By: The Busted Amp Staff
DEREK: Lollapalooza. The festival we at The Busted Amp thought would be a one time affair after our adventure in 2016. But as with most things in the music world, we should never said never, because when the festival dropped a lineup stacked top to bottom with solid acts, we had no choice but to return to the hallowed grounds at Chicago's Grant Park. While what we witnessed ultimately failed to live up to 2016's peaks, the festival overall left us musically satisfied. The atmosphere, however, did not.
But we'll get to that.
Derek: For the second year in a row, the festival's closing act turned out to be its best. Arcade Fire, on the heels of their so-so new album Everything Now, took the stage at Grant Park on Sunday evening and played a whirlwind, catalog-spanning 90 minutes filled with their signature indie rock anthems. Hearing the chorus of "Wake Up" yelled by a field of tired festival goers was almost as awe inspiring as dancing myself clean with LCD Soundsystem last year. Filled with energy and positivity, Win Butler and Regine Chassagne brought the house down. "Everything Now" and "Creature Comfort" were clear highlights from the new album live, and old favorites like "Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)" reverberated off the crowd with the same effect that they had over ten years ago - sonic majesty and the emotional punch that will bring even the hardest of detractors to tears.
Joseph: Derek and I will have very similar opinions on most of the festival, but I'll add my thoughts here and there. While we disagreed somewhat on LCD Soundsystem last year, (at least with calling it the best of Lolla 2016) we are in unison with Arcade Fire. My most anticipated set of the festival turned out to be my favorite as well, as the band closed out an otherwise lackluster weekend in considerable style. "Creature Comfort" was one of my favorites, as the song (which I wasn't too high on on the album) turned out to be quite an awesome banger live. I also loved "Signs of Life," which was an incredibly groovy number to dance to. While those who made an effort to see the band's official Lolla aftershow at The Metro the night before might have found the setlists to be eerily similar, it was still a great way for us to close out Lolla 2017.
Run The Jewels
Derek: What a relief.
After their nauseatingly bass-heavy performance at Forecastle earlier this summer, I was hesitant to see them again at Lollapalooza, thinking that bigger stage speakers would only make my issues with their live mix worse. Oh how I was wrong. Killer Mike and El-P were at their best in Chicago, and absolutely tore through their hour long set in the late afternoon on Friday. One of the more memorable #LollaMoments happened when the duo invited a sign-wielding fan up on stage to rap the beginning verse of "Legend Has It". He nailed it.
These big stages are perfect for Mike and El-P, and given their continual rise in popularity, I don't see them playing anywhere smaller anytime soon.
Joseph: I did not see RTJ earlier this summer, but thanks to Derek's poor reception of them at Forecastle, I set my bar very low for this set. However I'd say this added to what we ended up with because....holy crap did RTJ blow me away. RTJ is at a point right now where they can put together a solid setlist top to bottom with 3 LPs, and their mix through Lolla's giant sound system was incredible. Additionally, unlike at many hip hop/EDM/pop sets of the weekend, the vibe here was pretty positive, as it seemed most people just showed up to dance. This set was undoubtedly my runner up for best set of the weekend.
Cage The Elephant
Derek: When it comes to legendary sets, there are few in recent years that compares to Cage The Elephant's rain dance/mud wrestling set in 2011. That's why, with more rain threatening this year's set, it wasn't beyond possibility for a repeat. Fortunately (unfortunately?), the rain held off, but the band was still on fire. There are few frontmen that have the energy as Matthew Schultz, who wore a dress for the majority of the set, before triumphantly taking it off toward the end. Not to mention guitarist Brad Schultz, who brings every bit as much energy as his brother, furiously strumming his guitar and yelling into the crowd. By the end, when Matt climbed to the top of the sound booth, the crowd was eating out of the palm of their hands. At this point in their careers, Cage the Elephant has enough material to be a go-to festival act. We saw this in action the week after Lollapalooza when they were booked to fill the space at Outside Lands when Queens of the Stone Age cancelled due to injury.
The Lemon Twigs
Chance the Rapper
Derek: Few bands had a bigger crowd of college douchebags during the weekend than Glass Animals, and for the life of me I really don't understand why. With the exception of "Life Itself", which was one of my favorite songs of last year, the rest of the band's material is incredibly bland, especially their album How To Be A Human Being. Not surprisingly, their performance wasn't much better, yet the crowd was thrilled to toss around mini blow up pineapples (a reference to the song "Gooey") and get really really high. I'm not kidding. I can't think of another act with a thicker haze swirling around the immense field of festival attendees. Maybe I didn't understand because I was stone cold sober, but I didn't hear anything worthwhile from their hour long set.
Joseph: I don't think there was a set over the weekend that better encapsulated what's wrong with Lolla today than Glass Animals. The vibe at Lolla has gone to hell, and at sets like Glass Animals, it was all too present. Many in attendance were just there for "Gooey" and "Life Itself," (which the band opened with so they really took the anticipation out of it with that one) and the rest of the time they couldn't care less what Dave Bayley and co. were doing on stage. What's worse is this isn't the first time this has happened to me watching Glass Animals. While I didn't bring them up in my official recap, I was very low on their set at Bonnaroo this year for similar reasons, and insisted on seeing the band again in the hopes that that negative vibe (which ran counter to most of Bonnaroo's weekend) was a fluke. It was not. I almost hate to say this about any band, but for now avoid Glass Animals and their awful crowd at all costs. It's just not worth it.
Car Seat Headrest
Derek: Don't listen to the folks at Stereogum, who praised the band's set as one of the festival's best. This set was doomed from the very beginning, and had everything to do with the mix. If you've listened to CSH before, you know that lead singer Will Toledo's voice is pretty abrasive. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but combined with a mix that was a muddled mess and you have a recipe for disaster. It quickly spawned Reddit threads, complaining about the poor sound quality. Would this be the Bastille set of 2017? The short answer is absolutely, although after I left for ten minutes to catch the end of Noname, who was fantastic, I returned back to be pleasantly surprised that there was a small but noticeable improvement in the sound. It was, however, too late to save the set as a whole, and thus Car Seat Headrest goes back on the list of bands I need to experience in their true form, because we certainly did not get it here.
Joseph: So this is the one point where I will kind of disagree with Derek. I'm definitely not with Stereogum on this set, but to me it can just be summed up as.....meh. While the AWFUL mix initially didn't help matters, after they fixed it somewhat, the set itself was just mediocre to me. I've never fully understood the hype behind CSH (though I can definitely appreciate the fact that frontman Will Toledo looks suspiciously like Boris Grishenko from 007's Goldeneye) and after seeing their set I still don't understand it. Their set, to me, was just average, and I have very little desire to see them again. (Even though I'm glad I did get to see them) So I guess I didn't hate this set as much as Derek did, I just found the band as a whole to be very meh.
Derek: There are few modern rock stars that have the reputation that Liam Gallagher has amassed his twenty years in the spotlight. The singer, formerly of Oasis, was a surprisingly solid get for the festival as he ramps up touring before the release of his first solo album. Unfortunately for those in attendance, Liam made it only three songs into his set before calling it quits without so much as a word to the crowd. He would later tweet of vocal issues, but I don't believe that for a second. The crowd briefly chanted his brother's name "Noel. Noel. Noel" as the crew began to tear down his gear. Given their much publicized dislike for each other, I can only dream of being a fly on the wall of his green room as the echos reached his ears.
Joseph: Hey, remember the days when Liam Gallagher wasn't an asshole? Neither do I. Sorry this post isn't any longer. My hands hurt from all that typing. I'm gutted.
Derek: While the trend of younger and younger Lollapalooza attendees continued this year, exacerbated by the ever present bass booming through the park from Perry's, I was happy to see that those crowds generally stuck in and around that area. There were only a few acts that were inundated by drugged up high schoolers, one of which made the bad list above. There weren't many other noticeable changes to the festival format. Of course, everyone was bummed that Thursday's headliners were cut short because of severe weather. I was at Lorde and Joseph was at Muse during that time.
The best change for 2017 was the addition of separate urinals, which really sped up bathroom wait times, and also flushable toilets, which kept them cleaner for longer. If I were to take a stab at attendance, I'd say that this year was better attended than last year, especially on Saturday for Chance the Rapper's hometown headlining set.
All of that being said, I still think Lollapalooza has an identity and culture problem. So many people, especially over the age of 20, continue to decry the existence of Perry's, and Perry himself has teased the possibility of running his own underground house music festival to counter the mostly generic EDM that is featured on the stage bearing his name. The problem, ultimately, is that EDM brings the crowds and money that indie music can't bring anymore. Those that grew up in the early-mid 2000's during indie-rock's boom aren't attending as many festivals, and electronic music is the name of the game for the high school and college demographic. And when it comes down to it, Lollapalooza exists to make money, and it certainly does year after year. I think it's safe to say, however, that they won't be getting any more from me. Maybe I'm just getting old.
Joseph: Lolla 2017 was a Jekyll-and-Hyde tale for me. Unlike Derek, I don't necessarily mind the identity/culture problem. I think that can be summed up as "We're old and no longer the most important demographic for music, and we're just not that into EDM." What I do mind, however, is people who can't get their act together and, frankly, handle their shit. I see more people passed out at Lolla than at any other festival, and that's saying something since I go to a 4 day camping festival in the middle of the TN summer every year in Bonnaroo. I just don't understand why people feel the need to have a total disregard of their limits. Why is that even a thing? What benefits do you get out of it other than waking up in an ambulance or medical tent having no idea where your phone is and realizing you missed the headliner you wanted to see because you were passed out?
Additionally, I am so frustrated by the selfish, entitled mentality that comes with so many of the crowds at Lolla. The day Chance headlined was undoubtedly the worst of this. While I had a great time at Chance's set, and will likely be talking about it for years to come as it was one of the biggest crowds for a Lolla headliner ever, I came home to read horror stories on Reddit of entitled Chance fans ruining the show for everyone else who camped the Grant Park Stage right before he went on.
That said, there are still many things Lolla does better than any other festival I go to. Front and center is their easy to use cashless wristband system. No other festival has their act together as much as Lolla does with this system, and it's paired with some incredible food which, believe it or not, is the cheapest I saw at any festival in 2017. Believe me when the year started I did not think I would be typing that sentence, but $5 for a slice of authentic Chicago-style deep dish pizza was the deal to beat at any music festival in 2017. As Derek mentioned, the flush-able toilets (and urinals) were an EXTREMELY welcomed addition to the festival this year, and the festival crew added an extremely welcome third set of speakers at the main stage as well. Security started out pretty lax but got their act together as the weekend went on, and the watering stations are still the best of any festival I go to.
Unfortunately, though, the negatives outweighed the positives for me this year, and I am going to have to side with Derek on my final takeaway. As much fun as it's been going to Lolla these last two years, it would take an absolutely incredible lineup in 2018 for me to even consider coming back and dealing with all the BS that comes with the festival. And given the overall trend of these festival lineups the last two years, I am not holding my breath for a stellar lineup in 2018. It's been real, Lollapalooza. Thanks for the memories.
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: