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Monday, November 24, 2014

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Lollapalooza 2014: A young person's game

By Erika Harwood, Senior Arts Editor
Published August 6, 2014

I remember first seeing the lineup for this year’s Lollapalooza and being disappointed, yet again. I’ve been attending the festival off and on for the last six years and seem to get more and more discouraged with each lineup release, ultimately avoiding the event all together last year. This year there were a few acts that stuck out: Lorde, Blood Orange and Chance The Rapper, along with mainstays like Kings of Leon, Eminem and the traveling Outkast reunion show, which I would have sold most of my limbs to see, but that’s another 2,000 word article for another time. Unsurprisingly, I’m not gelling with the crowd of the enormous and at times overwhelming festival as well as I did when I was 16, and I still don’t think I’ll ever understand how Skrillex could headline anything past the year 2011. However, I was continually comforted by the presence of acts I’ve recently discovered along with longtime loves, and I refused to let some punk ass teens who’ve been at back-to-back EDM shows since 1 p.m. ruin that for me.

Friday: It Rained

I’m going to be honest. Going to a festival with a press pass, especially while I live in the city where it’s taking place, has made me lot more choosy with my selection of shows. As I was getting ready to leave my apartment in Rogers Park on the first day of the fest, it started to pour down rain. This was my fourth Lollapalooza, and if there’s one thing I’ve gathered from my few years of festival experience, it’s that it will always rain. Hard. But it will also always pass within an hour or so at most. So, I parked myself on my couch, cracked open a Rolling Rock and watched the previous night’s “Colbert Report”. The first show I was really eager about was Blood Orange, which wasn’t until the late afternoon, and frankly there just aren’t enough drugs in the world for me to willingly go outside for extended periods of time while it’s pouring rain. I’m assuming I’ve reached the apex of adulthood.

When I finally arrived at Grant Park a little before 4 p.m. to meet up with a friend for the Blood Orange show, I realized that things had changed from the last time I was there. The line to get in seemed to take forever, and it probably didn’t help that I was in a rush while also being surrounded by drunk high schoolers. After finally breaching the gates, I made my way toward the press tent to grab a drink before the show. After wandering around aimlessly for a bit, I gave up and decided to go early and park it up front for Blood Orange. After swimming against the current of Iggy Azalea fans consisting of way too loud bros and fucked-up 15-year-olds, the intimate, casually chit-chatting crowd waiting to see Dev Hynes was refreshing. He took the stage with his girlfriend/Cupid Deluxe frequenter, Samantha Urbani. The pair sported homemade T-shirts with messages against police brutality and both made statements during the killer set to address the topic, making it all the more disturbing when just hours later the couple accused security of physically assaulting them.

I left the show a few songs early, determined to finally make it the press tent per the original plan. As I walked toward the south end of the park, I could hear Iggy Azalea performing “Fancy.” For all the think pieces that song has gotten, I still feel little to no shame when I say that I think it’s great, albeit overplayed. That said, hearing it echo through Grant Park really brings out the worst in people, myself included. Elbowing my way through the crowd that was high off the ecstasy that comes from seeing an Australian girl who is “kill-yourself hot” rap a Top 40 hit along with the actual ecstasy they’d probably been licking off of their muddy hands for the past hour, I felt compelled to call all of their parents and tell them their children are garbage.

But I persevered, eventually making my way to a place where I had room to move without risking having other people’s sweat form a layer over my own. I ran into a co-worker from my internship and we decided to catch the last bit of Lorde together. On the way over, I convinced him that her album was great and she did, in fact, have more songs than “Royals” and “Team,” yet the only ones we managed to see were those two along with “Ribs.” Good looking out, Ella.

We headed back to get stationed for Eminem, which I initially planned on skipping for Phantogram — I’m glad I didn’t. He came out and immediately exploded with the energy he seemed to be lacking the past few years. During the set, someone standing near us mentioned that she heard Rihanna might be in town. Lo and behold, Rihanna showed up and I freaked the hell out. In retrospect, it made perfect sense; the show was the ideal dress rehearsal/PR move for Eminem and Rihanna’s upcoming The Monster Tour. Although it didn’t morph into the strictly-Rihanna set I secretly hoped it would (they only performed the songs they’ve recorded together), it was the detail the set didn’t necessarily need but undoubtedly cemented it as one of the best shows of the weekend.

Saturday: It Didn’t Rain

Once again, I waited until mid-afternoon, when things started to pick up. I had lofty plans of catching Nas, Grouplove and The Temper Trap along with the shows I did see, but those plans were sacrificed in the name of me getting lost on the way in. Streets can be hard. I met up with The Daily Show star/Daily News Editor, Will Greenberg, who was determined to set up camp at Vic Mensa well before it started. I’m a fan of the Save Money crew, and although I’m more familiar with Chance The Rapper, I decided to head out early with him anyway because Will has a trusting face, perfect for TV. We were both crammed toward the front at the BMI stage to the point where I could never fully discern if someone had no choice but to be all over me or if I was being assaulted. Vic came out and immediately dominated the stage and the crowd. Even though I could only point out a song or two (one being from when Kids These Days was still together), it was the ideal way to start the second day of the fest — even if it was at 6:50 p.m. — and I can confidently say I’ve never had more fun being moshed on.

From there, it wasn’t even a question that we needed to head over to Outkast as soon as possible. This was the moment I’d been waiting for since the fifth grade when I got Speakerboxxx/The Love Below for my birthday. We grabbed some food and Will suggested that we stand off to the side while we ate. However, the moment I heard the beginning of “B.O.B.” I bolted toward the crowd. Reviews of the previous Outkast shows painted the group’s reunion as underwhelming with strong undertones of disappointment, but what they put on Saturday was far from disappointing. The energy between Big Boi and Andre 3000 is something that can’t be recreated and it was dialed up as high as it could go that night. I may or may not have shed some tears (I obviously did).

Sunday: It Rained Again

Once again, the line to get in took forever. It felt like a half hour and that’s because it was. I missed most of London Grammar, which was upsetting as it’s released one of the best albums of the year. But seeing Hannah Reid perform songs like “Strong” and “Metal & Dust” was still worth get stuck in the mud and rain.

From there I needed to get to Chromeo since I’ve yet to see them perform despite its vital part in shaping my high school years. I’ve made almost every kid I’ve babysat watch their spot on “Yo Gabba Gabba.” Once again, it started to rain, but this time it didn’t matter. Their set sucked me in with “Night by Night,” “Tenderoni” and of course, “Fancy Footwork.” We headed out as they played the Questlove-dubbed song of the summer, “Jealous (I Ain’t With It), which is the coolest walk out music I’ll ever get.

It was necessary to get more than decent spots at Chance The Rapper, especially for his primetime slot in his hometown. We trudged through the mud and got as close as we could. While we waited for him to come out, Will and I tried to convince a couple of high schoolers to go to Michigan and write for The Daily. Time will only tell if our advances were in vain.

Since I missed Chance when he came to Ann Arbor, I made the crushing personal decision to skip Kings of Leon. Say what you will, but they’re great and you’re probably wrong. Luckily, Chance knows how to deliver and did not disappoint his city. There was a horns sectioned, choreographed dance moves, Vic Mensa and R. Kelly performing “Ignition (Remix).” And in case you’re wondering if “Chain Smoker” could get any better, seeing it live confirms that yes, yes it can.

Most of my grievances with Lolla 2014 reside with the fact that even as a 21-year-old, I’m probably getting too old to do this shit. At least for three full days, from the time the gates open until they close up. Despite that and the fact that I went into the fest disappointed by the lineup, this year delivered the most successful round of shows I’ve seen there. And you never know, maybe next year’s Lollapalooza will try to hit on the grumpy adults from ages 45-60 and I’ll feel right at home.