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Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2011

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lollapalooza 260x260 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2011What a strange idea: Let’s create a world within a metropolis.

Whether or not that was the methodology behind Perry Farrell’s Lollapalooza in Chicago, IL, remains to be confirmed. However, that’s what he’s done. Stepping into the gates at Congress and Michigan, one can’t help but feel they’re about to enter another plane of existence. Yeah, yeah, what a cliché, simplistic statement, but let me ask you this…

Over the weekend, did you see:

  • Hall & Oates look-alikes, complete with the leisure suits, dancing in 85-degree heat
  • A “lobster corn dog”
  • Chic Euro-looking women–or, those who look “primed for the runway”–rocking out next to a slew of Jim Belushi look-alikes
  • Sweaty, exhausted teenagers, crying their eyes out at a colossal rave; it’s also only noon
  • Thousands of people singing about the Cubs winning
  • Fireworks behind an award-winning rock act
  • Drunken fortysomethings asleep atop Connie’s Pizza slices
  • ?uestlove chatting food with Graham Elliot
  • Skateboarding youths, rolling away to their next favorite band
  • Lasers washed over the Chicago skyline
  • Mud-covered fans, diving in for more… mud
  • Ironic shirts next to sports shirts next to a pair of male nipples
  • War-torn Converses and sod-stained high heels tapping to the beats
  • People stumbling out of Port-o-Potties shoeless
  • A fairly short line to eat a burger from Kuma’s
  • Shoes tossed at fans by a frantic lead singer
  • Perry Farrell

Odds are if you weren’t in Grant Park this past weekend, you didn’t catch any of this… let’s call it… chaos? Hmm, that’s not fair. Chaos is such a frowned-upon term; it’s usually linked to things like “riots” or “fires” or “talking to yourself alone in the car.” With Lolla, this sort of orchestrated chaos tastes nothing short of delicious. It’s the sort of madness that builds character… or just crosses things off on those proverbial bucket lists. C’mon, lobster corn dog.

This year, the festival celebrated its 20th birthday–you could say, in style. Perry’s Stage received a face-lift (or, a temporary warehouse). Festivalgoers had the choice of four headliners per night. After-parties continued to thrive. One can’t dismiss Farrell’s electronic extravaganza, either. Over three long days, the new installment never witnessed a dull moment. As a result, it bred countless “believe it or not” tales of folklore, contributing a great chunk to the laundry list above.

While not the best Lollapalooza, it did produce some of the greatest memories in the festival’s history. That’s what matters, right? Also, think of it this way: Who ever remembers their 20th birthday, anyhow? It’s the following year that glues to the mind.

Until then…

-Michael Roffman
President/Editor-in-Chief

Friday, August 5th

Wye Oak – Sony – 12:00 p.m.

lolla fri wye 3 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2011

Photo by Heather Kaplan

Baltimore indie duo Wye Oak took the stage in the sweltering midday heat, launching into the gnarled dreamscape of “The Altar”, followed by the Sonic Youth-isms of “Holy Holy”. Despite the addicting, sped-up shreds and mournful howl of vocalist/guitarist Jenn Wasner, bolstered by Andy Stack’s ethereal keyboards and simultaneous drumming, the band kept stopping to adjust their equipment, ceasing to play entirely midway through “Plains”. They switched out amps and had the same wonderfully rough quality for the rest of the set, but Wasner continuously (and needlessly) apologized in a fashion similar to her back pain complaints during a Decemberists show at The Riviera earlier this year, another killer set plagued by momentum-halting repents. While altogether a solid show, Wasner needs to stop making excuses for a band that needs no excuses at all. -Dan Caffrey

Tennis – Google + – 1:00 p.m.

lolla fri tennis 7 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2011

Photo by Heather Kaplan

Out of the ashes of the 1980’s and Roxy Music album covers rose Tennis, who played every hot moment of their 45-minute set, with an abundance of “whoa-oh-ohs.” Lead singer/keyboardist Alaina Moore let the crew know she was having some problems with her keyboard for the first couple of songs, but she didn’t let any technical issues dampen the afternoon. Moore (jokingly?) suspected airport security sabotaged her keyboard before leaving from Moscow, but it’s hard to imagine anyone damaging anything of Moore’s; she’s too likeable. Breezy surf-pop followed, including the jaunty “Seafarer” and “Robin”, the latter of which borrowed lovingly from “Love” off the Robin Hood soundtrack. –Justin Gerber

Reptar – Google + – 2:15 p.m.

lolla friday reptar 9 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2011

Photo by Heather Kaplan

The Google + Stage got a little bigger this year, which upped the ante for many of the young, fresh-out-the-club bands. Reptar were one of the younger, erm, Rugrats on that stage, and they showed up with heaping portions of excitement and eccentricity to carry their set. They have a kind of Portugal. The Man by way of a Cuisinart blender sound to them, with Graham Ulicney’s vocal performance warranting the most notes. “I’ll get you next time, Gadget,” I wrote about his voice, and for a band whose namesake is a made-up cartoon inside of another kids cartoon show, it felt justified. But add to the odd pot the synth player dancing about in a jet blue unitard, and it all sort of came together in a garagey synth fun house kind of dance party. -Jeremy D. Larson

Foster the People – Sony – 3:00 p.m.

foster the people 5 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2011

Photo by Brad Bretz

“This is the most amount of people we’ve ever played in front of before,” said Mark Foster, lead singer/multi-instrumentalist of Foster the People. From the crowd reaction, you’d have thought they were Lolla pros, as the band played instruments ranging from standard guitars to maracas, then had three members playing keyboards/effects simultaneously. No one had a bigger smile on his or her face during day one than Foster, whose onstage dancing was simply infectious, leading to crowd surfing, sing-alongs, and clapping to every beat. Standout songs included the big beats of “Miss You”, a cover of Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold”, and set closer “Helena Beat”, which sent the crowd dancing out the exit. -Justin Gerber

Le Butcherettes – Google+ – 3:30 p.m.

lolla friday butch 6 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2011

Photo by Heather Kaplan

“I want to lick your tongues with my loving.” Yep, that’s Teri Gender Bender for ya. Fearless and wild-eyed, the Le Butcherettes singer annihilated both the stage and her body, tossing and turning with antics as erratic and visceral as her cannibalistic punk rock. In a word, it was filthy. But, in two words, we’ll go with filthy sexy. Dangerous yet sludgy cuts of “Dress Off”, “Henry Don’t Got Love”, and new tune “No Owe” left quite a mess on the Google + floorboards, especially as drummer Gabe Serbian threw up water after every other song and bassist Jonathan Hiscke treated the cozy stage as a sauna. They rained sweat. But that’s because they never stopped moving. And although Teri remained barefoot throughout most of the performance–she threw her shoes at her fans, who scooped ’em up as a prize–she made several advances into the engaging crowd, including some post-show crowd surfing. Punk rock? Perhaps. We’ll just call it violently entertaining… and demand more. -Michael Roffman

Exclusive: Cluster 1 HANGOUT – CoS/C1 correspondents Nick Freed and Michael Roffman hang out with Teri Gender Bender and Jonathan Hiscke at Lollapalooza, pulling crazy hi jinks all around the park. Things get “wild.”

Feed Me – Perry’s – 3:45 p.m.

feed me 2 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2011

Photo by Brad Bretz

Currently representing deadmau5’s Mau5trap record label, UK’S Jon Gooch broke in the newly renovated Perry’s Stage early Friday under his electro-house/dubstep moniker Feed Me. Gooch kick-started his set by sending effervescent bubbles of electronica, kept aloft with a heavy bass line, across the audience. As the set progressed, Gooch often seemed rushed by the time limitations associated with a festival performance, shuffling between electro-grime, melodic dubstep, and glistening synth runs. As soon as the growing audience could get into a rhythm, Gooch was already pushing a new genre and tempo. Still, there’s little wrong with leaving an audience anxious for a club-setting return. -Derek Staples

Kids These Days – BMI – 4:15 p.m.

lolla friday kids 51 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2011

Photo by Heather Kaplan

Chicago’s own Kids These Days (KTD) made a well-earned splash with this year’s Hard Times EP, a funky simmer of a debut that seamlessly blended blue-eyed soul, R&B, jazz, and hip-hop. At a breezy 23 minutes, the entirety of the record is usually played at their shows, leaving the rest of the set to be filled in with live mash-ups and newer material, as was the case with their Lolla performance. But while KTD’s musicianship and stage presence is consistently uncanny, the more recent tunes feel somewhat insincere and far-reaching, skirting the band’s genre-melding to lean heavier on rapper Vic Mensa. His latest rhymes go for a harder edge than exhibited on the band’s nostalgic single “My Days”, with an entire song devoted to how much he likes to smoke weed. While he’s surely tried the stuff (hell, maybe he does it a lot) and while there are plenty of classic hip-hop songs about that very topic, it appears he wrote it because he thinks that’s what rappers are supposed to do, as opposed to the words coming out of genuine love for the herb. -Dan Caffrey

Cults – Google + – 4:45 p.m.

cultswindowsphone Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2011

Photo by Michael Roffman (via Colorizer)

The sun was angled directly at the crowd, but it was also in the 50’s during Cults. Twee throwback does a body good in the middle of the afternoon, and the original Cults duo of Madeline Follin and Brian Oblivion punch up their sound a bit live by adding three equally long-haired bandmates. However, it was a tentative performance, with Follin’s voice being swallowed up by the festival setting, and it almost seemed like she was afraid to commit to the politeness of the record. When she went for it on “You Know What I Mean”, it was fantastic, and sound and vocal discrepancies notwithstanding, I left their show feeling just the tops, because while they may not have carved out their live sound yet, they can still rest on the laurels of their outstanding songs. -Jeremy D. Larson

The Bloody Beetroots Death Crew 77 – Perry’s – 5:00 p.m.

the bloody beatroots 9 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2011

Photo by Brad Bretz

Although relegated to the Lollapalooza dance tent, The Bloody Beetroots Death Crew 77 are led by one of the most skilled and enigmatic musicians today, Bob Rifo. During their epic live performance, the classically trained Rifo manned two stacks of synths, the guitar, bass, and was also the sole vocalist, although that mainly consisted of yelling. With Tommy Tea DJing and Edward Grinch on drums, the trio pumped out an hour of sweat-drenched, punk-inspired, raucous electro-house. As soon as the first few notes of “Warp 1.9” filled Perry’s, the entire crowd broke into hysteria, forcing those not familiar with a Death Crew experience to scurry toward the back. To keep revelers from overheating, Rifo controlled the set’s tempo with periods of atmospheric house and beautiful synth solos. -Derek Staples

The Mountain Goats – Playstation – 5:30 p.m.

lolla friday goats 5 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2011

Photo by Heather Kaplan

John Darnielle and The Mountain Goats have been plugging away for years and are finally getting their just due. They snagged a prime, late-afternoon spot this year, and I’m sure made some new fans. The band came onstage to loud metal music—something I’m sure metal fan Darnielle handpicked—and an enthusiastic crowd that grew larger and larger as their set went on. Starting slow with Get Lonely’s “Wild Sage”, they blasted through the opening half of their set, which included “Going to Georgia”, “Charles Bronson”, and “Birth of Serpents”, before Darnielle went solo for crowd favorite “You Were Cool”. He then said, “We haven’t been playing many solo songs on this tour, but I couldn’t do just one solo song, so these others have only been so I could play this for you, Chicago.” He then launched into “Cubs in Five”, a song that most Cubs fans miss the meaning of, I think. Darnielle closed out their energetic set with fan gems “No Children” and “This Year”, which included Jen Wasner from Wye Oak, and a fantastic cover of “Babe” by “a favorite Chicago band of [The Mountain Goats],” Styx. -Nick Freed

A Perfect Circle – Music Unlimited – 6:00 p.m.

a perfect circle 6 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2011

Photo by Brad Bretz

Excerpts from The Sound of Music played just before A Perfect Circle entered the stage. It makes sense in some universe, but the band switched moods quickly enough as the short “Annihilation” led into an even more melancholy version of John Lennon’s “Imagine”, with James Iha on keyboards. As the band’s logo took up most of the backdrop, lead singer Maynard James Keenan made his presence known throughout the show by stomping along to either the thudding percussion during “Weak and Powerless” or the crunching guitar of “Pet”. “I’ve done this five times,” Keenan said, referring to previous Lolla gigs. “You’ll probably have to speak up. I’m a little old.” His vocal delivery during the one-two punch of “The Package” and “The Noose” sounded like the same man who graced the Lolla stage nearly two decades earlier. –Justin Gerber

Skrillex – Perry’s – 6:15 p.m.

skrillex 3 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2011

Photo by Brad Bretz

Skrillex, aka Sonny Moore, has spent most of 2011 on the festival scene, but that still doesn’t ensure a smooth set, and the onset of Moore’s Friday performance was very, very rough. After some volume issues, Moore was set to drop the bass on a La Roux “In for the Kill” remix, and with just a single, accidental space bar touch, the track lost all definition and momentum. Moore quickly regained composure and spent the next few minutes blasting ear drums with his signature bass aesthetic. Following fan favorite “Kill Everybody”, Moore brought forward a series of remixes, including House of Pain’s “Everybody Jump” mashed up with DJ Kool’s “Let Me Clear My Throat” and the Jackson 5’s “One More Chance”. Moore will probably remain best known for his bass music, but when he lets the oscillator rest, turns down the volume a few notches, and expands on his melodic undertones, he will get any club rocking, be it filled with househeads, candy-kids, or nu-disco fans. -Derek Staples

Bright Eyes – Bud Light – 6:30 p.m.

lolla friday bright 6 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2011

Photo by Heather Kaplan

Fans who may be weary of seeing Bright Eyes play a huge festival like this because they don’t want to watch Conor Oberst mope around the stage should eat their words and fears, because Bright Eyes easily nailed one of the best sets all day. They were dynamic, fun, loud, and most of all damn entertaining. The crowd grew louder and more enthusiastic as hit after hit was delivered with a precision and an energy no one was expecting. The set list spanned nearly their entire catalog from The People’s Keys “Jejune Stars” and “Shell Games” (which Oberst said was for “all the phonies in the audience”) back to Fevers and Mirrors favorite “The Calendar that Hung Itself”. The band expertly adapted normally electronic songs like “Take It Easy” and “Arc of Time” into catchy, beautiful rock songs. Bright Eyes filled the huge space and huge crowd like nothing I was expecting or had seen from such an introverted band. Even the slower songs like “Old Soul Song” and “Land Locked Blues” had an urgency that was captivating. Oberst himself spun like a tornado and ran all over the stage during faster tracks like the fantastic “Road to Joy”. By the set’s conclusion, everyone was left thinking the same thing: “Since when did Bright Eyes become such an amazing stadium rock band?” -Nick Freed

Crystal Castles – Sony – 7:15 p.m.

crystal castles 8 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2011

Photo by Brad Bretz

With the sun still occupying the picturesque Chicago skyline, Ethan Kath and Alice Glass of Crystal Castles could not hide behind their trademark panels of white light. The daylight didn’t seem to affect Kath, who is rarely actually seen producing live, but the fully healed Glass never seemed totally committed to the performance. Maybe that’s because it was just too hard to jump in and out of the crowd due to the elevation and distance from the audience of the Sony stage. Glass did come to life during “Crimewave”, stepping atop the drum kit platform and banging away on live drummer Christopher Chartrand’s cymbals. To the crowd’s enjoyment–and the stage crew’s worry–Glass did make it into the audience for the majority of “Baptism”. But just as the sun dipped and Glass seemed to find a spark, the band stepped offstage at least 20 minutes prior to the set’s scheduled conclusion. A smattering of hardcore fans stayed for several minutes chanting for one more song, but the vast majority had already had enough and were more than ready for Friday night’s headliners. -Derek Staples

Ok Go – Google + – 7:15 p.m.

okgo Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2011

Photo by Jack Edinger

OK Go‘s crunchy power pop has always been a party, but it didn’t really start kicking until they accompanied it with colorful theatrics such as elaborate music videos and jovial live spectacles. Their dusk performance at Lolla was no different. After taking the stage in their trademark solid, pastel suits amidst a sea of rubber balls and bubbles in the audience, the band chugged through the finest from their catalog, adding whimsical but never overwhelming touches such as crowd sing-alongs with set closer “This Too Shall Pass”. The highlight of the evening was an unexpectedly moving rendition of “Return” performed entirely on hand-bells by all four band members. -Dan Caffrey

Coldplay – Bud Light – 8:30 p.m.

“We’re gonna try to rock your fucking socks off this evening!”, lead singer/guitarist Chris Martin promised near the beginning of Coldplay’s set, their first ever at Lollapalooza. It was an evening of colors; for “Yellow”, yellow lights shined across the sea of thousands. Likewise, a purplish light was served out during “Violet Hill”. Rumors of a Jay-Z cameo, heightened even more thanks to a “99 Problems” intro before the band took the stage, were for naught, though “Lost” was performed to a still-receptive audience without Chris Martin’s besty. Cameos weren’t necessary, though. All the crowd needed to whip itself into a frenzy was a beefed-up “God Put a Smile Upon Your Face”, during which Martin and Co. lined up in front of drummer Will Champion for its pounding buildup.

lolla friday coldplay 9 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2011

Photo by Heather Kaplan

But the story of the night was the new songs, which is a risk, especially if you’re headlining. In the same time slot last year, The Strokes stuck to their past glories instead of creating new ones. Coldplay opted to go for it, opening with a laser light show with fireworks for the uplifting “Hurts Like Heaven”, indicating an album full of “Lover in Japan”-esque tunes (compliment). Martin claimed the acoustic “Us Against the World” was inspired by a love affair between Bill O’Reilly and Sarah Palin (he was kidding), and they actually finished their encore with “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall”. The new songs sound infinitely better live than they do on computer speakers, so that’s certainly encouraging. Fireworks and new songs wound up bookending the evening, as Coldplay continued to defy the critics and entertain their throngs of fans. -Justin Gerber

Muse – Music Unlimited – 8:15 p.m.

muse 11 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2011It’s only been four years since Muse last headlined Lollapalooza, and god, how so much has changed. Back then, the English trio were a year out in supporting 2006’s Black Holes and Revelations, and they were coming off an oddball supporting slot for, ahem, My Chemical Romance. Now, they return as arena rock saviors. Why? Blame it on Guitar Hero (“Knights of Cydonia”, anyone?), opening slots for U2, Twilight, the Grammys, or that mediocre 2009 effort, The Resistance. Whatever the case, and suffice it to say, America arrived late.

“Thanks for coming out and seeing us,” Matt Bellamy exclaimed. “We know you had options. You chose the right one.” Did they? Sure, highlights ricocheted in a three-hit punch of “Supermassive Black Hole”, “Hysteria”, and “Map of the Problematique”, with the latter syncing up beautifully to a nearby fireworks display, but lukewarm additions of “Guiding Light” and “United States of Urasia” teleported much of the crowd’s energy–and plenty of fans, who likely trekked north to salvage what was left of Coldplay’s set. The mood just fell flat midway through, and it didn’t pick up until they flirted with the trademark riff of “House of the Rising Sun”, which segued naturally into “Time Is Running Out”. As you could have guessed, they closed with crowd favorite “Knights of Cydonia” but not before dusting off “Plug in Baby”. Ah, there’s another Origin of Symmetry track–they punched out “Citizen Erased” earlier–but where were the rest? We won’t ask about Showbiz, either. Yes, things have changed. -Michael Roffman

Photo by Brad Bretz.

Ratatat – Google + – 8:45 p.m.

fridaygoogleratatat1 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2011

Photo by Derek Staples

While Coldplay took the Bud Light stage and wowed fans with an epic spectacle of fireworks and state-of-the-art lights, Ratatat put on a smaller, but equally dazzling show. The only words uttered by the soft-spoken duo were polite thank yous between songs, allowing the band’s bizarre instrumentals and digital imagery to do the talking for them. As random as the footage from Predator may have seemed, the majority of the audio-visuals conjured an aesthetic of perverse classicism, melding the video game guitar and farting robot keyboards of fan favorites such as “Seventeen Years” with projections of fluorescent busts of Venus placed next to a large black woman dancing in a Hawaiian skirt. Elsewhere, synthesized harpsichord bubbled over the band’s twin electronic drum solos and films of blindfolded chamber musicians. “Wildcat” was the crowd favorite of the night, a sparkling gem of lucid performance art where a film of a rhythmically bouncing necklace transformed into the face of a golden cougar with every canned feline growl in the song. -Dan Caffrey

Girl Talk – Perry’s – 8:45 p.m.

Perry’s Stage came off as either a wicked fun dance party or a shitshow, depending on your personal preferences/level of intoxication. I walked over there, and there were six ambulances, two of which had actual patients in them. I don’t recall anyone passing out during The Mountain Goats, nor did anyone appear to be “rolling hard” at Bright Eyes, but the mood shift was jarring. I arrived just at the end of Afrojack’s set, which–come on, dude. It was like being bludgeoned with an inflatable hammer; it was irritating, immature, and totally predictable. He was self-aggrandizing and flippant onstage, periodically just turning his back to talk to his friends backstage while everyone waited for “that drop.” It was condescending to say the least.

fri wr girltalk Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2011

Photo by Will Rice

Then Gregg Gillis bounded onstage, hopped up onto his DJ table, yelled, “Chicago come with me!”, and opened with an unaltered “Oh No” from All Day. Perry’s is where you want to be if you favor sensory stroking due to a state-of-the-art sound and light system that rivals any I’ve seen and a barrage of electronic acts that are down to get your hands up. And to be honest, I was in the the right mood to just turn my mind off and play name that tune with Mr. Gillis. Little did I know that I would only really dig it for a scientifically precise 15 minutes. With the displacement of people moving in and out of the very crowded canopied area, it was hard to really be in the fray without having to stop and let someone out (or worse, someone in). But that’s a part of every fest. What bothered me most about Girl Talk‘s show was that it was just too easy, and it felt like a goddamn wedding reception with people around my half shouting lyrics to MOP’s “Ante Up” or Drama’s “Left, Right, Left”.

girltalkrice Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2011

Photo by Will Rice

When I go to a wedding, I expect to just get drunk and begrudgingly sing along to songs I really don’t care for. I don’t want to do that at a festival. I think I reached my breaking point when Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” was met with Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”. People went ape; I moved to the back. The thing I like about Girl Talk are the moments of surprise, and there were precious few at the show. (The Waka’s “Hard in the Paint” with Heart’s “Baracuda” mashup got my attention.) Gillis had to cut his set short due to some sort of security issue, adding that security were “straight being dicks” and disparaging Perry’s Stage; he said that he wished he could play on a regular stage “like a normal band could play.” I kind of felt for him, and perhaps if he were given more time to dig deeper into some different mashups, it would have felt less like I was surrounded by my drunk relatives. He (almost) closed with “Shout”. Do you need more proof that this was like your cousin’s wedding reception? Fun but lacking practically anything to remember it by. -Jeremy D. Larson

Saturday, August 6th

Typhoon – BMI – 1:15 p.m.

typhoon 5 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2011

Photo by Brad Bretz

Shortly after Typhoon began their set, the rain started to come down. Coincidence? Well, yes, but the band managed to fight through the conditions and play through their allotted time slot. The music attempted to reach the production swells of In the Aeroplane over the Sea but fell a bit short. The issue with Typhoon wasn’t necessarily the talent; it was having too much talent on the stage. Thirteen members crammed together on one of the smallest stages of the venue made for a claustrophobic experience. The horn- and string-filled sections weren’t allowed to breathe within a lineup that could be condensed by half. -Justin Gerber

Friendly Fires – Bud Light – 2:15 p.m.

friendly fires 71 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2011

Photo by Brad Bretz

The main thing that drew me into Friendly Fires was Ed Macfarlane’s carefree dance moves. He dances like me, and it’s proven (somewhere) that we like things that we can associate with. In addition to the Gumby white-boy dance, Friendly Fires played essential festival music: feel-good, sun-kissed dance tunes with nothing but positive vibes. The fact that their whole show made me forget about how anti-kinetic their album is on speakers was a formidable feat. There may even have been some shivers up and down my arms during “Hawaiian Air”. It’s hard to reject something that uplifting, even if at times they border on 30 Seconds To Mars-esque mugging and cringe-worthy lyrics. (“A thousand butterflies from your lips to mine” makes me angry.) 2:30 p.m. big, happy dance party achieved. -Jeremy D. Larson

Dom – Google+ – 3:30 – 4:15 p.m.

lolla dom Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2011

Photo by Jeremy D. Larson

I’m still not sure who’s gonna win the Lolla cover battle, but a strong contender might be Dom‘s take on The Cure’s “Boys Don’t Cry”. I get it, though. I know smaller bands throw in covers so people are like, “What’s that one band that did The Cure?” “Dom, I think.” “Oh yeah, those guys are pretty good, too.” And they are, with their could-give-a-fuck amalgam of sounds from lo-fi garage to chillwave beach tunes, which prevents me from comparing them to any other band. Highlight “Burn Bridges” has this arena chorus that belies the rest of their DIY aesthetic, which makes me think they’ll be on to bigger and later set times throughout their career. -Jeremy D. Larson

TBD Special Guest – Kidzapalooza – 3:45 p.m.

lolla sat misc 1 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2011

Photo by Heather Kaplan

Let’s look at the timeline, shall we? 2005: Peter DiStefano & Perry Farrell/Saul Williams & Ladybug, 2006: Patti Smith, 2007: Jim James, Patti Smith, Ben Harper, 2008: Jeff Tweedy, Rogue Wave, Perry Farrell & Slash (complete with cigarette, if memory serves correct), and G Love, 2009: Yuto Miyazawa, 2010: The Verve Pipe, and for 2011? Little Hurricane. Not that anyone’s going to hang out at the Kidzapalooza stage for hours on end, but the surprise guest has always been a fun little break at the festival. This year, it was a letdown, especially given the celebrity presence in Grant Park. Sadly, many left an otherwise tight little set from the San Diego duo. Hard to blame them. Again, it’s just Kidzapalooza, but something special was slightly lost. -Michael Roffman

The Chain Gang of 1974 – BMI – 3:45 p.m.

the chain gang of 1974 6 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2011

Photo by Brad Bretz

Frontman Kamtin Mohager, smoking a cigarette and dressed semi-Goth, may have given off the perception that this was going to be a dour 45 minutes. Quite the contrary. “It’s a fucking honor to be here,” Mohager declared, and you’d believe him as he launched into “Heartbreakin’ Scream”. The Chain Gang of 1974 launched into a set that had the crowd hopping up and down from the get-go. The reaction to the New Wave-tinged dance music was only enhanced when Mohager brought his mic stand with him into the crowd for “Devil Is a Lady”. There was a dance party at four o’clock in the afternoon inside a forested area. Must be Lollapalooza. –Justin Gerber

PerryEtty vs. Chris Cox – Perry’s – 3:45 p.m.

sat sw perry Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2011

Photo by Steve Wruble

As if Lollapalooza founder Perry Farrell would expand his titular tent to roughly the size of a football field and not take at least one stab at ultra-stimulating the constantly packed crowd. Farrell has long been comfortable with a DJ set–just watch footage of early DJ Peretz–but people still flocked to the tent with hopes of catching the legendary frontman in front of the decks, and he definitely did not disappoint. With Chris Cox spinning the tracks seemingly solo, Farrell was busy fist pumping, supplying vocals, and performing with his wife and third member of the collective, Etty Lau Farrell. The electro set was decent, and with the exception of Farrell at the helm, it did not stand out among the rest of Perry’s international talent. Most likely, PerryEtty vs. Chris Cox will make a return at Lolla 2012, hopefully with a companion Porno for Pyros or Satellite Party set to keep Farrell occupied throughout the weekend. -Derek Staples

Death From Above 1979 – Bud Light – 4:00 p.m.

death from above 1979 2 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2011

Photo by Brad Bretz

Canadian duo Death From Above 1979 have released exactly one studio album, 2004’s universally acclaimed, dance metal thrasher You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine. The group disbanded citing creative differences, and their recent reunion has been one of the most hyped acts at Lolla. However, their set, while energetic, displayed little chemistry between the members. It’s always a marvel to see how many twisted sounds Jesse F. Keeler can pull from his bass, and drummer/vocalist Sebastian Grainger blazed through spastic yet scary cuts such as the album’s title track and “Romantic Lights” with precision and snarl, but their apathetic communication made you wonder how much fun they were really having. -Dan Caffrey

Big Audio Dynamite – Music Unlimited – 4:30 p.m.

lolla sat bad 7 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2011

Photo by Heather Kaplan

There were several elder statesmen represented at Lollapalooza this year, and though Big Audio Dynamite definitely fit the bill as “elders,” their youthful energy was impossible to dismiss. They began with a revved-up version of “Medicine Show”, which saw frontman Mick Jones slinking back and forth across the stage as he’s been doing for over 30 years. “This is the first B.A.D. song we ever wrote,” Jones informed the crowd before beginning “The Bottom Line”. The reception to that song was only surpassed by that for set closer “Rush”. The mud that stuck on people’s shoes, sandals, and feet was being kicked up into the air by the time that classic was ringing out of the Music Unlimited Stage. -Justin Gerber

The Drums – Google + – 4:45 p.m.

lolla drums Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2011

Photo by Jeremy D. Larson

Many people think The Drums are from the UK, and rightly so as their records could fall right in line with New Order or The Cure. But live they add a drummer, and their sound takes a direct flight to their actual home of NYC with Television bass lines and J. Casablancas swagger. The sort of lackadaisical ennui that singer Jonathan Pierce exudes is dampened by a sneaking suspicion that you could probably kick his ass if you wanted to, which makes his stumbling around the stage and limp posture actually kind of endearing. New song “Money” created the most tenacious earworm of the day and also sees the band taking steps toward carving out their own sound that comes out ahead of post-punk and New Wave revival acts. -Jeremy D. Larson

Exclusive: The Drums Interview – Frontman Jonathan Pierce and Jacob Graham discuss the new LP, changes in sound, and shifts in lineup.

Local Natives – Sony – 5:30 p.m.

lolla sat loc 7 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2011

Photo by Heather Kaplan

Taylor Rice is related to John Oates, right? Winner of this year’s Best ‘Stache goes to the Local Natives frontman, who led the lineup through their Vampire Weekend-meets-Fleet Foxes musical stylings. “Camera Talk” started things off on the right foot, and you can’t deny the afro-pop sensibilities. “This is insane!” Rice exclaimed. “This is the biggest crowd we’ve played by far.” He echoed the sentiments of Foster the People’s Mark Foster from the day before. Humbled and gracious is the best way to describe the young acts that played Lollapalooza. And mustached. -Justin Gerber

Chuckie – Perry’s – 5:45 p.m.

saturrdayperryschuckie Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2011

Photo by Derek Staples

So, when exactly did moshing and crowd surfing become part of the dance music community? Because I definitely missed the memo. Sure, the bass monsters, like Friday performer Skrillex, can get revelers heated, but one would expect the hip-hop/house arrangements courtesy of Surinese-Dutch DJ Chuckie to result in a more subtle dance party. Chuckie’s deep-house set began with a remix of David Guetta’s “One Love”, then flowed into a mashup of his own “I Like the Way You Move to the Drum” with Justice vs. Simian’s “We Are Your Friends”. Other remixes included Daft Punk’s “Around the World”, the crowd-pleaser “Where’s Your Head At”, originally done by The Bassment Jaxx, Dead Prez’s “Bigger Than Hip Hop”, and “Warp 1.9”, which many in attendance recalled from the Bloody Beetroots’ Friday performance. Chuckie cultivated an amazing flow, but next time, a tiny bit more dancing room would be much appreciated. -Derek Staples

Ellie Goulding – Google + – 6:00 p.m.

lolla sat ellie 7 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2011

Photo by Heather Kaplan

It happens every year at Lollapalooza: A big fish swims in a small pond. For 2011, the tradition continues with the UK’s latest addictive export, Ellie Goulding. Through power pop numbers “Lights”, “Salt Skin”, and “Starry Eyed”, the 24-year-old multi-instrumentalist — yep, she sings, plays guitar, and hits a drum (sometimes) –bottled up the hearts of every male and female that walked by the Google + Stage. Was it really that hard, though? Try watching one of Goulding’s videos; within two minutes you’re in love. Now, imagine what it’s like onstage. If her cute-as-hell wardrobe didn’t win you over (Those leopard print platform shoes? Puh-lease!), then her little sound bites worked their magic. When she exclaimed, “You’ve been fucking brilliant,” a thousand Americans let her know she’s more than welcome in the States. Some might have offered her a place to stay, too, but yeah, let’s not go there. -Michael Roffman

Lykke Li – Google + – 7:15 p.m.

lolla sun lykke 3 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2011

Photo by Heather Kaplan

The Google + Stage was blessed with the presence of two great back-to-back pop acts. After Ellie Goulding pawed at the crowd, Swedish femme Lykke Li made us work a little harder. Her gothic undertones and tom-centric grooves are easily digestable pop fare but far less “Baby you’re a firework!” than her contemporaries. The allure of Lykke Li is that gothic danger lurking beneath those hooks, made evident by her slithering about the stage in her flowing outfit–sultry and sad. When Li strummed the zither on “I Know Places”, the crowd was rapt in the newborn power being infused in the song. Not long after, though, we’re back to Li attacking her tom and getting everyone moving and shaking to “Youth Knows No Pain” mixed with Kanye’s “Power”. It was a great, brooding set that was as uplifting as it was noir. (n.b. Her cover of The Drifters’ “Please Stay” was inspired, fine, but a far cry from some of the other covers heard at the fest.) -Jeremy D. Larson

My Morning Jacket – Bud Light – 8:00 p.m.

My Morning Jacket is no stranger to the festival circuit, and they were a highly anticipated headliner for day two. The crowd at the Bud Light Stage consisted of fans that had been camped out most of the day waiting for the high-energy jammers to blow them away. When the time came, Jim James and company blasted onto the stage with the opening track to Circuital, “Victory Dance”, and barely took time to breathe as they barreled through song after song. James gave the band a five-minute break to tell the story about how his first concert experience was at Lollapalooza in 1994 and how it was “fucking amazing” to be playing here now in 2011. That was the only break they took.

mmjdebi Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2011

Photo by Debi Del Grande

The set included tunes from their last four albums all played at a fevered and energetic pitch–everything from new tracks like “Circuital” and crowd favorite “Holdin on to Black Metal” to older tracks “Gideon” and “One Big Holiday”, the latter of which was used as an epic closing jam session. Jim James maintained a breakneck energy level throughout, jumping around the stage, shaking violently like a joyous born-again, and even adding a rock star knee slide across the stage that was met with crowd uproar and a stagehand placing a James Brown-esque cape over his shoulders. In the end, the crowd seemed completely content with the amazing set, while the band was soaked head to toe in sweat: a true sign of a job well done. -Nick Freed

Pretty Lights – Perry’s – 8:30 p.m.

More than ever, the Pretty Lights moniker is fitting for Derek Vincent Smith’s unique fusion of funk, soul, and electro. Perched atop a wall of ever-changing visuals, Smith bangs away at his controllers and dual laptops, as multiple towers of light dazzle grind-happy, well-baked fans. Due to the complexity of the new rig–a look of concern was recognizable on the face of at least one of the stage crew–Smith took the stage 10 minutes late but was still received with a boisterous reaction.

saturdayperrysprettylights1 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2011

Photo by Derek Staples

With only an hour to perform, Smith shelved his growing list of popular music remixes, choosing instead to start the set with “High School Art Class”, and then he continued to fill the city’s skies with tracks from across his already expansive catalog, including “How We Do” and the Chicago-inspired “More Important Than Michael Jordan” off of Filling Up the City SkiesPassing By Behind Your Eyes‘ ”Sunday School”, and the hip-hop-heavy ”Hot Like Dimes” from Spilling Over Every Side. The vibrant set selection kept the earlier moshers at bay, offering those up front with a sense of relief and a little more safety in cozying up with friends old and new. -Derek Staples

Eminem – Music Unlimited – 8:30 p.m.

eminemlolla Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2011

Photo by Ashley Garmon

A vast majority of those Lollapaloo’ers squeezed into Grant Park’s South Side on Saturday night were raised on Eminem. Hell, my first CD purchase was his 1999 breakout, The Slim Shady LP. But the days of Eminem as Slim Shady/Stan/a captivating yet terrifying rapper who blew minds and caused a generation to bleach their hair (me included) left us long ago. Unfortunately, the Detroit-bred rapper has struggled to find a new identity–sobriety and maturity are double-edged swords–and his headlining performance at Lollapalooza was both unfocused and uninspiring.

eminemlolla2 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2011The 90-minute set was in part a real-time commercial for Relapse; Eminem’s hype man, D12’s Mr. Porter (aka Kon Artis), has no qualms of squeezing a CD sales pitch into the middle of every song. Another 15 minutes were dedicated to hearing how loud the crowd could scream. Right after Eminem reached back to two of his most exposing narratives, “Cleanin’ Out My Closet” and “The Way I Am”, pop super star Bruno Mars showed up for a good 180 seconds, dishing out a glitzy chorus for Bad Meets Evil’s “Lighters”. There was a tribute to Nate Dogg, then a brief performance of Dr. Dre’s “I Need a Doctor” (sans Dr. Dre). And then, for the most uncomfortable part of the performance, Eminem “tried” to “relapse.”

“I love Chicago so much because Chicago and Detroit are so close to one another, there are so many similarities,” Eminem explained. Apparently, this provided a good enough reason to relive the glory days by “relapsing,” with Eminem then asking the crowd, “Can I relapse with you tonight?” It gets better: After swigging a giant bottle of voda, he proceeded to “leak” through his hoodie. “Give my man a hand for staying sober this long,” followed Kon Artis. Not even his 8 Mile acting chops could save this one.

Eminem relapsed anyway, capping off his set with “My Name Is”, “The Real Slim Shady”, and “Without Me”. For the encore, the rapper dished out his underdog anthem “Lose Yourself”; the song ends with the line “You can do anything you set your mind to.” If Eminem’s goal was to awkwardly bridge two eras that couldn’t be more different, then mission accomplished. -Alex Young

Photo by Dave Mead

Beirut – Google + – 8:45 p.m.

beirutdebi Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2011

Photo by Debi Del Grande

I have never seen a crowd go nuts for trumpets. Trumpets! Every time Beirut‘s Zach Condon and his horn section would put those things to their lips, people just screamed as if doleful gypsy/mariachi music was the only answer for anything ever. When Condon and his fellow horn section about-faced, stood bolt-upright, and sounded off on “The Shrew”, it was like the crowd was welcoming a guest artist onstage. But, you know, classically trained musicians and composers getting a chance to show off in a headlining spot at Lollapalooza certainly is an occasion worth honoring at every opportunity.

Beirut’s show was a virtuosic display of musicianship, songwriting, and showmanship all while not shoving theatrics and hype down the crowd’s throat (and considering who they were up against, there was a very big turnout for these guys). Condon’s wealth of talent reared its head at every turn, from the drunken waltzes of their earlier material to the chamber-pop celebrations from their latest LP, Rip Tide. The die-hards swooned and sang along to the classics like “Elephant Gun” and the heart-squeezer “Postcards From Italy”, the latter of which purportedly underscored a marriage proposal in the audience. It was a perfect setting for Beirut, not too big to get swallowed but big enough for their strident brass to echo through the crowd.

beirut2 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2011

Photo by Debi Del Grande

I think “East Harlem” might be the best song they’ve recorded, and hopefully it’ll flex a bit more live in the future, as it leaves plenty of room for some improvisation. My only qualm with Beirut’s show is that it seemed scripted and stiff at times. For as talented as everyone is, I’m surprised they didn’t take the opportunity to unpackage their songs a bit more and let sections of songs breathe into the night. Having a tight show has its perks, though, like keeping the Lolla audience rapt for an entire show plus encore. Must be the trumpets. -Jeremy D. Larson

Titus Andronicus – Reggie’s – 11:00 p.m.

lolla titus Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2011

Photo by Jeremy D. Larson

I’ve seen Titus Andronicus five or six times now and was kind of just going to see them raze a small club, but it turns out that it was a pretty special show, as the NJ arena punkers trotted out two new songs. Both were (comparatively) shorter, furious, east coast drunken punk burners, so get excited for that. Of note, too, was the new bass player, who blended well with the group, the commitment Patrick Stickles still has to these golden songs he’s been playing for well over a year on the road, and the cover of Nirvana’s “Breed”, which, if they forgo at Lolla, will be the worst decision they’ve ever made. Another great Titus show in the books. -Jeremy D. Larson

Foo Fighters – Metro – 11:00 p.m.

lolla sat foos 16 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2011

Photo by Heather Kaplan

“I gotta be honest,” a sweaty, breathless Dave Grohl digressed. “I was kind of looking forward to this, instead.” He wasn’t alone in his sentiments. As the lucky hundreds attested, Foo Fighters‘ Saturday pre-show at the Metro–announced less than 72 hours prior–may have set an unapproachable benchmark for the weekend. With a full performance of the band’s latest acclaimed LP, Wasting Light, a rotary’s worth of hits, and one dazzling opening set by The Joy Formidable to boot, well, you sort of forget about the dried mud on your shoes and ankles.

lolla sat foos 21 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2011

Amicable as ever, Grohl ingested the surrounding die-hard fanaticism feverishly. It was rare to see him without that hyena-like smile of his or without a chummy quote that always incited laughter. He couldn’t help but note the difference in setting, especially since his arena rocking troupe would be performing to thousands a mere 21 hours later. “You see, tomorrow night we only got two hours, but tonight we can play for as long as we fucking want.” Enthusiastic roars were near-deafening. It was a mini arena rock show.

After being tied down to the stage for Wasting Light and dishing out seven solid hits (“All My Life”, “Learn to Fly”, and “The Pretender”, to name a few), the straggly hair guru abandoned his post during the jammy midsection of “Stacked Actors”, appearing on the balcony above to duel on his guitar with Chris Shiflett, who remained onstage below. Think Bruce “The Boss” Springsteen connects with his fans? Try this on for size: To get back to the stage, Grohl handed his Gibson to adoring fans below, where he trusted them to deliver it to him onstage as he made his way back. It was returned sans a knob, but hey, it was the thought that counted.

The midnight oil could only burn for so long. Two-and-a-half hours in, even Grohl seemed wrecked, adding, “How many songs are we doing? Shiiit.” Still, Taylor Hawkins, more or less a mustachioed drum machine at this point, managed to ignite an electrified closer in “Everlong”. There was no following that. Before he walked off, Grohl waved and said, “Thank you for letting us practice with you.” No problemo; just keep us in the loop for next rehearsal. -Michael Roffman

Gallery by Heather Kaplan

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Sunday, August 7th

The Joy Formidable – Bud Light – 1:00 p.m.

the joy formidable 3 e1358867132310 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2011

Photo by Brad Bretz

The sun was bright for the Welsh trio’s set, and they met the heat with a towering wall of poppy guitar-gaze and pysch.Ritzy Bryan’s vocals are sharp and powerful, dwarfed only by the sheer volume she pulls from her guitar. It sounded like 100 Fender Strats coming out of the speaker, especially during the second half of “Austere” where the guitar tones were so thick you could have stood on them. Her happiness and elation to be playing Lollapalooza was endearing, and she played for keeps during the finale and smashed that magic guitar against a gong upstage as three black cat heads inflated around the band. A perfect primer to a a very rock-centric day. -Jeremy D. Larson

Rival Schools – Playstation – 1:45 p.m.

rival schools 5 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2011

Photo by Brad Bretz

And I didn’t really want Joy Formidable to end, so I kind of approached Rival Schools with a bit of a “you don’t love me like my real dad does” vibe. They are in many ways like a step-parent, trying their best to fit in and do a good job appealing to everyone, but it just isn’t the same as, well, real music. It wasn’t as bad as all that, but it was a rather toothless outing that could desperately have used at least some hardcore touches that the band members tout in their artist bio. I think those corners could be sharpened a bit to just get out of the murky waters of indie pop-punk. -Jeremy D. Larson

Exclusive: Rival Schools Interview – Frontman Walter Schreifels discusses what’s next for Rival Schools, festivals and touring, and the alleged third studio LP from Quicksand.

Ryan Bingham and the Dead Horses – Music Unlimited – 2:15 p.m.

lolla sun ryan 7 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2011

Photo by Heather Kaplan

Ryan Bingham and his bandmates came dressed for a show at a local pub, with Bingham’s cowboy boots as their most telling accessory. They wound up playing one of the main stages at Lollapalooza and kept the audience involved with their alt-country brand. The extended jam during the mid-tempo “Bluebird” saw their lead guitarist attempt to jump upon a speaker, only to slip off in spectacular fashion. He leapt back up and kept playing through the rest of the song, the crowd roaring with approval. The weather was at its hottest during this set, the sun at its brightest, but it wouldn’t last much longer. -Justin Gerber

Lia Ices – BMI – 2:30 p.m.

lia ices 3 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2011

Photo by Brad Bretz

First, Lia Ices is wearing an evening gown, which effectively makes everyone in the crowd look like her hand servants. Second, the lovely Ms. Ices should really be surrounded by melty wax candles and flowing, slow-motion fabric. As an unapologetic balladeer, Ices cooed and crooned into the shade of the small BMI Stage, evoking a Tori Amos timbre often but adding her own unique vocal quirks–like a quick leap into her upper register at the end of a phrase. If you wanted an escape from the clamor of eager-beaver rock and roll, Ices’ melancholic dirges were your best bet. Her version of Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” felt right at home, which is not often said when that song is touched on at a festival. -Jeremy D. Larson

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Sony – 3:00 p.m.

lolla sun pains 1 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2011

Photo by Heather Kaplan

Shortly after three in the afternoon, the sugary synths of “Heart in Your Heartbreak” coated the fetid southern fields, where New York’s The Pains of Being Pure at Heart reconstructed its latest LP, Belong, onstage. With a crowd as apathetic as the band’s music, frontman Kip Berman kept things relatively “chill”, leaving most of the talking to keyboardist Peggy Wang. It wasn’t like he had a chance to speak, either. Thick slices of distortion concealed much of Berman’s vocals, especially on 90’s burners like “Heaven’s Gonna Happen Now”, “My Terrible Friend”, and “Come Saturday”. It was odd seeing an act that capitalizes on moody noise pop both outdoors and under a lethal, unforgiving sun–though, in hindsight, somewhat humorous, given the sludgy downpours that would follow hours later. However, the quintet’s ample followers enjoyed the set, even clapping at a few beats, which is more than anyone should expect from a shoegazing crowd. Wang appreciated this, exclaiming, “This is the best crowd we’ve ever had.” Well, they have that…which is nice. -Michael Roffman

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Jr. – Google + – 3:15 p.m.

dale earnhardt jr jr 11 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2011

Photo by Brad Bretz

Shtick aside (and that may take a while ), Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. have the most chutzpa out of any young band I saw at Lollapalooza. Their carpe diem attitude was so sincere I almost pitied them, and I would have if it weren’t for their fully fleshed-out live show complete with perhaps the most fun cover of the weekend, Steve Winwood’s “Higher Love”. Thousands of bubbles blew out from the front of their stage while they delivered happy-go-lucky indie synth-pop that drew more and more people in by the minute. Though they will probably be remembered as the band with the “Your Ad Here” t-shirts, the skeleton-masked helpers, and their band name alone, their closer “Nothing But Our Love” was a damn near perfect song. -Jeremy D. Larson

The Cars – Music Unlimited – 4:00 p.m.

lolla sun cars 1 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2011

Photo by Heather Kaplan

It’s easy to rag on a group of four old guys. It’s easier when the four old guys act, well, old. For all the hoopla surrounding their reunion, one would like to think Ric Ocasek returned to The Cars for a reason. If one were to find that reason at Lollapalooza, they’d be hard-pressed. With perfect weather and a hungry audience, the legendary Boston quartet had the perfect opportunity to repeat what Devo accomplished in 2010: reclaim their fame. Unfortunately, given the snail-like renditions of “Good Times Roll” and “My Best Friend’s Girl” early on, it quickly became apparent that wasn’t going to be the case. To be fair, keyboardist Greg Hawkes at least made some attempts to kick things up a notch, but it was the stoic nature of Ocasek that soured things. The prolific songwriter lurched forward through each hit as if he were a depressed animatronic on display, hardly acknowledging his dedicated fans or his music. By the time “Just What I Needed” or “Moving in Stereo” whizzed by, so did the crowds. -Michael Roffman

12th Planet – Perry’s – 4:00 p.m.

perryssunday12thplanet1 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2011

Photo by Derek Staples

Touted as America’s first king of dubstep, 12th Planet (born John Dadzie) didn’t work into his set, he simply took to the controls and performed a brand-new dubstep production. With the track blasting, Dadzie stepped atop his setup and hyped the crowd of bass fiends. In between his own bass-heavy electro production, Dadzie once again delivered a slowed-down, chopped-up remix of The Bloody Beetroots’ “Warp 1.9” to the Perry’s faithful and closed out his set with “All of the Lights” by Kanye West, Rihanna, and the evening’s stage closer, KiD CuDi. Throughout the performance, Dadzie was continually working the crowd, getting the audience to jump, calling out beat drops, and spending a considerable amount of time at the front of the stage communicating with fans. -Derek Staples

Cage the Elephant – Playstation – 5:15 p.m.

cage the elephant 5 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2011

Photo by Brad Bretz

As Sunday afternoon strolled by, the northern section of Grant Park hosted some of its largest crowds–just as a conglomerate of deadly clouds circulated nearby. Perhaps it was a combination of Flogging Molly fans leaving that band’s set at the Bud Light Stage and the influx of fans turning out for the Cage the Elephant‘s program, but whatever the reason, it was an ocean of sticky flesh for as far as the eye could see. Opening song “In One Ear” grabbed everyone’s attention, though the line “We ain’t got the tunes that’s goin’ to put us on the map” was apparently inaccurate. Halfway through the set, those trusty clouds delivered, and the rain came pouring down. However, like every other act, the band played on. The difference? You can’t beat that hungry, dedicated crowd; no wonder Matthew Shultz jumps into them religiously.  -Justin Gerber

Best Coast – Google + – 5:45 p.m.

best coast 5 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2011

Photo by Brad Bretz

Best Coast may have had one of the poppiest sounds at Lollapalooza, but the band was greeted with a torrential downpour that lasted for the entirety of their set. “You can tell your grandkids that you saw a band known for singing about the sun play in the rain at Lollapalooza in 2011,” joked frontwoman Bethany Cosentino. Older audience members (CoS staff included) huddled under umbrellas while gangs of teenagers jubilantly skanked and played in the mud, all while the band blazed through California pop punk gems such as “Bratty B” and the apt-titled “When the Sun Don’t Shine”. The music itself was moodier than on record, with Cosentino’s vocals and Bob Bruno’s guitar both taking on a more ghostly tone. The spacious sound made for compelling juxtaposition; melancholy renditions of sunny songs played in the rain while a celebration happened in the mud. Rays of sun burst through the trees as soon as closer “When I’m With You” began, capping off one of the most memorable and uplifting sets of the festival. -Dan Caffrey

Busy P – Perry’s – 6:00 p.m.

perryssunbusyp Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2011

Photo by Derek Staples

Pedro Winter, better known in clubs worldwide as Busy P, is the manager/owner of France’s Ed Banger Records and is currently on a mission to bring real dance music back to the United States. Winter’s electro-house tracks kept the bass on medium, with more emphasis on the middle and high end, resulting in bright bangers more fit for booty shaking than crowd surfing. The pinnacle of the performance came near the end when the first few bars of Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing in the Name” crept over the loud speakers, and the entire crowd screamed the first few verses in their entirety. Let’s all hope that some more French-electro makes its way to Lolla 2012. Well, one big name would do. -Derek Staples

Arctic Monkeys – Music Unlimited – 6:00 p.m.

lolla sun monk 8 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2011

Photo by Heather Kaplan

The rain from early in the morning returned late afternoon and soaked all concertgoers straight through what limited clothing they had and turned the field in front of the Music Unlimited Stage into a stinking mud pit. Unfortunately, it also delayed the Arctic Monkey’s set for nearly 20 minutes. The boys from “Highfield, Sheffield, Australia” (as lead singer Alex Turner put it) didn’t let the delay ruin their moment. After blasting through new song “Library Pictures”, Turner returned to the mic to say, “Thank you all so much. We have a short amount of time, so we’re just going to get to it.” The band sounded tight, and Turner was playful and upbeat. The set included highlights “She’s Thunderstorms” (Turner dedicated it to Mother Nature with a fantastic, sardonic laugh), “Crying Lightning”, and set closer “When the Sun Goes Down”. They were the perfect band to get the crowd to shake off the water and mud in order to get back to the business of rocking. -Nick Freed

Modeselektor – Perry’s – 6:00 p.m.

modeselektorlolla Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2011

Photo courtesy of Lollapalooza

One of the bonuses of a DJ set is the lack of set change-over time. Not even two minutes after Busy P left the table, Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary of Modeselektor were already declaring the benefits of “German engineering.” The duo’s set was unlike any performance beneath the massive tent over the three-day festival, based predominantly in mid-tempo IDM. The 75-minute set was mixed atop earth-rattling bass, and neither Bronsert nor Szary were thinking about letting up, even as a torrential downpour soaked everyone in attendance. Modeselektor demonstrated just how much they love their audience as they flipped everyone the bird during “Black Block”; we all chose to take it as a compliment. As the crowd dispersed to seek shelter from the rain, or catch the day’s headliners, the duo had one powerful request: “We need the bass drum! We need the hardcore!”  The rare American performance featured custom visualizations, including the ape face, dripping blood over a static whiteout, and a dark forest scene near the set’s conclusion. -Derek Staples

Explosions in the Sky – Sony – 7:00 p.m.

lolla sun exp 6 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2011

Photo by Heather Kaplan

Unlike Best Coast, whose sunny sound was fascinatingly offset by the rain, Explosions in the Sky is characterized by dramatic instrumental sweep that felt right at home in the storm. As the band energetically thrashed through opuses of cinematic ether, the clouds swirled, and the mud thickened. When they closed with “The Only Moment We Were Alone”, one couldn’t help but picture the Dillon Panthers trudging through the state playoffs and heartbreak with the band’s fans on the field. -Dan Caffrey

Foo Fighters – Music Unlimited – 8:00 p.m.

lolla sun foo 21 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2011

Photo by Heather Kaplan

After a merciful reprieve, the rain returned a few songs into Foo Fighters’ headlining performance. Dave Grohl wasn’t phased. “I don’t give a fuck if it’s raining tonight,” he howled to the thousands of adoring fans getting drenched. The feeling was mutual, as plenty leapt up and down throughout the band’s set – especially on a rousing, iconic cut of “My Hero”, just as the torrential downpour hit the hardest. A jam session during “Stacked Actors” put My Morning Jacket to shame, and the chaotic lights during “White Limo” rivaled that of Coldplay’s performance two nights earlier (well, maybe not that so much).

lolla sun foo 7 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2011

Photo by Heather Kaplan

After playing nearly three hours the night before, the ageless group didn’t seem to be dealing with any exhaustion. Grohl still delivered his screams and shouts during every song but dialed back when the moment called for it, notably for the solo-electric intro to “Times Like These”, before the band returned to blast the song into the rain-soaked fans. As for the new songs, “Bridges Burning” proved to be a worthy intro, and “Walk” seems destined to become a staple for future live shows. Foo Fighters stole the weekend with their passionate shows at the Metro late Saturday night and the Music Unlimited Stage on Sunday. Hell, they might have stolen the whole year. -Justin Gerber

deadmau5 – Bud Light – 8:30 p.m.

deadmau5 1 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2011

Photo by Brad Bretz

It has been rare for an electronic artist to headline at Lollapalooza, so deadmau5 seemingly had something to prove Sunday evening. Wearing his customary LED-laden mau5head, deadmau5 (aka Joel Zimmerman) was surrounded by visualizers. Like the tension and acceleration of a deadmau5 performance, the visualizers were only meant to highlight the tracks, not as a crutch to make the set palpable. Zimmerman chose not to bring along a live drummer for the set, a feature that has prevailed during his sets at other electronic festivals, but he did bring along vocalist SOFI. Roughly midway through the performance, the lovely SOFI came onstage to sing “SOFI Needs a Ladder” followed by  ”One Trick Pony”, each off deadmau5’s latest album, 4×4=12.

deadmau5 7 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2011

Photo by Brad Bretz

After SOFI left the stage, Zimmerman paid tribute to another legendary electronic Lollapalooza headliner by remixing “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” by Daft Punk. Next, Zimmerman traded the mau5head for a white bed sheet for “Ghosts ‘n’ Stuff”, which also featured giant Pac-Man-esque blobs floating their way around the stage. But a deadmau5 set is more than progressive-house thumpers. Zimmerman mixed in electrifying piano/synth runs, techno tracks, and the surprisingly refreshing “Raise Your Weapon”. And the mau5 did it all while sporting an ironic kitty tee. -Derek Staples

The Culture of Lollapalooza – Part 1

Gallery by Brad Bretz

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The Culture of Lollapalooza – Part 2

Gallery by Heather Kaplan

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Lollapalooza by Windows Phone

Images created using Apict & Colorizer

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