Lollapalooza 2013

Back in March, I attended my very first festival, SXSW, and enjoyed myself so immensely that the moment I left Austin, I knew that I had caught the “festival bug.” I couldn’t wait to get out to cover another festival, but in the months following SXSW, Coachella passed by me, as did Bonnaroo, Sasquatch!, and The Newport Folk Festival. We had certainly talked about their fantastic lineups on the LA Music Blogcast, but as enthused as I was about the possibility of going to these festivals, I knew that the next one I would attend would probably be in the very distant future.

To be fair, my experience at SXSW was so great that if it had been the only festival I attended this year, I would have been completely satisfied. But here I am writing about Lollapalooza, my second festival of the year, a mere five months after SXSW, and official evidence that my festival-going days have only just begun. Attending this festival was initially just a passing thought, and I’m here to tell you that it not only became a reality, but it became another unforgettable music experience that must be seen to be believed.

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All photos by David Fisch

Unlike SXSW, where music is pretty much playing in every nook and cranny of 6th Street at every imaginable hour to any audience great or small, Lollapalooza is a much more organized affair, with acts playing a one-time-only set during the course of the weekend and in front of tens of thousands of people.

It’s essentially what you think of when you think of a “music festival” — tons of music, tons of people, tons of drinks, and tons of sunscreen application. You may not find music everywhere you go, but you will always find something to do, and usually with some really fun fellow concert-goers.

I knew full-well what I was getting myself into with Lollapalooza, and I was able to join the massive crowds to enjoy some of the best headliners I’ve ever seen, as well as lesser-known acts that I could easily see becoming headliners in the next few years. On top of all this, I was also a first-time Chicago-goer, and I had a fantastic time enjoying what the city had to offer.

But let me stop introducing this article and get down to business. Since Lollapalooza is held in Chicago, a city whose weather I found out literally changes every ten minutes, I thought it would be appropriate to title each day with a forecast that not only describes the actual weather, but also my overall experience that day. Let’s start with Day 1, held on Friday, August 2nd:

Day 1: Scattered Thunderstorms

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I arrived in Chicago the night before Lollapalooza started, and seeing as it was my first time in Chicago AND as I’m a huge fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers, I had to see my team play at the famous Wrigley Field. This proved to be a huge moment for me not only because I got to see my team win in an entirely different (and historical) stadium, but it also meant a late night celebrating, which is why I ended up waking up fairly late the next morning.

When I did wake up, it was to the ominous sounds of thunder. My first instinct? A sweater, pants, and an umbrella. The aftermath? Probably the worst idea I had the entire trip.

A subway ride and a walk up a few blocks later, I noticed no more thunder, no rain, and humidity that made me sweat through my clothes without having reached Grant Park. I realized I had another 10 hours outside to go, but I bit the bullet, made my way through the colorful entrance, bought a “box” of water (and drank it immediately), and arrived at the tail end of The Neighbourhood’s set.

So I started Lollapalooza off on the wrong foot. To make matters worse, I made the one mistake even the most novice photographer couldn’t make: I didn’t charge any of my three camera batteries, and the heat only helped to consume their remaining energies.

I smacked myself on the forehead, bit my second bullet of the day, and decided to throw my arms up in the air (but not too high because of the possible stench my sweat created) and catch my first full set of the festival. As much as I wasn’t happy with my circumstances, I came to Lollapalooza to see music, and that’s what I was going to do.

Ghost B.C.

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How quickly I went from miserable to elated! I had heard a lot about this heavy-metal band, from their back-to-genre-basics to their stage get-ups, and I have to say that they completely delivered on those high expectations. Papa Emeritus II and his Nameless Ghouls didn’t stop once they got going, producing some sinister energy and making sure that everyone in the crowd was gesturing the devil’s horns and/or headbanging throughout the entire set.

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Unfortunately, the moment the sound cut out for Ghost B.C., I decided the best thing to do was to head back to my hotel to charge my batteries as much as I could, rehydrate myself, and change into shorts no matter what the weather would be when I got back. This meant missing out on Band of Horses, which I had included in my intended schedule, but it also meant that I could ultimately have the time of my life seeing two of my all-time favorite rock bands later on in the day.

Queens of the Stone Age

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I’ve been listening to Queens of the Stone Age for well over ten years, and I had to change the fact that I had never seen them live (and just missed them at The Wiltern over a month ago) by catching their set at the Bud Light stage towards the north end of the park.

They opened the show with the glass-shattering sounds that kicked off their most recent album, …Like Clockwork, but they went right for the jugular by starting the hour-long set with the one-two punch from my favorite QOTSA album, Songs For The Deaf. The driving force of Josh Homme’s vocals and the drum spread was all too much for this fan to handle, and clearly for the crowd as well, as this set saw perhaps the most crowd surfing of the entire weekend.

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Each track they performed seemed to get better and better by the minute, and many of the new tracks from …Like Clockwork (including my favorite, “Smooth Sailing”) held their own with the classics “Go With The Flow,” “Little Sister,” and “Make It Wit Chu.” Of course, ending the set with “A Song For The Dead” — the most rapturous track from Songs For The Deaf — was all too suiting.

When Queens of the Stone Age left the stage, it was only an hour of waiting before I got to see one of my top three most anticipated bands of the festival.

Nine Inch Nails

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I know a few people who are not fans of Trent Reznor, but his thought-provoking persona and willingness to tinker with sounds until he perfects them is all too inspiring for this music fan. From his studio albums as Nine Inch Nails and How To Destroy Angels to his film scores with Atticus Ross, I am drawn to his musical stamina and his knack for producing searing and innovative industrial and electronic rock, which is why I came into Nine Inch Nails at Lollapalooza with the giddiness and squealing of a schoolgirl.

The band came back from a short hiatus earlier this summer with a new track from their new album, Hesitation Marks, and they also arrived back on the stage with a brand new show, an intricately designed and choreographed light and sound setup in the vein of some of the greatest concert performances of the ’80s. It was without a doubt the highlight of Lollapalooza and one of the best concert performances I’ve seen in my short existence on Earth.

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This 100-minute set began with each member of the group entering the stage during certain progressions of the track “Copy of A” from the new album. It all started out normally: the band performing, lights on them, no special background.

But the moment the song went into overdrive, blistering white lights strobed across the stage and we saw each member’s silhouette on five different panels. It was an incredible sight to behold against the tenacity of the track, and it only got more elaborate with each song in the set. I was able to capture most of it, with past LA Music Blogcast guest and The New Regime founder Ilan Rubin drumming in plain sight.

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This was a true concert. The band played many of their hits, including “Closer,” “The Hand That Feeds,” “Hurt,” and “Head Like A Hole,” but they also managed to play new material and deep cuts like my personal favorite “Terrible Lie,” “The Way Out Is Through,” and even “What If We Could?” from The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo soundtrack.

Nine Inch Nails utilized the entire stage for an all-out concert experience, bringing together unique visuals with even more unique lighting schemes. It was the best possible cap off of the first day of an otherwise bumpy start for my Lollapalooza, and it was ultimately my favorite event of the festival.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of my Lollapalooza 2013 coverage coming soon! Also, be sure to LIKE LA Music Blog on Facebook to see some exclusive photos!