With Lollapalooza comes a mix of nearly every emotion. There was anger before Vampire Weekend took the stage, as hordes of tweens pushed themselves to the front, spilling beer and getting on the nerves of the older folks in the crowd. There was joy at Charles Bradley’s triumphant performance since it was so clear he was having the time of his life. There was also joy at the doughnuts provided by Chicago’s amazing Glazed & Infused. There was disgust at the countless offensive Native American headdresses and crude t-shirts, as well as disgust at the many couples grinding and getting to second base during indie pop shows. There was sadness from the Death Grips fans who were thoroughly disappointed from the band’s boorish behavior by choosing not the show up to the festival. There was surprise at how amazing The Cure still sounds. And finally, there was a whole lot of fun had at the Disclosure and Phoenix shows.
Lolla always has its highs and lows. But each year, the highlights come from the smaller acts who can surprise and win over crowds. While the rest of the masses and festival recappers were attending more popular shows at bigger stages, five acts secretly stole the show.
Father John Misty
Father John Misty is Josh Tillman’s most recent stage name, whose latest album Fear Fun nearly topped my Best Of 2012 albums list. Formerly the drummer of Fleet Foxes, Tillman has successively released eight solid solo albums with Fear Fun being the most adventurous and, well, the most fun.
He kicked off his three o’clock set at the Lake Shore stage with a powerful rendition of album opener “Funtimes In Babylon,” his smooth voice not missing a note throughout the entire set. On stage, Tillman hammed it up, employing dramatic dance moves and his awkwardly charming rock star charisma. His stage banter was also hilarious, further exaggerating his goofball personality that shines on Fear Fun. Throughout the show, he tossed out gems like, “I heard a girl here say ‘I hate the rain.’ Rain makes civilization possible. Civilization enables groupthink—and groupthink makes it possible for shitty music to be huge…so I love the rain!”
Each year some of Lolla’s smallest shows take place at the tree and shade-filled BMI Stage. California’s Pacific Air drew only a fraction of the crowd that local wunderkind Chance The Rapper would an hour later but everyone in attendance seemed glad they were there. Formerly known as KO KO, Pacific Air rolled through the songs from their very brief career and sounded as crisp as if they were playing their first LP Stop Talking on the loudspeakers. Even though the show was sparsely attended, there were still crowd surfers during the band’s hit, “Float.”
After leaving the BMI stage, I overheard a man and his wife bragging about how they’re going to tell all their friends that they saw the “next big thing” when everyone else was waiting to see “the big thing” Imagine Dragons and I’m inclined to agree with them.
Michigan’s Frontier Ruckus kicked off Saturday at the BMI Stage with their earnest brand of folk-rock. They performed a brief cover of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” that sort of bordered on twee, but as the first set on Saturday, a not very hungover crowd was willing to indulge them. Deciding not to see the banjos in the sure-to-be-unbearably-packed sets from The Lumineers and Mumford & Sons, I was willing to watch the Michigan group pluck at their banjos, horns, and even saws to “oh ohs” and emotional crescendos. It was a fun set, and their last effort Eternity of Dimming is well worth checking out.
Daniel Pujol exemplifies the DIY scene in Nashville, performing a rollicking early afternoon show at The Grove. I doubt many attending had even heard of the Saddle Creek signees, but as they kept playing, more and more festivalgoers strolled in. The humorous stage banter from the frontman was refreshing, as was the band’s sound that, at times, lackadaisically recalled old R.E.M., punk rock energy, and the blues-tinged riffs of The Rolling Stones. Daniel Pujol’s energy and endearing “I don’t care” attitude made me very excited for Kludge, Pujol’s upcoming album that will hit stores later this year.
Chicago’s own brother sister duo, Wild Belle played the Lake Shore stage clad in sunglasses and white suits. Fortunately, their brand of neo-soul and genre-hopping pop complements their classy attire. After a relatively lackluster start, the band won over the crowd after the upbeat “Another Girl” and kept getting better from there. Despite being very tired from two days of heat, beer, and live music, Wild Belle kept the attention of the crowd, lifted spirits, and kept minds off their hangovers. The set reminded me to put the band’s LP, Isles back on constant rotation.