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Lollapalooza’s 25th Anniversary – My First Lolla [Event Review]

When we think of some of the most well known music festivals, Lollapalooza is one that comes to mind; there's something about this Lolla that stands out among the rest.  Maybe it's the fact that it was started by the singer of a popular rock band (Perry Farrel from Jane's Addiction), or  that is has so much history behind the festival.  In fact, 2016 marks the 25th Anniversary of the Lollapalooza!  Growing up, it was always a festival that I've wanted to attend, I remember watching MTV cover acts like Green Day, Metallica, Snoop Dogg, and Prodigy performing at the festival.  Being from Minnesota, it was cool to see a festival here in the Midwest that brought in such amazing acts.

Over recent years, Lollapalooza has taken in the popularity of EDM with open arms and even dedicate a majority of the performing EDM acts their own stage, Perry's.  Although this is where you would find me most of the weekend, I took full advantage of my first Lollapalooza, I experienced all of the stages the festival had to offer.

Day 1

My journey begins at 2:00 A.M. where I left the Minneapolis area to kick off my seven hour drive into Chicago, where Lollapalooza has called home since 2005.  While it was nice to enjoy the open road to myself for most of the early morning hours, it did get a little scary coming into some big downpours of rain in the middle of Wisconsin.  After hitting backed up traffic from a combination of rush hour and major road construction, I finally pulled into my AirBnB in the lower West side of Chicago around 9:30 A.M..  I met the homeowner who graciously offered me coffee to recover from drive, and first met the three people from Houston who were also staying at the house and attending Lolla.  The Texans left to grab a quick breakfast before the festival while I quickly unpacked, took a quick pick-me-up shower, and grabbed my first of many Uber rides to Lollapalooza.

Arriving at Grant Park near downtown Chicago, I followed the sidewalk around the parameter until I found the media check-in.  I grabbed my wristband and proceeded to enter Lollapalooza.  If you didn't have a bag like I did, the security was flawless.  However, those with bags had a bit of a wait.  Talking with some people they said they waited over an hour.   When the gates opened on Day 1, I wasn't expecting otherwise, that was the only time I heard of people waiting at the security line all weekend.

I scanned my wristband and walked into the gates and hit Columbus Drive, which was now lined with vendor tents and information kiosks.  Walking across Columbus I caught my first glimpse of the large inflatable Lollapalooza 25th Anniversary sign next to the famous Buckingham Fountain.  Both the sign and the fountain were crowded with people taking pictures to capture their first memories of this years festival.  I joined in and took my selfie with the sign, then made my way down the street near the other end of the park to check into the media area.  On my way there, I would come across the sign for the Perry's stage where the Perry's sign was a large box with graffiti on all sides and a large “Perry's” in red letters surrounded by old fashioned light bulbs.

After making myself familiar with the media area, I headed into Perry's to catch my first performance to kick off the festival, Alle Farben.  The German producer pushed the excitement into the crowd early with a nice variety of House tunes, including his own “She Moves” and “Please Tell Rosie”.  During Alle Farben's set, I met a guy from Colorado who came to the stage early to catch Mr. Carmack.  He convinced me to stick around and I'm glad I did because Mr. Carmack brought the heavy bass.

Between the sets, it had started to rain.  As I heard from lots of locals over the weekend, ‘It wouldn't be Lolla without rain'.   While other stages were delayed, Grandtheft stuck it out at Perry's, delivering tons of bass and ending his rainy set with his Electro track, “Quit This City”.

The rain was letting up now as Don Diablo stepped up to the nonstop party that was, Perry's.  Don Diablo barely lucked out with the timing as he had just flown in from Amsterdam, yet still had the energy to drop some amazing originals and remixes including a mind blowing mashup of Ookay's “Thief” and Desgiiner's “Panda”.  This was the first of many twists of “Panda” I would hear throughout the weekend, but this was by far the best!

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My evening of stage-hopping began at the Pepsi stage for AlunaGeorge.  The Pepsi stage was a cool spot in the Northwest corner of the festival that was surrounded by trees.  AlunaGeorge is a set I had been looking forward to seeing for years!  The beautiful vocals of Aluna were just as amazing in person.  They also had a live band during their set which was cool.  During this set I witnessed my first ‘surprise special guest' as both Dreezy and Leikeli47 jumped in for “Mean What I Mean”.

AlunaGeorge Lollapalooza 2016

Photo by Greg Noire

After the AlunaGeorge set I headed to the Samsung stage, known by the festival goers as the ‘Main Stage'. The Samsung Stage was a large stage facing towards a large open area of scattered grass and sand that made up smaller sized baseball fields.  Here, I caught the end of G-Eazy as he performed “Me, Myself & I” shirtless in the now sun-filled sky.

I walked back to the Pepsi stage which was now packed with die-hard Cashmere Cat fans.  I overheard lots of these people throughout the day saying that Cashmere Cat was the main reason they came to Day 1.  I would find out later in the weekend that deep in the crowd of fans enjoying Cashmere Cat do his thing was none other than Malia Obama.

While I found it hard to pull away from Cashmere Cat, I wanted to check out Bad Royale at the Petrillo Bandshell.  This stage was perfect for any performer throughout the weekend obviously since the bandshell was made for concerts.  I'm glad I checked it out because I got to witness an unreleased track they've been working on with Skrillex.

By this time it already hit 8:30,  I felt like I had just shown up!  This was the beginning of Flosstradamus‘ set back at Perry's.  Walking into the Perry's area, I barely recognized the stage from just hours earlier.  The huge LED panels on the side of the stage along with the pryo effects up front were lighting up a crowd full of people waving Chicago flags to support their hometown heroes.  Towards the end of their set they brought out Post Malone for a remix of “White Iverson” and a new track they've been working on together.  Finally, the Chicago natives wanted to help celebrate the city and brought out the newest Chicago Bull, Dwayne Wade.  D-Wade took the Mic and announced the next special guest and fellow Chicago area celebrity, Michelle Williams from Destiny's Child, who performed “Survivor”, causing all the ladies in the crowd to go nuts.  The night wasn't over yet as Chance The Rapper, also from Chicago, was the last person to join the stacked stage and performed “No Problem”.

Flosstradamus at Lollapalooza 2016

Photo by Roger Ho

My first day couldn't have ended any better.  I had toughed out the long drive and a day full of festival sets.  I jumped into an Uber and headed back to the house to finally get some rest.

Day 2

I had my Uber drop me off at the main entrance again, only to find out that the media would now have to enter at the South Side of the festival for the rest of the weekend which was a cool little entrance that bridged over Grant Skate Park. After fueling up on an iced coffee, I was off to my first set of the day, Con Brio at the Lake Shore Stage.  The Lake Shore Stage was a similar setup to the Samsung stage, in fact, it was directly across the field.  The only difference was that the stage was slightly smaller and had one LED screen as opposed to two.  Con Brio's set was fun and energetic as he sang and danced everywhere across the stage in the hot sunlight.  There was also a great guitar and synthesizer solo during the set.

One hour into the festival and I was already drenched with sweat from the humidity which stuck around Chicago since Thursday.  I was back at Perry's where Illenium had already began his set.  The smooth Electro vibes had everyone feeling the love as I slowly found myself being surrounded by couples making out in the trees on the sidelines of the stage area.  As Illenium‘s set picked up and each hit of his drum pad punched harder, I made my way into the baseball field area in front of the stage.  Before I knew it, the set was over and Party Favor was on the stage.  The Mad Decent star brought the twerk and bass bangers and had some of the most hilarious visuals during his set.  Most of the visuals were famous memes that transformed into Party Favor's face.  It wasn't long before I found myself surrounded by mosh pits started by the ‘Party'-goers.  Since I was meeting Party Favor after his set, I decided it was best to get out of that situation to avoid interviewing him with a missing tooth or two.

I had just wrapped up interviewing Party Favor around mid-afternoon when once again the festival was hit with rain.  The rain was coming down so hard that I found myself huddled under a tent with the rest of media crew in attendance.  Unfortunately this held me back from checking out both M0 and Audien's sets.  While both artists toughed it out and performed in the rain, there were reports of M0 having sound issues, more than likely caused by the weather.  It was still raining, but had let up since the sets began.  I headed back to Perry's to watch Audien finish up in front of a crowd that raged in the rain.  He wrapped up the set with his newest collab with 3LAU.

Audien took some time shortly after his set to meet with me.  After the interview, went back to the Petrillo Bandshell to watch Mac Miller.  Even with the bandshell design, there were so many people that they were absorbing all the sound and I couldn't hear anything more than a muffle from the back.  A good problem to have if you're Mac MIller!

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By the time I made my way through the crowd, it was time for Duke Dumont.  Since it was around 6:00 P.M. lot of people were hitting Columbus Drive to check out the food vendors.  There were also some subtle sun-showers.  Regardless, Duke Dumont still had a great crowd.

I joined the masses to get food, and was on my way to see Future at the Bud Light Stage.  This stage was basically the same setup at the Samsung stage, except on the opposite side of the festival grounds.  Lollapalooza was streaming sets again this year and I knew my sister would be tuning in to watch Future's set. I had texted her during my walk towards Future to keep on the lookout for me.  When I got to the stage, I had found a group holding a helium turtle balloon totem.  I joined them and told my sister to watch for the turtle.  It sounded like a good idea, but sadly someone ran into the balloon string, snapping it from the person's wrist.  The cries and tears slowly came from the group as we turned around and reached our hands towards the Chicago skyline hoping the turtle would come back to us.  Rest in peace, turtle, you had the best view of the festival.

It was no surprise to anyone that GRiZ was dropping the funk back at Perry's.  He even threw in “Kung Fu Fighting” to keep the fun going in his set.  GRiZ's visualizations were also on point.  He later mentioned in my interview with him the following day that he had taken a role into the visualizations of his sets.

GRiZ At Lollapalooza 2016

Photo by Greg Noire

After taking advantage of the opportunity to see Radiohead live at the Samsung stage, I bolted to the other end of the festival grounds to the Bud Light stage to catch Major Lazer.  Their stage presence combined with the lighting, CO2 and pyro had everyone in the crowd jumping.  Then, about halfway through a remix of “This Is What You Came For”, the power cut off.  Surprisingly, the crowd wasn't rioting and stayed patient.  The stage lights and cameras came back on, showing Jillionaire trying to get sound from his deck.  Suddenly, the sound came back on and the party was back in full force.  Unfortunately, this only lasted a couple tracks until the power cut off for the second time.  This turned away a decent chunk of fans, but the everything powered back up to Diplo saying they blew a second generator, and the set continued.  The nearby Navy Pier fireworks display was going off in the background which added to the already amazing scenery of the Chicago skyline behind Major Lazer.  Finally, M0 was brought out for “Lean On”.  After doing my best Diplo Cam impression in my phone, it was time to wrap up night two.

Major Lazer Lollapalooza 2016

Photo by Roger Ho

Day 3

My timing with the Texans had finally lined up and we left our AirBnB together for the first time to grab lunch near Lollapalooza.  We compared day schedules and shared our experiences over the past couple days.  We finished our lunch we went our separate ways since they were off to check out Honeysuckle, and I wanted to check out the activities throughout the festival grounds.

I had some time to check out what else Lollapalooza had to offer, so I did a little exploring around the grounds.  My first stop was at the Pepsi booth where they were promoting their new ginger cola drink.  Here, they had a cool Citron bus from the 1960's along with two live DJs that spun throughout the weekend.

I had heard that the Toyota tent had a cool promotion going on, so that was my next stop.  You could get free arm art, have your favorite city skyline printed to resemble a vinyl record and snag a Lollapalooza bandanna.  They also had a small stage setup where acts like Louis The Child would perform over the weekend.  What I personally loved was the promotion of ‘what music means to you'.  You wrote what music means to you on a colored ball, that ball would get piled on top of other balls to create a huge mural of the Lollapalooza banner.  Each ball represented a donation from Toyota that would be put towards music education in inner-city schools.  Very cool!

After making my rounds, I was back under the powerful sunshine at Perry's once again to kick off the music for the day with Generik.  He dropped a good mix of House music which transitioned nicely into AC Slater.  AC Slater also threw down some great House music, with lots of Hip Hop samples and remixes in between.  Everyone was standing strong in their place waiting for Marshmello as more of the ‘Mellogang' poured into the field.  Once he hit the stage, the entire field was practically filled with people.  Marshmello dropped lots of unreleased music, including a new one from his friend Ookay.  Again, I found myself battling through a stacked crowd to make my way back to the media area to interview GRiZ.

Mellogang Lollapalooza 2016

Photo by Maclay Heriot

GRiZ would later host a happy hour, but that wasn't for another hour.  In the meantime, I walked by JAUZ at Perry's who was dropping new music and made my way into the Samsung stage for Big Grams (Big Boi and Phantogram).  Big Grams had a great variety of music including old school Outkast tracks and the new track they worked on with Skrillex, “Drum Machine”.

I lost track of time during happy hour and was late for Chris Stapelton.  Really late, but I couldn't miss this set!  I grew up on Country music, and Chris Stapelton has been dominating the genre lately. So began the first time I ran through the festival grounds.  He was literally playing on the opposite end of the festival at the bandshell.  When I got there, the area was packed.  I got lucky and found a space on a platform.  People in the crowd slowly swayed left to right as they sang along with “Fire Away” and “Tennessee Whiskey”, his last song of the night.

The weekend was finally taking it's toll on me.  After miles of walking and hours of dancing, my calves were throbbing and my ankles felt twice as big.  I limped my way back, once again, to the opposite side of the festival to catch the band that started it all, Jane's Addiction.  The legendary Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine joined the band and the crowd went absolutely nuts.  The excitement quickly turned into fear when Jane's Addiction famous stage show of girls swinging from their body piercings.  After that, another famous guest, Smashing Pumpkins' drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, joined for “Jane Says”.

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After Jane's Addiction, I turned around and made my way back to the bandshell to check out Slumberjack.  The duo had taken over our Snapchat ( @edmsaucesnaps ) earlier to share all the moments leading up to their first Lolla performance.  It didn't take much for the guys to win over the crowd with their mix of Future and Trap tracks.  After Slumberjack's set I turned around and made short walk to the Bud Light Stage, where Disclosure would wrap up the night.  For once that day, I didn't have far to go.  Disclosure was my favorite show last year because of their flawless production, and they definitely matched that at Lollapalooza.

I left Lollapalooza early on this night to hit an after party with my new friend who I met earlier in the weekend, Liz, from another EDM blog.  We were dropped off on the West side of Chicago for Four Loko's after party to witness a top talent lineup of DJs.  Local DJ Dvnk Sinatrv, Araabmuzik, Jillionaire, and A-Trak all destroyed the warehouse party with heavy bass and highs that were so amazingly overwhelming, you'd be a fool not to rock earplugs.

After getting dropped off at my AirBnB, I heard my name being called from a car nearby.  It was my hostess and her friends.  They were heading down to a local bar to grab one last drink for the night.  I jumped in, and the next thing I know, I'm sipping cocktails made from scratch in a basement bar listening to a DJ spin straight Chicago House.  The crowd was mellow, but still dancing on the small dance floor.  It was such a cool vibe!  By the end of the night, I felt like a part of the city.

Day 4

After that crazy Day 3, I was in no hurry to wake up and get motivated the final day of Lolla.  This was the first year they extended the festival to four days.  I drank enough coconut water to make me half human again and I was on my way back to the festival for a late lunch.  Word spread fast of the amazing treat known as the lobster corn dog from Graham Elliot Bistro.  I had to give this thing a shot.  Let me tell you, it did not disappoint.

I wasn't quite ready for music at this point.  I made my rounds one more time and stopped to watch everyone enjoying the VR experiences at the Samsung booth and also pick up my Lollapalooza anniversary poster from the Lolla shop.

I was finally ready to enjoy some music for the day so I headed down to see Marian Hill at the Samsung Stage.  Marian's amazing voice combined with the spot on beats from the pad controller during “Mistaken” made it worth standing in the heat.

I bumped back into Liz and we both wanted wanted to see Louis The Child.  We checked out SNAILS for a few tracks as we walked by Perry's, then headed to the Pepsi Stage where Louis The Child was killing it in front of huge crowd that spread through the trees.  Unfortunately, some of these people thought they could get a better view and climbed the trees.  Security was quick to break that up, which was good because we weren't looking forward to trying to catch any 18 year olds falling from the sky.  Louis The Child later brought out both GRiZ and Big Gigantic.  Saxophones galore!

Between the next sets I was on my way to see, I had the chance to chat with the guys from Snakehips before their upcoming set that evening to see what was new.  Lollapalooza was one of the stops during their current tour.  They also had a single recently drop titled “Cruel” featuring Zayn.  In the EDM world, we're familiar with tons of remixes of their hit “All My Friends”.  The guys had told me that their favorite remix was the Wave Racer remix.  Good choice mates!

At Perry's Seven Lions was dropping a wide range of Trance tracks.  The perfect soundtrack for Sunday at festival.  As he wrapped up his set with a slightly modified version of “Strangers”, a flag with ‘And without you I can't be' waved peacefully above the beautiful crowd of Trance fans.  Later I caught up with Seven Lions where we chatted about the important things in life, like beer and Trance.

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Right after meeting Seven Lions, I had the opportunity to meet Jackal.  This guy had a smile on his face the whole time I was talking to him.  The excitement he had to play his first Lollapalooza was contagious.

When Jackal and I wrapped up the interview.  I looked over the nearby fence at the Samsung Stage to find a sea of people.  This was by far the biggest crowd I saw at Lollapalooza all weekend.  They were all there for one man, the one and only Flume.  I joined the crowd as best as I could and as the vibes of Flume's “Say It” poured over everyone.  Fellow Lolla performer Vince Staples jumped on stage to perform “Smoke & Retribution” alongside Flume.

It felt like I was just hanging out with Jackal a few minutes ago, but he was already at the bandshell tearing up his set.  When I arrived, he played his unreleased track with Brillz, which had samples of Missy Elliot's “Work It”.  With all the excitement flowing through Jackal, there was zero hesitation to jumping on the mic. ‘Are you bassheads ready?!' he yelled, then proceeded to dropping some Bassnectar sounding tracks.  He ended the set with his newly released track “Anonymous”.

Once again, I had the convenience of the bandshell location to my advantage to grabbing a decent spot to watch the beginning of Ellie Goulding's set.  Her introduction was amazing.  The LED screens lit up to various shots of Ellie's face as her ‘Ahhhhh' vocals continued for a couple minutes before she hit the stage and jumped straight into “Aftertaste”.

As much as I loved Ellie, I had to walk back to catch the reunion of LCD Soundsystem.  On my way back, people were pilling into the Pepsi Stage area one last time to see ZHU.  The back lighting of the stage was slowly lighting up along with the ZHU symbol as I walked by.  I decided to cut back one last time near the Buckingham Fountain.  The fountain was lit up in various colors.  A perfect setting for one last photo of someone's Lollapalooza experience.

I had finally reached my final performance of the weekend, LCD Soundsytem.  This was truly the perfect performance to end the festival on.  People from all ages were dancing with each other in the crowd and the older folks were cheering along as “Losing My Edge” was played.

My body had finally caved and convinced me to leave before the performance was over.  But before I left, I had to make one last stroll near the main entrance, catching the lit up pillars of past performers of Lollapalooza.  Everyone from Billy Idol to Kanye West was shown, along with a rectangular box pasted with posters of past Lolla lineups.  I bumped into a man who was had attended every show since 1992.  We talked about our love of the old Punk and Rock bands, as well as a general appreciation of all the other performances.   The perfect way to end the festival, appreciating what had brought everyone together, the music.

I'd like to thank Lollapalooza for allowing me to fulfill my dream of attending the festival, as well as all the artists who took time out of their crazy schedules to talk with me.  Since this was Lollapalooza's 25th anniversary aka the ‘Silver Anniversary', I asked the artists one final random question, as most festival interviews do.  I asked ‘If you could take anything in the world, turn it into silver, and give it to Lollapalooza, what would that be?'.  Here were their responses:

Party Favor:  An umbrella

Audien:  A music note

GRiZ:  A water slide

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Snakehips:  A horse

Jackal:  Materialize all the positive vibes and spread it to Lolla

Seven Lions:  A Doc Martin boot



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