More great weather, along with performances by Jake Bugg, Wild Nothing, Alex Clare, Two Door Cinema Club, Tegan and Sara, 2 Chainz, Grizzly Bear, Beach House, Major Lazer, Vampire Weekend, Phoenix, Cat Power, Knife Party and The Cure provided the end to Lollapalooza 2013 Sunday afternoon in Grant Park...
Once again, for most of the day the weather held and festival grounds remained dry. It was fitting though when the sky turned to grey and drizzle fell on the masses toward the end of a headlining set by kings of gloom, The Cure.
When all was said and done in Grant Park Sunday night, closing sets by The Cure, Phoenix and Knife Party marked an end to the biggest Lollapalooza in its eight years since moving to Chicago as a destination festival in 2005.
Sold out well in advance with a daily attendance topping out around 100,000, it's hard to see how the festival could possibly expand any further in Chicago (though it's probably worth noting that Austin City Limits, the other major festival put on by promoter C3 Presents, takes place on two consecutive weekends in Austin, Texas each October).
While there's been plenty written about its behind the scenes dealings with the city, and as much fun as some of the special Lolla after shows can be, it's hard to ignore the festival's impact on an often depleted, small club concert calendar in the summer weeks following Lollapalooza.
That said, no other event offers Chicago concertgoers quite the opportunity to catch as much music as Lollapalooza does on its eight stages over the course of three August days.
As seems to be the case each year, in 2013 I was upset to miss sets several sets, including The Killers (how I've still never caught them at Lollapalooza is beyond me as they seem to play what feels like every year), Frightened Rabbit, Foals, Charles Bradley, Wild Nothing, Chance the Rapper, Wild Belle and Jake Bugg.
But as always, the hits are greater than the misses and Sunday afternoon I got my day started with a set by British pop export Alex Clare. Surprisingly soulful in the live setting, Clare is clearly influenced by Stevie Wonder and over the course of an hour early Sunday, he mixed in horns and organ nicely, covered Prince's "When Doves Cry," and got the crowd moving with his biggest hit in "Too Close."
In the wee hours of Monday morning, I caught New York punk rock trio deliver a spirited performance at Hard Rock Hotel (part of an #ASOSRocks after party that also featured rapper Angel Haze and New York electro-pop outfit MS MR alongside an audience that included rapper Eve) but earlier Sunday they performed on "The Grove" stage kicking a sparse crowd into gear with their rousing rendition of one of Nirvana's loudest and fastest in "Territorial Pissings" in a set focused more on rock than their albums.
What I probably enjoy most about Lollapalooza is the opportunity it affords me to discover new bands I enjoy enough to get better acquainted with so I can catch them again in a small club down the line. Baroness is a great example of that type of band and provided one of my favorite sets Sunday afternoon. Performing at Petrillo Bandshell, the four piece may have been the most straight forward rock act that I saw all weekend focusing primarily on a unique mix of hard rock, metal and stoner rock. Dueling, melodic solos powered the set opening "Take my Bones Away" and guitar atmospherics between songs gave the set a fairly seamless feel.
One of the band's I was looking most forward to at Lollapalooza 2013 was Tegan and Sara. In 2005, in Lollapalooza's first year as a Chicago destination festival, Sara Quin suffered from heat stroke and the band's set was cut short. So it was good to see them back, bigger than ever and performing on one of the festival's main stages.
"How's Sara?" Tegan responded to a crowd member's query regarding her sister's health during her band's Lolla return. "Sara's still here. Let the record show, other people have fainted at Lollapalooza. And now back to Sara... she's still here!"
The duo's witty repartee and between song banter make it easy to see why their songs are so good: they're extremely intelligent and beyond the ability to merely craft catchy pop singles, their songs' likability lies also in compelling, well written lyrics.
"Alligator" (from 2009's Sainthood) sounded good as did newer material. The band's most recent output has a decidedly more pop-leaning, electronic driven slant and "Closer" wrapped all of that up nicely. With it's new wave feel, the song was the epitome of ear candy and ended up as one of my favorite performances all weekend.
From there, I managed to catch the tail end of a set on the other end of the festival by Northern Irish indie rockers Two Door Cinema Club. The north field was packed as concertgoers climbed light poles (while others vomited in garbage cans) in order to catch a glimpse of the band and that energy was palpable as I worked my way a bit closer to the stage. Cutting, buzzsaw guitar riffs set this dance music apart and "Something Good Can Work" had the crowd in a frenzy as the band approached the end of a sixty minute set that would eventually culminate with the band's biggest hit in "What You Know."
Georgia rapper 2 Chainz attracted a densely packed crowed to "The Grove" stage for a set that pandered largely to a number of hip-hop stereotypes.
"I got a new album coming out in September... If you gonna buy that album say 'YEAH!'" It would seem that an awful lot of people were lying judging by the raucous response in an era where, let's face it, nobody buys albums. "Let's take it back to the strip club!" continued 2 Chainz, changing the subject.
As I made my way back to the south end to secure a decent spot to watch The Cure, I managed to stumble into one of the funniest things that I'd end up seeing all weekend.
"Everybody take your shirt off! If you see someone wearing a shirt, tell them they are not welcome at the Major Lazer stage!" came the proclamation during a rare lull at Perry's stage. "Perhaps this is something I might want to see," I thought to myself as I wandered up just in time to see (literally) thousands of t-shirts flying in the air as Diplo and company soldiered on.
Following a set the day before by fellow alternative pioneers New Order that lacked urgency and felt overly nostalgic at times, I was curious to see how The Cure would translate to a U.S. festival crowd made up largely of a demographic that I'd typically consider far too young to fully appreciate the band's influence on so many of the alternative artists who've performed over the years during Lollapalooza's reign as one of, if not the most, popular U.S. destination festivals.
And the answer shocked me as the crowd sang along to just about every song during a set built largely on the hits that nevertheless managed to feel fresh and relevant throughout but most notably on sing-a-longs to "Pictures of You" and "Just Like Heaven" (despite a sound mix that favored overly resounding bass at the expense of Robert Smith's acoustic guitar).
Robert Smith is still that guy with stickers on his guitar and his voice has aged incredibly well. At fifty-four years of age, he sounds great, requiring little, if any, downtuning from his band. And Sunday night at Lollapalooza, he seemed downright playful at times (uncharacteristically so early on during "Lullaby" as he danced playfully, sticking his tongue out and generally mugging for the cameras displaying his image for all to see on jumbotrons flanking each side of the stage. It was the same approaching the end of the main set during "Wrong Number").
The band's twenty-six song, two hour setlist spanned its career focusing most prominently on 1989's Disintegration but touching on just about everything (even a pair from 1996's Wild Mood Swings).
Closing Lollapalooza 2013 and a six song encore with hits like "The Lovecats," "Close to Me," "Why Can't I be You?," and "Boys Don't Cry," The Cure served up an impressive reminder of just how many huge hits they've had during a long stretch as alternative pioneers over the course of their nearly forty years.
- Jim Ryan (@RadioJimRyan)
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