[FESTIVAL RECAP] Lollapalooza Wins Again: Our Top Performances Of 2014
Lollapalooza holds a special place in my heart. I first attended five years and was immediately awash in new sounds and experiences I had never heard before. The amount of music permeating the air and the hyped up performances of bands I had only imagined seeing before was something I will never forget. It was one of the inspirations behind starting this blog.
One of the reasons I love Lollapalooza so much is the wide spectrum of music covered on the grounds of the beautiful Grant Park over a three day period. Catering to ears of all sounds, it’s one festival where you can get buck wild to big room house and grimy trap, mini-dance to summery indie-pop, then take a chilled session with haze-inducing, mellowed out rock. It’s exactly why I keep coming back year after year, and why Lolla will continue to hold one of the top spots in my summer festival guide.
2014 was no different in it’s artist billings. While some complained of the seemingly low-fanfare lineup, others reveled in the chance to run around and listen to everything from Chance The Rapper and Lorde, to the The Avett Brothers and Duke Dumont. And while it wouldn’t be Lollapalooza without a little rain, we still enjoyed every second of it. We wish we could have seen every artist’s performance this year, but that’s simply not possible, so keep reading below as I highlight some of our top acts of 2014.
Proving what I said above, the chance to catch some mellow reggae waves after a long weekend at the festival was not an opportunity I was willing to pass up. As the fully stocked band kicked into their signature chilled dub, the crowd generated fog began to roll over the audience. Backed by brazen trumpet and mellow saxaphone, the Southern California troupe curated a west coast vibe that billowed over the Lolla pack in thick waves, fusing with the smoke-saturated air that hung low over head. For those looking to soak in the antithesis of Perry’s Stage, Rebelution was the place to be.
Ask me if I wanted to see Skrillex headline Lollapalooza at this time last year, and my answer would probably have been a resounding “Meh.” But after an extremely successful year with the release of Recess, and collaborations with just about every artist on the planet, my schema shifted toward the positive. Taking the headlining spot Sunday night, Sonny Moore blasted his way through a heavy-handed set that included every crowd pleasing track you can think of – including a bombastic remix of The Lion King theme song. And while the audience seemed please, his performance was not without criticism as the tracklist leaned heavily on a more commercial sound while flashes of Satanic imagery populated the graphics behind him. Now, I’m all for letting an artist express his creative motifs, however, a headlining Lollapalooza set is not the place for those types of visuals. Regardless of your religious beliefs, there’s no need to lace your set with symbology such as that – your music is good enough without it.
Foster The People
While their Lollapalooza performance doesn’t hold a candle to the first time I saw Foster The People perform at Bonnaroo a few years back, their upbeat, indie-pop vibes had me dancing through their entire smash hit-riddled set. While the stage stood sans giant LED sun and blow up characters, it was pure summertime as I two-stepped (yes, you can two-step to indie pop) through their hour-long set which included cuts off their new album, Supermodel, as well as all the old favorites such as “Helena Beat”, “Houdini”, and of course, “Pumped Up Kicks”.
The 1975 totally reminds me of my throw back emo-pop days, but in the best way possible. Like reaching back and pulling the best parts of my high school playlists and updating them for a new sonic landscape, The 1975 tugged on my nostalgia strings – which is ironic as they are a new comer on the scene. But I suppose that’s a good thing – being familiarly unfamiliar, that is – as they allowed me to reminisce on old memories splashed against an updated track list. With their sunny, indie-rock sounds, the group had The Grove stage swaying to summery cuts such as “Settle Down”, “Robbers”, and “Girls”.
Photo: Scott Drasler
Proving once again that this duo is at the forefront of the funk game, Chromeo threw down one of the danciest performances of Lolla. These guys have proven that they know how to get an audience moving and their set was nothing short of a full on party. After their hugely successful 2014 album, White Women, the duo has once again been thrust into the spotlight – and for good reason. Tearing through jams that date back to their 2007 releases, Chromeo took over the Bud Light stage with tracks such as “Bonafide Lovin'”, “Night By Night”, “Fancy Footwork”, and most recently, “Jealous (I Ain’t With It)”. If you haven’t had the opportunity to catch these guys live, then I feel for you, because once you’ve got a taste of their groove, you won’t want to try anything else.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the biggest fan of rap music – just doesn’t do it for me. I saw Eminem‘s headlining performance a couple years, and while it was good, it didn’t do much for me. Fast forward to Lollapalooza 2014, and Eminem has pulled in one of the biggest crowds of the weekend. After an up and down career following the lackluster Relapse album and then back to back successes with Recovery and The Marshall Mathers LP 2, I thought I would give Slim a second chance to blow me away – and I couldn’t be happier I did. Although hard to hear at times, Eminem tore through a 28 song set that included his entire career from The Slim Shady LP to the aforementioned releases. The highlight of the night went to Rihanna‘s surprise performance, who joined Eminem on stage to lay the choruses on tracks like “Love the Way You Lie” and “The Monster”. However, it was her rendition of Dido’s vocals on “Stan” that had me floored for the rest of the evening.
Damn, I forgot how good Cut Copy is live. These guys are the real deal, and their Saturday night set on The Grove stage proves these Aussies can compete with the larger headlining acts. Playing an array of cuts off their latest album, Free Your Mind, the Cut Copy cast enjoyed a completely engaged audience as their dynamic light show glittered and warped with each new track. With singles such as “Free Your Mind”, “Hearts On Fire”, and “We Are Explorers” permeating the air, not only was the quality of sound a highlight, but the positive energy radiating from the stage coalesced into a perfect ending to day two.
Photo: Scott Drasler
Easily one of the best under cards of the weekend, Smallpools was an up and comer group that I could not miss. Although I arrived late, the end of their set felt as though it was tailored specifically to me. With the sun in the air and summery vibes permeating The Grove stage, the American four-piece troupe rallied through crowd favorites such as “Mason Jar”, “No Story Time”, and “Dreaming”.
Beyond creating the perfect summer vibe, Smallpools lands high on this list for a personal reason. Rounding out their performance on the second to last song, they tore through a soaring cover of one of my favorite tracks: “You Get What You Give” by The New Radicals. It was lip syncing, it was hands in the air, and it was absolutely perfect.
Easily my most anticipated performance of the weekend, Andre 3000 and Big Boi have returned en force for a series of summer headlining sets that have solidified these rapper/MCs as two of the best alive. What better way to prove this than starting the set with one of your rowdiest, most bombastic singles. “B.O.B” had the Saturday night crowd hooked from the first note and the duo only turned up the energy from there. Favoring cuts of their 1998 album Aquemini, they tore through singles such as “Skew It On the BBQ”, “Rosa Parks”, and “Da Art of Storytelling Pt. 1” to the fanfare of the shoulder to shoulder crowd. The highlight of the night came with possibly their most recognizable anthem, as the sky lit up with fireworks to the sounds of “Ms. Jackson”. As if they hadn’t given the Saturday night audience enough, the hip-hop duo closed with a 1-2 combination of “Int’l Players Anthem” and a hair raising rendition of “The Whole World”. Suffice to say, Outkast takes the top spot at Lollapalooza for 2014.