A 45-minute delay, a 2-hour flight, an hour-long ride on the CTA blue line from O’Hare International Airport and a CTA bus ride was all it took to find myself wristband-wearing, mud-speckled and ready for the best concert festival I know and love: Lollapalooza.
An event that began as a farewell tour for Jane’s Addiction in 1991, Lollapalooza has now turned into an annual music festival held in Grant Park in Chicago, IL every August. Featuring music ranging from Indie to Rap to good old Rock ‘n Roll, the festival attracts a diverse group of attendees. The young and old, robust and petite, Chicagoans, Californians and New Yorkers all gather for 3 days of performances, intertwined with shopping and eating.
This year, it was my pleasure, once again (I attended in 2007 as well), to be part of the Lollapalooza atmosphere. Although it was the hottest weekend of the year in Chicago and it rained on Friday—leaving Grant Park mud-ridden and ticket sales slightly unsuccessful—the weather cleared up and cooled off by the end of the week (and tickets were sold out!)
The structure of Lollapalooza caters to very large audiences, which means that as soon as performances begin at 11 a.m., they do not end until ten p.m. that night. The set-up for Grant Park enables nine stages named after the main sponsors of the event, including Budweiser, PlayStation, Perry’s, BMI, Kidzapalooza, Citi, Vitaminwater, Chicago 2016 and f.y.e. Autograph Tent. In addition to those nine areas, Green Street includes free trade vendors and a Honda Insight booth featuring both models of the latest green wheels and the Rock & Recycle campaign where Lolla participants can receive limited edition t-shirts if they bring in garbage bags filled entirely of cans and bottles from the grounds of the park. Also, if participants wish to, they can stand in line to spin the wheel or perform a talent to win Rock & Recycle paraphernalia (e.g. SIGG-like water bottles, USB flash drives, etc.)
However, the main reason why Lollapalooza is such a great event and such a unique music festival is the music itself. The schedule is organized so that lesser-known bands play in the morning then progress toward the headliner bands at the last slot before the park closes at night. Of course, there isn’t just one headliner. There are two each night playing at opposite ends of the park (Budweiser at one end, Chicago 2016 at the other). While this does force participants to choose which headliner they would rather see, it also allows more people to enjoy different types of music. Plus, if participants desperately want to see both bands, they can just walk all the way across the park to enjoy both types of music. For example, Friday night’s headliners were Depeche Mode and Kings of Leon (I saw Kings of Leon—they were great!).
Saturday night’s headliners were Tool and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (I saw YYY). However, leading up to Saturday night were the Arctic Monkeys, Santigold, TV on the Radio, Ben Harper and the Relentless 7—all of which were excellent—and then YYY. For me, the YYY were the best performance of the whole festival, not only because they are one of my favorite artists, but also because their energy is so genuine. When a band is headlining smack dab in the middle of one of the most popular music festivals in the nation, that band needs their type of energy to keep the crowd alive through the entire hour-and-a-half set. Karen O, the lead singer of YYY, definitely kept that energy alive with her eccentric headdress and interactions with the audience of hundreds of people, even when she forgot the lyrics halfway through one song. Both she and the audience casually joked about it afterwards. In general at Lollapalooza, any dialogue between artists and audience members contributes positively to the rare atmosphere.
On a quick side note, the Beastie Boys were originally scheduled for the Saturday night spot. However, in July, lead singer Adam Yauch announced that he was diagnosed with cancer, which meant that he must cancel all upcoming performances and postpone the Beastie Boys’ new album. Upon this announcement, several Lolla participants and fans became upset and worried which performer would replace them. Despite the tension that ensued beforehand on a website forum discussing the decision to hire the YYY’s to replace the Beastie Boys, Karen O made light of the situation during her performance at Lollapalooza, saying: “We’re not even supposed to f***ing be here!”
In addition, Sunday afternoon, I made my way to the Kidzapalooza when I saw on the schedule that Paul Green’s School of Rock All Stars were playing. Familiar with the Paul Green’s School of Rock in Cherry Hill, I was drawn to see if I knew anyone. Turns out I did: Ethan Feinstein (’11), a drummer in the School of Rock All Stars, played for the band that day. The performance itself was amazing to witness, since all of the performers ranged from eight to 18 and created better music than some of the other adult bands at the festival. Upon speaking to Ethan after, he said it was “a crazy and awesome experience … and very dirty.”
“I was able to see almost all of the bands I wanted to see with the exception of a few that came on while we were playing or rehearsing. My favorites of the festival were Cold War Kids, Fleet Foxes, Delta Spirit, and Silversun Pickups. I really loved all of the bands but those stuck out in my mind the most. I [also] had the opportunity to meet almost all of the members from those bands and I ended up having a thirty-minute conversation with the singer from Delta Spirit. He was an incredibly nice guy and gave me some great tips for being an upcoming musician,” said Feinstein.
Moving on, Sunday night’s headliners were Jane’s Addiction and the Killers. Though it was a tough choice for me, I chose Jane’s Addiction, since it was a historic performance. Jane’s Addiction started the festival back in 1991, and this was their first time back together playing at the festival. After 1991, Perry Farrell (vocals) continued on to create the music festival of Lollapalooza. Dave Navarro (guitar), Eric Avery (bass) and Stephen Perkins (drums) also went their separate ways, marrying and so forth, until recently in 2008 when the band reunited. This lead to their return to the stage, once again headlining Lollapalooza’s 2009 festival. Toward the beginning of Jane’s Addiction, around 8:30, Band of Horses, who were playing at the PlayStation stage right next to Budweiser (where Jane’s Addiction was), would not finish their set and get off stage. So, the several hundred fans of Jane’s Addiction were forced to hear Band of Horses, rather than Jane’s Addiction. After continual booing, middle-finger pointing and cursing from the angry fans, Perry Farrell finally something into the microphone about Band of Horses shutting up. Before long, Band of Horses finally stopped and all of Jane’s Addiction’s fans could hear the performance. Aside from that little glitch, the music was superb, the fans were completely enraptured and the performance as a whole was incredible. It was definitely worth the long travel that I experienced.