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Lollapalooza 2012 Day 3: Anticlimactic, but in the best way possible

Part of enjoying a festival of this size is accepting the good and the bad. But what Lollapalooza wants is for you to enjoy Lollapalooza more than the music at Lollapalooza. The whole event is about the event itself.

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(WBEZ/Annie Minoff)

After this weekend, I’m left with the feeling that I will never not be at Lollapalooza. Not that I will always be at a music festival, but that I will forever and always be in a limbo only concerned with getting to the next band or waiting for the bathroom.

I’d been waiting for J. Cole all weekend, and though he started off sounding a little winded and harsh, perhaps my expectations were skewed by the smooth R&B of Frank Ocean and The Weeknd from the day before. He had some moments that really rose above though; singing “Lights Please” for a few moments without accompaniment (though his DJ and guitarist were stellar -- including a man he introduced as Ron Gill on keys who got to do an extended classical riff). J. Cole just had fun. This meant there were a few moments that could have been tighter, but at least he was trying things -- and when he took on “Can’t Get Enough” as his final song, the enthusiastic crowd roared.

And luckily for a weekend of ups and downs, Jack White ended it all on a high. A true rockstar, he switched miraculously mid-set between an all-male and all-female band, which at first seemed to create a change in musical style from rock to country. But then the women took on classic tunes like “7 Nation Army,” which a mass group of people continued humming the refrain of as we exited the park, a moment I found slightly scary. While the male-to-female switch felt like a bit of a gimmick to me, White and his bands were flawless.

That’s something I can’t say for the festival at large. Part of enjoying a festival of this size is accepting the good and the bad, something I admit I’m not super interested in. But what Lollapalooza wants is for you to enjoy Lollapalooza more than the music at Lollapalooza. The whole event is about the event itself; it feels as though the music is almost an afterthought. And this all-encompassing it’s-all-about-Lolla vibe might be the reason for safety concerns for attendees or whether the city of Chicago makes enough money off of the event; the value of the small details gets lost in the literal beast that is Lollapalooza. Despite great moments this weekend, I can’t help but feel that this isn’t the ideal way to see your favorite band, or hang out with your favorite friends, or do whatever it is Lollapalooza wants you to be doing, except loving Lolla.

-- Kate Dries

The third day of Lollapalooza may have been my favorite day of the weekend. I was finally used to the size of the crowds, the weather didn’t cause any evacuations, and I saw an incredibly eclectic group of bands.

Sigur Ros was definitely a highlight from earlier in the day. I’d been wanting to see them for a while now, and it was pretty much what I expected: their Icelandic ways lulled me into a sleepy mindset usually reserved for child’s pose or corpse pose at the end of yoga. And the size of the crowd who came out for them was incredible. At the risk of sounding elitist, I had no idea they had gathered such a following. It was kind of funny, actually, to see thousands of people just standing still, almost breathing in the band’s performance.

In fear of losing Kate because of the horrific phone service - especially bad on Sunday - I left Sigur Ros a bit early and accompanied her to my first J. Cole experience. I’ll let her take the reigns on this, because judging by her dance moves and knowledge of every lyric, she’s a bit more in the know about him. But in short - thoroughly entertaining. And that includes the bucket hat.

A congo line forms for Amadou and Mariam. (WBEZ/Kate Dries)

But the real masterpiece of the day was Amadou and Mariam. Man. I could have stayed there all day. First, even though the crowd was relatively small, maybe just reaching 300, it was quite lively. A group in the middle of the crowd formed a conga line that traveled all around the grounds, and everyone surrounding them was dancing nonstop, including myself. Though the vocals were a little quiet, I could not get enough of the amazing drumming, and just the great enthusiasm that Amadou and Mariam generate. Amadou even went with the standard, “Are you ready!” before starting up, and I found my self jumping up and down saying, “Oh yeah!” and not feeling bad about it.

Getting up for Florence and the Machine. (WBEZ/Kate Dries)

And then like magic, the clock struck 7:15, and Fairy Godmother Florence arrived in all her glory. No, seriously. This had been a show I had been anticipating all summer, and it really fell flat for me, unfortunately. Don’t get me wrong, I love their stuff, but the bulk of the show was Florence Welch gallavanting around the set, waving her sorcerer sleeves to the crowd, saying things like, “Lolllapalloooozzzaa, I love when people make out at my shows” and telling people to reach out and hug each other tightly. Or asking people to become “human sacrifices,” which meant raising your neighbor up on your shoulders (and actually, a large number of people did it and it was really strange to see). There were only a few upbeat moments; “Shake it Out” and “Dog Days Are Over” were highlights, but other than that the set seemed very slow, and more focused on Florence, the strange ethereal character, than Florence and the Machine, the fabulous band that’s constantly mixed into my running playlists.

Sadly, the magic powers of the goddess that is Florence Welch did not protect all as she intended - a girl wearing a pot leaf-pattered bandana about 10 feet from where I was standing passed out multiple times, bringing a lot of people back to reality, and fast. EMTs found her rather quickly, but one of them had a look on her face that said she’d seen it all, and that the night was still young.

-- Lauren Chooljian

Is it hyperbolic to say Lollapalooza Day 3 offered no surprises? Okay there was one: I seriously underestimated Florence Welch’s weirdness.

I’d heard about the flowing dresses and bird-like hand gestures, but that didn’t prepare me for the musical equivalent of Tolkien’s Lady Galadriel. Welch presided over the Bud Light stage like a fairy queen over her woodland kingdom, demanding “human sacrifice” (raising your neighbor onto your shoulders), singalongs, and lots and lots of “snogging.” She delivered these edicts with a straight face over tinkling harp accompaniment. I might write off this kind of eccentricity as a gimmick, except that in Welch’s case it seemed too off-putting to have been that coldly calculated (a guy standing near me was definitely freaked out - “She is a weird one” he sneered). In any case, Queen Flo didn’t need gimmicks to keep our attention. Her effortlessly flexible voice stood on its own.

I’d started out day three on the south side of Grant Park with Trampled By Turtles. A bit of an outlier at Lolla, the Minnesota-based outfit played the kind of sped-up bluegrass that easily captures an audience’s attention, but starts to wear thin after a few songs. Roots music at its best should tap into something fundamental– that’s why these traditions have stuck with us, right? And despite their technical adeptness, I was put off by TBT’s lack of emotion.

Of Monsters and Men, a Swedish band that translates American folk into anthemic folk-pop gave me a similar feeling later in the day. “La la la’s” and “hey hey hey’s” are fun to sing along to, but after a few songs you might start to wonder what all the fuss is about. (Granted, not everyone felt this way – the crowd at the Google stage for OMAM’s set seemed to be at least as big as the one for Frank Ocean’s much-anticipated performance Saturday night).

The Icelandic band Sigur Ros delivered on its reputation as a great live act. The sun was beating down and Grant Park’s putrefying mud flats were giving off an ungodly odor, but Jonsi’s voice kept a large crowd rooted in front of the south stage.

I’d been looking forward to Jack White’s headlining performance, but decided to duck out early due to the frustrating sound quality. Halfway down the field from the stage, White’s lyrics were both indistinct and incredibly loud. I exited the park just as French electropop duo Justice were launching into their hit “D.A.N.C.E.,” and I noticed something: Their DJ booth was partially constructed of Marshall amps – that enduring symbol of loud and dirty rock n’ roll. But with every beat, the amps lit up bright red, approximating the electric light displays at Perry’s stage, coordinated to go off with every EDM drop. Here was a classic rock symbol retrofitted for the dance music era – not a bad image with which to end Lolla 2012.

-- Annie Minoff

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