Another Lollapalooza has come and gone, and I hate to say that as much as I love this festival and tell everyone I know that it’s my favorite days of the year, ever year, I have to admit that I was relieved for it to a come to a close this year.
It wasn’t because the festival didn’t deliver as it usually does, or that I didn’t enjoy myself per usual, but because of how exhausted a four day music festival truly is. This is my first year attending Lollapalooza while simultaneously working a full time job and ladies and gentlemen, adulting is hard. I am nowhere near as used to staying up until 2 or 3 am during the summer like I used to – and the long days of standing, walking, and drinking (for some of us) definitely took a toll on me this year.
It’s safe to say that I will continue to recover from the long weekend throughout this week and will definitely be trying to catch up on my sleep.
I decided to have a Twitter poll for my followers to weigh in on the format of my Lollapalooza post this year (I’ve done reviews on 2015 and 2016 – read them here and here), and separating the posts by day instead of one lengthy post was the winning choice! Thanks for voting! I think spreading these posts out by day allows me to tackle the content with more focus and less of an overwhelming feeling about cranking out a 32 performance review in one post.
I hope you enjoy and if you went to Lolla, that you had fun!
12:43PM: 18-year-old Declan Mckenna is one of the very first acts scheduled of Lollapalooza weekend, weaving through his set with the stamina and stage presence of a veteran headliner, sharing songs from his debut album, What Do You Think About The Car? that was released just a couple weeks before Lollapalooza weekend. Mckenna doesn’t forget to include a few more of his popular songs like “Isombard,” “Paracetamol” and “Brazil.” But perhaps the most exciting moment of the set is the performance of his song “Listen to Your Friends” that features a political bridge that ultimately set up the last 5 minutes of his controversial set:
“Look online / Do ten minutes of research and in turn find / The problem is poor kids who want holidays in term time / The problem is poor kids who can’t afford the train fare / So we up the train fare and charge them for not paying the train fare / The problem is welfare / And the problem is free healthcare/ ’cause it’s unfair and if it’s gone it’s welfare / The problem is drugs / The problem is free love and free hugs / So stay in fear”
Mckenna disappears offstage with just a few minutes left of his 45 minute set, returning wearing a Donald Trump mask over his face, armed and ready to go on a political rant. Decked out in a blue suit jacket and a red tie, Mckenna comments on the ability to exercise his right to free speech – “even if Trump doesn’t like it,” then yelling into the microphone to a mostly stunned and somewhat confused audience that Trump can “suck his socialism:” a brave statement coming from an up and coming musician who is not even American (he’s British). He receives cheers from a handful of the crowd as some audience members continue looking as confused as ever.
12:58PM: Walking into the trees that surround the Pepsi stage in Grant Park almost gives the effect that you’re heading into a mystical world – especially heightened during Elohim‘s set (if you’re wondering, “Elohim” means “God” and is frequently used in the Hebrew bible). The persona behind Elohim is a mystery, all that is available to the world is her music: Elohim – from Los Angeles – never performs showing her face and has kept anonymity by refusing to use her real name in any sort of attachment to her artist persona. She even does phone interviews by using special voice-to-text software, which is also how she chose to communicate to the crowd during her performance.
I was familiar with Elohim’s most popular songs before Lollapalooza but seeing her live performance made me even more of a fan: her ability to mix her music while singing and getting a crowd engaged and dancing early in the day was impressive and entertaining – and ended up being one of my favorite sets of the weekend.
1:30PM: The Lakeshore stage is an interesting one and will continue to hold some of my favorite Lollapalooza memories, like seeing Imagine Dragons’ midday set in 2013 while they were just exploding onto the music scene, Marina and The Diamonds’ performance in 2015, and the time that I got to see The Front Bottoms perform in 2016. I knew that Hippocampus‘ early afternoon performance wouldn’t disappoint, either and they were definitely one of my most anticipated sets of the weekend. Curious to see how their crowd size would be, I was pleasantly surprised when I returned to Lakeshore just minutes before their hour long set began to a few thousand people also awaiting their performance.
I had been waiting a long time to see an entire set from this band – the only time I had seen them previously was at an in-studio performance for WXRT back in May, where they sang just a few songs in a stripped down setting. Although I was definitely entertained at this year’s set at Lollapalooza by Hippocampus’ fresh, laid-back indie pop vibes, I felt that the hour long time slot they received was just a bit longer than needed – especially because so many people in the crowd (at least around me) did not know many Hippocampus songs. This isn’t the band’s fault, but I personally noticed that a TON of bands had hour long slots this year where 40-45 minutes would have sufficed.
2:53PM: I made the trek back to the Pepsi stage for the fourth set of the day to see Middle Kids, a band that is currently indie rock’s biggest and best kept secret, and I’m really hoping that they’re going to blow up within the next few months and was truly blown away with their performance. With only one EP released on the internet (6 songs), I thought band members Hannah Joy, Tim Fitz and Harry Day captivated the audience with solid indie rock tunes: a style that was once so crucial to the Lolla brand that seemed to be a bit lacking in the rest of the Lolla fabric this year (I very well could have missed some similar acts throughout the weekend, I’m only human).
Halfway through the set, the clouds opened up and gave us a steady 15 or so minutes of rain as Joy continued to sing, only taking a couple minutes to talk about the band’s experience going to a Cubs game (they lost) and thanking a fellow Australian fan for being in the audience, who moved to America after “finding himself an American girl.” This led to the introduction of the band’s tune “Fire In Your Eyes” as the rest of the crowd “awed” at the cuteness of a band singing a love song to their friends in the audience.
Middle Kids returns to Chicago in September for a 101.1 WKQX Queued Up Showcase at Lincoln Hall.
4:48PM: After some wandering, I returned to the south end of the park to see Liam Gallagher. I have no issue admitting that I literally know nothing about him nor did I ever listen to Oasis (but I can rock out to “Wonderwall” any day of the week). When we appeared at the stage, I was confused to see no singer and no band on the stage – and quickly found out that Gallagher left his hour long set after just 20ish minutes of performing, giving no explanation for his quick exit, leaving a ton of fans stunned and booing (rightfully so).
Unfortunately, Gallagher is pretty well known for pulling these sort of stunts, and later apologized on social media, saying his voice was strained from previous performances.
Even though I wasn’t previously a fan of Gallagher or Oasis (not out of negativity, just because I don’t know anything about them), I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the fans who were ready for his performance. I can’t even imagine my favorite musicians pulling that crap and it sucks that this happened to people. I’ve been to Lollapalooza five years in a row at this point and I had never seen anyone walk off the stage in refusal to play.
I guess there’s a first time for everything.
5:30PM: While the rest of the night on Thursday ended up being a bit dismal, there were no signs of rain in the early afternoon as George Ezra began his performance at his second Lollapalooza. If you have read my posts before, you may know that George Ezra was scheduled to perform early in the day at Lollapalooza in 2015 – only to be forced to cut his 45 minute set down to about 20 minutes after the entire festival was evacuated due to weather issues. I won’t lie and say that I wasn’t panicked all week long after following the weather forecast that would ultimately become true (more to come). However, Ezra got through his entire performance with no drop of rain and a ton of people in his crowd who were ready to JAM.
Ezra just released a new song at the beginning of the summer, marking his first release since the 2015 debut album, Wanted on Voyage. Wholesome and sweet as ever, Ezra, only 24, kept his set clean and to the point: although it’s pretty likely that Ezra had a ton of new songs he could have shared with Lollapalooza, he played a handful of tunes from his first album. I’m sure he must have assumed that many people in the crowd were at that set, too, and he definitely redeemed himself and gave the audience what they wanted to hear. There were many singalongs to songs like “Leaving It Up to You, “Blame It On Me,” and of course, “Budapest.” A pleasant surprise for me was when Ezra decided to sing “Barcelona,” my personal favorite and a slower song that I figured he would leave off of his set.
6:42PM: Holy cow. As soon as I finished watching George Ezra and took a quick bathroom break, I was ready for Cage the Elephant to BLOW MY MIND. First of all, their crowd was unbelievably large, and the band was impressively capable of captivating the audience’s attention from start to end, considering the band had a set as long as some of the main headliners had that weekend (one hour and 15 minutes). 33-year-old frontman Matt Schultz waltzed onto the Grant Park stage in a purple sparkly dress and fishnet tights, telling the crowd that he “wanted to be pretty for them” – later tearing off the dress to only wearing a black pair of boxer briefs – and the tights, of course.
Shultz lead his band seamlessly through 17 songs – getting the crowd rowdy for favorites like “Ain’t No Rest For the Wicked,” “Come a Little Closer” and “Cigarette Daydreams” – where Matt paused to comment on how “blessed” he felt for being able to perform in fishnets while still making people in the audience cry.
“I love you,” he said to the crowd in between verses.
I had seen Cage the Elephant one other time prior to this set at Lollapalooza and cannot even compare the two experiences as equal. I found this performance to be far more riveting, lively, engaging and overall impressive – and I would definitely believe that the THOUSANDS of people around me would agree. A set that I was generally excited for ended up being one of my favorite out of the entire weekend and I encourage you to look into Cage the Elephant’s live performance – if you haven’t already.
7:57PM: As the day was coming to an end, we booked it to the Pepsi Stage to catch just a few minutes of Kaytranada – a DJ (named Louis) who has been making music under the surname Kaytranada since 2010. I had heard about 3 songs prior to Lollapalooza and my friend Leah was really interested in checking him out. We watched maybe 5 minutes tops of his set and were immediately bored – apparently we approached the stage during one of his songs that is literally 12 minutes long – with 0 lyrics in it. I’ve never been one to listen to dance music to begin with, and songs that don’t have lyrics rarely tend to hold my interest. I’m sure we just missed him at a high point in his set but we quickly left and made our way to the Bud Light stage to see the queen herself, Lorde.
8:53PM: It is now pouring rain, with the occasional thunder and a flash of lighting that resulted in thousands of Lolla goers groaning in unison: lightning almost always means that the festival is going to be evacuated. Lucky for us, the evacuated hadn’t arrived yet, as Lorde appeared onstage about 8 minutes late to start her set. She opened with a teaser of her 2017 single, “Green Light,” gaining cheers from her large audience who were eager to hear Lorde make her triumphant return to the Lolla stage after her debut performance in 2014.
After singing three songs, “Tennis Court,” “Magnets” and “400 Lux,” she began to talk, introducing a song that hadn’t been performed live yet, explaining how amped she was for the show to continue. You could feel the energy in the air – Lorde was glowing in red, her short haircut damp from the rain, her eyes shining with the anticipation of the set ahead of her. The energy was good, the crowd was singing along, it seemed like the set would continue as planned and her crowd would hear songs live from Melodrama.
However, to the dismay of literally everyone in Grant Park at that moment in time, Lollapalooza was canceled. Lorde saw her manager appear on the side of the stage telling her that she had to get pulled off and the music coming to a standstill. She was visibly upset, verbalizing her hopes to do everything she could to get the performance to continue, but there’s not much to do when Mother Earth is against you.
Hundreds of thousands of soggy people from all areas of the park began to simultaneously evacuate the park – a sense of disappointment and premature exits hovered over the crowd – moods that wouldn’t be repaired until the sun was shining again to start Day 2 (note: the sun barely arrived on Friday). Ha.
Be sure to keep an eye out for the rest of my Lollapalooza weekend review. All four posts will be up by the end of the week (Sunday).