If one word could describe the second day of this year’s Lollapalooza, it would have to be crowded. What a difference a day makes: Apparently lots of people didn’t feel like taking the day off from work on Friday, but each showed up with 10 friends in tow on Saturday. Ordinarily I’d say the more the merrier, but by mid-afternoon it became nearly impossible to get anywhere near any stage, unless you were happy to camp out early and suffer through sweaty, unpleasant-smelling, shirtless dudes being pressed against you. (I wasn’t.)
Day Two’s lineup for some reason wasn’t as appealing to me as the other two days of this year’s Lolla, but I think I was in the minority. Saturday acts included Grizzly Bear, Rusko, Gogol Bordello, the xx, Kaskade, Social Disortion, Metric, Cut Copy, and headliners Empire of the Sun, Phoenix, and Green Day.
Though I only caught a song or two, Metric played to an enormous, rapt audience in the late-afternoon sun. Cut Copy were up next on the same stage, back after a year-and-a-half touring break to play fan favorites, as well as selected cuts from their upcoming third album. After warming up at a sold-out show at Chicago’s Metro venue the night before, Cut Copy were ready to take on the gigantic festival crowd that turned out. Emanating enthusiasm and warmth onstage as always, the Aussies’ infectious excitement inspired hand claps and sing-alongs aplenty as they ran through crowd pleasers like “Lights & Music,” “Far Away,” “Hearts on Fire,” and closer “Out There on the Ice.” When the boys screamed, “Let’s do this, Lollapalooza! Time to fuckin’ dance!” the audience gladly obliged. Several new songs were played, including the just-released, Beach Boys-esque “Where I’m Going” and “Blink and You Miss the Revolution,” a calypso-rock-flavored affair that I liked better. (Side note: Were all four guys on stage wearing light-blue button-down shirts? Come to think of it, I think they may have been wearing the same the night before. And 2ManyDJs’ Dewaele brothers changed out of their white tuxedos into matching light-blue button-down shirts as well Friday night. I am sensing a trend.)
After trying to unsuccessfully fight the crowds to get closer during Cut Copy, I officially gave up for the rest of the day. Therefore, I was pretty far back for Phoenix, who immediately followed the Australians on the stage opposite in the same north end of the park. (This logistically made sense, since the two bands seemed to have a bit of overlap in their fan bases.) Launching straight into an energetic version of “Lisztomania,” it was quickly obvious that people were quite pleased with the performance, as evidenced by loud lyric-singing and joyous, half-assed dancing.
As much as I appreciate Phoenix, I set sail for Perry’s dance stage to try to catch Empire of the Sun’s live set (the only full band of the festival to appear at Perry’s). I arrived just in time to catch the end of Wolfgang Gartner’s DJ set: I had unfortunately missed his scheduled set, planned for 4:30, but apparently so had he. I heard he missed a flight, then was squeezed back in the slot before Empire of the Sun, though I’m not sure who was bumped or how long exactly Gartner played. I wish there had been an easier way for organizers to convey the change, as I knew a few people got the info too late.
Empyreans and curious onlookers alike congregated in large numbers to witness the first American show Empire of the Sun have done. And they did not disappoint: From the surreal, mystical, prog-rock-y videos playing behind them, to their shiny metallic suits and headpieces, to the very ‘80s-inspired choreography, clouds of smoke, and more, Empire of the Sun were like an exotic, alien musical group who had taken a magical mystery tour to Earth as their planet’s ambassadors of electro-pop. Sonically, it was good, fun, upbeat dance music, but presentation-wise, Empire of the Sun came across like total rockstars, putting the imagery and imagination back into stage performances -- something far too few artists are doing these days.
Though I didn’t see them, Green Day seem to have hit a lot of high notes with festivalgoers, engaging in a lot of audience participation and playing a considerable amount of their back catalog. (Though, conversely, I also heard complaints from longtime fans that they would have preferred more music/less audience participation, and less hits/more old album tracks.) The set ended up with quite a bang: More fireworks overhead, and a small hot air balloon-type thing that I can only assume launched during the fireworks.
Other miscellaneous notes:
Click here to read Jen Zipf's impressions of the festival's first day.