Friday afternoon in Grant Park, the first of nearly 100 bands got started as Lollapalooza 2014 kicked off with performances by Roadkill Ghost Choir, Lucius, AFI, Courtney Barnett, Temples, Johnnyswim, Portugal. The Man, Iggy Azalea and a transcendent set by Lorde...
In it's tenth year as a Chicago destination festival, what began as a nationally touring entity in 1991 now features nearly 130 bands on eight stages over the course of three days throughout Grant Park and Hutchinson Field.
As bands got started around 11:30AM Friday morning, the threat of severe weather loomed and clouds grew dark as I stood watching Lucius on the Palladia Stage (Petrillo Bandshell) around 2:30PM. But as the strongest storms missed Grant Park just south, rainfall barely eclipsed a drizzle and was gone altogether about an hour later. New safety procedures put into place following a controversial 2012 evacuation of the festival grounds were never tested and with temperatures hovering near eighty degrees, festival grounds remained dry despite the brief rainfall.
Two of my primary goals in 2014 were simply to get to the festival earlier and catch more acts. Having missed choice slots early in the day over the past two years like Charles Bradley, I was set on discovering new music instead of merely relying on proven names and old favorites. So bear with me... I moved around a lot.
Roadkill Ghost Choir describes themselves as an indie folk-rock band. I caught the end of a set drenched equally in slide guitar and banjo, the culmination of an intriguing set by the Florida rockers.
From there, PlayDate was wrapping up a set of fun, sunny songs with a positive, empowering message on the Kidzapalooza Stage with songs like "Dance Like a Monster" - a great example of the type of musical contrast that makes festivals fun and presents itself frequently on Lollapalooza's eight stages.
Greg Attonito of New Jersey, punk stalwarts The Bouncing Souls handled guitar and harmonized wonderfully Friday with his wife, songwriter and bass player Shanti Wintergate. Ultimately, the set was about the extreme opposite of what fans can expect when Attonito returns to Chicago in September with The Bouncing Souls at Riot Fest.
Lollapalooza has historically done a tremendous job of running the proverbial tight ship. But things got off to a slow start Friday afternoon as Temples began the weekend schedule on the Bud Light Stage. After about a ten minute delay, the gear was finally uncovered and ultimately the band got rolling fifteen minutes later than the posted start time of 1PM. But they were worth the wait as evidenced by the eager anticipation of one of the largest early crowds Friday. "Wow! Thanks for getting up early" said singer and guitarist James Edward Bagshaw in recognition of that fact.
Temples is a psychedelic rock band from England that succeeds because of the latent sixties pop sensibility gurgling just between the soaring guitar and waves of feedback. Friday's set also showcased a louder, rock leaning not necessarily at the front of the mix on record. But that pop sensibility was most clear on the jangly, Byrds-like guitar of "Shelter Song" which closed the set following a feedback-laden jam not all that far removed from "Eight Miles High."
One of the early afternoon's best sets came just as the the threat of rain began to materialize in the early afternoon but it did nothing to dull the sunny pop harmonies of multi-instrumentalists Lucius. All five members of the band sing and four out of the five chipped in on percussion Friday afternoon but it was the duelling lead vocals of Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig that led the way for a sound that, in a way, combines the best of elements of both Haim and Tegan & Sara.
The sparsely backed vocals of "Go Home" moved to a new height Friday afternoon as guitar kicked in at the end of the song, setting the performance far apart from the one found on last year's Wildewoman album. "Don't Just Sit There" was better still, relying more on a guitar driven beat but equally effecting vocals.
Courtney Barnett was nearly as good. Handling vocals and guitar, Barnett led her power trio and was able to hold her crowd as the rain began to fall on Lollapalooza.
Ultimately, the tree covered surrounding of the BMI Stage proved a great respite from the rain as Johnnyswim kept my Friday focus squarely on vocals.
The husband and wife duo of Amanda Sudano and Abner Ramirez were backed by a full band for a more complete sound reminiscent of the Lumineers. Despite that, the group's emphasis remained squarely on vocals and "Don't Let it Get You Down," from last year's Heart Beats, was an early highlight. Selections like "You and I," from the recently released Diamonds, followed and it won't be long before the Nashville duo are playing later in the day on a bigger festival stage.
Covers are always a big hit at Lollapalooza... For those keeping score, Portugal. The Man seemed to have that market cornered hitting on Pink Floyd, Oasis and more over the course of an hour on the Samsung Galaxy Stage.
Meanwhile, the tail end of Interpol's set seemed to capitalize on the sense of urgency that was wholly missing from their set when I last saw them opening for U2 in 2011 at Soldier Field. "PDA" and "Slow Hands" ultimately closed what appeared to be a strong set.
(For more on day 1 of Lollapalooza and a review of Lorde's set, click HERE)
- Jim Ryan
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Filed under: Concert Reviews
Tags: Abner Ramirez, AFI, Amanda Sudano, Arctic Monkeys, Broken Bells, Courtney Barnett, Eminem, Greg Attonito, Holly Laessig, Iggy Azalea, Interpol, James Edward Bagshaw, Jess Wolfe, Johnnyswim, Lollapalooza, Lorde, Lucius, Lykke Li, Play Date, Portugal. The Man, Roadkill Ghost Choir, Shanti Wintergate, Temples, The Bouncing Souls