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40 Best Things We Saw at Lollapalooza 2014

Chicago turns up with Eminem, Outkast, Skrillex and some heavily costumed fans

lollapalooza

Drew Reynolds

With the skyline in the background, Lollapalooza once again brought three days of music to Chicago's Grant Park. Kings of Leon and Artic Monkeys rocked out, Skrillex and Calvin Harris kept the crowd dancing, Outkast and Nas rapped some of the greatest verses ever written, Iggy Azalea played her song of the summer and a few dedicated people dressed up as those inflatable tube-men that wave outside car dealerships. Here the best things we saw.

Spoon

Spoon performs at Lollapalooza on August 2nd, 2014 in Grant Park in Chicago, Illinois. Credit: Alex Reside

Alex Reside

Best Case of A.D.D.: Spoon

It was just a mylar balloon shaped like a sombrero — not the most or least interesting prop to hover above the crush of bodies at Lollapalooza. Yet when its owner lost grip on it during Spoon's Saturday afternoon set, and it began to float upward lazily into the cloudless Chicago sky, it seemed like the most alarming and fascinating spectacle Britt Daniel had ever seen in his life. The Spoon singer stared at it as it rose, the massive main stage video screens zooming in on his unblinking gaze and furrowed brow. Up soared the balloon, up rose Daniel's eyes in perfect accord. This lasted for several verses of "The Underdog" and was a strange joy to behold — and Daniel didn't flub one word throughout, though he looked glum when the mysterious zeppelin finally left his sight. Someone else released a happy-face balloon after, in empathy, but it just wasn't the same. We'd all been through too much already.

Jenny Lewis

Jenny Lewis

Drew Reynolds

Best Bad Trip: Jenny Lewis

Not since "Sloop John B" has a vacation gone this awry. Jenny Lewis made her Lollapalooza entrance great form, pacing the stage with far more assertive energy than a woman in that much pastel can usually convey. She kicked off with a country-fried take on "Just One of the Guys," the lead single from her new solo album The Voyager, and hit a delightful (if schadenfreude-heavy) emotional apex with "Aloha & the Three Johns." In it, she grinningly detailed a train-wreck tropical excursion, replete with a stranger getting an al fresco hand job, her boyfriend smashing a television, her awkwardly demanding an engagement and everyone generally praying for death. Her Lolla set, thankfully, was miles more fun.

Run the Jewels

Run The Jewels perfroms at Lollapalooza in Grant Park on August 3rd, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. Credit: Alex Reside

Alex Reside

Best Hip-Hop Buddy Movie in the Making: Run the Jewels

For the last few years El-P and Killer Mike have been the rap Joan Didion/ John Dunne partnership — two masters whose kinship clearly elevates each other's game, in, what from the outside, looks like the platonic ideal of reverent collaboration. El-P bounded on to stage, practically skipping, with a goofball grin from ear to ear, giddy in the throes of what's becoming a mid-career boom; Killer Mike made it clear there was no place he would rather be than rocking the mic and making the music he loves, alongside his friend.

parquet courts

Drew Reynolds

Best Irreverence in the Face of Antiquity: Parquet Courts

New York punks Parquet Courts hit the Palladia stage — complete with its scalloped set design that amusingly mimics white marble columns — on Saturday, and appeared disinterested in matching the ambition of their surroundings. Their mixing began much too small for the large field, the guitars tinny and singer Andrew Savage indecipherable past the fifth row, as they popped out tracks from their punchy new album Sunbathing Animal. But by that album's "Vienna II," Savage had found his stride, seething, "How'd it die? / We broke its neck / We raised it to the power of 10" as the back rows cheered. Parquet Courts lost that momentum shortly after, via a downtempo interlude of fuzzy ballads, but capped it with their Light Up Gold anthem "Borrowed Time."

Courtney Barnett

Courtney Barnett performs at Lollapalooza on August 1st, 2014 in Grant Park in Chicago, Illinois. Credit: Alex Reside

Alex Reside

Best Two-Note Guitar Solo: Courtney Barnett

The Melbourne-based three piece is a fairly subdued and simple live act, but Barnett and Co. kept a crowd despite the rain with charm and familiarity: When they offered up "Avant Gardener" with no particular fanfare, near the end of the set, it was clearly the song the entire audience had been waiting to sing along with. Barnett is still primarily a club act, but the momentum she's built in the last few months has meant that she's now fairly adept at handling festival crowds (she's done Glastonbury and Coachella in recent months) — but yet there was nothing more showy than a two chord solo on her new guitar. By being herself, Barnett provided the perfect antidote to some of the overblown acts on the bill.

Fitz and the Tantrums

Fitz and the Tantrums

Drew Reynolds

Best All-Ages Dance Party (Established Band): Fitz and the Tantrums

Very few of the acts were as cross-generationally appealing as Fitz and the Tantrums — teens, twentysomethings, and families whose days at Kidzapalooza had ended all flocked to dance to "Out of My League." Everyone was in for a treat when the band exploded with a raucous cover of the Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" that got everyone moving despite probably feeling some waning energy on the festivals' hot second day. The neo-Motown vibe of their tunes, though a bit plastic, sufficed for a perfectly uplifting hour that ended with whistling soul single "The Walker."

Joywave

Joywave

Drew Reynolds

Best All-Ages Dance Party (Emerging Band): Joywave

The biggest surprise of the weekend was Joywave, who are riding the wave of their burgeoning hit "Tongues" (their previous stop was a performance on Late Night). The young band's set proved their success is hardly a fluke. All their songs are as fun as their best ones; their chemistry makes them compelling and their time on the road has made their set seamless. While the shaded grove of the BMI stage is often the favored place for dads to nap between sets, Joywave brought the disco to the forest, moving the kids that comprise their fanbase, as well as their parents (and other folks old enough to appreciate a band using Upstairs at Eric's as a template), who ran "this is my jam!"-style down the embankment to boogie in the pit with their kiddos. One of few bands at the festival this weekend who seemed as capable of connecting with an audience as they were entertaining them.

Flosstradamus

Alex Reside

Best Fuck Tha Police: Flosstradamus

During Flosstradamus' set Sunday afternoon, the DJ duo told the crowd they'd been banned from ever performing at another Chicago street festival after an especially rowdy mosh pit some years prior. They then instructed the thousands in attendance to all raise their hands and flip off the Chicago Police Department, who were posted up nearby. The cops' response? Just shy of ROFL-ing. When we asked a nearby officer if he was aware of Flosstradamus being outlawed on the streets of Chi, he merely replied, "Uhh, no."

Jagwar Ma

Jagwar Ma

Drew Reynolds

Best Reason to Dance in the Rain (Light Spray Edition): Jagwar Ma

Jagwar Ma came out as Friday's only rainfall was finishing up and the Australian indietronica act's house vibes and echo-y vocals made for a perfect soundtrack to the light sprays causing festivalgoers to put on their ponchos and whip out their umbrellas. Beginning with Howlin' opener "What Love" was either a perfect coincidence or an appropriate setlist change with lead singer Gabriel Winterfield in full unhinged mode and repeating the lyric "waiting for tomorrow brings another day another sun" as the light started to peak through the clouds. The group kept their set upbeat, highly danceable, and Nineties alt-esque for its entirety with tracks like "Uncertainty" and "Let Her Go" serving as crowd-pleasing favorites for the packed audience at the shaded Grove stage.

Bomba Estereo

Bomba-Estereo performs at Lollapalooza in Grant Park on August 3rd, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. Credit: Alex Reside

Alex Reside

Best Reason to Dance in the Rain (Heavy Downpour Edition): Bomba Estereo

It is a testament to Bomba Estéreo's showmanship that their crowd doubled in size as buckets of rain doused Lollapalooza on Sunday afternoon. The psychedelic electro-poppers from Colombia shrugged in response, paint-streaked singer-rapper Li Saumet shaking her blue headdress toward the grey sky and continuing to sing her bilingual preachings of peace and goodwill, shouting the ebullient chorus of "Pure Love" (from their great 2012 disc Elegancia Tropical) over piercing synths and heart-rattling percussion. The faithful flung up their hands and remained in her thrall, dancing through the worst of the day's storm; tellingly, those who'd queued up across the field for Delta Rae scrambled for cover like they were steerage class on the Titanic.

Meg Myers

Meg Myers performs at Lollapalooza on August 2nd, 2014 in Grant Park in Chicago, Illinois. Credit: Alex Reside

Alex Reside

Best Bad Girl: Meg Myers

Myers has had some minor success (the corny "Monster," the explicit "Desire") in the last two years with videos that present her as more unhinged Fiona Apple — which is not a necessarily a bad look. Myers' career seems like it stands a chance if only she (or, perhaps, her label?) could figure out what kind of artist she is going to be beyond a jumble of bad-girl clichés. However, Myers has a tremendously powerful voice that most immediately recalls Evanescence's Amy Lee, and much like Lee, you have to wonder what Myers is doing with this band. In Myers' case, she's in a sometimes-pop, sometimes metal-ballads band with an electric cello. With an occasional EDM-lite drop in the chorus. And Myers playing an acoustic guitar and singing sweetly, nervously tugging down her crop top and swimsuit bottoms. And then closing the set like she's auditioning for a screamo band, flinging her body around in a way that make's Lorde's stage moves look like that of a sedated Tai Chi master. Get thee to a proper metal band, Meg Myers!

 

Gramatik

Alex Reside

Best Use of Flute: Gramatik

Even money that Slovenian EDM DJ-producer Gramatik is a huge Anchorman fan: He began his Saturday afternoon Perry's Stage set with a piercing, interminable flute trill. Gramatik (real name Denis Jasarevic) favored cuts from his 2011 album Beatz & Pieces Vol. 1, including his zydeco-influenced "The Drink Is Called Rakija" and the reggae-leaning "Break Loose," and he also paired live sax and trumpet with those heavy dubstep beats and glitchy bass drops. A mid-set highlight: He seamlessly mixed "Superstition" by Stevie Wonder with "Digital Liberation Is Mad Free" by Grizmatik (Gramatik's side project with the producer Griz) — and no flutes were harmed in the process.

Delta Rae

Alex Reside

Best Irony-Crushing Earnestness: Delta Rae

"This is a Christian band, right?" a gent in a neon Cool Story Bro tank asked us urgently. "They have to be." He said this just as the singer-guitarist Ian Holljes let out a roaring "We're so fucking excited to be here," complicating the case, but the question was understandable: Throughout their set, Delta Rae projected a freshly-scrubbed enthusiasm bordering on Ned Flanders levels of earnestness. ("We live together in a house in the woods," cried singer Brittany Holljes at one point. "It's great!") The North Carolina folk-poppers led a stomping, stirring a capella take on "Bottom of the River," a single from 2012's Carry the Fire, but it was a cover of "Because the Night" (written by Bruce Springsteen and Chi-town native Patti Smith) that most roused their audience — and was delivered by singers Holljes and Elizabeth Hopkins with beaming smiles, of course.

Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue

Trombone Shorty performs at Lollapalooza in Grant Park on August 3rd, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. Credit: Alex Reside

Alex Reside

Best Brain-Melting Mash-Up: Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue

Why aren't there more trombone breaks in punk music? Troy Andrews, a.k.a. bandleader Trombone Shorty, made a great case for them during his Sunday afternoon set. He covered Green Day's "Brain Stew" with real ingenuity, piecing together the heavy staccato guitars of the original with assaultive sax shrieks and his own scorched-earth trombone soloing. Andrews usually sticks to jazz and R&B fusion, including on his last album Say That to Say This, but he clearly should ring up Billie Joe for a joint album.

Flume

Flume

Drew Reynolds

Best Aussie Pride: Flume

Already a major EDM star in his native Australia, the 22-year-old DJ-producer Flume (real name Harley Streten) led a mellow, appreciative interlude at the shady Grove stage on Sunday evening. Taking the stage to "Drop the Game," his collaboration with countryman Chet Faker, and pointing appreciatively to the Australian flag hoisted above the gently bobbing audience, he rewarded that homeland loyalty with a simmering remix of Lorde's "Tennis Court," steadily building the nostalgic, unassuming pop track into the most thunderous drop of his set.

Black Ink Art

Who knew Lolla had a Farmers Market at Lollapalooza on August 2nd, 2014 in Grant Park in Chicago, Illinois. Credit: Alex Reside

Alex Reside

Best Gonzo Painting: Black Ink Art

The "Green Street" crafts row pushed plenty of music-themed oddities on Lolla wallets, from rings carved from coconuts to repurposed vinyl laser-cut in Bob Dylan's profile. Even Gonzo guru Hunter S. Thompson made a celestial cameo in the Black Ink Art tent, bestowing peace and a toke to all who entered.

So So Glos

The So So Glos

Drew Reynolds

Best Start to the Weekend: So So Glos

Lollapalooza wouldn't really be Lollapalooza without the threat of Chicago's unpredictable weather, varying between extreme levels, looming all weekend. Naturally, the weekend started with a rain delay and ended on Sunday with a muddy afternoon storm. After Friday's delay and before some later light sprays, Brooklyn punk rockers the So So Glos proceeded to destroy the Lake Shore stage underneath some gloomy-looking skies. Between scorchers like "Wrecking Ball" and "Speakeasy" (a song against "internet racism, sexism and homophobia"), the So So Glos gave the audience plenty of reasons to start a circle pit at a time when the rest of the city was probably on their lunch break. There were plenty of reasons to be and stay hyped all of Friday, but the So So Glos were the perfect and exciting beginning to a wild weekend. Frontman Alex Levine offered some sage advice that "if you don't like the show, you can tweet about it," but the band only gave Lolla reasons to love them.

Into It. Over It.

Alex Reside

Best Excuse for a Good Cry: Into It. Over It.

Chicago act and Evan Weiss' brainchild Into It. Over It. has been the reason behind talk of an "emo revival" in the past few years and from his set at Lolla, there is no question why Weiss is its leader. On Friday, Weiss came prepared to engage his audience with the rare sight of him joined by a full band to perform his songs at full volume. Of course, Weiss wasn't afraid to make sure his audience were in touch with their feelings and after dedicating a song to his cat who died ("a legendary cat deserves a song"), he invited fans to tell him about their deceased cats as well. Throughout, Weiss showed his gratitude for being able to play a fest in the town where this New Jersey kid has built his career as well as for the band joining him on-stage for the afternoon. The set ended with the emotionally charged "Midnight: Carroll Street" and if you had to let out a good sob, there was no more perfect time to do so.

Lucius

Alex Reside

Best Dressed: Lucius

Lucius are great at a number of things — singing, songwriting, harmony, etc. — but their festival fashion has been awe-inspiring all summer. On Friday in Chicago, the always-matching lead singers Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig sported their signature Anna Wintour bobs and vibrant floral dresses that not only popped off the white Palladia stage but continued their call for festival fashion to be stepped up by everyone else on the festival circuit. As they are also known for, Lucius gave a tight and flawlessly synced-up performance that began with catchy single "Tempest." Live, the band have shown their ability to shift seamlessly between chill folk outfit and wildly energetic indie rock blast. By the time they got to "Genevieve," the group were an all-out percussive powerhouse complete with headbanging and bobs gone wild as the lead singers pounded on their instruments as if they were secretly in a metal band all along. Lucius closed out with a strong finish and a pair of their best, the empowering "Wildewoman" dedicated to a friend on her birthday and the very Sixties-centric "Turn It Around" which was mashed-up with Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance With Somebody," making for a strong finish to their set and a lot for the rest of the weekend's acts to compete with.

The Temper Trap

Temper Trap - Lollapalooza, Grant Park - Chicago 02/08/14 | Photo by Gaelle Beri

Gaelle Beri

Best Time for a Nap: The Temper Trap

Australian indie rock band the Temper Trap has had a sleepy sound from the moment we were introduced to them with 2008's "Sweet Disposition." The song was the centerpiece on the (500) Days of Summer soundtrack and featured in countless commercials with its subtle, driving sound beneath Dougy Mandagi's soothing falsetto. This year marks the band's third feature on the Lolla line-up but second time playing after getting rained out in 2012. With the addition of some of their soon-to-be-released new material to their setlist, the Temper Trap were a mostly bland mid-afternoon set with only a couple of highlights, like 2012's "Trembling Hands," a quick and surprising cover of the Clash's "Rock the Casbah" and, of course, "Sweet Disposition." Beneath the mid-afternoon sun, the band was a perfect excuse for a snooze before getting a prime spot for headliners Outkast.

Ratking

Alex Reside

Best Punk Rock Moment (Rap Edition): Ratking

When you are an up-and-coming act getting a chance to play a festival as huge as Lollapalooza, you're clearly going to give it all and put your entire life into your performance. Sometimes all of that energy leads you to smacking yourself in the face with your microphone and bleeding from your forehead for the majority of your set, which was exactly Wiki of hip-hop trio Ratking's ordeal on Saturday. The group kept the stage so wild, that it was barely noticeable to most that Wiki was bleeding for at least a few songs and not once did he falter as he, Hak, and Sporting Life repped New York — even thought Wiki had to have been in excruciating pain as the spot on his forehead kept turning into a brighter shade of red.

The Groomsmen

Jessica Hopper

Best Spectacle Bros: The Groomsmen

Marauding groups of bros-in-costumes at Lolla is a growing tradition. This year, some were camouflaged or matchy-matchy; others were done-up like seapunks on safari; all were game to pose for a pic with you and your friends, no matter how how turnt you (or they) were. They were there to be seen. This five-deep posse of wannabe Groomsmen (who insisted they were headed to a wedding later in the day) were not content to merely get in your selfie, they were also serving as twerk objects when duty called, happily getting low with passerby.

 

 

R. Kelly

Alex Reside

Best Conversation Starter: R. Kelly

Chicago's own R. Kelly showed up to help out Chicago's own Chance the Rapper, performing "The World's Greatest," "Bump N' Grind" and, of course, "Ignition (Remix)." This came just days after Ohio's Fashion Meets Music dropped the controversy-wracked singer from their line-up entirely. Was this a sign of the indefatigable nature of his music? An insensitive error in judgement? Two hometown heroes just finding an excuse to collaborate?

Wookiee

Chewbacca watching Into It, Over It at Lollapalooza on August 1st, 2014 in Grant Park in Chicago, Illinois. Credit: Alex Reside

Alex Reside

Best Wookiee: This Guy

How do you say "Having Fun?" in Shyriiwook?

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