Lollapalooza 2014: Day Two
Saturday August 2, 2014 - Grant Park- Chicago: The second day of Lollapalooza had a lot to live up to after the female driven fireworks that rocked the faces of each crowd from of Verona to Iggy Azalea. I'll go on record as it being one of the greatest days of live music I've ever seen. Entering Grant Park on Saturday, the sun was shining down in what appeared to be a near perfect day. Attendance in the first part of the day was sporadic due to late Friday night festivities that included nearly a dozen after shows, but the streets of Grant Park were filled to the brim once again by 3pm. The second day of Lollapalooza 2014 may not have reached the emotional heights of day one, but it contained the single best set I witnessed all weekend (thank you to Fitz and the Tantrums) and Lollapalooza proved to me that at its heart the festival serves as a showcase for new talent finding their way in the world of music seeking an audience who will find themselves in their songs.
Anna Lunoe 12:20pm
Opening day two on Perry's stage was Australian Anna Lunoe, who has often been the support for the heavy hitters of the EDM scene in Australia. Big beats and a beating sun don't deter the fans who are out in full force even though half of the attendees were most likely just waking up.
The Districts 12:30pm
Hailing from a small town in Pennsylvania, The Districts growled with grief their impassioned distorted strumming shimmered throughout the field. I was making my way to their set when apparently part of the speaker system blew out, but the band apparently surged forward without it fazing them. The indie rock band ended with a ten-minute version of Young Blood, awash in a wave of feedback, something that may no longer be original, but they made it memorable.
Hailing from Britain, Jungle made their US festival debut at Lollapalooza. With minimal press surrounding the band, they've been veiled in a cloak of mystery. Josh Lloyd-Watson and Tom McFarland are the core of the group and were filled out by three auxiliary members. It was atmospheric, moody and featured high pitch vocals. On the biggest stage of the festival, it was a tall order to perform music when no one knew the members identities until two months ago. However, they shined for their first outdoor outing, but may have been better suited for one of the smaller side stages.
Opening their set with the classic Emerson, Lake, Palmer song and I watched on as people made a mad rush for the stage. I can't pretend to fully understand or grasp the entire EDM scene, but whenever I am in its presence, I can't help but be taken under its spell by the atmosphere of it all. Elevated high above as images grace the screen behind. It's about shifting thumps, new patterns of music and losing yourself in it all. It's not so much a song or lyric as it is a communal escape.
Hailing from New Orleans, Booker differentiates from Lollapalooza alum Gary Clark Jr. in that he brings a punk-alternative aesthetic to his musical repertoire. On the surface he comes across as a blue singer, but on each and every song he opened his musical toolbox and took a new tool out and flexed it in front of the Grove stage much to the awe of those watching on. One song would feature hushed vocals before fluctuating to a surging power chord, not unlike early Radiohead (Creep). For my money the soft and sweet vocals that give him he most mileage but you can't deny how he and his backing three-piece band skewed towards punk every so often. As his set came to a crushing close, he took off his guitar, lifted it above his head and began to obliterate it to pieces onstage before throwing it into the crowd. In term of the nominees for best stage exit, none matter with Booker sweeping this category.
Vance Joy 1:25pm
Hailing from Melbourne, the acoustic strummer performed to a ready-to-be-seized audience at the Bud Light stage. With a sound that echoes early Death Cab For Cutie, there was a tinge of joy in his wistful performance highlighted by his current hit Riptide which was welcomed with open arms by the Lollapalooza crowd. It was sublime, soft and yet contained huge hooks. Despite a big stage, a big crowd and the expectations were even bigger and Joy did well for himself,
Charlie Hirsch 1:40p
Hirsch grew up in a family in the entertainment industry and he has a degree in theater. After spending a number of years acting, Hirsch moved to Chicago and took up his first love, music. Chicago is now his home and he recorded his debut last year. I couldn't find the record at Lollapalooza but his performance was stripped and paired with smoldering lyrical delivery. He was accompanied by fellow guitarist John
He performed a hair-on-the-neck raising performance of Up on the Roof made famous by the Drifters and James Taylor. Rescue Me, an original, was a true beauty with a lyric worthy of a stripped performance.
Wildcat! Wildcat! 1:55pm
Dreamy lush landscapes filled the Lake Shore stage as the sun beamed onto the crowd. I'd love to tell you they walloped me and serenaded my senses, but I walked to the stage expecting something different from a band called Wildcat! Wildcat! But that was my own fault. The highlight of their set was a soaring saxophone solo, which we found out afterwards, was a street musician from State Street the singer saw earlier in the week. In turn, he invited him to perform at Lollapalooza. Their music didn't connect to me, but the act of sharing the stage with a street musician means I'll never forget them.
Desert Noises 2:15pm
This four-piece band hits the stage and unleashes a great feeling led by a unconquerable bass playing of Tyler Osmond, whom I would hire for a party just to see him stand like a rock God and maneuver his hands up and down those four strings. The band's vitality is contagious and they're distant cousins of Kings of Leon and My Morning Jacket, with a little more concentration. Their talent appears to match their hype. Front man Kyle Henderson is bold and they really feel like musical partners and together they from a sound that is well-built around strong songs. Their album 27 Ways came out this past March and if you're looking for a dosage of rock n' roll, then Desert Noises is for you.
Parquet Courts 2:35pm
Many of my fellow writers adore this band. I even spent the last week spinning their latest, Sunbathing Animal and it felt aimless. To their credit, their stage show comes off with high energy punk fury that some adore but I find derivative. In the end, they give their all on the stage, but the songs just are not there.
Kate Nash 2:45pm
Arriving on stage in five inch platform shoes and make-up looking like the sister of Ziggy Stardust, Kate Nash is fast, furious and in your face. With a huge crowd awaiting her, she didn't disappoint embracing shades of punk, pop and outright rock. Nash maneuvered between bass, guitar and charging the crowd in leaps off the stage. As she moved and shook behind the microphone, her backing female band delivered devastating blows. Her set was hard and crushing and a profound expression of her being. She roamed the stage freely energizing the crowd at a key point where the sun could have drained them. She pulls from a large set of influences and makes punk, ska and empowering music. Anyone can be heavy and discordant but how many are confident in what they're sharing. The music is smart and sassy without giving up its passion. Kate is currently in LA working on several projects including a Broadway play and multiple film projects and here's the kicker- she's only twenty-five years old. As her set wound down, she invited an army of fans to the stage where they interacted and rocked out (respectfully) with Nash and her powerful female led band. There was an emerging theme at Lollapalooza this year and its confident women who are not afraid to show their true colors. If the world had women in more positions of influence we'd be in a better place and acts like Nash are breaking barriers into the future.
The Last Internationale 3:35pm
Singer Delila Paz and Edgey Pires founded the band to be a socially conscious rock band wouldn't have been out of place at Woodstock. Paz believes in her cause and her vocals had a concentration as each lyric poured off the tip of her tongue. Their debut record will be released later this year and is executive produced by conscious rebel Tom Morello and produced by Brendan O'Brien (Rage Against the Machine, Train, Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam) and features Morello's Rage Against the Machine/Audioslave bandmate Brad Wilk behind the kit.
The Temper Trap 4:00pm
Former Lollapalooza alum's they have sold over a million records worldwide and have a new record forthcoming later this year, some of which was debuted on the Lake Shore stage. In front of a huge crowd, despite their credentials and acclaim, I felt the crowd began to waver and disperse, until the band spiraled the opening chords to Sweet Disposition which was utterly wondrous and dreamy. Made famous by the film (500) Days of Summer I am not sure if the band will ever top this piece of pop perfection, but on a perfect Saturday afternoon the band made the world charmed their way into the hearts once again of the audience.
Fitz & the Tantrums 4:15pm
If there was a Super Bowl of festival performers, Fitz and the Tantrums would make it to the big game every year. They would be the San Francisco 49ers of the 80s. They swoop down slay the audience and before you know it are waving goodbye leaving the crowd mouth-gaped at what they just saw. Lollapalooza alums from 2011, I watched their performance via the stream from my home computer and couldn't help but sit there in awe at their command of the audience. They know how to play to a crowd and are one of the most animated and road worn bands on the road currently.
Lead singer Michael Fitzpatrick works the crowd as well as Steven Tyler and has the sway of an old soul crooner. Noelle Scaggs shares vocal duties and never stops working. During Don't Gotta Work It Out, the Samsung Galaxy stage had every fan clapping their hands in tandem with the band. Like Michael Franti and Spearhead, Fitz and the Tantrums can win over any audience before them. Break the Walls with its scorching hook, walloped the crowd. Taking full advantage of the screens to make the engagement reached the furthest spaces of the field. Breakin' the Chains of Love continued the onslaught. Every band that plays Lollapalooza should have to take a master class with them to know exactly what it takes to engage a crowd and make them euphoric. It starts with the songs which are fetching but have hooks, big choruses and performances that boost the crowd. They've trained for the Lollapalooza marathon and won.
One of the best moments of their set was the Eurythmics cover Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This). For some artists covers are obligatory- for Fitz and the Tantrums it's an extension of who they are and their songs stand comfortably next to them. Equally impressive was Jason Derulo's Talk Dirty which exuded soul but they made it look easy. As the band drew their set to a close with MoneyGrabber and The Walker which takes the award for catchiest whistle song of 2014, they were the masters of their domain. They had the crowd on their knees before leaping to the air once again. They hit the stage and knocked the performance not just out of the park but beyond the city skyline. Band members Joe Karnes, James King, Jeremy Ruzumna and John Wicks propelled the band into another league with this Lollapalooza performance building the insanity with their tight musicianship that still breathed with fervent improvisation. This is a band for real music lovers. This was the only set all weekend I did not miss a single second of, because the band warranted my time and attention. Further, they respected it by giving 110% of their energy to the definitive 2014 Lollapalooza performance. The rest of the weekend I watched act-after-act (many of which were superb in their own right) try and capture the attention and engagement of this band and crowd. None came close. It may be cliché to say I felt their music in my soul (to paraphrase from their killer single and set closer The Walker), but no other performance made me feel soul like this one did.
Manchester Orchestra 5:15pm
Imagine South of Heaven by Slayer mashed with Z by My Morning Jacket and you will have a sense of the intensity Manchester Orchestra brings to the stage. This was the heaviest set I witnessed all weekend. It was confounding, crushing and real. Watching the concentration they put into their instruments, you walk away with the feeling it was music or bust for them. Lead singer and guitarist Andy Hull may look like an ordinary guy in a collared blue shirt, but when you see him play his guitar, all of the dread and demons come out to play and it's where Josh Homme riffs meet Dave Mustaine licks. Hard rock has always been underrepresented at Lollapalooza mostly because when the festival was birthed in 1991 hard radio rock was the enemy. Hull is a concoction of hard rock influences that's mesmerizing. Their recently released record Cope was created under a cloud of uncertainty as the band shifted labels, they built their own studio from scratch and reinvented themselves in the process with their most aggressive and revealing record to date. For me, music has always been more than entertainment but a way to deal with the curveballs life throws at one. Musicians have the potential to be our guides in a world in which we encounter unimaginable heartache. Manchester Orchestra proved to be one of these guides as they delivered a crushing set on volatile guitars and surging emotions. They channel their anger and aggression through the instruments and it showed on the stage.
Nas' Illmatic turns twenty this year and due to the unfortunate events of the night before, where Dev Hynes of Blood Orange was apparently assaulted by a security guard within the festival. There has been no comment by the festival other than they are reviewing it, but the themes of artistic credibility and the violence of American society sadly still resonate strongly today. He performed the majority of the record and to his credit; he did full song and not just snippets. In a day and age where hip-hop has grown into a competitive sport, Nas hit the stage with his microphone and a backing DJ only. There were no guest appearances just his musical soul on display.
Hailing from Oregon, Typhoon is an indie rock band with eleven members who took to the Grove stage with two drummers, two violinists and three horns. Typhoon's lead singer Kyle Morton has sleepy soul to his vocals, but at this time of the day, I needed rejuvenation.
Vic Mensa 7:00pm
I didn't know anything about Mensa when I went to see him at the always consistent BMI stage and what I saw impressed me. Mensa has made the mixtape rounds (Innanetape) in Chicago and has a serious following. This was the largest crowd at this stage on Saturday (thanks to a guest spot by Chance the Rapper). Towards the end of the set he whipped up a hip-hop version of Seven Nation Army before inviting his friends onstage for a roaring finale that the crowd ate up.
Jenny Lewis 7:45pm
With a new record released just days before her performance, Jenny Lewis took to the Grove stage and opened with Just One of the Guys. Many cuts from The Voyager sprinkled her set of slow, brooding with an illuminating vocal performances. When she lifted a guitar, it was chords were strummed carefully and she provided the gentlest of deliveries. Pairing ache and wonder, she dressed each song up in a straight-forward folk rock arrangement. The Ryan Adams production is opulent and her five piece backing band compliments her. The highlight of the set was the penultimate performance of Acid Tongue with Lewis leading a campfire sing-a-long with her backing band sharing one microphone for harmonies. There were other more strident and flashy sets at Lollapalooza but few had as much heart as Lewis'.
The hip-hop duo are touring festivals exclusively in 2014 for the first time in a decade. Their Lollapalooza performance oozed with confidence as the backing band held backslap rhythms in shape. André 3000 and Big Boi looked great onstage and they sounded even better. Even though Speakerboxxx/The Love Below began the duo's eventual split, hearing "Hey Ya!" and "The Way You Move" were every bit as invigorating as one could imagine. To their credit, they spaced their hits throughout their set with the highlight being Ms. Jackson which had everyone on the field bopping to the infectious beat. Despite what some have said, Outkast proved reliable in their nearly two-hour set. My only quibble is I wish that when each other's songs were performed, they would partner with their bandmate and not leave the stage. The absence of one or the other puts a cloud on the reunion as it would appear they are stronger and mightier than the pen if they backed one another.
On the title track of the band's latest album, Free Your Mind vocalist Dan Whitford channels New Order in a set that feels luminous under the trees of the Grove. This is an electronic alternative band that beckons you tingly your fists on the air. The new wave descendants flex their electronic muscle mightily well and the packed crowd agrees.
Calvin Harris 9:40pm
The entire EDM craze is this generation's hip-hop and metal. There's a whole contingent of music fans who say it's not music and wonder how it can be any good when there are no live instruments. One look at the packed field at the Bud Light stage says it all; EDM is where it is at. It's an experience that few rock bands are offering and those that do, few can lure this many people into their web. Calvin Harris has become so big that he isn't at Perry's but one of the main stages where Black Sabbath and Nine Inch Nails have headlined in recent years. What differentiates Harris from other EDM gods is he actually has crafted pop songs that endure like Rihanna's We Found Love and I Need Your Love by Ellie Goulding. This summer he's technically had the song of the summer ironically entitled Summer and when it blasted out throughout Grant Park, it was amidst a flurry of blazing lights and lasers. Say what you want about dj's but their fans look at their sets like people used to look at albums. They are experiences unto themselves and can't be broken up. Harris meticulously sequences a set for non-stop dancing and when Summer came on; the crowd reached for the sky, lifted their voices and watched as pyrotechnics lit up the sky. People may criticize and be confounded by the magic Harris can whip up with big boisterous beats, but when you are in the thick of it, it's as magical and freeing as hearing Born To Run or Where the Streets Have No Name in a stadium. At some point, the music transports us to another realm where anything feels possible and Harris takes his fans while he may not lift them to the heavens, but he makes them feel like they can fly.
Anthony Kuzminski is a Chicago based writer and Special Features Editor for the antiMusic Network. He has covered Lollapalooza for antiMUSIC exclusively the last three years. His daily writings can be read at The Screen Door. He can be contacted at tonyk AT antiMUSIC DOT com and can be followed on Twitter
Lollapalooza 2014: Day Two