Words: Devin M. O’Toole, Photos: Teresa McCullough
Lollapalooza will go down for a few things; namely EDM, staunch security measures, rain, mud and Chance the Rapper . And after three delirious days, I’m not sure in what order. The masses have spoken. They are between the ages of 17-25. They are Caucasian. They come in throwback basketball jerseys and cut-off jean shorts. They seem to enjoy drops.
I’m of course talking about the hordes that flocked to Perry’s stage on the festival rounds, a field cum mud pit, home to the world’s biggest dance and big-room house acts. It cackled with trembling bass all weekend, while spitting out bro after bro, underbutt after underbutt, into the Grant Park main throughway. The DJ monolith shot fire into the sky and air canister gas in spirals, all while European “DJs” First Name. Surname. sat like the Wizard of Oz, cloaked in an heir of self-importance fueled by tech-house gimmickry. You run the risk of becoming the mean neighborhood curmudgeon, but they don’t care—today’s youth arms akimbo, goose-stepping to agro-house, something that was so foreign and Euro just a few years ago. There were brief moments for one to gasp the air of actual musicality-Z-Trip made it very clear he still spins vinyl, effortlessly bouncing from “Let It Be” to “Today Was A Good Day” and the Grammy nominated Duke Dumont brands a symbiosis to early French and Brit house. But a jaunt through Perry’s stage area might leave you catatonic and mangled, orifices bleeding up the beat.
So as the rain virtually passed through until a soaked Sunday, Perry’s stage became the culmination of a three-day binge; a zombie apocalyptic crypt walk fueled by Molly and Bud tallboys. The morass of mud, vomit and flip-flops finally played host to local hero Chance the Rapper. Sunday night was reserved for the hometown kid. The enigmatic, weed laced wordsmith, waxed poetic about his high school, Chatham Academy Charter High School, which is located just across the street from the festivities. With festival Kings (of Leon) and Skrillex dominating opposite ends of the main stages, Chance worked his way through anxieties and tribulations dipped in acid blotter and a newly reworked rendition of the “Arthur” theme song. Lastly, R. Kelley and Vic Mensa joined in just before Chance exited the stage as Prince of chi town. Kanye West will hold the hip hop crown for the foreseeable future in my book, but the “acid rapper“ is primed for usurping.
The Grove stage steadily remained poised, drawing slightly older crowds over the weekend. Rap heavy Lolla served up Ratking and Rich Homie Quan, while left of center indie acts, like Jenny Lewis, Courtney Barnett, Darkside, and RAC easily made the Grove stage the clear respite from the ‘suns out, guns out’ gala. In my opinion, heavy dance hitters Cut Copy, Phantogram and Blood Orange will battle for Grove stage top honors, but anyone that played this stage (even when Flume chopped top 40 remixes of Lorde and Banks into a blender,) received a grateful crowd of diehards and stage exhausted in-betweeners.
You could spot the up and comers over at the BMI stage which was located on the opposite the park to the Grove stage. Vic Mensa slayed through a cover of “Seven Nation Army” only to stumble on his club hit “Down On My Luck.” Then internet hip hop/step crew Wallpaper. played hit track, “Hesher“, singer-songwriter, Bebe Rexha aped Iggy Azalea set, and Royal Blood. But all sound like future festival mainstays.
Speaking of the song of the summer, “Fancy“, it was played by many DJs, but Iggy Azalea chose to end her set with the summer smash. At this point, Portugal. The Man were burrowing through an arena-ready rendition of “We Are the Champions” and a tongue-in-cheek groove to “Dayman” from it’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. Interpol took to the grand Bud Light stage featuring an elegant folded hands back-drop and they slickly tore through a few of their new songs as well as the indelible tracks off of Antics.
The Palladia stage spat out the weekend’s grittiest acts. The concrete jungle pit in the very front of the stage saw Brooklyn band, Parquet Courts turn cow-punk to noise wail, Run the Jewels got raw and chummy, Crystal Castles’ Ethan Kath (virtually) spit in the face of maximalist EDM with goth nihilism, and the Irish crooner, Hozier, elegantly made a few more fans this side of the pond with his gruff take on gospel folk.
The unexpected gems of the weekend were the perfect counter balance between the Chilean stylings of Francisca Valenzuela , the soaring heartache of London Grammar, Jagwar Ma’s jangly freak-house, Jungle’s breezy deep disco, and Nas’ full set (which shouldn’t be so surprising since we’re talking about one of the greatest rap artists of all time,) but placed on the small Palladia stage, with tweeners Foster the People and the mob of animals losing it to Martin Garrix, Nas put all that elder statesman shit to waste. The crowd yelling his track”Bravehearts“ never sounded so exhilarating and with each turn of phrase, the true hip hops heads had won a small battle that day.
In terms of headliners, Lolla took some heat for the re-treads. Outkast aside; Calvin Harris, Kings of Leon, Arctic Monkeys & Eminem played as expected—nothing too out of the ordinary, polished and packaged up real shiny. Rihanna joined Em as a surprise guest, but I’ve heard “Love the Way you Lie” and “The Monster” precisely four-hundred times so I quietly yearned for Dido over RiRi on “Stan.” But looking back, seeing Andre 3000 shimmy his way, wearing a jumpsuit that read “Across Cultures, Darker People Suffer Most, Why?” and Big Boi combatively comboing, looking like a snowboarding general in the Army of Aquemini, you realized how boring the music landscape has become without them. People were getting down to “Ms. Jackson” in every port-o-potty line. A fireworks mishap perfectly painted the crisp air to “Ghettomusick”. “Spottieottiedopaliscious” took Chicago back to a time where we could just let the notes from the summer horn hang over our heads like a thick, woozy spirit. Amidst the constant chaos of Perry’s stage, the superfluous bombardment at the Bud Light stage, and the limp Lake Shore stage attempts at amusement (aside from Lykke Li, she was ethereal and refreshing,) Outkast so easily stood out as the standout. Spoon may have been note-perfect and well-catalogued, and Lorde may have been the most grateful, but to test the truest swath of you average Lolla goer, the boys from Atlanta (Outkast) blossomed back into the well-oiled colossus they once were.
We show back up year after year to these gargantuan festivals and endure the stifling heat, the chill of the rain soaking our smart phones, the 9 dollar “craft” beers, the weaving muscle heads with their unforgiving shoulders, the clueless comments on the state of music from rich white girls and the rancid stench of a three-day, urine-sprayed shit house because we love our live music. We love when our favorite bands surprise us, but more importantly we love the fact that our favorites are with us—in the same crowded, rain soaked park in Chicago. Lollapalooza once shot for the obscure, Perry Farrell now sees a global takeover in the near future. It’s exhausting and exhilarating; Lollapalooza is a true testament to youth culture, with an even truer testament in staying relevant well over 20 years in the making.
Full Gallery, Lolla 2014 – Photos: Teresa McCullough