Lollapalooza 2011 | 8.20.11

Organizer Perry Farrell excitedly added that in its 20 years the festival has gone from being “10,000 to 20,000 freaks to an amazing 90,000 freaks a day!”

 

 

 

 Grant Park, Chicago, IL

 In perfect summer conditions with low 80s temperatures and a breeze blowing in off Lake Michigan, one of America’s premiere music festivals, Lollapalooza, celebrated its 20th anniversary and its sixth year located in Grant Park. The list of headliners was right up there with every other year’s (except 2007’s epic lineup of Radiohead, Kanye West, Rage Against the Machine, Nine Inch Nails, and Wilco, of course) and included several groups that brought a throwback theme.

Kicking off the day by announcing that the festival will be adding another location in 2012 (Sao Paulo, Brazil), organizer Perry Farrell excitedly added that in its 20 years the festival has gone from being “10,000 to 20,000 freaks to an amazing 90,000 freaks a day!”


Early in the day at the Bud Light Stage, Young the Giant played to a large crowd most likely lined up to hold their spots for the U.S.A. return of Coldplay, but who enjoyed the band nonetheless. Across the park, Delta Spirit fired up the crowd with their soulful California-flavored rock. It was White Lies, however, that really got the crowd going and generated some energy before headliners Muse took the stage. The English band opened for Muse on their European stadium run and showed off their chops with songs like 2011’s “Bigger Than Us.”

Five time Lolla vet Maynard James Keenan (A Perfect Circle, Tool) brought along a "reunited" A Perfect Circle that included James Iha (formerly of Smashing Pumpkins) and Billy Howerdel. Keenan told the crowd that they would have to be louder because he was an old man and that he hoped to return someday with his other project, Puscifer.
 
Reformed A Perfect Circle plays their second Lollapalooza. 

Friday’s headliners featured two acts from across the pond. Muse brought a bombastic aural attack to one of their few headlining shows of the year (frontman Matt Bellamy and co. are preparing to take a break after touring behind 2009 album The Resistance). The guys, who headlined their first U.S. festival at Lolla ’07,  showed their appreciation for those who chose them over other options, one of which was fellow alt-Brit band Coldplay. 

Though most of the setlist stuck to newer material (from 2003’s Absolution and forward) the band did peek further back twice with an intense version of hardcore fan favorite “Citizen Erased,” as well as set regular “Plug In Baby” from 2001’s Origin of Symmetry. Ending their main set in a fit of passion, Bellamy thrust his guitar through drummer Dominic Howard’s bass drum, causing a slight delay before the band’s encore.

Saturday featured a heavy dose of pop with Skylar Grey bringing tunes off of her upcoming album Invincible to the intimate BMI Stage. Grey would also join Eminem during his headlining set for “I Need a Doctor,” though she did not join him for the hit song she wrote, “Love the Way You Lie.”

Mid-day acts Death From Above 1979 and the Deftones got the adrenaline running in completely different fashions. Though DFA 1979 clearly showcased their immense sound, at times the band almost seemed like they wanted to be somewhere else. Deftones on the other hand came as prepared as ever to show the crowd that they are far from done. Lead signer Chino Moreno seemed to spend as much time in the front row of the crowd as on stage, allowing diehard fans in the crowd to give it their best on “Elite” and “7 Words”.
 
Chino Moreno (Deftones) shows no signs of slowing down after 23 years.

Cee Lo Green also decided to bring the metal. Though most of it covered him physically in an outfit that would have fit right in at a Judas Priest show. The set felt like a throwback with more cover songs than originals. The Violent Femmes “Gone Daddy Gone” remains a highlight from Green’s Gnarls Barkley days, while a take on Danzig’s “Mother” put a daze throughout a crowd that was obviously there for a party. 

Across the field one of Minneapolis, MN‘s finest, Atmosphere, brought everything he had. Though after he “partied last night and I got down kinda hard,” Slug might have been tired, but still gave the hip-hop crowd headed for Eminem a taste of rapping without a backup track. 

Though Eminem’s introduction video would have had the crowd think that they were witnessing something special in the Detroit rapper’s return to live performance, they were actually seeing essentially the same thing crowd’s have seen several times this summer. After witnessing Marshall Mather’s show at this summers Bonnaroo Festival in Manchester, TN, I thought perhaps something would be up the sleeves of one of the worlds largest rappers return to the major city of Chicago. Outside of very short appearances by Bruno Mars, and Skylar Grey, more of the same ensued.

Rushing through his greatest hits while the backing track remained much louder than his vocals, and his hype man did his best to sell Em’s two latest albums. Much could be said for the fact that at he had performed at the Kanrocksas Festival only the night before, a rare occasion, however what I saw was the same lackluster performance from two months before. 

After a brief Sunday morning rain shower, Grant Park felt cool, calm and collected for a day that ended chaos packed. By the time mid-afternoon rolled around, one could be found at a wide array of established acts. Flogging Molly were tearing up the Bud Light Stage, while The Cars were about as excitable as watching Antiques Roadshow, and there was the dubstep party of 12th Planet at the newly renovated, football-field size Perry’s. 

Shortly after that grouping, a downpour moved in that saw Cage the Elephant playing one of the best sets of their careers to an immensely large crowd. The chilly downpour had some shivering, while others choose to stay warm by covering themselves in manure scented mud. Unfortunately warmth did not seem to be the reason, the main reason anyways, as some choose to kill time with activities such as police tape limbo, and trash-can human bowling. The later of which featured several people sliding down a hill towards 6-8 stacked trash bins.
Arctic Monkey’s seemed right at home in the slop, which seemed more attributed to their tunes, which seemed aimed directly at Mother Nature with “Crying Lightning“, and “When the Sun Goes Down“. Lead singer Alex Turner even through Mrs. Nature a shout-out on “She’s Thunderstorms”.
 
Muddy human bowling before Arctic Monkeys bring the sludge to the stage.

Though electro-kid wizard Deadmau5, or Joel Zimmerman, was debuting his new stage at the north end of the park, Sunday belonged to the Foo Fighters. Though the band played a three hour long set the night before to a thousand-or-so fans at the Metro a few miles north by Wrigleyville (the closest thing to winning it’s seen in 102 years) Dave Grohl still hopped on stage promptly at 8:00. 

Grohl looks like a puppy who’s owner just walked through the door every time he walks on stage, as though surprised the crowd showed up. The crowd did show up in large numbers, though as previously stated, Hutchinson Field did in fact smell like a horse-stable had been using it as a litter box.

By the time the band jumped into “The Pretender”, storm clouds once again loomed. Though many headed for the hills, many more recognized it as an intensely rock and roll moment. As the band strummed the first few notes of “My Hero”, the third cold rain of the day pounded down, and though the band carefully stepped further back on the large Music Unlimited Stage, Grohl embraced the remaining crowd stating, “I don’t give a f*ck if it’s raining!”

This was the weekend to feel that emotion. The outside world seemed silenced, especially given the terrible cell reception of Grant Park. No one was there to judge you for laying in the middle of the street while people you didn’t know danced in a circle around you or for eating a lobster corndog while watching your favorite band throwup on stage It was indeed just 90,000 freaks enjoying Lollapalooza. Can’t wait for their 21st birthday. | Bruce Matlock

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