2014 Lolla Report Aug04

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2014 Lolla Report

Lollapalooza-2014

Rain.

We told you so (nyah nyah.) It just wouldn’t be Lollapalooza without it – and both Friday and Sunday got their fair share this year. But never fear – the massive Chicago music fest can’t be swept aside that easily. Here’s our complete report.

FRIDAY

Traffic made us late to Day One (and the dog ate our homework, too), but we finally arrived at the gates in sonic style with one of our first picks for this year – impressive Dublin indie-rockers Kodaline, who were greeted with an Irish flag waving in the crowd. Dressed in black jeans and heavy boots in the 70-plus degree temps, frontman Steve Garrigan ignored the heat and threw his head back, encouraging the crowd to sing along, which they readily did, even though it was so early in the day.

The bouncy tunes of Bombay Bicycle Club were our next stop. The band managed to mostly keep their natty Oxford shirts out of the rain, and the hand-waving crowd stuck with them from openers “Overdone” and “It’s Alright Now” to catchy closer “Carry Me.”

One walk across the park later, and we got to the far south stage just in time for a bit of ’80s time-travel via Interpol, who cranked through a setlist of hits old and new, including previews of tracks like “All the Rage…” from their upcoming new album, El Pintor.

Jack Edinger interpolInterpol fans as far as the eye can see. Photo credit: Jack Edinger

Back across the park again to check out another pick, the band Chvrches, with singer Lauren Mayberry garbed in black shorts, tights, and top with glitter swiped haphazardly underneath her eyes. Chvrches striking electro-pop proved a winner, and Mayberry a solid presence on stage – it was nice to see her refreshingly relying on her voice to get the crowds attention, as opposed to some of the bizarrely inappropriate outfits seen on other female frontwomen this weekend.

Chow Town was our next spot for a quick dinner, and then back to the south end for Lorde’s much-anticipated 6:45 pm set. Garbed in black overalls and seemingly amazed by – well, pretty much everything, from the amount of people that showed up to see her, to the summer heat. She commandeered the stage mostly by herself, with a drummer holding down the rhythm and a synth player behind her. Lorde was another of our picks this year, and her set didn’t disappoint – from hits like “Royals” and “Team” to her impromptu, friendly sit-down at the edge of the stage just to have a look around at the huge crowd, she won the entire audience over.

Jack Edinger (2)“We’re bigger than we ever dreamed…” – Royals    Photo credit: Jack Edinger

Arctic Monkeys were up next on the same stage, meaning we didn’t have to move from our current hard-won spot (hoorah!) Against a flashing sine wave logo (the art for their latest album, AM), they cranked through plenty of their well-known tracks (including faves “Dancing Shoes” and “R U Mine?”) with the entire crowd dancing along. Frontman Alex Turner’s guitar unceremoniously died in the middle of one song, but no matter – he just soldiered on with hardly a nod, and the minor emergency just added to the set’s intensity.

The other Friday headliner, Eminem, was across the park at the other main stage – but you’d never know it from these wildly enthused Arctic Monkeys fans, who didn’t budge as Day One ended.

SATURDAY

The official start of Lollapalooza Day Two: 11:30 am.

The actual start? Whenever fans decided to show up, which for many was an hour or two later, the hallmark of a successful Lolla Friday.

Indie-folkster Vance Joy was one of the first to take on a Saturday performance, a good pick as the awakening crowd found his singular hit, “Riptide,” to be the perfect early singalong. Parquet Courts were over one stage, a convenient place to drift after Joy wound up his set; the band were being watched by a pack of cardboard Bill Murray heads in the audience, for reasons unknown (there’s gotta be an inside joke in there somewhere, but we didn’t know what it was.)

Next up in rapid succession: Kate Nash, who showed up across the way in a bizarre dress, red cape, and toppling platform shoes, dragging several fans up on stage to dance along as she revealed a more punky sound. Grouplove, who have appeared at Lolla before, but unfortunately proved one of the few disappointments of the weekend, as they’re pretty much a one-trick pony at this point, with most of their tunes sounding the same as the next. And Manchester Orchestra, whose hits “Top Notch” and “Where Have You Been” were crowd faves.

One of our most-anticipated bands for this year was up next at 6:15 pm, and were well worth the wait. In a simple leather jacket (leather’s big this year, apparently), frontman Mark Foster led the band through plenty of new tunes and extended arrangements from their latest album, plus older faves like “Houdini,” “Helena Beat,” and of course their colossal hit “Pumped Up Kicks,” on which the audience volume grew tenfold as everyone, including the security guards, sang along.

This stage was also the place to be for our headliner of choice tonight, Outkast (Calvin Harris was across the park at the other headlining stage for EDM fans.)

outkast will riceHey Ya!  Photo credit: Will Rice

A big reunion was in the works here for Outkast fans, with Andre 3000 and Big Boi celebrating their 20th year as a rap duo by finally hitting the stage together again. They made sure to throw tracks like “Ms. Jackson” and the still super-catchy “Hey Ya!” way across the dancing crowd, who could still be heard singing the “Hey Ya!” refrain all the way out the gates as Day Two ended with Andre yelling “You’re all Lollapawinners!”

SUNDAY

Traditionally Lolla’s quietest day (what do you mean we have to go back to work tomorrow??), Sunday was subdued even more this year by the return of the rain, which started early, fell steadily, and turned big swaths of Grant Park into a mud pit. People dealt with this by either covering up in ponchos or bin bags – or by throwing giant mud globs at each other.

In spite of the new Grant Park Swamp, however, the music, of course, continued. We arrived a little later in the day (a failed hope that perhaps the rain would stop before we left our hotel to walk over to the fest), and started with newbies London Grammar on the Lake Shore stage. Lunchtime beckoned shortly after, so we grabbed some tamales and cold-pressed green juice right at Chow Town, which made it easy to stay by that same stage for a standout performance from Irish troubadour Glen Hansard.

Some of the stages unfortunately suffered from what we called “Storm Syndrome” – a Lolla phenomenon in which crap weather will cause Lolla fans to just stick by one or two nearby stages all day, so as to avoid trekking through rain, wind, and more mud for any of the bands that might be playing across the park. We’ll admit we did the same – but this worked well for us, as most of the acts we wanted to see were already lined up on the north end anyway.

The Avett Brothers put on a solidly entertaining show while we waited for Sunday headliner Kings of Leon to start – and start they did, opening with the ironic choice of “Supersoaker.”  The mud was a-churning as Kings of Leon’s fans jumped up and down, creating blob islands in the middle of the muck as the band – safely out of the mire up on stage – played their hit “The Bucket” early on, saving tracks like “Crawl,” “On Fire,” and a left-field Robyn cover for the end, re-energizing the field of swamped, mud-covered fans.

Once Kings of Leon stopped playing, a mad exodus began. No one was interested in hanging around in the rotten weather, so all 100,000 fans poured out of Grant Park far more quickly than usual, with muddy footprints leading all the way out to Michigan Avenue.

 

KOL Will RiceOur set’s over, and this weather is crazy – I’m outta here.   Kings of Leon Photo credit: Will Rice

Most of the biggest draws this year seemed to be on the Friday schedule, which might seem counterproductive to keeping fans in the park for all three days – but it actually worked out well for those who tended to burn out the first day of Lolla, as this made it easier to pick between stages on Saturday and on the rain-drenched final night.

The one missing element this year seemed to be really powerful, universally-appealing headliners. Arctic Monkeys, Outkast, and Kings of Leon were good choices, but acts like Eminem and Calvin Harris only appealed to a certain faction, and putting them on the main stages seemed to default a lot of fans to the other stage just out of disinterest. Seems like the main stages would’ve benefited from performers with a broader audience – where were Pharrell Williams, Muse, or Arcade Fire? All had already surfaced at other fests this summer, but, alas, were nowhere to be seen in Chicago.

But as always, Lolla pulled another year’s fest off, weather aside, without a major hitch – coordinating this crazy thing has got to be a major task. And there’s always the promise of who’s gonna show up next year on those headlining stages. Start placing your bets now…

Nick SimoniteSee you in 2015…   Photo credit: Nick Simonite

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To keep updated on all things Lolla, including announcements and info on the 2015 fest, visit www.lollapalooza.com