By: The Busted Amp Staff
Derek and Joseph spent nearly a week in Chicago exploring Grant Park for the 25th Anniversary edition of Lollapalooza, one of the biggest music festivals in the United States. This year's bonanza upped the ante to four days packed with solid artists from start to finish. While we couldn't see all of them, we're here to bring you the good, the bad, and the WTF of the ones that we did see.
Derek: Easily the most anticipated sets of the weekend, Thom Yorke and gang delivered one of the most powerful and tight performances of the weekend. Their newest album, A Moon Shaped Pool, was one of the least rock albums in their history, but their Lollapalooza set was a rock show on the grandest stage. Powerful light and visual effects, impeccable stage presence, and the musical chops to pull off the complexities of their entire discography, Radiohead is everything they are hyped to be. While the band's setlist was surprisingly tame in terms of surprises, the band performed nearly half of the new album, along with a healthy dose of OK Computer, Hail To The Thief, and In Rainbows. The highlight of the set for me was the rip-roaring first encore closer "Bodysnatchers". Special shout-out to the people around us who camped with us for nearly three hours through a fantastic M83 set and the hour in between during Miike Snow. The last time I saw Radiohead I got peed on by a drunken "superfan". I'm happy to say that my Lollapalooza experience was much more enjoyable.
The Last Shadow Puppets
Joseph: Between headliners Lana Del Rey, J. Cole, and EDM titan Flosstradamus and hidden in the cove that was Lolla's Pepsi stage laid what might have been the most overlooked act of the entire festival. Honestly their terrible time slot proved to be hugely beneficial, as for an all-to-brief 1 hour set the bros were nowhere to be found while Alex Turner, Miles Kane and company could be found tearing the roof off with their suave moves and awesome riffs. Derek and myself mulled over seeing The Last Shadow Puppets over Lana Del Rey, but at the end of the day ohhhhhhh boy did we make the right decision. While the supergroup won't be traveling again in the states anytime soon, if you ever are struck with the choice of having to see Lana Del Rey, Flosstradamus, J. Cole, or The Last Shadow Puppets do yourself a favor and pay Alex Turner, Miles Kane and co. a visit. You'll be grateful you did.
Derek: We all know that Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys has the most sexy, slick British swagger that anyone on this side of the Atlantic Ocean has ever seen. I think that goes without saying. What's different about seeing The Last Shadow Puppets compared to seeing the Arctic Monkeys is that this is the fun side project. There's less pressure to perform, and Miles Kane provides a balanced on stage charisma that Turner simply doesn't have in the Arctic Monkeys. If you put all of this together, you have one of the most fun sets of the weekend, and a musically diverse one too. A small string section filled the sound and the band even had a dedicated tambourine player. Yes, you read that correctly. It was the perfect opening headlining slot of the weekend.
Nothing But Thieves
Joseph: This was one of my more anticipated early day acts of the festival, and on a wet Saturday morning Nothing But Thieves was exactly what I needed. Featuring incredible vocals from frontman Conor Mason, this band with one album to its name tore through their 45 minute early afternoon set. I only knew a few songs from these guys before Lollapalooza, but they quickly converted me into a fan and I'm already looking forward to October when they will be in my neck of the woods again. Expect to hear this name a lot over the next few years. Nothing But Thieves is definitely on the path to stardom.
Derek: In what was easily the biggest surprise of the weekend for me, LCD Soundsystem closed down the festival on Sunday night in the greatest dance party that I have been a part of in my lifetime. Picture this: the city of Chicago as the backdrop to tens of thousands of people spread out in a giant field, everyone giving each other space to dance, and then jamming for an hour and a half. While I was familiar with the band's hits, I wouldn't have called myself a fan going into their set. By the end of the set, I found myself on the verge of tears during "Dance Yrself Clean" and "All My Friends". It was the perfect ending to a fantastic weekend, and I will never forget it.
For me, LCD Soundsystem was the life changing set that I dreamed of seeing at Lollapalooza, and it came from the band I least expected. For all of the hype this reunion tour has gotten, all of the coverage on music websites, I didn't think there was any way for them to live up to that. They did.
Joseph: I will say this set was faaaaar better than when I saw them at Bonnaroo in June, but I still was not as high on this as Derek was. What I will say is I thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere of the set. I think it was a perfect storm: with Die Antwoord and Ellie Goulding effectively took the bros away from LCD Soundsystem, leaving us surrounded by people who simply love music. They didn't necessarily know any of the words, but that didn't matter: they just came to dance and to be together. This is what a festival should be all about, but it took until the last set of the last night for us to truly feel this way. It's true that this was the only set of the weekend that was even remotely like this, but if it did anything for me it simply reminded me of why I know 4 hot days on a little farm in backwoods Tennessee will be the best 4 days of my year.
City and Colour
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Derek: From what I could tell, the massive crowd gathered for Bastille was either deaf to anything in the lower bass ranges, or they'd spent too much time at Perry's and didn't notice the complete joke of a mix that accompanied Bastille's set. The thumping bass drum drowned out the vast majority of the other instruments, including the vocals, and made them almost painful to listen to. Needless to say it was an unenjoyable experience. For an artist that was played so often on the radio and had a meteoric rise to fame, I certainly hope the terrible sound was the festival's fault and not the intentional levels set by the band.
Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats
Joseph: This wasn't so much a bad show as much as it was an example of the bro culture of Lollapalooza rearing its ugly head. Even though I personally was having a pretty good time grooving along to Nathaniel Rateliff's music, far too many were just sitting around waiting for his big hit S.O.B. This song has definitely become far too big for the band's good, and even though they definitely converted some new fans (I hope everyone was converted) the vast majority of the crowd just mindlessly nodded along waiting for the band's hit.
Derek: Maybe this is just because I was grooving for the vast majority of this set, but I didn't think the bro crowd was nearly as bad here as during other sets throughout the day. Yes, many in attendance were just there to scream "SON OF A BITCH!" at the top of their lungs, but I thought the worst part was definitely the stage that they were stuck at. In the heat of the afternoon, standing on the blacktop at the Petrillo Stage was torturous. Rateliff and crew gave it their all, and I certainly enjoyed it despite the heat. I had the pleasure of seeing Rateliff before he formed the Nightsweats, and it was cool to see how much his sound evolved with the band.
Joseph: Derek has a point. I think overall this was by FAR the worst stage of the festival, and it definitely shows as most of our least favorite acts of the weekend found themselves playing at this terribly set up stage. I like the idea Lolla had to have basically two big stages and have two smaller stages across from them so you could, in theory, always have music playing, but that does not excuse the terrible placement of this stage.
Kurt Vile & the Violators
Derek: Speaking of terrible stage choices, Kurt Vile was one of the biggest losers in his Lollapalooza stage positioning. Also at the Petrillo Stage, Kurt's chill, psychedelic rock was completely in contrast to the hot blacktop the crowd had to stand on. I would have enjoyed it much better if I was able to sit in the grass, but I found myself waiting for the set to end so I could escape the uncomfortable atmosphere. To put this in perspective, I had to help two people who were trying to hold up their collapsing friend, who, when he finally came to, said that he hadn't had a drop of alcohol or any drugs that day. He was just really, really hot.
The band's performance was pretty lackluster too. Kurt's vocals were more gibberish than anything, at least hardly discernible from where we were standing, and everyone on stage just seemed bored. After being on of my favorites at Midpoint Music Festival in 2012, this definitely put a sour taste in my mouth. I'll be seeing him later this month, so we'll see if they were just having an off day at a bad stage.
Joseph: Derek can attest that I was really looking forward to seeing this band. I intentionally avoided them at Bonnaroo so that I could see them with Derek at Lolla, but I was definitely disappointed by what I saw. But I will blame the environment of the set for it, and I look forward to seeing them again at Live on the Green August 25th as they open for Dawes.
Derek: With all of the hype surrounding Saturday evening's Jane's Addition/Red Hot Chili Peppers pairing on the main Samsung Stage, Perry Farrell brought a show filled with bizarre, sexy, and almost freakish acts accenting an already tight stage performance by the 90's. legends. The biggest problem with their set was the complete lack of appreciation from the crowd when the band performed their classic 1990 album Ritual de lo habitual in its entirety. Yes, the album has some lulls, especially live, but the energy of the crowd completely drained the band of any enthusiasm. Guitarist Dave Navarro was captured on the big screen mouthing "This sucks." or something similar to bassist Chis Chaney. Perry, on the other hand, was too busy taking his flamboyant 25th Anniversary victory lap on stage, dreamily strutting from side to side. Joining the band during a few songs were two dancers, who performed, or rather stripped, during a good portion of the set. Perry wife, one of the dancers, gave him a full lap dance and was completely undressed by the other dancer during another song. For the uninitiated, including most of the crowd gathered for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, it felt more than a little out of place. That awkwardness turned to disgust and horror later in the set when two different dancers inserted hooks in their backs and were promptly hoisted up and swung out above the crowd. This circus act was the last straw for a few people around us, as they left to find a spot for Two Door Cinema Club, who were performing at the nearby Lakeshore Stage after Jane's Addiction ended. It wasn't all bad though; a guest appearance by Tom Morello for "Mountain Song" and Jimmy Chamberlin of Smashing Pumpkins drumming on "Jane Says" closed out a rollercoaster set. We love you Perry, but we're not quite sure the crowd has the same tastes as it did 25 years ago.
Joseph: Usually, when we say WTF, it's a bad thing. But not here. Both Derek and myself went into this show not expecting much. I actually had to almost physically drag Derek to see these guys, and I wanted to see them mostly for blind keyboardist Casey Harris, brother of frontman Sam Harris. But what we got was one of the crazier sets of Lollapalooza, featuring a ridiculously amazing cameo from the legendary Tom Morello. And Jamie N Commons if you care about that sort of thing. Honestly, and I never thought I would find myself saying this after the thought, but this appearance from Morello was miles ahead of his cameo later in the day with Jane's Addiction. Man that sentence felt weird just typing it.
Sir The Baptist
Joseph: I'm gonna throw in a quick word about this show. After 3 grueling days in downtown Chicago, I was not expecting much from Sir the Baptist. But holy crap did this guy put on a show, despite his extremely early billing. The frat bros quickly came out in force to jam to his dance hit "Raise Hell," but before that we were treated to an extremely enjoyable mix of gospel and hip hop that had me grooving for most of the set. I have a feeling we will be hearing this name a lot more in the future.
Derek: Not to mention that he literally rapped from a coffin.
Joseph: Ultimately I'm pretty torn about Lollapalooza. On the one hand, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The backdrop was spectacular, (obviously, it is downtown Chicago after all) the food was AWESOME and decently priced, (I freaking loved our late night deep dish pizza adventures after the festival in downtown Chicago) and the music was....mostly spectacular. As someone who has never seen Radiohead or Red Hot Chili Peppers before, it was an amazing experience to cross them both off in one sitting, and there were plenty of other artists playing to keep me entertained. But, while the environment was mostly great (save for the crappy Petrillo Bandshell stage) the atmosphere was sorely lacking. It's hard to deny that Lollapalooza has been completely overrun by frat bros and high school kids looking to get wasted at Perry's, or looking to beat each other up at whatever pop/hip hop show they could stumble over to. It was sad to see at times, and though it's not the fault of Lolla by any means, it was definitely a sad confirmation of what the festival world is becoming at its biggest stages. There was a surprisingly small amount of #LollaMoments, (short of Tom Morello showing up, I'm pretty sure that's all we saw that would classify as such-Bonnaroo suffered from the same problem) and I think this is also a result of the sheer amount of festivals that are out there nowadays. So while I am definitely glad that I went to Lollapalooza, (and glad I got to go with my partner in crime) I definitely do not have plans of going back again anytime soon. And if someone asked me whether I prefer Bonnaroo or Lollapalooza, I would just laugh for a moment then say, without hesitation: Bonnaroo.
Derek: Lobster corndogs. That's all you need to know.
Who are we?
Derek Jung and Joseph Kathmann -- Just two ordinary (debatable) guys that love talking about music. You can read more about us here: