Jetting into Chicago for Lollapalooza 2017, expectations were high for the four-day music festival Aug. 3-6 featuring eight stages in sprawling Grant Park.
Stepping off my flight just before 6 am on Thursday – Day One – I knew I was going to be in for a wild ride until my flight out of O’Hare International at midnight Sunday – two hours after Arcade Fire would close out the festival on the main stage.
After checking-in to my hotel in downtown Chicago, the festival entrance was a stone’s throw away at the intersection of Michigan and Congress. The city was buzzing – it’s estimated 100,000 music fans a day would enter the festival over the weekend.
After getting into the festival, it was time to get my bearings. The Grant Park stage was the festival’s main stage at the southern most point of the festival grounds.
At the opposite end of the festival was the Bud Light stage, the second main stage.
Both of these main stages had smaller sister stages that were diagonally opposite each other. Like clockwork, once the Grant Park stage set finished, the Lakeshore Stage would kick into gear. Likewise, when the last note had been sung at the Bud Light stage, the Titos Stage would then come to life.
Throughout the center of the festival grounds were four other stages: Pepsi, BMI, Perry’s and Kidzapalooza.
It was a bit of a soggy affair on day one – light rain fell throughout the afternoon as the grounds began to fill with attendees.
There were a few hiccups during the afternoon – Migos arrived almost 40 minutes late due to a flight delay.
Former Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher walked off stage about 20 minutes in his set on the main stage late-afternoon. Gallagher left midway through his fourth song ‘Greedy Soul’ – his band kept playing to the end of the song before also leaving the stage. Fans only go to see him perform three full songs: ‘Rock N Roll’ Star’, ‘Morning Glory,’ and ‘Wall Of Glass.’
‘The most unhappy man I’ve ever seen with maracas in his hands,’ someone remarked in the show’s aftermath.
Gallagher would later Tweet that his voice wasn’t up to scratch after performing the night before.
Cage the Elephant put on one of the most energetic and exciting sets of the entire festival as frontman Matthew Schultz wore a sparkling purple dress and fishnet stockings.
He often went running up and down the photo pit and fan barriers front and center of the stage – even climbing onto the roof of a production area at the end of the set.
“Chicago, I love you so much!” Shultz yelled. “You know what’s so powerful about music is its ability to bring people together! We can have one common experience.”
Night one’s big acts Muse and Lorde were cut short after about 15 minutes as festival organizers and the City of Chicago decided to evacuate the festival as rain turned torrential and lightning began to strike too close for comfort.
For the most part, everyone seemed to be okay with the decision as they ran for cover.
Day two had plenty of A-list acts lined up – and the weather cleared up despite a chill in the air and muddy patches around some of the stages.
The grounds began to fill faster in the afternoon, presumably more people had taken off Friday from work than the day earlier.
The Districts kicked off on the Main Stage just before 1 pm. Jidenna followed at 2:45 pm before one of my favorite bands Phantogram at 4:45 pm.
It was the third time I had seen them live. The duo of Josh Carter and Sarah Barthel showed off their new album’s sound that goes in the way of an intriguing, darkly shaded direction, adding new textures to their signature style.
However, it was their hit songs ‘Don’t Move’ and ‘Fall in Love’ that got the crowd buzzing the most during their one-hour set.
Next up on my schedule was Foster The People on the Bud Light stage. A huge crowd gathered as if they were the day’s main headliner. They put on a show for a solid hour, kicking off with ‘Pay the Man’ from their forthcoming third album and closed with megahit ‘Pumped Up Kicks’.
Their set included plenty of hits from their first two albums, including ‘Helena Beat,’ ‘Pseudologia Fantastica’, ‘Doing It for the Money’ and ‘Coming of Age.’
‘I can’t tell you guys how good it feels to be on stage right now playing music with y’ll,” Foster the People frontman Mark Foster told the crowd. “After being in the studio the last couple of years, especially here at Lollapalooza. When Torches came out in the U.S. we were out of the country, we were touring in Australia. When we came back, this was the first festival we played with our record being out.
“I’ll never forget coming here at 3:30 pm on Friday and looking out and seeing beautiful people. It was the first time I ever felt that. We played here after Supermodel, and now we’re playing here with Sacred Hearts Club. It’s like a milestone for us. I know you guys have a lot of choices and a lot of people you could be seeing right now, but thank you for choosing to be here with us.”
The night’s two big acts were The Killers on the Grant Park stage and Blink-182 on the Bud Light stage.
For a little bit of 90s nostalgia, I picked seeing Blink and they turned up to party with fireworks lighting up the festival right above the stage throughout the set.
Opening with ‘Feeling This’ and ‘The Rock Show,’ it was like traveling back in time seeing Mark Hoppus on vocals and Travis Barker on drums.
‘This is the first song off our new album,’ Hoppus yelled, before breaking into ‘Cynical.’
The 90s hits returned with ‘Anthem Part 2’ with plenty of fun banter between songs.
‘Everybody say hi to Matt, he’s from here. It’s your Chicago boy,” Hoppus exclaimed, referring to new guitarist Matt Skiba who joined the band in 2015, replacing Tom DeLonge.
They continued with hits ‘What’s Your Age Again,’ ‘First Date,’ ‘Down,’ and ‘I Miss You.’
‘We’re going to pick up the pace! Are you ready for a fast one?” yelled Hoppus, launching into ‘Dumpweed.’
The crowd didn’t stop screaming between songs, quietening only to hear when Hoppus had to say.
“Look, I know, there a ton of amazing bands playing this weekend. But not one of those bands that you are going to see this weekend is going to do what we’re about to do right now,” he said midway through the set. “Matter of fact, no band in history has done it before, and no other band has ever going to do what we’re about to do. So take out your cellular phone, turn on the flashlight feature, and watch in utter confused amazement as we perform a song entirely in the dark!”
Tens of thousands of phones illuminated in the crowd like candles as they played ‘Happy Holidays, You Bastard.’
The epic set came to a close with a few more hits, ending with ‘All The Small Things’ and ‘Dammit’.
As soon as they said their goodbyes, there was a mad dash of Blink fans who wanted to see the end of The Killers set at the other end of the festival.
Those who were quick enough got to catch their final song of the night, ‘Mr. Brightside,’ which ended the weekday portion of the festival with huge acts still to come Saturday and Sunday.
Day three would deliver the best weather of the festival with the sun out and warm temperatures much to the delight of festivalgoers.
It was an action-packed day: my schedule of acts to watch included Glass Animals, Vance Joy, Royal Blood, Live, alt-J, The Head and the Heart, Banks, Kaskade, Chance the Rapper and The xx.
Chance The Rapper made quite the entrance for his set, riding across the stage on a motorbike, hoping off and letting it skid out of sight in an explosion of fireworks.
Growing up in Chicago, it was clear that the fans loved him, drawing what was easily the biggest crowd of the festival.
With the arrival of the fourth and final day of the festival, there were more than 45 acts to perform across the eight stages. The Grant Park stage packed plenty of punches with Tove Lo, The Shins and Arcade Fire. At the opposite end of the festival was Milky Chance, Big Sean and Justice on the Bud Light stage.
The atmosphere was electric during Arcade Fire as they closed out the festival.
Opening with “Everything Now,” the band were on point as they belted out hits like ‘Signs of Life’ and ‘Creature Comfort.’
About 30 minutes into the set, they played ‘The Suburbs’ – dedicating it David Bowie.
‘This whole tour every time we play this song it makes me think of David Bowie,” frontman Win Butler told the crowd. “He’s missed. He’s greatly missed. We met him before we met you guys. He’s a really beautiful person.”
After a few more songs they ended their main set with ‘Neighborhood.’ After returning for their encore, they started with ‘Wake Up’ before transitioning to ‘Mind Games,’ a John Lennon cover, with snippets from Radiohead’s ‘Karma Police’, David Bowie’s ‘Oh! You Pretty Things’, before transitioning back to finish ‘Wake Up’ ever so softly.
It was easy to see that no-one wanted their set – or the festival – to end. But after four days on non-stop action, it was time to say goodbye.
Lolla, we’ll see you next year: Aug. 2-5, 2018!