It's my first summer in Chicago, and so my first chance to experience the legendary Lollapalooza. Having recently come back from Glastonbury in the UK, I wasn't to be daunted by the size and scale of the site, but really like the way they maximised the time and space of Grant Park by having two stages at either end, so as soon as one band finishes, the next one has already sound checked and can start immediately after. You could simply shuffle around, turn and face the other stage and not break from the music for a moment if you so wished.
Friday began... well, wet. Crystal Castles were my first point of call for some electronic-vocoded-rock, and the only reason I left a good set from them was to go and check Fleet Foxes. I’m glad I did, as they put in a great performances, including acoustic numbers and their popular hit 'Mykonos'. After grabbing a few friends, we headed to Thievery Corporation, and the rainy Chicago sky couldn’t dampen the electric atmosphere and carnival spirit from them and their guest vocalists, including the gorgeous Lou Lou. Beer next, and then a strange performance on the Vitamin Water stage inspired us to get over to the headliners early for a good spot. Kings of Leon were my choice, having been a big fan for a while now. Their 'Only By the Night' album shows so much growth within the band, their sound richening and judging by the sales, reaching more diverse crowds and truly breaking them into ‘worthy festival headliner’ territory. A great performance from the whole band, with Caleb’s voice sounding as amazingly gravely as the studio recordings. Although not the official Lolla afterparty, Smart Bar was hosting Dave Pezzner and Mark Farina as part of OM records’ 15 year anniversary celebrations, and so it was our choice of late night haunt. It was also the cause of my late start on Saturday morning, having overdosed on amazing house music til 4am.
I did arrive just in time for the Arctic Monkeys, and just as they were stepping it up a gear, thrashing through their chart successes and getting the (now dry and humid) crowd jumping around nicely. Andy Butler of Hercules and Love Affair was playing a DJ set in the Perry’s garden area. I’ve always been a fan of theirs, and his musical selection was right on the money, with disco rhythms and lush vocals enlivening my tired feet for a while. More friends and more beer led to a sample of Lykke Li and, being a little unimpressed by her, onto Diplo. Diplo blew us away, with his mix of... well, whatever it is people describe Diplo, Switch, Herve and co. as these days. Bass-heavy Fidget, Ragga, Baile Funk, Classic House and more were all thrown into the melting pot to devastating effect on the crowd. With such an epic set, I was ready to head off for a live act, when Bassnectar stepped up to the decks. Within minutes I was blown away yet again, even with the bar set so high by Diplo, the OM Records artist dealt a mixture of rib-cracking Dubstep, Drum and Bass and House to the audience, who were packed in until the very end. The URB warehouse afterparty provided yet more of the same until the wee small hours for all ages of bass-hungry party people.
Sunday saw the sun finally break through, and then beat down on the (estimated) 150,000 Lollapaloozers. The festival organisers responded by handing out thousands of bottles of free cold water, setting up giant fans spraying a fine mist onto public walkways, and the local fire department spraying a not-so-fine mist into the air near the North stages. Top marks for that, and also for the selection of Chicago food available, of which I sampled Connie’s Pizza and Adobo’s Tacos. A great change from the usual greasy fodder offered at shows, and a nice tip-of-the-hat to such a food-loving city. The morning began with the Kaiser Chiefs, followed by a friend’s recommendation of Dan Deacon. Not knowing what to expect was a good thing, as the 30-or-so-piece party orchestra of tubas, guitars, trombones, bongos, laptops and more was a pleasant surprise! Encouraging party games in the crowd during the set was genius too. After getting down to Vampire Weekend, we stayed in the area for a good place at one of my personal highlights, Snoop Dogg. Playing a lot of material from his first album was unexpected, but fantastic for me, being a long-running fan. Getting down gangsta-style with Bert and Ernie was a highlight too. A outstanding hour or so of MSTRKRFT led us into to the headliners of Jane’s Addiction. Being Perry Farrell’s festival, he has played several times over the years, and fully deserves too. He is a great frontman, and Jane’s put on a superb show, each of the band members being talented in their own right. To see them all perform on their ‘home turf’ (they are actually from LA) was a fantastic finale to a blockbuster of a weekend.
Feel free to check out some Lollapalooza videos at the Lee Jarvis Youtube channel
All photos (c) Lee Jarvis 2009.
(Cross-posted at US Music Jobs, the premier online community for US music industry professionals and jobs in the music industry)