Allow me to set the scene for you. It’s the first weekend of August in Grant Park, Chicago. My journey begins in the quaint Barrington train station, just an hour outside the city. Usually pretty quiet after the normal early morning rush hour, at eleven o’clock the station is bustling with swarms of teenagers. Everywhere you look, there are crop tops, flower crowns, high-wasted shorts, and that familiar wrist band dangling from everyone’s arm. There’s a sense of camaraderie amongst them, even between those who have never met. Everyone is buzzing about, “who are you seeing today?”, “dude, are you ready to rage at Perry’s?”. If you didn’t know better, you’d blame society’s corrupted youth. If you did know better, you’d know to smile and turn your head the other way, because this is just the beginning of Lollapalooza.
In case you missed my previous article “Lollapalove” and haven’t heard of the festival before, Lollapalooza is a three-day music festival held in Grant Park of Chicago. This year’s headliners included Eminem, Outkast, Kings of Leon, Arctic Monkeys, Skrillex, and Calvin Harris. With that wide smattering of talent, along with the dozens of other tempting performances spread throughout the three days, there is something to tickle everyone’s musical pallet. The frustrating part is that over the three days, it is impossible to see it all, and there will be acts that you’ll have to miss, and it will break your heart.
Day 1: Friday
After arriving at the park, completing the necessary wrist-band check, security, and customary Lollapalooza pictures in front of Buckingham Fountain, my friends and I headed straight to Portugal. The Man. I had seen them in concert once before, and was honestly disappointed. Fortunately, this year, they came back with a vengeance. They were scheduled for a 30-minute set at Kidzapalooza (a stage designed to have kid-friendly acts throughout the day). It was a perfect way to start. The crowd was relaxed, listening casually, but everyone got into it once the band introduced their most renowned piece, “Purple Yellow Red and Blue”. The entire audience could feel how much fun Portugal. was having on stage, and it spread over them like sunshine.
As the day progressed, we meandered from Bombay Bicycle Club, to Iggy Azalea, AFI, Lorde, The Kooks, Lykke Li, and finished off with Arctic Monkeys. If I’m being honest about where I had the most fun and who performed the best, Lorde blew me away the most. Of course, the Iggy concert was pure madness with middle fingers flying everywhere, The Kooks nearly brought me to tears with the opening chords to “Seaside”, and Arctic Monkeys never disappoint in concert. However, Lorde was something else. Her stage presence was a notch higher than anyone else we had seen in the day.
Before seeing her in concert, all I heard was that Lorde was a notoriously mean-spirited and unlikable person. I found her to be the opposite. She charmed the audience with that New Zealand accent that one can’t help but adore. She’s a bona fide spaz with her dance moves on stage, but that never feels fake or contrived. She is feeling her music within her, and that helped the rest of the audience connect with the music as well. The crowning jewel of the concert – and the day for that matter – was her encore. She comes on with “Team” and the whole audience is right there with her. Her curly hair flails about and she proves she deserves her superstardom that she has gained remarkably quickly at such an impressively young age.
Day 2: Saturday
This was honestly the most disappointing day for me in terms of the concentration of really great musical performances. I started out with Grouplove. While I had a phenomenal time dancing along with their music and my friends, they did not put on the best performance. The male and female lead singers seemed more like they were just screaming at the audience in an effort to get them as hyped as possible, not to best present their songs. Hannah Hooper was fun, but relatively unprofessional – and not in a good way. She made several references to weed, telling the audience to smoke a doobie, and then smoke another doobie with her after the concert. Not to make any knocks against weed, but I’d estimate about 94% of attendees were already baked by the time they took the stage, so it just felt unnecessary and didn’t give me a good impression of the band, and definitely didn’t make me want to go home and listen to everything they’ve ever recorded.
The rest of the day, I managed to see The Temper Trap, Foster The People, The Head and the Heart, part of Outkast, and Calvin Harris. I’ll give you one guess as to who in that list blew me away. Foster The People may win the prize for best of festival from me. Everything about them: stage presence, overall sound, excitement, connection with the audience, it was all perfect. I could have gone to that concert completely by myself and been beyond ecstatic just to be there listening to the band. Lead singer, Mark Foster, was impressive from beginning to end, running around the stage, dancing, playing keyboard, all unwavering his near flawless voice. When “Houdini” came on, my heart rate skyrocketed as the entire audience belted it out along with Foster.
Day 3: Sunday
It’s the last day of the festival. Every part of your body aches, your voice is hoarse, you don’t care about trying to look like the intersection of hot and hipster anymore, you just hope you’ll make it through the day. First up for me was NONONO, Swedish band whose “Pumpin Blood” impressed everyone in attendance. In a blur of London Grammar, Cage The Elephant, Glen Hansard, and Betty Who, it was the alternative-rock Cage The Elephant who impressed me the most. The audience was comprised of mostly die-hard fans who knew every word to every song. But the most impressive part was the interaction with the audience. The lead singer Matthew Shultz fearlessly got face-to-face with his drug-induced audience, doing everything from stage-dives, rolling around in the mud below the stage, and stripping down to only his stark-white pants. This could have become obnoxious, if he hadn’t done it with such a talented voice that was uncompromised by his antics. By the conclusion of the set, anyone who wasn’t already a die-hard fan, was just transformed into one.
Flume closed the day for me and was the perfect way to end Lollapalooza. His remixes, coupled with the fact that the festival had become a mud-bath for everyone in the torrential downpours of the day, made this the most care-free audience I had seen thusfar.
Lollapalooza is terrible for your health. The second-hand smoke clouded my lungs, I couldn’t walk right for at least four days afterwards, by the end of each day you’re usually dehydrated and malnourished, and on top of it all, I saw dozens of people passed out, breaking bones, etc. throughout the days. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t have given up the experience for the world. The camaraderie felt throughout the entire city of Chicago, the shows that make you breathe a little faster – or stop breathing entirely for an instant – it all makes it worth it. Worth it one hundred times over. Handling three days of Lollapalooza is not for the weak, you have to be sturdy to survive it. But if you go for the music, you won’t be disappointed.
Written By: Hanna Sutton