Well, that’s it, folks. Lollapalooza 2012 is in the books. While this was not my first time attending the festival, it was definitely the most memorable that I’ve attended, for many different reasons, good and bad. There were plenty different adjectives to describe this years festival: Muddapalooza, Rainapalooza, Heatapalooza, etc. But none will likely end up being as accurate as Dubstep-Palooza or Dude-Bro-Palooza.
I’d say a good 60% of the festival were teenage Dude-Bros and their girlfriends who were there simply to party and get fucked up. All because of one simple thing, Perry’s Stage, a stage who’s size was comparable to each North and South field’s headlining stage, that’s sole purpose was to serve as the DJ stage that highlighted current Dubstep trend setters in the current EDM dominated world of music. It was the absolute bane of this year’s festival, for me, and the other 40% of the crowd who were there to actually enjoy music. At all times of the day, no matter if you were down on the south field in front of the Redbull Soundstage, or even a full mile’s distance away, up north at the Bud Light Stage, you were guaranteed to always hear a steady stream of bass drops coming from Perry’s. It was a jarring transition from what I remember the stage being, the last time I attended Lollapalooza in 2010. Then, the stage consisted of an extremely small stage located in the middle of a small shaded area of Grant Park. Just goes to show how much EDM has blown up in the past two years. But, alas, if I had just attended Perry’s all weekend, this review would simply state “I partied, I got fucked up, I YOLO’d” but I’m not an idiot, so I’ll now subject you to my experience of the entire 3 day weekend.
We arrived at the festival bright and early on Friday and spent the first few hours getting aquatinted with the park, checking out all the various tents and booths available to Lolla’s patrons. At one point it kind of turned into a game of “How much free shit can we obtain”. Spoiler Alert: we obtained a lot. Silk Screened bags, personalized Ray Ban sunglasses, headbands, and there was even a booth that would print off your Instagram pictures. I mean, if it’s there, sure why not.
Once we were loaded up on swag, we headed over to catch The Black Angels, a band who’ve I’ve greatly enjoyed for a couple of years now, but have missed out on every chance I’ve had to see them. They’re a band that I usually associate with small smokey clubs, so it was a big strange to see them walk out on the massive Bud Light Stage and play to a crowd of at least a few thousand. I was not disappointed, though. Nearly every song that I wanted to hear was crammed inside of their 45 minute set, before ending with an incredible version of “Deer-Ree-Shee” where guitarist Rishi Dhir extended his performance on the sitar well past the band’s exit, completely putting the spotlight on himself for several minutes. It was the perfect end to the band’s already fuzzed out psychedelic set.
By the time Metric hit the same stage an hour later, the sun was blazingly hot, and the crowd had grown considerably, about twice as big as their crowd when I saw them at Lollapalooza 2010. Certainly better than the bands much too short 25 minute set at this year’s 96.5 Buzz Beach Ball concert, Emily Haines and co loaded their hour long performance with songs off of their latest album Synthetica. Over half of the album was played with only a handful of older tracks sprinkled in. No one seemed to mind, though. Especially since the new tracks come off incredibly well live. A notable highlight for me was the performance of “Lost Kitten”, a track where Emily Haines takes on a much girlier persona than normal, remixing the intro to the song by looping her voice through her keyboard. One thing that I also enjoyed about Metric‘s set was that they didn’t end with their usual acoustic sing-along, instead ending with Fantasies album closer Stadium Love. It felt much more effective to me, than coming out and singing “Combat Baby”, yet again, without the full live band.
After a quick run to Chowtown North, the northern version of Lollapalooza’s food vending area, which is curated by chef Graham Elliot, and offers tons of local Chicago eateries as opposed to crappy greasy burgers and hot dogs, we headed back to the Bud Light Stage to check out Passion Pit, who’s latest string of show cancelations over singer Michael Angelakos’ mental health concerns, have caused a bit of a controversy, but you couldn’t tell by the band’s MASSIVE crowd. There were no indications at all that there were any concerns for the singer as he hopped around and hyped up the crowd and just generally seemed in great spirits, so you know, good for him! I’m personally not much of a fan of Passion Pit, but they sounded great and added new touches to older songs. Much like MGMT‘s set in 2010, though, with each passing single that the band played, there was a mass exodus of people, presumably migrating south to catch part of The Shins‘ set on the Redbull Stage, or to catch a spot waiting for M83.
And that’s exactly what I did. After about 5 songs of Passion Pit, I grabbed a spot in front of the soundboard of the Sony Stage to wait for the inevitable mind-blowing set from M83. While waiting, I couldn’t help but notice how quiet The Shins were. Typically at any stage, you can hear a little bit of someone else playing close by, but even though The Shins were playing on the stage directly adjacent to M83, you could not hear a single note from them. But whatever, I don’t really like The Shins all that much so no love lost.
Anthony Gonzalez soon led his band out on stage and blew through a tighter, more condensed version of the show that I saw earlier in May at Lawrence, KS’ The Granada. The main difference being the crowd. I’d forgotten that all the bros had gotten ahold of the band with the success of “Midnight City”, so while we’re
dancing to the songs, everyone around me seemed to just do the “Dubstep-Arm” the whole time, and showed zero interest in any song that wasn’t off of Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. Where The Granada exploded with dance moves during “Sitting”, a song made for dancing off of the band’s first album, the Lolla crowd instead got on their phones or turned around and talked to their other bro friends. I couldn’t help but dance harder and just think “WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE!?”. But luckily, after the band performed “Midnight City”, practically every bro left, leaving just us true M83 fans and that’s when the REAL dance party started. My favorite M83 track “Couleurs”, in which they ended they set with, turned into a sea of dancing and people jumping up and down. But despite the lackluster crowd, the band sounded phenomenal and perfectly matched the enthusiasm and greatness of the performance in May.
Immediately following M83‘s set, I high tailed it back up north to catch the rest of Black Sabbath‘s set. By the time I got up there, I’d missed at least 30-40 minutes of the set, but arrived to the sound of sirens blaring over the P.A. indicating that I’d made it just in time to hear “Warpigs”. Fuck yeah! The first thing noticeable upon my arrival to their set, was how small the crowd was, only extending out halfway into the field, which was slightly disappointing. But the vibes were fantastic up there. At the spot that I took for the remainder of the performance, I was surrounded by cool people relaxing and soaking in the fact that they were watching the last possible Black Sabbath performance ever.
Another thing to notice was how good Ozzy sounded. I had fully expected to not be able to understand a word he was saying, but dammit the dude proved me wrong! Although he (mostly) stayed in the same spot, he seemed to have lots of energy and enthusiasm, and I could tell that he was having fun. It wasn’t just Ozzy though, Tony Iomi’s fingers were on fire the entire set, not hitting a single bum note, and Geezer Butler could often be seen swinging his Bass high into the air. And despite that Bill Ward refused to participate in the reunion, the drummer they had filling in for him did a remarkable job, plowing through a massive drum solo (because, really, what’s metal without some kind of solo showoff at some point in the set?) before bursting into “Iron Man”. In between songs, Bassnectar‘s bass-drops were easily heard from all the way down at Perry’s, and The Black Keys‘ fireworks were steady going off, but despite the fact that Sabbath ended 20-15 minutes early, it was hands-down THE headlining performance for Friday night, and I’m super glad that I can now say that I saw the final Black Sabbath performance.
By Richard Pepper