Saturday’s Lollapalooza 2012 lineup featured a host of marquee headliners like Red Hot Chili Peppers, Avicii and Frank Ocean, but the literal showstopper of the festival’s second day was Mother Nature.
At 3:30 p.m. CT, prompted by warnings from the National Weather Service, festival producers C3 Presents evacuated all 90,000 attendees, artists and staff members from Chicago’s Grant Park and shut down the Lollapalooza for more than two hours as heavy rain, hail, lightning and gusts of over 70 mph pounded the Windy City.
“Our first priority is always the safety of our fans, staff and artists,” said Shelby Meade, communications director for C3, in a statement posted to the festival’s website. “We regret having to suspend any show, but safety always comes first.”
Lolla staff and the Chicago Police Department directed festival-goers to three pre-established underground evacuation and shelter sites near the grounds, though many attendees opted to take shelter in bars and hotels along Michigan Ave. where — for many — the party continued until the gates reopened at 6 p.m. to the triumphant sounds of the “Star Wars” theme.
When the music finally restarted at 6:30 p.m., several artists like Alabama Shakes, B.o.B and the Temper Trap had been cut from the revised schedule. But the fest rolled on as planned for fans of Fun., Franz Ferdinand, Bloc Party, Calvin Harris and the 13 other bands who rocked the soggy park grounds until the extended 10:45 p.m. curfew. Here’s highlights of what went down before, during and after Storm-a-palooza 2012:
“Let’s get wet, let’s get funky with mother nature,” frontman Anthony Kiedis said as the Red Hot Chili Peppers kicked into gear with 1999’s “Around The World” during their 16-song storm-delayed but extremely well-attended set on the Red Bull stage shortly after 9 p.m. The masses had ample opportunity to sway and sing along as the three-peating Lolla headliners (1992, 2006, 2012) opted for a more mellow, somewhat subdued vibe (“Snow (Hey Oh),” “By The Way,” “Under The Bridge,” “Californication”) studded with instrumental bass and full band imporv/jams. But yes, of course, the Chili Peppers did get funky, both in sound (“If You Have To Ask,” “Give It Away”) and in commentary, with shirtless, tireless bassist Flea making pronouncements both fierce (“Power to the people! F*ck the 1 percent!”), funny (“Watch out for the splashback on the porta potties”) and heartfelt (“Go see Frank Ocean! Support live music. We’re all together here, one human race,” he said, listing genres of all flavors).
“You have no idea how glad I am to see you!” Franz Ferdinand‘s lead singer and guitarist Alex Kapranos cried out at the beginning of the band’s set. Too bad most of the audience couldn’t see him and his band members, since the jumbotrons flanking the stage remained off when group kicked off their 7:30 p.m. set. Still, the crowd enjoyed itself immensely, with some forming synchronized dance circles during the Scottish band’s onslaught of upbeat rockers. Highlights included party-starters like “Michael,” “Do You Want To” and “This Fire.” And once the live screens finally flashed on, the audience caught Kapranos’ eyes widen to screams as they broke into their biggest hit “Take Me Out.”
If there’s one thing Calvin Harris knows how to do, it’s throw a party. As the sun set over the Chicago skyline, the audience packed in at the Perry’s stage was raging, with limbs flailing in the air, beach balls flying, and thousands of fans jumping to the beat. Onstage, Harris stood behind a massive set up, sampling songs like crowd-favorite “Save the World Tonight” as strobes flashed and smoke filled the air. When the stage went black a few seconds into “We Found Love,” the audience held its breath in anticipation of a Coachella-style Rihanna appearance. Alas, the pop star didn’t join Harris onstage this time, but that didn’t stop the crowd full of muddy teenagers from screaming along to the hit. When Harris’ set ended at the Perry’s stage, a stream of EDM fans made their way down Columbus Dr. to the Bud Light stage where Avicii‘s set was just kicking off. Shrouded in shadows, the Swedish DJ/producer played his set from inside a giant white head, with lasers shooting out over the crowd. He played “Levels” early in the set, but dropped plenty of other anthems through his 90-minute set, remixing artists from Lenny Kravitz to Robyn as the entire crowd sang and bobbed in unison.
Festival organizers were starting to look nervous near the Google Play stage where Frank Ocean was scheduled to play at 9:45 p.m. With just minutes to go before his set — which had been pushed back an hour because of rain delays — the buzzy R&B star was nowhere to be found. As the crowd began chanting “Frank, Frank, Frank,” Ocean finally arrived, and his crew moved with lightning speed to get all of the band’s equipment onstage. But everything calmed to a hush when Ocean walked to the mic and kicked off his intimate, 60-minute set with an acoustic cover of Sade’s “By Your Side.” Ocean and his four-piece live band led the audience through a quiet storm of modern soul tunes that included breakout tracks “Novacane,” “Swim Good” and “American Wedding,” as well as new cuts from his critically-acclaimed “channel ORANGE” release. The crowd matched Ocean’s soaring falsetto during “Thinkin Bout You” and swayed to the pulsating groove of the closing “Pyramids.” But the most rapturous response was saved for the heart-wrenching “Bad Religion,” a same-sex love ballad that Ocean said was “important … for some of the things I’ve said in the past month. It’s taken the fear away. I’m grateful for that love.” The bandana-wearing singer then closed his eyes and belting out the tune with an almost palpable sincerity that brought the audience to knees and reminded everyone in earshot why he’s R&B’s current golden boy.
Aloe Blacc was one of the lucky acts to get a set in before the storm, and the California musician may have been a big reason so fans were so calm and cheery while evacuating. “I’m going to give you a chance to dance with friends. Hold their hands and just dance,” instructed the soul singer who explained the ’70s “Soul Train Line” concept to the crowd during “You Make Me Smile.” While the audience failed to create the classic two-line dance, lots seemed satisfied with the feel-good performance which included an extra horn-heavy performance of his international hit “I Need A Dollar.”
In the middle of Neon Indian‘s set, singer Alan Palomo announced, “So apparently we need to end in 10 minutes because of a storm.” The band played one of their most notable tracks, “Polish Girl,” before the singer announced “Actually we need to end right now.” It was a shame, as the group was a true sonic treat during the time they got to perform. The band paired electronic synthesizers and keyboards with a live drummer and bassist and — of course — Palomo’s fluctuating vocal runs, resulting in a performance that was set to be one of Saturday’s highlights. But ultimately, the show was cut too short for fans to fully appreciate indie band’s on-stage prowess.
Spoon’s Britt Daniel, in town to play a gig as part of Divine Fits, wasn’t even at Lollapalooza itself, but he sure was checking out (and snapping photos of) the Lolla-evacuee party raging in the lobby of the Michigan Avenue Hilton, across the street from the festival grounds. “Chaos is exciting,” Daniel told Billboard of how the hubbub drew him out into the action. “I heard the screaming and chanting and it made me want to get out of my hotel room and check it out.” Part of the screaming Daniel heard was due to British folk band the Dunwells . With their set on the BMI stage cancelled, the band serenaded a group of fans on the lobby piano while the storm raged outside.
tUne-YaRdS frontwoman Merrill Garbus was eager to restart the music once the festival was restarted. The vocalist and percussionist walked onstage before the rest of her bandmates and began looping her yodeling vocals, which acted almost as a battle cry back to the festival. “This is never how I imagined Lollapalooza to be,” she told the crowd. “Mud dancing, slipping and sliding on stage. I want to thank the Lollapalooza staff for getting us all out safe.” A flock of geese milling around the puddle-strewn field agreed, honking both in unison and in the same key as her skronky sax section.
One of the few bands to see its cancelled set rescheduled, Fun. reopened Lollapalooza with a 6:30 p.m. show in the tress at the GooglePlay stage. Although they were at one of the smaller stages, it was the show to be at, with fans flooding into the street beyond the packed stage area. After a 30-minute set of tunes from the band’s two studio albums, Fun. finished by leading a full-crowd sing-a-long of the hits: “We Are Young” and “Some Nights.”
Lollapalooza may have lost two prime hours of sets on Saturday afternoon because of the severe weather, but anyone at Jane’s Addiction‘s sold-out Lolla aftershow at the Aragon had it personally made up to them by the man who founded the festival, Perry Farrell. After Franz Ferdinand and uMe opened, Farrell reminded everyone exactly how a rock show is done when Jane’s took the stage around 12:20 a.m. with a fusillade of barbed, perfectly formed favorites that had the sweaty, ecstatic crowd chanting along. Nostalgic stops of the setlist included “Stop,” “Been Caught Stealing,” “Ain’t No Right,” “Ocean Size,” “Ted, Just Admit It,” “Jane Says,” and a goosebump-inducing rendition of the rarely-played and highly appropriate “Summertime Rolls.” Dressed first in a pimped out fedora and baggy slacks and then shirtless and as sweaty as the crowd, Farrell exhorted everyone to get laid, gave a shootout to the “badass” Chicago-native Smashing Pumpkins (who Perry said opened for Jane’s during their first Chicago gig back in the day) and Ozzy Osbourne (“he’s a cute devil”). As a real surprise, the band invited out Stephen Perkins from Perry’s post-Jane’s band Porno For Pyros for a cover of the group’s single “Cursed Female.” “Another Lollapalooza, you’d think I’d be worn out by now,” Perry joked. Not a chance.