The Best On Ground at the 25th Anniversary of Lollapalooza!

The 2016 edition of Lollapalooza was the biggest Lolla of all time. This is indisputable, due to the fact it expanded from three to four days for the first time. This change was meant to celebrate 25 years since the first Lollapalooza. The increase in days and bands allowed for more opportunities for fans to soak in great music and allowed more bands the chance to create everlasting memories.

Every day of the festival marked something special and different from the day before. What makes Lollapalooza one of the greatest festivals in the world is the impeccable job they do scheduling the festival. Each stage has a distinct genre and flow from act to act which is often missing in most festivals.

Lollapalooza 2016

For example, Saturday night’s major headliner of the massive Tennessee festival Bonnaroo was Pearl Jam. Pearl Jam went on at 10pm. The act that went on directly before on the same stage? Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. Now, while I was looking forward to both sets, I clearly understand I was in the minority. While both acts are from Seattle, that is where the comparisons probably stop. The “Thrift Shop” singing Seattle rapper and his DJ doesn’t exactly flow smoothly to one of the three seminal revolutionary Grunge bands of the 1990’s. While this Saturday at Lollapalooza featured Perry Farrell and Jane’s Addiction play straight into Red Hot Chili Peppers. This makes sense on every level. Similar genres. Similar influence on music. Similar fan bases. This was the same all over the festival on every stage. M83 into Radiohead was brilliant. HAIM to Ellie Goulding was great. Even Flume into LCD Soundsystem made a lot of sense.

Things like that made me truly love and recognize the effort and care the organisers put into this festival. It being the 25th year since its inception made this a very important and meaningful festival but it ran smoother than any festival I have ever been to. I can only think of two shows that didn’t start on time. Two! That is absolutely mind blowing to think about for anyone that has ever traveled to a music festival. The effort of running eight stages, organizing nearly 50 bands a day and covering a park that is over a mile long seems impossible, but they have it down to a science.

The diverse lineup brought just as diverse a crowd of reportedly over 300,000 people. With truly something for everyone ranging from today’s hottest pop names, up and coming EDM artists and music legends the 2016 Lollapalooza was worthy of the 25 year milestone. With the backdrop of Grant Park, it creates a festival scenically unlike any other. Lollapalooza should be on everyone’s bucket list.

I attended 35 acts over the four days spanning all different genres, performance styles and sizes of crowds. While nearly all of them knocked it out of the park, I narrowed it down to the five most memorable shows of Lollapalooza.

Flume
Credit: Daniel Boczarski

Flume

Australia’s own Flume made a giant statement on the fourth and final day of the festival. At a time when most people are wearing down and exhausted, Flume’s incredibly memorable set forced every last ounce of energy out of an insanely large crowd which rivaled any headliners’ of the fest.

The audience ate up every single song of Flume’s and the perfect flow of his show could match any of the world’s biggest DJs. He alone could have single handedly created one of the best sets of the weekend, but he enlisted the help of two of the greatest emerging hip hop artists today, Vic Mensa and Vince Staples. The jolt the two provided turned this outstanding EDM show into one of the best collaborative experiences of the weekend.

It is clear Flume is a massive star on the rise. But during Sunday’s set you have to wonder if he has arrived already and one of Australia’s biggest stars is now one of the world biggest stars.

001_RHCP
Credit: Julian Bajsel

Red Hot Chili Peppers 

This was the show I was most excited for before the festival. RHCP’s extensive catalog has served as the soundtrack to my life. I had never seen them before and I anticipated one of the greatest concert experiences of my life. What resulted from their Saturday evening concert were some of the greatest concert moments of my life, but came short on being one of the best overall shows I have ever seen.

First, the good. These guys have created some of the greatest rock songs of all time. They have created some of the catchiest and groovy singles for the past twenty years. During their show they hit on nearly every single one, starting with “Can’t Stop”, going into “Dani California” and right into “Scar Tissue”. Each of these moments provoked insane cheers from the crowds as they knew every word. They touched on most of their hits as well including “Other Side,” “Californication,” “Under the Bridge”, and more.

One of the greatest moments of a concert is that moment right after the crowd is entirely silent and that first opening guitar chord of a song everyone knows. For most bands they usually have one, maybe two songs that the audience will go completely crazy for. Red Hot Chili Peppers have about eight. Their impact on music over the past twenty years is something that is truly remarkable.

What kept it from being one of the greatest all-around shows was the lack of connection between the band and the crowd. Kiedis addressed the crowd maybe two or three times during the entire hour and 45 minutes, but never for more than sentence or two. Never once did he stop singing and allow the crowd to sing along by themselves. Some of the greatest moments of shows are the moments when the singer lets the crowd of thousands take over and serenade the sky. The Red Hot Chili Pepper’s had countless opportunities to do this, especially during “Under The Bridge”, when it seemed the crowd was trying to sing over Kiedis, but never once did he come off the mic. It was a very peculiar choice for a singer who has done this for three decades.

Another issue was nearly a quarter of their set was from The Getaway, their album that had debuted a month before. I completely understand them wanting to play new stuff and promote their new album, but a headlining set on a festival is not the place for promotion, in my opinion. Arguably, most of the crowd is there to see them for the first time and wants to see them play the songs they are most known for. Opening their encore with a new song and playing them intermediately was a sure fire way to kill the flow of the show and the crowd’s excitement.

These are small complaints because the moments of being able to see Flea play the bass and hear “Under the Bridge” live made this one of the best concert experiences of my life. It just could have been so much better.

Credit: Greg Noire
Credit: Greg Noire

Jack Garratt

There is no reason why this guy shouldn’t be the most popular musician working today. There is no one more innovative, talented and exciting than Jack Garratt right now. The British “One-Man Band” is unlike anything I have seen before. I have seen him three times now and every time I see him he completely shocks the audience and wins over masses.

Before his show, all you see is a blank stage and Garratt’s working area which consists of a soundboard, keyboard, electronic equipment and drums all in a U-form around the area where he stands. Each song usually starts slow as he slowly loops in his incredible sounds, whether it’s his beautiful keys he plays, outstanding guitar or infectious percussive beats. The slow build always climaxes with his incredibly voice and grasp on how to perfectly loop his incredible talents.
He is a massive star and his show is unlike any others. If you ever have a chance to see him. Drop everything and go.

Radiohead (Photo: Cambria Harkey)
Credit: Cambria Harkey

Radiohead

Most of my complaints for Red Hot Chili Peppers I could have for Radiohead, but I don’t. Radiohead have long been public about what they want to achieve with their shows and what they won’t do. I have known for years they have refused to play “Creep” (despite bringing it back out recently) and their disdain for the “Shut up and play the hits” mentality. So my expectations for this show were incredibly different than RHCP’s.

What Radiohead does best is be Radiohead. There is no other band like them. Their rocking force mixed with their brooding emotional messages creates a haunting jarring sound that is euphoric bliss. Thom Yorke is an absolute enigma on stage. Addressing the audience several times in a mumble, nearly mocking form. Was it meant to be insulting to the audience? Of course not. It only adds to the band’s aura, mystique and reputation.

While they did not play “Creep” or “High and Dry,” their 26 song set which lasted well over two hours and spanned songs from eight albums, Including seven songs from Kid A and OK Computer was a tour de force. Although this band might not always seem like the fans interest is their number one priority they gave me and everyone in the crowd everything they wanted when they closed with “Karma Police”. Joining nearly one hundred thousand people screaming “For a moment there, I lost myself” over and over into the Chicago skyline was truly a once in a lifetime moment I will never forget.

Going into the show, I had immense expectations for ‘one of the greatest live bands of all-time’ and in that moment, I realised why. Radiohead is a once in a lifetime band. There has never been a band like them before, their isn’t a band like them now and there most likely will never be a band like them ever again. Their show encapsulates that and is a perfect representation of them. I can not wait to see them again.

Credit: Roger Ho (roho foto)
Credit: Roger Ho (roho foto)

Die Antwoord

In a music festival that featured LCD Soundsystem, Radiohead and Red Hot Chili Peppers, it is probably shocking that I can rank Die Antwoord as the best show of the festival. How can I do this? Because there is nothing in the world like a Die Antwoord show. My mind was simply blown from the first second of the first song and I never was able to catch my breath for their 75 minute set.

Die Antwoord’s live set isn’t simply a hip-hop show, it’s not an EDM show, I don’t even know if you can simply describe it as solely a concert. It is a performance art piece. Their usual show is always filled with costumes, pyrotechnics, and surprises, but with the use of the incredible Perry’s stage at Lollapalooza, Die Antwoord’s show was on another level. They brought absolutely everything, including dinosaur costumes and crowd surfing rubber duckies.

Their music alone brings their show to incredible levels of energy and in your face hysteria. But Ninja and YO-LANDI are absolute marvels on stage, their energy and connection to the audience is brilliant to watch.

What set this show above everything else I saw at Lollapalooza was the production and presentation of the show. Each song flowed perfectly into the next, with their incredible DJ Hi-Tek filling interludes with pumping EDM beats and remixes. The crowd was jumping up and down and moving non-stop. There wasn’t a single moment where I wasn’t smiling or screaming. The show even had it’s surprises when they brought out Cypress Hill to do a song the two have collaborated on and the audience went absolutely berserk when they segued straight into “Insane in the Membrane”.

It was the final show of the weekend and the best possible way to close it out. Die Antwoord and their ability to blend multi genres and multi national music is a perfect representation of what Lollapalooza stands for and represents musically. The experience of a Die Antwoord show is something no one will ever forget and for me, it won them the weekend.

Header Image: Cambria Harkey