Rain fell on day two of Lollapalooza and with it came mud. And while Saturday featured performances by artists like FUN, Bloc Party and Red Hot Chili Peppers, the real story was the cancellation of sets by acts like Alabama Shakes and The Temper Trap as well as the subsequent evacuation of the festival as storms rolled in...
As word started to filter through festival grounds in the three o clock hour that potentially strong storms were en route, concertgoers were left to wonder what exactly that meant for Lollapalooza.
Finally, just before 3:30PM, it was announced that acts were going to be temporarily suspended and the festival would be closed pending the approaching weather. Fans were evacuated from the park, the message put out via stage video screens and especially through social media.
The storms hit doing no seeming damage to stages or other festival structures, though the true report on possible damage will start to become clearer in the coming days as, not unlike last year, Grant Park was once again under water and forced to accommodate the foot traffic of nearly 100,000 people. Hutchinson Field on the festival’s south end was hit particularly hard, showcasing very swamplike conditions when festival acts resumed around 6:30PM.
Some artists lost the potential opportunity of a lifetime as the impending storms forced the cancellation of their sets. I talked with local rockers Empires early on Friday morning about what, as Chicagoans, it means to play the festival and their excitement was palpable. However, scheduled to start at 3:20PM, the band’s set was first postponed and ultimately cancelled. Also cancelled were higher profile artists like The Temper Trap, Alabama Shakes and more.
But all of that said, Saturday once again featured strong acts by a variety of artists across eight Lollapalooza stages in downtown Chicago.
Onto the music…
Chief Keef – Amidst rumors in the media area of some possible high profile guest appearances during the Chief’s set, I ventured over to Perry’s stage to check it out… but after waiting through fifteen minutes of nothing but promises that Chief Keef was about to take the stage and pleas that we tweet that, I had had enough and ventured north.
JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound – This was an outstanding set and I wish I didn’t waste fifteen minutes at Chief Keef before heading over to it. Brooks has a great stage presence and his passionate vocals more than hold up in the live setting. Performing as a six piece on Saturday, the band tore through their cover of Wilco’s “I am Trying to Break Your Heart” as I walked up. There was call and response between Brooks and the audience and a fast paced run through rock and soul.
Purple Apple – Wandered over to the Kidz stage to check out the local pop-punk outfit. Sugary sweet vocals and crunchy guitar along the lines of Josie & The Pussycats carried the set. I heard an acoustic ballad before the all female lineup closed out their set electric with a song I believe was called “Somebody to Love.” An unexpected Lolla appearance by the Jesse White Tumblers followed Purple Apple’s set.
Jeff The Brotherhood – I heard everything from the Buzzcocks to early Nirvana in the music of these straight forward garage rockers. “Sixpack” had a killer bass line and driving beat and while I only caught a bit of the set, it’s clear I need to get better acquainted with the group.
Yellow Ostrich – With the threat of bad weather looming, I decided it was time to head indoors. So I fled the festival in search of the Rolling Stone Rock Room at Studio Paris.
Festivalgoers got an up close look at Yellow Ostrich amidst the swanky but, more importantly, air conditioned surroundings of the Rock Room.
Performing a tight, thirty minute set, the band touched on several tracks from their March release Strange Land, the highlight of which was “Marathon Runner.” Saturday, the band’s low-fi rock possessed a swagger live that truly beat the recorded version.
Red Hot Chili Peppers – What a unique career arc for this band. They’re currently in the midst of a remarkable second act creatively. Since the Californication album was released in 1999, the band has put out a series of albums showcasing an increasingly strong songwriting style that focuses on serious lyrical content, an obvious departure from some of their work in the late eighties and early nineties.
It’s also been interesting to watch Anthony Kiedis develop as a vocalist over that time across songs built more on harmony and less on rap. They’ve weathered personnel changes and found themselves entering the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, something that once seemed unthinkable. Having been influenced by a variety of artists and genres, they’re now the band influencing everyone else through their unique fusion of rock, pop, funk, rap and even soul.
I had a conversation on Friday in the media area with a Chicago radio veteran about Wilco. We both agreed that the band is currently something to behold in the live setting, perhaps the finest live band in America. I wondered aloud, curious who else was even in the running. And the answer from my friend surprised me: the Red Hot Chili Peppers. But after chewing on that for a few days and catching the band live again last night, I couldn’t agree more.
I’ve seen the Chili Peppers twice so I wasn’t expecting to be blown away by their show at Lollapalooza. But I think what permeates their act and makes them so irresistible live is their clear love of music. And while it’s true of the whole band, Flea is the absolute embodiment of it. It’s obvious that he eats, sleeps and breathes music. If you’ve seen his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction speech, than you know. From what I heard upon arriving in Grant Park on Saturday, the band went out early that morning before gates opened and rolled through their set. Now they’ve been on tour for a while and certainly don’t need to do that. But it’s that type of dedication that shows just how much they clearly enjoy what they do. They need to play. And that’s refreshing.
Songs from 1991’s Blood Sugar Sex Magik came early and sounded great (“Suck My Kiss” and “Under the Bridge” specifically though the band ultimately closed with “Give It Away”).
But the highlights came in the form of the newer material. Unlike so many of their nineties alt peers, the Red Hot Chili Peppers can actually structure a live set around newer material at the expense of the old and nobody complains.
From Californication came “Around the World,” “Otherside” and “Californication.” John Frusciante was a huge part of those songs and certainly he’s missed live. But Flea played in an absolutely over the top fashion all night that more than made up for that. Listening to and watching him play is a privilege.
There’s not a lot of bands capable of what the Red Hot Chili Peppers are in the live setting. “Can’t Stop” was my favorite song of the night and it was apropos. Because watching this band (especially Flea) it’s clear that music is the priority. Not a flashy stage set. Not between song banter or humor. Just the music. And nearly thirty years since the release of their self-titled debut album in 1984, it’s clear that the Red Hot Chili Peppers can’t stop. Hopefully, they never do.
Tags: Anthony Kiedis, Chad Smith, Chief Keef, empires, Flea, JC Brooks, JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound, Jeff the Brotherhood, Lollapalooza, Purple Apple, Red Hot Chili Peppers, rock and roll hall of fame, Rolling Stone, Rolling Stone Rock Room, Yellow Ostrich