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Visitors from all over the world arrived in Chicago this past weekend for one of the city’s biggest annual events, Lollapalooza.
Fans sprawled across Grant Park all weekend, with multiple performances positioned between famous sites like the Lincoln Monument and Buckingham Fountain.
While keeping up with a history steeped in pop and rock music, Lollapalooza also showcased a range of rap and electronic dance musicians.
On Day 1, a Friday, fifty artists performed. Fans could truly enjoy whatever type of show they were interested in, from the Cold War Kids on a huge field of grass to back-to-back sets by DJ Mustard and DJ Snake in a veritable dust bowl, where a deep plunge meant involuntary dancing and mass accumulation of sweat and grit.
Young Thug was able to concentrate some of the festival’s diversity and delivered a series of bangers on one of the more shade-treed stages. Meanwhile, Alabama Shakes kept the pre-Paul McCartney crowd up and moving.
McCartney likely drew one of the biggest crowds of the weekend. Fans loved Sir Paul and words like “once in a lifetime” could be heard in description of his performance.
Flying Lotus was doing some very different things across the Park. An Ohio frat boy wildly informed surrounding fans that seeing Flylo was like tripping without taking acid. I hate to say it but this white boy was right – Flylo’s jazzy experimentation dovetailed in a very psychedelic way with his light and shadow effects. Although much of his work was purely instrumental, tracks like ‘The Killing Joke’ and ‘Mighty Morphin Foreskin’ displayed Flylo’s rapping alter ego, Captain Murphy, who dropped live bars about “rolling ‘round town, top down, puffin stanky thai” with “the swag of seven sailors all named Jerry, flow so scary.” Scary indeed.
Another 50 performances took place on Day 2, when some drama broke out.
Travis Scott’s set lasted only one song after the audience responded to his call to break through the security barriers. Scott fled the ruckus but reports say that he was arrested and charged with starting a riot.
Perhaps this early spark is why messages of unity and peace began to spread. For example, the generally rambunctious Tyler the Creator managed to mind his manners through a whole set. And as with earlier this year on tour, Tyler curated from across his catalog with tracks like ‘Yonkers’ and ‘48’ dropping between hits off of his latest album, Cherry Bomb.
Across from Tyler’s stage, Kid Cudi’s set happened. What can I say? Some kid pointed out that the show was quiet, and he was right, and we all knew it. The songs were soft and the speakers were turned down. I bounced.
Thanks to simultaneous performances, the let down didn’t last long. A full-swing EDM crowd offered a perverse form of relief as DJ Carnage and his multitude of dancing fans found their bearings in the dust bowl. Carnage hit a lot of highs with his 300 lb. self on deck, but ‘It G Ma,’ a korean hip-hop offering from Keith Ape, peaked his set.
The tone softened when evening came. The stylings of Sam Smith soothed a crowd that was just glad to dance. Metallica did indeed thrash but their moments with the audience tended toward the sincere and appreciative; the audience was “welcome[d] to the Metallica family” by vocalist James Hetfield and Day 2 ended in peace.
Day 3 boasted the most ambitious performance schedule of the weekend but the weather had other plans. Chicago had been happy to labor under the sun all weekend. Sunday brought rain. Around 2:30, a formal “weather evacuation” was announced and most fans inside Lolla were made to exit and wait.
And you could hear drunken youth shouting into their cellphone “LOLLA IS CANCELLED DUDE,” but still we kept the faith.
The rain was barely falling and around 4:30pm, event staff reentered the park and reopened the gates, garnering applause and cheers from the frustrated fans. With the schedule delayed and condensed due to the weather, paid attendees and opportunistic fence-jumpers alike were treated to a slew of sets in rapid succession.
The biggest set of the weekend may well go to A$AP Rocky, whose latest album At Long Last A$AP hit the sweet spot between mainstream rap popularity, criminal philosophy, and the EDM party scene. The audience sang along with “L$D” and “Hands on the Wheel” and generated some respectable mosh during trap hits “Pretty Flacko Jodye 2” and “M’s.” The humidity following the fallen rain enhanced the heat and the crowd began to feel the effects of the weekend marathon. Perhaps this is why Rocky kept asking permission to keep the vibe turnt, rolling out samples of ‘Smells like teen spirit’ and ‘Jump Around’ while skinny preps started to cry and pass out.
Maybe the highlight was hearing Rocky’s ‘Superheroes,’ a Chief Keef collaboration only a few days out of the box.
Or was the highlight when Vic Mensa made a surprise guest appearance to co-perform ‘U Mad’?
While some artists coast through these massive venues, Rocky dialed in. A unique form of positivity developed and the Harlem rapper couldn’t hide a smile when he saw an older fan crowd-surfing in a wheelchair, saying “now that is some rap shit.”
An hour later, everything was over.
Florence + The Machine was bringing the thunder at the main stage when a second weather evacuation due to lightning forced an early ending to their set. On the other end, Bassnectar tried to extend his performance but ultimately a cold, harsh rain swept through and Lollapalooza 2015 came to a close. This year’s event was a success and afterward Chicago didn’t look all that post-apocalyptic (although shouts to the staff for cleaning up in the rain … you the real MVP).