Before I even got to Lolla on Friday, as it is unfortunately called, I was regretting it. Not regretting that I get the opportunity to see so much music for free, but regretting the sheer number of people I would have to come in contact with. I may live in a city, but despite frequent CTA rides, I never really get to know my neighbors quite as well as I do when going to a big event like this. I also sensed that as someone who hadn’t attended the festival since 2008, I would be in for a bit of a size shock. Day 1 delivered on all counts.
First — the clothes. I’m sure there’ll be much more on this in the coming days, but the approved summer festival outfit for men is an American flag tank top and for women, it’s the crop top. Though I will say, my coworker’s NASA t-shirt was complimented by multiple people. And don’t worry; the free novelty Ray Ban is still alive and well.
If anyone was doubting the omnipresence of electronica, it would take nothing more than a stroll through Grant Park this weekend to convince you otherwise. The once-small Perry’s Stage, which used to be essentially a mini-rave for people who were fans of more EDM artists than just Daft Punk, has become one of the largest venues in the park, at the far South end. I caught a few minutes of Porter Robinson, and had the terrifying thought that he’d managed to raise some sort of nerd army; he looked so small on stage, yet had such a rabid following of moshers. Yet, his crowd control was less impressive as the same crowd had the same reaction when NERO came on — and also played remixes of “Original Don.”
SBTRKT (pronounced “subtract,” for those not in the know) was better; the duo kept it short and simple and remedied the age-old issue of watching a DJ just push buttons on a computer by wearing masks, and played a riveting version of their hit “Wildfire”, which consisted of a remix of the remixed Drake version.
SBTRKT also appealed to the crowd’s potential Olympics fever, by asking “How about Michael Phelps? Some crazy sh***!” But they needn’t have: There was enough going on to remind us what we all have in common.
The best choice I made the whole night was to sit in the middle of the park as both Black Sabbath and The Black Keys went on. For one moment, you could hear the two similarly-named bands dueling, and one member of Black Sabbath scream “I can’t f***ing hear you!” — before Bassnectar drowned them out. Yes, it appears that electronic rules all and we should just get used to it.
— Kate Dries
I got a bit of a late start on the day, making it just in time to hear the last few songs of the Head and the Heart‘s set. Though I consider myself a fan of theirs, I can’t deny it was kind of odd to hear the emotional and almost mournful sounds of Charity Rose Thielen while standing among thousands of bros, hipsters and girls wearing cropped tops (or sports bras, which seems to be the new cropped top alternative). Lollapalooza really provides an atmosphere like no other - the amount of people attending is astounding, almost distracting. I’d be shocked if this isn’t the highest attendance the festival has ever seen to date.
I only caught “Rivers and Roads” and “Down in the Valley,” from Head and the Heart — two songs that have been in heavy rotation for me this summer. I should note, I would highly recommend any of their songs to anyone compiling a summer driving playlist.
Then it was on to The Shins. I mean, what can I say — James Mercer and crew were such a part of my high school experience that anything they performed was going to take me back to getting my license and driving alone for the first time. And they really aimed to please with this set. They kicked it off with “Caring is Creepy” and rolled into practically every one of their popular songs: “Sleeping Lessons,” “Australia,” “New Slang,” and newish favorites like “Simple Song.” Couple that with a few sing-a-longs and a New Mexico shout out - how could you go wrong?
But by then, honestly, I had enough. Maybe I’m getting old, or maybe I was spoiled by the manageable crowds at Pitchfork this summer, but that was really all I could take. I didn’t even make it to the Black Keys. Though, if Twitter is any indication of how things went, it seemed like I missed a good show, and a Rahm appearance.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t own up to one of my cheesiest observations: It really is something to look up and see the Chicago skyline as the festival backdrop, no matter how many people are shoved up next to you while you enjoy the view.
— Lauren ChooljianA stroll through Grant Park at the close of Lolla day one was enough to convince me that this is either a festival in serious transition, or one resigned to trying to be everything to everyone.
For those who made it to the end of day one, there were three flavors to choose from. For the under-twenty ravers, Bassnectar was clearly the place to be. I passed those neon-painted hoards shimmying towards the future on my way to Black Sabbath‘s set, which felt like a throwback in every way. Cameras zoomed in on Butler and Iommi’s flying fingers, perhaps as a way to distract from the lack of real movement onstage. Ozzy’s attempt at call-and-response during “War Pigs” was met with embarrassed silence.
This made The Black Keys a rather canny scheduling choice - a way of bridging our gothic, hard rock past and dance-driven future (You can also break it down demographically: under twenty at Bassnectar, over thirty at Black Sabbath, twenty-somethings at Black Keys).
But so what if Lolla day one was something of musical buffet? There were some tasty options. For every re-heated legacy act or over-hyped, gimmick-driven band (I’m talking about you Die Antwoord), there was a Tame Impala, adding its own welcome layer of psychedelic fuzz to Lolla’s humid atmosphere. Sure, it wasn’t all great, but ultimately Lolla day one left me feeling stuffed and satisfied
— Annie Minoff