Lollapalooza 2015: No Calm Before the Storm
Evacuations, lightning, and humidity couldn't keep the crowds or the good music away from Grant Park.
July 31–August 2
Since deciding that Grant Park would be its permanent home (in the US at least), Lollapalooza has become a Chicago summer staple, and has grown in size and talent every year since 2005. This past weekend, the lush park—with one of the greatest fountains the world has ever seen—brought Midwesterners, East and West Coast dwellers, and international guests by the thousands to brave the freak lightning storms, intense humidity and heat, and lengthy food lines for a weekend full of unforgettable performances.
Below, a weekend report on some of our favorite acts from Lollapalooza 2015.
Samsung Galaxy / 2:15–3 p.m.
Friday started off with a groove, an absolutely “Gooey” groove if you will. Once you entered the Lollapalooza grounds the cacophonous sounds of echoing music from seven stages filled your ears as you walked closer to one noise that you liked the best. English indie-rock quartet Glass Animals were one of the first to hit the main stage and instead of looking like they were drowning in space up there, the fun-loving group filled it to the brim with tracks from their excellent debut album Zaba. Frontman Dave Bayley danced around like a wild man making sure that every section of the sizable crowd got a piece of him. —Bailey Pennick
St. Paul & The Broken Bones
Bud Light / 2:30–3:30 p.m.
In the midst of a weekend that seemed to be dominated by the infamous “Perry” stage and all of the thumping that EDM fans could handle, Alabama’s St. Paul & The Broken Bones were a welcomed introduction to the flip side of Lolla 2015. The soulful seven-piece got sun-screened bodies moving with a killer bass section and a faithful rendition of Sam Cooke’s “Shake.” Calling bandleader/frontman Paul Janeway’s Lollapalooza performance energetic would be the understatement of the century. Anyone who is willing to sing and dance like that in a full suit gets top marks in our book, especially when they bring the retro-soul heat to an already steamy day. —Bailey Pennick
Father John Misty
Palladia / 3:30–4:30 p.m.
After walking out on stage and delivering an impeccable version of I Love You, Honeybear’s title track, Josh Tillman (a.k.a Father John Misty) admitted that his voice was practically gone to the modest, yet lively crowd. He could have fooled us on 99% of the tracks he played, his voice sounding rich and full against the full band backing him. The only time his voice wavered from its normal sultry quality was during the higher regions of “Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for ino Virgins).” But Tillman had more than just a great set of pipes up his sleeve for Lollapalooza. In between numbers, which featured his signature slinky dance moves, FJM hosted a Q&A section with the crowd (where we learned that he doesn’t eat brunch, but two lunches instead) and questioned the relevance of bareskin condoms vs regular. All very good things to know. —Bailey Pennick
Bud Light / 4:30–5:30 p.m.
One of the biggest desires from Lolla festivalgoers, young and old alike, was to dance. Once London’s electro-rock masters Hot Chip hit the stage, all you could see at the Bud Light stage were limbs waving and bodies shaking. Beyond playing jams from their solid discography (including classic numbers like “Ready for the Floor” and tracks from their latest album Why Make Sense?), the group mashed up LCD Soundsystem and Bruce Springsteen. Beyond wanting the sun to go down, there was nothing else that Lollapalooza yearned for at that shining moment. —Bailey Pennick
The War on Drugs
Palladia / 5:30–6:30 p.m.
Shrouded in a giant burst of smoke and his signature mane of hair, Adam Granduciel (with The War on Drugs) launched into an atmospheric hour-long set that was a solid reminder of how compelling ambient and experimental rock can be live. Focusing primarily on last year’s smash hit Lost in the Dream, Granduciel fought through guitar sound issues for a second before launching into tracks like “Red Eyes,” “Burning,” and “Arms Like Boulders” from 2008’s Wagonwheel Blues. While not as energetic as other acts from Friday, The War on Drugs worked as an excellent palate cleanser for the epic night to come. —Bailey Pennick
Samsung Galaxy / 5:45–6:45 p.m.
“I see Nicolas Cage out there. How you doin’? This one’s for Nic Cage,” announced Alabama Shakes’ frontwoman Brittany Howard upon spotting a giant cutout of the actor’s head in the crowd. Then, she launched into “Miss You,” from the band’s solid sophomore album, Sound & Color, released in April. They’re on top of the world right now, and combined with the late-afternoon sun and the soaring dragonflies, their set was more than a little magical. It was hard to tell if the light was shining from the sky or directly from Howard and her bandmates as they rolled out song after solidly rocking song. (Whether Howard actually met up with Cage is between the two of them and the dragonflies.) —Lydia Pudzianowski
First Aid Kit
Pepsi / 6:30–7:15 p.m.
As a necessary breeze blew through the trees and plentiful shade at the Pepsi Stage on Friday night, the name of Swedish folk duo First Aid Kit became quite literal. Sisters Klara and Johanna Söderberg were the perfect antidote to the heat, the male festivalgoers who looked like James Spader’s character in Pretty in Pink, and whatever was going bump in the night at Perry’s Stage. “I try to keep on keepin’ on,” they sang during “My Silver Lining,” and two songs later they covered Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” before closing with “Emmylou.” “Let’s sing together!” And we did, and we were all better. —Lydia Pudzianowski
Pepsi / 9–10 p.m.
Night had 100% fallen by the time Steven Ellison (a.k.a. LA producer/DJ/rapper/wizard Flying Lotus) took the stage. This was crucial. Because there are DJs—of which Lollapalooza famously offers plenty—and then there’s what Flying Lotus does. He took up residence on the Pepsi Stage, which was in the same location it had been all day, but somehow…not. It had become a living, breathing thing, with Ellison as its heart. The Paul McCartney deserters experiencing it were richly rewarded. Frequently overheard: “Whoa.” —Lydia Pudzianowski
Samsung Galaxy / 7:45–10 p.m.
There’s almost nothing you can say to fully describe what watching a Beatle perform over thirty songs from his legendary discography feels like. From Wings to his surprisingly strong last solo LP NEW, Paul McCartney flew through all of his musical incarnations with flying colors and a strong voice. Highlights from the two-hour-and-fifteen-minute set included a surprise appearance by Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard for “Get Back,” an acoustic rendition of “FourFiveSeconds” that transitioned right into Beatles classic “We Can Work it Out,” and this perfect sentence “ It’s a crazy mashup, this song and whatever shit they’re playing” when referring to the bleeding sound of the massive Perry stage while he was trying to perform quieter songs like “Blackbird” and “Here Today.” It’s no surprise that after fifty years, McCartney can command a stage, but it’s always exciting to see how he reacts to each sea of grateful fans who just want to bask in his glorious talent.
Paulapalooza set: “Magical Mystery Tour,” “Save Us,” “Got to Get You into My Life,” “Let Me Roll It” (with “Foxy Lady” riff), “Paperback Writer,” “My Valentine,” “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five,” “Maybe I’m Amazed,” “I’ve Just Seen a Face,” “FourFiveSeconds,” “We Can Work It Out,” “And I Love Her,” “Blackbird,” “Here Today,” “Queenie Eye,” “Lady Madonna,” “Eleanor Rigby,” “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!,” “Something,” “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” “Band on the Run,” “Back in the U.S.S.R.,” “Let It Be,” “Live and Let Die,” “Hey Jude,” “Hi, Hi, Hi,” “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “Get Back” (with Brittany Howard), “Helter Skelter,” “Golden Slumbers,” “Carry That Weight,” “The End.” —Bailey Pennick
Sprint / 1:30–2:15 p.m.
Ryn Weaver is a team player. The NYC-based, California-bred purveyor and originator of fairy pop declared, “It’s fuckin’ hot out!” Then she doused the crowd with the contents of her water bottle. As the trill of her singing voice rose above the heat, it was hard not to fall at least a little in love with her. She paired “Traveling Song” with “Promises,” both from her June debut LP The Fool. The former was written for her grandfather; she announced the latter with “I’m gonna bring the party back because we’re here to party, right?” And with those two songs, she encapsulated the reasons we all share this music thing in the first place. —Lydia Pudzianowski
Samsung Galaxy / 2:15–3 p.m.
As you approached one of Grant Park’s many hills and valleys, it was amazing to see just how many people got up and made it into the festival grounds to see English electro-psych-rock quartet Django Django on time. With one of the largest afternoon crowds for the whole weekend, DD let loose, sounding more like a typical indie-rock band than their hyper-produced albums would suggest. The imperfections with which they played jams like 2012’s “Default” made the jangly dance party even more exciting. They were a real band that wanted to get down with the crowd, and that they did. —Bailey Pennick
Sprint / 3–4 p.m.
It was Saturday at 3 p.m., right smack in the middle of the weekend, and everyone at Lollapalooza was in need of a cold shower and at least eight hours of sleep. Enter Charli XCX and the women who make up her live band. She cowrote smash hits “I Love It” and “Fancy,” and she delivered them both with their respective first-billed artists Icona Pop and Iggy Azalea nowhere in sight. Her own solo songs blend dance, pop, and straight-up punk. With “Body of My Own,” “Break the Rules,” and “Boom Clap,” Charli XCX made the stage and the audience wholly hers. —Lydia Pudzianowski
Toro Y Moi
Palladia / 3:45–4:45 p.m.
The second day of Lollapalooza seemed to consist of bands who weren’t afraid to use a heavy—and very funky—bass line to get the humid humans bumping. Near the top of the list who used the grooves to their advantage was Chaz Bundick (a.k.a Toro Y Moi). After getting a bit of a late start (thanks to Sturgill Simpson running long), Bundick was quick to get fans into his eclectic state of mind. Sticking to far stage left for the entirety of the set, he jumped into a strong show featuring tracks from his four Toro Y Moi albums including the unbeatable “So Many Details” from 2013’s Anything in Return. —Bailey Pennick
Death from Above 1979
Samsung Galaxy / 4–5 p.m.
“You can be as excited or as depressed as you want to be about it.” Death from Above 1979 were talking about a sad song, but they could’ve been referring to the second half of Saturday. At that point, their fifteen-song set was either exactly what you needed or the last straw. If you came for the Canadian duo’s electro-infused wall of bass, drums, and distortion, you got it, in the form of “You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine” and “The Physical World.” The two departed with a “Thanks for sticking around,” which, in the increasingly hot sun, was more mandatory than polite. —Lydia Pudzianowski
BMI / 4:30–5:10 p.m.
Singer-songwriter Morgan Kibby (a.k.a. White Sea) was so thankful to the modest, but dedicated crowd that came to see her at the secluded BMI stage. Not only was there excellent tree coverage for comfortable viewing, her backdrop—Lake Michigan—was a glorious sight to behold. The M83 collaborator was one of several female singers present at Lollapalooza 2015, but once she opened her mouth, it was easy to recognize her true whimsical talent. As her set continued, which included songs like her latest “Stay Young, Get Stoned,” the crowd grew and swayed with the artist as she flew through her solo material with confidence and grace. —Bailey Pennick
Samsung Galaxy / 6–7 p.m.
What would a major festival be without technical difficulties? Unfortunately, Tame Impala was the unlucky group to have to handle a bit of a sound clusterfuck when frontman/mastermind Kevin Parker’s guitar wouldn’t work for about two-and-a-half songs. While Parker has quickly developed a warmer and friendlier stage personality in recent years, he did not look comfortable (even though he was wearing his signature t-shirt and scarf combo) having to sing without an instrument for a while, especially during the set’s eight-minute opener “Let It Happen.” Thankfully, his Rickenbacker was back in action soon and the live quintet demolished their set that was heavy on 2012’s Lonerism and this summer’s Currents. While you won’t see them headlining the Perry stage anytime soon, Tame Impala exposed their growing electro leanings with a synth based version of mega-hit “Elephant.” In other ways Parker stayed true to his roots, though, still performing barefoot on stage. Stay cool, Kevin. —Bailey Pennick
Pepsi / 6:30–7:15 p.m.
In the words of a twenty-one-year-old Chet Faker fan present for his set at the wonderful Pepsi Stage (Oh trees, you are the best!), “He’s not like that wub-wub bullshit you’ll hear over there.” The fan is referring to Perry’s Stage, a fest mainstay that’s not going anywhere, and the comparison makes sense. Australian Chet Faker (Nicholas James Murphy to his family, probably) is an electronica guy and a vocalist, not a button-pushing DJ. The mini-forest surrounding the stage was the perfect insular home for his relaxed, kicked-back music, from his well-known cover of Blackstreet’s “No Diggity” to his own “Gold” and “Talk Is Cheap.” The fan, again: “He’s the common man of DJs.”—Lydia Pudzianowski
Samsung Galaxy / 8–10 p.m.
It was more like 8:10–10:15 p.m., making Metallica stand out in an otherwise oddly punctual group of musicians this weekend. They opened with “Fuel” and “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” at which point the audience lost their collective shit. But, Metallica was kind of sloppy on Saturday, especially considering the powerfully tight albums that made them famous. Here, time marched on without guitarist Kirk Hammett and drummer Lars Ulrich in many places. When Ulrich started “Seek & Destroy,” James Hetfield said, “Try again.” They closed out their set with two covers (“Whiskey in the Jar” and “Am I Evil?”) and two songs from The Black Album (“Nothing Else Matters” and “Enter Sandman”). Instead of the covers, it would’ve been awesome to hear “Battery,” but given Metallica’s chops tonight, that one’s better left in 1986. “This music makes me feel good,” Hetfield said. “We’re here to make you feel good.” While they’re not as solid as they once were, Metallica absolutely accomplished that goal. —Lydia Pudzianowski
Sprint / 1:30–2:15 p.m.
Chicago’s own Twin Peaks, one of the few straightforward rock bands on the bill, were a complete delight. The audience was too, from the guy with the “Sunday Funday” shirt to the giant yellow smiley face flag waving around in the dusty air. Formed when they were in high school in 2009, the band was carefree and all smiles, sweating profusely along with everyone else. Their bass drum read “Team Peaks,” and by the end of their stellar set, we were all on it. —Lydia Pudzianowski
Angus & Julia Stone
Palladia / 4:45–5:30 p.m.
With their original slot time taken by this new local Chicago band called “Torrential Downpour and the Lollapalooza Evacuation,” Angus & Julia Stone took the stage about an hour after they were supposed to, but that didn’t damper their spirits. The Aussie brother-sister duo playfully chatted with the crowd as they switched back and forth on leading tracks from their three full-length albums. Highlights of their set included “Big Jet Plane” from 2010’s Down the Way and “Crash and Burn” from last year’s self-titled release. —Bailey Pennick
Marina and the Diamonds
Sprint / 4:45–5:30 p.m.
Not deterred by the rain delay or the subsequent 90 degree heat, Marina Diamandis somehow performed her dance-pop in a skintight black catsuit. The “diamonds” in the Welsh singer’s stage name refer not to her backing band but to her fans, and they responded to her with the most cheers and sing-alongs at Lolla outside of a headliner. In “Primadonna,” she sang, “All I ever wanted was the world,” and on Sunday in sweltering Grant Park, she had it. As she closed her set with “How to Be a Heartbreaker,” there was no one in Chicago more qualified to dispense that advice. —Lydia Pudzianowski
Palladia / 6:30–7:30 p.m.
If you’re at a show of constantly touring Manhattan Gypsy-punks Gogol Bordello, you either dance or you leave. Seen during their set: a violin, an accordion, Ukrainian-born frontman Eugene Hütz feeding off of audience energy like a vampire on blood, the smiley-face flag, flying rolls of toilet paper, jaded twenty-somethings dancing, and no frowns. It is entirely possible that the weather system moving through Chicago late Sunday was actually just Gogol Bordello. —Lydia Pudzianowski
BMI / 6:40–7:25 p.m.
Nashville indie-rock quartet (and recent FLOOD Breaking group) Bully came onstage to one of the bigger crowds that the shady BMI stage saw the whole weekend. As the group, fronted by Alicia Bognanno, ripped through most of their debut album Feels Like, the crowd was buzzing. You could hear groups of people talking about Bognanno as “the real deal” and from their pitch-perfect performance on Sunday evening, no one would question that. With the gusty Chicago wind whipping her luscious hair around, Bognanno admitted that the group had collectively fallen in love with the city and were probably never going to leave. As long as they keep performing almost every weekend at Grant Park, that would be fine with us. —Bailey Pennick
Bud Light / 7:30–8:30 p.m.
“They made you guys leave? Ah, well you know they just care about your safety!” With an immense amount of charm and a large crew on stage, A$AP Rocky held the Sunday night Bud Light crowd in the palm of his hands. While there’s no doubting his star power, his set was disappointingly just a party for people to dance. Within the first half of his set, he only rapped three of his own songs and said “Yeah!” over House of Pain’s “Jump Around” and Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Of course the crowd went nuts when he did this, but it felt like the bare minimum. —Bailey Pennick
TV on the Radio
Sprint / 8:15–9:15 p.m.
By the time TV on the Radio‘s Tunde Adebimpe sang “I’m a happy idiot,” he was speaking for the crowd, who’d endured an evacuation, reentrance, and three days of temps in the 90s. The stalwart Brooklyn band played nine fan favorites, including “Staring at the Sun” and “Repetition,” which Adebimpe could’ve kept going for another hour and no one would’ve gone anywhere. This is the audience who chanted “One more song!” well after the band left the stage. —Lydia Pudzianowski
Pepsi / 8:25–9:15 p.m.
If you have never seen FKA twigs live, you must rectify that issue as soon as possible. On Sunday night, when no one was really sure if the festival was going to continue into the night as planned, Tahliah Barnett hypnotized her tightly packed crowd with her wispy, yet soulful falsetto and her unmatched contorting dance moves. Backed by three percussionists, Barnett made her crowd felt every word of her whimsical and sultry set. Strobe lights and smoke machines amped up the theatrics of her performance, leaving the crowd breathless and just waiting for more. —Bailey Pennick
Florence + The Machine
Samsung Galaxy / 9–10 p.m.
On a stage that both Paul McCartney and Metallica had played at the previous nights before, and on a day that kept threatening to take her set away, Florence + The Machine hit the ground running for a short, but incredible headlining set. Donning a white satin pantsuit, Florence Welch leaped across the stage during her abrupt concert. Performing tracks from spanning her discography, but slightly leaning towards this spring’s How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, Welch belted out her songs about heartache with the kind of power that proved she was here to stay no matter what elements tried to drag her down.
At one point Welch was taken aback by something she saw out beyond the crowd. “Can you all see the lightning everyone?” she shouted. Once the crowd turned around, all anyone could see was an epic cloud-to-cloud lightning storm that was resting right above the Chicago skyline. She dedicated several numbers to the storm and to the Lollapalooza crowd, who were in awe of the songstress and her undeniable light. Everyone knew the storm was coming, but no one was willing to move from their spot in the park. When the Lolla officials finally had to cut her power, Welch snuck one final song through and while she shouted the chorus to “Dog Days Are Over” back to the frenzied crowd, she ran through the crowd ripping her shirt off and giving into the elements. Later, on Instagram, Welch said that the storm had won, but no one who was simultaneously watching her and a lightning storm (that she might have conjured herself) would agree with her. —Bailey Pennick