My trepidation was at full volume in regard to attending the 20th Anniversary of Lollapalooza, especially after seeing the headliners, Corporate Behemoths whose innovation died nearly a decade ago. The lineup beyond that was underwhelming – which had me wishing I attended the Pitchfork Music Festival instead. Pitchfork had a lineup that sat in my musical wheel house, was taking place in the same city, and was much cooler than this 20 year old dinosaur, which reeked of flannel laden alternative days now past. Thankfully, I was wrong, and from the moment I entered the gates, Lollapalooza surprised me at every turn, and left me longing to come back.
I must confess that my friends and I splurged on VIP tickets, which gave us access to both Lollalounges, along with all the drink and food we could consume – we lived like Romans, and it was fabulous. This was not roughing it, but I am after all a seasoned Pro, and have attended more concerts and Festivals than most hear of in a lifetime, let alone attend, so my dues have been paid in full, my time put in. I’ve wallowed in mud, sweat in pits, and danced through enough Shakedown Streets to afford this luxury, and brother it was worth every penny. We continuously entrenched ourselves in the shit, we just had a spectacular home-base in which we recharged and reflected in.
Looking back on it all, the headliners, and to a lesser extent, the lineup – was irrelevant. When you pack 90,000 people a day into a Park as beautiful as Grant, with the futuristic urban skyline of Chicago serving as its tapestry backdrop – you soon realize that it’s the Festival itself which is always on the main stage, and the music around you is just the soundtrack to a surreal and gorgeous weekend. The demographic was diverse, from Burnt out Hippies, Aging Hipsters, Shoegazing Shy’s, Metal Head Heavies, Shirtless Goons, and Day Glow Teenagers – all categories were represented, and all were on their best behavior. 240,000 people lived in close quarters while smiling over those three days, and I saw not one act of violence or malcontent performed, a true feat when mixing the people, booze, and drugs into a Garden Salad such as this.
Aside from how well run everything was, the imprint I couldn’t shake while flying back to Boston, was the pure momentum and full strides electronic and dance music have made over the years. Perry Farrell, the Founder and Godfather of Lollapalooza, curated the music to be played in “Perry’s Tent” – handpicking some of the most influential and now electronic music on the scene. This was much more than a rave tent, and while it may be the ideal place to score, it’s also the festivals main artery, pumping blood and enthusiasm throughout the rest of the Park. Certain acts, such as Wye Oak, translate horribly in a Festival setting, no matter what time they play – however, the music played at Perry’s was crafted for the party – and while some of it may have been made there, it certainly isn’t bedroom music – this was Hedonism at it’s finest, and is meant to be heard among the throngs. Dance and Electronic has come a long way, with influences ranging from a plethora of sources – it’s no longer dumb drug fueled “UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ” music – but crafted mosaics of our popular sound-scape, touching on decades, standing on shoulders, and sitting on the razor edge of cool. This is the future, and these were the Top 5 Acts of Lollapalooza 2011.
5. Feed Me – Perry’s Tent –Friday, 3:45-4:45pm
This was one of a handful of acts that snuck-up out of nowhere and bit me in the ass. Feed Me is a side project by Jon Gooch, which in reality should be his full time gig. Jon spun an original mix of Drum ‘n’ Bass and Electro House that had a 1990’s nostalgic feel while being steeped in a contemporary perfume. This set was my first introduction to Perry’s and the place felt like it was 3:30am and not 3:30pm, as the below crescendo and release confesses
4. J. Roddy Walston and the Business – Playstation Stage – Saturday, 12:00-12:45pm
This was the opening act for Saturday and it was an emphatic set. They really should have been rewarded with a later slot, and hopefully their reputation grew even further after this weekend, this is a band that people need to listen to – Kings of Leon don’t have shit on them, this is real. J.Roddey and the Business are a very talented band that pays a deep respect to the Blues and R&B of our past. They’re all very comparable musicians, especially lead guitarist Billy Gordon, and during a weekend that I saw electronic music clear the bases, J.Roddey showed why my soul lies without trends, and in the end, Rock ‘n’ Roll has my heart.
3. Titus Andronicus – Music Unlimited Stage – Sunday, 12:45-1:30pm
God bless Titus Andronicus. This is a band that’s bursting on the edge of popular culture much like The Hold Steady, however, both may be too smart for the Jug heads to jump aboard. This NJ band sings punch rock ballads as if written by Springsteen, while rallying the troops of the disenfranchised like a seasoned Joe Strummer. If you know of this band you get it, and if you don’t – I feel sorry for you, it’s not too late though.
2. deadmau5 – Bud Light Stage – Sunday 8:30-10:00pm
This likely was the most intense set, show, performance, or whatever you want to call it – of the entire weekend. deamau5, aka – Joel Zimmerman, started his set 20 minutes early – right in the midst of the largest downpour of the weekend. I can’t emphasize how bad this storm was. If you stood outside for two seconds you’d have been soaked through the jeans. The Sears Tower disappeared in mere seconds from view, and the rain disciplined the Festival with rapture. Along with end of the world rain, Joel had the tough task of going head-to-head with The Foo Fighters (who actually played a hell of a set themselves) – but with deamau5 going on early and embracing the elements, you saw the rave tent sprint towards a main stage for the first time all weekend, as the torch was officially passed to electronic music, in the middle of a maelstrom none-the-less, burning in the rain. A lot of out of touch people may have bobbed their heads to “My Hero” – but the rest of us were swimming in the now – welcoming the dawn of what feels so new, but has been around so long.
1. Girl Talk – Perry’s Tent – Friday, 8:25-10:00pm
This was the performance that blew my mind. I’ve known of, and listened to Girl Talk for quite some time now. I’ve always equated Greg Gillis and his mixes to audio cocaine, much in the same vein as Edgar Winter Group’s “Frankenstein”, a quick hit that’ll most likely leave a headache. Seeing him do his thing in a live setting was stupefyingly, and flipped my preconceptions upside down. I had hairs on my arms at full attention as maniacs in a degree of 360 screamed passionate lyrics to mashed-up songs of our recent past and current future. This performance caused the people in charge to removed half the slats in the roof the next two nights because of people overheating in the cess pool party that the tent had become – quite literally, the tent was over flowing and breaking due to demand, popular and loud. 25,000+ stormed the set, and this is out of 90,000, with the competition of Coldplay and Muse flanking Girl Talk from the North and South, otherwise known as – the biggest bands in the world. This was the competition at hand. At one point in time Perry’s Tent and Girl Talk overtook Coldplay’s set, drowning it in Aphrodite wails – causing Chris Martin to start a sing-a-long, just to assure not being caved in by the small house party around the way. The torch may have been passed to deamau5 in the rain, but it was lit by Girl Talk in a fervor, and just when the 90’s are coming back in style, Lolllapalooza ditched it’s flannel to hopefully stay relevant for two more decades and beyond – which would be a feat without compare, in this age of sponsorship and shame – Lollapalooza lives, changing with the game.