Lollapalooza 2016: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

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Lollapalooza returned to Grant Park to Chicago on July 28-31 with high expectations to exceed. This year was the first year the festival would be held for four days, in honor of its 25th Anniversary.

With an additional day added this year, it was inevitable that it would bring additional chaos. I personally noticed a lot more teenagers flooding the fields of Grant Park this year compared to previous years, as well as a steady flow of attendees in and out of the medical tent. Despite the immense amount of teenagers I had to maneuver around and the ridiculous amount of money I spent on beer, I still had a fantastic time.

Knowing myself, I think I will end up attending all four days again next year, even though going all four days was left me a shell of a human being. I did an after show this year for the first time ever on Saturday night, which was a bit of overkill for me. It made Sunday even more exhausting!

This is a long post, so bear with me.

I had the chance to see about forty acts throughout the four days, and this year, I decided to do things a little differently. Instead of seeing artists’ entire sets, I split my time so I could see more performances during time conflicts. I still saw many artist’s entire sets, but I’m glad I chose to switch it up a bit this year.

After attending this festival four years in a row, I’ve become more critical of performances, which is a blessing and a curse. I find myself critiquing artists as I am watching them, but I guess it’s not the worst thing.

Thursday: 

12:25pm: Getting into the festival on its opening day took a bit longer than expected, considering that Lollapalooza had to set back the opening time because they were monitoring storms in the area. After checking out the larger than life Lolla Shop (which is now completely indoor and air conditioned!), I headed over to the Petrillo Stage to see Pinegrove, a rock band from New Jersey.

I really enjoyed their mellow set and I was pleased that they had drawn a semi decent crowd that early in the day. If they sound familiar, it’s because I wrote about them in this post.

I am looking forward to seeing what comes from them in the near future.

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1pm: The Toyota Tent is Lollapalooza’s best kept secret. This is where you can find Lolla artists performing their songs on a tiny stage to an intimate crowd. I was happy to see that Pvris would be performing here, despite their set being the following day on the BMI Stage.

Pvris’s alternative rock sound is too large to be tamed at a small tent, and their decision to perform three songs acoustically didn’t have the same effect as their recorded sound does. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the experience and would gladly take it over not being able to see them at all.

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2:30pm: I personally found that Thursday’s lineup was the weakest of all of the days. There weren’t many people I wanted to see, which was fine because I was able to just wander from about 1-3pm. My friends and I decided to check out Kehlani’s set at the Samsung stage.

I wasn’t familiar of any of her songs, and felt out of place in the crowd of mainly teenagers. She put on an upbeat performance, even when the rain started pouring down. Her music isn’t really my style, but I was entertained for the thirty minutes I was at her set trying to keep dry.

3pm: After leaving Kehlani’s set and heading to the BMI stage, I broke off from my friends for a few minutes to catch a couple songs from Melanie Martinez at the Bud Light stage. I watched Martinez on her season of The Voice a few years back and was curious to see her live performance. I am only familiar with a few of her songs and was lucky to have walked up to her set during one that I knew.

I couldn’t see much because I was in the back and the multiple umbrellas in the crowd were blocking my view, but she didn’t seem to have much energy in her performance and sort of walked around in a daze. She did happen to have a semi large crowd, so maybe she was a bit nervous.

Overall, she wasn’t anything I was disappointed to miss.

3:20pm: I happened to see Arkells back in the day, maybe 2011 or 2012, when they went on tour with The Maine. I really loved their live performance and they had a great energy that was entertaining to watch. We only caught about four songs but I really enjoyed what I was hearing and I think they’re going to make some headway in America. As far as I know, they are pretty big in Canada (also where they are from).

4pm: My friends and I headed to the Lakeshore stage to see Yeasayer perform the last 30 minutes of their set. While I was only familiar with about 2-3 of their songs, one of my friends was super stoked to see their set.

I expected more of an alternative rock vibe, but Yeasayer managed to have a bit of an electronic sound to their set and I really enjoyed watching them jam out. They also mentioned playing Lolla a few times in previous years, so it was nice to see that they were excited to return. They also had a fairly large crowd.

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4:30pm: Oh, Bastille. How I have missed one of my favorite bands. As an avid fan, I believe that their spot on the lineup was LONG overdue, considering the fact that the (very successful) album that they are STILL touring on was released nearly three years ago. They easily could have been on any Lollapalooza lineup between 2013 and 2016, so it was nice to finally see them get on the list.

I’ve seen them multiple times – probably five at this point – and their energy is something that always impresses me. They even made a fan out of my friend Mitch, who didn’t really like them beforehand.

It was unfortunate that there were a TON of people in the crowd already trying to get a good spot for G-Eazy – who was on an hour after Bastille finished. A ton of people around myself and my friends didn’t seem to have any interest in their performance. I jumped around and sang along anyway.

Bastille’s sound was also extremely muffled – which I later found out was due to Lolla having to turn down the stage’s speakers due to storms that were making their way to Grant Park (that never even arrived).

One thing I would change about their set is that they performed too many new songs. I love hearing new songs, but it’s hard to entertain a crowd that may not be familiar with your entire discography to listen to new songs.

They gained momentum towards the end of their set by performing “Flaws,” where Dan is notorious for running through the crowd and jumping on any sort of object he can. Their most famous song “Pompeii” also got the mostly silent crowd singing and dancing along.

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7pm: One of the most anticipated sets of the weekend was here. After not seeing The 1975 for nearly two years, I was curious to see how I would critique their performance at Lollapalooza this year.

I was somewhat over the band for the last year or so but their newest album has grown on me since its release in February. It was interesting to see how much they have changed as a band since the last time I saw them live, which was in November of 2014.

The lead singer, Matty Healy, is notorious for being a hot mess onstage, but I was impressed with his performance this year. Overall, they sounded great and seemed genuinely happy to be performing, which is something that I used to never see during their performances.

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9pm: My fourth time at Lollapalooza and it was finally time for me to branch out alone to see a headliner. I left my friends at J.Cole to see The Last Shadow Puppets close out the Pepsi Stage. TLSP is an alternative rock band featuring Alex Turner, who is more well known for his band, the Arctic Monkeys.

Overall, I was highly entertained with their hour long set and their performance was definitely unexpected from my end. I wouldn’t be surprised if some Arctic Monkeys fans are turned off by their live performance, despite the similarities in the sounds of the two bands. This project allows Alex to explore different sorts of musical styles without completing moving away his core sound that is so well known from the Arctic Monkeys.

TLSP were very theatrical and the members each showed off some killer dance moves, not to mention that they had an entire string section onstage with them. While Turner usually portrays himself as mysterious and the classic bad boy, he seemed to let himself a bit more loose during this performance (or he was just very drunk).

Friday:

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1pm: After waiting almost 45 minutes at the north entrance of Lolla (I will not go to that entrance ever again), we walked the mile long festival grounds to the south end of the park to catch the majority of Day Wave’s set.

I really enjoyed their set as you could tell they were stoked to be opening the stage that Radiohead would later perform on. They had a super mellow sound and it was a great way to wake myself up to get energized for the rest of the day as well as the weekend.

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2pm: It was time to get all up in my indie rock punk feels for Modern Baseball. While the front of the pit was super into the performance and were head bobbing until the cows come home, the rest of the ever flowing crowd in and out of the stage was a distraction to the performance.

This is nobody’s fault except the build of the stage and I still had fun being the only person in the back of the crowd screaming the lyrics to “Your Graduation.”

Put this band on your list to listen to!

2:50pm: A set I decided to catch last minute was Kiiara’s, a fellow Illinoisian who is getting radio play with her song “Gold.” I listened to her EP a few days before Lolla and wanted to catch her 40 minute set, but was left somewhat underwhelmed.

I’m still contemplating if she was lip syncing (Was anyone there? Let me know what you think about this), and her low energy and little emotion must be due towards the fact that she is very much a newcomer.

The crowd seemed somewhat invested, but many started to leave as it started to downpour. She managed to hold the crowd long enough to get them to sing along as closed with “Gold” and quietly slipped offstage.

3:30pm: Speed walked to the Lakeshore Stage to catch the last half of MØ’s set. The Danish singer (whose name is Karen), got her big break by collaborating with Iggy Azalea for her single “Beg For It” and appearing on Major Lazer’s song “Lean On.”

She had a few technical difficulties due to the rain, but she didn’t let it stop her. I was happy to hear her newest single “Final Song” and closed with “Lean On.”

4pm: Honestly, there weren’t many bands at Lollapalooza this year that rock harder than Foals. They were easily one of my favorite acts of the weekend even though I had to watch the entire thing in my rain coat, fighting to keep dry.

I am not really the biggest fan of loud rock music, but Foals does it SO WELL!! I had so much fun rocking out and their closing of “What Went Down” was honestly amazing.

Foals is coming back to Chicago in the fall and I would love to see them again.

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5:15pm: As if you can’t tell that my music taste is very much all over the place, it was time to see Alessia Cara. I was worried that her stage would be ridiculously packed with semi stoned high schoolers who wanted to see her perform “Here,” my area of the crowd was pretty into the rest of her set.

Even though she’s young, Cara has an amazing stage presence and knows when it’s time to slow down the show or ignite it with some energy. I saw her back in January at the Metro and I think she’s grown immensely since then.

She’ll be back in October to headline the Chicago Theater. Not bad for a twenty-year-old…

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6:30pm: It was time for one of the acts I was most excited to see: Wolf Alice. This British rock band has been getting internationally recognized as one of the live bands touring right now and I think they definitely live up to that expectation.

The Pepsi Stage is probably my favorite stage at Lollapalooza because it is somewhat hidden behind a circle of trees, which gives it an intimate feel. Despite Wolf Alice having a pretty decent sized crowd, I feel like they gave an intimate performance and did a really great job getting the crowd excited.

I left their set a bit early but I would love to see their own headlining show if they decide to come back to Chicago soon.

7:15pm: The Lakeshore stage was extremely crowded at this time, mostly because Radiohead would start 45 minutes later at the adjacent stage.

This was my time to rest for a few minutes and enjoy Miike Snow’s set – which was super interesting and I had a really fun time. I honestly didn’t expect as many people there for their performance, but everyone seemed really into it.

I did hear that many people rushed out of the crowd as soon as they sang their current single, Genghis Khan. I, unfortunately, was dumb enough to try to go to the bathrooms towards the end of their set and the long lines caused me to miss “Animal,” but I at least could hear it from the line.

8pm: I stayed on the south end of the park to catch Radiohead’s first few songs. I’ve tried to get into their stuff ever since the Lolla lineup dropped but I just couldn’t get into it. I heard that they were fantastic, though!

**Insert hate comments here**

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8:45pm: I am SO not an EDM music expert, not really much of a fan, either, but I’ve seen a few EDM sets throughout my Lolla days – and Major Lazer was my least favorite. I just didn’t really like their mixes and not only one, but two power outages ruined their momentum.

I don’t necessarily regret skipping Radiohead for ML, but I think that this was the least fun I had all weekend in regards to seeing headliners.

I had a lot more fun at Disclosure on Saturday night. (More on that later if you keep reading).

Saturday

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12pm: We pulled ourselves together and managed to get to Grant Park by noon to catch The Strumbella’s set. I had seen them previously at Piqniq in June, but I thought they put on an even better show this time around.

The Toronto natives raved about how excited they were to be playing at Lollapalooza and I could feel their pride through their performance. Going into the show, I only knew about three of their songs, but I was highly entertained with their 45 minute set, and I usually have a hard time focusing on a band’s performance if I don’t know the majority of their songs.

The Strumbellas put on a solid performance and started off the day with feel good vibes.

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12:45pm: One of the bands that I was most excited to see out of all four days was Nothing But Thieves. The fun fact about this band is that they were one of the first bands who were confirmed to be playing this year’s Lollapalooza, but it took me far too long to get into them.

The English band just finished up a tour opening up for Muse and have played shows with the likes of Twenty One Pilots and Arcade Fire.

The lead singer, Conor Mason, has one of the most powerful voices I’ve ever heard and they put on a super great rock show. I didn’t expect their sound to be as loud as they were (in a good way).

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2pm: One of Lollapalooza’s biggest secrets: Dua Lipa.

This beautiful 20-year-old singer from London has been burning up the charts in Europe and is making her way through the U.S. pop kingdom with a few shows here and there and will be touring with Troye Sivan this fall.

She had a small but upbeat crowd, and I think this is due to the fact that she was performing up against X Ambassadors. I enjoyed hearing a solid pop artist with a phenomenal voice during my four days because they are rare at Lolla.

Two of her songs have over 100 million plays on Spotify and her album is rumored to be released early 2017. Lipa also opened up for The 1975 at their after show at the House of Blues on Friday, so I’m sure she gained some fans from there.

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3:15pm: The Front Bottoms were one of my favorite performances of the weekend. I have been looking forward to getting a chance to see them perform for a long time and they exceeded my expectations.

Something that I love about them is their heartfelt lyrics and I found that they performed with the same heart that you can hear on their records. You can tell that they have created a solid fan base after seeing them perform live because so many people were screaming along to their songs.

I usually tend to stray away from this style of music but seeing them live made me an even bigger fan.

Side note: A tour with Brand New, The Front Bottoms and Modern Baseball was just announced and it’s one not to miss. Check out the dates here.

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4:45pm: What a great moment in my list of artists to see: Leon Bridges. He is easily one of the most unique artists on the charts right now and I was pleasantly surprised with the size of his crowd.

Despite the crowd being somewhat quiet during the majority of his set (I honestly think it is because many people don’t really know how to react to soul and gospel music in a festival setting), Bridges did an amazing job getting the audience involved in his performance and I certainly felt entertained for the entire hour.

I was happy that I had the opportunity to see him after missing his show at the Chicago Theater. Definitely one of my favorite acts of the weekend.

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6:45pm: After leaving the Bud Light stage to grab food, refill water bottles and use the restroom, we headed back to the same stage to catch Two Door Cinema Club.

It was awesome to see them perform again, considering they were at the same stage in 2013 but performed a lot earlier. They had a HUGE crowd and it was really awesome to see that growth that they have achieved over the past few years.

I love their music but I would have like to see a little bit of a change in their setlist. They sang virtually the same songs that I had seen them perform live a few years ago, since they haven’t released much new music since then. It wasn’t necessarily bad, but I just wasn’t too into it because it didn’t seem any different than their 2013 performance.

I do think that their new album is coming out soon and I’ll be looking forward to that.

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7:45pm: I headed out of TDCC’s set early to see St. Lucia at the Pepsi Stage. Getting there a few minutes early did help us get decently close, but there were far too many people arriving to the stage early in order to get a good spot for Vic Mensa, who would be performing at 9pm.

This was a little disheartening, because many people around us had no interest in watching St. Lucia perform and talked through a lot of their performance. I still had fun and thought they put on a great show.

I’ve only heard good things about St. Lucia’s live performance and I thought they lived up to the expectations I had set for them. I think they have a really unique sound that’s different from everyone else out there right now and I am glad I got to see them perform, because their newest album is my favorite compared to previous releases.

We ended up getting out of the crowd a bit early since the audience was getting restless, but I still got to hear the majority of their set.

8:30pm: Time for Disclosure! While we were originally planning on checking out Red Hot Chili Peppers, we ended up changing our minds and seeing Disclosure. I was super excited because I had listened to their most recent album and despite tending to dislike EDM music, I had so much fun at their set.

I thought it was cool that they do virtually everything live while they perform and I didn’t even realize that the duo sings. It was cool to see the way that they integrate their songs and their voices for their live shows.

I liked their style of music far more than Major Lazer’s, and people have told me that I would like Disclosure more than ML, which was hilariously accurate.

Going into Disclosure, I thought I would have fun, but I didn’t expect becoming a fan and wanting to see them again so that is a cool thing to gain leaving the performance.

Sunday

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12:45pm: After having to basically drag my friends out of the apartment, I managed to get to the Samsung stage right as Låpsley was starting her first song.

I got to see her perform at Lincoln Hall in May and was just as excited to see her again. She had a super mellow set and it was a nice time to get myself to wake up.

Despite being only 20-years-old, Låpsley’s talent is incredible – she writes, produces, and records her own music and has been touring for the last six months or so.

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2:50pm: As if I haven’t talked about these girls enough, it was time to see MUNA: one of my favorite bands at the moment.

I actually ran into the lead singer’s mom in the crowd (she grew up in a Chicago suburb) and told her how excited I was for their performance. I had seen them just a week earlier while they opened up for BØRNs at the Metro, but I still couldn’t wait to see their performance again.

MUNA has been performing for the past few months quite nonstop, and I really enjoy their energy onstage and they genuinely seem excited to be singing. Their handmade “Fuck Trump” t-shirts also made me very happy.

There were a ton of younger people in the audience waiting at the Pepsi Stage to see Louis the Child perform after MUNA – which was extremely annoying, but I managed to stand next to a couple girls who were there to see MUNA so we got to jam out together.

MUNA’s full length album drops in the beginning of 2017 and I am very much looking forward to it.

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3:50pm: After grabbing some food, I met up with my friends to see Years & Years at the Lakeshore Stage. I am not the biggest Y&Y fan solely because I am not familiar with a lot of their music, maybe 3-5 songs.

They did a great job entertaining the audience and their dance pop sound got the crowd super pumped and into their performance. Also, the lead singer, Olly Alexander, has some amazing dance moves.

4:25pm: Oh wow, over the past few months or so, I have developed a love/hate relationship with Halsey.

I am the type of person who has a difficult time separating a person’s character, personality, etc. from their music, and this is particularly prominent with the way that I view Halsey.

A few of my friends were looking forward to her performance (I have seen her three times) so we went into it being excited. However, I immediately thought that she seemed completely lifeless, with no energy. She just walked around the stage with a blank look on her face.

I was so unbelievably bored and left even earlier than I was planning on so I could go see Aurora.

All in all, Halsey was my least favorite performance of the entire weekend.

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5:15pm: It was time for Aurora, who was one of the performers I was looking forward to the most.

Aurora is only 20-years-old and she’s been touring the world for the last few months to promote her debut album, “All My Demons Greeting Me as a Friend.”

About three songs in, she told the crowed how genuinely excited she was on the size of the crowd and couldn’t stop gushing about how beautiful the festival was.

“I heard about a big bean in the middle of the city. This next song is for the bean!”

Something about her performing style is so special and unique and I’m still considering her set as my favorite of the entire weekend.

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6:45pm: HAIM TIME! Even though I saw the HAIM sisters open for Taylor Swift at the 1989 World Tour last year, I was so unbelievably excited to see them again. They were great opening for Taylor, but not the same sort of music as she is, which meant that many of the fans at those shows were just downright confused by HAIM.

They did an amazing job (as always) and even threw in a few new songs, which is getting me pumped for their album that is hopefully dropping soon (their debut was released nearly three years ago)!

The sisters took a few minutes to explain how much it meant to them being able to perform on that stage and how they had seen the late Amy Winehouse perform on said stage in Lollapalooza 2007. I thought that was an amazing moment.

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8:30pm: Ellie Goulding took the Bud Light stage at for her 90 minute set and started off with her song “Aftertaste” from her most recent release “Delirium” (which happens to be one of the few songs I like off of that album).

I personally don’t really like Goulding’s voice and didn’t care to see her performance this year, but my friends were interested in checking her out before they left the festival early. I was somewhat entertained during the 45 minutes I was there, but I didn’t really feel like I was missing out when I left to go check out LCD Soundsystem.

9:30pm: I got to the opposite end of Grant Park to catch LCD Soundsystem’s last few songs and had such a fun time. It was one big dance party and everyone seemed so genuinely excited to be there. It was perfect timing on my end because I knew all of the songs I got to hear.

I really didn’t want to miss out on an act that has such a massive, dedicated fan base and it was really enjoyable to end the weekend with them. “All My Friends” has become a fast favorite of mine and dancing to it as I walked out of Grant Park was one of the highlights out of all the performances I got to see.

After writing this, I think I can say that some of my favorite acts of the weekend were The 1975, Wolf Alice, Dua Lipa, The Front Bottoms, Leon Bridges, Disclosure, Aurora, MUNA, and Haim.

I was disappointed with Kiiara, Halsey, Melanie Martinez, and Major Lazer.

I also made a little highlights video in honor of going to Lollapalooza four years in a row. Check it out!

If anyone who’s reading this attended Lolla this year, I would absolutely love to hear your thoughts about the weekend. Any standout moments? Let me know in a comment below.

– Kristin

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