Lollapalooza 2015-here’s what happened
It’s been a week since Lollapalooza ended, giving me enough time to reflect on what was probably one of the most fun (and sweaty) weekends ever. Here the recap:
The highlight of Friday was of course Sir Paul, but we were lucky that the two shows before were the Cold War Kids and the Alabama Shakes, making it a lot more enjoyable to stand in the heat, under the cloudless sky for the better part of the afternoon. I’ve been listening to the Cold War Kids for a while now and it was super cool to hear them live for the first time.
However, it was the Alabama Shakes that put on the better show. Brittany Howard’s voice is so unique and strong captivated the crowd, even the woman that set up camp in the middle of the field all day reading a book about the Beatles looked up once or twice to see where this voice was coming from. Howard was also rocking his really awesome muumuu and although I myself am not a muumuu aficionado, I’m going to assume that this is a rad muumuu, especially considering it was approximately a zillion degrees out. Check it out for yourself. Later that day, Howard joined Paul McCartney on stage for a rendition of “Get Back” and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a person more excited/in awe as Howard as she sang into the mic with McCartney.
Somehow, after standing and periodically sitting at the Samsung stage since 3:30, we made it to about 25 rows back for Sir Paul. Seeing Paul McCartney in real life was easily the coolest thing that happened all weekend. For so many of us the Beatles are such a mythical band, no group of four humans can really be that influential and make that great of music. But then you hear the music live and hear Sir Paul dedicate songs to his friend George and his friend John and it finally hits you that it’s real. It was an incredible set, even more incredible to think that Paul is 74-years-old and played a non-stop two and a half hour set with fire shooting out of the stage at one point. It was a rock show unlike anything I’ve ever experienced and unlike anything I will ever probably experience again. Opening with “Magical Mystery Tour” with some psychedelic graphics in the background, I was whisked away from Chicago, 2015, to a different era, an era that I’ve only read about and watched videos about, to coming as close as I ever could to experiencing it, and for me at least, that was one of the most incredible moments of the weekend. For every iPhone raised above one’s head, there was a reminder that this concert was from a different era and it’s purpose was to take to you back to that time. Throughout the night, Paul told stories of his glory days, at one point, telling a story about Jimi Hendrix trying to play a song from Sgt Peppers, but his guitar got out of tune, so he asked his friend Eric in the crowd to help him tune it. Eric of course, being Eric Clapton. And then there was the moment before he played “Blackbird” that McCartney mentioned that he wrote the song when is was in England hearing about the civil rights movement in the U.S., and how the song was meant to give people hope. It’s not everyday that you see a Beatle in the flesh.
On Saturday, I was mostly excited for Tame Impala and Brand New. However, I was very impressed with Beat Connection. They kind of sound like The 1975 and their lead singer is very attractive, all things that I enjoy.
Later that day, we also caught a great set by the Minnesota-based four-piece band Hippo Campus. Their fun indie-rock was perfect at the shady BMI stage and good news! They’ll be playing in Bloomington at the Bishop this Fall. An hour or so after their set, I got to interview the band (keep an eye out for the interview sometime this week) and not only do they make good music, but they’re also some pretty cool guys. However, before interviewing the band, I got to explore the press area a bit. With my press pass, I had access to the press area and all the secrets inside. Lucky for you, I’ll divulge some of what goes on in there. Basically, unless you work for a newspaper or a Chicago based radio station or a website like Fader or Pitchfork or Spin, so basically everyone there except for me, you spend the weekend interviewing bands and filing stories and images. I felt lucky to not be tied to such a strict guideline, but still it was cool to see what was going on by the work stations.
The press area also featured an area dedicated to massages, hair cuts, make up artists, hair stylists and manicures all free of charge. Also unlimited and free water, coconut water, cold brew and seltzer water. Being a journalist is fun!
Back to the music. As the the sun began to set, Tame Impala took the main stage, opening with “Let It Happen” and going through a their discography. As I mentioned before, I was pretty hype for Tame Impala’s set, however, it wasn’t as great as I expected. Maybe it was because I was off to the side of the crowd to try to catch some shade, regardless, Kevin Parker and the rest of the band didn’t connect as well with the crowd as I had hoped. After their set, we headed over to the Sprint stage to catch Brand New. As we walked across the field, white dudes in black shirts and some sort of denim started taking over the area in anticipation of Metallica. The testosterone was a bit too much. Anyway, Brand New. I was pretty excited for Brand New just cause I think it’s hilarious to hear the bands I liked when I was a #teen. Unfortunately, Brand New was way too screamo and hardcore to my liking and didn’t even play “Soco Amaretto Lime.” With no interest in the headliners and a rapidly depleting energy supply, we left Grant Park early Friday night.
I was super excited for Sunday not just because of Florence +the Machine, but also because I had interviews set up with Bully, Twin Peaks, The Wombats and Circa Waves. Unfortunately due to a storm coming into Chicago literally two minutes before I was going to interview Bully, all of the interviews got canceled except for The Wombats. Fortunately, I got to hear a ton of great music on Sunday.
We got in a little later than we planned and missed most of The Wombat’s performance, but at least got to hear the end of the Liverpool-based band’s set, featuring songs from all their albums. After that, we heard Circa Waves, though they played at the main stage which was entirely too big for the young band. After wandering around looking for a patch of grass in the shade, I headed over to the press tent, only to be evacuated minutes later to avoid getting pelted by hail. An hour or so later, Grant Park reopened and we caught part of Moon Taxi’s set when the band brought up Nicholas from Walk the Moon to play a song with the band. After that, we continued to search for shade from the oppressive heat, I interviewed the charmingly British Wombats (keep an eye out for that interview too) and watched the sea of flower crowns ebb and flow in and out of Perry’s.
By Sunday late afternoon, Lolla had pretty much gotten the best of me. I was tired and sweaty and had seen enough flower crowns. Luckily, Nashville-based punk group Bully was about to take the stage. The band’s debut album, Feels Like was released in June and has pretty much remained a staple in my commute playlist that I listen to every day to and from work. I was super excited to hear them live and I was blown away by how well lead singer Alicia Bognanno’s vocals held up. Instead of sounding hoarse, her vocals were as strong as they sounded on the album and the heavy guitars didn’t overpower at all. Besides putting on a great show, and probably the last show I’ll see before they get big (it’s only a matter of time) Bully gave me a much needed boost of energy to get through the rest of the day.
3. Pretty much the only reason why I was even at Lollapalooza in the first place was because of Florence + The Machine. This story can go back to 2010 when Florence played at Glastonbury in England and 15-year-old Jessica was looking for some other set (maybe Bon Iver?) when she stumbled upon a YoutTube video of “Dog Days Are Over” and nothing was the same. Anyway, flash forward five years and 20-year-old Jessica can’t stop listening to How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful. Reasonably, the only solution was to apply for press passes on behalf of WIUX to Lollapalooza so that I could see Florence live, finally. So finally, on Sunday, the fears that her show would be canceled due to thunderstorms subsided, I got to see Florence + The Machine live and let me tell you, this must be what a religious experience feels like. She played a number of new songs, sending the crowd intro a frenzy with “What Kind of Man” and running around the stage to “Ship to Wreck.” However, as the lightning behind the crowd, illuminating the Chicago skyline intensified, Florence had to sadly tell her adoring audience that her show was to be cut 30-minutes short so we wouldn’t all be fried to a crisp while dancing to the part-human, part-magical creature on stage. Naturally. she ended with “Dog Days Are Over” and I would love to describe what an amazing five minutes it was but I think I was so overcome with joy and emotion that I blacked out. Anyway, Florence was incredible.
Thanks to everyone that made the weekend so incredible, and major thanks to whoever was behind giving WIUX press passes. Really, that was awesome. Until next year Lolla!