Day 1 of the annual mega music festival Lollapalooza opened up with muddy grounds thanks to an abundance of overnight rain, causing some dirty conditions for attendees and our own set of reporter in the field: Rummana Hussain, Tina Sfondeles, and Brandon Wall. Still, a sold out crowd descended on Grant Park for opening day sets from the likes of Frightened Rabbit, Lana Del Ray, New Order, Queens of the Stone Age, and Nine Inch Nails.
10 things on a stick as a way to find friends; “Disco Dean,” a stuffed animal pig, an old man, a sunflower, a unicorn, etc.
2 rompers, although I’m sure there were plenty more. Not the smartest thing for girls to wear. Just think of the efforts one must make at the port-o-potty. Ick.
1 Nine Inch nails t-shirt with a picture of Bill Murray.
I counted 12 basketball jerseys, many Bulls jerseys. One Reggie Miller.
Michael Jordan jersey variations: 5 (#23, #45, all-star, Dream Team, North Carolina)
All-consuming dance parties in mud pits: 3
Bros hanging out in trees: 2
Well, we got super lucky with the weather on day one. The day started with the threat of ominous clouds and minutes of pouring rain as Lollapalooza revelers made their way into Grant Park. But then….nothing. A nice breeze whenever the clouds packed the sky. And a steamy little break as the sun peaked through. A very pleasant Lollapalooza day. And believe me, I have suffered through the years past of 100 + degree days, and also the rainfall that sent us all hiding underground last year. – TS
Besides some light showers early in the afternoon, it was just about perfect festival weather on Friday. A steady breeze made the high 70s temperatures infinitely more manageable. Even submerged in the deepest of crowds, it didn’t feel like the third layer of hell like in years past. Some light afternoon showers kept the temperature down and provided a welcome relief, save for the fact that it made quite a bit of mess… – BW
Hometown band the Smith Westerns took the stage early. Lead singer Cullen Omori talked with the crowd frequently, yelling “Go Sox,” after one song, and later telling them the band is proud to be from Old Town! I really want to make fun of Omori’s outfit choice: a white jacket and white pants, and a backwards cap. But, I saw him later at the press tent and realized the hat was a White Sox cap! More Chicago pride. On a musical note, this band is getting better and better live. They didn’t sound nearly as good two years ago. They’re aging and getting better. – TS
I either made a wrong turn or poor life decisions, because the first act I saw was EDM powerhouse Monsta. The duo was actually very good, but I found myself stranded in a sea of teenagers fueled by Red Bull (uh huh…) who were totally stoked to be surrounded by other teenagers fueled by Red Bull (uh huh). I can dance with the best of them, but when a mosh pit broke out and the elbow started flying, I decided it was time to duck out. – BW
Father John Misty started their set just after Chicago boys the Smith Westerns. I was worried a folk rock band wouldn’t be able to grasp the attention of the sweaty fans out there in broad daylight. But J. Tillman, who is also the drummer of Fleet Foxes, started Father John Misty out with hilarious monologues about unicorns (?) and with his eccentric dancing. He flicked off the crowd as one of his songs mentioned going Hollywood. And briefly played “dance music” – just his drummer and bass having a little fun — and demanded the crowd dance. This is a non-depressing folk rock band that knows how to have a good time. – TS
Former Fleet Foxes drummer J. Tillman’s new act “Father John Misty” was an absolute delight, the highlight of Day 1, and an early frontrunner for best surprise. His rocking folk music made for a sweet afternoon and a welcome reprieve from the dubstep party I was trapped in. Tillman’s on-stage banter, which typically can get real boring real fast, was entertaining enough; at one point he kissed a stuffed unicorn head. The real complaint was the heavy thumping of electronic dance music from the Perry’s Stage next door tended to drown things out. – BW
Some people may find taking a tween music fan to Lolla a bit uncomfortable since you have to wave away, explain or ignore the fragrant scent of illegal substances lingering in the air. And yea, maybe when you’re passing by Perry’s where Steve Aoki is urging the dance freaks to yell “F—K you” as loud as they can, you have to tell the kid to close his or her ears. But strangely, a child in your posse can also help show you that there are good people in the world. People give them high fives, compliment them on their soccer jerseys…and, uh, occasionally offer to buy them beer. And when the child is straining to see the stage, someone comes by and gives them a crate to stand on. Awwwwwwwww. – RH
Gone are the days of Lolla festival goers bringing a set amount of cash to buy their share of gourmet food, and lots of beer. All of the Lolla beer tents accept credit cards this year. And that, I believe, will lead to so much more drunkenness. Imagine the kids who spent all their money on tickets. Now they’re using their credit cards to drink their weekends away. I wonder how this will play out by day three. And I wonder how much more festival goers will make with their credit card addition. Like I said, danger! – TS Lolla attendees who’ve never been to the Primate House at Lincoln Park Zoo can get a taste of simian acrobatics at The Grove on the North End of Grant Park watching fellow music fans scale trees with the grace of gibbons and chimpanzees for a better look at the acts. Warning, if you don’t have the motor skills to navigate the rough bark and wayward branches, you may find yourself crashing drown on the ground. But hey, you’re still guaranteed a round of applause from the crowd. – RH
It’s no secret I love Band of Horses. I’ve followed them since their debut album in 2004. Lead singer Ben Bridwell brought out the fan favorites from his first breath, and just kept on going. I had zero signal at the North stages and was so sad not to be able share how great the band sounded. They were the loudest band of the day – thus far. Plain ol’ loud rock with catchy choruses. The band last played in 2009, a late set that Bridwell enjoyed so much he continued to play, even as Perry Farrell took the adjacent stage to end the night! Whoops. Probably shouldn’t dis the festival creator. But four years later, Band of Horses was playing the giant Bud Light stage. Perhaps they didn’t really tick off Farrell. – TS Pied piper types who want to make sure their gaggle of friends can spot them easily at Lolla have gotten pretty creative by making makeshift “spotting poles” that they hold high above the masses like modern day Poseidons wielding their signature Tridents. What makes these eye-catching spears so unusual are the balloons, stuffed animals and blown up selfies attached to the tips of these sticks. Spotted Friday on atop these poles were: a toy squirrel and Spider-Man, seahorse, Buzz Lightyear and Pikachu balloon. – RH
Well, yes, I called it. Chance the Rapper’s tiny BMI stage was out of control. I even saw a guy up in a tree. These were teens in their best little shirts and shorts — some not knowing the Chicago rapper, but intrigued as to what he’s all about. Chance was about 10 minutes late. Which wasn’t really explained. Instead, speakers blasted old ‘90s rap and dance songs to the thrilled teens. Once on stage, Chance was great, and humble —telling the crowd that performing at the festival was one of the greatest things he’s ever done. He made up for the late start, playing at least 10 minutes later. But I must stress, Chance in no way belonged at this stage. There were way too many actual fans there who deserved to see their new favorite rapper on one of the giant stages. Maybe next year. – TS
Chicago native Chance the Rapper’s set left me with a flood of mixed feelings. His Acid Rap mixtape is a strong contender for album of the year and is one of my favorite hip hop albums of all time. I was fully prepared to announce his set the best Lolla had to offer, and while I did like what I saw, there were a few caveats that prevented it from being outstanding.
There are certain expectations and assumptions that come with seeing live hip hop. Save for stadium smashing tours like Watch The Throne, I don’t think live rap music is generally performed with the same caliber of quality as other genres. Even with these tempered expectations, I was let down by Chance’s set. The BMI stage was an entirely inappropriate setting for Chicago’s prodigal son.
A quick glance at the other acts playing there on the weekend, and none even come close to the amount of hype Chance has received. The entire area was absolutely packed 20 minutes before he took the stage, but that didn’t stop countless people from elbowing or shoving their way closer.
The biggest tease in music history came when a track off Kanye West’s Yeezus started blasting over the PA. Chicago’s #1 rapper of 2013 taking the stage to Chicago’s #2 rapper of 2013? Unstoppable. Unfortunately, it was the first of several filler songs as Chance was running late. He finally took the stage ten minutes later and launched from hit to hit (with a discography as shallow-yet-solid as his, every song is a hit) but sloppy mixing work – at least from where I was standing – held the set back. Chance was overpowered by both the music and his hype man.
It was an incredibly jarring experience to hear the music of Acid Rap, Chance’s singing audible but soft, then the hype man’s backup vocal suddenly blasting out of the PA. The levels finally got some semblence of balance, just in time for a live band to take the stage. While it was definitely an improvement, the transition from DJ to band left a several minute gap with no music playing. It was a bizarre stretch that many in the crowd took as the end of the set, (thankfully) heading off to catch other acts. It was the end of any hope that the set would gain some momentum.
The band eventually started up, leading with Paranoia, the secret track that is Chance’s ode to Chicago violence. Chance did not pontificate like Killer Mike at Pitchfork, but he found a way to convey to the audience his thoughts on Chicago’s problems. It’s worth noting that Chicago rap icon Twista made a surprise appearance on one of the last songs to deliver his verses on Cocoa Butter Kisses as only he could – literally. Twista once held the Guinness World Record for fastest rapper, and he was on full display. It didn’t seem like many people in the crowd were into it, or even knew who Twista was, but it was fantastic nonetheless. At least Chance himself sounded solid.
It was obvious he loved being up there performing in front of his hometown. Chicago loves him and he loved the city right back, at one point declaring, “this is the greatest moment of my life!” When he ended his set by crowd surfing in a kiddie pool, the crowd was happy to oblige. For as many many things that didn’t go perfectly, Chance the Rapper still delivered an excellent set. His rise to fame has been as tremendous as the artist himself. His first mixtape released in April 2012, and he’s playing Lollapalooza in August 2013? Can’t wait to see where he’s at in another 16 months. – BW
I’ve seen the stuffed animals on a stick to find my friends routine at several music festivals. But there were some really out there things on a stick this year. Like a guy with a “Disco Dean” picture on a stick. A picture of James Dean and a disco ball? I also saw a stuffed pig on a stick, an old man’s picture on a stick and a unicorn. I wonder what I’ll see tomorrow. – TS
When you cram tens of thousands of people into Grant Park, this is inevitable. For the better part of the day, Lollapalooza was an absolute cell phone dead zone. Nary a tweet nor text was able to escape. “Do you have service?” was one of the most overheard phrases, second only to every last teenage girl saying “I’m so pumped for Lana Del Rey!” It wasn’t until the final acts took their respective stages that some semblance of communication with the outside world was established. – BW
The young ladies were out there showing their belly buttons all day. Midriff tops, many with a floral pattern, and tiny shorts. Daisies and other flowers as headbands were in, as were shirts with low cutouts and bras/lacey undershirts exposed. But some of my favorite outfits came from some of the older crowd, like a guy in his 70s wearing a Death Cab for Cutie t-shirt. – TS
At this point, it’s festival tradition to bust out retro NBA jerseys. There were some pretty obscure ‘90s players, a Wilt Chamberlain or two, but the highlight was definitely the guy rocking a Derrick Rose Simeon jersey. – BW
Dressing as superheroes is a Thing People Do at Lollapalooza now. I saw Super Mario, Iron Man and the Flash, but the absolute best were the two guys dressed as Power Rangers. They were real-life heroes, plucking me from the aforementioned EDM mosh pit before I got trampled. – BW
Griping about the length and cost of repairing Grant Park can officially begin! Afternoon rain made for a little bit of mud, but a couple hours of hard festing turned sizable swaths of the park into a pit. Obviously, that didn’t stop some of the harder-partying dancers from getting into the thick of it, but it’s going to make for a looong weekend. – BW
The rain gods must have really liked Friday’s line-up at Lollapalooza…or maybe they just wanted to give a proverbial finger to weather forecasters and the hipsters snickering at how revelers would get hosed, because barely a drop of water touched attendees. The skies remained clear but cloudy enough for New Order’s Bernard Sumner to proclaim: “I always thought Chicago was like Manchester…except with bad weather…expect for today.” Of course, showers from the night before left parts of the grounds muddy enough to conjure ghosts of Lolla’s past so this generation could roll around in the dirt and have their own mud caked memories. As someone said late Friday night, “Every generation needs its Woodstock.” – RH
Never sounds promising when a rocker is injured. But when the lead singer from a band waaaay in the 80s fractures his leg, you don’t expect him or his mates to tear the stage. But Bernard Sumner and New Order delivered a fun, bouncy set with lots of energy. Even their many aging fans, who were lounging on blankets before the set, couldn’t help but get on their feet when the New Wavers played dance favorites like ‘Blue Monday” and “Bizarre Love Triangle.” But most sweet was when Sumner sang his old band Joy Division’s bitterly sweet “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” The late Ian Curtis would be proud. – RH
Once a polarizing figure in the wake of her “Saturday Night Live” appearance and numerous fashion spreads that make edgier music purists queasy, Lana Del Rey seems to have gotten into her groove. Still, it was hard to hear her honeyed voice even when she belted out “Young and Beautiful” from “The Great Gatsby.” She had a nice red/blood orange dress on, though. – RH
Chicago Pride. Windy City natives have it. But so does every one else at Lolla. From the sea of Michael Jordan jerseys to the lone Chicago flag hoisted up above the masses to the deep dish pizza from Lou Malnati’s and Connie’s, it’s all about giving a First Class shout out to the “Second City.” The Killers’ Brandon Flowers, who hails from Las Vegas, told the folks in Chi-Town Friday night: “We’re the boys from Sin City. We will try not to corrupt you.” He must not read the papers. And really Brandon, could a nice Mormon boy really corrupt us more? Nah. Anyway, we did appreciate when the band belted out Frank Sinatra’s ode to Chicago: “My Kind of Town.” Chicago. Is. – RH
I must say the end of the night was kind of dull. Nine Inch Nails played a no frills set, with no videos for faraway fans to show Trent Reznor rocking out. The videos had been on for the entire day. I’m not sure why the videos weren’t on, but there was some lightning flashing through, so perhaps the festival goers felt it would be safer to shut them down. I liked that NIN didn’t have a flashy set. For the beginning of their set, the band played as giant shadows of themselves reflected behind them. It felt like they were playing for the bands. No frills rock. Across the pond at the other side of the world, the south side main stage, the Killers ended the night. Not an overwhelming sense of excitement for either of the headliners. – TS
Columbus Drive became rickshaw alley as soon I stepped out after Nine Inch Nails’ set. Dozens and dozens were lined up, some with speakers blasting Lolla artists, as couples took a ride to the train, their car or hotels. Rickshaws are definitely the new cab for Lolla festivalgoers with feet that feel on fire at the end of the night. – TS
One last timeplase…