“Lollapalooza 2009: Fans brave the elements for three days jam-packed with fantastic music.” – Concert Review.

(Grant Park, August 8-10, 2009)

By Julia Barr

There was a steady drizzle on Friday as the crowds poured through the entryway into Grant Park on August 8-10, but that didn’t stop the 75,000 fans that attended Lollapalooza. Fashion went by the wayside as people donned ponchos, garbage bags, and whatever else they could find to keep dry and take in the nonstop live music.

The Gaslight Anthem was the first show I saw. They played straight up rock heavily influenced by Bruce Springsteen; at times a little nostalgic, but fun to sing along with and jump around to. The crowd was really into it; and I even found myself in the middle of a mosh pit; albeit a pretty wimpy one. The Heartless Bastards caught my attention with catchy pop hooks and awesome raspy vocals. The frontwoman reminded me of Chrissie Hynde from the Pretenders. Ben Folds was a popular act, drawing a lot of people across the park. His piano playing was phenomenal, but his vocals kind of got on my nerves. He used a lot of profanity, and it didn’t seem to match with his music. The Fleet Foxes were another highlight, with folky melodies and four-part harmonies.

My favorite act of the day was definitely Of Montreal. With danceable, Beatlesque songs, full of smart and poetic lyrics, their set was like a psychedelic trip. There were people dressed in drag-like medieval maidens and strange creatures, a girl in a business suit doing the robot, and a man in a lion mask chasing everyone on the stage around. What amazed me the most was that the band just performed in the midst of all the chaos, like they didn’t even notice that it was going on. They covered David Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream” and then led into my favorite song of theirs, “Heimigdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse,” by which point there were people painted up like zombies surfing the crowd in blow up kiddie pools and the lead singer was spraying feathers into the crowd.

Nonstop entertaining!

On Saturday, the rain had stopped, and it was easier to walk around and check out all that Lollapalooza had to offer. I did some shopping in Green Street, an area where ecologically conscious fashion designers and artists sell their products, and found a dress with the Smurfs on it made from a recycled t-shirt. I walked through the shady coves where hammocks hung from every tree in case anyone needed a break, and got a falafel pita and a big piece of watermelon from the food area, where you could find anything from Chinese food to Chicago hot dogs.

The first show I saw was Thenewno2, fronted by George Harrison’s son, Dhanni Harrison. He rocked a pirate hat, and had a sexy Liverpool accent. The Living Things were the most political band there. The singer had an American flag draped around his shoulders, the drummer wore a shirt that said “Fight for Peace,” and a couple of their songs dealt with the issue of young boys being sent off to war. Their sound was pure punk, and they had the whole crowd waving peace signs in the air.

Rise Against played an energetic hardcore set with lots of screaming, and, being natives of Chicago, had a loyal fan base. The lead singer congratulated us for being out there in the heat and said, “The best shows are the sweatiest ones; when you come out with your shirt torn off and you’re missing a shoe!” TOOL was one of the headlining bands that night. People who like TOOL tend to be obsessed with the band; there were even four guys in the crowd who took off their shirts, wrote T-O-O-L on their chests, and went running through the crowd screaming the band’s name. I had never been that into them, but after seeing the band live, I could definitely see the appeal. Their music was satisfyingly heavy and hypnotic and the band appeared as silhouettes, in front of a screen with imagery that was artistic, if kind of creepy. I watched half of their set and then caught the last half of The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Karen O seemed genuinely honored to be performing and played a lovely acoustic version of their hit song, “Maps.”

Sunday was oppressively hot, to the point where people were taking off as many clothes as possible and jumping in the big glowing fountain in the center of the park. Highlights from Sunday morning included Carney, whose epic sound reminded me of Led Zeppelin; Ra Ra Riot, upbeat orchestral sounding pop, with a stand-up bass and violin; and Bats for Lashes, whose haunting and industrial music featured two people on one synthesizer and a frontwoman with an amazing vocal range.

A huge crowd gathered in the shade to watch Cage the Elephant and sing along with their hit song, “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked.” I heard part of Airborne Toxic Event’s set. Their song “Sometime around Midnight” was one of those classic break-up songs that sends shivers down your spine, but I did think it was a little weird that they ended the set with “Innocence,” a song about suicide, and probably the most depressing one on their album. Vampire Weekend was a big hit. Their preppy indie rock, with a slightly reggae feel, was the perfect thing to hear on a summer day. I lined up early to see Lou Reed, and was thrilled that he opened with “Sweet Jane,” because I think it’s possibly the best song ever written. He did a pretty obscure set with a few hits thrown in like “Waiting for the Man” and “Walk on the Wild Side.” It seemed like they were having some technical difficulties onstage, and Lou seemed kind of confused, forgetting his lyrics a couple of times, but the parts that were good were really good. It was a treat to see such an icon, since he doesn’t tour very often.

The real high point of the night though was The Killers. They opened with “Human,” an infectiously catchy song with a chorus of “Are we human, or are we dancers.” For as far back as I could see, every single person was up on their feet dancing. They played an even mix of songs off their new album and hits from their previous album, “Hot Fuss.” As I made my way to the other end of the park, the air was a buzz of people singing along with the refrain “I got soul but I’m not a soldier” from the Killers’ song, “All These Things I’ve done.” I got down to the opposite stage at the perfect time. As I sprinted past the techno music that was still blasting from the DJ stage, I got to the stage where Jane’s Addiction was playing, and heard Perry Farrell, the man behind the entire festival, say “We did it! Let’s celebrate!” and launch into “Jane Says,” their most well known tune. Then he introduced us to his kids, who were bopping around onstage, and said “Let’s get a round of applause for my boys.” He then handed over the microphone to a random guy who had climbed up on stage with his girlfriend. The guy asked her to marry him, in front of the whole crowd, and she gave the perfect response: “Are you fucking kidding me?!” followed by a big kiss.

There couldn’t have been a better way to end the festival. Everyone there was so nice, and determined to have a good time no matter what, and that, combined with a fantastic lineup and a well run festival, made it a weekend to remember.


Julia Barr is a creative writing major at University of Iowa who is obsessed with music of almost all genres. Check out her Facebook or shoot her an e-mail at julia@zoiksonline.com.

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