Four-Day Weekend: Lollapalooza 2017 in Review
Chicago's premier music festival is still the best way to walk a marathon.
In addition to our FLOOD Festival Guide presented by Toyota C-HR—which is available for download now—FLOOD will be at all this year’s best festivals to provide you with firsthand reports from the scene.
We sent Chicago native Josh Terzino up and down—and up and down—Grant Park this weekend in search of the sights and sounds of Lollapalooza 2017. Here’s what he found.
THURSDAY, AUGUST 3
My first Lollapalooza in eight years started off about as well as anyone could hope. Despite rumors that security was clamping down and the lines to get in would be long and annoying, I found myself inside Grant Park under five minutes from when I hit the entrance. The sun was shining bright and smiles could be seen everywhere I looked.
I checked out a couple songs from Declan McKenna, who had the honor of kicking things off at the Lake Shore stage. His new album is pretty good—but I’d argue he’s better live, and he got the crowd dancing and clapping. The air was beginning to thicken with humidity, though the rain mostly stayed away until much later. By the time I had a quick meeting with Australian rock band Middle Kids I was fully sweating through my Run The Jewels shirt (purposely worn today and not tomorrow when RTJ actually play).
One fashion trend I noticed right away: a lot less guys in basketball jerseys, a lot more in Cubs gear. I suppose a World Series will do that, though I doubt Lollapalooza 2006 saw many White Sox jerseys.
I had Middle Kids, and then British electronic duo Honne, followed by Capital Cities all pretty close to one another and then nothing for a long while, so I decided to hoof it to the Pepsi stage to catch part of Elohim. Sadly, by the time I got over there they were setting up for Chicago’s own The O’My’s (Chance The Rapper‘s occasional backing band). I only got to stay for one or two songs before I had to head back. Then I was able to catch a great set by Temples on the Grant Park stage which just so happens to be right by the press tents.
After portraits I decided to hike all the way across the park to see some of the Capital Cities set at the Tito’s Handmade Vodka stage.
There were way more people crowded in at the Tito’s stage for Sebu and Ryan than I had expected. Like, a lot more. You could barely move it was so packed, and I remembered back to the first time I saw them. It was Summerfest in Milwaukee in 2013. I’d never heard of them, and it was just before “Safe and Sound” became a huge hit. People were sprinting to the stage to get a good spot, so I just followed suit and ran right along with them. Turns out, they put on a really fun show! Today they opened with their cover of “Breathe” by Pink Floyd, which would not have been my choice but the audience seemed to dig it.
I couldn’t stay too long because it’s a fifteen minute walk back to Grant Park stage where Liam Gallagher was playing at 4:30. I saw Noel’s solo act a couple years ago, so I wanted to compare. Sadly, Liam only gave me four songs to make that comparison before he walked off stage. People booed and shouted, then tried chanting his name to see if he would come back. Alas, he did not. He later tweeted that his voice was wrecked and couldn’t continue. Fortunately, the first two songs were the fantastic Oasis tunes “Rock and Roll Star” and “Morning Glory?”
It sprinkled a little bit, but for the most part the weather continued to cooperate into Cage The Elephant. Matt Schultz came out in a dress and said he likes to look pretty sometimes. A couple songs in he made a nice declaration about how the categories we put people in are not real and we should just celebrate love. Couldn’t agree more and I think everyone at Grant Park was on the same page.
It drizzled again as I exited the park and headed for the train home, and a few songs into Lorde and Muse‘s headlining sets the park was evacuated. About half an hour later a notification on the Lollapalooza app popped up saying that they would not resume and the fest was over for the night.
Temps were forecast to drop to a much more comfortable level, so it seemed as though there would be a great three days of uninterrupted music ahead of me. Unless they have Liam Gallagher give it another go.
FRIDAY, AUGUST 4
My shortest day of the weekend was Friday, which meant I had to be a bit more choosy when it came to where I went. I decided to stick to the Grant Park stage and catch Run The Jewels and Killers sets. It was surprisingly easy to get close after RTJ started, so the viewing was perfect.
Killer Mike and El-P didn’t bring out too many tricks—Boots joined them on stage for “Early,” and a guy in the crowd named Jacob was brought up after they spotted his “Let me rap ‘Legend Has It'” sign. He did a really impressive job, even keeping the flow as Mike picked him up over his shoulder and spun around in circles.
At this point for Killers there aren’t many surprises left. They’re way too big to take any real chances, so they spruced up their set with a few covers, including “Starlight,” which Muse didn’t get to play due to the rain out on Thursday. They also covered local legends Smashing Pumpkins with “Disarm.” Generally I would say the band is 50/50 when it comes to covers, but these were both really good. It’s amazing how many hits they’ve penned since the early ’00s, and they played every one of them.
SATURDAY, AUGUST 5
On Saturday I finally understood the comments about ramped up security. From the time I entered the Congress gates it took almost forty minutes to get in the park. Spirits remained high, along with many of the people around me. The person directly behind me couldn’t stand on his own and his friend kept yelling at him to wake up or they’d throw him out of the festival.
Most surprising was the reunion of ’90s alt-rockers Live. As a person of a certain age, I can tell you honestly that everyone I knew when Throwing Copper came out bought a copy. It was a huge album, and the band played all the singles off of that and some from Secret Samadhi and The Distance to Here.
I left The Head and The Heart to check out some of 21 Savage‘s set at Perry’s stage. It was already packed in so I had to watch from the sidewalk as he ripped through a bunch of tracks. I couldn’t stay too long, though. Grant Park stage was already filling up for Chance The Rapper.
Once the stage went completely dark, we were treated to a video featuring a bunch of news stories and clips from the Grammys featuring Chance. It ended with Michelle Obama calling him a great role model.
Rumors of any big name guests were put to rest as Chance brought out Vic Mensa for two songs and Francis and the Lights for another two. He did do “Ultralight Beam,” which caused quite a ruckus as people hollered in hopes that Kanye would join him.
After he opened with “Mixtape,” he announced that he asked the promoters to not livestream his show, so it was just for the people in the audience. He did the same thing at Pitchfork Fest a couple years ago and it’s a nice gesture to the people who paid to see him.
SUNDAY, AUGUST 6
I decided to try the other entrance on Sunday so I wouldn’t be stuck for over half an hour. Great choice! I made it through the line in under ten minutes. Security was checking bags (kind of) and not patting anyone down. On the one hand I was really uncomfortable with it because there’s a lot of stuff someone could bring in that would kill me, but on the other I saved so much time!
I made it over to the one-two punch of female pop stars Charli XCX and Tove Lo on the south end of the park. Charli sounded good, but the crowd didn’t seem to be with her except on the really big hits. I think maybe people were just parked for London Grammar or Grouplove because they certainly weren’t there for her.
I made my way over to Tove Lo’s stage about half an hour before she went on and got a pretty good spot. I was happy to see some other people in their thirties around so I didn’t feel like the oldest person there. She’s had a few hits over the past couple years, so I think she’s better known than some might think.
I didn’t realize this about Tove Lo because I’ve only ever heard her on the radio, but she swears a lot! She’s actually a pretty strong performer. A couple of times I thought she would benefit from having some dancers or something else on stage to help carry the load, but for the most part she was great. During “Talking Body” she ran through the crowd doling out high fives and hugs to anyone close enough to the rail in the middle.
She also continued her one woman Free The Nipple protest by baring her breasts for the better half of “Thousand Miles.” What was once a shocking move has apparently become the expected at her shows. It’s great that she’s so free and proud of her body, but I suspect some in the crowd weren’t there to hear her music.
I thought it would be a good idea to find a nice spot for Lil Yachty at Tito’s stage. This turned out to be a huge mistake. I got there pretty early and watched some of Milky Chance‘s set from the soundboard. About five minutes before Yachty went on, a huge rush of people pushed me forward twenty feet or so. I was stuck with people pressed against me on all sides. What happened next was both a highlight of the fest and a low point.
Fans of Lil Yachty seem to be, for the most part, very nice and chill. However, once Yachty starts playing they go completely insane. It was fun for a while, everyone jumping up and down and rapping along to the songs, but Yachty didn’t think the crowd was turnt enough. He needed mosh pits. He needed it turned up to eleven. A couple minutes later a bottle whizzed past me and nailed a guy right in the mouth. It was at this point I decided to start planning my exit.
It took me a good ten minutes to make my way out of the melée, spinning and dancing my way through people like a disco ninja trapped behind enemy lines.
I ended my festival with Sampha, who sounded so good I wished he could play on every stage so all the festivalgoers could hear him. The vibe at the Pepsi stage was so much more chill than the one hosting Lil Yachty that it felt like another planet.
I stand by my belief that four days is too long for a music festival of this size, but I’m glad I made it to some sets I really enjoyed. If I do it again next year, and my very serious recommendation to you, there needs to be a better plan in place. There’s too much to see, and travel times make catching half of one set and half of another nearly impossible.
Walking north out of the festival I got to hear Big Sean hype up G.O.O.D. Music and a couple of his hits. Still plenty of daylight and another hour before the first headliner took the stage, I’d hit my limit (and honestly went well past it during Yachty). My legs sore from the constant back and forth and sweating through my clothes, I still had a smile thinking about the fact that this happens in Chicago every year. FL
To see more of Carlo Cavaluzzi’s photos of Lollapalooza 2017, click here.