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.
While Friday had begun with rain before getting sunny, Saturday was sunny all the way through – very sunny. This worked distinctly in favor of the day’s opener at The Grove, Jon Batiste & Stay Human. The New Orleans act were coming off an electric appearance on The Colbert Report (QRO Music on Late Night TV), which included literally “taking it to the streets” – with even your favorite pundit busting a move. The Lollapalooza set naturally couldn’t have that sight, but the group had tons of energy despite it being just after twelve noon.
A crowd with a lot of energy was the one at Palladia Stage for Parquet Courts. The garage-punk group saw a full-fledged mosh pit, but it was a friendly one, while guitarist Austin Brown even tried his hand at noise-rock distortion by putting his guitar up to his amp. There was more party-rock over at the secluded BMI Stage with Desert Noises, who southern sounds got a strong crowd on the small tent (draw aided by all the shade from the trees).
Once upon a time, Kate Nash was a cute Anglo indie-popster in the mold of Lily Allen, but she has by now broken out as a twenty-first century riot grrl, albeit one who still knows a thing or two about fashion. Her Lollapalooza set might have featured balloons and six-inch-high platform shoes, but it was definitely her rock side, and it worked well on the big Bud Light Stage. Nash was also ably aided by her all-girl group, who might have rocked even harder – including when Nash went to stand on the front speakers for “Mariella”, and then into the pit for the following “Do Wah Doo”.
As The Temper Trap started at Lake Shore Stage, singer/guitarist Dougy Mandagi admitted that the Australian group had been out of commission for a while, but that it was “fucking great to be back.” Absence must have made the hearts grow fonder, because they had a huge crowd that stretched across the grounds to the Samsung Galaxy Stage. Their new songs seemed to be harder ones, but they also did their ‘oldies’ – as well as a cover of The Clash’s “Rock the Casbah”.
After that set the large crowd easily moved over to the Samsung Galaxy Stage for Fitz & The Tantrums, and if you were lagging in pep at this point in the day, Fitz & The Tantrums brought the energy in spades. Their neo-soul was originally categorized alongside the likes of fellow ampersanders Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings (QRO live review), but Fitz & co. actually felt a little more reminiscent of the day’s headliner, OutKast (see below), albeit without the rapping.
Also bringing the energy, on the other side of Grant Park, was Grouplove at the Bud Light Stage. The young Los Angeles group did have some tech issues early on, including mikes not working (forcing the crowd to sing a verse of “Itchin’ On a Photograph”) and a replacement bass & chord for new bassist Daniel Gleason, but worked around it – indeed, it was particularly neat to see singer/guitarist Christian Zucconi (QRO interview) and singer/keyboardist Hannah Hooper share a mike, the real-life couple singing to each other. While Hooper bounced around the stage in her new leopard print leotard, Zucconi gave the stage crew more work when he went directly to the crowd.
An unfortunately schedule overlap saw Grouplove going up against friends Manchester Orchestra, who played the Lake Shore Stage. But while Grouplove went pop, Manchester hit the ground & the crowd hard – not quite ‘pummeling’ in their sound, more finesse than that, but kicked raw rawk ass the way not enough bands at Lollapalooza had up until that point.
As early evening set in, the younger fans headed over to the Samsung Galaxy Stage for Foster the People, whose singer Mark Foster was bustin’ moves on stage with a killer shuffle to go with their big electro-pop.
Meanwhile, the more veteran indie-rock hipsters went the opposite direction to see veteran indie-rockers Spoon, who were doing what’s right about indie-rock. The group already has a ton of great songs, and despite having a new album, They Want My Soul, out three days later, Britt Daniel & co. stuck mainly to performing the classics that you wanted. They were even able to play hit single “The Underdog” without a horn section, something they had not always been to do. Other neat moments included calling out some incident at the front of the crowd involving a guy in a blue shirt (security?), and an on-stage huddle.
Few acts wanted to go up against the heavyweight closer, with the likes of Calvin Harris and Cut Copy starting much later – instead, the little ol’ Grove Stage had little ol’ Jenny Lewis standing tall. Admittedly an act with a different sound & fan base, the songstress brought the sweet alt-country that you were expecting from her.
Of course, the biggest act of Day Two of Lollapalooza, the biggest act of this festival season, was headliner OutKast. Andre 3000 and Big Boi reunited this year and are seemingly headlining every festival out there, and while festival veterans might complain that their sets are the same, if you haven’t seen OutKast this year, go see OutKast. Arriving from inside of a giant cube with the Stars & Stripes projected on it, the duo delivered the songs that had made the wider world realize that hip-hop wasn’t just East Coast vs. West Coast, but also Dirty South. The crowd loved every minute of it, while security had to be on their toes in the organized chaos that was the photo pit (which, for some reason, was also where VIPs would walk through to get to their section).
-words & photos: Ted Chase