Lollapalooza: Music lovers flock to Chicago fest
Posted August 4, 2012
Lollapalooza has grown exponentially in its eight years as a stationary festival in Chicago and from its traveling beginnings 21 years ago. On Friday at Grant Park, the sold-out event welcomed 100,000 music fans, up 10,000 from 2011. With bands that span myriad genres, from hip-hop to EDM, indie rock to metal, the festival draws as diverse a crowd, varying in age and tastes.
Pre-party: While the festival itself kicked off Friday, official Lollapalooza-tagged events began prior in offsite locales throughout the city. On Thursday, Spin and Windish Agency, a Chicago-based boutique booking agency, held a rooftop event at W Hotel on Lakeshore Drive, where Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs performed. At the Double Door venue, the cable channel Fuse hosted several bands, including Fidlar and Delta Spirit. Neon Indian and Twin Shadow held court at Filter magazine's party, and that's just to name just a few of the pre-parties.
Still growing at 21: Perry Farrell of Jane's Addiction, Lollapalooza's creator, has just one expectation for this year's fest. "What I want to see grow is (for the fest's) tentacles to extend out to the city and more things going on outside after. People have come from around the globe, 11% of our audience now is international, so they're here and they're young," he told USA TODAY backstage in the newly revamped artist area, where neatly lined-up white cabana tents with front porches serve as temporary homes for the weekend's artists.
While his band isn't playing Lollapalooza proper, it is headlining a sold-out show at Chicago's Aragon on Saturday, an official Lollapalooza aftershow. "We're going to have wood nymphs running around the venue," he says, a new addition to the band's theatrics. The show will also be streamed live, using a 360-degree technology that allows viewers to control the angles they see on their screens.
Go big: Perry's, the area where the majority of DJs and electronic dance music artists will perform over the weekend, expanded in scope. Last year, the area was housed in a tent, which left many attendees out in the cold, or in Lolla's case, the blazing heat, as the tent was often overcrowded. This year, organizers ditched the tent for an open field. And while this led to occasional sound bleed in between songs from those playing stages on the south side of Grant Park, the move was for the better, giving the ever-growing fans of EDM more space in which to groove. Midday, Zedd drew a sizable crowd and by evening, Perry's stage headliner Bassnectar easily filled the field and then some, with his chest-rattling beats.
Sweating it out: Though the temperature high was in the 90s, Swedish sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg of First Aid Kit seemed right at home with their Americana-influenced stylings. Alongside their own compositions, which featured lovely harmonies, they paid homage to a fellow artist from their homeland, Fever Ray, turning her icy When I Grow Up into a warm, homey folk song.
One man sweated an important question out during Yellow Ostrich's set, though it wasn't a band member. Singer Alex Schaff took a break from the band's indie-pop renderings to say, "I have a special announcement to make" before bringing a couple onstage. The man then proposed to the woman, asking that she please say yes so he wouldn't be embarrassed. "Thank God she said yes," Schaff said, jokingly adding that a "no" might have gone viral on YouTube and been good promotion for the band.
The next generation: Those seeking shelter from the heat that also wanted to catch rock royalty's progeny looked no further than thenewno2, a band including Dhani Harrison, son of late Beatle George Harrison. The group's thefearofmissingyou album arrived this week. Their electro-tinged rock had a looser style live than what's found on record, but the chillout vibe was a good respite from the increasing temperatures of the day.
Jumping fences: Security has been a growing concern for organizers. This year the perimeter on the east, which parallels Lake Shore Drive, boasts a high metal fence, added defense against gate crashers, who now have to scale three sets of fences to gain illegal entry from that side of the festival. "It was getting nutty and it was becoming sport, shall we say. But it was getting dangerous because they came running from a highway," Farrell says. "The one thing I don't want to see at my festival is people getting hurt." Despite the extra precautions, just before 6 p.m., what looked to be a hundreds-strong crowd pushed over the new barrier and swarmed in between the two fences at the northeast corner. Although the security people stationed there looked outnumbered, it was contained quickly as the jumpers couldn't get beyond the second fence. Before the sun set, the outer barrier was back in place.
Fashion forward: Singer Dev has a unique style to go along with her mesh of electro, pop and hip-hop. At the CKOne Music Lounge at Hard Rock Hotel, she was looking radiant, and fittingly dressed in Calvin Klein and wearing the brand's makeup. As a fashion fan, who is she most looking forward to seeing onstage? "Florence + the Machine is there, Santigold is there, Frank Ocean's there … I mean, Santi's amazing, she's probably my favorite fashion-wise, she's so rad." Dev changed into a denim baby-doll dress that she bought at Nasty Gal for her set later in the day.
It's been an interesting year for the singer. On Monday, she filed a lawsuit against her record label, former manager and attorney stemming from contracts she signed. "I'm having such a good day, I prefer not to (talk about the suit). I would hate to waste any time on that," she says. She also became a new mom (daughter Emilia is 8 months old) and released debut album The Night The Sun Came Up, which she describes as her rags-to-riches story. "It's been awesome. I couldn't have asked for a better growing process in life, really," she says. "Having a baby and putting out an album are two of the gnarliest things that could have happened at the same time."
She's also found inspiration in Emilia. "I've turned into this weird '70s woman, I've moved to the woods and I write music with my baby at my house. I've matured a lot since I've had her, actually."
She and Emilia's father, professional skateboarder Jimmy Gorecki, are engaged, though they haven't yet set a date. "But I did buy my wedding dress, which is a little bit backwards, but it doesn't matter because the dress is so awesome." She also shared the direction that she hopes her sophomore album will head. "I actually want to play a little bit more with live instrumentation for the next album."
Reunited: Black Sabbath, who headlined Friday, had a reunion of sorts with three of its four original members. Additionally, At the Drive-In, who play Sunday, and the Afghan Whigs also reunited this year. For Whigs singer Greg Dulli, the reformation wasn't a nostalgia trip. "We've started to kind of jam a little bit, like we jammed the end of Miles Iz Ded today. You get us in a room and we expand on whatever we do," Dulli says after the set. "It's looking forward and looking backward at the same time and it's been refreshing to do that, to catch my breath and go, 'Wow, this is who I am, how did I become (this)?' "
He describes revisiting material as "emotional anthropology. … I play better now, I don't smoke, so I'm a better singer." That was evident onstage, where songs such as Miles Iz Ded and Crazy were powerful reminders why the group's soul/R&B-infused rock still resonates. Among the covers: Frank Ocean's Lovecrimes, a further statement that Dulli and company are in step with the times. "Frank Ocean's going to be a superstar … and it will be a forever thing, because of the way he's coming up," Dulli says.
The band plays a sold-out aftershow Saturday at Metro. "The bells and whistles are coming out tomorrow night," he promises.
Dance off the turmoil or revel in romance: That was the question to ponder around 6 p.m. at the festival. On the northside was Passion Pit. Meanwhile, southsiders were treated to The Shins. And though it wasn't quite the crosstown battle that Chicagoans face when talking Cubs vs. Sox, it definitely drew a line in the field in terms of mood.
Last month, Passion Pit singer Michael Angelakos canceled several tour dates "to work on improving my mental health," he wrote on the band's website. If anything was ailing him, however, it didn't show. Launching with Take A Walk, he was buoyant, and the crowd was, too. The band also played earlier work, including the soaring Moth's Wings and Better Things. And though the songs they performed from new album Gossamer traversed the singer's darkly personal issues, the set — wrapped in swaths of synth — was more exuberant catharsis.
The Shins and the crowd in comparison were a much more mellow, though pretty, affair. Where Passion Pit was a frenzy of dancing revelers, The Shins' romantic compositions imbued more reflection. Songs such as the field-wide singalong Phantom Limb and spine-tingly classic New Slang were crowd favorites.
Big Time: The Black Keys have moved up the Lollapalooza ladder in time slot and stage to headliner, and judging from the crowds utter rapture, it made sense. Frontman Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney rounded out their heady, stomping blues-rock with the addition of a bassist and keyboardist, which gave songs such as Money Maker even more swagger. Runaway hit Lonely Boy incited an impromptu dance pit at the side of the stage that built until set's end, leaving the booty-shakers sweat-soaked and dusty, a seemingly fitting way to close the night out — the same way it began.
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