Lollapalooza is more than just a music festival: it’s a social experiment. You can see how 50,000 different people per day would answer the question “how would you dress yourself if 49,999 judgmental people were going to be looking at you all day?” Music festivals are like sporting events in how they bring huge groups together, except sports give you an excuse to make poor decisions on how you leave the house as long as you’re showing a logo or a team color.
Of course, some of day one’s ridiculous clothing choices can be attributed to Lady Gaga. Friday was all about Gaga, and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. Her name was on everyone’s lips– she came up twice during some mid-day acts I saw, both times to mixed reactions – and the majority of the crowd was there for her. You could tell that she was the marquee act in the eyes of the promoters, too, thanks to her elaborate stage setup and the fireworks during the set – two things I noticed from across the park where I was watching a solid show from the opposing headliner, The Strokes.
I think you go to Lollapalooza assuming the acts you want to see will be good, so as long as they don’t disappoint, your opinion of the day is determined by the acts you were unsure of going in. By that logic, Friday was a good day.
SET I LOVED THE MOST: The Black Keys. Truthfully, this one would never have been a contest. As long as the Keys played songs across all their albums (and they did, with the first half seeing a lot of Attack & Release and second half featuring more of their newest, Brothers) and played “up”, it was going to be great.
SET THAT SURPRISED ME: B.o.B. Without much in the way of marquee hip-hop and rap this year, I thought for a while that I wasn’t going to see a bunch of white people acting “gangsta” to be funny/ironic. Luckily, B.o.B. (aka Bobby Ray) from Atlanta put on a great show, so I got to see plenty of douchebags doing that “one arm in the air” pimp wave while sipping from CamelBaks. B.o.B. was everything you could ask for in a rapper’s set at an outdoor music festival: he bounced across the stage constantly (losing his shoes mid-set), he climbed up on speakers to get a better look at the crowd – which I should note was WAY too big for an opening-day, opening-slot set – and he closed with a cover of MGMT’s “Kids”. If you weren’t already aware of B.o.B. before Friday, I don’t see how he didn’t impress.
ACT I MISSED THAT I’M DISAPPOINTED ABOUT: Jukebox The Ghost. Some last-minute conflicts kept me away from seeing what seemed like a fun college-band Ben Folds knockoff. I’ll have to check them out some other time.
SET I WOULD HAVE SKIPPED ON SECOND THOUGHT: The Ettes. This is a classic Matt-at-Lollapalooza mistake – I pick a straightforward garage-y band early in the day and for some reason expect something more of them than garage-y rock. The Ettes were good (maybe very good), but didn’t do much more than play their songs and say “thank you” in between. I really enjoy the lesser-known acts who recognize the exposure of something like Lollapalooza (or any festival) and really blow it out – on the flip side, when someone treats it like any other show, it’s not quite as fun.
QUESTIONABLE DECISION I’M GLAD I MADE: Matt & Kim over the Dirty Projectors. I was torn on this down to the last minute, because I have heard more of the Dirty Projectors and really enjoyed their latest album, but on the heels of my “classic” blunder above, I went with the group that I expected to have more energy, and it paid off. Matt & Kim’s short bursts of keyboard-and-drum punk-rock played really well in front of the crowd, but more importantly, they were REALLY excited to be there. They played every song with huge smiles on their faces, told stories about their previous appearances and frequently swore in awe of the size of their crowd. The set featured a few pseudo-covers of 90s staples like Biz Markie’s “Just A Friend”, a guy dressed as Green Man crowdsurfing and a brief interlude where Kim did a booty dance while being held up by the crowd and Matt climbed the girders of the stage to the top. It was upbeat and high-energy from start to finish – like B.o.B, it’s everything you want in a festival set.
RANDOM SONGS I GOT TO HEAR OVER THE COURSE OF THE DAY:
Sometimes you don’t see a full set, but you happen to be standing next to a stage or walking by at a very opportune moment. That happened to me a LOT today:
1. BBU’s “Chi Don’t Dance”
2. The Walkmen’s “In The New Year”
3. Ed Kowalczyk performing Live’s “Lightning Crashes” at the Kids stage
4. Jamie Lidell’s “Multiply”
OVERALL DAY RATING, SCALE OF 3-8: Six.
SONG OF THE DAY: (tie) B.o.B.’s MGMT cover and The Black Keys’ “I Got Mine”
ON DECK FOR SATURDAY: Phoenix, Spoon, Gogol Bordello, Against Me! and more…