5 best things
1. Frank Ocean – Over the past month, it feels like anyone who was a little familiar with Frank Ocean before, suddenly and simultaneously realized that he is a genius (mostly due to the release of his album, Channel Orange). His dreamlike lyricism, unintentionally futuristic production and captivating voice have made him the man of the year in music. To see him live at this moment, no matter what the show is like, is an absolute thrill. Instead of resting on that hype, though, he used his headliner time slot (though located on the small Google Play stage) to provide what will undoubtedly end up the best concert of Lollapalooza this year. Opening with an acoustic cover of Sade's “Hold Me Tight,” a gutsy and gorgeous decision, the show soon transitioned into full band versions of “Thinkin Bout You” (frontrunner for best song of 2012) and “Novacane” (probably the best song of 2011). I heard someone make the age old comment, “He sounds so much better live!” That may have been true in terms of his voice, which was unbelievably raw and magnetic, but the Frank you get on record is the same Frank you get on stage in a lot of ways. He makes confessions that burst with heartache, confusion and neuroses, to the point where it is almost painful, but somehow never loses his cool. Instead, he just makes the heartache and neuroses themselves cool. I don't know how, I'm just honored that I got to see it happen in person.
2. Post-evacuation – I'll give more detail about the evacuation and weather troubles below, but it was very impressive the way the day was salvaged. Adjustments were made so that a minimal number of shows had to be canceled. And though some of those cancelations were tragic, upon re-entering, there was a feeling of gratitude in the crowd—everyone was just happy to be back in there. It made complaints that are usually commonplace at a festival feel trivial. “We didn't even think we'd get to play at all today, so thanks for being here,” Ernest Greene of Washed Out said toward the end of their set. That about summed up how everybody was feeling.
3. Half pipe – Every once in a while, I'll walk by something and think, “Oh yeah that's why some people think Lolla is lame.” Yesterday it was a mini-half pipe, sponsored by Adidas, with a few guys skating on it for most of the day. Why does it exist? I don't know, it's pretty ridiculous, but that's also kind of why I love it. I was more torn on it at first, but then five or six dudes dressed in Adidas sweatsuits started popping and locking to the sounds of 16-year old Chicago rapper Chief Keef from Perry's tent nearby. I decided not to fight it. It was fun.
4. Dessa of Doomtree – Doomtree is a Minneapolis indie rap collective that took the main stage at the north end of Grant Park at 12:45. Their songs are wordy and at times have lofty intellectual objectives, both of which are things that are going out of style in rap at the moment (see: the rise of the aforementioned Chief Keef), but they all worked incredibly hard on stage and pulled a huge crowd for their early time slot. Each of the six members on stage can share the credit, but Dessa, the group's sole female member was the most dynamic and charming of them all. An established solo artist as well, Dessa switched seemlessly between rapping and singing, while exuding a friendly and effortless charm.
5. Dad shirt – I saw a dad wearing a shirt that had a picture of a carton of milk on it, with the caption “I am the 2 percent.” So other publications can leave their articles about the fashions of Lollapalooza at home. This guy wins. Best dressed, best dad.
Other good things: Twin Shadow played the Google Play stage just before Frank Ocean. They looked and sounded sleek and confident, with a vibe that was half-80s, half-timeless. Star Slinger brought a little subtlety to Perry's DJ tent (a rarity) at 2:00 with a set of melodic dance mash-ups and original production. Franz Ferdinand proved that they should have been given a headlining slot with a ferocious set, filled with crowd pleasers that have not, and probably will never, go out of style.
5 worst things
1-5. Evacuation – At 3:30 I was waiting near the Google Play stage for Chairlift to start when a few friends began receiving updates via Twitter and the Lollapalooza iPhone App, telling us to leave the park and go inside. Everyone knew we'd probably get rained on, the clouds were getting darker by the minute, but it's always a given that the shows would go on no matter what. That's how it has always been in the past. Being told to leave the festival felt odd and like it could not be true, so we stayed where we were until security eventually herded us and everyone else out the front gate. Even as I walked out and saw everyone else doing the same, it felt like I was missing shows I wanted to see. My instincts were to turn around, because again, an evacuation like this is unprecedented for Lolla.
Those smartphone updates kept us informed for the first half hour or so, as we all found some store or restaurant or cafe to stand and wait in, but after a while they stopped coming which was frustrating. It was confusing and scary for a while, any kind of information would have been appreciated, even if it was that nothing had changed yet. Soon the storm came and went, and it did look pretty awful. Everyone was glad to have been inside for it.
The most crucial show cancelations were Alabama Shakes, a quickly rising band who were poised to make a huge impression on the main stage yesterday, and Chairlift, an experimental pop duo that I was especially looking forward to this weekend. The Temper Trap andB.o.B also got screwed by the weather.
But really, the festival lost two and a half hours in the middle of the day and found a way to keep the number of notable cancellations under five. That is, relatively speaking, not too bad. Ultimately the worst thing about the ordeal was the uncertainty of those few hours: not knowing if or when the festival would re-open and not knowing when. Getting different information from many different sources and not getting much at all from the festival itself. Overall, they handled it as well as they could be expected to, but that doesn't mean it wasn't a huge bummer for a while.
Eventful day! I'll be back tomorrow with a couple interviews from Lolla artists and a Sunday recap. See you then.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun