Lollapalooza Balloon LEAD

My first day of Lollapalooza ended with me having seen three big rock acts, and I couldn’t have been happier. But I hit the pillow in my hotel room with a sudden realization: I was going to see Death Grips tomorrow. If you read this site often enough or ever watch the LA Music Blogcast, you know I am a major Death Grips fan, and having missed them twice before, you couldn’t imagine how happy I was to finally get to see them live…

…or not.

Day 2: Sunny With A Chance of Death Grips

Lollapalooza Crowd
All photos by David Fisch

The morning started with plentiful breakfast foods and a very pleasant walk along the Chicago River. I caught a glimpse of the Marina Towers, the buildings that grace the cover of Wilco’s critically-acclaimed album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, and Willis Tower wasn’t too far out of my sight.

I had my plan for Lollapalooza Day 2 fairly in place. The first I act I wanted to see didn’t start until 2:00, and since I knew that Azealia Banks had cancelled the week prior, I made sure my night was completely open to make Death Grips’ set. I decided to check the Lollapalooza App on my phone to confirm my day’s plan, but I soon wished that I had been left in the dark because Death Grips was off the schedule.

I asked other festival attendees and staff at the information kiosks about the missing act, but my bad luck with regards to the band held up: Death Grips had cancelled Lollapalooza. In fact, they had cancelled a scheduled after-show the night before at Chicago’s Bottom Lounge as well by simply “not showing up.”

A week after Lollapalooza, we now know that the entire no-show at the Bottom Lounge was the show, and my thoughts behind the stunt could lead to a whole new article altogether. I’ll just say that, given what else happened on my Day 2 at the festival, I actually can’t be mad that I missed Death Grips for the third time.

Reignwolf

Reignwolf Lolla

I planned to start my day off with soul phenom Charles Bradley, but given the news that actually started my day, I decided I needed to get into gear and stop sulking, so I headed to the Petrillo Stage to see Reignwolf.

I hadn’t heard of Reignwolf before this festival, but I kind of wish I had, because this guy, Jordan Cook, is quite as ferocious as his moniker. His prolonged guitar solos had surprising direction, and before he was joined by other bandmates to blow the top off the stage, he brought his guitar with him to the drum kit and managed to play both at the same time. It was a ludicrous scene, to be certain, but he kept true to his name, and he had a rollicking rocker quality that I think the genre could definitely use right now.

Charles Bradley

Charles Bradley Lolla

The backstory behind funk/soul singer Charles Bradley’s rise to fame is enough to fill an article here on the site (and a documentary film on the artist’s history does exist), but I’ll just say that seeing him live on the Bud Light stage was simply divine.

Watching him in his royal blue suit belting out his songs like he was James Brown was like going back in time to an era I’ll never truly experience but that I can really appreciate. His age didn’t hinder but rather enhanced his power, which was built on the greats that came before him. Bradley provided the audience on this nice, sunny Chicago day with an unbelievable performance on a large stage that deserved his presence.

Lollapalooza

I spent most of Friday and Saturday in one area of the park, so after Charles Bradley’s performance, I wanted to venture off to the south side to see what was there. I had noticed the Official Band Merch Store and a ton of food vendors, and I certainly saw more people and more stages, but I don’t think I really understood the scope of the park and exactly how many people were there until I reached the Red Bull Stage, which felt like it was miles away under the hot sun. It’s placed on perhaps the largest part of the park, and the distance between where I was and where the stage was looked quite far. To think of how quickly it filled up when a certain LA band was set to perform there…

Local Natives

Local Natives Lolla

This Los Angeles band has been on my radar since they released their first album, Gorilla Manor, back in 2010. Now that they’ve released their second studio album, which features one of my favorite singles of last year, they’ve managed to gain a considerable following, and their performance on the Red Bull Stage was enjoyed by one of the largest audiences I had seen all weekend.

The band was strong upon entry, performing tracks such as “Wide Eyes,” “Heavy Feet,” and “Black Balloons” with as much finesse as they would have if they were recorded the tracks in the studio straight to vinyl. Vocalists Taylor Rice and Kelcey Ayer revealed some nice emotional range while still having fun, and that made for a very satisfying and majorly crowd-pleasing set. Having been the only LA-based act of my Lollapalooza experience, I was thoroughly impressed.

The National

The National Lolla

I stuck around the Red Bull Stage to catch The National. I’m actually not a big fan of the band, but having been slathered in fan appreciation by former Blogcast co-host Ben Gill, I thought I’d at least see what they were like live.

I won’t say that seeing them live changed my mind about the group’s brand of ambiguous indie rock, but I did enjoy hearing the songs I already liked live, including “Fake Empire,” “Mistaken For Strangers,” and the recently released “Sea of Love.” Their studio recordings offer a grand soundscape, and their live performance emphasized that, which was perfectly within reason. I enjoyed the set to a certain degree, and I’m sure the audience did as well, seeing as the entire park looked to be filled to capacity just to see them.

The National Lolla 2

Now, with Death Grips off the schedule, I was free to see another act during their planned spot, and the act I chose was The Postal Service, who were playing back at the Bug Light stage on the complete opposite side of the park.

I made it back to the stage on time, but I had to sacrifice seeing LA’s hottest act of the moment, Haim, whom I also missed at SXSW. I heard from patrons that they performed a great set and even announced their debut album, so I hope to catch them live at some point in the next few months. Of course, had Death Grips played Lollapalooza as scheduled, Haim would have easily been a part of this article.

Be that as it may, I awaited The Postal Service with much anticipation, and I didn’t know when Ben Gibbard approached the front of the stage to pick up his guitar that this would actually be one of the last major concerts the band would ever perform. So, really, maybe Death Grips canceling was in the cards after all.

The Postal Service

The Postal Service Lolla 1

In case you didn’t already know, Ben Gibbard of indie rock band Death Cab for Cutie and Jimmy Tamborello of his electronic project Dntel teamed up over a decade ago to form The Postal Service, whose only album, Give Up, has been regarded by many as a contemporary masterwork. To be honest, I didn’t initially care for the album, but I don’t think I realized the album and the band’s impact over the last ten years until actually seeing Give Up performed in its entirety.

With interesting stage lighting and Jenny Lewis and Laura Burhenn rounding out the live lineup, an incredible aura of life came out of every synth and every one of Ben Gibbard’s guitar plucks. Jimmy Tamborello was situated towards the back, but there would occasionally be interaction between the three main performers, with Ben Gibbard sometimes filling in on drums when he tired of singing and strumming. As such, there was indeed no way to escape the band’s catchy new wave clutches, and I was drawn to The Postal Service’s ability to appear casual while clearly concentrating on putting on a damn superb show.

The Postal Service Lolla 2

So while I missed my third opportunity to see one of my favorite bands of the last couple years, I got to see a band play their hearts out at one of their last concerts to a sea of people who probably find The Postal Service to be one of today’s major musical influences. How can you be mad about that? You simply can’t. It turned out to be quite a glorious way to end my second night at the festival.

Stay tuned for Part 3 of my Lollapalooza coverage, which is coming soon! Also, LIKE LA Music Blog on Facebook to see more exclusive photos from the festival!