40 Best Things We Saw at Lollapalooza 2014 – Rolling Stone
Home Music Music Lists

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.

Calvin Harris'

Drew Reynolds

Best Teen Make-Out Spot: Calvin Harris

Though Rihanna failed to show up for Calvin Harris' headlining set, as she did for Eminem's the night before, Harris seemed to do just fine doling out hit after hit that he often had a hand in producing. Promptly at 8:45 p.m., the Scottish DJ kicked his set off with his Alesso collaboration, "Under Control," and popped off the fireworks pretty early. Naturally, the type of cliché lyrics overlaying his electro house beats and dance pop make for the perfect soundtrack to countless underage couples professing their love to one another and making out throughout the audience on Grant Park's north side (especially since all the older folks were at Outkast). Harris threw out a collection of the hits from his 2012 album, 18 Months, over the course of his set, including "Sweet Nothing," "Feel So Close," "I Need Your Love" and "We Found Love," as well as remixes of some other crowd-pleasers like Capital Cities' "Safe and Sound," Florence + The Machine's "You've Got the Love" and Icona Pop's "I Love It."

nas

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

Alex Reside

Best Use of ‘Illmatic’ as a Setlist: Nas

Nas has seemingly never not been with us, yet his Saturday set at Lollapalooza felt like a comeback, like a ferocious reminder of what the man has done for us — what a menacing revelation Illmatic still is. Nas paced the set so there was hardly a breath between songs (save for some banter recognizing and mourning for Chicago's ebbless gun violence), with the energy you expected from him 20 years ago.

lollapalooza

Creepy time-square-esque costumes at Lollapalooza in Grant Park on August 3rd, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. Credit: Alex Reside

Alex Reside

Best Costumes: The Inflatable Twins

After they presumably escaped from a car dealership, these turnt-up inflatable buddies headed straight to the Kongos' set on Sunday, where they swayed and hugged all passerby in benevolent silence.

interpol

Interpol

Drew Reynolds

Best Stadium Riffs: Interpol

The Interpol of a decade ago seems to have informed the sound of their return: big, sustained chords perfect for wooing those in the upper-deck cheap seats of the arena. No sudden changes, just walls of call-and-response guitar, Paul Banks' baritone bleating and a merciless backbeat. Though it seemed as if much of the attendant audience were merely camped out early for Lorde spots, folks perked up for the chestnuts ("C'mere," "Slow Hands"), there was a clap-along and enthusiasm for new song "Anywhere" — a good sign that perhaps the band can reclaim the marketshare that was lost in their lengthy hiatus.

Rich Homie Quan

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

Alex Reside

Best Hype Man: Rich Homie Quan

The primary takeaway from Rich Homie Quan's set was a new familiarity with his DJ/hype-man, DJ Fresh. We spent the first approximately 20 minutes of Quan's set being entertained by Fresh, who played some Beyoncé, shouted out everyone who was there with their girlfriend, did the moonwalk and otherwise did his exuberant best to distract us from the fact that Quan had yet to take the stage. The Atlanta MC did finally take the stage, citing an intractable phone call with his "baby mama," but it was with such little fanfare that the crowd did not immediately notice. While Quan's capable of drawing a huge audience — you'd think that 51 million views on YouTube would merit main stage rather than the shady glen adjacent the farmers' market — dude ain't ready for prime time. The MC delivered "Blah Blah Blah," "Get The Fuck Out My Face" and "Type of Way" in snippets, as well as portions of the YG and Yo Gotti tracks he appears on — before ending his set seven minutes early —delivering maybe 15 minutes of music for the 17 that he graced us with.

Benjamin Booker

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

Alex Reside

Best Rock Star Moment: Benjamin Booker

The young, New Orleans based singer and guitar slinger has found a curiously cool cross between indie rock distortion, grunge mumble and classic blues-rock that is best experienced live and turned up to 11. Though Lollapalooza is always filled with countless rock acts, Booker may have been the strongest and most refreshing with his early afternoon set on Saturday. Highlights included a shredding version of the punky "Violent Shiver" as well as number of tunes that have yet to even be released, but all was set aflame by the ceremonious smashing of his guitar at the end of his set. As soon as he played his last note, Booker took his instrument and furiously whacked it against the stage a few times before tossing the neck into the audience, pushing his mic stand down, and walking off stage as the crowd cheered as if they were filling a stadium just for him.

Benjamin Booker's guitar

Brittany Spanos

Best Souvenir: Benjamin Booker

After Benjamin Booker tossed the neck of his guitar into the crowd and walked nonchalantly off stage, fans lingered in the audience to hopefully take home a string or take pictures with the lucky many who had caught one of the larger available chunks. As one older man excitedly noted about how good he felt about making the call to catch Booker on Saturday: "I knew this kid would be the one! I knew he would tear it up!"

Kongos

Kongos

Drew Reynolds

Best Cover (Rap-Rock Edition): Kongos

The South African folk-rockers have a viral hit under their belt — their single "Come With Me Now" has reached 9.7 million views on YouTube — and their confidence is palpable. In the four brothers' Sunday-opening set at the Palladia stage (which netted almost as many viewers as Nas' gig the night before), the band dropped a bit of "Nuthin But a 'G' Thang" by Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, then mixed it live with a drawling vocal take on the Beatles' "Come Together." The band's accordionist chimed in from the background, bouncing irrepressibly as the crowd cheered on his every wheeze, adding to the odd yet affable chemistry.

Vic Mensa

Josh Brasted/FilmMagic

Best Cover (Rock-Rap Edition): Vic Mensa

Surprising: Chicago MC Vic Mensa performs a faithful cover of the White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army" in the middle of his set. Not surprising: His audience, filled with kids holding up 'Vic Fucking Mensa' signs and rapping along to every word of his songs, loved it. Like Chance on Sunday, Mensa made his hometown proud and gave a speech on how "alive" the city still is in spite of "that Chiraq shit." He also introduced his fans to a fun new jam about threesomes, "Major Payne," and performed with a blow-up doll on stage. Between a guest appearance from Chance on "Tweakin" and a reunion of his defunct band Kids These Days, Mensa offered some heartwarming reflections on being a southside success story. "I'm y'all three years in the future," he said after talking about how was just another kid like them who had gone through Chicago Public Schools. To prove it, he kept the stage packed with his friends and crew, which made his set feel more like a party than a concert.

Jungle

Jungle

Drew Reynolds

Best D.I.Y. Set Design: Jungle

The British electro-funk collective Jungle takes glee in their found sounds: Bandleaders Josh Lloyd-Watson and Tom McFarland fold creaking doors, rustling keys and crunched soda cans into their self-titled debut (released in July on XL). To open the main stage on Saturday afternoon, the band went on a high-energy tear through their slick singles "The Heat," "Lucky I Got What I Want" and "Time" — hitting their high-end keyboards and guitars with fervor as their drummer struck a set of strung-up glass Coke bottle chimes. Keep it real, lads.

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