As I crossed Michigan Avenue, Congress Parkway guided me inside Grant Park where Buckingham Fountain awaited the three-day total of 240,000-plus music lovers. Most would pass this fountain en route to eight stages stretching almost a mile in length. And it would still feel packed at this year's Lollapalooza.
And when the first words of “100 Yard Dash” came flowing out of R&B singer-songwriter Raphael Saadiq on Friday afternoon, the festival had officially begun. The heat forced Saadiq to take off his signature suit jacket and tie, but he would continue with a fifty-minute set of soul. If Saadiq’s style doesn’t remind you of a modern-day Otis Redding, then his vocals will, especially on “Love This Girl.” (YouTube "Take A Walk" if you don't know his stuff.) Our only request to Raphael is that he find a way to collaborate with his female counterpart Janelle Monae on his next album.
While waiting for a full-out Lady Gaga explosion, I caught a few minutes of both Jamie Lidell and Chromeo. Lidell, who usually sings over programmed beats, showed up with a full band. Following Saadiq’s solid performance, Lidell brought his own, not insignificant, soul and funk. Chromeo delivered heavy-keyboard dance beats off their 2007 album Fancy Footwork, and previewed tracks off Business Casual, set to release Sept. 14.
Picking between New York bred headliners Lady Gaga or The Strokes was tough, so for the first night, I decided to try both. Unfortunately I made the wrong decision beginning with Gaga. I should have started at The Strokes (if I had, I would have caught “You Only Live Once”) and ended with the epic last hour of Lady Gaga, which I missed. Behind a black sheet hiding the stage, Gaga’s silhouette began the show with an interesting pick of “Dance in the Dark.” On “Just Dance,” Gaga maneuvered through a line of ten or so dancers in leotards, sequin and sharp objects. But anxiety set in during long wardrobe changes. I decided to head over to The Strokes halfway through “Boys Boys Boys.”
Julian Casablancas and the band came on stage late and gave a performance slightly less energetic than that which Miss Gaga gave for her little monsters. But they recovered something of their old form when they performed “Reptila” and “Last Night” back to back.
Saturday, I was off to an early start in hopes of seeing garage rock band Harlem. They were an entrancing sight. Dual vocalists Michael Coomers and Curtis O’Mara flip-flopped between guitar and drums throughout the show.
Stage presence was important Saturday. The XX gave an energetic performance of“Crystalized” and “Islands.” Then there was Edward Sharpe and Magnetic Zeros. Hippies flocked and climbed trees among a congested crowd eager to join in on the free-spirit ten-person band. Performing “Javelin,” lead singer Alex Ebert was captivating, whether you wanted to be captivated or not. “Home” and “40 Day Dream” came soon after. Ebert ended the show by requesting that everyone sit in the grass for an intimate encore of “Brother.”
Headliner Green Day may have performed 30 songs including two encores, but I wasn’t going to miss out on seeing French pop enthusiasts Phoenix. Second row in a heap of waving French flags and excited fans, I was in Lollapalooza heaven. Lead singer Thomas Mars was humble and fun, simply put. Opening the set with “Lisztomania” was such a smart decision. After that moment, the excitement didn’t stop with “Lasso,” “Girlfriend” and two encores including “If I Ever Feel Better,” and an extended “1901.”
After two days of great weather, Sunday started with a dreary rain that soon faded into an unbearable heat. But that didn’t keep British folk band Mumford & Sons from impressing the crowd with their honest lyrics and lively instrumentals.
For the last night I decided to switch it up since I’m neither much of an Arcade Fire nor Soundgarden fan, so I headed for Perry’s, where Felix da Housecat and Digitalism were closing out the night with DJ Sets. Detroit techno would've been proud to see Digitalism remix Daft Punk and Nirvana. Break-dancers wore lit-up gloves while people sweated profusely, practically dancing on top of one another. It was the perfect, most interesting, way to end the three-day weekend festival full of all the Lollapalooza a girl could ask for.