On the final day of the 20th anniversary of the legendary festival that is Lollapalooza, it could be summed up in one word - extreme. From extreme temperatures to extreme buckets of rain falling from the sky, to the extreme amount of artists we managed to squeeze into one day. If you are going to close out a landmark year of a festival, this was the only way to do it.
Starting off the day, we could only let it begin with a bang and a big roar, so it had to come from Joy Formidable. The Welsh three piece made their Lolla debut in boiling heat and as singer Ritzy Bryan welcomed the crowd by saying "Lollapalooza! Fuckin' Hell! I have been waiting all weekend to say that! Thanks for spending your morning in the heat with us!" The band, who's debut is one of the years best albums, were just simply on fire and proved us correct that they would be one of the breakout bands of the year. Ritzy's voice combined with her bands aggression made it sound as if there were 30 people instead of three in the band. It was an explosive way to start off the final day, as they closed with their single "Whirring," the managed to demolish the stage and have inflatable giant cat heads blow up as they were doing it. Simply fantastic.
From the destruction and beautiful chaos of Joy Formidable, it was time to get our dancing shoes for Brooklyn via UK disco rock band Deluka. Deluka's set was in the shade and thank heavens because their crowd needed some help from the sun because they were creating so much heat moving and shaking to the band's very fun and bouncy music. They are a fantastic live band with so much energy that they need to be experienced. Just before the band played, I caught up with singer Ellie Innocenti for a quick interview, I asked Ellie what it was like to be playing Lolla's 20th and her response was "well, this is our first American festival ever, so we are just really excited to be here. This has been great so far."
As the heat was building and the fun was just beginning, it was off to Perry's tent for Daedelus. The grime / dubstep DJ was creating a world of his own in the confines of the massive tent. His set was what we needed to keep the momentum going and with a crowd of people already feeling the effects of whatever substance they may have already ingested at 3 in the afternoon, he provided the soundtrack to their escape. As the heat in the tent reached near boiling, we made a dash for some shade and the opposite style of music, which we found in Oscar Winner Ryan Bingham and his band The Dead Horses. Bingham brought his alt-country, blues, rockabilly sound to Chicago and had a fair amount of people at his stage. With his 45-minute set, he concentrated on all the material off his latest record, Junky Star, but what was surprisingly not played what his biggest track and the song that got him the Academy Award, "The Weary Kind," from Crazy Heart. A baffled audience left pleased but would have left satisfied had it been played.
After Bingham it was back to Perry's for Chicago sons, The Cool Kids, who at last minute replaced Jay Electronica in the tent. The Cool Kids brought no electronic gear with them but spit fire and fury on the mics and had their DJ spin in the back as they delivered one of the best hip-hop sets of the weekend. In a showcase so raw and chaotic, it saw emcee Mikey climbing scaffolding and rapping from up in the air. As their set went on, it got too overwhelmingly packed in the tent we made a break for shade and calm sounds of Pains of Being Pure at Heart. The Brooklyn indie rockers took to Chicago and drew a rather large crowd at the Playstation stage. The band's mellow sound was perfect for mid afternoon and they sounded great. While there is not much to their live show, the band's sound is very slick and comes across very solid in concert.
We took a break from music for a bit to meet up with Fitz and the Tantrums who were sticking around Chicago and Grant Park for a bit before heading back home to LA. In an interview with the boys in the band, I asked how they felt about playing Lolla's big birthday and singer Michael Fitzpatrick had the best response anyone could have asked for, "Didn't you see our set yesterday! 25 thousand fucking people! It was great!" Fitz yesterday was dressing in a red suit and newsboy hat, while the rest of the band were dressed like musical mafioso's, I had to ask how they didn't pass out, Fitz responded "I was determined not to take a single layer off, I had to keep it on." Drummer John Wicks logical assessment was "it is what we do, we do it all the time." I asked how the overall festival experience has been for them and multi-instrumentalist James King said "it has been a blast and now we get to go back home to LA and then hit the road again." While our interview was going on, it was proof that our friends in Fitz have not just been a very busy band on the road, they have been a very busy band being actual members of the band as fans would come up to the guys and say "great job" or ask for a picture. The feeling they must be getting now must be overwhelming in all the right ways and with live sets like how they do it, it is fully deserved. See you back in New York fellas!
After my interview with Fitz it was onto seeing the legendary and newly reunited Cars. The band sounded perfect and it was as if they have been playing together this whole time since they have been MIA with Rick Ocasek all this time. With hits like "You Might Think," "Just What I Needed," and playing tracks off their latest, Move Like This, the band bridged the generation gap seamlessly. While they may have lost a bit of stage presence since their new wave heyday, The Cars are allowed to do that given what they have given us all those years back and return to do it again. As The Cars came to a close, it was onto Portugal. The Man who were returning to Lollapalooza after making their brilliant debut back in 2009. The Portland via Alaska band sounded as stunning as they always do, but something was different about this particular performance and it had nothing to do with the band. As they played songs off their brilliant new album, In the Mountain, In the Cloud and their last record American Ghetto, a fast wind started picking up and dark clouds came rolling in, it would be just a matter of minutes before the sky would open up and down poor. With buckets falling from the sky, it put a serious damper on what was turning out to be the best day of the weekend in terms of music and performances. As everyone scrambled for some cover, it was off to the Boy and the Bear who were at the BMI stage. The band, who could be considered the Mumford and Sons from down under, drew an impressive audience that were singing and screaming out the hooks to every song. Yet, the rain was doing damage to them as well, as soon as their short but very sweet set was done, they bolted off stage.
While the rain was showing no mercy, we went back to the Music Unlimited stage for what we thought would be Arctic Monkeys set. However, weather delays were causing us to miss the band and after standing for nearly a half hour, we went to see the sounds of Busy P and missed, unfortunately the Monkeys all together. Yet, the former Daft Punk manager and Ed Banger Records CEO was throwing a party that no one wanted to miss. Busy P probably had no idea it was raining on the outside of the tent for the sheer fact that his audience was already covered in sweat and were soaked even before the rain happened all thanks to his hard and pulse pounding beats. The French electronic mastermind showed off his skills and had everyone question, why he was not a headliner in the tent for later on in the night.
While the rain was calming down after a strong hour beating up the city of Chicago, mud tossing and mud sliding seemed to be on everyone's agenda at Nas and Damien "Jr Gong" Marley's set. The dynamic duo of hip-hop and reggae were simply on fire in an EPIC set that included hits from Nas like "Hip-Hop is Dead," "If I Ruled the World," and tracks from their stellar 2010 record together, Distant Relatives. While Nas brought the house down with his lyrical delivery, it was Damien would would bring his culture right to Chicago and show how they have fun in Jamaica. Having the two of them is not just awe inspiring but a gift for all music fans. Fingers crossed that more material comes from them in the future.
As the rain came to a stand still for the time being, it was off to catch dubstep superstars and friends of Thom Yorke, Modeselektor perform at Perry's. The duo's sub bass could be felt as far away as Buckingham Fountain, which in relation to that tent is half a mile away. Modeselektor had a crowd that was more interested in playing the mud than dancing to their set, but it did not seem to phase them, backed by an extraordinary light show, the duo looked as if they were having the time of their lives.
With the closing night always building up to the final band, the honor this year went to Foo Fighters and Deadmau5. Deadmau5 would have massive technical problems due to the rain and not allowing his set up to be fully experienced. Foo Fighters were simply unstoppable from first note to their last. In what could be the best performance I have seen from them and easily the best performance of the weekend, the legendary American rock and roll band gave everything they had and more for their Chicago fans and showed off why rock is not dead and is King at Lolla. Opening with "Bridge Burning," and then getting into a heavy greatest hits set while slipping in new songs off their magnificent, Wasting Light album, Dave Grohl and company were barnstorming through as many songs as they could in the two hour slot they were given. However, just as things started to seriously pick up for them, the sky opened again and this time came down heavier. As rain made everyone sink into the mud and the band was immediately soaked, unlike earlier in the day, no one cared. It was to the point that you were so wet that you could not get any wetter, in fact in only enhanced the experience as their crowd embraced the rain and turned Lollapalooza into Woodstock and had the time of their lives. "We ain't gonna let a little rain stop us!" Grohl said after the rain went away a half hour after it arrived. "Look at that behind you, clear sky's and a beautiful city," Grohl pointed out. From songs like "Learn to Fly," "Best of You," "Stacked Actors," "Monkey Wrench," and so on, Foo Fighters catalogue is enough to keep anyone entertained but in concert, the intensity and brilliance of how phenomenal they are as musician's peak on through. "I like it when rock and roll bands come up on stage and play their instruments and not fucking computers," Grohl blasted the current state of the genre because of the fact that all he has done has made real music and real rock and roll from the time he was drumming for Scream in the 80's then to Nirvana and now Foo's among his other projects, it was only necessity that they had to close this anniversary. With a tour de force set that had everyone begging for more, Grohl pointed out that in 1991 he and Kurt Cobain were working on Nevermind and they went to Lollapalooza in LA and realized that good music does exist and good music can come from an community place. As hearing the story was touching enough, as Nevermind turns 20 next month, Dave brought out Perry Farrel to thank him. While we wanted Perry to sing, we got hugs instead, which was great enough. It was then onto "Everlong" that brought the festival to a close and Perry running back on stage and taking the mic going "Foo Fucking Fighters! Good Night everyone!"