2012 Lolla Report Aug10

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2012 Lolla Report

Nearly 300,000 music fans descended upon Chicago’s Grant Park again this year (August 3-5) for the 2012 Lollapalooza music fest, of which the highlights included big performances, massive crowds… and an even bigger evacuation.

Lolla? Right down the street there, you can’t miss it.   Photo credit: Kristi Kates

We’ll get to the evac in a moment. But first, a bit about the upgraded ambiance of Lolla itself. This year, the gate-crashers and fence-jumpers were probably very sad when they arrived to find new, tall, heavy metal barricades (the same ones used for the NATO summit event held in Chi-town earlier this year) at each Lolla entrance. We say, good show, as Lolla can be chaotic enough without a bunch of yobbos causing trouble.

Lolla’s ‘city blocks’ of food booths were improved again this year, too, with selections from sandwich king Graham Elliot, Do-Rite Donuts, Franks N’ Dawgs, Rock ‘n Roll Noodle Company, Lou Malnati’s Pizza, and La Colombe Torrefaction Coffe Bar & Roasters – all a rather tall step above your typical rock fest food. And Lolla’s Green Street reminded (well, tried to remind) festivalgoers that we’re all responsible for keeping Grant Park – and the planet – green and clean, thankyouverymuch.

The festival grounds were all ready to go, and Lolla was ready to kick off, with fans streaming in through the gates, various bands wandering around waiting for their stage times, and the Media Area stocked (thankfully) with plenty of water and lots of ops to meet-and-greet the musicians as well as fellow journalists and photographers. The swag was fun this year, too, with chocolates, Lolla-themed candies, and more for the behind-the-scenes guests.

FRIDAY started strong, with the likes of newbie Michael Kiwanuka, Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, Kevin Devine, Tame Impala, the rockin’ Afghan Whigs, The Head and the Heart, and thenewno2. Metric even pulled their fans out of the day’s heat and onto the field in front of their stage by crashing through tracks from their new Synthetica album.

By the time it was 6:00 p.m., the temperatures were finally edging toward cooler (and by cooler, we mean… 85 degrees instead of 95), which made 6:15 the perfect time for The Shins to take the stage, deftly performing what ended up being a spot on and rather chill Shins’ best-of that included live versions of “New Slang,” “Phantom Limb,” and singalongable closer “One by One All Day,” with singer James Mercer taking the super-casual route in… jeans and a

The Shins’ James Mercer forgot to do laundry.  Photo credit: Kristi Kates

And by the time it was 8:00, it was decision time, which for us, was a fairly easy one – we skipped the obnoxious, screeching drama of one Mr. Ozzy Osbourne, and opted instead for the cool bluesy garage rock of The Black Keys, who played a sharp, confident set after having been introduced by Chicago mayor-slash-Obama pal Rahm Emanuel, who popped up on stage in cargo shorts.

SATURDAY
Okay, we admit we were slackers on Saturday morning. What? We spent several hours after The Black Keys’ set wandering around Chicago, grabbing an awesome falafel at Falafill and arguing over what would be the best Chicago pizza. But our laziness served us well as it kept us out of a later melee we certainly didn’t expect. We caught Bear in Heaven and Delta Spirit early in the day after the high heat of noon-ish, and then popped off-site briefly to make a quick run back to our hotel to change clothes (hey, at 95 degrees again, trust me, you’d go change clothes, too.)

Little did we know that we wouldn’t get back to Lolla in an hour, as we’d planned.

Departing our hotel lobby, we were stopped by the concierge, who asked if we were on our way to Grant Park. We said yes.

“Uh, park’s been evacuated, so we’d recommend you don’t,” he said.

Ooh-kay.

All we could do was wait. Our hotel lobby – and hotel lobbies all along the main thoroughfare of Michigan Avenue, not to mention cafes, coffeeshops, and any place with any manner of protection from the ominous clouds overhead, were literally crammed with people. Pre-planned ‘evacuation zones’ proved difficult to find for most Lolla fans, who were somewhat organised as Grant Park was completely emptied of people – but the fans weren’t particularly calm.

We ventured out just a couple of times, and not far – before long, Starbucks was kicking wound-up people out onto the sidewalk, and restaurants were locking their doors. Many among the Lolla exiled were literally running out into traffic, yelling “Wooo!” and “USA!” (?) and other such helpful things as the massive storm approached.

And massive it was. In about 10 minutes, the sky turned dark green-yellow, and then went near-black.

It looked more like 10 or 11 p.m. instead of just 4 p.m. Winds of 60 m.p.h., hail, plenty of lighting, and a deluge of rain then pummelled Grant Park and all of downtown Chicago for a solid hour, with concertgoers scrambling to find shelter.

The evacuation decision could be heard being criticised left and right – but it was actually smart, as it probably avoided a lot of additional chaos and potential injuries, especially considering the prior stage collapses at other venues during storms earlier this concert season. After consulting with the proper City authorities, the Lolla gates were deemed ready to reopen at 6:00 p.m. The casualties were a couple of bands whose sets had to be cancelled (Alabama Shakes being one of them), but as we said, it could have been a lot worse. The night curfew for Lolla was extended 45 minutes, the fans ran to get back into Grant Park, and the show was ready to go on, albeit in what now resembled a giant muddy bog for pigs. Let’s just say that that scent isn’t going to be bottled and sold any time soon.


That still didn’t stop the music, though. Franz Ferdinand was one of the first bands back onstage after the evacuation, with frontman Alex Kapranos looking positively gleeful.

Don’t Walk Away, I think the storm’s gone…    Photo credit: Kristi Kates

“You have no idea how glad I am to see you all!” he yelped, before leading Franz into an energetic set of danceable tunes from “No You Girls” to “Walk Away” and their biggest U.S. hit (the only one that the masses seemed to actually know) “Take Me Out.”

It’s time for Sing-A-Long with Franz Ferdinand!   Photo credit: Kristi Kates

We had a bit of a chuckle over the schedule juxtaposition of bands The Weeknd and Washed Out (ahem), but they both got their sets back (albeit with moved start times), and the Red Hot Chili Peppers closed Saturday night for a muddy and disheveled – but not discouraged! – Lolla crowd.

SUNDAY dawned with Lolla’s yearly rain curse hopefully past, and with fans ready to make up for those few lost hours by seeing as much of the day’s remaining roster of bands as possible. Getting to Grant Park early was a priority today, with such standouts as Bombay Bicycle Club, White Rabbits, The Gaslight Anthem, and The Walkmen all taking various stages.

One of the day’s definite highlights, though, was the arrival from Iceland of 11-member mood-popsters Sigur Ros. Opening with older track “Svefn-g-englar,” frontman Jonsi, bedecked in a red buttoned-and-tasseled jacket, commanded the somewhat distracted audience’s attention right from the beginning, getting them to actually calm down and focus for once as they were mesmerized by Sigur Ros’ floating, shoegazy  music and Jonsi’s impressive vocal range.

Sigur Ros’ Jonsi, squinting against the alien sunlight.   Photo credit: Kristi Kates

We kind of thought Sigur Ros would’ve made a better nighttime act than their spot in the middle of a hot, hazy day – their music is much better suited to glimmering coloured lights and darkened skies – but they held their own quite well regardless.

Moving on as Lolla got ready to close for another year, we tried to catch as many of the remaining bands as we could. Toro Y Moi treated his fans to almost a half-dozen brand new songs, while Of Monsters and Men, At the Drive-In, and Florence and the Machine all pulled respectable numbers at their own sets. Miike Snow got the crowd dancing, Empires recollected the best of nouveau-grunge, and then the year’s final Lolla decision had to be made – Justice or Jack White?

Jack White it was. He galloped through performances of White Stripes favourites like “Hotel Yorba” and “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” plus a few Raconteurs tracks (“Steady As She Goes” being a standout) and of course plenty of new solo Jack material, supported by not one, but two backing bands. White rocked so much that he literally toppled over onstage, wrapping up Lollapalooza for yet another year.

Put your hands in the air for Lollapalooza 2012!
And keep your eyes on lollapalooza.com  for 2013’s festival dates and roster.