It’s been about two weeks since the last day of Lollapalooza, and yep, I’ve still got the damn wristband wrapped around my right wrist. Now, it may be because of my premature hoarding habits, but it’s more likely because of my inability to snip off some of the best memories I’ve had in a three day time span. Was it the whooping 270,000 people who showed up that made it so memorable? How about one of the most diverse line ups, with headliners from Black Sabbath to Bassnectar? Or was it the evacuation, when swarms of concert goers splashed through the Chicago streets and took cover wherever they could, coming together more than ever before while sprawled throughout the city awaiting the time when they could sprint back through those Lollapalooza gates? Here, I’ll try and make sense of that adventure beyond adventures, a weekend to top all weekends, and talk about some of the highlights that made Lollapalooza 2012 a force to be reckoned with.
God, I love Australians. It was the first day of the festival, and at 3:15 in the afternoon, it was hot as hell. But if anything could wake us up from the sleepy fatigue of the blistering summer heat, it was the sweet and psychedelic sounds of Tame Impala. Kicking things off with “Solitude is Bliss”, a song containing quite possibly one of the best riffs of 2011, it was time to wipe the sweat from our foreheads- and everywhere else- and dance the heat away. Pausing to deal with some technical problems (come on Sony Stage, pull yourself together) Tame Impala’s mastermind, Kevin Parker, commended our ability to stand the summer sun, saying, “You guys are fuckin’ soldiers”, and also noting that he believed his guitar pedal had melted. Despite the techy problems, Tame Impala rocked their way through a set packed with jam sessions and a couple new songs too. Did I mention I love Australians?
At The Drive In
At times, the whole indie community and EDM scene can get a little fuzzy. Lets be real, there are some bands that can easily be interchangeable, and have those “I thought (insert miscellaneous band name here) sang this song!” “No, no, that’s (other miscellaneous band name).” moments. That’s just one of the reasons that when At The Drive In took to the Red Bull Stage, the energy was high. If there was anyone who could snatch us away from the indie band live performance formula, it was them. At The Drive In said “F U” to structured concert cliches and flipped off what you and every other up and coming band THOUGHT you knew about the way to handle major festivals. Frontman Cedric Bixler-Zavala pretty much said, screw you’re usual festival bullshit, I’m gonna do this my way. And as he leaped about the stage spastically, wailing along to some oldies like “Lopsided” and the hits, of course, like “One Armed Scissor”, the rest of the band followed suit- well, almost. Omar Rodriguez- Lopez was, for whatever reason, not feelin it. While the rest of the band gave every ounce of their energy, Rodriguez- Lopez just stood there and played guitar. No worries though, Cedric provided an adequate amount of entertainment- groping camera men, jumping from drum sets, and distracting us from technical difficulties with talk of the infamous chancla- which especially pleased fans of Latin descent.
Haven’t heard of this band? Expected. Neither did we when we strolled up to the Playstation Stage that Saturday morning, but always eager to hear new music, we woke up early despite their anonymity. And boy was that a good decision. There’s always that band at a festival that’s unknown to you but seems to suck you in as you saunter around their stage. This year, that band was Milo Greene. With a debut released just two weeks prior to the festival, they were obviously delighted by the crowd they’d mustered up early into their set. Out of the many pleasant surprises this band offered to us and one of the most memorable, was when they paid tribute to the wonderful city that is Chicago, playing a perfectly suited cover of Sufjan Stevens’ “Chicago” which was, in my humble opinion, one of the most beautiful moments of the entire festival. They kicked off our Saturday perfectly, and as the crowd departed the stage, their was a murmur of conversation on how great they were. Milo Greene is a band to watch out for, because if their Lollapalooza debut meant anything- they’re going places, and fast.
Let me preface this by saying that GIVERS are one of the most adorable bands ever. They’re happy and energetic, which makes everyone else happy and energetic. And Lollapalooza was no exception. GIVERS set was another example of what happens when numerous factors are aligned perfectly, and everything just fits. The stage, amidst the dirt and trees with the sun coming in just right; The crowd, some passing joints, others just dancing (everyone having a good time); And the band, who brought a refreshing spirit and energy that was pretty much unmatched throughout the weekend. Don’t get me wrong, there were tons of bands at Lolla who were great live. But there was just something about GIVERS that set them apart. It was their willingness to completely let go and have the best time possible, and enjoy the huge crowd they didn’t expect to get, and not sweat the small stuff. Early into their set, there were some technical difficulties and frontman Taylor Guarisco announced he couldn’t hear his own mic. “But that’s a first world problem isn’t it? We’re gonna have fun anyways,” And that they did. All the while, a loved Lollapalooza veteran, “Squirt Boy”, refreshed the elated fans throughout the crowd by spraying mists of cold water with his industrial water container, clad with a rotating nozzle that allowed the water to reach about 45 feet in length. Closing their set with the insanely danceable “Up Up Up”, there we were- a misted crowd glistening in the sun, and dance is just what we did.
Earlier I talked about the magic of experiencing a set where all factors are balanced perfectly. Sigur Rós did not have that luck. A band meant for sunsets was given a time slot when the sun was the brightest and the heat was exhausting. But as the Icelandic band took to the stage and thousands stood before them, something beautiful happened- the music prevailed. Sigur Rós’ otherworldly sound permeated through the sun and the heat and the stench of mud- and for once, the audience fell silent, and we stood together in a hushed sense of admiration. There truly was no other moment like it in all three days of the festival. With the sun beating down on us relentlessly, we escaped with the music and somehow, things got cooler. Have Spacesuit- Will Travel? More like, Have Sigur Rós- Will Travel.
Coated in blue light, we danced. Jack White- the frontman of The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, and The Dead Weather- knows what the hell he’s doing. With both an all male and all female backing band, (The Buzzards and The Peacocks) White Stripes tracks sounded better than ever having been revamped with a new twang and charm found in his debut solo album, Blunderbuss. With an expansive setlist chronicling his vast and jam packed career, fans got a little bit of everything and a whole lot of music. But we weren’t just watching a Rock God in action, we were there, we were present, we were alive and under the spell of Jack White’s inevitable sense of how to accent the power of great fucking live music. But he didn’t just play songs in front of a crowd, he created a world in front of us, for us, by him. The music took on a new life in that blue tinged light, a life that Jack White was noticeably proud of- and rightfully so. And after the anthem that was Seven Nation Army, “God bless you, be careful. Now go home and hug your mothers and fathers — whatever you have.” was pretty much the best way to say goodbye to Lollapalooza 2012.