This year, Lollapalooza celebrated their 20th anniversary with SIX headliners: Coldplay and Muse (Friday), My Morning Jacket and Eminem (Saturday), Foo Fighters and Deadmau5 (Sunday). The three day sold out festival returned to Chicago for the seventh year and boasted over 270,000 tickets, eight stages and 130 bands.
For our coverage of this year’s Lollapalooza, we’ve decided to go with a review of each day’s performances instead of one super long post. The reviews are all written by our onsite correspondent Michael Zonenashvili and are accompanied by videos from various users on YouTube and photos are provided courtesy of the official Lollapalooza Flickr page. Watch some official videos from the festival at Lollapalooza’s YouTube page
Oh, the first band of the weekend. Would the first act be enough to propel the audience member to think, “It’s worth standing up for three days to bear the heat and other potential disasters and mishaps.” Duo Wye Oak took the Sony Stage to try to set the tone, but unfortunately, Jenn Wasner’s gear started to act up. Even after switching amps, her guitar shorted out and she cut off midway through the second song to apologize. This all sounds pretty bad, but in fact Wye Oak did their job of setting the tone. After the support of the type of audience that gets there for the first band kicked in, the band powered through the rest of their set sans pedals and effects and was still riveting. Andy Stack’s ability to play drums and keys simultaneously while Jenn Wasner belts out the kind of vocals that Victoria LeGrand would if she was featured on a Titus Andronicus track. Penultimate song, “I Hope You Die” remains the song whose chorus grabs me every time I see it live to remind me that for just two people, Wye Oak can put out a lot in one song.
Young The Giant:
Young The Giant has mixed reviews all around, juxtaposing their success with the various pans of their album makes for an interesting experiment in seeing them live. They took the largest North stage to open with “I Got” and it clicked. This band is just good at doing what they do. Perhaps the album is not the crossover Indie-Rock album that everyone thinks that the band thinks they’re trying to be, but the songs have catchy hooks and choruses that translate well live. Perhaps the only thing lacking in their set was confidence. Even though vocalist Sameer Gadhia’s spastic and engaging stage presence had him bopping around the enormous stage, at certain points it seemed the entire band was a bit afraid. Nonetheless, the crowd ate up “Cough Syrup” and “My Body” while some songs got lost in the mix, lacking in depth or richness sound-wise, but the ones that hit hard worked.
The Naked And Famous:
Only made it for half the set, had to spring from Young The Giant to catch this New Zealand band. Yet, after getting there, I realized it was a good thing I stayed for Young The Giant instead of catching the Naked and Famous’ entire set. Even the two songs that are wonderful on record, “Young Blood” and “Girls Like You” were lacking in a bottom layer, instead sounding like synth and drums with occasional guitar notes layered over, and vocals that drowned those out anyway. The slow building “Girls Like You” lacked the punch of the first chorus, and “Young Blood” lacked any punch at all, easily apparent with the audience quitting their singing along halfway through the song.
Foster The People:
Dear Foster The People, you are not allowed to cover Neil Young. That’s not to say no one is allowed to, but specifically you. Foster The People’s cover of “Heart of Gold” was not the only thing that didn’t sit right, though. It seemed the set was filled with obligatory Indie Rock tropes and identity crises that plagued the band with the ever growing opinion that they will have nothing beyond the great tracks released on their EP. The set opened with an inexplicable floor tom jam to “wow” the people who have never seen auxiliary percussion, followed by a stream of repetition. Every song opened with the same use of banging on a sampler to chop and screw vocal parts into some dance rhythm, which passed in a blur until “Houdini.” I have no problems with Houdini sounding like an MGMT song, the outro featuring falsetto repetition and being reminiscent of MGMT’s first record. Following that came another droning twenty minutes before a lackluster “Pumped Up Kicks” which kept the guys who took their girlfriends to the festival salivating and the rest of the crowd slowly making their way from the stage to go somewhere else. I wish I had followed suit.
Two Door Cinema Club:
Two Door Cinema Club was a bigger dance party than anything at Perry’s. I have always been bemused by videos of European festivals where the most simple of songs can send a crowd into a perfectly synchronized jumping frenzy, thinking to myself, “Why can’t OUR festivals be like that?” Well, Two Door Cinema Club used their one hour to turn this dream of mine(and presumably the entire crowd’s) into a reality. Tackling nearly their entire album, extra cuts, and a formidable new tune, the band took their dance-ridden indie rock to a crowd of now converts to the festival jumping phenomenon. Two Door Cinema Club’s mastery of dance breakdowns, although formulaic in their mix of one high pitched guitar/one sonic undertone guitar/sampled synth, gave every song its own payoff. Tension built before each breakdown, allowing for the crowd to go ballistic for every crescendo. “Eat That Up It’s Good For You” and “Kids” were particularly notable in that aspect, and perhaps the highlights of the set that got an enormous crowd to dance at four in the afternoon. In fact, I’d be willing to say that Two Door Cinema Club was one of the bands most suited to a festival of the weekend. Their ability to put their repertoire in one hour without a lull in the set, their massive appeal, and I daresay nice outfits make them an excellent candidate for the list of bands that you’re satisfied with even without a headlining spot.
Perry’s tent, where lighting rigs work in the daytime shade, and the daytime shade doesn’t make the temperature any cooler. Pressed up against the most neon clad people I’d see all weekend, I had high hopes for this show, having completely lost interest in dubstep sans this former “From First To Last” prodigy. Sadly, the set was plagued with pauses that almost completely threw off the flow of the set. Perhaps a stray space-bar stroke led to these pauses, but the payoff of the beat-drops and transitions into subsequent songs lost their luster. I’m not the biggest electro-music head, but I’d imagine it’s safe to say pauses like these slow down an EDM set to the point of disinterest. After a certain point, the songs became almost too predictable and I found myself regretting not being at Bright Eyes.
I’m sorry you had to play in the daytime, Alice Glass. I know you don’t like it, it’s almost like being punished by the festival patriarchs. I bet they told you not to go into the crowd either, but you didn’t listen. Good for you. I was with many a friend who hated Crystal Castles on record but were infatuated with the live show. The synths and beats are a little clearer live, while retaining the grittiness and heaviness of the record. With a real drummer, and the enthusiasm of Glass, Crystal Castles live show is still a hardcore dance party even in the daytime. Thankfully, even with hindered strobe-lights, Crystal Castles’ set was engaging and a good primer for the headliner to follow.
There’s a reason Muse was given the headlining slot on the southern stage of Lollapalooza. “I know you had…options.” Said Matt Bellamy, “You made the right choice.” And Muse’s set validated that choice. Having put Coldplay and Muse at the same time gave much of the audience (and myself) the feeling of “I wonder how the other band is doing right now” while watching our respective headliners. But, launching into “Uprising” with an impressive light show and equally impressive audience participation made Lollapalooza feel like another universe. There’s a reason Muse can headline massive festivals and play arenas, a combination of their immensely popular songs and even more immense precision on stage. Even times when the music felt improvised, there was a certain degree of calculation involved, solidifying that the trio might be too talented for their own good. Each member got their chance to show off, Matt during the Piano solo of “Butterflies and Hurricanes” while Chris Wolstenhome and Dominic Howard got a drum and bass jam to showcase Wolstenhome’s signature bass fuzz and to reinforce that left-handed drummers do indeed exist.
Perhaps the only complaint about the band’s tightness and precision is that it comes with a cost. Because of the synchronization of the production involved with the show, the setlist is the same thing that I saw over a year and a half ago. After promoting the resistance for nearly two years, I’d hoped the setlist wouldn’t be too heavy on it. While songs like “Uprising” and “United States of Eurasia” translated, “Guiding Light” and “Undisclosed Desires” had the audience disengaged and talking. Granted, the band has to be choosy with so many hits, and people were thankful for cuts such as “Citizen Erased.” However, it’s hard to complain with such a spectacle on stage, even when you could see the reflection of fireworks on a Chicago building coming from the Coldplay camp. “Knights of Cydonia” closed the show, with the most blinding light show and loudest crowd participation of the weekend, I made the right choice indeed.