I did not do much planning for Lolla this year. Having attended since it’s re-inception in 2005, I decided to just pick out a few key bands and go with the flow for the most part. I’m glad I did because this was truly one of the best fests, which is saying a lot. Every year, Lolla gets a little bigger and one truly gets bogged down by day two. Unfortunately, I’ve missed a few great performances in the past due to impromptu naps. And I usually end my days with, “I’m never coming back. This is my last year doing this.” And every year Perry Farrell and co. have a knack for luring me back with their artist line-up. This year my key choices were Lou Reed. One thing I’ve learned about Lolla is that nothing turns out as you plan.
Just before arriving I check the handy Lollapalooza iPhone application to see what stage I wanted to head to first. To much of my delight, I noticed that the festival added two additional entrances and exits. They also allowed access all around the gorgeous Buckingham Fountain, which had previously been blocked off on one side. These two additions made it easier to acts earlier and it was generally easy to navigate the festival as a whole. The fest takes place in Chicago’s Grant Park which is almost a mile long. How many miles did I walk this weekend? Who knows? Each stage is named after a sponsor and noticeably missing was the AT&T stage. Arguably noticeable was the Chicago 2016 stage, which promotes the Chicago bid for the 2016 Olympics. The Budweiser and Chicago 2016 stage where the main stages, with Playstation, BMI, Perry’s, and Citi peppered in between.
Lollapalooza is a great festival because the food is cheap (typically $5) and the drinks are cheap (beer $5/$8 and water $2). They city and promoters always look out for festival goers giving out free water when needed, offering CTA Buses as cooling stations, and having misting stations as well. Here is my three (or four) day recap.
My festival experience began on Thursday. I don’t remember any previous years having this many parties to attend. When I saw all the listings, I felt it was a little excessive and unnecessary. I think Passion Pit played four times in four days. We aren’t SXSW and I like that. I ultimately decided to go to a few and enjoy the experience.
Passion Pit DJ Set at Berlin
When we got to Berlin, glitter and confetti covered the floor which made walking in heels a bit difficult. Drinking and dancing in heels was even harder! All the hot bodies (body heat) made their way to this club to dance the night away…Literally. I don’t know what time I left out of there but it was definitely in the early morning. The Passion Pit boys were walking around before their DJ set, being very cordial to the crowd. It was a great night.
Manchester Orchestra at Budweiser Stage
Hey Champ at Chicago 2016 Stage
Hey Champ is a local Chicago pop savvy group. While I think everyone and their grandmother went off to see them and dance their ass of in the rain, I knew that I would see them again and again. Off I went to Manchester Orchestra. As I was waiting in line to enter, you could hear Andy Hull’s voice being carried through the rain and air. They opened their set with “Shake it Out,” arguably the best song on their latest album. Being a fairly new Manchester Orchestra fan, I was not that familiar with their older songs but their set did a great job of mixing it up. It was exciting to catch such ferociousness that early in the day. And it appeared as if the drummer was playing like it was his last day on earth.
Amazing Baby at Citi Stage
I walked my way over to the other side of fest to catch Amazing Baby. Their song “Head Dress” has been coming up on my iPod a lot lately so I made my way to see what the rest of their songs were like. This group of guys is making it their mission to bring back psychedelic rock. Their songs evoke the crowd out of shelter to make it one big dance party, rain be damned. What I personally loved most was that aside from the singer, they looked like your average joe stoner guys. Their brand of rock focuses on their sound and not their looks which is why I refuse to call them glam rock like everyone else.
Bon Iver at Playstation Stage
Bon Iver played immediately following Amazing Baby on the other side of the fest so I had to do my best hustle and run over without slipping and falling. I’m not sure if it was god or just our shitty Chicago weather, but it poured and it poured hard. It almost made Bon Iver’s set that more powerful. My only main complaint was that people were using umbrellas and therefore blocking sight views to the stage and jumbo-screen. But you didn’t need to see the band play to enjoy Justin Vernon’s sweet falsetto. The crowd joined in as they played their popular “Skinny Love” but I’ll say that the best song during their set was “Wolves I & II.”
After Bon Iver, I decided I had been rained on enough and decided to go get myself a warm drink and dry off. For three day ticket holders, you were allowed to leave the festival and re-enter. So I left and took my dinner break.
The Decemberists at Budweiser Stage
I won’t lie; I am completely taken with Colin Meloy. I’ve seen this folksy group three times and I was greatly disappointed when I couldn’t get in to see their set requests only set at Metro the night before. Sigh, it didn’t matter though. The Decembrists treated the Lolla audience to Hazards of Love from start to finish. Their set was phenomenal with guest singer Becky Stark in a bride’s dress playing her part. The highlight was definitively “The Wanting Comes in Waves.” Shara Worden, also a guest singer, belted her part so fierce that I think the entire park could hear her. Each song was gorgeously transitioned with what I believe was a little riff from Heart’s “Crazy on You” which they’ve been known to play at shows. In all, this group looked like they were having fun and the crown had fun too.
Andrew Bird at Playstation Stage
Simian Mobile Disco Dj Set at Perry’s Stage
This one was hard choice, mainly because their stages were not far apart. While I started off with Andrew Bird, the driving beats over at Perry’s Stage took over. I was disappointed that Andrew Bird’s set just couldn’t seem to block out the rival stage. I eventually decided I had to go join the dance party. It was a mud fest but a fun mud fest.
Kings of Leon at Budweiser Stage
Depeche Mode at Chicago 2016 Stage
I made the wrong choice this night. I’m a sucker for their sweet ballads and I chose Kings of Leon over Depeche Mode. I don’t know what I was thinking. Kings of Leon played wonderfully and their rock anthems are definitely suited for the massive stage. I just felt that it was too succinct and that I could have just listened to their CD really loudly and received the same experience. I ended up leaving after “Knocked Up,” their only song played with any heart. Unfortunately, I hear Lykke Li did a better version of the song later on that night at her after party set at The Bottom Lounge. I ran across the grounds just in time to hear Depeche Mode close out the night with “Personal Jesus.” It made my night.
It was hot. It was damn hot. And due to the previous night’s festivities I woke up a bit late and didn’t make it to the fest until 4:00 pm. I hear I missed a lot of good bands that day.
Coheed and Cambria at Chicago 2016 Stage
Coheed came out with a single a few years ago that started making the rounds on Chicago radio. I’ve never had anything against Coheed, but I just felt that I could never get into their singer’s voice. Well, I was wrong. Their mix of metal and prog-rock gives with the addition of their singer makes them an amazing powerhouse. Their set included a nice cover of Church’s “Under the Milky Way” and they closed it out with “Welcome Home” which had people running from across the field to the stage. I couldn’t believe how intricate their songs were and how they played them with such vigor. Trust me, it was a hot day and these boys must have been dying. They then thanked Chicago and wished us a good day.
No Age at Citi Stage
I caught the last half of No Age. There seems to be a lot of buzz surrounding this two piece act that’s signed to Sub Pop. I basically love anything on Sub Pop and I was intrigued to see how the filled their sound. Well, they just turn up their amps really loud. This so called noise-rock sound, which to me is still just shoe-gaze, is best left to basement parties. Their guitarist did play injured, though. An accident had occurred the night before. I couldn’t get the whole story but he did say “it looked like my arm was coming from out of my chest.” He also thanked Dan Deacon for helping him out. I hear Dan Deacon rocks crazy/hard. I should have caught his act.
Glasvegas at Vitamin Water Stage
I actually stuck around the Citi Stage and heard the end of their set. Man, that voice just glides out into the atmosphere.
Lykke Li at Citi Stage
Tv on the Radio at Budweiser Stage
Rise Against at Chicago 2018 Stage
One of the best shows I have ever been privilege to attend was TVOTR at Metro in 2007. I was so amazed I decided to catch their act at Lolla that year. That was a mistake. I’m not sure if it was an off set or if it was the festival atmosphere but that performance kind of has me believing their sound works better in an enclosed space. Rise Against is freaking amazing every time I see them. I was very tempted to catch their set on the big stage because they deserve it but I had heard so many good things about Lykke Li the night before that I had to catch her. Lykke Li braved the heat and sun rays and came out cloaked in a black dress and kicked it off with “Dance. Dance. Dance.” Her set picked up from there and she had the crowd truly engaged. She introduced a new slow song that wasn’t received particularly well but she made up for it with that Kings of Leon cover “Knocked Up” with Miike Snow singer Andrew Wyatt. It just got better with Lil’ Wayne’s “A Milli.” It was pleasing to see that the crowd wasn’t content to just stand around listening. We were determined to dance and sing along. And that particular song set the crowd on fire.
Ben Harper and Relentless 7 at Playstation Stage
By this time, people were definitely crowding the north end of the festival for both Ben Harper and headliners Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I perched myself in between the two stages and took in the end of Ben Harper. He truly is a gifted singer and the Relentless7 definitely provide a rockin’ background to this set.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs at Budweiser Stage
I was really hoping the Yeah Yeah Yeahs would turn into a big dance party. No luck but it was a good time, regardless. Karen-O came out in a ridiculous headdress and cloak made out of paper hands. I love her audacity and she always makes a show interesting. They opened their set with the slow temped “Runaway” which was initially an odd choice. But by the end of the song it was an obvious choice as it erupted in into an anthem and ended with the Beastie Boys’ riff from “So What’cha Want.” The crowd wanted more Beastie Boys but we had to settle with that riff. It might’ve been awesome to have Karen O rap, but it might have been awful and I’m guessing that’s why she didn’t. The group had a great set with songs from each album and ended with “Maps,”” Y Control,” and “Date with the Night.” It was a set worthy of playing the big stage at Lolla. While that was a great headlining act, they are not in the same league with the Beastie Boy or Jay-Z who replaced the Beastie Boys at All Points West.
The Gaslight Anthem at Double Door
Somehow I got myself on the list for this show at the Double Door. There was a little confusion at first as people on the list and ticket holders were held at the door. The chaos calmed down and my friend and I were let in. The Double Door is a small space and I’m pretty sure it was hotter in there than at Lollapalooza all day. The only Gaslight song I knew was their single “The 59 Sound” but that didn’t hinder my experience at all. The played the most amazing set I had seen at Lolla, maybe the entire weekend. Their soulful rockabilly punk brought out the rocker inside of me. The entire crowd loved it and didn’t seem to mind the lack of ventilation.
Lykke Li DJ Set at Debonair
Debonair is two floors and the party area was downstairs. I think they were expecting more people in there for the DJ Set because they had back room opened and there were people having sex in there (Editor’s Note – Pictures??). We immediately move to the upstairs area where we ran into Lykke Li and co. One of the members of her entourage was very cordial and invited us to hang out with them. I had hung out with Lykke Li before at a bar and these two run-ins couldn’t have been anymore different. This night, she just seemed very chill and tired. By 2:30 am, Lykke Li still had yet to DJ so we headed out and went home.
Friendly Fires at Budweiser Stage
I don’t understand why there were so many dance acts booked early in day. It was the hottest day so far but I drank plenty of water before I arrived so I was ready to dance. The extreme heat didn’t damper this party. Their “Lovesick” was a hit and I’m surprised there wasn’t more of a dance riot when “Paris” came on but they boys kept it going. Did I tell you that I love bongos? Because I love bongos! They played a few new songs, two I believe, and I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Passion Pit has nothing on these guys. It was a one hour dance party that we wanted to keep going on. I was drenched in sweat within 15 minutes and I loved it.
Portugal, The Man at Playstation Stage
Have you seen these guys? You need to see these guys! This was the second time I’ve had the pleasure of watching Portugal, The Man. Despite sound issues at the start of their act, they put on an excellent show. Their set consisted of songs mainly from their newest album The Satanic Satanist but also included a few oldies as well. As mentioned previously, the heat was at a particular high and Chicago has had a pretty cool summer so the heat was a concern on everyone’s mind. During the middle of Portugal, The Man’s set a woman passed out on me. As her friends gave her water, I ran to get the medic. She was just dehydrated and turned out to be okay,
Kaiser Chiefs at Budweiser Stage
I was starting to feel a bit dehydrated myself so I found some shade and parked myself there. I enjoyed their set from afar as they rocked out “Ruby” and other songs. This was actually a great time to watch the security detail in action. Throughout the fest there were fence jumpers trying to get into the show. The grass area still hadn’t dried from the downpour on Friday so it was a treat to watch everyone fall. I will give it to one security guy in particular who turned down a $100 bribe, fell, and got knocked around a bit. Still feeling dehydrated, I went to get myself some more water and eat a bit to prepare for the craziness of The Hood Internet.
The Hood Internet at Perry’s Stage
These local boys always make good. The C3 promoters made good too by offering free water to anyone by the Perry’s Stage. Everyone in the crowd enjoyed an especially pop filled set by The Hood Internet. As the set continued everyone was very careful to share water or help a stranger out. My favorite part of the set was holding up a few youngens crowd surfing. These boys couldn’t have been more than 11.
Neko Case at Budweiser Stage
When the lineup came out, I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of local acts on the bill. Are Chicago’s acts that popular or is Lollapalooza just Chicago friendly? I don’t know but Neko Case ended her tour at Lollapalooza. The wind started to blow and she looked magnificent as her firey red hair blew in the wind. It was a pretty calm set with her backup singers doing most of the talking. At one point I felt like I was watching the Delicious Dish skit from SNL. Nothing bad will ever be said about Neko Case’s voice but her set could have used a bit more personality.
What Cheer? Brigade in the middle of festival!
I was kind of taking in the day and enjoying the much needed breeze/mist coming off Lake Michigan. I was walking around when In the middle of the walkway I can across a marching band. Remember when I said I heard that Dan Deacon puts on a crazy show? Well, their part of his show. What Cheer? Brigade had performed earlier in the day with Dan Deacon and decided to put on a renegade show by the Kidapalooza Stage. After being told by event staff that if they wanted to play they needed to move closer to the stage they did…for about five minutes before instructing the crowd to form a conga line out into the walkway again. Again, event staff came out and demanded they stop or get kicked out. That was a bit unfortunate because I could have enjoyed them for the rest of the night. Their impromptu show definitely competes with The Gaslight Anthem after party as the best set there. This made my experience at Lolla this year and it made me want to come back next year.
Lou Reed at Budweiser Stage
Lou Reed opened his set with a quiet rendition of “Sweet Jane” and went on to play songs only recognizable to only die hards. He seemed to have woken up on the wrong side of the bed that day as his set was sluggish and a bit drawn out. He ended with “Walk on the Wild Side” but because his set ended past his allotted time no one really seemed to notice him playing one of the greatest rock songs ever. He seemed to fade into the background.
Band of Horses at Vitaminwater Stage
It was great to relax after three crazy days listening to Band of Horses. The crowd was ridiculously receptive as the sun set and the evening cooled. The crowd sang along with Ben Bridwell for almost every other song including “No One’s Gonna Love You.” And then it became 8:30. Jane’s Addiction was slated to play at 8:30. There was a helicopter circling the crowd at 8:30. Bridwell was not going to stop. Bridwell was determined to keep going on and he did as Jane’s started playing “Up the Beach.” As the crowd moved closer to the Budweiser stage Band of Horses quickly became the party killer as they played well past 8:30. Perry Farrell made it known he was not happy. Even the crowd thought it was disrespectful. There was even a section of the crowd chanting “Band of Horses, go home!” Some can say that if Lou Reed had stopped on time then Band of Horses would have stopped on time. Who knows? But Perry Farrell wasn’t going to let it stop his reunion. He danced, jumped, and writhed around the stage mentioning how he was performing against doctors’ orders. Each member of Jane’s looked amazing and it seemed a miracle that these boys played Lollapalooza in 1991. They ended their set with an amazing performance of “Stop” and came back for a one song encore of “Jane Says” with Aerosmith’s Joe Perry. It was a beautiful slow-downed rendition of their famous song which included bongos!
Afterwards, Perry thanked Chicago, thanked the crowd, I think he mentioned Obama, and plugged the much debated Chicago Bid for the 2016 Olympics. He also introduced his children and said he had a proposal: Metromix’s Barry Brecheisen asked his girlfriend to marry him. She said yes.
The best Lollapalooza since 2005. I loved every minute of it and you can bet I never said “I’m not coming back next year.”