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Chicago - The Recording Academy At Lollapalooza: Friday
After three years in Chicago, particularly in the music scene, it’s almost embarrassing to admit that I’ve never attended Lollapalooza. Luckily, my experience at the three-day music festival on Friday was a great introduction. I have my friends at The Recording Academy and GRAMMY U to thank for the opportunity to get a nice mixture of typical concertgoer and behind-the-scenes experiences. And now, I get to share these experiences with you.
I got an early start on Friday, putting the finishing touches on my interview questions as I considered my most festival-worthy outfit (I opted for a plaid romper and sandals). As soon as I met up with the team at the Chicago Chapter offices, we hit the ground running for Grant Park. After arriving on site at 11:30 a.m., we got to work setting up our tent in the media area. We were conveniently stationed in a shady corner next to plenty of free snacks and across from the Spin lounge. As perfect as our location was, we had little time to savor it as we started our interviews for the day with Devo at high noon.
As Mark and the Bobs from Devo sat down with us, I had a sense that our interview was going to be more like talking with your slightly left-of-center uncles that have some great stories to tell. Indeed, the pop music veterans offered insights that can only come from years of working hard at something you love. Later, when I caught their afternoon set on the Parkways Foundation main stage, from afar I wouldn’t have believed these were the same people. These wise men in their 50s and 60s were rocking the stage and engaging the crowd better than many 20-somethings on the scene today. It just goes to show -- pure talent and passion will always outlive trends.
That last sentiment was echoed by my second interviewees, Eric and Alex of Foxy Shazam. Known for their theatrical sound and frenetic stage shows, Foxy Shazam surprised me with their grounded and quiet nature. While their bright, playful outfits and immaculately styled facial hair hinted at their whimsical stage presence, their insights showed a hard-working sensibility that you rarely find in such a young band. While I was not able to catch any of their set, I look forward to seeing and hearing more from Foxy Shazam.
Next up were rising rock stars Neon Trees. I just don’t have enough nice things to say about this band. Coming into Lollapalooza, my knowledge of Neon Trees didn’t extend far beyond their commercial hit “Animal,” and some basic background on the band. Through a stellar interview, I gained insight into an extremely hard-working and self-aware group of friends from Provo, Utah. Obviously, I had to see their first Lollapalooza set after meeting them. As soon as they took the stage, I knew exactly where Neon Trees was meant to be. In a set filled with great music, eye-popping high kicks and the elusive great onstage banter, Neon Trees definitely earned some new fans, myself included.
My final interview of the day was with Lollapalooza veterans the Black Keys. I have to admit, I was a little anxious about meeting with the sometimes-elusive duo. As I spoke with them though, it seemed that their aversion to interviews and self-promotion really stems from wanting to do nothing besides play their music together. I can respect that. Plus, their snarky “us versus them” quips did make me laugh. When I later got to see them in their element, onstage, I understood why their live shows are so lauded and why their latest album, Brothers, was such a success. In a world filled with short attention spans and countless distractions, these two Midwestern guys had managed to captivate thousands of concertgoers. If music, not interviewing, is what the Black Keys prefer, then play on.
I now have to take a moment to highlight one of the unexpected draws of Lollapalooza: the food. With burgers provided by legendary rock bar Kuma’s Corner (a favorite of Lady Gaga) and high-end festival fare such as chocolate-covered cheesecake on a stick and lobster corndogs, the food at Lollapalooza, in my opinion, put Taste of Chicago to shame.
Finally, the day culminated in a grand finale by Lady Gaga. Let’s be honest, I had been waiting for this moment for weeks. I love a spectacle, and I knew Gaga would deliver. After all, her intention to put on the full show that she performs on the Monster Ball Tour demanded that Lollapalooza construct a bigger stage than they’ve ever had before, just for her production. I was also excited to catch this particular performance because it represented a comeback of epic proportions from Lady Gaga’s first Lollapalooza appearance in 2007, which, as Gaga said, “They told me was a… train wreck.” Well, with 80,000 people congregating for the Church of Gaga, the singer transformed into a high priestess, delivering a two-hour sermon that preached the importance of loving oneself and one another. Of course, at times the show took a turn for the self-indulgent, but for the Cinderella story of Lollapalooza, I accepted those moments. Plus, with a set list that delivered pitch-perfect renditions of her biggest hits and a fireworks show to accompany her song “Monster,” Lady Gaga showed that this night was as much for her “little monsters” as it was for her. I left feeling like I had just shared this victory with Lady Gaga and all of her little monsters.
By the end of the night, I felt exhausted but exhilarated. That’s exactly how I knew I’d had a successful first Lolla experience. I’m quick to say that I couldn’t imagine doing the festival for three straight days, but after being a part of the masses, the congregation, the movement that is Lollapalooza, I happily look forward to braving the full three days next year.
To read a recap of Saturday, click HERE
To read a recap of Sunday, click HERE