A record setting 300,000 people over 3 days, watching a variety of over 140 bands from every genre of music on 8 separate stages in the iconic Grant Park of Chicago is an experience unlike any. Despite many knocking this year off as lacking compared to 2011’s heavy hitters like Eminem and Coldplay, or even last years Red Hot Chili Peppers and The Black Keys, I still enjoyed the hell out of the experience. This year to me wasn’t lacking as much as it was more about bringing in another genre of music (EDM) to the forefront, while sticking with the Lolla roots of the indie rock bands.
This was my first year in attendance, and I’m already booking my hotel for next. Again, Lolla to me is more about the experience of being there than who you’re actually seeing. Of course, it’s always awesome to see major headliners like Kendrick Lamar, but my point to be made is don’t write off weaker year line-ups immediately. Clearly the attendance didn’t show it, but a lot of people I talked to didn’t attend because they disliked the line-up, and I think it’s an easy mistake to make. That said, here is my quasi-review of Lollapalooza 2013. Obviously I wasn’t able to catch everybody, hence the reason I’m not giving a flat number rating, but instead, I’m going to do short reviews of particular acts by categories. Here we go…
Biggest Surprise: Robert Delong
I’m only starting with this category because I want to talk about this guy so damn much. It’s also pretty fitting that he’s the first guy I saw at Lollapalooza 2013. Original and talented are the only two words to come to mind when you watch him play. Whether you’re into his electronic/rock style, witnessing him live is a true site to see. Robert Delong is a one-man band that consists of him looping a variety of noises live on stage, then adding in vocals and drums to make songs. Added to the mix is his original programs that he created for his computer that allow him to incorporate unique items such as a computer flight simulator joystick to control the dub step in his songs, or smashing on a Gameboy controller to produce electronic sounds. On top of all this is his rock band drummer roots that he displays prominently when he sits down to bang away on his kit. The small crowd he performed to ate it up, and all in all, it was a great way to start off the weekend. Knowing nothing about this guy is why I have given him the title of Biggest Surprise. Check out the video of him below.
Biggest Disappointment: Chance The Rapper
Writing about this one kills me because Chance was by far one of my most anticipated, and the minimal amount of rappers on the lineup meant he really had to stick out from the obvious bigger name, Kendrick Lamar. Headlining the BMI stage in his hometown of Chicago, the 19-year-old rapper had some hefty expectations. I highly doubt Lolla was ready for this guy to blow up the way he did when his second mix tape dropped, thus placing him on a somewhat smaller stage, because it was packed to the fences. The concert started off with a cool mix by the DJ, from Kanye West’s new “Bound 2” all the way to House of Pain’s “Jump Around”. But the concert went mostly down hill from there. The rapper seemed out of his element when he began performing with the background instrumental, leaving some to speculate there were technical difficulties. He played his hits that got the crowd going, but half way through “NaNa”, the track flipped into an odd dub step type beat that seemed like a mistake on the DJ’s behalf. Chance went with it for a second before walking off stage, leaving the crowd to believe that he was done after about 20 minutes, and making about a third of the crowd scurry out of the area. Then a band took the stage, began playing, and Chance got back up and rocked the hell out of the rest the show. The only problem is the ‘rest of the show’ was basically 2 or 3 more songs. That’s where this guy has potential. Between his enthusiastic dance moves, and his emotional delivery of lyrics, this guy can be the heavy hitter that Kendrick Lamar is in the coming years. That said, the first part of his performance really levied the rest, and for that, he retains my title of Biggest Disappointment.
Best of Show (Rap): Kendrick Lamar
Kendrick really killed it, and simply said, was the best rapper of the show. Playing to a gigantic crowd on the gigantic Bud Light Stage, Kendrick delivered. Killing it with his “Recipe”, the original version of the overplayed “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe”, and even delivering calmer hits like “Poetic Justice”. Kendrick was in his zone, and set the bar for following rappers in the coming years. A side note, cool story from the show, is during “M.A.A.D city”, the crowd began to lift up people in wheel chairs. Even getting Kendrick’s attention at one point, that prompted him to let the guy in the chair over the barricade, and sit directly in front of him as the crowd topped off the “Ya! Ya! Ya!” in the song as the beat dropped. I could keep on going with a multitude of stories from this show, and continue the praise, but I’ll keep it simple with he delivered.
Best of Show (Rock): Two Door Cinema Club
I didn’t get a chance to see The Killers or Postal Service, who I heard were incredible in both their sets, but out of the rock bands I saw, Two Door Cinema Club has to take the top title. Knowing nothing about these guys, I felt like a loner beside my friends and the huge crowd who knew every word to their entire set. Their soft style of rock really appealed to me, and the loose feeling of the huge crowd at the Bud Light stage made for a great show. I don’t know the exact names of the songs played, but I enjoyed them all for the most part, and it was a good calmer from the constant electronic music.
Best of Show (EDM): Steve Aoki
The toughest category to pick from, as there were so many killer EDM performances all done mostly on the infamous Perry’s stage, is going to have to go to the Friday night headliner Steve Aoki. Starting off the show by telling the audience he’s going to play mostly new stuff began what could only be described as a wild set of electronic music, and surprises. The first of the latter was the appearance of Li’l Jon, who may possibly be one of the greatest hype men you can find. For the most part forgoing rapping, he instead opted for loud shouts to get the crowd going, and by damn, it worked perfectly. From there, the show just kept getting better and better as he debuted new songs with Flux Pavilion, who also got on stage at one point as a special guest, and finished with new collaborations with Knife Party. Add in the insane lights, the caking (throwing cakes at the audience when the beat drops), and the crazy crowd surfing, Steve Aoki set a bar the first night that simply couldn’t be topped. Oh yeah, and I can’t forgot the odd, but always welcomed, appearance of Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad) at the end of his set.
Surprisingly, this was the most under the radar group that contained possibly the most well known guy in the EDM music genre: Skrillex. This is a side project with Boys Noize that most people going in knew nothing about. Their unique style, and red tinted screen projections made for an awesome concert. Sadly, this also featured probably the worst crowd, which I can’t blame the group for, but come on people, are mosh pits really that much fun? Besides that, this was high up there on top performances.
Twenty One Pilots:
These guys know how to put on a show, and while some may see their theatrics as simply them trying too hard, such as the drummer doing a backflip off the piano, I got to say that it all worked. Their style of rock songs with catchy chants really lends its self to live performances. “Holding onto You” really got the crowd going, but the song “Trees” is what got me into it as the catchy electronic chorus makes for an insane crowd experience.
Damn you Steve Aoki! If it weren’t for your performance the previous night, this guy would’ve taken the top spot. His unique mix of pyro techniques and dub step beats lends itself to live sets. Playing a mix of samples and original stuff, he made for the second best performance I saw at Lolla 2013, right behind the other Steve.
Acts that I missed
The only unfortunate part of Lollapalooza is when they stack various great acts on top of one another leading you to make tough decisions on who to see. Some of the acts I missed that I wish I could’ve seen are as follows:
Phoenix, Mumford & Sons, Vampire Weekend, Nine Inch Nails, 2 Chainz (guilty pleasure), Queens of the Stone Age, The Lumineers, Matt & Kim, Atlas Genius, and one of the acts I was most looking forward to, Imagine Dragons, but the picture below explains why I missed them…
If you are around the area of Chicago next year towards the beginning of August I highly recommend going, and promise, regardless of the line up, you’ll have a fun and unique experience. Not only that, all ages are just about acceptable for this, well, maybe if you have young kids don’t bring them by Perry’s, but the rest is totally accessible to everyone.