As Sunday arrived, it was exciting that it was the last day of the festival, but also being the day that held the top 3 bands that I wanted to see the most on the lineup, all conveniently playing back to back to back on the same stage. My body disagreed, though. Shit, I was so sore at this point. From walking a mile back and forth several times through the festival all day the past two days, as well as sweating profusely under the hot sun, my body was pissed at me. Feet, legs, back, neck, all sore. I couldn’t help but feel like an old man. But fuck it, we trudge on, and we shall go out with a goddamn bang. And we absolutely did, as the final day ended up housing the best performance I’ve seen all year.
I wasn’t the only one starting to get tired and sore, it seemed, as we arrived around 1 and there were already tons of people laying on the ground relaxing, listening to the bands with their eyes closed. Of course, Perry’s stage was still bass-dropping like usual, but all of us non-party people seemed to be taking it easy today. I decided to check out a bit of Polica‘s set on the Sony Stage, as I’d enjoyed their album quite a bit, but after a few songs into their set, I just couldn’t keep interest in it. Something was off. It wasn’t that they sounded bad, but more so just that it wasn’t interesting to watch or something. Instead of finishing their set, I checked out more promotional tents, including a neat little Ray-Ban tent that served as a museum for famous album covers, including behind the scenes pictures of their creations and such. A pretty neat little way to kill a few minutes, I suppose. I’d heard that the Playstation tent was giving out free matts to sit on all weekend, so I grabbed one of those and then headed to the Redbull Stage and planted myself firmly against the barricade close to the stage, where I would stay for the rest of the day.
The first band up, was one of my favorite bands of all time, the amazing Sigur Rós from Iceland. They are one of those bands that must be seen either at dusk or in the dark, as they utilize beautiful projections and visual elements to amp up their performance. So it was really weird trying to imagine them playing at 4:00 in the afternoon, under a blazing hot sun. I should never had doubted them, though. They packed their set wall to wall withmusic, utilizing every last second spared in their hour long set. In a showcase of their amazing performance skills, so many people around me, including myself at times, just closed their eyes, and let the music soak over them, forgetting that it was during the day and was so hot. During the band’s second song, and the only new song performed, “Varúð”, the final buildup of the song physically brought me to tears. There was a guy near me who I don’t think opened his eyes once. He stood there the whole time with a smile on his face, his eyes close, and his head tilted back. This is the effect that Sigur Rós‘ music has on people.
The only other time that I’d seen them was at a quiet intimate show back in 2008 where they played mostly quiet slower songs, so this was a good contrast, as they played loud and hard. The best part being the finale of “Hafsól” segueing into “Popplagið” (aka Untitled 8). Another thing to note about their set was how active singer Jónsi was being. He stalked the stage back and forth at times, inciting reactions from either side of the crowd, and at one point during the end of “Popplagið”, started grinding his guitar on the floor of the stage. It was a beautiful and remarkable set, that only makes me wonder how much more amazing it would have been if it would have been a full length headlining set at night.
Next up after Sigur Rós was the long awaited reunion of At The Drive-In. Their third and final album Relationship Of Command is one of my favorite albums and is a stepping stone for any modern post-hardcore band. While the band had vehemently denied ever reuniting, through the years, it somehow finally happened. While everything will always have its detractors, and this reunion certainly does, as people are claiming they’re only doing it for money, blah blah blah, but whatever the reasons, I can proudly say that I still finally got to see At The Drive-In live. No one in the crowd cared what the reasons were for reuniting, and just simply wanted to have fun reminiscing about younger times and singing along with these amazing songs. While I’ll say that guitarist Omar Rodriquez Lopez seemed like he wasn’t very interested in being there, as he just stood in the same place the entire set, it didn’t bother me. Everyone else in the band were having a great time. Especially singer Cedric Bixler-Zavala, as he introduced the band to Danzig‘s “Mother”, and calling the band the “Latin Danzig”.
Cedric is an amazing front-man and this particular performance especially showed that off, as there were a couple of rather lengthy periods of technical difficulties, which were remedied with Cedric’s fantastic ability to be hilarious. At times it felt like we were watching an At The Drive-In standup comedy special. I loved it. But when there WEREN’T technical difficulties, the band sounded awesome. Songs off of Relationship Of Command still packed a punch, despite Cedric’s voice not exactly being able to scream anymore. The opening duo of “Arcarsenal” and “Pattern Against User” sent the crowd into an absolute frenzy, with every fist in the air yelling “I must have read a thousand faces!”. Despite ending the set 10 minutes ahead of their allotted 75 minute set, everyone walking away from the stage looked completely ecstatic and content with what they’d just seen, and I couldn’t have agreed more.
After screaming my head off for 65 minutes for At The Drive-In, I definitely needed a refill on water and a bathroom break before the final headliner of the festival, Jack White, took the stage. By the time I got back to my spot, the crowd had massively filled up, proving my point that no one cares about Justice, who were headlining on the north end of Grant Park. I personally view Jack White as this generation’s defining guitarist. The dude is a power-house. He’s had four musical projects, all of which were successful, leading up to his current solo venture which is proving to be his most successful yet, earning him his first #1 Billboard chart-topping album. The only other time that I’d seen Jack live was when my favorite project of his, The Dead Weather, opened up for The Flaming Lips back in 2010. While Jack was behind the drum kit the entire time, it was still a magnificent show.
Keeping with Jack’s love of color coding his projects, everything was decked out in baby blue for the stage show, including his stage technicians who wore awesome black suits with blue ties. Finally Jack’s all male backing-band, Los Buzzardos, came out and tore into a quick cover of Jay-Z‘s “Public Service Announcement” before Jack appeared and ripped into “Sixteen Saltines”. The most amazing thing about watching Jack White perform from as close as I was, was being able to see him run up to band members in between songs and tell them what song he’d decided would be played next, as a throwback to the way The White Stripes used to perform, spontaneously with no setlist. And with that, all songs were on the table. Songs from all four projects were played, not just solo material. Seeing him decide what would follow a certain song based on the mood he’d obtained with the previous track was incredibly cool. Not to mention that Los Buzzardos were a really badass backing band, who were all equally as good as musicians as White himself. In-between songs, they would all just start improvising material before segueing into the next track.
After about ten songs, everyone left the stage except for Jack and a female backup singer who sang “Love Interruption”, while slowly an all female band named The Peacocks made their way on stage, replacing Los Buzzardos. The Peacocks gave the previous backing band a run for their money. They helped Jack plow through more material from his back catalogue before taking a break before the encore, in which the crowd spent the entire length of chanting the bass-line to “Seven Nation Army”. And once the band returned, after a few more songs, they got just what the wanted. The entire south field seemed to explode upon the arrival of the most famous White Stripes song.
Once everything was said and done, and the final notes of the festival rang free, the crowd could be heard walking away from the stage still chanting that bass-line, much like everyone chanting the chorus to Arcade Fire‘s “Wake Up” after their Lollapalooza headlining set in 2010. It was an amazing thing being that close and being able to watch Jack White nail his guitar solo’s, being able to hear the overdrive from the distortion at that distance, feeling it in my chest, was something I’ll never forget. He put on, easily, the best performance I’ve seen all year, managing to outdo Radiohead. And not just that, but putting on the most rock ‘n roll show I’ve ever seen.
While, I think in the long run, I would really like to see Lollapalooza stop focusing on EDM next year, and move back to showcasing ACTUAL musicians, Lolla 2012 still went down as a highly memorable and enjoyable experience for me. I was able to see plenty of bands that I can now cross off of my musical bucket list, as well as being apart of history as attending the first Lollapalooza to ever be evacuated. And one last little fun tidbit, I high fived SNL alumni Tim Meadows, as he walked past me on his way to watch Jack White from the VIP area. FUCK YEAH! So in conclusion, despite you cashing on the current annoying-as-fuck dubstep phase, congrats Perry Ferrel, it was another successful Lollapalooza!
By Richard Pepper