First of all, let me put it out there that despite being an avid concert-goer, music lover, and a born and raised Chicagoan, I’ve never been to Lollapalooza before in my life. That’s pretty nuts, considering that the music festival is an enormous part of both Chicago and music culture in general. However, this year, I was lucky enough to venture into the vast greenery of Grant Park and join the celebration for Lollapalooza’s 25th anniversary!
For the festival’s 25th anniversary celebration, Lollapalooza added an additional day to its usual three-day lineup, making this year’s fest span four long days. (Note: According to the Chicago Tribune, Lollapalooza will continue this change in 2017.) Being a newcomer to the festival, you can imagine how overwhelmed I felt when I first set foot in the festival grounds; this is one of the biggest music festivals in the US after all.
To keep things short, let me tell you straight up that the lines, crowd, and sheer madness at Lolla are on a whole other level than any event I’ve ever attended before. But even so, I think that the trouble and hardship is worth it, especially when you get to experience the diverse music that the festival offers. That being said, here are my top 5 favorite sets from Lollapalooza 2016!
5. Dreamers – BMI Stage, Sunday
This is a band that I’ve seen two times prior to their set at Lollapalooza (I’ve been able to see them open for Stone Temple Pilots and Zella Day.) However, seeing the band perform in broad daylight in a festival setting is a completely different experience. With their debut album release just around the corner, the band brought their all to their Sunday afternoon performance. Dreamers showed the Lolla crowd exactly what they’re made of, commanding their set at the BMI stage.
(Below is the audio of their latest single “Sweet Disaster,” which will be available on their album later this month.)
4. M83 – Samsung Stage, Friday
Being a returning guest at Lollapalooza, M83 proved to the crowd just how much they have grown since they’ve last performed at the festival back in 2012. This year, the band graduated onto the Samsung stage, the largest stage at the festival. What I enjoyed the most from the band’s performance was seeing them translate their songs from the recordings to a live set. The live interpretations of their songs made listening to their music an entirely new experience.
For me, the biggest surprise from their set was seeing how each member of the band shined as individuals, bringing their own unique energy to the performance, yet still being able to complement each other. (Their guitarist Jordan Lawlor’s stage presence is seriously unparalleled.) Despite the minor awkwardness that came from seeing the electronic band during the daytime, I think the M83 went above and beyond expectations with their powerhouse performance.
3. The Last Shadow Puppets – Pepsi Stage, Thursday
I’ve been a fan of Arctic Monkeys for quite a while now. However, it isn’t until more recently that I found out about this not-so-little side project between Alex Turner (lead singer of the Arctic Monkeys) and his good friend and fellow musician Miles Kane called The Last Shadow Puppets. TLSP shows a different side of the two English rockers, giving them more freedom to explore the realms of different musical styles.
During the Lollapalooza festivities, I got to see the duo perform twice – first when they kicked off the festival at the Wednesday night after party and again when they took the Pepsi stage the next evening. Miles and Alex captivated the audience at both performances with their sultry croons and hypnotic stage presence.
TLSP was a pleasant surprise because they’re a band that I didn’t expect to love as much as I do. I mean come on, The guys opened their Thursday set with a tribute to David Bowie, performing the late singer’s song “Moonage Daydream.” That’s an automatic plus in my book.
(More on TLSP soon!)
2. LCD Soundsystem – Samsung Stage, Sunday
Okay, now this was a pretty emotional set, not only to myself, but probably to most of the people in the crowd, making it totally suitable as the final, headlining performance of Lollapalooza 2016. Around five years ago, LCD Soundsystem disbanded, ending their time as a band with a farewell performance at Madison Square Garden. However, late last year, an official statement that the band will be making a comeback was announced and soon after that, their name appeared on the 2016 Lollapalooza lineup.
I wasn’t really a fan of the band until after the announcement of their comeback (which was lucky for me since I would have experienced the heartbreak of their break-up!) LCD Soundsystem’s performance at Lolla this past weekend proved that the band’s five-year hiatus didn’t hinder their talent as musicians or their ability to get the crowd pumped and dancing, easily placing the band as #2 on my list of favorite Lolla performances.
(You’ll be able to read more on the LCD reunion from Sonia soon!)
1. Radiohead – Samsung Stage, Friday
Last, but not least, Radiohead’s performance was most definitely my favorite set at Lolla 2016. Radiohead has been one of my favorite bands for long as I can remember. Despite being a die-hard fan of Thom Yorke and co., I never thought that I’d be able to see them perform live.
With their erratic album releases and multiple side projects, I wasn’t sure when the band would release their next album or go on another tour. (The band’s last album “The King of Limbs” was released in 2011 and they don’t tour as often as they used to.) However, the veteran musicians released their newest album titled “A Moon Shaped Pool” this past spring and has been back in the concert-festival circuit ever since.
Because Radiohead is one of those bands that I loved and admired for such a long time, they sort of became this entity that (to me) seemed too good to be true. But as I watched the band take on the stage on Friday night, opening their set with “Burn the Witch” and “Daydreaming” from their latest album, that was the defining moment that the band truly felt and became “real” to me, their set becoming the highlight of my four days at Lollapalooza. (In case you’re wondering: NO, they did not perform “Creep”, but YES I cried throughout most of their set.)
Honestly, it’s really hard to pick and choose favorites after attending such an extraordinary festival with a top-notch lineup. (And to be fair, I didn’t even get to see half of the artists that I wanted to check out!) It’s always incredibly hard to fully appreciate music at festivals because you can only ever get little snippets or samplers of all of the incredible performers.
On top of that, if you’re a festival commuter like me and have to travel to and from a distant suburb, it’s even more difficult to truly get immersed in the festival since you constantly have to cut your time at the festival short in order to get home.
Aside from the inconveniences that I listed above, I think that the festival was an overwhelmingly great experience, giving attendees a small taste of all of the good music around us. Lollapalooza is truly a city treasure and a festival that’s worth experiencing sometime in your life. After a first time experience like this, I can only imagine what next year will be like! But hey, see for yourself. Check out the recap of Lollapalooza 2016 in the video below. And if you’d like, you can check out my interviews with Dreamers and Mothers too!