Lollapalooza 2011: Day One
Day one of Lollapalooza, the annual three-day music festival that now takes place in Chicago every August, began with a 10am press conference to commemorate the its 20th anniversary. Started by Jane’s Addiction front man Perry Farrell in 1991, Lollapalooza originally toured the country. But six years ago, it turned into a destination festival set at Chicago’s lakeside Grant Park. Reps from the city were on hand to talk about how successful Lollapalooza has been – it brings $80 million into the local economy each year and festival organizers have given some $8 million to city parks. Perry Farrell described its fans lovingly as a collection of “weirdoes” before introducing Graham Elliot Bowles, the chef who curates the festival food vendors, and Ace of Cakes star Duff Goldman, who created a giant 20th anniversary cake. After a champagne toast, the festival was officially launched.
First up at 12:45pm, we caught the Vaccines, a brash London band that delivered spot-on renditions of its overseas hits such as “Post Break-Up Sex” and “Blow It Up,” both of which are from its debut, What Did You Expect from the Vaccines? Singer Justin Young doesn’t exactly look the part of a rock star, but his vocals soared with Morrissey-like fervor, particularly on the set-closing “Norgaard.” Next up, on the recommendation of a friend, we caught a few songs from Naked and Famous, an indie pop act out of New Zealand that sounds a bit like MGMT. They didn’t really keep our attention so we moved on to the shadier and breezier BMI stage to see Electric Touch, an act we knew nothing about and which proved to be the biggest surprise of the day. An Austin group with an English singer, these guys played straight up American rock that was consistently engaging. They even pulled off a credible cover of “Blitzkrieg Bop.”
Then it was on to Foster the People, the L.A. indie pop band best known for its hit “Pumped Up Kicks.” It played the track late in its 45 minutes and sounded alright, though we were a bit confused by their decision to cover Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold.” Brit rapper Tinie Tempah was particularly enthusiastic during his high-energy set, exclaiming that he was having the “most fun” he has had on his current tour. We didn’t quite share his sentiments but he did deliver on the set closing “Written in the Stars,” his club hit. And, hot off their performance at President Obama’s birthday party, OK Go donned matching suits and never took themselves too seriously their terrific set that closed with a feel-good sing-along of “This Too Shall Pass.”
While we debated between which headliner we’d see (Coldplay or Muse), we settled on Coldplay because their light show was reported to be so spectacular. And it was. Brightly colored lasers flickered across the heads of the fans that gathered in front of one of the festival’s two main stages as singer Chris Martin was clearly enthused to be playing what he said was the band’s “first proper concert back in America.” Songs such as “Yellow” and “In My Place” were meticulously rendered, but since Coldplay isn’t really our thing, we headed out a few minutes before the final notes to beat the mass exodus of some 90,000 people.
We’ve been going to Lolla for five years straight, so we do have some tips for making the trip.
First, book your hotel through Southwest. We’re passed the point of wanting to stay at a hostel or some divey cheap hotel. We’ve found Southwest to consistently have the best deals here in Chicago during the fest. We’ve stayed at The Dana, The Palmer House and, this year, The Allegro. All within walking distance (healthy walking distance) of Lolla. (Our Fitbit pedometers tracked more than 23,000 steps in day one.)
Get a three-day $14 CTA pass. You can ride the L through Chicago pretty much wherever you want to go. It’s handy after you’ve spent as many as ten hours traversing the uneven terrain of Grant Park.
Which also means, wear comfortable shoes. We promise you, even the featherweight hipster chicks with ironic ‘80s clothes and perfectly disheveled hair are sporting flats.
And consider dropping in at The Berghoff, Chicago’s oldest restaurant serving “fine German fare.” It is in the heart of The Loop near theaters, shops and, for many Lolla-goers, on the way to the fest. You’ll feel like you traveled back in time in their dining room, café and bar, and this retro vibe perfectly suits the pierogi and locally-brewed beer. (Don’t drink, try their draft rootbeer.)