Lollapalooza. When Perry Farrell chose the nonsensical word to title what was to be Jane’s Addiction’s final tour in 1991, no one could have known how far it would go. From its early days as the premiere touring festival of the alt-nineties to today’s status as the biggest music festival in America, it’s a behemoth on the scene. That beast slouched back to Grant Park in downtown Chicago again this year, Friday-to-Sunday, August 1st to 3rd, with a huge sack of artists & much more.
Rain, the bane of all music festivals, reared its ugly head as Lollapalooza started, but it didn’t dampen spirits among the likes of Courtney Barnett or J Roddy Walston & The Business early on Day One’s start. And though there were some computer problems plaguing the festival in that afternoon, by four o’clock the skies cleared and stayed that way for the rest of the day.
Lollapalooza often presents a chance to catch highly hyped young acts, and to see if they’re worth such words. Yes, playing on a big stage in the daytime isn’t exactly ideal, but it’s rare for anyone to ever play a truly ‘ideal’ setting, and given how financially important the festival season is to touring acts, they must be able to play an event like Lollapalooza. Day One gave a number of artists having to live up to their hype, particularly female artists. Warpaint on the Lake Shore Stage endured the last of the rain to sound really good, a nice mix of indie & psych. While most focus on singer/guitarists Emily Kokal and Theresa Wayman (or on just how good-looking all in the female four-piece are), one must especially appreciate bassist Jenny Lee Lindberg, who grooved to the music when it called for it, but also broke down with drummer Stella Mozgawa when that was needed.
An early ‘must see’ for fans & press alike at Lollapalooza ’14 was Iggy Azalea playing Perry’s Tent. To paint the scene, there were passed out dudes, crying underage girls in tube tops & short-shorts, and even cops – and that was just while trying to get to the photo pit, which itself was a clusterfuck, with security placing photographers to clear a lane of exit for tiny female crowd-surfers; and this was all before Azalea even took the stage! Throughout the festival, Perry’s Tent was the place for all of the craziness folks of a certain age hate, and folks younger than that love, with tons of bros & the gals in attendance, everyone lightly dressed, but what they were wearing was neon, and lots & lots of partying. It all threatened to overshadow Azalea’s show (especially it being early on the first day, when one isn’t inured to such sights), but the rhymestress knew how to perform. In front of giant screens and DJ Wizz Kidd, Azalea and four “FANCY” dancers (interestingly, seemingly each of a different ethnic group) commanded the stage & the crowd. She had the audience in a frenzy, maybe best encapsulated in when she got them all to put their middle fingers up.
A long way away in age and outright distance at the other end of Grant Park was the Bud Light Stage and Interpol. One of the two biggest stages, the bigger platform gave the usually dark band bigger energy and a bigger sound. Yes, older songs got the largest responses – but that included not just breakthrough debut Turn Out the Bright Lights but also follow-up Antics, which bodes well for 2010’s return to form Interpol (QRO review – if not 2007 major label misfire Our Love To Admire – QRO review), given enough time. With El Pintor out the following Tuesday, the set did feature new songs, which also sounded good.
After Portugal. The Man Portugal. The Man-ned it up at their third Lollapalooza on the other big stage, Samsung Galaxy, it was CHVRCHES’ time to shine at Lake Shore. Another female-fronted act riding a ton of buzz off a new album, in their case The Bones of What You Believe (QRO review), the physically tiny Scottish trio was aided by their large lighting rig set-up (though it was still too bright for it to actually seriously light up) for their uplifting electro-pop. Special note goes to security’s favorite fan, a fellow up front who put on at least the top half of a gorilla suit as CHVRCHES went on (must have been hot in there…), even if they’re not really a ‘gorilla’ band.
But the real XX chromosome that was out to prove herself to everyone at Lollapalooza was Lorde. The New Zealand singer is only seventeen but already has a huge following with her ethereal sound and style. Playing Bud Light Stage in the daylight did diminish that somewhat, not to mention wardrobe issues on the back of her fashion-overalls (different from the pin-stripped suits she was wearing in the press area earlier in the day) that required fixing. So no, she couldn’t quite live up to the live hype, but was still very strong.
It’s weird to think of The Kooks as ‘veterans’, considering how young they still are, but the British outfit knew what they were doing at the Grove Stage – and they still had tons of teenage girls out there to see them, a high number & percentage even for Lollapalooza. Singer Luke Pritchard played to them in his tight pants in curly hair, like a younger & British Nic Offer of !!! (QRO live review days before), though without quite as much thrusting of the pelvis.
The flipside to love is heartbreak, and bringing said damaged organ to the Lake Shore Stage was Lykke Li. The Swedish songstress brought heartache on this year’s I Never Learn (QRO review), but live she was more defiant. Coming onto the stage like she’d got caught in the rain (including wet hair and shiny black slicker-like top), she had great moves & a great voice (aided by darkening – but not yet dark – skies).
The inevitable headliner-vs.-headliner dilemma of every day of Lollapalooza (that’s why the two main stages are so far apart, so that both can host performances at the same time) was a strange one on Day One: über-successful über-American über-veteran Eminem vs. finally-getting-as-big-in-US-as-in-native-UK Arctic Monkeys. The best-selling rapper delivered what you expected from him, like “My Name Is” (introduced with, “Can I take you back to when I would get fucked up!?!”) and “Stan”, not to mention the shouldn’t-have-been-shocking guest appearance by Rihanna (they’re about to go on tour together). Meanwhile, the British rockers went full-on lothario behind singer/guitarist Alex Turner, who strutted and rocked as their crowd had hands in the air.
So what plucky outfit would dare play the smaller Grove against these two titans? Phantogram would, and completely pulled it off. While their electro-dance sound shrinks in daylight performances (QRO photos), it was only more intense in the evening for a crowd that wasn’t ‘walking by and decided to check out between other acts,’ but there and staying there for Phantogram.
-words & photos: Ted Chase