If there’s one thing I learned about Lollapalooza during my time in Chicago this year, it’s that Lollapalooza IS chicago. Now in its 26th year, Lolla has become more than just a summer music festival. It’s deeper than that.
Lolla is the lifeblood of a city, an event that shuts down whole streets and dominates the city. It’s in everyone’s vernacular and it’s in the air of the city- music waves distantly drifting through the sky and shrouding downtown in sound. This year, from August 3-6, Chicago welcomed back its newest king of the city, Chance the Rapper, as he took on his role as headlining hero. The festival also featured acts like The Killers, Cage the Elephant, Blink 182, Kaskade, and many, many more
You’ll encounter all kinds of people at Lolla. The elders who have seen it all- from watching Jane’s Addiction and Metallica play shows in the early years to the construction of Perry’s. The youth, coming out in droves to check out Amine and some of the lesser known acts early in the afternoon. The rave kids, spending long days and nights, dancing their legs into oblivion at Perry’s, the popular EDM stage. The phrase “this is my ‘Nth’ Lolla” is frequently thrown around and you realize this a city-wide event.
So let’s put on our most comfortable shoes and our specified “festival mesh tank-tops” and dive into 4 days of music, art, fashion, food, drinking, and more at Lollapalooza 2017.
The headliners for the first day were an eclectic and exciting group of indie-rock stardom. The sensational and captivating Lorde was set to perform songs from her new album Melodrama. Hip-hop sensation Lil Uzi Vert was set to perform a hype set full of rap bangers and triumphant Brit-rockers Muse were eager to show off their glam-rock and laser-y pyrotechnic show. I went with Muse as I had just seen Lorde at Coachella (she killed it.)
They opened with their latest hit “Dig Down” and were met with an incredible response from the crowd. Unfortunately, they were also met with sheets of heavy rain coming down from above. However, as the rain intensified, so did the crowd. With each burst of rain, fans would cheer and rage that much harder. As Muse dug deeper into their set, performing the 2004 gem “Hysteria” the feeling of moshing and raising a fist in the air through the bad weather was everything. The only word to describe it would be epic.
The festival promoters pulled the plug on the show nearly four songs in. As fans walked home through the massive Grant Park, heavy raindrops shattered down as sweeping cold winds chilled disappointed music fanatics to the bone. It was a brutal reminder that festivals are best while accompanied by sunshine and warm weather.
Friday started off stronger, but the music festival vibes weren’t quite there yet. However, there was some incredible music to be heard. Power-punk group PUP hit the stage and the subsequent mosh pit was one of the most fun experiences of the festival— until I realized I was wearing Birkenstocks in a mosh pit and four of my toes were bleeding. Not my brightest moment, but it was incredibly metal. After a quick footware change, the party continued on. Phantogram took the stage and did their thing, which is crafting catchy, brazenly cool music with heavy beats and sultry singing layered on top. Their music could soundtrack so many movies.
Run the Jewels are a show you should always and forever go see. The combination of Killer Mike and El-P make for an epic show of powerful rap and effervescent joy. They ransack through songs with the aggression of an elephant stampede. Their set also featured one of the coolest moments of Lolla ’17. A kid, no older than 21 held a sign all show that read “Let me rap ‘Legend Has It!'” To his amazement, RTJ brought him up on stage and handed him a mic. To their amazement, he absolutely DESTROYED, rapping every word, not missing a syllable. Killer Mike carried him on his shoulder for half the verse, raising him up jubilantly and cheering him on. I get chills just thinking about it. This moment was just another reason why I will always love Run the Jewels, they’re rap’s greatest force for good in this crazy, fucked up world.
Headlining Friday was Las Vegas’s (my hometown) own, The Killers. Opening with “The Man,” the lead single from the new album, Brandon Flowers featured the most swagger I’ve ever seen from a performer. His voice was pristine and the notes he hit were impeccable. He strutted across the stage like a cheetah strutting past it’s mate just after a kill– sauntering and proud. They played new songs, as well as old hits, like “Spaceman” and “Somebody Told Me.” The songs off of their debut, Hot Fuss, still play so well to the crowd, everybody in attendance singing every word, like a 100,000 person karaoke. And let’s be honest, who hasn’t performed “Mr. Brightside” or “When You Were Young” at karaoke before. That’s what is appealing about The Killers, you know you’re getting a great live show, and you know you’ll get to hear some of the best rock songs of the 2000’s, including the festival-killer “All These Things That I’ve Done,” which is guaranteed to bring the house down 100% of the time. There ain’t nothing better than shouting out “I got soul, but I’m not a soldier.”
Saturday was the kind of festival day I’m looking for. Warm and sunny, great vibes, everyone wearing their best gear, the entire city out and ready to have fun. The general attitude was complete and total excitement for the homecoming king, Chance the Rapper.
Glass Animals played a tremendous show to a field full of fans- most wearing some sort of pineapples, a common theme of the band. The way the band executed their songs live is what has made them so successful and consistently growing in popularity. They turn lucid and sometimes abstract indie songs into dancey and festival-ready, almost rock-turned-EDM songs. Their songs never stay exactly the way you think they should, they take unpredicted turns and can get weird, but that’s the appeal, and the band stayed exciting and enjoyable.
The main attraction was quickly approaching, and the Grant Stage quickly filled with the most fans for a show I’ve ever seen. Even some of the Lollapalooza veterans who have been there for years claimed that this was the largest crowd in Lolla history. As the stage turned dark, an incredible entrance video that featured all of Chance’s appearances on TV played on the screens. Everyone from Whoopie Goldberg to Michelle Obama saying those words, “Chance. The. Rapper.” and like magic, the city’s own Chance the Rapper came on stage and everyone lost their minds. He played everything, from songs off his latest mixtape Coloring Book, to old fan-favorites from Acid Rap. It was a joyous occasion that bordered on emotional. His joy was infectious, and he even said, “I didn’t let this show get streamed online on purpose because I wanted this to be between you and me.” Chance pulled out all the stops, even going as far as bringing out Chicago’s finest firefighters and a firehose to spray water into the crowd. It was truly a once and lifetime kind of concert that can only occur when a hometown kid, who has done everything possible for his city, with so much love for his city, and that same love reciprocated by his city, comes home for the biggest performance of his life.
The feeling of pure joy transcended into Sunday. Maggie Rogers, the young indie-rock singer songwriter was in awe of her large crowd, and she performed an incredible show. Her phenomenal show even attracted an unconventional fan, rapper Lil Yachty. He smiled and watched happily as she strutted through Roger’s fantastic hit song “Alaska.”
The Shins took the stage and played an awesome and lively performance that featured some new songs off their latest record Heartworms, but mostly included older fan favorites from previous records. James Mercer and Co. strummed effortlessly through songs like “Australia,” “New Slang,” and more. These guys always put on an impeccable show, but I think this was the best one I’ve seen yet. They played at their absolute peak, every song was tight and perfectly done. The Shins may have been around for years, but their live show is just as fresh as ever, and definitely worth checking out.
Finally, the main attraction of the day, and one of the two reasons I was at the festival- the fantastic Canadian band Arcade Fire was set to perform. I love Arcade Fire. I love their old albums, I love their new albums. I love Win Butler, and Will Butler, and Regine Chassagne. The band had just released their new album Everything Now, and I love that too. So it was a given that I was going to be front and center for this performance.
Arcade Fire opened with their new hit “Everything Now” and started the party off right. The disco-themed track created a dancefloor where the crowd was standing, and the immediate understanding was that we were going to absolutely go crazy. They proceeded to follow with “Rebellion (Lies)” and followed with “Here Comes the Nighttime.” Seriously, looking back at this setlist, every single song was an amazing rock song, and thinking back on living the experience, it was a blur of dancing and singing to each and every song. The song “Creature Comfort” was a highlight, and the band was surprised at how well the new track was received by the fans, most of whom knew every word to that too, even though the album just dropped a couple of days prior.
If we’re talking festival killers though, the legendary Arcade Fire song “Wake Up” has to be included. There is so much power in this song, from the build-up, to the sing-a-long “WOOOOAH-WOAAAAAH” parts, to the feeling of absolute invincibility when it’s played to a huge crowd of music fans. Their performance at Grant Park at Lollapalooza 2017 was just another example of the power within this song.
Lollapalooza is an absolute celebration, in every aspect of the word. People of all ages come out to celebrate life and music and their city and their vices. They come to dance, to sing, to rage, to socialize, and to enjoy what Chicago has to offer. Lolla may be one of the biggest festivals in the country, and it may be worldwide now, but there is no closer bond than that between this festival and this city. Chicago, I said this after Pitchfork Fest, but you have my heart. I’ll hopefully see you soon.