Saturday, 13 August 2011

Lollapalooza 2011 - Recap

Lollapalooza 2011 was already a week ago and had a seriously tough act to follow from 2010. Rules to making a satisfying sequel? Keep enough of the same things that worked from the first time and expand on the strengths, while thinning out the weaknesses. Did they succeed? I'm not sure, but 2010 and 2011 were completely different experiences for me and I am quite certain that I will return next year.

First off, a quick primer as to the layout just incase a few common references cause confusion:

Moving from top to bottom and following the orange tags (from North to South):

Bud Light stage (top right, right): Hosts headlining sets each night as well as others throughout the weekend, including higher-tier acts. Big open field and has the Chicago skyline in the background.

Playstation stage (top right, centre): Hosts sets throughout the weekend including some high-tier acts, but no headliners. Concrete surface, experienced various sound problems on the weekend. Features sets as the main headliners prepare for their slots.

Google + stage (middle left, upper half): Small stage, hosts a variety of low-to-mid tier sets throughout the weekend, covered in trees, close to Michigan Avenue.

BMI stage (middle right, upper half): Similar to Google +, small stage, covered in trees, closer to Lake Michigan.

Kidzapalooza (middle right, bottom half): Features exclusively family-friendly content from various artists. I did not attend this stage this year.

Sony stage (bottom right, right): Hosts sets throughout the weekend including some high-tier artists, but no headliners. Smells like shit and includes sets as the main headliners prepare for their slots.

Perry's (bottom left, left): One big dance party in a tent, always expanding.

Music Unlimited stage (bottom right, right): Hosts headlining sets each night as well as others throughout the weekend, including more higher-tier acts. Big open field, very muddy in 2011 (especially for Eminem and the Foo Fighters).

The festival started Friday morning at 11:30am and ran until 10:00pm each night; one lesson I didn't act on from last year was to pace myself. We arrived in Chicago Thursday evening and instead of resting up, it was off to a pre-show at the Double Door! I found out about this one on Thursday morning, hours before boarding and so it was a very pleasant surprise because it featured one of my favourite finds from this years lineup reveal, The Joy Formidable.

Double Door was hosting a free event featuring four bands (openers were Little Hurricane, Lord Huron, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.) but for various reasons we only made it for the latter (and headliner, of course). Starting with Dale Jr. Jr., our evening started off with a delay as the band was experiencing issues in setting up their stage, which was already putting a damper on things considering it was around 11:00pm and being out late isn't advisable when one has three straight days of music and powerwalking. The band itself wasn't bad and played a couple very random covers (We Almost Lost Detroit and Higher Love), but in general was quite forgettable.

The Joy Formidable started just after midnight and made it all worth it. Blowing through a very high-energy set that featured tracks from their breakout album The Big Roar, while sneaking in fan favourite Greyhounds in the Slips to the standard setlist, the band elevated their status for me on Sunday from must-see to camp-and-get-a-great-spot. The band is led by front woman Ritzy Bryan (vocals, guitar), Rhydian Dafydd on bass guitar (plus backing vocals), and rounding out the trio on drums is Matt Thomas. While each fan may have a preference or be drawn to Ritzy, it is the work of the whole group that makes them work so well. Say what you will about their studio work, it explodes in the live setting and I cannot give them a higher recommendation at this time. Check them out in the small venues while you can (they're opening for the Foo Fighters this fall and will get noticed).


Lollapalooza is officially here! Unlike last year we skipped the very first act of the weekend, which was disappointing for me but at the same time Wye Oak reportedly had sound problems and it would have put a damper on things. The new wristbands are cloth and so far the line to enter seems to be moving quite well. Where to begin...

TAB the Band: (12:15 - 01:00, North - Playstation)
Not much to really report on. Typical early-day band that I honestly didn't take much away with, aside from "We're on Facebook: TAB the Band. We're on Twitter: TAB the Band. We're on MySpace: Coldplay." They seemed like an enjoyable early-day band though.

Young the Giant: (01:00 - 01:45, North - Bud Light)
Wow! Very early in the day and the crowd on the north field is massive, very reminiscent of B.o.B in 2010 for the unexpectedly large crowd as the festival was beginning. These guys are enjoyable and pretty upbeat which made for a good starting point for the fest, but despite wandering to Tennis for a brief moment (not my scene) I did manage to catch their hit "My Body" which closed out their time.

Delta Spirit: (02:15 - 03:00, South - Music Unlimited)
I was looking forward to seeing these guys and while the set was enjoyable, they didn't steal my attention away for the complete time. I would certainly recommend checking them out but thinking back on the weekend I'm having a difficult time remembering anything memorable.

Grace Potter & The Nocturnals: (02:30 - 03:30, North - Bud Light)
This felt like the beginning of women dominating Friday at Lollapalooza 2011. I was on the fence ahead of time about checking out this set but I'm certainly glad I made the trek north as the set was full of energy and I can't help but recommend them when they're in town next (which happens to be my birthday this year... interesting!). Good interaction with the crowd and she even adjusted the lyrics to her/their single "Paris (Ooh La La)" to incorporate the festival, very naturally too.

Le Butcherettes: (03:30 - 04:15, North - Google +)
Surprise set of the weekend in many ways. I heard of them months ago as they are creating positive buzz for themselves, but I didn't follow-up as I had intended and upon walking to the restroom before Smith Westerns I overheard these guys starting up and I couldn't ignore it. The ridiculous amount of stage presence from front woman Teri Gender Bender made for an entertaining set which also included a furious display by drummer Gabe Serbian (I had never been at a show where a woman threw a high heel into the audience, nor have I heard a performer tell a crowd "I want to lick your tongues with my loving"). Definitely check them out in the live setting if you get the opportunity. I'm still mixed on the album itself but I know what I saw in Chicago and it was nuts. There was also projectile vomiting from behind the drums (...yup). This and Grace Potter felt like the serious boost that Friday needed.

Smith Westerns: (03:30 - 04:30, North - Playstation)
Coming off of two high-energy sets this was more or less the equivalent of Spoon in 2010 for me, where I'm sure they were good but I was coming down from the previous act and couldn't help but feel a little underwhelmed. Oh well.

The Kills: (04:30 - 05:30, North - Bud Light)
While I enjoy their music, I find their live show leaves something to be desired. The tracks are all performed well but it's essentially Alison Mosshart singing away, guitarist Jamie Hince doing his thing while a drum machine takes care of that part. Just feels like other two-piece bands are stronger at engaging an audience and making better use of the stage. Having said that I did enjoy the set, but it was nothing special (this was also my third time seeing them). Plus, Alison didn't faint this year.

Two Door Cinema Club: (05:00 - 06:00, South - Sony)
Caught the tail end of this set and I'm glad I did (bit of a roll developing here!) as it was filled with great energy from both the stage and the audience. In a far different manner than the last two acts, this one was very upbeat and dancey, especially for "What You Know" and "I Can Talk". They're in Toronto on September 17th at the Kool Haus and if Lolla was any indication, I am quite certain it's going to be a good time.

A Perfect Circle: (06:00 - 07:15, South - Music Unlimited)
After having seen them at Edgefest my expectations were lower, but I wasn't a fan of any of the opposing acts in this slot so I checked them out. Their brooding sound was far different than that of the previous set and this vibe was set from the get-go which included a cover of John Lennon's "Imagine". This was a pleasant surprise since their Toronto show had this song near the end, but definitely more engaging to put it near the front. Favourite live track by them was once again "Counting Bodies Like Sheep To The Rhythm of War Drums" which much like at Edgefest just feels like a giant thud every 3 seconds. I'd recommend checking them out if you have the opportunity to do so, but don't break the bank on it.

Finally made my way to Perry's to see what the fuss was all about as Skrillex was performing. This place was absolutely madness, but not really my scene; still cool to see a group so large having a great time.

Ok Go: (07:15 - 08:30, North - Google +)
Briefly caught some of this set and it's a little disappointing that they got such a conflicting time slot (this was an ideal time to start camping for the headliners), but from the chunk of their set I saw they were enjoyable. The band arrived with bright red, blue, yellow, and green suits which was consistent with my expectations of them being an outgoing band. They opened with "Do What You Want" and then I took off following about 4-5 more songs, but I hear great things about the conclusion of their set.

Muse: (08:15 - 10:00, South - Music Unlimited)
I feel like these guys don't get the respect they deserve. Their sound isn't for everybody, but their live show is damn good. As a non-fan I found myself engaged in most of the set right as "Uprising" hit; I'll give these guys the Green Day title from last year of being a band that I don't really enjoy on record, but they know what they're doing live (displaying the lyrics on a screen for a field of people is a good idea). Unfortunately, despite all of that praise there was this little indie band playing on the opposite end of the property for whom I was curious to see in the live environment, so for the first time in my Lolla history I split headliner sets and ventured off to...

Coldplay: (08:30 - 10:00, North - Bud Light)
Sadly I had just missed "Yellow" and "The Scientist" while at Muse but still managed to catch about 10 tracks which is sufficient for me, including "God Put A Smile Upon Your Face" and "Everything's Not Lost". My view (much like at Muse) was lousy but this set got me back into older Coldplay. This was a funny day for Lolla because neither of the headliners intrigued me on paper beforehand but despite each of them being enjoyable I also didn't feel obligated to stay, so to avoid mass exodus I listened to the encore from the exit (which I'm told was the most visual part of their set, whoops, I did get to hear "Clocks" though).

All in all this was a great start to the festival, one down and two to go.

I hear I missed quite an opening set by J. Roddy Walston and the Business as the gates opened, but managed to spend some time with the guys so, it evens out. Rain clouds approach...

Phantogram: (01:30 - 02:30, South - Sony)
My first rainy set of Lollapalooza 2011 (and it would not be the last) was not really my scene, but this was a good time anyways. In hindsight it was nice to diversify what I listened to on the weekend and although I'm not certain I would push their live show as being must-see, they're nice on the ears. Check out the track "When I'm Small".

Fitz & The Tantrums: (02:30 - 03:30, South - Music Unlimited)
One choice that I was on the fence about was this set (especially since Friendly Fires have received plenty of praise), but I'm quite happy we picked this group and in addition to this I kind of wish I saw them in Toronto back in June. Featuring a motown sound the band gives the audience an entertaining show in the live setting and even broke out a couple of unexpected covers ("Steady As She Goes" and "Sweet Dreams", The Raconteurs and Eurythmics, respectively). Definitely check these guys out and be ready to dance (or head-bob). I feel like they are a great sunny day act to check out as well (especially since the rain stopped).

Death From Above 1979: (04:00 - 05:00, North - Bud Light)
Reunited Toronto rockers Death From Above 1979 brought it to Grant Park, but I feel like they would thrive more in a club setting compared to a sunny, open-field. In any event they were enjoyable, but with a ridiculous amount of hype in 2011 behind them it's tough to live up to those expectations. This felt like a similar experience to Le Butcherettes except it wasn't as engaging from a distance, but they'll be playing the Sound Academy in October where perhaps I will be closer.

Deftones: (05:00 - 06:00, North - Playstation)
Sound issues at the Playstation stage! I heard the set was good if you were close to the stage, but anywhere beyond the initial sea of people it was hopeless trying to hear them. Major disappointment considering I was curious to see these guys, oh well.

Checked out Patrick Stump and Ellie Goulding instead but neither of which were very engaging for me.

Ween: (06:00 - 07:00, North - Bud Light)
Uh oh, Saturday is derailing in a major way! I was on the fence about this set for months but they did not manage to grab my interest. I've heard extremely mixed reviews about this set, but I ducked out somewhat early in order to make my way south. They covered David Bowie's "Let's Dance" as well.

Tried to catch Lykke Li beforehand but it didn't really pan out.

Eminem: (08:30 - 10:00, South - Music Unlimited)
This was both extremely fun and disappointing. Fun in the sense that this was the largest crowd I had ever seen (in person) and everybody was having a great time while Marshall belted out new and old tunes. Disappointing in the sense that it's exactly what he did at every other show this summer and didn't feel natural. The musical content itself was good and it even appeared as though Em wasn't lip syncing (except on "No Love" or "Forever", but I can't blame him for needing a breath there). Coming off of last years album Recovery, the set contained a great deal of tracks from there, as well as all of the hits we've known to recognize, and some newer tracks from his 2011 album with Royce Da 5'9", Hell: The Sequel. His partner in crime even showed up to complete the Bad Meets Evil pairing and to perform their hits "Fast Lane" and "Lighters", the latter of which brought Bruno Mars to Chicago. The problem I have with Eminem in 2011 is that his shows jump from violent tracks such as "Kill You" and then to sappy ones like "Space Bound" which gives off a funny dynamic. Everybody in the crowd was singing/rapping along to all of his tracks (which is kind of scary considering the content of some songs), but I feel like he's at a major crossroads again with his career, or perhaps I'm growing out of him. To quote Alex Young at Consequence of Sound, "If Eminem’s goal was to awkwardly bridge two eras that couldn’t be more different, then mission accomplished." Also, why the hell would festival organizer Perry Farrell tease Dr. Dre appearing at Lolla and then not have it happen? Oh well, he did create this ridiculously enjoyable festival afterall, I can let it slide. I departed this set after "I Need a Doctor" which featured Skylar Grey and not Dre, as the song abruptly ended when his verse was to begin. Being such a large crowd it was quite a task to find the exit which means I still got to listen to closing medley that included "My Name Is", "Without Me", and the "Real Slim Shady", as well as 2010 hit "Not Afraid". I missed the finale "Lose Yourself", but I had much bigger fish to fry.

Foo Fighters played a secret gig at Metro in Chicago (capacity 1,100) which was revealed on Thursday morning. I'll devote an entire entry to it, but with all confidence I would say this was my favourite set of all time. Seriously. So while Saturday had many ups and downs, it had that major peak which resulted in me being home and in bed by about 4am. On paper this was a horrible idea, but one that was worth every second.

Whew. Already done 3 days and 2 aftershows, but some of my most anticipated sets await... back to it!

Gold Motel: (12:15 - 01:00, North - Playstation)
They were good. I'm not sure how much of this set I actually remember, but it was enjoyable and unfortunately for them they shared a field with the Joy Formidable whose crowd was not nearly as full as it should have been so I opted to take advantage of this opportunity...

The Joy Formidable: (01:00 - 01:45, North - Bud Light)
One of the top 3 sets of the festival for sure! Saw them on Thursday night of course, but with those expectations, two festival days and a club gig from one of my favourite bands already in the books this weekend I anticipated they would have an extremely tough act to follow. Despite all of that, the band came out with their third Chicago set in four nights with furious energy to start the day off correctly. This set blew by and unfortunately they only played for about 2/3's of their alloted time (30 minutes versus 45), but I was definitely not disappointed with what they delivered; quality over quantity. Again, I highly recommend checking them out at this stage as I suspect they will gain popularity and their pricetag will likely increase. The set concluded with lead singer Ritzy Bryan slamming her guitar against a gong, throwing a drumset, and generally everybody in the band going as wild as they can to extend set closer "Whirring". Some of the studio tracks that I wasn't too fond of certainly came alive in this environment.

Rival Schools: (01:45 - 02:30, North - Playstation)
Man... this and Smith Westerns were basically the same for me. Nothing special, same stage, and I had just dealt with a high-energy set. This one was disappointing as their studio stuff is cool, but not much going on in person on this day.

Little Hurricane: (02:05 - 02:45, North - Google +)
Surprisingly good! This blues duo was a late addition to the lineup and after missing their opening set on Thursday I heard some negative buzz among people at the concert, so my expectations were low. Having said that, the description of the group from one concertgoer as being a "poor man's White Stripes" is somewhat accurate, but their set was good enough to warrant me buying their album afterwards, so it certainly wasn't bad at all in my opinion. Some slide guitar and bluesy riffs on a sunny afternoon were definitely welcome for me. I've talked to others who didn't enjoy this one, but I did, and since I'm the one doing the writing here that is what matters. Recommend!

The Cool Kids: (03:00 - 04:00, South - Perry's)
This felt like my first actual appearance at Perry's since I had an interest in seeing who was playing and not just feeling out the atmosphere. I stayed for about half of the set and managed to catch some personal favourites from Bake Sale, including "88" and "Mikey Rocks." They were also a late-add to replace Jay Electronica and they certainly managed to bring some entertainment to Lolla.

Flogging Molly: (04:15 - 05:15, North - Bud Light)
2010 was Gogol Bordello, 2011 is Flogging Molly. I'm not overly familiar with their catalogue but I knew what to expect: an extremely high energy set where everybody in the crowd is having fun with a Gypsy Irish punk band playing. Surprise surprise, this set was fun, even from afar and I would definitely check them out again (ALSO in town on my birthday against Grace).

Arctic Monkeys: (06:00 - 07:00 06:30 - 07:15, South - Music Unlimited)
Ugh. The set was scheduled to begin at 6pm and Mother Nature apparently isn't a fan of their music because it started to absolutely pour just before then for almost half an hour. Unfortunately this meant that the boys had a shortened set and as one of my most anticipated ones of the weekend this was very disappointing news. Thankfully, this was somehow a blessing in disguise as it led to one of their better sets that I have seen which consisted of a lively crowd (who had just been soaked), the guys being in better spirits, and no time to slow down which resulted in a consistently energetic set. Opening up with "Library Pictures" and "Brianstorm", the momentum carried through the set which included "Still Take You Home", "The View From the Afternoon", and breakout hit "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor". I made my way to a neighbouring stage towards what I thought was the end (7pm) but instead of finishing then they were given slightly more time which resulted in a proper finale. Playing a solid mix of tracks from their four studio albums and finishing with an unsuspecting closer ("When The Sun Goes Down") after "Flourescent Adolescent" I can't help but say this was one of the stronger sets of the weekend. Still no "Mardy Bum", but maybe someday. They also have some songs very well titled for this atmosphere which was definitely made apparent as they started to play them ("Crying Lightning", "She's Thunderstorms"). Oh hey, the whole set has surfaced.

After a quick appearance at Explosions in the Sky, it's now time for the main event...

Foo Fighters: (08:00 - 10:00, South - Music Unlimited)
How in the hell do they top a small club gig while playing in a field for thousands upon thousands of people? Call up Mother Nature and get her to rain down on one of their biggest songs, leading to torrential downpour and a massive sing-a-long in Grant Park, that's how. Leading off the set with "Bridge Burning" and "Rope" from their newest album Wasting Light, the guys quickly reminded Chicago that they can appeal to the diverse crowd at the festival. Upon playing "The Pretender", the clouds opened up and threw down perhaps more rain than the previous storm just as "My Hero" was beginning which led to quite possibly my favourite live performance of all time. Yes, of all time. Check out the video here. Despite having an umbrella in my sightlines we were still able to appreciate and partake in the moment that would go on to define the weekend. Seriously, perfect timing. Continuing along the boys played tracks from most of their previous albums including hits "Learn to Fly", "Monkey Wrench" and "Breakout", as well as new crowd favourites "White Limo", "Arlandria", and recent single "Walk", the Foo Fighters proved that they may very well be the best live band on the planet right now. Again, my write-up, I don't care if their songs sound alike, they're damn fun and they're one of my favourite bands. Not to be outdone from the Metro, Dave entered the crowd to jam during Stacked Actors which was fun but with such tight time restraints (10pm curfew, thanks Green Day) the typical moments of excess felt like they ate into the space where other tracks would have gone. In what I imagine was a very rare moment, band and crowd-favourite "All My Life" was not played seemingly due to the band running out of time; considering Dave himself said in the documentary Back and Forth that this track is essential for their shows, this omission seemed odd. However, it wasn't until analyzing the setlist afterwards that we noticed it was missing, so it didn't hinder the experience for me. Before the conclusion of the set, Dave brought out Jane's Addiction frontman and Lollapalooza creator Perry Farrell to thank him for making this festival the success it has been over twenty years. The band then jumped into "Everlong" to close out this extremely memorable set and weekend.

I can't believe I forgot to mention the mud. Much like Eminem's set, thanks to the rain this was an extremely muddy affair for which my Adidas shoes did not live to tell.



Total Acts Seen on Friday: 9 (and some of Tennis and Ok Go)

Total Acts Seen on Saturday: 5 (and some of Deftones, Ellie Goulding, Patrick Stump, Lykke Li, and Beats Antique)

Total Acts Seen on Sunday: 8 (and some of Kingston Springs, Cage the Elephant and Explosions in the Sky)

Total Acts Seen at Lollapalooza 2011: 22

Total Nights Slept on Couch: 4

Total Vince Carter Toronto Raptors Jerseys Spotted: 1



Lobster Corndog (Grahamwich, South): Slightly more crispy than last year, but I feel as though it has been improved. Maybe in 2012 I will buy one (for less than $9) and hit the sweetspot.

Deep Dish Sausage Pizza (Connie's Pizza, North): I'm in Chicago, I pretty much had to have another at some point.

Chicken Gyro (Greek Delights, North): Good, hit the spot on Saturday evening.

BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich (Robinson's No. 1 Ribs, North): Tasty! Required a fork and knife, the bread was essentially decoration. My preferred of the two I had.

Pulled Pork Sandwich (The Smoke Daddy, South): This one actually was to be eaten as a sandwich versus the one at (north vendor). Very rarely have I had a bad pulled pork sandwich and this was not the exception.


Budweiser: Bud's Bud.

Sweet Leaf Original Tea: Delicious! This was my weapon of choice when beer and water were not appealing to my tastebuds; forgot to import some back to Canada.

Water: Once again, Mother Nature brought the heat before the storm and so the water at Lolla was certainly refreshing (very, very refreshing)... and free as you walked in!

And with that another Lollapalooza is in the books... nuts! While 2010 and 2011 were completely different experiences, I felt even with a less appealing lineup this year that the actual delivery of certain acts may have helped trump last year. Each stands alone as an overwhelmingly positive experience for me and I will certainly be back in 2012, as well as recommend the trip to my friends. While there were instances of slight disappointment, there was still a whole weekend full of exceptional moments that I am glad I got to experience first-hand and I look forward to next summer.

Well, until next time...


Thanks to the Lollapalooza community for putting together various setlists, check it out for the non-headliners as well:

Setlist (Muse):
Supermassive Black Hole
(Star-Spangled Banner/Interlude intro, Back In Black outro)
Map of the Problematique
Butterflies & Hurricanes
(Glastonbury 2004 intro)
Guiding Light
Citizen Erased
United States Of Eurasia
Helsinki Jam
Undisclosed Desires
Time Is Running Out
(House of the Rising Sun intro)
Stockholm Syndrome

Plug In Baby
(Burning Bridges intro)
Knights of Cydonia
(Man With a Harmonica)

Setlist (Coldplay):
Hurts Like Heaven
In My Place
Major Minus
The Scientist
Violet Hill
God Put A Smile Upon Your Face (alternate)
Everything's Not Lost
Us Against the World
Viva La Vida
Charlie Brown
Life Is For Living

Rehab Intro (Amy Winehouse)
Fix You
Every Teardrop is a Waterfall

Setlist (Eminem):
Won't Back Down
3 a.m.
Square Dance
Kill You
No Love
So Bad
Cleanin' Out My Closet
The Way I Am
Fast Lane (feat. Royce da 5'9")
Lighters (feat. Royce da 5'9" and Bruno Mars)
Airplanes Pt. II
Sing For The Moment
Like Toy Soldiers
Cinderella Man
'Till I Collapse
Love the Way You Lie
I Need A Doctor (feat. Skylar Grey)
My Name Is
The Real Slim Shady
Without Me
Not Afraid

Lose Yourself

Setlist (Arctic Monkeys):
Library Pictures
This House Is A Circus
Still Take You Home
Don't Sit Down Cause I've Moved Your Chair
She's Thunderstorms
Teddy Picker
Crying Lightening
The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala
The View From The Afternoon
I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor
Fluorescent Adolescent
When The Sun Goes Down

Setlist (Foo Fighters):
Bridge Burning
The Pretender
My Hero
Learn To Fly
White Limo
Cold Day in the Sun
Long Road to Ruin
Stacked Actors
Monkey Wrench
Let It Die
These Days
Times Like These
Young Man Blues (Mose Allison cover)
Best of You
Skin and Bones

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