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In 1991, Jane’s Addiction decided to call it quits and went out with a bang by organizing their own touring festival. With front man Perry Farrell taking the helm, the band hand-selected an extremely diverse lineup of artists, from post-punk rockers Siouxsie and the Banshees to industrial innovators Nine Inch Nails to rapper Ice-T, in what eventually became the first ever Lollapalooza. From then on Lollapalooza has continually grown bigger and bigger every year while keeping true to the eclectic lineups that made the festival stand out from all those preceding it. Now the once-touring festival has stretched out to a weekend-long extravaganza based in Chicago’s Grant Park, and with three-day and single-day passes selling out in just a matter of hours this year the festivalgoers lucky enough to have a ticket were not disappointed with Lollapalooza’s once again highly eclectic line-up.
After Robert Delong opened up the festival with an electronics-heavy set, R&B singer Emeli Sandi took the main stage on Lollapalooza’s south end with a set full of highly emotional and uplifting love songs. Her soaring voice was so passionate that that festivalgoers could tell she meant every word she sang and was putting her all into the performance.
Later on, WERS favorite Father John Misty, AKA Fleet Foxes drummer Joshua Tillman, gave festivalgoers one of the most remarkable performances at this year’s Lollapalooza. Performing in front of a psychedelic backdrop, Father John Misty pranced around the stage with the flamboyancy of a 1970s porn star while his resonant and reflective vocals suggested a worldliness and weariness of a much older soul. Plus his stage banter was filled with so many head-turning musings that festivalgoers burst into laughter multiple times. Imagine Dragons also took the Lake Shore stage soon afterwards, but their performance was interrupted by a mid-set power failure. Despite this the band was still as charming, humble, confident and grand as they had ever been.
New Order took the southern main stage immediately afterwards with a performance that went off without a hitch. The influential new wave group blew through timeless hits like “Regret” and “True Faith” with the energy and vigor of performers half their age. Then, on the opposite side of the festival, Frightened Rabbit put on the most organic sounding performance of the day with a mix of acoustic and electric guitars plus thick Scottish vocals unlike any other. Finally, Nine Inch Nails finished the day off with a career-spanning set and a new live production featuring five large movable screens and glitchy visuals that went hand-in-hand with the intensity of songs that reflected a damaged mind.
Day two of Lollapalooza was a bit more mellow and eased out. Little Green Cars played early in the day and put on a spirited performance that showcased the band’s youthful vigor and courage to take on the world now matter what it threw at them. Family of the Year then followed suit with a vigorous set of their own that was a bit more explicit in their optimistic outlook on life.
Yet what the 65-year-old Charles Bradley lacked in the youthfulness of these early acts, he more than made up for with a soaring voice and stage presence that make him worthy of the title, “The Screaming Eagle of Soul.” The former James Brown impersonator had a swagger and vocal style right up there with that of the late soul legend, but Charles Bradley is a man with so much love in his heart that he uses it to create a voice that’s all his own. In fact, at the end of Bradley’s set he even got off stage to run across the barriers that separated the audience from the stage and high-fived as many festival goers as he could. He even gave out hugs to random members of the audience.
Later in the day, The National made their own triumphant return to Lollapalooza. The group’s introspective songs, challenging time signatures and layered instrumentation gave a glimpse into the tumultuous and insecure minds that drive The National’s music. The band wore their hearts on their sleeves throughout the show, yet there was a sort of therapeutic catharsis in the way the National laid all their emotions on the table. Afterwards, The Lumineers played a lighthearted set that helped festivalgoers wind-down after the National’s heavy performance, while HAIM brought the girl power to the opposite side of the festival with a fierce performance that shook the Grove stage.
At the end of the second day The Postal Service concluded their much anticipated reunion tour with their last show ever (minus their official Lollapalooza after show the following night). The band’s pulsating electronic beats and self-reflective guitar playing and vocals stroke a perfect balance between electronica and indie rock that no other act has been able to achieve before or since. If any festivalgoers were confused as to why a band who released only one full-length album ten years ago would garner so much attention today, they weren’t likely to keep wondering after seeing The Postal Service’s lively set.
When the third day came around, festivalgoers were enthralled by the indie-pop-rock stylings of Canadian sisters Tegan and Sara. The duo had previously performed at Lollapalooza in 2005, but had their set cut short when Sara had suffered heat stroke and was forced to exit the stage. However, Tegan and Sara both pulled through with a full one-hour performance of self-aware songs and a pure sound that evoked a wide range of emotions from longing and betrayal to happiness and love.
Following a mellow set from Alt-J–featuring a new age and trip-hop sound rarely seen in today’s music scene–Grizzly Bear played a tempered set of their own. Grizzly Bear’s tendency to take things slow, even in the face of today’s fast-paced and technology-driven world, showed in many of their songs. Even their most hectic tracks had soft, unhurried elements lying underneath that kept them grounded at all times.
Then the weekend came to a close with a two-hour set from one of the most anticipated bands of the entire festival: The Cure. The Cure sounded as crisp as ever while they played a career spanning set ranging from dark, gothic cuts like “Fascination Street” to heartfelt love songs like “Friday, I’m In Love” and “Close To Me” that had most of the audience singing along. Considering how much influence this band had on many of the other performers who played at the festival, there could not have been a more fitting end to this year’s Lollapalooza.
All in all, Lollapalooza had another successful year featuring artists of nearly every breed, and with festival organizers having already announced dates for next year’s Lollapalooza (August 1st through 3rd), the festival is showing no signs of stopping anytime soon.