3 days, 95 artists, and 240,000 of your closest friends in Chicago’s Grant Park: Lollapalooza 2010 was a weekend full of good music, fortunate weather, and good times. Here are some of the weekend’s highlights.
By Anna Jacoby
There’s a quote from author Bill Bryson that came to mind while waiting in line to get into Grant Park when the doors opened at 11am for Lollapalooza: he said about his travels in Neither Here Nor There, “I love the way Italians park. You turn any street corner in Rome and it looks as though you’ve just missed a parking competition for blind people.” How to recognize you are at a music festival: look at any line made by a group of teenagers and 20-somethings and it looks as though you’ve missed a line-forming competition for blind people. They get in crowding-around-the-stage-mode early: imagine the floor of the 930 Club on a packed night. This is how festivalgoers get in line.
Even in such disorder, Lollapalooza weekend August 6-8 was well worth the wait.
At last through the entrance and with our wristbands, we’ve missed DC and Lexington, KY band These United States, who opened the festival at 11:15. Overheard, though, was that the rootsy folk-pop group—perking up after successfully obtaining beers from the delayed truck that was supposed to supply beers to Lolla performers—played a set with songs mostly from their new album, What Lasts.
After strolling around and exploring Grant Park (Lolla organizers got an extra 35 acres this year, allowing a capacity of 95,000 per day), we caught DC-born band Jukebox the Ghost. Pianist Ben Thornewill, guitarist Tommy Seigel, and drummer Jesse Kristin met at George Washington University. Jukebox the Ghost played their indie-pop to a fairly large crowd at the BMI stage, where their hit, “Hold It In,” was played to the cheering crowd with enthusiasm.
After Jukebox the Ghost, we headed over to watch Chicago native and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Mavis Staples, who played a powerful set with her band joined by guitarist Jeff Tweedy of Wilco. Staples performed with an energy and passion that proved that at even age 70, she’s still got plenty of soul. A real hit with the crowd, she did a soulful rendition of The Band’s “The Weight,” truly making it her own.
Friday night’s performers were diverse: at 5:30, melodic pop-rock group Neon Trees played an energy-charged set while eccentric frontman Tyler Glenn sang and danced for the crowd. At 6:00pm, The Black Keys played for an enormous crowd. Sounding just as good live as they do on their albums, the blues-rock duo of Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney played a range of songs from the new Brothers album to hit songs from past albums like Attack & Release.
Brit Jaime Lidell, an artist with a folk-pop-soul sound (you’ve probably heard his song “A Little Bit More” on those Target commercials), played a very good set and fiddled with knobs on his keyboard, playing with different sounds. Lidell drew my attention with his fantastic colorful swallow-tail coat, which was pulled-off brilliantly in the 80-something degree weather.
Finally, headliners The Strokes and Lady Gaga were the last performances of the night. I faced displeasure at whoever was the one to decide to put The Strokes and Lady Gaga on at exactly the same time… I got so enthralled in Gaga’s set that by the time I dashed over to the other side of the park—out of breath—to catch the end of The Strokes, they had already finished. My heart sunk to the pit of my stomach at the sight of thousands of people leaving the stage area.
The other set Friday night was filled with crazy costumes, fake blood, dancers, made-up instruments, a giant statue of Jesus Christ, and fireworks: a show like this could only come from the inventive mind of Lady Gaga. Gaga was no doubt the attraction of the majority of attendees on Friday, and she certainly put on a show. Referring to the audience as her “little monsters” throughout the “Monster Ball” show, she played all of her major hits and told everyone to “Be whoever the f*** you wanna be! The Monster Ball will set you free!!!”
“She’s crazy,” an audience member said in awe and admiration as Gaga stood on her piano with one leg raised with her boot heel on her guitarist’s guitar strings as he played. Gaga’s Lollapalooza performance proved that she’s not just any kind of crazy: she’s crazy talented. She showed her audience that she can actually sing, she can dance, she can play multiple instruments, and she can undoubtedly create a show people are never going to forget.
There was a visibly different kind of crowd at Lollapalooza on Saturday. There were less people of high school-age like that in attendance Friday for Lady Gaga, and more college-age and above for Day 2 headliners like Green Day and Phoenix. The crowd for popular British indie act, the xx, was so vast that most gave up trying to see the stage and just listened from afar. The xx played singles like “Basic Space” and “Crystallized.”
A major highlight performance on Saturday was Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. Frontman Alex Ebert played with fervor and appreciation for the audience. The magic of Edward Sharpe is that listening to their music is such a mood-lifter; seeing them live is no different. The 10-person band, a cross between modern pop-rock and often compared to sixties folk band The Mamas & The Papas, opened with “40 Day Dream” and closed with their more well-known hit, “Home.”
I was exhausted by nightfall, but immediately re-energized during Green Day’s set. Green Day closed Saturday with a 2 hour and 15 minute-long show full of impressive pyrotechnics and classic hits. 90s music veterans Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt, and Tre Cool proved that they know how to please a crowd. They mostly played songs from more recent albums like American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown, and sprinkled in some hits from their breakthrough album, Dookie, as fire blasted behind them on stage.
A brief period of rain on Sunday morning failed to get anyone down, and Lollapalooza continued. R&B talent Erykah Badu didn’t come on until 15-20 minutes after she was supposed to start, but the audience was kept occupied by a pre-Badu dance party. Her band and DJs blasted rap music from the speakers, which kept the audience happy despite Sunday being the hottest and most humid day of the Lollapalooza weekend. At last Erykah Badu walked center stage, exuding pure cool and personal style. An original if anything, Badu sported a massive blond mohawk, a green 50s-style dress, black cuffs, and giant gold earrings, balancing retro and modern. When asked in elementary school, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Badu told the audience she replied, “I just want to be funky.” Badu certainly brought the funk to Lollapalooza with crowd-pleasing songs like “On and On” and “The Healer.”
Walking from stage to stage, Lollapalooza provided plenty of opportunities for people to keep cool in the heat. There were water bottle refill stations, bandanas dunked in ice water were handed out, and even the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) helped out by providing an air-conditioned “cooling bus” for festivalgoers to hop into for a break. After a minute to cool down on the bus, we made our way to the other side of the park to catch acts MGMT and The National.
MGMT played hits like “Time to Pretend,” “Electric Feel,” and “Congratulations” to a very large crowd. We sat in the back and listened while munching on a refreshing pomegranate frozen yogurt from Lolla’s “Green Street,” a farmers market with food, clothing, and other environmentally sustainable goods to shop for. After MGMT, melancholy indie band The National played an impressive set as well with their signature expressive songs. Rappers Cypress Hill played a loud and energy-charged set before Soundgarden came on on the other side of the park.
Soundgarden returned to the music map after 12 years of working on other projects. They played 90s hits like “Spoonman” and “Black Hole Sun” in addition to other songs. Unlike Lady Gaga and Green Day, their set leaned more toward simplicity, using only lighting and music, instead of Gaga’s weirdness or Green Day’s pyrotechnics. Arcade Fire closed out Lolla with new material from their recently released album The Suburbs in addition to more familiar songs like “Tunnels,” and “Power Out.”
It can be said that the sixth annual Lollapalooza was a smash. Our feet were sore and screaming by the end of the weekend, but the festival was worth every step. With a diverse line-up, excellent food, environmentally sustainable practices, and free swag—all in the beautiful setting of Chicago’s Grant Park along the majestic skyline—Lollapalooza managed to provide to the hundreds of thousands who attended a truly unforgettable weekend.