My personal expectation bar was set high for this year’s Lollapalooza: Not only did I have fond memories of the Lollapaloozas of my youth (in the festival’s touring incarnation), but I’d heard nothing but raves from attendees of the mammoth annual event (now stationed in Chicago). With a pretty awesome line-up, I figured 2009 was about time for me to see what all the fuss was about …
And Lollapalooza did not disappoint … but Mother Nature can be a bitch. You can’t really judge a festival by the unfortunate weather that happens to transpire, but … it’s kinda hard to ignore a pretty consistent downpour when you’re standing in it for hours and hours. Similar to the first day of last weekend’s All Points West festival in NJ, festivalgoers were forced to tough out the inclement weather, potentially hazardous mudslides, and risk of being poked in the eye by the umbrella of a dancing attendee (yes, they did allow umbrellas inside the festival grounds). Asphalt walkways throughout the park provided some mud-free pathways, while ample tree covering provided some natural shelter. One meteorological plus: The temperature stayed relatively comfortable (I’d unscientifically venture to say it mostly felt low-to-mid 70s).
Weather aside, the general vibe of festivalgoers was pretty positive, if a little lower key than I’ve seen at other festivals (again, the sogginess could have, er, dampened spirits a bit). I witnessed little bad behavior, surprisingly unoffensive fashion choices (perhaps because all the ponchos were covering them), and only the usual amount of random mini-circles of wildly bizarre dancing.
Most importantly, the music was incredible. Though I had all these big pre-arrival ideas about seeing a bit of this and a bit of that at different stages, I quickly realized upon entrance to Grant Park that the sheer enormity of the grounds might make that plan unfeasible – you’re looking at a roughly 20-25 minute walk from one end of the park to the other, so unless you’re jumping to the next stage over from where you are, good luck with the set-hopping. Therefore, I mostly stuck close to Perry’s stage, the Lolla-equivalent of Coachella’s Sahara tent. I hear this year’s Perry’s is quadruple the size of last year … and as it remained jam-packed afternoon through night, I’d say the expansion was a wise and necessary idea.
After making it in the gates late due to travel issues, I managed to get in just in time to see The Bloody Beetroots completely slaughter the crowd with an all-out sonic assault. The mask-wearing Italian duo whipped the waterlogged crowd into a frenzy, incorporating their own high-energy tunes like “Cornelius” and “Warp” into their DJ set. Next up, A-Trak took the decks, representing for Canada and throwing down an eclectic yet extremely of-the-moment set of blazing tracks that made the crowd forget about the weather.
Around this point in the day, a miracle occurred: The rain stopped! Just like that. True, the grounds were (and probably still will be for the rest of the weekend) a sloppy mess, but at least umbrellas could be tucked away and attendees could look up and enjoy the night sky without getting hit in the eyes by raindrops. Following A-Trak, Simian Mobile Disco took stage with a now-customary stellar and diverse DJ set of dancefloor bliss. While it’s disappointing they weren’t able to do their full, mind-blowing live stage show, they certainly worked the crowd and threw in a few of their own tracks and remixes (like their mix of Inner City’s “Big Fun”) for good measure, ending it with an exquisite mix of Aphex Twin’s “Windowlicker” that I’m hoping is available somewhere … Italy’s Crookers (is Italy the new France?) were up next with a hardcore DJ set that incited the enthusiastic crowd with the help of their hypeman – one crowd-pleasing highlight: their remix of AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck.”
Though I’d hoped to sample a bit more of the musical menu my first day, I left feeling pretty satisfied. Other notable acts on stage Friday included headliners Depeche Mode and Kings of Leon, Crystal Castles, Kid Cudi, Of Montreal, and Fleet Foxes. And oddly enough, I hear that Perry Farrell brought out a “special guest” for his Kids’ Stage performance … LeeAnn Rimes, she of recent tabloid fodder and country-pop fame.
One last musing: Why do the “official Lollapalooza aftershows” begin so early? The festival grounds close surprisingly early each day (10 p.m.), yet by the time one gets out of the park and walks to their destination and/or transport of choice, it would realistically be 11 or later before they would arrive. (And, you know, it’s also not a bad idea to shower and change after skating through mud all day, which adds on some time.) So, should you plan to attend an aftershow, you’re either missing several acts of the festival to make it on time, or arriving so late to the aftershow you’re sure to miss a good deal of the performances. Weird, and not in an awesome way.
Hoping Saturday is a less water-filled affair, though the heat index is expected to hit 100 … More soon.