by Jose Luis Benavides
Friday was the perfect kick off to Lollapalooza. The warm sun and clear skies set the stage for a perfect summer’s day. Our first act of the day, Los Amigos Invisibles (LAI), played their hearts out to hundreds of adoring fans. In the middle of their set, it started raining LAI beach balls and LAI thongs from the stage. José Luis Pardo gave a triumphant performance, with psychedelic rock riffs, ’90s jams and salsa solos to start the weekend off with a bang. By the end of the set, lead singer Julio Briceño was drenched in sweat and the pianist started stripping and humping his piano. The crowd went wild, and we all enjoyed the midday shade at the Playstation Stage. On the Adidas Mega stage Matt and Kim gave a ferociously energetic performance. While waiting for Devo to play, I crept into the pit to watch Johnson (piano/synth) and Schifino (drums) tear into their instruments and rock the hell out of the electrified audience. Their energy was unparalleled. Their exuberance and zeal for punk-rock synth-pop left me spellbound. From the south east end of the park, the view of the massive crowd set against the breathtakingly beautiful Chicago skyline was awe inspiring. A steady stream of crowd surfers, and Kim climbing on top of amps, set their performance apart above the rest. Keeping with the Matt & Kim enthusiasts, the entire day was a carnival spectacle of Gaga impersonators. Gozamos caught a couple Gaga-ers in their best Gaga-garments.
Waiting for Gaga and the Monster Ball, Hot Chip tore up the grass and baseball-diamond dance floor with their singular digital-pop, dance-house beats and electro-pop melodies. Chomping away on some overpriced pizza and lemonade in the Chow Town South food vendors row, I was taken back to my midnight pizza and coffee-induced all nighters and the nostalgic romance of my naive but sincere youth, through Hot Chip’s live-electro swish and swills. Chromeo, devised of Patrick Gemayel of Arabic descent and Dave Macklovitch of Jewish heritage, surprised and entertained with their hip-hop wit, while the masses endured the blistering sun, and mosquito infested wait for the illustrious Lady Gaga. The much anticipated, glamor-gogue Gaga gave a lack luster performance, despite the giant, smoking green pick up truck that later converted into an organ and her shrill screaming, her costumes were impressive and her mad love for her Queer fan-base and her monster-ball brothers and sisters, were not enough to keep me in the crowd. Champion of the underdogs, Lady-G just didn’t cut it. I expected more from her live performance. More burning beds, trippy lights, perhaps a giant Gaga puppet dancing across the stage would have given jump-start to her drab performance. I ventured back to Perry’s stage, the notoriously sexed up and smoke filled, well shaded and very laid back DJ stage, where I could see Gaga’s all-too-late and overcompensating firework finale. I caught the last hour of 2manyDJs, with a captivating digital backdrop full of hilarious and creative flash animations. The crowd at Perry’s was not short of glow stick dancers and Mary J. Rumor had it that the Strokes, playing against Lady Gaga and the Perry’s stage ravers, started late and ended early, with a few smoke breaks in the middle of their set. Fans were disappointed by their short set but also elated to see their high school sweetheart band, The Strokes, perform the main stage.
by Melissa Nuñez-Mangold
And while it seemed like everyone and their mother came out to see Lady Gaga’s spectacle on Friday night, somehow Saturday’s crowd seemed to be even bigger. Walking from stage to stage on the fest’s first day was easier, but Saturday’s congestion seemed to buzz with the budding question – Phoenix or Green Day? Everyone seemed to be curious to see just what effect going to Broadway would have on the savvy veterans of Green Day.
The crowd also seemed to be just as curious about British indie-pop band The xx, flooding the PlayStation stage and creating the most difficult to navigate bottleneck of the day. It seemed though that their brand of shoe-gazing, mellowed out music didn’t really translate well to a sun-drenched summer festival, where people were revved up and ready to dance, mosh or head bang. Instead, what they got in The xx crowd was a sea of red, sweaty people staring into a blinding sun just above the stage while barely swaying side to side. While their album is great, it would probably do best in a more intimate venue, in the dark.
On the other end of Grant Park, things were a bit more fired up when gypsy-punkers Gogol Bordello took the stage. Followed by AFI, Social Distortion and Slightly Stoopid, Saturday’s energy seemed to belong to the South end of Grant Park. It was the old school throwbacks that got the crowd most riled up, as Social Distortion tore through Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” and Slightly Stoopid brought a reggae vibe to John Denver’s “Leaving on a Jet Plane”. Even though both bands had phenomenal sets, the focus of the evening still seemed to be on what Green Day would bring to the table.
Those that caught their show got nothing short of showmanship from the veteran rockers. They powered through their newer politically charged material with vigor, and even threw in a few classic hits like “Shout” and “Hey Jude”. But it was their older hits that got the crowd most riled up, particularly during “Longview”, when lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong pulled a fan up on stage to sing a verse. The fan commandeered the stage with such authority that a verse turned into the the entire song, earning the respect of both the crowd and Armstrong, who handed over his guitar to the fan as he left the stage. The band ended up playing past their 10:00 end time, but no one seemed to mind. It seems the boys picked up a thing or two on the Great White Way.
by Melissa Nuñez-Mangold
The excited party atmosphere continued into Sunday at Perry’s where Nervo and Chiddy Bang kept the crowd moving mid-day. Despite the stifling humidity and the wear of two days of partying, everyone was on their feet and shaking their ass. At one point a conga line even snaked its way through the back-end of the crowd. One of the highlights of Perry’s Sunday lineup, though, was Mexican Institute of Sound. Towards the end of Chiddy Bang’s set, more and more green Mexico soccer jerseys and “Yo Digo Baila Tu Dices Dance” shirts seemed to congregate near Perry’s, awaiting Instituto Mexicano del Sonido to begin their set. When I.M.S took the stage they had the whole area surrounding Perry’s dancing to “Cumbia” and jumping along to “Yo Digo Baila”. The stage, dedicated to mostly dance music, was sequestered to the shady tree lined area across Columbus Drive, a newly acquired space for this year’s festival. That shady spot seemed to be key on the last and hottest day of the fest.
It’s unclear whether it was Sunday morning’s rain showers or the return of grunge to Grant Park that inspired Sunday’s favorite footwear choice of big black boots, but it was without a doubt Soundgarden that drove the noticeably older crowd to the Parkways Foundation stage Sunday night. Not to discredit Australian rockers Wolfmother, who ripped through song after song with the swagger of Led Zeppelin, but it was clear nearly everyone on that end of Grant Park was anxiously awaiting the return of Soundgarden. After the band’s break-up thirteen years ago, fans were anxious to see what Chris Cornell and company would bring to Chicago. With little banter between songs, Cornell powered through hits like “Spoon Man” and “Blow Up The Outside World”. Although, after seeing the high-energy shows of Lady Gaga and Green Day, Soundgarden seemed to close out the festival with more of a whimper than a bang. Cornell just didn’t seem engaged with the audience in the way the other performers had, which was mildly disappointing, especially considering die-hard Soundgarden fans had been waiting so long to hear them once again. While Green Day seemed to have the gusto to rock the Lollapalooza stage once again in their older age, Soundgarden seemed to lack the energy they had brought to the early years of the festival. Whether they just didn’t have it anymore, or if it was old hat to them at this point in their lives is questionable. It did seem to signal a passing of the torch, however; the generation that pioneered Lollapalooza had its day, and now it is the job of the Lady Gagas and MGMTs of the music world to carry this festival forward.