Day One, Friday:
's Grant Park
might now be silent, the expanses of grass devoid of neon, band tees and mud-caked sneakers, but Lollapalooza
is still lingering in the air. Perhaps it's because this year was the fest's biggest to date - not only did they sell out in advance, but attendance topped the 300,000
mark with crowds coming early and staying late. On Friday I was not part of the early horde - instead waiting at home for rain to pass by. I've been caught in storms at Lollapalooza
before and it's not pretty. Combine my bright pink hair that runs when wet with thick splashing mud on the field and I look like a sad puddle of crayons left in the sun to melt.
At around 4pm when I was satisfied that all promises of afternoon rainstorms were in fact, shams, I hopped over to the Bed Head Hotel
hosted at Public Chicago
. Incredibly chill and full of goodies, the Bed Head Hotel
took over two portions of Public
- the lobby bar area and a gorgeous penthouse suite. While the party wasn't thumping yet, I was able to sit back with some Peroni
and get my hair styled for free ("make it festival-proof" I told him). Then it was over to the Hard Rock Hotel
to say hello to SoL Republic
who had set up camp in the lobby with their brand new Deck Bluetooth
speakers (five people can connect at once, what?) and finally, over to Lollapalooza
Slipping in a side gate, I was instantly reminded why I love Lollapalooza
so much - the way the fest is integrated right into the middle of Chicago
, the wide breadth of music lovers, the palpable tension of excitement coming from every person. I popped over to New Order
and caught an onslaught of hits ("Blue Monday
" and "Bizarre Love Triangle
" anyone?) before running over to secure a spot for Nine Inch Nails
. I wasn't the only person looking to get an early vantage point, fighting against throngs sporting giggle-worthy Llama Del Rey
totems pushing in the opposite direction.
Watching Nine Inch Nails
with friends, we were in love, but a little lost, looking at a stage with virtually no lighting that left Reznor
and bandmates as little more than outlined shadows. The audio performance was on point though, and we crooned along with them, leaving on a rendition of "Hurt
" that brought tears to our eyes.
Our group left to hurry over to The Mid
, trying desperately to catch a cab after finding out that the mostly empty pedi-cabs were empty for a reason - fifty dollars for a six block ride? At long last we made it and were ushered inside to behind the main stage where instead of having bottle service, we ordered pizza and jalapeno poppers from local joint Pie Eyed
. The backstage crowd was a mélange of industry professionals - we spotted bloggers This Song Is Sick getting chummy with Manic Focus
and band Future Rock
. Hometown hero Zebo
warmed up the floor with an expert set that flawlessly blended drum & bass with 90s throwbacks and laid back trap, setting up Disclosure
for a hyped set that opened with "When A Fire Starts To Burn
." Considering the overt hype for Disclosure
, there wasn't much craziness once their set began. Showing expert control of the crowd, they presented a vibe that was intellectual and heady, and everyone at rapt attention and head bobbing along.
From The Mid
we popped over to Sound Bar
for Aussie duo Yolanda Be Cool
. Walking in the booth I said hellos and then pleadingly "You didn't play 'Sweat Naked
' yet did you?" (their new single on Dim Mak
). Timing is everything, and they just happened to have it cued up. Forget the days of "We No Speak Americano
" - they blared a warehouse rave vibe that continued until close at 5am when we all trickled out, bleary eyed, and ready for Saturday.
Day 2, Saturday:
Saturday, day two of Lollapalooza
. I wake up bleary eyed and realize it's much later than I thought. I down a Red Bull
and pull myself together to hop over to the Hard Rock Hotel
. Every year, BMF Media
transforms the Hard Rock Hotel
into a VIP and artist retreat with daytime goodies and highly coveted afterhours. I walked in and was immediately greeted in the lobby by members of SoL Republic
. As an artist under their "savior of sound" program I adore their headphones, but this weekend were showing off their brand new Deck Bluetooth
speaker in neon yellow. I want.
I headed upstairs, checked in to get my badge and bumped into friend Chelsea Cankar
from Universal Music Group
. We made the rounds together - popping into random gifting suites with custom screen printed shirts, Starbucks
drinks, a make your own Sangria bar from Barefoot
water for days. We chatted with JBTV
reps, band tour managers and the occasional artist before hearing someone casually mention that Salt-n-Pepa
would be the headliners for that night's afterparty. Yes, that Salt-n-Pepa
. We had to go.
From the Hard Rock
, myself and a scattered few walked over to the festival and wandered through backstage areas to say hellos. Naturally we wound up stationing ourselves behind Perry
's in the Red Bull VIP
. While Adventure Club
's stage behind us with versions of well-known festival bangers, we spotted Cherub
, This Song Is Sick
and Makeshift Prodigy
floating around the crowd. Before too much time was lost, Chelsea
nudged me to leave so we could make Kendrick Lamar
and hopped a golf cart ride over.
I admittedly don't know much about Kendrick Lamar
, being more of an EDM/indie girl, but I had heard the hype and festivals should be as much about discovering new music as they are about paying homage to the artists you already love. From the moment Kendrick stepped on stage the audience was his. I can't remember the last time I saw an artist with the natural stage presence he commanded. The crowd mimicked every hand gesture, knew every word - to watch the mass erupt upon hearing "Bitch, Don't Kill My Vibe
" was chill inducing.
We ended the night splitting time between The Postal Service
and Steve Angello
. With the announcement earlier that day that the band would be closing shop for good, it seemed a necessity to catch part of their set. It drew mostly from their 2003 album "Give Up
" and re-interpretations of songs like "Nothing Better
" were mesmerizing.
Excusing myself from the crowd I spent the last twenty minutes watching Steve Angello
- half because I had never seen this member of Swedish House Mafia
perform solo, half because I knew seeing Perry
's stage at night would be a sea of lights and laser beams that could only be fully appreciated after the sun went down. A small smile escaped me when he played "Save The World
" - a song I actually used during my wedding ceremony.
Once the festival officially closed up shop for the night we rushed over to the Hard Rock
and with military precision made it to the main floor and up towards the front. Mia Moretti
opened up the night with a fun set that alternated between fresh tracks and older favorites like A-Trak
's remix of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs
. As fun as her set was, the tension in the room rose once she ended. The lights dimmed and the room literally freaked out as two male backup dancers set up the stage for the iconic women. They obliged with all the hits from "Push It
" to "Shoop
", smiling and executing perfect choreography until the last moment.
When the lights came on at the Hard Rock
, the last thing I wanted to do was go home, I was so energized from the night. I knew that Wicker Park
's Evil Olive
had something going on so I took a cab over to meet friends DJ Zebo
. Surprise, it was DJ Funk
playing and when I walked in, the juke was playing full blast with a footwork circle emerging on the dancefloor. This, I thought to myself, was the perfect way to end a Saturday night in Chicago
Day 3, Sunday:
By the time Sunday rolled around, I was twice hungover and almost threw my phone against the wall when I heard the alarm start beeping. And it was 2pm. The last day of Lollapalooza
had me in a stare down, taunting as I lay in bed awash in a haze of memories. Was I juking during DJ Funk
last night? What happened to that random girl I walked into the Hard Rock
? I shook my head a couple times and swung my legs over the bed. Fuck it Dani, time to do this.
Despite my early resolve I still lagged a couple hours, making it over to the fest just in time for Tegan
. I was spurred to see them after recently interviewing Hyper Crush
- they named the duo as one of the only artists they would currently want to collaborate with. While previous efforts from the two in years past were more raw in nature, this had a glossy sheen to it. It wasn't princess pop by any means, but they expertly flitted between crowd banter and synth-heavy refrains.
Onward to Vampire Weekend
. After having the Hamptons-esque group on repeat for years, it was finally time to see them in person. They plowed through crowd favorites like "A-Punk
" and "Cousins
", causing spontaneous dance parties to break out on the fringe walkways of the fest, and lit up the stage with newer tunes like "Everlasting Arms
." This was truly one of those cases where the inherent energy of a band's work translated from recording to live performance, something I've felt watching groups like LCD Soundsystem
, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs
and Ghostland Observatory
With the sun finally set on the last day of Lolla, I decided to close out my weekend with a personal favorite, Knife Party
. I've been a fan of the duo from their pre-Knife Party
days, when they were known as Pendulum, and was giddy to see them live. They did not disappoint, slaughtering the audience with buckets of sharp synths and growling bass that danced between influences ranging from drum & bass to fest-friendly percussive house. The crowd let it rip in the last moments afforded to them and inflatables, totems and more bounced in the air as we all celebrated the weekend coming to a close.
As the music ended, some stayed, whistling and shouting for an encore while others started the shoulder to shoulder shuffle towards the exit. The mood was uplifting, the energy still radiating. As we all made our way through the gates, the feeling was satisfying - another Lolla under the belt, job well done. "Bro," I heard someone shout behind me, "I can't wait until next year." Neither can I.