Last weekend, I spent three beautiful days at Lollapalooza in Chicago. I saw hip-hop. I saw country. I saw Southern rock. I saw punk rock. I saw singer-songwriters. I saw DJs.
Over three days, I saw 22 artists, ate about 10 mozzarella sticks and had a great time seeing at least 15 of those groups. (Some weren’t so great, to be honest.)
It was an incredible weekend, and I’m still sifting through memories, notes, photos and a long list of music that I’m tracking down.
Here’s a look at my five favorite acts from the festival as well as other things I thought you might find interesting.
The Best of the Festival
The Postal Service
They started with “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight,” their biggest hit, and finished with “Brand New Colony.” There was also “A Tattered Line of String,” “Such Great Heights” and a practically EDM version of Beat Happening’s “Our Secret.” The band’s second-to-last performance ever was full of real, touching lyrics to give the band’s dancehall pop some real depth. They’re introspective stories set to music you want to dance to.
Band of Horses
The first band I saw all weekend blasted through an hour of Southern rock constructed on loss and the catharsis that comes from singing about it. Singer Ben Bridwell wore a J.J. Cale T-shirt and covered the late singer’s “Thirteen Days” and then finished the set with “The Funeral,” a song that turned the thousands gathered into a sea of waving arms.
The most fun I had all weekend came from the British punk band’s set full of singalong songs such as “Teenage Icon,” “Post Break-Up Sex” and “Norgaard.” I went to the festival excited to see them and left wanting to download all of their records. I’d say that’s a success on their part.
Robert Smith looked like an old doll up there, but that’s his thing. And who cares what he looked like anyway? Smith led The Cure through a hits-filled, career-spanning set that included “Just Like Heaven,” “Lovesong” and “Close to Me” as well as lush versions of “Fascination Street” and “Wrong Number.” Smith and the band hit its stride with some perfect pop and familiar songs to sing along to.
My only complaint about British singer-guitarist Ben Howard’s set was that he didn’t play my favorite song of his. Otherwise perfect, his set featured a five-piece band that seemed there to fill in his finger-picked notes with other sounds like a orchestra backing a soloist.
The not so great
A neo-soul band has a problem when it’s not particularly soulful. They picked it up by the end, but the band was seriously unmemorable.
Nine Inch Nails
I was excited for Nine Inch Nails’ first American performance in several years, and it was pretty lame. Trent Reznor’s latest came as chunky, industrial EDM that lacked the “dance” part. No thanks. At least “1,000,000″ and “Head Like a Hole” were fun.
A trio of sisters, HAIM’s songs pulled me in, and the band wasn’t even playing at their assigned time. HAIM was moved up in the lineup as a last-minute replacement for Azealia Banks and Death Grips, two artists that canceled shortly before the festival began. Sharp guitar riffs and bass with some bounce in “Falling” and “Don’t Save Me” made for some fun songs.
Hot asian bao buns filled with teriyaki chicken were fluffy, warm, flavorful and absolutely delicious. They were the most wonderful thing. Next time I’m in Chicago, I’m going to hunt the place down.
I’m Bummed I Missed
I drove to Chicago, and some delays in my trip made me late to the festival and I missed Swedish pop duo Icona Pop. Apparently, the rain stopped right when the the group played its super-danceable hit “I Love It.”
Coolest thing an Omahan did
Laura Burhenn played keyboards, vibraphone and sang vocals for The Postal Service, a gig she’s had all year.
Best thing anyone said all weekend
Eric Church: “It’s not about what genre of music you like,” he said. “It’s about the music you like.”
Most annoying phenomenon
It happened last time I was at Lollapalooza, but people brought more stuffed animals, blow-up mascots and cut-out pictures that they attached to poles, sticks and swimming pool noodles, which they’d make “dance” while shaking them around. I don’t get what the deal is with the things and why someone would want to carry it around a festival for 10 hours, but I do know that it’s annoying when some moron is flailing the thing about right in front of a band’s lead singer.
Cutest thing that happened
It would have been Band of Horses’ Ben Bridwell saying hi to his daughters via the live Lollapalooza webcast, but then a guy in the crowd about 10 feet from me dropped on his knees in the mud while New Order played “Temptation” and proposed. She said yes.
Best spot to watch a band
One guy climbed a tree near The Grove stage (he wasn’t alone up there, either) to see HAIM, which gave him a better shot of the stage than anyone other than those in the front row. HAIM’s bassist, Este Haim, saw him up there and said, “What’s up, Swiss Family Robinson?” It was funny.
Best (and only) mosh pit
During “Norgaard” by The Vaccines, the fans got so jacked up that they just started bouncing around like crazy people. It was cathartic and fun.
Hands down, Wild Belle in their white suits. In a three-piece suit, The National’s Matt Berninger was a close second.
Best indie rock celebrity that I saw backstage
Ben Howard. He was nonchalantly hanging out backstage and, in a worn down hat and T-shirt, most people didn’t recognize him.
I don’t know his name, but The Vaccines’ roadie had a pretty great handlebar mustache.
While seeing 2 Chainz, definitely the most insane set I caught any part of, one man in a wheelchair crowdsurfed. That is awesome. And then 2 Chainz called him a VIP, asked the crowd to chant “V-I-P” and made sure he was taken care of at the front of the crowd.
All photos courtesy Lollapalooza. Check out photos from every artist at the festival’s Flickr page.