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Lollapalooza Wed Aug 06 2014

Lollapalooza 2014 Hits and Misses

Cage the Elephant Lollapalooza 2014 by Joshua Mellin.jpg
Cage the Elephant (Photo by Joshua Mellin)

The Lollapalooza line-up didn't seem all that impressive when it was originally announced. Of the headliners, the biggest draw was Outkast and they'd already been booked for basically every other festival in the U.S. this summer. I decided to still attend the festival anyway, mostly out of habit. Once the day-by-day schedule was released, I was surprised to rediscover how many quality midday acts Lolla had on the bill. Headliners aside, I saw heaps of outstanding performances over the weekend. Here are some of my favorites, a few missteps, and the acts I missed during this year's festival.

Outkast 1  Lollapalooza 2014 by Joshua Mellin.jpg
Outkast (Photo by Joshua Mellin)

Lollapalooza's Best

Lykke Li
For me, Lykke Li is worth the Lollapalooza wristband alone. With Lorde as the competing act to her set, the crowd for Lykke was sparse, but those who stuck around for her performance were treated her bewitching intensity and haunting vocals. Lykke knew how to work the stage, often catching the webcast cameras and performing little dances for the audience watching at home.

As a long-time fan of Steel Train and Fun., I'd been looking forward to catching Jack Antonoff's latest project Bleachers at Lollapalooza before I'd ever even heard any of their music. Once their debut album Strange Desire was actually released, it was exactly what you'd expect from Antonoff - well-crafted power-pop hits. Antonoff knows how to engage a crowd, between name-checking Chicago venues like Schubas and Fireside Bowl or covering '90s Cranberries' hit "Dreams".

Childish Gambino
The worst downpour of Sunday's continuing rain happened right before Childish Gambino's set, and at that point I was completely done with Lollapalooza. I'd camped out at the Bud Light Stage after Chromeo's performance so I could get a decent spot up front for Gambino, and having forgotten any rain gear, was soaked from head to toe. Showing that he's not too good to get a little wet too, the second Gambino hit the stage he jumped out into the crowd and performed "I. Crawl" in the rain with the rest of us. The sun peaked out from behind the clouds shortly afterward, as Gambino ripped through most of his latest album Because the Internet, plus a medley of tracks from Camp and his "Royalty" mix tape.

Lobster Corndogs
I tell you, Graham Elliot's lobster corndogs are at least 60% of the reason I keep coming back to Lollapalooza year after year. I audibly gasped Sunday afternoon when I received a text that this exclusive-to-Lollapalooza concoction was sold out for the year. Seriously, everyone in the near vicinity at that moment turned around to see what was wrong with me.

Outkast was the most anticipated Lollapalooza act of pretty much every person I've spoken to about the festival, and they didn't disappoint. I'd seen Big Boi perform solo a few years ago, but there's a whole new energy with the addition of André 3000. The crowd was going nuts as they performed hit after hit, opening with "Bombs Over Baghdad" and playing "Roses" and "So Fresh, So Clean" as the set went on. Dancing with my friends and a handful of strangers during "Hey Ya" was one of my biggest highlights of the weekend.

Kate Nash (Photo by Joshua Mellin)

Lollapalooza's Worst

Being An Adult
Being old and responsible is a major bummer Lollapalooza weekend. I missed all of the daytime acts Friday afternoon because I was stuck at my 9-5. Then, Saturday night, I spotted an iPhone on the ground on my way out of Grant Park and spent a good hour returning it to its out-of-town owner who didn't know Chicago streets, missing an after-party where all my friends were gulping down free booze.

Forgetting Rain Gear
Back in 2011, I stood in the pouring rain to be up front for Foo Fighters. The next day the backlight to my iPhone stopped working, and my iPod had been completely drowned. After that several hundred dollar mistake, I vowed to always have a poncho and Ziploc bag with me at Lollapalooza at all times. Of course, I completely forgot both of these things Sunday afternoon and all day it seemed like the second the sun had completely dried my wet clothes, it would start raining again. At least my phone miraculously didn't get destroyed this year.

Grouplove 2  Lollapalooza 2014 by Joshua Mellin.jpg
Grouplove (Photo by Joshua Mellin)

Jenny Lewis' Throwback Song Choices
As a long-time Rilo Kiley fan, I was thrilled when I'd heard Jenny Lewis had been performing a handful of the band's old songs on her recent solo tour. I refused to look at the set lists from other shows so I could live in the moment and be surprised by what she played at Lollapalooza. She did surprise the crowd with two Rilo Kiley songs - "Moneymaker" and "Silver Lining," two tracks off of arguably the only dud in Rilo Kiley's discography, Under the Blacklight. I figured she'd at least delve into some of her older solo material with songs from Rabbit Fur Coat, but no dice. That being said, Jenny Lewis is an incredible performer and completely enraptured the all-too-small crowd who showed up for her set.

Chance the Rapper's Choice of Surprise Guest
Full disclosure: I watched R. Kelly's set at Pitchfork last year and enjoyed it. R. Kelly is a deplorable human being, and I have mixed feelings about still being able to appreciate his art. Still, just days after his festival headliner gig in Ohio was canceled due to the backlash over his booking, is R. Kelly really someone Chance the Rapper wants to be associated with?

Baby  Lollapalooza 2014 by Joshua Mellin.jpg
A young music fan (Photo by Joshua Mellin)

Missed Opportunities

There's always one act at Lollapalooza that I'll remember as having missed for years to come (hello, Lou Reed). For Lolla 2014, I'm sure this artist will be Lorde. One of my only schedule conflicts of the weekend happened Friday evening as Lykke Li and Lorde had overlapping sets on opposite ends of the park. Conceivably, I could have watched most of Lorde's performance and hoofed it over to the southern end of the festival for Lykke Li, but Lykke Li doesn't come to Chicago all that often and I didn't want to risk missing a second of her set. Of course, everyone who saw Lorde has been raving about it. I'll have to catch her next time.

It's been almost exactly a decade since the last time I saw Interpol live, so when the Lollapalooza line-up was announced, they were one of acts I was most excited about. I missed them mostly due to poor planning on my part. I had originally hoped to catch the band at the Spin Magazine Lollapalooza pre-party at Thalia Hall, but fearing the crowds, opted to attend Pandora's pre-party with Cold War Kids instead. I had forgotten that Interpol's Lollapalooza set was scheduled during the day on Friday, when I would still be stuck at the office. Oops.

Nas  Lollapalooza 2014 by Joshua Mellin.jpg
Nas (Photo by Joshua Mellin)

I somewhat reluctantly caught Eminem's headlining Lollapalooza set in 2011 and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. The place was packed (I even saw some kids so far back that they were climbing on top of other stages to see Eminem) and everyone was going completely nuts for him. I decided to watch his headlining set again this year with the hope of a repeat performance. Unfortunately, his set started slow and completely lacked the energy I remembered from 2011. I ended up giving up on him about 30 minutes into his performance, and instead wandered over to see what was going on at the other stages. Of course, later on in the night I see all over social media that Eminem had been joined on stage by Rihanna for three songs, including his hit "Stan." Just my luck for missing that one.

Malia Obama
Am I the only person who didn't run into the president's daughter over the weekend?

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Matt / August 6, 2014 3:40 PM

Awesome piece! I missed my first lolla in five years so this is much appreciated. Am I the only one wondering if Lobster Corndogs ate lobster corndogs at the fest?

Matt / August 6, 2014 3:42 PM

And as I look back, I realize you were actually talking about the food...nailed it.

Tina / August 7, 2014 9:46 AM

the night before at Park West Jenny Lewis treated the audience with two songs from Rabbit and a Better Son/Daughter!

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

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  Chicago Music Media

Alarm Magazine
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