The 16th anniversary of the mega-music festival Lollapalooza, held for the eighth consecutive year in Chicago’s Grant Park, will be remembered as much for the inclement weather as for the music itself. A torrential downpour and dangerous conditions on Saturday afternoon forced a full evacuation of the grounds, pushing back some sets and canceling others altogether. Not to be outdone, Friday and Sunday produced sweltering temperatures that soared into the mid-90′s, making prime viewing areas in the shade a hot commodity. Still, Mother Nature couldn’t put a damper on the weekend for many of the estimated 270,000 fans that flooded into the festival over the three-day period.
RCT reporter Daniel Trainor braved the elements and, below, provides his top 5 memorable moments from Lollapalooza 2012:
It’s quite a wonder to see a superstar emerge right in front of your eyes. That’s what Frank Ocean was able to do on Saturday night. After the downpour, up against headliners Red Hot Chili Peppers and Avicii, Ocean calmly took to the smaller, more intimate Google Play stage and quietly stole the entire weekend. Opening with a gorgeous cover of Sade’s “By Your Side,” he transitioned into songs from his 2011 mixtape Nostalgia, Ultra before anchoring the set with material from his wonderful feature-length debut Channel Orange. It was a stunning display of showmanship and a true establishment of Frank Ocean as not only a name to watch for, but a name to pay attention to right now.
Having the opportunity to watch Jack White and his band perform is similar to a musical masterclass. Possessing the soul of a retro blues aficionado while still managing to be cutting-edge, White motored through his set that spanned the discography of his career, including fan favorites from his time with The White Stripes and The Raconteurs, as well as a number of songs from his 2012 release Blunderbuss. Closing out the Red Bull Stage on Sunday night, White was first joined by his all-male backing band, Los Buzzardos, before making way for his all-female backing band, the Peacocks, to close out the evening. It was a funky, eclectic and very fitting end to the weekend that served as warning for the younger bands on the bill – they may be on the cusp of greatness, but they still have a long way to go.
For many of the attendees at M83‘s Friday evening set, it was clear that the motive was “let’s go see that band that plays ‘Midnight City!’” It’s a shame, too, that so many people left after the French band played their energetic hit single from last year’s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming because what followed may have been the best moment of the festival. Under dark skies and with the stage lights in their full brilliance, Anthony Gonzalez and his mates tore into “Couleurs” from 2008′s Saturdays = Youth like it was to be their last performance on Earth. It was equal parts gritty and elegant, with such depth and dimension that you’d swear there were 20 different musicians on stage. It was a stark reminder that M83 isn’t just “that band that plays “Midnight City.”
Attempting to explain a Die Antwoord live performance isn’t really something that can be done succinctly. It needs to be seen to be believed. Composed of lead vocalists Ninja and Yo-Landi Vi$$er and backed by DJ Hi-Tek, the South African rap-rave group is visceral, sexual and over-the-top. The shock value can lean on the outrageous and ridiculous, but the music is so meticulously-produced and catchy that it all blends into an entirely unique experience. Ninja spent the majority of the set wearing only a pair of boxers with Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon album artwork printed on the front and Y0-Landi went through a number of costume changes, including an entirely gold Spandex ensemble. It was weird, it was jarring, but when the group went into “I Fink U Freeky” and instructed the entire crowd to ‘jump!’ for what felt like 10 minutes…it didn’t matter.
A detriment to most involved, the festival’s evacuation on Saturday afternoon may have been the best thing that could have happened to Bloc Party‘s set. Forced to play later in the evening than originally planned, the night sky allowed for the lights on the Sony stage to come to life and for the band to truly shine. Playing material from their previous four albums and their upcoming record Four (released August 20th), lead singer Kele Okereke sounded as fresh and vibrant as ever and his band mates were tight and crisp. After the storm, the entire festival grounds had a sort of eerie, end-of-days feel and Bloc Party was the perfect soundtrack to bring everybody back to life.