Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Lollapalooza 2014: The Well Oiled Machine

Playing in the mud at Lollapalooza (image via Chicago Sun Times)
This is the 8th time we've been to Lollapalooza in Grant Park and after this last visit a couple things are clear to us:
  1. Like the old college adage - we continue to get older, but everyone else stays the same age.  This is also so very true at Lolla.  It's definitely a young mans game...  
  2. It's the 10th year it's been in Grant Park and the festival is a well oiled machine now
It's hard to remember the old days when the festival was only two days and was confined to Hutchinson field (the south field of Grant Park) way back in 2005.  Today the festival has morphed into more days (3 days) and a much bigger footprint (extending all the way north to Monroe and west almost all the way over to the train tracks in between Columbus and Michigan) and is just bigger in almost every way possible.

While some may complain that the event takes up so much space for the entire weekend, it really has made the festival better and more manageable.  It seems like most in the Sloop feel that Lollapalooza is still a net positive judging by the recent poll we did:

We would agree.

Hutchinson Field south end of Grant Park
post Lollapalooza (via sun times)
One of the biggest wild cards during the festival isn't the music or the enormous crowds...it tends to be the weather.   It's impossible to control for this and as a result often causes the most angst post Lolla.   This year saw big rains on Sunday which caused some hefty damage (via Sun Times): 
Sections of Grant Park turned into a muddy mess because of heavy rains during Lollapalooza will be cordoned off well into September, thanks to $266,000 in landscape repairs that began Wednesday at the promoter's expense. The damage is roughly $50,000 more than last year but pales in comparison to the $800,000 in damage that followed the “monsoon”-like rains that marred the three-day music festival in 2011.
Given that C3, the company that puts on Lollapalooza, has agreed to pay for any damages, you know they're doing all they can to minimize the expenses from rains.  However, it's virtually impossible to avoid this type of damage if it rains.

Anyway, despite the fact that this makes parts of the park out of commission after the festival - it seems like most feel that it's still worth the inconvenience.

Further more, the mayor's office released a statement saying (via DNAinfo):
“Chicago’s lakefront offers the perfect backdrop to hold this world-class festival," Emanuel said.  
The release estimated that the festival "infused more than $139 million into the local economy in 2013" and praised the festival's ability to bring nonresidents — 69 percent of all attendees — Downtown.
That's a lot of money and just walking around the Sloop and greater downtown area it's hard not to see how the festival spills into businesses around the city.  It seems like every bar, restaurant, club is having some sort of Lollapalooza promotion or party or something.

But like we said above, none of this is new.  Lollapalooza is a well oiled machine at this point and it has been for awhile.  The story on the festival's impact both good and bad hasn't changed.  The story lines are the same and if you search hard enough (or click here) you will probably see a similar sentiment from us from previous years.

Before we end this post, we have to talk about the music - after all that is what Lolla is about, right?

Many music snobs will say Lollapalooza is about the worst way to watch a show or that the lineup isn't good.  Fine.  We get it.  Lollapalooza isn't the cutting edge music festival it once was (Greg Kot from Chicago Tribune gives a good recap and touches upon this sentiment).

Regardless, we still enjoy it every year.  Highlights for us included Broken Bells on Friday.  It was a lazy Friday afternoon show, but their music is distinct, different and wide ranging.  Zedd at the Perry's stage on Friday night was also a sight to see.  We don't love EDM, but do appreciate the amazing party atmosphere it whips up.  Cage the Elephant was pretty rad and the lead singer was a maniac on Sunday.  Chromeo continues to be a favorite even if their songs are inconsistent.  Some are totally off, but some make it impossible to not dance and smile.

We didn't see Iggy Azalea - but not surprisingly she drew a huge crowd on Friday.  Same goes for Lorde.  Didn't see her, but apparently she was the star at Lolla this year.  She's fine, but we will anoint her as the next big thing once we see some follow-up material after her first album Pure Heroine.  While it ain't easy to record a critically acclaimed ALBUM (yes, we said album...whatever that is these days), it's hard to write two or even more.

Which is a perfect segue into my favorite moment of Lollapalooza 2014 - Outkast's Saturday night performance.

Headliners are headliners because they're great and accomplished and mean so much to so many people on so many levels.  In previous years at Lolla we've seen some great headliners - Radiohead, Daft Punk (however this one was especially special for some reason), Red Hot Chili Peppers, Kanye West, Wilco - but none of them have been a "favorite".

With that said, I'm a child of the 80s and Outkast's rhymes and melodies have been the soundtrack to many of my formative years.

I distinctly remember sitting in the back seat of my neighbors car bumping ATLiens while he smoked a cigarette driving me to my first day of high school:

Or listening to So Fresh, So Clean in 2000 thinking that it might be time to adopt Andre 3000's wardrobe (which I didn't do obviously, but in hindsight probably should have) as well as debating the meaning of a lyric about "Anne Frank" in the song with one my long time friends:

Or having my mind blown in college by the duo's musical evolution on the Speakerboxxx/The Love Below album and having my roommates band do an amazing but ironic cover of "Roses":

Or even deciding that the instrumental version of SpottieOttieDopalicious was the perfect song for me, my wife and our wedding party to walk into our wedding reception with (for those of you who don't know, now you know - fast forward to 1:10ish).  Fast forward to the Friday before Lollapalooza and hearing a street band on the corner of Randolph and State playing those sweet horns:  
All of these memories and so many more all culminated for me at Lollapalooza - the first and probably last time I will ever see Outkast perform live.  Every song they performed on Saturday had a distinct memory.  

And while I didn't have the best seats in the house (aka field) and didn't have all of my friends that I've shared so many Outkast moments with, it was still an unforgettable night on so many levels.

This experience isn't something that is necessarily unique to Lollapalooza.  I'm sure people have had their own similar experiences at a Lady Gaga concert.  Or a Pearl Jam concert.  Or a Paul McCarthy concert.  Or a Jay-Z concert.  Or fill in the blank concert.

But whatever - it's not everyday where you can gingerly stroll into Grant Park, hang out, drink some beer, checkout some bands you've never heard, do some amazing people watching, checkout some bands you're moderately familiar with, eat some solid food, relax in a beautiful park with an amazing skyline view and then checkout one of your favorite musical acts of all time with tens of thousands of fans who are all there to have some fun.  

Seems like a winning combination if you ask me.

Thanks Lollapalooza - see you next year!    

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