Photo Credit: Andrew St. Clair
21 years after its inception, Lollapalooza is a festival that does almost everything right. For quite a while, it’s been in a very convenient area and had excellent line-ups, even compared with competing fests such as Bonnaroo, Coachella, and Outside Lands. When done right, a great festival includes bands for everyone, and Lollapalooza does this to near perfection. Among the headliners: Jack White and Red Hot Chili Peppers, Justice, Kaskade, Bassnecter and Santigold (for the dance crowd), Black Sabbath (for the over 40 legacy band crowd), and yes, The Black Keys (who have seemingly headlined every goddamn festival in existence this summer without any disappointment).
Lollapalooza involves walking a fine line. On one hand, there are some amazing, well-known artists that you just have to see. On the other hand, though, festivals are perfect for discovering artists that might not be on your radar just yet, like JEFF The Brotherhood, Anamanaguchi, Chancellor Warhol, Laura Warshauer, FIDLAR and Bear In Heaven. Trust us, riding that line pays off in the long run. Unlike some festivals, the stages are dedicated to music and music only — there are no comedy tents or areas for movies. Let’s be honest, most people don’t pay up to $230 bucks for a 3 day pass to see a group of potentially unfunny comedians or College Humor shorts available on the internet.
Number of attendees: 90,000 per day, for a total of 270,000. Yes, a very high number to be sure, but Grant Park is HUGE. The only time you ever felt the reality of the hefty numbers was during last few performers of the day. Getting through the crowd at M83 to get to The Black Keys was daunting, but not impossible.
Weather: Hot, humid and sweaty. On day two, a very serious weather system pulled into the Chicago area, which suspended the fest and displaced 60,000 attendees for a couple of hours. Thankfully, this was done early enough that most people would not get caught in the rain. Thanks to twitter, and the Lollapalooza smartphone app, the organizers were able to communicate with the crowd and kept everyone safe. They were also very good about updating their app with reshuffled set times. Again, Lollapalooza does things right.
Food options: Tons. Everything from pulled pork sandwiches, to fish tacos, to Cajun food. There was a large variety to choose from, and the prices were about right compared to other fests. Oh, and you care about getting your drink on, right? Well, sadly, your choices are pretty limited here. Beer includes Budweiser, Bud Light, and Bud Light Lime, along with red or white wine. From what I could see, there were no other options. Hope you like Budweiser, kids!
Overall crowdedness: Pretty good, considering the number of attendees. For the most part, the crowd was pretty friendly and considerate.
Not your festival if: You can’t handle heat and long, active days. When it’s hot in Chicago in August, it’s really hot and not at all breezy. You will sweat. It’s gross (but just remember, that everyone is in the same boat). The music starts at 11:30am and doesn’t stop until 10pm. While it’s tempting to stay in one spot the whole time, you probably won’t want to, as there are breaks that can last up to an hour between sets. Instead you’ll be walking. A lot. It can take 15-20 minutes to travel from one end of the fest to another.
Best set: Jack White and The Black Keys (tie) – Jack White and The Black Keys have this in common — they have the largest impact when they perform with only a guitar and drummer on the stage (technically, Jack White had 2 back-up bands). They’re both musical powerhouses that will whip the crowd into a frenzy. The crowd was a little wilder for Jack White, though, as he pulled from his vast catalog of previous bands The White Stripes, The Dead Weather, and The Raconteurs.
Runner-up: Sigur Rós — In what is widely regarded as the most out of place scheduling of the fest, Sigur Rós played in the hot Sunday sun. Ethereal songs like “Hoppípolla” and “Olsen Olsen” deserve the backdrop of a night sky. At the very least, a sunset. Despite the surroundings, however, it was a beautiful set. It was also the quietest crowd I experienced at Lollapalooza. People got emotional.
Best of the Rest: Anamanaguchi, JEFF The Brotherhood, Oberhofer, The Head and the Heart, At The Drive-In, Aloe Blacc, Justice, Die Antwoord, The Walkmen, Dum Dum Girls, White Rabbits, Of Monsters And Men, Chairlift, Metric, Passion Pit, M83, Yellow Ostrich, Florence and the Machine, The Big Pink
Biggest disappointment: Cancellation of Sets Due to Weather — as mentioned earlier, the rain screwed over a few bands that were scheduled to play during the ‘severe weather system’. Neon Indian looked disappointed when his soundman came to him during his set and told him that they had to evacuate the park. B.o.B., The Temper Trap and Alabama Shakes (one of the biggest reasons I decided to attend Lolla) had their sets cancelled. I can’t imagine being on the bill of the largest festival in the US and not getting to play. Major bummer for them and their fans.
1) A marriage proposal during Yellow Ostrich’s set. (she said yes, not that any woman really has a choice in that situation)
2) During JEFF The Brotherhood’s scorching set at Playstation, Jake asked the audience if they knew “Noo Sixties” and got a weak response. “So about 12 of you, then…” Really weeded out the hardcore first adopters of the band.
3) Seeing Peter Berkman’s very proud family in attendance during Anamanaguchi’s first ever Lolla appearance.
4) Passion Pit’s very energetic set during a hot and humid sunset.
5) The fireworks at the end of The Black Key’s set were an unexpected, but nice touch.
6) Die Antwoord opening their set with “DJ Hi-Tek Rulez”. It’s a very derogatory song that proves the band does things their own way (The lyrics are based on a Mike Tyson rant).
7) Having entered the stage to “Mother”, At The Drive-In’s Cedric Bixler-Zavala introduced the band as “Latin Danzig” and launched into the one of the most energetic sets of the festival, which, to no surprise, inspired the most audience crowd surfing. (Cedric would later reassure the crowd that they were not, in fact, Latin Danzig).
1) That damn severe weather system…
2) Like most fests, with the rain comes mud. Muddy grounds, muddy people. Not fun. At least, there are real streets to walk on in some parts.
3) Pitting Black Sabbath against The Black Keys. Completely not fair.
4) Backpacks. People wearing very full backpacks in a tight crowd is really lame. This goes for any venue, actually. They should be banned completely.
5) Certain attendees setting up blankets close to the stage and taking up a large amount of real estate. This gets more annoying as the day goes on and the crowd gets denser. It’s just inconsiderate.