So… it’s been a few days since Lollapalooza closed its gates, leaving us here at Listen Before You Buy jonesing for our next concert fix. As always, there was a lot to see, a lot to hear, and a few things we would like to forget. From the attendees tally of 100K, to near-perfect weather, here’s a rundown of went happened in Grant Park, Chicago.
MOST DEVOTED CROWD:
Lana Del Rey – Friday
So maybe it was 5:30 and maybe you were missing Imagine Dragons or Hot Chip, but dang it you were going to be close to Lana Del Rey. She just really gets you, you know, in a way not even, like, your best friend gets you. That song “Summertime Sadness”? Perfect. I mean, it’s summer, you’re kinda sad (or hungry?), and you’ve talked to a boy before so you like TOTALLY know where she’s coming from.
In all seriousness, though, Lana Del Rey’s fans were into it in a way you might forget is possible if you go to a lot of shows. You could spot them easily: young, skinny girls with flower tiaras and bright red lipstick, and they’d started to push their way to the front of the Grove stage as early as Disclosure’s set at 5:30. To be honest the set was (almost) totally worth it. I’m a huge fan, and she played the hits. We’re hoping they also enjoyed the two bands before Lana Del Rey, Disclosure and Frightened Rabbit, as much as we did. -Becky Rother
Perry’s Stage - All Weekend
Most of the stages at Lollapalooza have breaks, as musicians and roadies interchange instruments, equipment, and receive general hydration. That doesn’t exist at Perry’s Stage. From as early as 11:30 am until closing at 10 pm, the bass throbs throughout the park, beckoning anyone with a homemade crop top and muscle shirt. Glitter is plentiful and recreational drugs are passed around for the taking. It’s absolute madness, but boy, it’s enticing. Out of fear for my own morals, I stayed clear of it this year. In the past, I would have stayed long stretches of time, just dancing recklessly. Need to fill an hour before your favorite new band? Head to Perry’s stage. Want to see a random celebrity? You’ll surely find one at Perry’s, more than likely, the man himself. Ran out of party favors? You will get intoxicated by simply entering its lawn.
And just as certain as the music plays, the crowd never falters. You will likely find the same faces throughout the weekend, some not even sure there are other stages. It’s here that Perry created the eventual spawns of EDM festivals across the land, three in Chicago alone, that makes this stage the funnest and the most dedicated to keep the party going. I might have only passed by the stage as I was making it to differnet sets across the mile-long stretch. But everytime, I resisted the sudden urge to grab the nearest neon shades, cut my shirt in half, and boogie to the beat. -Cher Vincent
Phoenix – Sunday
When I got to the Bud Light stage at 6:30 Sunday for Vampire Weekend, I only thought there were a lot of people in the audience. By the time 8:30 rolled around, the crowd had stretched all the way back to the edge of the field and we in the front stood shoulder to shoulder waiting impatiently for RVSB’s set to finish at Petrillo (it sounded great, btw).
As the final bass note faded, the stage lights on the Bud Light stage went down and Mozart came on over the PA (quite fitting after the band’s previous album title). The crowd went crazy, expecting Thomas Mars and company to walk on stage any moment. Instead, a video started on the screens showing the band crammed into a golf cart and heading toward the stage. The camera followed them as they parked the cart, climbed the stairs to the stage and appeared, magically, in front of us. -BR
Crystal Castles – Friday
I’m giving this category a tie, because I was blown away by Alice Glass’ entrance for Crystal Castles’ set Friday.
First, it was 4:15 on Friday. Second, Alice Glass is not a large person. Third, I have a new hero. The set began as Glass followed her fellow band members on stage, carrying a bottle of Jameson, cigarette hanging half-heartedly from her bright red lips and looking, generally, in a bad way. As the band set up, Glass slouched on the floor of the stage near the drum kit, finishing her cigarette and taking pulls from the bottle. With everyone prepared, the haunting bass and ambient intro of “Plague” began. We watched, sort of concerned, as Glass pulled herself halfway up and crawled over to the center of the stage. Using the mic stand as a crutch, she pulled herself up and started to rock back and forth with the bass line. She mumbled the first few lines into the mic, and we were a bit more worried, until the song really started and Glass turned into a ball of energy, jumping around the stage, screaming, throwing the mic stand, and generally acting like an insane person.
I was mesmerized. -BR
Wavves – Sunday
Say what you will about Wavves frontman Nathan Williams and his oversharing g/f Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast, the dude knows how to put on a show. The set started with 2010’s summer anthem, “King of the Beach” from the album of the same name, and the crowd, clearly ready to mosh, started pretty much immediately. We were all super happy that the weather had cooperated, and it made the crowdsurfing around the Grove stage even more fun.
Phoenix – Sunday
So I loved Phoenix’s set, ok? It was the Most fun. Gushing aside, I’ve got to give frontman Thomas Mars a strong second place for running halfway down the center aisle and crowdsurfing the entire way back, singing the end of “1901” as he was carried – and rolled – back up to the stage. -BR
Foals – Friday
I hadn’t seen the English outfit since 2008 at the Bowery Ballroom. Their debut album, Antidotes, had just released and they were on their first proper US tour. They were still getting acclimated to the stage and getting their swagger up to par. Five years and two albums later, they have grown exponentially. Front man Yannis Philippakis stayed in the crowd longer than he was on stage, crowdsufing whilst playing guitar, running around on plants, the photo pit, and swooping in whenever the song warranted. The verdict: they have swagger in spades. – Cher Vincent
Jenny Lewis in The Postal Service – Saturday
She may not have been wearing a costume in the traditional sense of the word, but Jenny Lewis looked absolutely gorgeous and I think it’s worth pointing out. It was an emotional set for everyone (my friends and I hope, wiping away tears), since it was the second-to-last time Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello (aka Dntel) would play together as The Postal Service, and it got even better once we realized Lewis was joining Gibbard on stage for backup vocals as she does on the band’s recorded albums. -BR
Charles Bradley – Saturday
This man got soul. And a bad ass purple jumpsuit. I had just made it to see the final two songs of this soul singer after the behemoth line entering the park today, the first of the three days to sell out back in April. Practically running to his stage, I could barely see anything, but you don’t need binoculars to miss this purple majestic thing of beauty. Where can I pick one up? – CV
Supreme Cuts – Saturday
On my way to the Petrillo stage Saturday to see local producers Supreme Cuts, I fully expected to be going to watch a chill experimental electronic set in the vein of Whispers in the Dark or 2011’s Trouble EP. What we got was pretty much the opposite of that. The band’s computer had failed at the last minute, and rather than cancel the set, fellow Chicago hip-hop artists like The-Drum and JODY came to the rescue. The result was a big group of people dancing and rapping on – and in front of – a medium-sized stage. It was a ton of fun, and JODY has definitely gained a fan. -BR
The Killers - Friday
Granted, I didn’t expect to travel with friends to the other end of the stage, after catching both of the other headliners. But when we made it to the Hutchinson Field, we were greeted with images of the Chicago skyline on a projector, pictures of prominent Chicago legends like Al Capone, as Brendon Flowers serenaded the crowd with “My Kind of Town (Chicago Is)”. In all my years at Lollapalooza, it was the first time I’ve seen a performance of gratitude to the city that hosts this festival for the past 9 years. Following, Flowers & and the gang played three classic hits from their 2004 debut, Hot Fuzz. Nothing tops singing at the top of your lungs, dancing in the mud, and images of cruising around in your first car as the speakers blast you into the past. -CV
BEST ONSTAGE BANTER:
HAIM – Saturday
These sisters have some foul mouths. Dropping f-bombs left and right, they laughed and jumped around jovially with one another. Their instinctual rapport with their fellow musicians, and coordinated drum lines, it was the moments when they were shooting the breeze that made everyone in the audience, including sightings from fellow Lollapalooza bands, The Vaccines and Drowners, wish they had sisters too. – CV
Jessie Ware – Friday
Another lady that favored the f-word, Jessie Ware got the crowd from song to song with her delightful wit, when the sound wasn’t doing her justice. She urged the audience to “two-step” to her lovely pop song, “Sweet Talk”. She offered to tell jokes when the sound guys took longer to get to the mics up. She pranced around the stage, looking lovely as she sang her songs from her debut, including a duet with her drummer on, “Valentine”, originally with Sampha. After the momentary rain, she was a breath of fresh air. -CV
WORST STAGE FOR A BIG DEAL
Disclosure – Friday
It was hard to tell if it was fans of Lana Del Rey or just a huge surge of fans after Disclosure’s June 3 release of their first full-length album, Settle, but the British electronic duo could definitely have filled a larger stage than the Grove. The area was packed, and from the middle of the crowd it was difficult to do any kind of dancing besides the jumping-up-and-down-hand-in-the-air kind. A lot of fun regardless, but could have been better had there been more space. -BR
Chance the Rapper – Friday
As many know, most of these acts are booked nearly a year in advance. At this moment, the powers at be are already selecting what bands and artists will grace the stage in 2014. And while one band could be extremely unknown outside of the streets of Chicago, a few months can change everything. This was most prominent at Chance the Rapper‘s stage Friday afternoon. While I left to catch the last few songs of his set after catching Disclosure, I was met with a massive crowd at the BMI stage, the smallest stage outside of Kidzapalooza, tucked away underneath a canopy of trees. Barely making out the guest appearance of local rap hero, Twista, I was assured that the young MC could easily filled a large stage. Pleased I finally caught him, I’m certain it’s going to be a number of years before he comes back. -CV
WORST CONFLICT TIME:
What the hell, Lollapalooza? This may have been one of the more difficult decisions I’ve made in the past few years (not sure what that says about me as a person… make of that what you will). Each of these bands is huge on their own, and to book them all at the same time on the same night is some kind of cruel. I ended up at Phoenix, which was a ton of fun, but there’s still a little question in the back of my mind: Should I have gone to The Cure? Did I mess up not watching Cat Power? That’s mean, Lolla, just mean. -BR
On the other end of the park, I was at the Cure. Having seen both Cat Power and Phoenix on other Lollapalooza lineups, in 2007 and 2010 respectively, this was a no brainer. But as always, there is still a nagging feeling that I might have had fun at any of the shows. Teleportation needs be a thing. -CV
Tegan and Sara – Sunday
I was a huge fan of 2004’s So Jealous. The MP3’s are still on my old battered iPod Mini, when I can get it to turn on, and I get flashes of memory from around that time period whenever I hear mainstays like “Walking With a Ghost” and “I Know I Know I Know” in coffee shops and bookstores. So when Tegan and Sara appeared on Sunday’s schedule, I was ready for some sweet college vibes… forgetting that it’s been nearly 10 years since So Jealous, and in those years the sisters have released three more albums, most recently January’s Heartthrob. So instead of a full set list of my favorite songs from 2004, the band chose songs that would make sense for a band promoting a new album – a diverse collection spanning their seven albums. They played well, and their onstage presence felt comfortable and relaxed. Still, I was disappointed. -BR
Nine Inch Nails – Friday
My disappointment doesn’t fall too much toward the band, but the audience. The jumbo-tron screens went out in the beginning of their set, so there was very little energy, due to a lack of visuals. There were bright lights on the stage, but with only the small images of Trent Reznor slowly pacing on stage, creating shadows in the intimidating red and white beams, it took a lot attention off what should have been front and center, the music. They played extremely well, and played some stellar tracks, including “Closer”, one of the few moments of the evening where there was a semblance of a reaction to the crowd. Other than the few surges of activity, it was kind of a dud. Considering the last time I saw them, this should have been the performance of the evening. However, like both headliners, neither had anything new that audience could get behind. -CV
The National – Saturday
I’m super biased on account of a crippling obsession with everything anyone in The National does, so there’s no question that this was my favorite performance of Lolla 2013. Opening with 2007’s “Fake Empire,” and playing a mix of songs from their current album, the heartbreakingly perfect Trouble Will Find Me, and old favorites like 2005’s Alligator, Matt Berninger and company delivered a fittingly emotional set, with the quality we’ve come to expect from the band. The National set themselves apart from other mopey indie rock bands with powerful songwriting and fantastic arrangement, but it’s really Berninger’s performance during live shows that makes The National such a standout band. Pacing around the stage, jumping into the crowd at times, holding a glass of wine, Berninger is just erratic enough to make his neurotic, mercurial lyrics absolutely believable. “I won’t fuck us over,” he half-sings, half-screams over and over to the audience during the chorus of “Mr. November.” It’s clear that fucking us over may indeed be a possibility, and we want so much for him to be okay. It’s the very personal, very relatable lyrics like those and the panic resting just below the surface that give The National their staying power. – BR
The Cure – Sunday
Speaking of biased, I have been waiting a very long time to see The Cure live. Hearing stories from my father’s adventures at their shows in the late 80s, and watching all the YouTube videos I could get my hands on, I could hardly contain my excitement. While my friends were at the other end of the park, I had bonded with the older, veteran crowd on Hutchinson Field as the lights brightened and the smoke built while Robert Smith and his band of not-so-merry men approached the stage and took us back to an early time. While Smith isn’t the slender frame he was in his youth, his voice hasn’t aged a day. Sounding clear as a bell, interpretive dancing around his mic stand, and sharing a few smiles and thanks to the devoted crowd, it was better than I ever could imagine. I had hoped to hear my one choice track, “Charlotte Sometimes”, but once the beginning chord of “Plainsong” started, launching into a two-hour, 26 song set, it didn’t matter what was played. I was seeing Robert Smith, and I cried. Pretty profusely.
Father John Misty – Friday
Hilarious, talented and surprisingly sexy, Fleet Foxes’ former drummer J Tillman proved he’s doing just fine on his own, thank you. For 3:15 on a Friday, Tillman drew a sizable crowd, and we had a great time despite the midday heat. -BR
Pacific Air – Friday
While they had a small crowd at the BMI stage, they provided a great contrast to the sexiness I left with Jessie Ware. I could watch the beautiful blue Lake Michigan in the background as they launched into their lovely debut, Stop Talking, which is what most of the audience did. -CV
New Order - Friday
I think my favorite memory of this entire weekend might not be actually seeing the band, since we were too far to see any face, but to lay under the trees as the sounds of some of my favorite songs were played, including “Blue Monday”. However, it was when they covered “Transmission” and “Love Will Tear Apart” that made it feel like Ian Curtis might have been among the masses, singing along. -CV
Kendrick Lamar – Saturday
I caught him a few times before, and while his last festival performance, at Pitchfork Music Festival, was a little less than stellar, this time around made up for it in tenfold. The audience was beyond involved, including a wheelchair patron crowdsurfing. It was great for him finally own his status as one of the top MCs in the game, and seeing his smiling face as the words of his songs were sung 10,000 strong was enough to make you smile too. -CV
DIIV – Sunday
Sunday’s cool weather and the shade at the Grove stage were the perfect backdrop for DIIV’s dreamy pop music. At 6 on Sunday, we were all ready for a little break, and DIIV was chill enough to give us that opportunity. -BR
Grizzly Bear – Sunday
Prepping the stage for the headliner, the Brooklyn -outfit played cuts from last year’s Shields. Ed Droste wore a Barbar shirt. Daniel Rossen strummed his guitar beautifully. Chris Taylor played the saxophone, and Chris Bear played for his hometown. While the crowd weren’t as enraptured by their breezy tunes, as soon as “Two Weeks” blasted through the speakers, everyone, including the fathers holding up their sons, sang along. – CV
Vampire Weekend – Sunday
I danced like a crazy person to the Vampire Weekend’s opening song “Cousins” followed by a few more from previous albums mixed in with selections from the band’s new album, Modern Vampires of the City. -BR
See you all next year!