After the sweltering heat of Friday and the show-halting storm of Saturday, the closing Sunday of Lollapalooza 2012 struck a balance with the sun shining brilliantly on Chicago’s Grant Park for the emotional wallop of Florence and the Machine, the ethereal sounds of Sigur Ros, and plenty of earnest rock from the Gaslight Anthem and Of Monsters And Men under the trees.
As night fell, and the cool Lake Michigan breezes blew in, the color-coded Lolla headliner lineup that began with double Black (Sabbath, Keys) on Friday and Red (Hot Chili Peppers) on Saturday, closed with the color of surrender as (Jack) White unleashed dirty blues rock and warbling harmonies over the vast south end of the park, while the beats of Kaskade and Justice mingled with the rhymes flowing from the packed stage where Childish Gambino was holding court.
No one could possibly see every move made on and around Lolla’s eight stages on Sunday, but with an end-of-camp feeling flowing, we sure did try. Here are 10 of the most notable things we witnessed on Lolla 2012 day 3:
Jack White started his set a few minutes late and ended a few minutes early, but the Detroit rocker truly made the most of the electrifying set. White looked quite unkempt, but as usual, his vocals and playing were completely on point. Most of the performance played out as a big jam session, with White and his all-male backing band (Los Buzzardos) rocking out at the end of the first song, “Sixteen Saltines.” White hopped from songs from his recent solo album “Blunderbuss” to older White Stripes material, including “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground,” “Hotel Yorba,” and “The Same Boy You’ve Always Known.” The backing band then changed to an all-female one (The Peacocks,) where White shared several duets with the tambourine player. Throughout the night, White yipped and howled, ripped guitar chords, and spoke sparsely with the audience for the longest final performance at the 2012 Red Bull stage. The set concluded with a four-song encore that climaxed with The White Stripes’ biggest hit, “Seven Nation Army,” much to the satisfaction of the crowd who could be heard chanting the song’s memorable melody as they exited the park.
In a gauzy magenta Alexander McQueen dress that flowed with the wind (and fans) as she fluttered, Florence Welch (and her Machine) commanded a dedicated crowd on the Bud Light stage Sunday evening, conjuring genuinely emotional reactions from the audience that ranged from waving arms and fervent sing-alongs (all the way to the back of the field) to piercing screams and outright tears of joy. With her arms out to the crowd and her powerful, ethereal voice calling forth the epic notes of songs well-known (“Dog Days Are Over”) and never-before-played-live (the dramatic, orchestral “Breath of Life,” from the “Snow White and the Huntsman” soundtrack), the entire audience was ready to do her bidding. “Chicago, we need you. We are Florence & the Machine and we demand human sacrifices,” she said fittingly right before “Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up),” asking as many people as possible to get up onto each other’s shoulders. During the song’s sweeping choruses, Florence did just the opposite, climbing down off the stage to literally skip through the barrier between band and fans to shake hands all up and down the front row (and down the middle of the crowd in the maw of the T-barricade). Florence joked that since they were British they were “not big on public displays of affection,” which was anything but true as she turned “Spectrum (Say My Name)” into an opportunity to induce the thousands-strong throng to turn to hug their neighbor. Based some of the action going on in the back of the field, Lollapalooza 2013 may even find several of these people the proud parents of infants that exist because of this Florence and the Machine set.
French dance duo Justice made their name by getting parties started, and on Sunday night, they proved that they know how to end them too. As the headlining band on the north-end Bud Light stage, the group brought out all the stops – including LED Marshall stacks and their trademark disco cross — and rocked the crowd with a fist-pumping set of tracks from their two acclaimed albums. Samples of “we are your friends/ you never will be alone again” dropped in throughout the set, echoing what many fans felt as the left Grant Park for the final time.
Although most of the late-night crowd was split between Justice’s and Jack White’s headlining sets, Childish Gambino packed the Google Play stage with what may have been the most energetic set of the weekend. Gambino — a.k.a. Donald Glover — announced early on that the show was his first Lollapalooza performance ever, and he seemed as excited to be there as the fans. He rocked his way through songs like “You See Me” and “Unnecessary,” bouncing around the stage in a pair of denim cutoffs and a T-shirt that found its way into the crowd by the end of the set. When a sweaty Glover dashed off stage after the show, chants of “Donald,” “Gambino,” and “one more song” fell on deaf ears for the next 15 minutes.
4 p.m. isn’t quite the ideal timeslot for the ethereal, nighttime-approved tunes of Icelandic troupe Sigur Ros, nor is a stinky, main-stage mudpit the ideal locale for their lush, dramatic dream pop. But despite the les-then-perfect conditions, the band still gave an impressive performance on the Redbull Soundstage. Baking in the afternoon sun, the crowd reacted warmly to the band’s set, which leaned heavily on recognizable fair from their catalog, including the entrancing intro “Svefn-g-englar,” the whimsical “Hoppipolla” and face-melting versions of “Saeglopur” and “Popplagio.” The audience may not have understood singer Jonsi Birgisson’s unintelligible stage banter, but his soaring falsetto translated just fine.
Fans were swarming the festival’s south stage, moshing (of course) to the early evening sounds of newly-reunited post-hardcore group At the Drive-In . One of their first shows since getting back together earlier this year, the group — led by frontman Cedric Bixler-Zavala — rocked their way through a 75-minute set with songs like “Metronome Arthritis” and “One Armed Scissor.”
While most electronic acts incorporated striking visuals to their sets, Miike Snow decided to use smoke as their main spectacle. Fog mixed with the stage lights to give an effect in the same vein as Friday act M83, who also provided a soundtrack to the sunset on the Sony stage. Miike Snow played tracks from their debut and sophomore albums, including “Silvia,” “Black & Blue” and “Paddling Out.” Their penultimate choice was an extended version of their most notable track “Animal.” While most Lollapalooza acts chose to end with their most famous songs, it was a smart move on Miike Snow’s part to close with their Lykke Li collaboration “Black Tin Box,” as most people were already shuffling to other stages by the time “Animal” had finished.
North Carolina rapper/singer J. Cole made uninitiated heads turn beyond his stage near the Buckingham Fountain when his vocal flow on “Work Out” slipped into it’s extended quotation of Paula Abdul’s 80’s classic, “Straight Up.”
Overheard at 5 p.m. near the Kidz stage: “I felt a trickle running down my leg and I thought I was peeing on myself,” one rather disgusted woman said to her pal. “Bu tit was just more sweat.” Chicago in August in a nutshell.
The rain washed away a few bands’ sets on Saturday, but one of the artists originally scheduled to play while a storm was rocking Chicago managed to score make-up set times on Sunday. Although Alabama Shakes and B.o.B were no where to be found on the revised lineup, Empires, whose Saturday afternoon set was cut short when Lollapalooza was evacuated, returned to Grant Park to rock the BMI stage Sunday night, just before the headliners closed the show out with a bang.
Singer/rapper Outasight told the audience at his BMI stage that he left Boston that morning, where his flight was delayed, giving him enough time to only have one beer before coming on stage. Yet you’d never know it given the high amount of energy he showed. The BMI stage has been known for finding potential hitmakers early; like pre-“Just Dance” Lady Gaga in 2007 and Ke$ha’s in 2009. With electro-pop tracks like “Tonight Is The Night” and “Now Or Never,” (the latter being his best live track of the set), it may not be long before BMI can brag about Outasight playing their stage first. “When I was little, I … dreamed of playing Lollapalooza,” he told the crowd. “Shit’s pretty f*cking cool.”
Polica continued their hyped-up year with an early set at the Sony stage. Frontwoman Channy Leaneagh looked adorable dancing around the stage like an edgy pixie. She was extremely soft-spoken when thanking and chatting with the crowd, which obviously did not come as a result of a microphone problem, as her vocals were just as double-tracked and distorted as they are on her band’s debut album “Give You The Ghost.” As good as they were, there were no diva antics from this act; Polica stuck around to helped unhook microphones and stage equipment once they finished playing.
Five guys playing bluegrass in a half circle made for an extremely impressive show at the huge Red Bull stage. Trampled By Turtles rocked out with mandolin and fiddle solos, rather than the all-too-familiar guitar jam, for a refreshing mid-afternoon set. The Duluth, Minnesota natives played tracks like “Wait So Long” and “Again” with on-point male harmonies that were like honey to the ears. At one point, the band told the audience they hadn’t chosen enough songs to fill up their allotted time slot. Yet if they were improvising you’d never know it, as each song was pulled off flawlessly.
Malaysian singer Yuna executed an exceptionally enjoyable midday set at the BMI stage. The Pharrell collaborator hit the stage with just a keyboardist as she handled vocals and, at times, ukelele and guitar. With a sheer top, mint green pants, and a fashionable hijab, her outfit made many female viewers turn their heads. Yet, the effortless way she pulled off her impressive vocals would make anyone jealous. Yuna played tracks from her self-titled album, including “Lullabies,” “Island” and the standout “Decorate.”
Lollapalooza 2012 had more in common with the Olympics than you might think. 2000 meter relay? Witness the gaggles of shoeless, jean-shorted teenagers sprinting from one stage to another in order to catch both, say, Zed’s Dead on Perry’s stage and the whomp of Justice closing out the night on the Bud Light stage. Hurdles? How about the wiry folks leaping bike racks to get over to Childish Gabino? Gymnastics? Check. While her decidedly more laid-back thirty-something mom and dad chilled on a blanket watching Jack White moan and rock, a girl no more than 10 years old jumped up to the bass bleeding over from Kaskade’s wobbling throb and went into a manic set of calisthenics-meets-floor-exercises. Gaslight Anthem had fans in the trees, the rock and recycle program had others trying their hands at weightlifting (giant bags of collected beer cans they were turning in for swag). Now if only hangovers and sunburn could get recognition as official sports.