2013 Lolla Report Aug06

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2013 Lolla Report

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Chicago was definitely the place to be this past weekend, as the Lollapalooza fest returned to the city’s Grant Park with an incredible amount of music on all levels, from buzz bands to massive headliners like The Killers, Phoenix, and Mumford and Sons. If you Lolla’d this year, please do enjoy our festival recap and relive some of your own festival memories (and/or share them in the comments below!) – and if you missed the 2013 Lollapalooza, then shame on you – let this be your inspiration to start planning now so you can be in Grant Park for the 2014 event!

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FRIDAY
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The big question for Friday for those who attended Lolla last year involved casting one eye toward the sky, and the other toward the Weather Channel. Lolla has traditionally been plagued the past several years with not-so-great weather, from exhausting heat to the storm last year that was so severe it called for the entire park to be evacuated.

But the Lolla weather gnomes appear to at least be taking a slow start, thankfully, as the only weather-related snafu we see in the early afternoon are a few mud bogs in front of a couple of the stages. Speaking of slow starts (ahem), we got one ourselves, after running into a forgotten suitcase (we won’t name any names), a detour into uncharted farmland (moo), and a big blob of snarled traffic that we’d swear was laughing at us.

Those things aside, we eventually got to Grant Park and the press area safely (whew), and by 2:00 p.m., we were strolling through the quickly-increasing crowds, and on our way to see Smith Westerns.

By the time we got to the Red Bull Sound Select stage, the Westerns were already rolling, singer Cullen Omori garbed in white and the band nervously rocking their way through pop-country hybrids like “You’re the One,” which went over well with the neon-bedecked crowd (ooh, the ’80s are back…)

(We’d love to show you more photos, but even though Fresh and Clean Media was awesome enough to allot us a photo pass as in previous years, our DSLR camera wasn’t interested, and in fact failed through two batteries and refused to revive itself throughout the entire weekend. So photos you’ll see here are courtesy of the fine folks at F&C/Lollapalooza, photographers including C. Harkey and Mark Wright.)

So adjust your mind’s eye, and we shall do our best to describe the rest!

A nice musical complement to Smith Westerns, we thought, would be the sound of Band of Horses, although we’d kind of forgotten that they were aaaaall the way across Grant Park on the north end. No matter – that would place us perfectly for Thievery Corporation, as well.

BOH look more like they’d be playing Southern rock a la Kings of Leon, but actually serve up a rather sharp lineup of dramatic alt-rock tunes. We got there just in time for “Is There a Ghost,” and were so impressed we stuck around for the rest of their set, which included “Laredo,” “Electric Music,” and a cover of an old J.J. Cale tune. Thievery Corporation offered a completely different sound across the way shortly after BOH wrapped their set, but after a few tracks it kinda got a little too downtempo for us, so we started moving back toward the press area, after stopping for dinner at Lolla’s impressive Chow Town, which offered a ridiculously awesome amount of food and beverage choices (we mixed entrée/beverage/dessert from a few different booths, which proved to be rather fun.)

And due to our late start to the day, the headliner we’d been waiting for was already almost on deck by the time we wrapped our al fresco dinner; Las Vegas’ own The Killers, complete with frontman Brandon Flowers and his blue-and-white star-printed shirt.

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The smart pick of “Mr. Brightside” was their opening salvo, which immediately got the audience (and us) singing along, right into “The Way It Was” and “Smile Like You Mean It.” A beautiful, near-acoustic rendition of part of “Human” led the way into a second round of tracks, which included a surprise appearance by New Order’s Bernard Sumner as the band broke into “Shadowplay”;  Sumner’s appearance was a hit, but The Killers’ covers of a kinda lame old ’60s tune (“I Think We’re Alone Now”) and a Frank Sinatra paean to Chicago (“My Kind of Town”) left the crowd impatient.  A quadruple-throw of “Read My Mind,” “Runaways,” “All These Things That I’ve Done,” and “When You Were Young” got the band back in the crowd’s good graces, and ended up a terrific finale to the first day of Lolla 2013.

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SATURDAY
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Lolla Day Two starts a little indie, a little Irish, and a little mellow, as Dublin indie band Little Green Cars ease the crowd into today’s schedule. The ‘Cars were actually quite a bit more mellow than we expected, which allowed some unfortunate sounds from other stages to filter in; by the time cross-stager Ben Howard was ready to start his set, Little Green Cars were kind of tepidly wrapping up theirs, with Howard’s feedbacking guitars sending them on their way.

Howard’s set proved to be a good one to stick around for, with favourites being “Keep Your Head Up,” a newbie track that seemed to be called “Hello Love,” and closer “The Fear” all proving standouts, accompanied deftly by Howard on his Les Paul guitar. And easy pick after Howard’s set was to walk across diagonally to the next stage and catch the Court Yard Hounds set, an act we thought was an interesting Lolla pick given its country origins. The Hounds, which are two-thirds of the trio making up the Dixie Chicks, add a little more pop into their sound, although Dixie-Chicks-esque harmonies and fiddles are present in both projects; peppy tune “Phoebe” and melodic “I Miss You” won the crowd over with their appeal and musicianship.

Another diagonal stroll led us to even more good music, as Local Natives rocked through a Talking Heads cover (“Warning Sign”) and plenty of their own indie rock. The end of their set led to our discussion about what to do next – Ellie Goulding was an option, but she was all the way cross-park, and we wanted to make sure we were on this end for Mumford and Sons – so we stuck with The National and The Lumineers, both playing on this end of the park – good choices, both, as we ended up feeling like we won the draw. The National added horns in to their live set, boosting Matt Berninger’s already uber-strong stage presence, and charged through their set with aplomb; The Lumineers kind of did the reverse, with a much more happy-chill approach to such tunes like “Stubborn Love,” “Dead Sea,” and of course their one big singalong hit to date, “Hey Ho.”  The National’s sound was plenty big for Grant Park, but The Lumineers suffered at times, with their more folky numbers drowning a little in the noise from the crowd.

And with those ‘opening acts,’ so to speak, everyone piled in to the field back in front of the Red Bull stage for the arrival of Mumford. Those who have been attending Lolla for years will probably remember Marcus Mumford and crew’s appearance on one of Lolla’s smaller stages a few years back; well, they’ve had just a leeeetle success since then, and the massive crowd patiently waiting to hear them attests to their increased popularity.

This is a band that’s earned it, through sheer tenacity and musicianship; complete with a recovered Ted Dwane (the band’s bass player, who had serious surgery earlier this year), Mumford and crew charged through hits and album tracks with equal amounts of enthusiasm, super-precise vocal arrangements, and big ol’ grins, obviously quite happy to be here and in front of such a huge audience.

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From “Little Lion Man” to closer “Dust Bowl Dance,” they had everyone jumping and singing along – what’s most impressive about Mumford is perhaps the fact that they’ve managed to elevate what is essentially energized bluegrass into such a widely-appealing pop-rock genre – and then returned for an encore that took a prettily left-field turn with a one-microphone cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire,” with the whole band crowded around the mic and the crowd (mostly) quiet for once. Closing track “The Cave” got the crowd moving again, and we were definitely all sorry when Mumford’s lights went to black and the night was over.

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SUNDAY
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With the arrival of Yawn (both the band and the morning ritual) around noon, Day Three of the 2013 Lollapalooza fest began. We resumed our haunting of the press tent end of the festival grounds (both for the complimentary food and because we’re missing both a camera and a reporter this year), and started our day The ’80s Way with some super-bubbly new-wave-influenced tunes from Wild Nothing, whose keyboard-and-reverb-inflected “Nocturne” and “Paradise” helped us wake up and pay attention (a few feet moved, too.)

One iced coffee and a stop at the BMI stage for a bit of The Mowgli’s, and we were prepped for Two Door Cinema Club, another Lolla returnee that we were looking forward to.

A sizeable crowd showed up for Two Door, a suit-and-tie garbed Alex Trimble at the front of the stage to lead the rest of the band in promoting tracks from their newest album, Beacon. The audience was with them all the way, from opener “Sleeps Alone” to pair of closers “Cigarettes in the Theatre” and “What You Know,” sampling tracks from both of their hook-filled albums to date.

An equally big crowd showed up for Vampire Weekend’s set, for which the set itself snagged almost as much attention as the band itself, with its huge white column/pillars and strangely parlor-like floral wallpaper. Fortunately, there were VW’s strong songs to keep the crowd’s attention, from hits “A-Punk” and “Oxford Comma” to newer road-tests like “Everlasting Arms” and “Step.”

One more dinner at Lolla’s great Chow Town, and we trekked back to the stage to pick our spot for our final Lolla band of the year – Versaille, France’s Phoenix.

Phoenix by Mark Wright

Pretty synth riffs, towering choruses, and itchy beats combined to fill the entire north end of the park with sound, “Lisztomania” and a pair of renditions of “Entertainment” being highlights. The “Entertainment” reprise closed the show, as 100,000 fans began to file out of Grant Park (300,000 fans attended in all, setting a new Lolla record for the weekend), and we walked up Michigan Avenue with the rest of them, already discussing who we hope we’ll get to see and hear next year.  – Kristi Kates

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Follow all the Lollapalooza happenings for Lolla 2014 and beyond at www.lollapalooza.com, and stick with Pyxis Mag for all the latest Lolla updates.