Over the next month, we will be looking back at my favorite days of each year at Lollapalooza and hopefully you will be entranced by one of the artists just like me and make them a part of your life:
Saturday August 1, 2015 at Grant Park - Chicago, IL
Saturday's edition of Lollapalooza, day two of three, was another perfect summer day with a mixture of sleepy and stupendous sets. What makes a festival journey worth it? Walking between the stages and hearing something that pulls you in that direction only to find out you can't live without this music. For all the planning and research I do for the festival every year, I'm continually surprised by what you fall in love with by pure chance.Seven of the acts below I had no intention on seeing, but lucked into seeing. One set I missed but warrants a report was by rapper Travis Scott who wound up being arrested after encouraging the fans to jump the barricade at Perry's stage. His time was cut short and Chicago Police charged him with "disorderly conduct". The most fierce set of the day came from a Lollapalooza veteran, Metallica who showed the world what they have been missing and reminding those in attendance they're one of the biggest bands on the planet for good reason.
Jack Novack 12:00
Jack is a "she" and originally from the south-west side of Chicago. Her ventures have led her to modeling, New York City and also Los Angeles where she embraced electronic music. With the opening set on Perry's on a sunny Saturday morning, she went for the jugular with heart racing and ambitious beats and mash-ups immediately. She felt no need to ease her crowd in and had them hopping and bopping on the field like it was a late night rave. It may have been sunny, but she aimed for the stars and caught a few in the process.
Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas 12:20
There was no denying that band leader Jessica Hernandez had her morning coffee, as she had the south side of the festival (right across from Perry's as well) gripped with a high energy set. Dancing, shaking and moving across the stage, a highlight was "Deceptacon", a Le Tigre cover that the horn section was able to shine on.
Catfish and the Bottlemen 12:45
The four-piece band hailing from Wales hit the stage firing on "Rango" and "Pacifier". Their songs have ferocious arrangements with an underlying melody that makes them stand out from the pack. As diverse as Lollapalooza has become in terms of musical genres, it is always refreshing to see a band whose roots and love clearly come from rock n' roll.
MIsta Cookie Jar & the Chocolate Chips
As I have written about several times, Kidzapalooza should never be underestimated even if you don't have kids. Mista Cookie Jar (aka Cesar J. Pizarro) wasn't onstage for the performance but in the middle of the kids section conducting a singalong. For several kids who are experiencing their first festival concert, the in-person interaction is what makes it memorable
Hippo Campus 1:10
Glacial guitars set at the backdrop of trees that evoke the feeling of being under a waterfall is how I'd describe the Minnesota band Hippo Campus. It's evident the four-piece band loves what they do and those who showed up loved it as well as they sung along and followed their cues. The band appeared to be overwhelmed by the response, "We thought ten people were going to show up". The following was devoted and as I left the stage to buy their Bashful Creatures EP on Amazon, it was backordered, but the FYE music tent had it and it's a tight dizzying swirl of faultless guitar chords makes me smile.
Liz Nistico, the singer of the "bratpop" band HOLYCHILD knows how to seduce a crowd. She worked the enormous Bud Light stage in the dead of heat and sweltered with sensual sex. The duo, accompanied by one additional musician, did not have the largest crowd but they turned the field into a sprawling dance floor. Nistico left the stage a few times which was even more striking when you saw her six-inch heels. The somber yet heavy electronic set teases pop melodies and offers top notch entertainment. Watching HOLYCHILD it's tough to discern what comes first, the music or the performance, but it didn't matter much to me because their most recent album The Shape of Brat Pop To Come is full of earworms, melodic distortion and brash rhythm. "Happy With Me" is the best song No Doubt never recorded, which is ironic in a sense since the band followed the performance with their own rendition of No Doubt's "Just A Girl". Some reviewers of the festival judged a book by its cover, but I couldn't help but be taken with the performance, because they didn't rest on their laurels and pushed themselves for the crowd.
You don't think of Lafayette, Louisiana as being a hotbed for indie pop, but this is precisely where GIVERS comes from and their contemplative pop riding the wave of acoustic guitars and percussion and harmony vocals by Tiffany Lamson (who also does percussion) and Taylor Guarisco (who also plays guitar).
Zella Day 2:00
A friend told me not to miss this set and I figured I would catch one song before heading out to other sets, but I was transfixed. Day just released her debut record Kicker this summer and it's the culmination of a lifetime of work but it was her stage performance that was uninhibited yet deeply enterprising. On "Ace of Hearts" she introduced it as "accepting love into your life". Her band took painted the windy atmospherics to new heights. Drummer Kiel Feher bolsters the song with a foundation for the rest of the band to fill on while Day loses herself in the songs. She stretched her vocals on "Jameson" and "Hypnotic" felt as if you were eavesdropping on a personal confession. She's not a simple pop star and isn't quite a folky singer-songwriter but comes across as a consummate artist with great musical ambitions and I can't wait to see what she does next.
Django Django 2:35
Yet another raucous set from a band who trekked far to be at the festival. The Scottish band had feet shuffling for the majority of their set. Performing a variety of styles (classic rock, reggae, metal and shades of dance and hip hop) the band and fans were united as one. Towards the end of their set on "Default" they managed to get their crowd on their knees before leaping and reaching for the sky during one of the more physical rock sets of the weekend.
Charli XCX 3:00
Ten minutes into Charli XCX's set, it was apparent she will be headlining Lollapalooza within a few years. In recent years, artists who have much to offer often get pigeonholed into a specific genre and hers is pop. There are worse genres to be stuck in, but with being labeled as a radio hitmaker has its disadvantages, which may be why her set resounded so strongly. She took to the stage like it was a stadium and did not waste the opportunity. Mid-afternoon sets can be challenging, the heat is starting to feel oppressive, several fans lay on the ground to catch a snooze and others venture out for food and beverages, but Charli XCX embraced the challenge and for an entire hour did not relent. Three songs in she whipped out "I Love It" which she wrote for Icona Pop (who are Lollapalooza veterans from a few years back) and she owned the crowd from that moment forward. Backed by a spirited and aerobic band who never relented, it felt more like a classic rock show than a glitzy club act. Her set stretched to sixteen songs with highlights including "Break the Rules", "Fancy" (which Iggy Azaela performed the year before) and of course "Boom Clap", but it was songs like "Doing It" and "London Queen" which took the crowd on a speed train of a ride.
Perry Farrell & Rob Trujillo at Kidzapalooza 4:00
Perry Farrell was last in Chicago last September headlining Riot Fest where his band Jane's Addiction masterfully performed their debut album Nothing's Shocking in its entirety. This time around, the audience is shorter and better behaved as Farrell and Metallica bassist Rob Trujillo took to the kids stage and performed "Ocean Size" and "Mountain Song", the latter which was every bit as impressive as it was at Riot Fest. My wife attended the festival this year with my daughter in tow, so it was pure luck I caught this set and yet another example of what makes a festival like Lollapalooza such a distinct and diverse concert going experience.
Death From Above 1979 4:20
Arguably one of the heaviest sets at Lollapalooza it was as if they tried to drape the summer sky with clouds and darkness. It wasn't what I was expecting or anticipating and yet the distortion and sledgehammer riffs remain lodged in my head.
RL Grime 4:45
This was a spectacle and to see an entire field of people at Perry's at the peak heat index for the day was a sight to behold. With a set that invigorated hip hop with really big beats, the display of it all is what truly punctuated the senses.
Walk the Moon 5:00
Walk the Moon are on their third album but several in the audience probably didn't realize this. Opening with "Jenny" it was immediately evident they were not afraid to embrace their pop sensibilities and they are better off for it. Under an early evening sky they really hit home a wonderfully perfect set for their fans, who showed up in full force while the rest viewed the show with curiosity because of the monster hit single "Shut Up and Dance" which had the entire southside of the field in rapturous skip jumps.
Elle KIng 6:05
Booked for the BMI stage, set under picturesque trees, King owned the crowd who showed up in full force for her show. The aggressive nature of her blues based rock paired with her sultry happy hour vocals show a real reverence she has for the genre of blues based rock. Physically she swung her hair and body with each performance never afraid to let her audience see and feel her underlying emotions.
Tyler, the Creator 6:20
A large crowd surrounded the Palladia stage as Tyler, the Creator no doubt had their attention as he ranted, raved and worked his way through a heavily distorted hip hop set that could have challenged Perry's for loudest of the weekend.
Chet Faker 6:30
Another musician born from halfway around the world, Melbourne notably, he now calls New York home. These experiences inform his languid music which is mostly instrumental with accompaniment from solemn guitar and blinking drums.
Kid Cudi 6:45
The tribal drum beats of "Destination: Mother Moon" opened the show with an animated space capsule on the video screens, when he appeared with a red microphone in hand, the overflowing crowd welcomed him with open arms. The short set I saw I felt more than standard urban vibes, but shades of Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff as well.
Mt. Eden 6:50
An Australian dub step duo from New Zealand had a small crowd at the BMI stage, but they encouraged the crowd to "jump, jump, jump" and they followed their orders perfectly. The attendance paled in comparison to Kid Cudi or the crowd Metallica would play to shortly, but all I saw was a crowd losing themselves in that moment and in the end, does anything else matter?
Tame Impala 6:55
Wanting to see as many diverse acts as possible meant I was only able to capture "Apocalypse Dreams" by the Australian band Tame Impala. Despite their near shoegazing sound, the crowd was actively gripped with a fervor led by the uncompromising Julien "Frenchie" Barbagallo on drums. Despite only being able to capture their final song, this is a band I will make time for at the next festival.
Brand New 7:10
Brand New came out fighting and slicing up hard fisted riffs. The crowd, while not the biggest of the weekend may have been amongst the most loyal. A band that dances with commerciality but has never wavered from their core fan base. Lead singer Jesse Lacey didn't disappoint not leaving much on the table in terms of subtlety. Despite not having released a new record in more than six years, they surged on the Lollapalooza stage. Let's hope that when and if a new record is released, it lives up to the fervent following.
One of the last vintage bands from the 1990s to appear at the newly incarnated Lollapalooza, Metallica was a most welcomed addition to the festival. Amazingly, Metallica has not played the Chicago area in six-and-a-half years (January 2009) in support of Death Magnetic and they haven't done a Chicago proper show since November of 1998 when they did a special fan club show for their Garage Inc record. Not including that one-off show, you would have to go back to 1989 when they played the UIC Pavilion on the Justice tour. I was fortunate to review the Orion Festival (also done by C3) in 2013 but for many in attendance, this return was long overdue.
Despite performing at a festival, they played a complete Metallica set at eighteen-songs opening with "Fuel" and closing with the cautionary tale "Enter Sandmen". While rarities like "The Frayed Ends of Sanity" or the lone new number to emerge from their ongoing sessions for a new studio album, "Lords of Summer". Instead the Lollapalooza crowd witnessed a high-intensity set that found the band in tip-top form. Joining the band at the back of the stage was over one-hundred fans who were able to have a once-in-a-lifetime experience to watch a festival crowd react to one of the biggest rock bands on the planet. They had two months off and the rest did them well as the crowd fueled their fire and in turn, they shows Alesso (performing on Perry's stage at the same time) just what true volume and distortion really is.
The show featured all five singles from 1991's Black album, which for a festival is a smart move. While I am yearning to see "Escape" or "Frayed ", the band delivered bracing and bloodied guitar renditions of some of the most essential metal music ever created. The crowd air-drummed to the opening of "Wherever I May Roam" while Hetfield played a medieval riff on "Sad But True" which found the four members of Metallica completely locked into one another. Speaking to someone who has seen a few hundred Metallica shows after the show, they informed me this was the single best performance of "Sad But True" they had seen in over a decade.
"KIng Nothing" from 1996's misunderstood Load record was storming as they dialed the moon and the stars to appear above them while "Disposable Heroes" was scorching as the crowd chanted along to the deep cut from Master of Puppets. The only song to emerge from the last fifteen years of their career was "Cyanide" which Hetfield introduced by telling the crowd about watching McCartney on the same stage the night before and how the crowd responded to the music and how he hoped Metallica's would do the same before adding "It's not a competition. It's just that we would like to do better". Topping McCartney's Friday set may never happen, but if there are probably only a handful of acts on the planet who could come close and Metallica is one of them. The biggest surprise of the setlist was the inclusion of "The Unforgiven" which has not been a staple since 1993 and yet it was simmering. The guitar interplay of James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett knows no boundaries and for more than two-hours at Lollapalooza, they matched each other note-for-note. Special mention must go out to James Hetfield, who is without question one of the greatest rhythm guitarists to ever let a guitar dangle from his neck. It's not always evident on records, but when you witness the force and furor of his performances, your appreciation grows ten fold. Drummer Lars Ulrich and bassist Rob Trujillo allow Hammett and Hetfield to have room on their musical playground. Metallica standards "Master of Puppets", "One" (featuring an uzi drum roll), "Search and Destroy" and a somber "Fade to Black" found the crowd thrashing along and singing every word. The encores featured two covers, one of Thin Lizzy's "Whiskey in the Jar" which had the audience shuffling and it was followed by "Am I Evil?", a classic Diamond Head song that has been a part of their live show from the beginning. This was a powerhouse set fueled by a desire to command and connect with the audience. Metallica managed to make it feel intimate despite performing to a stadium sized crowd. Metallica found a way to blend toughness with top tier entertainment. Those seeking more from the music than a first-to-the-air should have walked away with a new appreciation and profound awareness of their abilities and their catalog. I will go on record and say that the two greatest bands to emerge in the last thirty-five years are U2 and Metallica and both are every bit as a live entity today as they were more than three decades ago. Saturday's Lollapalooza ended with Metallica completing one of the more rousing and roaring sets I've ever seen and while they may not have matched McCartney's set from the night before, this isn't a competition and for more than two-hours James, Lars, Kirk and Rob provided to the faithful why they're still a viable entity. Anthony Kuzminski is a Chicago based writer and Special Features Editor for the antiMUSIC Network. 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
The biggest surprise of the setlist was the inclusion of "The Unforgiven" which has not been a staple since 1993 and yet it was simmering. The guitar interplay of James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett knows no boundaries and for more than two-hours at Lollapalooza, they matched each other note-for-note. Special mention must go out to James Hetfield, who is without question one of the greatest rhythm guitarists to ever let a guitar dangle from his neck. It's not always evident on records, but when you witness the force and furor of his performances, your appreciation grows ten fold. Drummer Lars Ulrich and bassist Rob Trujillo allow Hammett and Hetfield to have room on their musical playground. Metallica standards "Master of Puppets", "One" (featuring an uzi drum roll), "Search and Destroy" and a somber "Fade to Black" found the crowd thrashing along and singing every word.
The encores featured two covers, one of Thin Lizzy's "Whiskey in the Jar" which had the audience shuffling and it was followed by "Am I Evil?", a classic Diamond Head song that has been a part of their live show from the beginning. This was a powerhouse set fueled by a desire to command and connect with the audience. Metallica managed to make it feel intimate despite performing to a stadium sized crowd. Metallica found a way to blend toughness with top tier entertainment. Those seeking more from the music than a first-to-the-air should have walked away with a new appreciation and profound awareness of their abilities and their catalog. I will go on record and say that the two greatest bands to emerge in the last thirty-five years are U2 and Metallica and both are every bit as a live entity today as they were more than three decades ago. Saturday's Lollapalooza ended with Metallica completing one of the more rousing and roaring sets I've ever seen and while they may not have matched McCartney's set from the night before, this isn't a competition and for more than two-hours James, Lars, Kirk and Rob provided to the faithful why they're still a viable entity.
Anthony Kuzminski is a Chicago based writer and Special Features Editor for the antiMUSIC Network. 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 TBT Month: 2015 - Metallica, Brand New And More