Photography by Mark Corece
The first day of Lollapalooza 2011 got off to a rocky start for some, as issues with ticket and wristband scanners at the front gates created a bottle neck and long wait times.
Once inside the gates, fans wandered over the Perry’s stage, where Lady D started off the fest by getting the crowds moving under a colossal white tent that sheltered the stage this year. Reminiscent of the tents at the Coachella music festival in Indio, CA, the tent was about as long as a football, and a far departure from the tiny stage in a shaded area of the park where it was located in year’s past. The upgrade in size seemed to signal the shifting of popularity from the more heavily rock-influenced lineups of the past 20 years into more of a dance focus. As Ana Tijoux took the stage at Perry’s it began to become apparent this would be the place to be over the weekend. As she ripped through her setlist with lyrical voracity, more and more fans trickled into the tent. Into the course of the day and the remainder of the weekend, the tent would stay full, nearly to capacity.
Over at the Google+ stage, the high energy continued as Le Butcherettes brought a devil may care punk vibe all the way from Mexico City. Their intense, hard-rocking set proved to be a little too much for drummer Gabe Serbian, as he vomited off the side of his drum kit. But that didn’t keep him, or powerhouse frontwoman Teri Gender Bender down. Clad in what appeared to be a blood-stained butcher’s smock, she growled and sneered through the set and dove into the crowd. After the set, she was a sweetheart to fans standing along the barricade at the front of the stage, signing autographs, taking pictures and talking with fans until being pulled away to do an official autograph session at the f.y.e. Autograph Tent.
At the North end of the park, Bright Eyes was more low key and all about the feelings. The crowd sang along with Conor Oberst’s sentimental lyrics as the sun slowly began its descent into sunset behind the skyline. Oberst ended the set by jumping off the stage and into the press pit, where he high-fived and hugged fans against the barricades. Even a couple of lucky security guards got bear hugs from Oberst as he sang the last song of his set.
Right before the start of the competing headlining sets by Muse and Coldplay began, near chaos had ensued back at Perry’s where it seemed as though promoters had underestimated the draw of Afrojack, and the night’s third headlining act, Girl Talk. The tent had turned into a swamp of steam and sweat as revelers piled in to party. By the time Girl Talk took the stage, the crowd had spilled outside of the tent, with more daring fans dancing on top of generators to the mashed-up, seemingly schizophrenic party anthems Girl Talk is famous for.
The aftermath of Friday night’s rager in the Perry’s tent was apparent when heading towards the south end of the park early Saturday. Alternating panels had been removed from the top of the Perry’s tent, in an apparent effort to prevent overheating. The once lush grass that had covered the ground in the tented area had been reduced to muck, the worst of which wouldn’t be seen until Sunday.
While Super Mash Bros. took the stage for their brand of mash-ups, the crowd was not as dense, or as enthusiastic, as they had been the night before. With their Good Burger intro and the Nickelodeon imagery used on the monitors throughout their set, they could have been billed as Girl Talk, Jr.
Across the park, at the Bud Light stage, Death From Above 1979 were melting faces with their high-octane rock as fans were melting in the sun. In an ominous forewarning of things to come later in the weekend, they began to play “Thunderstruck” by ACDC, then stopped and joked they didn’t know how to play the whole song. This half of the day belonged to the North end of the park, as fans poured in to catch Deftones directly following DFA1979, on the stage opposite them. While DFA1979 roared at a volume that could be heard from Chow Town, the corridor of food vendors, Deftones seemed to be working in a volume only audible to dogs. Chino Moreno’s voice seemed reduced to a whisper, while fans were expecting roaring sounds from this band.
But it was Eminem that was arguably the most anticipated act of the day, closing out the night at the Music Unlimited stage on the South end of the park. Entering the stage after a somewhat melodramatic video touting the night as his “recovery”, there was unfortunately, too much Recovery, that is, too many songs from his newest album. He seemed to want to focus on the present (and his present state of mind) and not dwell on the past, or the older hits that forged the path for his success today. Before playing his first hit single “My Name Is”, he enacted a hokey skit in which he teased the audience, asking whether or not he should keep his sobriety by chugging a handle of vodka onstage. The audience responded with some cheers, but mostly confusion, as he simulated drinking from the bottle as water squirted from his jacket. His punchline “I guess I’m just not made for that stuff anymore,” failed to deliver, but segued into older songs, sending the audience into a sing-along frenzy.
While it had its high points, Saturday just didn’t seem to have the same amount of energy as Friday, when the festival kicked off. It could have been that the excitement and enthusiasm of opening day had passed, but it could have partially been the bigger acts that were expected to knock it out of the park, but instead delivered a few soft blows.
The rain Sunday morning got the crowd off to a slow start, with a slower trickle into the gates than on the days past. At the Sony stage, Lord Huron played to a meager, but enthusiastic crowd that swayed and clapped along in the hot sun. By the time their set ended, Titus Andronicus developed a somewhat larger crowd that chanted and waved flags along with the set. The boggy heat did not seem to keep them down, as they chanted for an encore at the end of the performance, to no avail.
Returning to the Perry’s tent, it seemed like a good thing there was just one day left of the festival. The combination of what little rain had come so far, and thousands of sweating dancers had reduced the tent and the areas surrounding the tent into an absolute mud pit. Nearly impossible to walk through without losing a shoe, or worse, it made getting to and from any bathrooms or bar tents in the area nearly impossible. But it didn’t deter fans of The Cool Kids, who once again filled the tent to the gills as the hometown boys took the stage to uproarious cheers. They played several songs from their new album, When Fish Ride Bicycles, but it was the songs off their EP The Bake Sale that had fans screaming out the choruses, particularly of the songs “Black Mags” and “Gold and a Pager”.
As the sun sizzled on the skin of fans on the South end, The Cars took the stage and kicked things off with “Let The Good Times Roll”. While fans certainly wanted to take their advice, The Cars didn’t seem to hold up their end of the bargain. Perhaps their brand of new wave was just such a stark contrast to the high octane acts of Friday’s lineup, or because they didn’t have the dramatics of Eminem, but their set didn’t seem to pack a punch. They sounded great, but were much more low-key than any of the acts that performed.
Just as Best Coast started to bring its buzzy, sunshine surf pop to the Google+ stage, Mother Nature decided she wasn’t in a sunny mood. The first, and longest, downpour of the night began, sending fans seeking shelter from the hard rain under trees, ponchos, merch tents or anything that would keep them dry. The fans at the headlining stages weren’t as fortunate to be surrounded by shelter, but made the most of the muck, moshing to Cage the Elephant as they closed out their set at the Playstation stage, one of the few stages lucky enough to be on concrete and not grass or baseball diamonds.
By the time Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley and Nas got about half way through their set, Marley seemed to have willed the rain away by waving his Rastafarian flag at it for nearly the whole set. It may have been the full on double rainbow that appeared when the rain stopped, but Nas and Damian Marley seemed to help the crowd find the energy it hadn’t seen since Friday. Towards the end of the set, they played a few songs from each of their respective solo acts, but the biggest feel-good singalong moment of the day was when Damian covered his father’s song “Could You Be Loved”. As the crowd sand word for word, they seemed to forget how wet and miserable they were not even an hour prior.
The buzz surrounding dueling headliners Deadmau5 and Foo Fighters seemed pretty evenly split, as it was the first time the DJ would take the headlining stage, but it was the first time the veteran rock group would play Lollapalooza in all of its 20 years. Due to technical difficulties involving the rain, Deadmau5 was unable to play with the full light show he had planned, and in an generally unprecedented move, played a good majority of his set with the mau5 head off.
Foo Fighters did not disappoint in their first Lollapalooza appearance. Even as the rains poured down once again, this time harder and colder, the band kept powering through hit after hit, playing “Hero” for those that stayed to sing along in the rain. The band hit all the right marks; they played a good mix of older hits and newer songs from their album, like one of their latest singles “Rope”, their inter-song banter was minimal and not gimmicky, and they kept their set high-energy and fun. As they closed out their set with “Everlong”, we wished it really could be this way forever.