In case you missed my recap of Friday’s Lollapalooza highlights, have no fear little lambs, I’ve got you covered. I had an incredible time that night and got to see one of my favorite musicians, Sharon Van Etten, but when my alarm went off on Saturday I felt like Ralphy from A Christmas Story when he finally got his Red Rider BB gun. That was to be the day I finally got to take in the guttural soul from Alabama Shakes; watch LP command the stage with her incredible voice; watch in amazement as Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs live-looped her instruments and vocals; danced like no one was watching to Bloc Party and finished my night with my main man Frank Ocean. I was on cloud Lebowski even while taking the slowest bus in Chicagoland to drop me off over a mile away from where I actually needed to be in the hot hot heat.
The day got off to a great start with an artist who has only recently been an addition to my regular playlist rotation. Aloe Blacc is a great performer and the sun pounding on his stage didn’t take away any of the funk from his soulful music. There were a few points during his set where I couldn’t help but compare him to Stevie Wonder from his earlier years. To add to his charm, he’s got a great falsetto.
I went back to the press area to prepare for some interviews I had later in the day and suddenly everything went to shit. The power was seemingly shut off out of nowhere and bloggers, radio stations and videographers were in a panic that sounded like the angry mob on its way to the castle in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Very quickly, the anger turned into fright when security swarmed into our area and said loudly, “Everybody needs to evacuate! It’s not safe here! Everybody out, NOW!” My lower lip quivered and I could only think, “B-b-b-but what about the shows I wanted to see?”
Thankfully I was lucky enough to be surrounded by a group of people that I knew from other freelance work that happens to be headed up by one of my best lesbros. We packed up their gear and headed for shelter at one of their nearby condos — but not before stopping for a quick whiskey, pita chips and hummus run. I wasn’t in the Girl Scouts but I do know how to be prepared.
About five minutes after stepping into the condo, the skies became an ominous mass of gray clouds like something out of the Ghostbusters movie. Someone took a fantastic time lapse video of the storm as it came and went:
Crazy, right? This was the view from where I was staying:
As things calmed down, we waited patiently for news of the festival being opened back up to the public. My phone and internet reception was pathetic all weekend long so I didn’t realize things had been able to open up as quickly as they did. I was also in the process of tracking down a man who had answered my friend’s phone which she had lost earlier in the day and my detective skills were being thwarted by more bad reception.
By the time I was able to get back to the media area the headliners had already started. I heard about a song and a half from Santigold and it sounded pretty good, though other friends gave her overall performance a lackluster review. My main concern was booking it to the stage that Frank Ocean‘s gorgeous voice was at. Not only is his recently-released album, Channel Orange, a slice of heaven, but his song, “Thinkin’ Bout You” has been on repeat in my head regardless if it is actually being played anywhere. This man knows how to string words together and dig in to the often difficult-to-express poetic raw emotion.
The rain may have washed away my chance to see some of the other great artists that day but this Ocean was mighty enough to leave me in a state of total bliss.
Sunday morning I got up, checked the weather and was happy to see I wouldn’t be needing to pack a canoe or life jacket with me. I was also happy to see that the festival grounds had plenty of spaces for me to walk and sit without being caked in mud.
I had a few interviews that needed to be taken care of in the early part of the day but was able to head to the electronic area and catch a brilliant performance by Little Dragon whose album, Ritual Union, was one of my top albums of 2011. The music was infectious and singer Yukimi Nagano’s voice was crystal clear and sensual while the mid-tempo beats got the crowd pumped on dancing. The audio from this video should give you a good idea of the sound but please don’t judge the beauty of my fair city by the long line of dude-bros hopping the fence and walking out through the security exit.
I couldn’t stay for the entire set but I can’t wait to see them in a smaller venue. The next highlight was The Dum Dum Girls, who I got to see with one of my favorite gays, Joe from HuffPo Chicago. We had a little slow dance together and held our breath while Dee Dee blasted out a flawless long note during, “Coming Down.” I’m pretty sure I gave myself a neck injury from cranking my neck from side to side while trying to decide which of the ladies I had the biggest crush on. The votes haven’t all been tallied yet but so far Malia, the bassist, is in the lead. I mean, me-owwww.
Earlier in the day I had the opportunity to interview one of the most adorable musicians I’ve ever sat down with: Yuna. She was beautiful and had a wide-eyed nervous excitement about her that made me like her even more. When we left the Dum Dum Girls, Joe and I headed over to the side stage that Yuna was playing at and spotted a middle-aged man in the center of the crowd staring up at her with the most blissed-out smile on his face. It was easy to understand why he was so happy — she was engaging, humble and her smooth soulful voice sounded incredible. Her debut album came out just a couple of weeks ago so if you haven’t heard her before, keep your eyes and ears out for this one.
I walked away from the Yuna experience feeling peaceful and content only to head in the direction of a crowd of people who, I’m fairly certain, could have turned Ghandi to the dark side. I’m sure that Of Monsters and Men sounded great and were entertaining but unfortunately I was unable to hear them over the shrieks of young, incredibly drunk, half-naked girls running through the crowd while elbowing me out of the way exclaiming, “I need to PISS!” Much like the mini-jorts, that is not cute at all. Also, there is almost nothing that will get my Napoleon complex to rear its ugly head than being pushed out of the way of someone. Right after that mess of a human left, a new crew of girls with the giggles arrived and thought it would be really fun to wear inflatable pool rings around their waists so that they could use their bodies like bumper cars to ram through the rest of the crowd. I had no choice but to leave before turning into Dark Mia.
I was shocked to find an empty shaded spot within hearing reach of Florence + The Machine so I hunkered down and stayed for a while before too many people got the same idea and got all up in my kool-aid. I couldn’t see her but as a frequent concert-goer who is five feet tall, I rarely see more than the back of someone’s shirt, so it didn’t bother me. I thought she sounded good but I’ve seen her live show before and was really in the mood to change things up a bit. I am a huge fan of Flo’s dress, though.
I had to cut my day a little bit short in order to head to an after-party (which ended up being so disorganized that I left shortly after it started) but the band I ended my 2012 festival experience with gave a fantastically rocking powerhouse of a performance.
I guess I’m not sure what I was expecting from The Jezabels but for some reason they weren’t what I had pictured in my head. Not only did they sound great live but they were exciting to watch as well. Singer Hayley Mary slithered and lunged all over the stage, making sure every person in the audience had a chance to see who was singing to them. I watched as people on their way to other stages stopped to stay and listen to The Jezabels instead of heading to their original destination — and, really, that’s what these festivals are all about: Hearing artists you may have never heard before and experiencing it with friends, strangers and possibly strangers who will become friends.