n blues side of music to the festival not heard by many. During the day, he also connected with fans at the autograph signing tent.
Ok, the main event. Paul McCartney. Paul schooled the crowd at Lolla. The former Beatle rocked the Samsung Stage with over 30 songs! He gave us tracks from his former bands, Wings and Beatles as well as solo material.
McCartney started the night off with “Magical Mystery Tour”, pretty much setting the tone to what we would all experience – Magical. Other highlights included seeing and hearing Sir Paul play “Maybe I’m Amazed”, “Queenie Eye”, “Band on the Run” and “We Can Work It Out” with a rare, “FourFiveSeconds” intro.
There were a number of high points during this performance including “Live and Let Die” with a full pyrotechnics that reached the clouds and the crowd rousing, “Hey Jude”. A song that still gets people to join hands and wave them in the air.
His Encore included more Wings and Beatles songs like, “Hi, Hi, Hi” and “Can’t Buy Me Love” but the true magic happened when McCartney asked Alabama Shakes, Brittany Howard out to play on “Get Back”. In true Paul McCartney tradition, he ended the show with the classic Beatles tune, “The End”. Making it a perfect ending to the night and day 1.
Day 2: Saturday August 1st,
Surviving Friday, we step into day two. Saturday Lollapalooza started out another warm day, but not as bad as some years. I’ve been going for many years. I remember one or two in the high 90’s with a 1000 percent humidity. This was a tame year for temperature compared to some others. Sunday, well, we’ll get to that later.
Saturday’s highlights included mostly new bands to the industry. And when we say, “new” we mean bands that have only been around a couple years with only one or to albums. The only “veteran band” on the scene was the nights headliner, Metallica. A few of the bands we wanted to check out included Holychild, Wet, Charlie XCX, White Sea, Tyler, The Creator, Tame Impala and Alesso.
One of the day’s first acts we checked out was Holychild (HOLYCHILD as they stylize it). They are an American Indie Pop duo from LA. They are also considered “Brat Pop’ in some circles. They just released their first full length album, “The Shape of Brat Pop to Come” just weeks ago. Singer/songwriter Liz Nistico danced around the stage in seductive pose sporting tight white shorts and top covered in a gold fringe covering. When she moved, it followed her gracefully. Nistico was graceful. She engaged the audience with words and even jumped out into the crowd. Louie Diller makes up the other half. He brings the beats and samples to life. They also had a live drummer for the set. Together, they brought a fun, pop filled show that was entertaining and kept you wanting more. They played their indie college hit, Happy With Me” and got great response. After the performance, Nistico told the crowd she loved them and to come meet her at the signing booth.
Wet is a 3 piece electronic indie pop band from Brooklyn, New York. They had a simple stage show, with melodic songs and mellow crowd to follow. Wet’s sound was mixed really well. It was very clean and clear. Singer Kelly Zutrau’s voice echoed off the surrounding trees and the smaller audience that turned out for them really liked them as well as I. I don’t know much more about this band, but they are someone to watch out for.
Most of us know who Charlie XCX is by now. If you follow pop rock music at all, you’ve undoubtedly heard the catchy tune, “Break The Rules”. Charlie, sporting knee high white striped jogging socks, black leather hip hugger shorts and white pirate sheer pirate style shirt with black bra underneath, really got the fans going. Her backing band of ladies rocked the stage. They had white neon lit amplifiers behind them completing the simple all white theme. All of them were tight. The show was fun and poppy as can be.
A band we’ve never heard of, White Sea, played the BMI stage mid day. This was a pleasant surprise act to happen across. Terence Wenslow covered this in greater detail in his Saturday recap review and I’ll leave that to him. Check it and the band out when you get a chance.
Rapper, and co-founder of “Odd Future”, Tyler Okonma, AKA The Creator put on a crazy fun show. The stage looked like a giant bedroom set from IKEA or the set of the Simpsons. He really got the crowds pumped. Especially during DOMO. Tyler spit everywhere and rallied up the audience to jump, sing along and chant. He was joined by Taco who kept the hype and rally going in support of their solo album, Cherry Bomb.
Australian psychedelic electronic rock band, Tame Impala are no strangers to Chicago. They’ve toured through tour enough to mention how much they like our city and how much we like our sun (noting how bright and hot it was that day on stage). Kevin Parker founded the band back in 2007 and since have released 3 studio albums. They are currently touring in support of their latest release, “Currents”. Today’s show was filled with those psychedelic videos playing in the background as the band rolled through the hits, and even a new song or two. When it came time for, “Elephant” and “Let It Happen”, the audience went wild and sang along.
Over on Perry’s Stage, Swedish DJ Alesso pounded the crowd with big beats and amazing pyrotechnics and light show. His debut album, “Forever” was released in May of this year and already an EDM favorite. He’s released a number of singles throughout his tenure as a producer and remixer. Even if you’re not a fan of his, you couldn’t help be bob your head and move as he killed the virtual turntables and speakers.
As the night drew to a close, we ended up at the South end of the festival at the Samsung Galaxy stage for Metallica. Starting just as the sun fell below the skyline, they opened with the fierce song, “Fuel”. This let the Lollapalooza crowd know who was in command now. They continued through the night playing songs from all across their 30+ years together including some deep cuts like, “Creeping Death” and “Am I Evil” before ending the night with “Enter Sandman” off their black album, “Metallica”. One note of interest, and somewhat distraction at times, was the group of fans behind them on stage during the show. They were behind Lar’s drums. It’s a cool idea and must have been awesome as a fan, but as an audience member, was a little odd to see. No matter, they moved around so much during the show that it was easy to forget as you followed each member from side to side.
Day 3: Sunday, August 2nd
We made it! Day 3, final day of Lollapalooza. Today we continued the day of mostly new artists and also checked out the Kidzapalooza section. The weather didn’t play so nice this day though. It was a noticeably hotter and mugger than previous days, but the worst part was the storms. They were bad enough to get everyone ejected from the grounds during the mid day and again at the end of the night. It’s happened before in previous years, but this one seemed longer and more difficult to get away from. Sets were cut short because of over an hour break or eliminated all together for some acts like the School of Rock and the end of the night called early due to foreboding weather making its return.
When the clouds broke and the lightning resided, we the crowds of fans was shuffled back in. The highlights of today included seeing Motown Pete on the Kidzapalooza stage. If you don’t know already, Motown Pete is Peter DiStephano from Porno For Pyro’s and Lance Herbstrong. An amazing guitarist whose sounds helped define a generation of alternative youth in the 90’s. What made this performance even better was his inclusion of the group early cut. He asked the School of Rock to join him on stage along with several other guests making it an all star jam.
Other notable acts included, Twin Peaks, Twenty-One Pilots, Gogol Bordello, A$AP Rocky, FKA Twigs and TV On The Radio. Many of whom had already played at Lollapalooza in past shows, bands or line ups, but still brought a great performance to this day.
The headliners, Bassnectar and Florence + the Machine both had their sets cut short by at least 30-40 minutes, but in the time they had, they each won over the already exhausted audiences.
Bassnectar only played 5 songs, but in the time, he included a rare track. Pink Elephants was the last song before the final bass dropped. This was his second time playing at Lolla, but first as a stage headliner. We’re hoping he gets redemption and invited back one more time to finish what he started.
Back at the Samsung Galaxy stage, Florence + the Machine went on and singer Florence Welch made a few comments on the weather, the lightning storm going on in the background. She then broke into song (Cosmic Love) as if to summon mother nature to the front row. Welch ran around back and forth on the stage as wildly as the lightning itself was crashing, as if to show how well she healed from her recent broken foot last spring.
Welch got out a few more songs than others, nine in total. At the end, performing “Dog Days Are Over”, she asked the crowd to remove one article of clothing and wave it above their heads. They responded and shortly after making that statement, ran off stage into the audience removing her own shirt, waving it around as she ran through the inside fenced area between the crowds.
This years Lollapalooza wasn’t unlike the many others that came before, but the crowds, temperature and variety of performers did make it special. Having classic, Iconic performers like Paul McCartney and Metallica brought in a very diverse crowd. Each day was a good mix that didn’t seem to collide with many fans watch list. Fans of Metallica weren’t missing something on the other end of the park as was the case in years past where promoters put two great similar acts back to back. It’s pretty easy to say, if you were a Sam Smith fan, you weren’t too upset that the Bay area rockers where playing the same time on the South lawn.
New this year was the expansion and redesign of the Perry Stage. Gone was the giant white tent / dome that hovered over the dance floor, instead we find a vast open area field with bigger sound system, lighting and effects. The EDM part of Lolla really does seem to be taking off and proving it’s here to stay. The Perry stage was ALWAYS full of people dancing. Even with the expanded field space, it was still not large enough. The sound though, that was at times over powering. Especially for anyone playing the Samsung Galaxy stage. McCartney and even Metallica were drowned out at points during their sets by the boom, boom, boom of the subs from Perry’s Stage.
The only real issues this year were the port-a-potty locations, or lack of throughout other areas of the park and the exit plan. The central location of port-a-johns was good in theory, but when you are all the way at one end of the festival grounds and need to go, it’s a bit of a walk to the nearest station. The exit for the grounds took foreeeeeever! I don’t remember this in years past being so difficult. Maybe it was the prison fencing the encased the entire lake front festival. Also, trying to get everyone out during the storm delay wasn’t great either. Many people had nowhere to go. The business around didn’t see too happy or welcoming to receive these kids either. The parking garages were hot and over crowded.
Each year I see a younger and younger group attending as expected, but that is also because there are younger and new bands playing that appeal to a certain demographic. I don’t mind, as I really do love all forms of music. I like to think ageism doesn’t apply to me. Sure, I can’t wear the same tank tops and hip huggers as those half my age, but I can still rock out with the best of them.