The 2014 summer of live music continued this weekend as the Lollapalooza Music Festival concluded their 8-stage, three-day event this Sunday night at Grant Park in Chicago. Lollapalooza was created in 1991 by Perry Farrell, frontman for Jane’s Addiction, as a farewell tour for his soon retiring band. For eight years it existed as a travelling concert, assembling one of the largest bills of performers of any tour and especially championing the Alternative Rock genre. By the late 90’s Farrell
was having differences with the other organizers of the festival, mainly over the choices of acts, decrying a loss of the festival’s underground feel, and in 1997 he quit the tour.
After the 1998 festival dealt with its share of problems and eventual cancellation, it seemed to be the end of Lolla’s road. In 2003, though, Farrell attempted to bring Jane’s Addiction back together and with it, Lollapalooza. In 2005 Farrell joined forces with C3 Presents, re-structuring the festival as a two-day, one-location event in Chicago, adding a third day the following year. With 65,000 attending that first show in its new format, the festival has grown more than fourfold, with 300,000 attendees expected in 2014.
Day 1 was ruled by big names, kicking the festival off with a signature eclectic style. The gates opened at 11am to the familiar sound of John Williams’ Star Wars theme and after a short rain delay, the music got going by 12:30. Headliner Eminem, who attracted the festival’s biggest crowd, was joined by Slaughterhouse emcee Royce da 5’9” for the song “Fast Lane”. But as guest appearances go, that was only a tease as Rihanna came out next for the duo’s two collaboration tracks “Love the Way You Lie” and “Monster” as well as Rihanna taking on the Dido vocals in “Stan”. Em moved seamlessly between his various albums, going from “Marshall Mathers” into “Rap God”, followed by a tight pairing of “Just Don’t Give a Fuck” and “Still Don’t Give a Fuck” before ramping the set up with his guest stars. Crowds were forced to choose between the Great White Rapper and perennial favorite The Arctic Monkeys who both began in the last spot of the first night. Earlier on Friday, it was the attack of the women from down under as Australian Iggy Azalea hit the stage at 4:30 and New Zealander Lorde at 6:45. Completing the triumvirate of young, foreign female singer-songwiters, Swedish sensation Lykke Li returned to the Lolla stage at 7:30, the final spot before the headliners dominated the night.
In one of the more progressive moments of the weekend, School of Rock, an after-school music program based on the movie of the same name aiming to get their students onstage at a live concert rocked the second of two sets on the Kidsapalooza stage that included a stunning cover of Rush’s “Limelight”.
Day Two busted out some of hip-hop’s secret weapons. The Return of Outkast rolled on, with the Atlantean duo said to be showing some vintage energy, a drastic improvement from their beginning of the summer appearance at Coachella. For the 20th anniversary of ‘Illmatic’, Nas made an uncharacteristic festival stop, rocking through the entirety of his debut album and tacking on “If I Ruled the World (Imagine That)”, “Hate Me Now” and “Got Ur Self A…”. Up-and-comer Chicago rapper Vic Mensa of “Orange Soda” fame was a fan favorite, drawing one of the largest crowds among the lesser-known acts and lighting up the stage with a cover of the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” that is not to be missed . Electronic Dance Music (EDM) was represented strongly at Lolla with Friday’s biggest draw being Scottish DJ Calvin Harris and his smash hit “Sweet Nothing” (capped by a fireworks display).
Sunday (Day Three) packed the groups in and finished the weekend with a bang as Skrillex (who has been all over the festival scene this summer), DARKSIDE, Kings of Leon and Chi-town’s own Chance the Rapper each put on mind-blowing sets in the festival’s last slot. The biggest surprise of the weekend came as Chance the Rapper brought out fellow Chicagoan, the “piped piper of R&B”, R. Kelly himself for “World’s Greatest”, “Bump ‘n Grind” and “Ignition (remix)”.
Tonight isn't performing for performance's sake. It's a Chicago thing. I love music and touring. But tonight it's for Chicago
— Lil Chano From 79th (@chancetherapper) August 3, 2014
The festival that was a champion of alternative rock through the 90’s still prides itself on that identity, aiming to showcase the under-represented. Critics, though, point to the greater prevalence of big names like Eminem and worry that the once “underground” identity upon which the show was founded is gradually being eroded. The festival wasn’t without its missteps, as the normal crime concerns (drugs, gate-crashing, public intoxication, etc) continued in Grant Park and although official arrest numbers are not yet in, they are reported to be lower than last year’s 43. Dev Hynes, frontman for the band Blood Orange, tweeted that he and his girlfriend/bandmate had been assaulted by security, a story that quickly spread across social media on the concert’s first day. For most, though, Lolla’s 10th year in Chicago was a festival that continues to entertain, grow and change. As with any festival, a personal show schedule is important to ensure not missing a favorite group or artist. With Lolla being right in the middle of metropolitan Chicago, the city works to make public transportation a big part of that scheduling with unlimited passes and routes catered to the concert. This year, organizers made it possible for concert-goers to link their credit card to the show wristband, enabling quicker lines and less waiting. As summer music festivals as a whole continue to grow each year, Lollapalooza has found a way to grow as well, emerging as one of the season’s landmark concerts and always keeping Perry Farrell’s initial vision at its core.