• Festivals
Lollapalooza 2011 crowd shot

Lollapalooza: A Year in Review

written by: on August 11, 2011

It’s December 26, 1990 again. I’m staring at a floor full of wrapping paper with a glazed over expression, physically incapable of the level of excitement I felt while tearing into yesterday’s presents. I’m tired and I’m cranky that it’s 364 days until I will feel this joy again. Three hundred and sixty-four days to go. It’s December 26th.

It might as well be.

As someone who voraciously tears through every Spin and Rolling Stone, visits Pop ‘stache daily, and spends more time in the day researching band bios than current events; I argue that Lollapalooza is the most wonderful time of the year. The lineup announcement is my Thanksgiving, where I gorge myself on new bands to see, start planning potential lineups and begin the actual countdown to my favorite three-day holiday. Then, as if the Lollapalooza website is my Christmas tree, I sit in front of it nightly, letting the warm glow of new announcements engulf me before I go to bed and dream of “Cop Killer” and Iggy Pop stage rushes.

The week before the musical smorgasbord rolls through my new home of Chicago, I become Ralphie, and all I can think about is my Red Ryder BB gun. My work suffers. My conversations about anything other than the lineup are flat and two-dimensional. I lay out my outfit the night before, program the coffee timer and try to sleep.

For an alternate take on the festival, read Drew Hunt’s recap.

Day 1

I walk to the front entrance the first day, not because it’s closest, but because it’s the most magnificent. Perry Farrell, our St. Nick, founded this event on whimsy and discovered a name synonymous with a giant lollipop. I dash past the blown up, orange and blue namesake. I grab a program. It’s too early to really know who any of the bands are, so I head to the North side where I’m spending most of my Friday.

TAB the Band starts off my Lollapalooza on the PlayStation stage. They have a classic rock sound but its members can’t be older than 26. I later discover it’s Joe Perry’s son, which makes sense. Based on the first two songs I hear, I have a clairvoyant feeling; I will like this lineup more than last year’s. 2010’s lineup identity was lost between Pitchfork and Oldapalooza. There was an abundance of indie bands with similar strumming patterns, leaving the harder-rocking alternative sounds to the veterans. There wasn’t much middle ground, and I found myself bored for sets at a time, but this is a new year. Bravo, TAB the Band.

Young the Giant were across the field at the Bud Light stage, where I went on a recommendation and was not disappointed. The band had a great crowd for any hour of the day, which fed the energetic stage presence. A friend passed a screwdriver—hold the orange juice, and I decided it was too early and too hot to drink. Young the Giant would be my buzz, and that sufficed. Singer Sameer Gadhia left it all on stage, bounding from side to side. I thought the band closed with a cover of Shania Twain’s “Man I Feel Like A Woman,” but I was assured it was a different song. Regardless, it was catchy, and I was feelin’ alright and gonna let it all hang out.

Grace Potter & the Nocturnals take the stage shortly after, and I am blown away more than I would be for the next three days. She’s an Amazon. She’s Helen of Troy. She’s Hera. Better yet, she’s Robert Plant. I cannot believe the pipes on Grace Potter, and the only times I don’t notice are when her band is doing something awesome. Full drum circle? Check. Classic rock exodus with pop sensibility? Check.

Le Butcherettes Teri Gender Bender - lead singer

Photo by Andy Keil

I left the shadeless rock arena to head over to the Google+ stage for the first and only time during the weekend. Le Butcherettes are tearing into a set. The band is prog-garage-punk, and it’s working. Teri Gender Bender is giving spastic staccato melodies over the low-end sound and pummeling drums. Damn, the drummer is good. I can’t believe how fast he’s playing. They finish a song and he stands. To bow? Nope, to projectile vomit. A third time. A fourth. They get ready for the final song. Nope, a sixth. A seve—nope he’s good. Hell of a boot and rally as they close the set with another rocker and he drums his ass off. A seventh.

Le Butcherettes drummer Gabe Serbian at Lollapalooza

Photo by Andy Keil

I will be adding Le Butcherettes to my playlist. And I’ll be wearing rubber gloves as I do it.

I head back to the Bud Light stage to see one of my favorite front-women, Allison Mosshart, take the stage with The Kills, but the energy was low and the songs were empty. After 20 minutes, I took off, vowing I would see her when The Dead Weather rolls through. As I walked across Lollapalooza’s sprawling campus to my next destination, I regretted my decision to leave, as a gnarly bass tone from where I just was shook my bones and gave me chills in the 95-degree heat. The Kills picked it up as the set went on. I continued walking to the festival’s South side to rest my feet for a minute and settle in for the mainstream-alt-rock one-two punch of A Perfect Circle and Muse.

Alison Mosshart of The Kills at Lollapalooza

Photo by Andy Keil

Maynard James Keenan stood on a platform in the back of the stage. His whole band, save the drummer and the excited and grateful APC founder Billy Howerdel, stayed relatively stagnant the whole show, but the sound was great, and the band took fans through a couple, though not all, of the catchier hits, mixed with some of the more droning jams and unique covers (John Lennon’s “Imagine” and Led Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks”). Maynard’s voice was haunting and powerful, and provided a nice soundtrack as the sun went down behind the skyline.

Not long after Crystal Castles finished what looked to be a well-received set, Muse walked on stage to do competitive headliner battle with fellow Brits Coldplay. I don’t know who won attendance-wise, but Muse put on a hell of a show. The prog-tinged, alternative space odyssey was complete with an incredible light show, perfect mix, and all the hits. Bellamy’s every chorus soared over everyone and everything. They played for two hours, with an encore ending with the Milky Way-Western “Knights of Cydonia,” which whipped fans into a frenzy. With only the glowing Lollapalooza balloon as a source of light, I happily made my way to the exit.

Muse crowd at Lollapalooza 2011

Photo by Jack Edinger

I had high hopes for the rest of the fest, but I felt as though I had already opened some of my big presents early. C’mon Mom and Dad, don’t you know to save the good stuff until last? Maybe they did and maybe they didn’t; but with Eminem, Deftones, and a bunch of stocking stuffers waiting for me in Saturday’s lineup, I went to bed as excited as the night before.