Loud noises, sweaty bodies, and dancing in the streets – I wish life were always like a festival village. Sure the half-naked high schoolers terrify me, wide-eyed on something or other and lousy with fake flowers and my post-fest recovery period is markedly longer with each passing Lolla, but summer music festivals are still my favorite pastime. One way to wait to combat post-fest fatigue is reflecting on all you experienced until the next one rolls around. I wrote previously about some of my favorite moments from Lollapalooza 2013, and have included them here along with my personal highlights.
10. Badass Alice Glass – Crowd surfing, chugging Jameson, and rocking 90’s hair clips moved Alice up my list of idols. All this while Ethan Kath knob-turned along in leather and shades. Crystal Castles was the first performance I caught and their high energy set was an ideal way to kick off the weekend. Alice was a badass brunette at Lolla 2011, and I like her even more as a badass blonde.
9. HAIM – A sister act that started playing years ago alongside their parents as a family band, HAIM didn’t sweat it when their set was moved way back due to Death Grips Gate. The trio, along with their drummer, knew exactly what they were doing with driving, R&B laden guitar pop and shout outs like, “I want to makeout with all of you!” They announced completion of their debut LP and I can’t wait to get their new songs stuck in my head.
8. Trent Reznor singing “Hurt” – It was pretty epic seeing NIN after all these years, as commemorated in my Instagram. They hit crowd pleasers including “Head Like A Hole” and “Closer,” and I was so satisfied that I actually forgot about “Hurt.” When NIN returned onstage for the encore the diverse audience joined Reznor in the searing serenade.
7. Robert Smith, Generally – I never thought I’d be this close to Robert Smith. I did expect him to age exactly as he has. New wave beats and city lights ended the weekend on a blissful note.
6. Security Breach – The most fascinating experience I had at Lolla was away from the main stages. I spent about 30 minutes hanging around in front of the security/press area at the southern end of Columbus just waiting to meet someone and witnessed some comical and uncomfortable action while chatting with C3 employees. One girl barely old enough to fill out her tube top was escorted out in handcuffs, whimpering through her tears, “I didn’t know what it was. Someone just told me to sell it.” Another girl flailed unconscious in the back of a medic vehicle like the Monty Python plague cart. Whizzing past, the driver paused to comment, “You can tell she’s a Redwings fan!” The undercover cops I met seriously blended in with the crowd, so think twice before you sell to that rugged dude in Doc boots and a Slayer tee. I watched one strung out kid claiming to be a C3 employee try to sneak in saying he was on break. When he realized security was radioing in for verification he took off across the Red Bull stage lawn with two employees sprinting in pursuit. One employee’s brother almost caught the guy, who had darted back to Perry’s until he thought twice. “I had no credentials on me and I’m a black man, I can’t tackle a white kid in the middle of a crowd.” I asked one employee about working Lolla, “During the day everyone is O.K., but once night falls people go nuts.”
5. SKATERS – The NYC band only formed last year, but all members were involved with other bands previously and their experience showed. With their debut slated for this fall, I enjoyed previewing material beyond the two currently released SKATERS tracks and their upbeat post-punk was an energetic start to Sunday. They closed with a cover of “Territorial Pissings,” which is always a win.
4. Disclosure – This British brotherly duo was one of my most anticipated sets of the weekend, but I was concerned about how their live performance would translate to the festival setting. Disclosure didn’t share the stage with any of their vocal collaborators as I had hoped, but the 19 and 22 year old did deliver one of the best group dance parties of the weekend, closing with chart burner “Latch.”
3. Late Night with Kendrick Lamar – “Kendrick Lamar is the most lyrical rapper of my generation,” I overheard a young man of approximately 15 years assert. Maybe. It was Kendrick’s energy, however, that revived the fading crowd of near Lolla zombies Saturday night at his Aragon Ballroom after show. Bauuer’s opening set was a bonus, but Lamar took the stage around 1 a.m. and dominated the room start to finish. He made his local roots a theme of the performance, proclaiming throughout the set “Chicago is my second home.” OG Kendrick fans appreciated throwbacks to his early mixtapes, and the rapper was thrown for a loop when they called for “Michael Jordan,” busting into laughter before accommodating. Most of the evening was spent spitting hits from last year’s good kid, m.A.A.d city and the crowd was right there with him, neither missing a verse.
2. Sport Bottle Sauvignon Blanc – Between long beverage lines and a lack of compelling beer options, the $25 water bottle of wine is the way to go after you’ve emptied your flask. The wine water bottle satisfies when enjoyed alone, but when consumed under the summer sun with the best of friends Thorny Rose really keeps the party going. What I mean to say is day drinking with your pals is the best part of any fest.
1. The Postal Service Delivers – From the opening strains of “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight,” those of us watching The Postal Service’s headlining set were transferred into a 2003 wormhole. Give Up is one of those albums solidly fixed in a musical moment in time and people’s consciousness, and between reciting every lyric fans around me shared stories along the lines of, “I broke someone’s heart to this song in college.” Ben Gibbard announced that the band’s Lolla set and Sunday aftershow at Metro would be their “very last” and The Postal Service delivered accordingly. Gibbard looked like he was having more fun than I’d ever seen him previously, grinning and hopping between guitar and drums throughout. Jimmy Tamborello’s beats kept everyone’s feet moving, while Jenny Lewis radiated, countering Gibbard’s goofball energy with quiet cool. The performance was everything you wanted it to be, with a light playful feel that recalled The Postal Service’s roots — just some friends trading music for the fun of it. “You waited a long time to see us Chicago,” Gibbard thanked his fans. By the way the crowd waved back to the band en masse during the chorus of “Such Great Heights,” it looks like Chicago would be willing to wait all over again.
I can’t believe another Lollapalooza has come and gone, but let’s start counting down the days until Riot Fest!
For Further Exploration
Lollapalooza’s Chow Town Features Fest Food Fit for a Rock Star
Best Coast at Lollapalooza
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart at Lollapalooza
Lollapalooza 2011: A Musical Snapshot