Lollapalooza was attended by Greg Belasco and Nicolas Gutierrez. The following is their take on the festival itself, as well as the artist sets that were played.
Greg Belasco Coverage
Having been to Lollapalooza many times myself, Getting into the gates on Friday morning is something of a familiar experience. Once I got my wristband scanned I knew what I needed to do to begin the weekend, find free stuff. After checking out the Toyota free Yr Radio Booth, where they were giving out freshly screen printed tot bags, and offering leather wristbands and headbands, I made my way to 93XRT's booth to grab one of their brightly colored neon green visors, which did a great job of making me look like I was more interested in counting money than listening to music. After that I whisked over to the Playstation booth to grab a fold out mat to sit on for the weekend, (boy did it come in handy, given the rain on Saturday) and an other bag, you can never have too many.
But on to the music:
These guys were the first act I caught on Friday, and with their great upbeat chiptune sound, it was exactly what I needed to get my blood pumping and into Lolla Mode. “AirBrushed” is a personal favorite of mine, hearing it live really just sent me back to being a kid playing old school video games and rocking out to the 8-bit sounds with a rectangular grey controller in my hand.
Metric as always put on a great show. Their sound is always spot on, and Emily Haines' vocals are truly something that needs to be heard in person, she has such a vocal range that she executes, while not backing down on intensity, keeping the high energy for this great set. Playing a good amount from their new album “Synthetica” while not forgetting their great tracks from yesteryear.
If you were hanging out by Perry's during the evening on Friday, hopefully you got to catch Madeon's set. Hugo Pierre Leclercq aka Madeon put on such a great show it will remain in my head for many years to come. The 18 year old French DJ played tracks ranged from 90's to 2010's, Alternative to EDM and everything else the crowd wanted to hear. With crowd pleasers like Blur's “Song 2, Deadmau5's “Raise Your Weapon” the audience was going nuts, and you could see it was hard for Madeon to contain his amusement. Also including originals, “Icurus”, “Finale” and of course “Pop Culture”. Madeon is definitely an act I will be on the lookout to see again.
When Nero began with their celestial spacey intro, leading into dirty wompy electro like they do so well it was hard to makes sense of what I was seeing. Standing there I just watched the crowds, and seemingly from every angle people were pouring in towards the stage. The crowd was literally only moving in one direction, not the usual mingle you tend to see at Perry's Stage. The sheer amount of people rushing in and dancing to get closer to Nero was immense. And all that got more intense when Alana Watson graced us with her presence to sing a few songs including “Promises” and “Crush on You”
By the time the sun started setting, and the skies started cooling off, and getting darker, M83 was there to take us into the calming dusk, by way of haunting vocals and beautiful synth, as they've been known for. Listening to M83 almost beacons a sigh of relief, like you know everything's going to be alright, as long as you remind yourself to find the beauty in the world, and enjoy the time you have with the people around you. When the saxophone solo came on during “Midnight City” its almost like the world slowed down as people held their breath to listen to it, at the same time trying to stifle their excitement to hear it completely.
The Black Keys:
Choosing between Black Sabbath, Bassnectar, and the Black Keys for Friday's headliner proved to be a difficult challenge. But in the end it came down to The Black Keys, and I couldn't have been more pleased to see anyone else but them. With dense fog billowing off the stage, rolling into “Howling for You” as their opener, the crowd began with their participation early. Between the catchy vibe of all of their songs, and the chanting crowd, every song they played seemed like it was an interactive experience between them and the audience. With volleyballs being tossed back and forth between sides of the audience, jumping fans, and fireworks (that we were too close to see, being blocked by the stage) the whole set seemed like a giant party, caught up in the hysteria of the music.
Day 2 of Lolla was an exceptionally interesting day. As we arrived at the main gates for the day, people were being evacuated and no one was allowed to enter the park, due to the severe weather. So from about 3-6 Lolla was essentially put on pause. Where you went to escape the impending storm was up to you. So when the traffic lights started turning on at about 3:30 in the afternoon and the sky began to turn a deep orange, we knew we had to get inside. Finding refuge at the Art Institute of Chicago, we like many wandered around inside the museum, looking around at all the Lolla banded arms, wondering when we would get to continue our Lolla experience. An hour or so later, the storm had passed and the sky was clearing up again. We began our trek back into the park, only to be stopped at the gates, with a few hundred fans eager to get inside. Perhaps a bit too eager, as they began to inflate beach balls playing a roaring game of what seemed like “Keep the ball in the air”. The rules were simple, keep the ball in the air, and things were good. Let the ball drop, and this wave of sadness came over everyone. But the crowds' mood would always jump right back, as soon as the ball was in flight again. Then tennis balls entered the fray, then bottles, then even a blow up doll was being passed around. Definitely not the sort of thing I would want to be tossing around, but you couldn't stop this crowd if you wanted too. Then came the crowd surfers, and crowd standers... even crowd stackers. But once the gates opened, and the cheers began to echo through the sprinting fans, that's when the fun began.
Fun.'s set was shifted a bit due to the rain, but that didn't stop them from performing their hearts out. Fun's lead singer, Nate Ruess, puts so much emotion into the lyrics he sings, it made it pretty easy to forget the mud I was standing in. When it came down to their final two songs “We Are Young” and “Some Nights” the crowd was going nuts, as the chorus echoed through the trees at the Google Play stage. At one point Nate Ruess even pulled out his earpiece, seemingly so he could hear the chanting of the crowd, singing Fun. in all its glory.
Chili Peppers sets are always spot on, high intensity massive parties, and this year was no exception. Despite the only flaw being the massive amounts of mud being sloshed around, (ome may argue this was a good thing) it didn't put a damper on the show. Although it did help to keep a nice open area for those afraid to venture across the 'mud river'.
Beginning his set on top of a giant 15/20 ft expressionless white face, with crowd favorite “Levels”, the tone was set early. As a moving mouth began to be projected on the face in sync with the lyrics, and a star field of technicolor lights spawned from every corner of the stage, it was easy to tell this was gonna be a wild ride. Never waning for a moment, Avicii kept the crowd bouncing and screaming throughout, especially when “Levels” came back on toward the end. This time remixed with Gotye's “Someone That I Used to Know” which was definitely the climax of the set, and proved to be a crowd favorite.
One word to describe the French duo's set at Lollapalooza this year, Epic. Kicking things off with distorted guitar intro of the United States National Anthem, sparking chants of “U.S.A” throughout the crowd, then dropping into the massive horns of “Genesis” marking the start of the journey. Complete with a massive assortments of strobes, spotlights, LEDs and a majestic piano hidden within a giant glowing cross, Justice came prepared. There wasn't a moment that the crowd wasn't jumping and rocking out, apart from when the duo came out from behind their set up to stand in complete silence, seemingly demanding applause for what seemed like an eternity. The entire set seemed like something larger than life, like we were evacuating some space ship. When “Stress” came on and the red strobes and sirens turned on, that was also fittingly when the massive waves of crowd surfers began. The rest of the set was spent checking our back every couple of minutes to make sure we didn't get cracked in the head, and so we could do what little part we could in order to keep the surfers from suffering a painful fate while floating on top of the chaos.
Nicolas Gutierrez Coverage
Let me start off my section by simply stating that I had an amazing time at my first-ever Lollapalooza. I certainly have to admit that I was a little apprehensive, and antsy, at first because this was my first foray into a festival of this magnitude. Sure, I had been to a couple other smaller festivals but they paled in comparison to Lolla. Sure, the crowds were rowdy (especially during the Saturday rain delay) but people were truly there to enjoy the music in their own manner. One thing I really learned was that Lollapalooza is an absolute workout. You’re in constant motion, whether it be walking from stage to stage or dancing to the music, with the occasional breather. Needless to say, after 3 days of festival-going, after-party attending, my entire body was sore but my musical mind was satisfied. So shoutout to the Lollapalooza organizers for putting on a nearly flawless (damn weather) event, and I can’t wait to check out the lineup for next year (and/or in Chile).
In terms of artist coverage/set review, I’m highlighting a couple of acts below that either truly impressed me or left me wanting a bit more. Regardless, I have the upmost respect for all these artists for coming out and putting on a show.
Friday seemed to be the busiest day for me, and I decided to start it off with a 3:15 set by Zedd. I couldn’t catch Zedd’s entire set because I had to split time with Tame Impala, but the section that I did see was full of energy and hits. Crowd size was impressive for such an early set at Perry’s, and Zedd did a great job of feeling out the energy of the crowd and seemingly mold his set to the emotions of the crowd. If the crowd was getting too out of control, Zedd would bring it down momentarily to rein us in but go full-blast at exactly the right time. This was probably best embodied when he blasted his “Spectrum” track to the extreme delight of the Perry crowd. All in all, I’d give his set a high 7 out of 10.
Tame Impala was a nice refresher after the high-energy driven set of Zedd. Being acquainted with only a little of Tame Impala’s tracks, I listened from just the right distance to truly enjoy their music as well as take in the motion of the crowd. Lead vocalist Kevin Parker put emotion behind his singing that seemed to resonate within the crowd. Soon after arriving and chatting with Greg for a bit, I found myself in a hypnotized state while sitting down and taking it all in. Tame is certainly a band that I wouldn’t mind seeing again, albeit it with more knowledge of their music, so I can really take them in completely. 7/10
I got to say that SBTRKT was probably one of my favorite acts of the weekend. The crowd at the Google Play stage was certainly big considering the size of Google Play (I felt as though SBTRKT deserved a bigger stage). I had highlighted SBTRKT in my pre-coverage of Lollapalooza, and I was more than satisfied with that decision. Having flown straight in from London, SBTRKT came to throw down and the crowd, myself included, was more than happy to oblige. With that deep bassline (“Wildfire” was exceptional), I found myself tapping into my more primal side. Looking around at the crowd, you could see copious amounts of people lighting up and dancing like they were performing a ritual – absolutely entranced. Walking away toward Die Antwoord, I left wanting more. High 8 to low 9 out of 10.
Yeah…Die Antwoord was insane for various different reasons. 1) Did I expect to see such a vast quantity of people taking them in? No. 2) Did I think I was quite prepared to see what I did? I thought so, but I was quickly proven otherwise. 3) Did I expect a great show? Yes, and I got one (imo). The eccentric nature of Ninja and Yolandis was in full force, as witnessed by their crazy amount of costume changes and Ninja’s trademarked (if it’s not yet, he needs to get on this) hip-thrusting, ball swaying dance move. With Die Antwoord playing hits such as “Evil Boy”, “I Fink U Freeky”, and “Enter The Ninja” to list a few, the crowd was digging every second of it. Personally I would’ve liked to see a bit more production within the set but with the main draw being the craziness of Ninja and Yolandis, I forgave them. Rating: High 7 to low 8 out of 10
I had high hopes for Passion Pit, I really did. But I left extremely underwhelmed and kind of bummed. Yeah, the crowd size was nice but the energy seemed lacking. Maybe it was just me, but lead singer Michael Angelakos seemed to be disconnected initially. Did it get better over time? Yes, but the damage was done. Of course, the die-hards loved every second of it, but I saw many disinterested faces. Now, that’s not to say that the music didn’t sound crisp. On the contrary, Michael was hitting them higher notes, but I left the stage wanting a bit more. Rating 6 out of 10
M83 was also one of the highlighted acts that I was extremely interested in seeing. With their amazing live set, and their beautiful production I was stoked. But there were good things, and there were bad things. Starting with the bad. I’m not sure if it was just me, but the sound seemed messed up on the Sony stage. Not sure if it was the band’s fault, or if it was just the speaker system but it seemed as though Anthony Gonzalez and Morgan Kibby were muffled while still screaming at the top of their lungs. Also, the normally daunting light show that I had heard and expected was below-par. I attributed this more to the fact that M83 was playing as the sun was setting, making it hard to truly appreciate the intricate light show that was possibly planned. Yet, with these problems, I left M83 absolutely in love. First time seeing them live, and their high energy while playing the various instruments was unparalleled. And there’s just something truly special about hearing their songs live, especially “Midnight City”. So hopefully when I see them in Atlanta at the end of September, they’ll provide an even better show. In the meantime, I give their set a high 7 to low 8 out of 10.
What you expect for this? Tons of bass, high energy, and an insanely massive crowd. Winding down the night with Lorin was great, but since I was so tired by the end of the night, it was hard for me to capture the entire experience. Lorin played a mean set, and the lights, and production at Perry’s was never better encapsulated as Lorin’s on Friday. Rating: 8 out of 10.
With the rain-shortened Saturday, I wasn’t able to see as many of the acts that I had written down as I had hoped. And with the rearranged schedule, it was still a little tight.
Getting back to the campgrounds around 6-ish, I headed straight towards the Press Tent to figure out the new revised schedule. While chilling there and waiting for all the bands to get back into the festival grounds, I waited patiently for The Weeknd to go on the Red Bull Soundstage. Couldn’t tell you the exact time he started singing and crooning, but I as I watched a comfortable distance away, I could feel the crowd being romanticized by the Canadian vocalist. Ever the enigma, Abel Tesfaye draws on this mystique on-stage focusing not on a heavy light show or production, but rather in delivering an extremely solid set. Vocally, Abel sounded spot-on with a slight hiccup or two but in the grand scheme of things, I was digging every second. Especially his rendition of “High For This” and “Crew Love” – rating: 8 out of 10.
Frank Ocean, what a guy. The fans came out in full support of Ocean, and joined in on singing in almost every track. Playing off the crowd, Ocean gave a performance to remember. I had heard that Frank Ocean’s set was hit or miss – depending on how he was singing that day/night – but for his late night set on August 4, Ocean absolutely nailed it. And with all the emotion that he was putting into his songs, as well as with the emotion that his supporting band were playing at, you could feel the power of Ocean’s set. Almost enough to take your breath away, and certainly more than enough to leave you wanting to see him play live 2 or 3 more times. Rating low 9 out of 10.
Splitting my time headliner set with Frank Ocean, I arrived to Santigold’s set as she seemingly was going full-force. Having the benefit of playing on the lights/production heavy Perry stage, Santigold delivered an effect-laden set. However, she was on point with her singing and dancing with her 2 backup dancers. Perhaps this was best captured with her live performance of “Creator” – this song takes me back to my days of rock-climbing – in which she brought on fans from the crowd and there seemed to be insanity with all the bodies moving and gyrating. My only problem with her set was that it seemed as though too much emphasis was put on the lights, thus losing some of the aura that Santigold has established. I would’ve preferred to see her play in a more natural state, but overall I left feeling pleased. Rating 8 out of 10.
By Sunday, I was tapping into my leftover energy reserves and absolutely grinding it out. With weary legs, torn up feet, but still an almost insatiable desire for music, I was ready for the last day of my first Lollapalooza. First up – Sigur Ros.
For acts that I don’t really listen to at all, I must say that Sigur Ros was by far my favorite of the group. I have obviously heard of them, but not really knowing what they played, I had overlooked them until Eric had highly recommended seeing them. So Eric, thank you for that because I left their Red Bull Soundstage set with my ears ringing with pleasant music. I had no clue as to what was being said, but that made little difference to me. I was perfectly content just laying by the stage on the hill as I left their soothing and amazing sound wash over me. Crowd loved every second of it, as Sigur Ros commanded their attention from the get-go. Rating high 8 to low 9 out of 10.
I managed to catch the tail end of J. Cole’s performance since I lingered maybe a little too long at Sigur Ros…sorry. However, what I did see from J. Cole was good. Didn’t have me completely drawn in but that could be attributed to me needing some more time to acclimate myself to the vast change in music. Yet, there was no denying the raw power that J. Cole delivered in his verses. He wasn’t mixing words, but instead just throwing down with his DJ. There wasn’t much of a light show, but then again, people weren’t there to be wowed by that. So for now I withhold rating J. Cole’s set solely for the fact that I didn’t gather enough information to adequately rate it. I am, however, interested in seeing him live again based off what I did see.
Toro y Moi:
Toro y Moi was another band that was recommended to me. For a band that I hadn’t heard of, I seemed to really get into their set. What stood out to me was the simplicity of their act – four guys standing with their respective instruments all delivering a high performance. What more could you ask? There was nothing splashy, nothing too over-the-top, but there was dedication to their sound. While the crowd was nice, I felt as though Toro y Moi deserved something bigger. Catch these guys when you can, it’s worth it. Rating high 8 out of 10.
It seemed as though my home away from home for Lollapalooza was the Perry stage, and once again I found myself headed that way for a set by Big Gigantic. With the drum set manned by Jeremy Salken and the saxophone manned by Dominic Lalli, if you wanted to see passion in one’s music then just go to a Big Gigantic set. With the sax blaring and the drums pounding, the raucousness of the crowd was always rising. Punctuated with the high synth lines and the rumbling bass, I soon found myself in a sea of dancing and jumping bodies. Fearing for my life (not really), I retreated to the tree line where thankfully the power of their music was still able to reach. Rating 8 out of 10.
My headlining, and final act, to see was Childish Gambino. Did he sound good? Yes he did, but I felt as though he was forcing the issue to much. With lots of screaming and yelling, my ears were soon overpowered. There’s nothing wrong with putting emotion into your music, but to do it to the point of where it becomes uncomfortable is well…uncomfortable. Childish certainly stuck to his hit tracks, and the crowd absolutely loved it but I wish he had toned it down some. Yes, Childish has come a long way from where he was a year ago, but I felt as though he is still a little too raw to be performing as a headliner. Some refinement may be needed, but his set gets a final rating of 7 out of 10 from me.
So in summation, what can we take away from Lollapalooza? Well for one, Lollapalooza and its’ organizers are all about the music. This is the most apparent in the actual lineup that they brought together. With a wide variety of up-and-coming and well-known artists, there was always an act that you could see and come away happy with seeing. Hell, I found myself walking around the festival just looking at the schedule because I was undecided as to who I exactly wanted to see. There’s a saying that goes “Too much of a good thing is a bad thing” but in this instance, too much of a good thing was the perfect thing. With welcoming and friendly helpers and attendants to answer your every question, a bustling and vivacious crowd, and acts galore, Lollapalooza ended up being THE festival of the summer for me. Would I go again? No doubt about it. However, with Lollapalooza having already expanded to Santiago, Chile and expanding to São Paolo, Brazil and Israel, maybe it’s time to check out the international festival experience and see how it compares. I’m sure the international Lollapaloozas will blow people’s mind away as well.