Lollapalooza 2011: The Five Best Sets Of The Fest (and more)

Once again, I spent three precious days soaking in the sun (and getting soaked by the rain) while I caught band after band perform at Lollapalooza.

In all, I saw at least 22 bands play (by my count) and passed by stages or stopped in quickly to hear even more. Over those three days, I saw everything from hip-hop to surf pop and giant stars to obscure little indie bands.

As always, it was an incredible weekend. To wrap things up, here’s a look at my five favorite sets from the weekend, a few I wasn’t too fond of  and some of my other favorite moments from the festival.

BEST OF THE FEST


Eminem

Back from performing after several years (and rehab), Eminem is completely on his game. He can still bust rhymes with as much ferocity as ever. Actually, more than ever.

The Mountain Goats

John Darnielle’s an incredible songwriter and seeing him in person solidified that to me. Old songs such as “This Year” and brand new ones such as “You Were Cool” were amazing.

Best Coast

This would have been just a normal set if it hadn’t been for the downpour that came right when the band started playing its sunny California surf pop. I’ll remember this festival moment forever.

The Joy Formidable

I’m still amazed how much musical ferocity is packed into every ounce of Joy Formidable frontwoman/guitarist Ritzy Bryan. I’d watch her smash a guitar into a gong any day.

deadmau5

I really didn’t think I’d be that into deadmau5, but I danced so much my legs were sore the next day

NOT SO GREAT


Cee Lo
One of the artists that I was most excited to see was Cee Lo. But he didn’t deliver. Cee Lo didn’t have much energy, the crowd wasn’t giving him much in return, his set was all over the place and he claimed technical issues brought everything down.

Death From Above 1979
Nothing wrong with loud, noisy jams, but these ones didn’t seem to go anywhere. Every song sounded the same: crashing bullshit madness. Why people were excited for these guys to get back together is beyond me.

BEST DISCOVERY


Noah And The Whale

I was actually waiting to see another band when these dudes caught my ear and led me to them. They’re poppy, bouncier than a trampoline and so catchy that I haven’t been able to keep “L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N.” out of my head for days.

WEIRD PHENOMENON


Puppets on sticks
I don’t know why these were so popular, but dozens of people were carrying around puppets (or stuffed animals and other characters) on sticks that they’d hold in the air. The two most prevalent I kept spotting were an elephant and a dinosaur. I guess the idea is to hold it up and shake it around?
I can’t imagine it would be anything more than annoying to carry, but they were usually pretty funny. The elephant guy kept making the stuffed animal dance to the music.
Others mocked the phenomenon. One guy carried a tree branch with a Bud Light can and his sunglasses attached to it.

BEST FOOD


Garlic and Provolone Stuffed Italian Sausage

While Lou Malnati’s deep-dish pizza is always a good choice (whether you’re at Lolla or just in Chicago), this sausage hit the spot after days of eating chicken fingers and pizza. It was flavorful and mighty spicy, but it was perfect. I originally walked up to the Tuscany On Taylor Street so I could get an Italian beef sandwich, but this caught my eye. I’m glad I went with it. (Photo by me.)

MOST AWESOME ACCESSORY


Earrings from Coco Loco

I kept seeing these kickass earrings being sported by guys and girls throughout the festival. They’re handmade from wood, bone, shells and other natural materials. I asked the girl sporting them above where she got them from and she directed me to Coco Loco, a jewelry maker that had a stand in the festival. No wonder they kept popping up.
I’m not huge into jewelry, but these were wicked cool. They’re sort of expensive (visit Coco Loco’s webstore) but they have tons of designs.(Photo by me.)

deadmau5 Heads

Other than his music, deadmau5 might be best known for the giant, globular, Mickey Mouse-like head masks he wears while DJing. On Sunday, I saw homemade masks in all shapes and sizes (and quality levels) on fans. While some were paper mache, others (including the one above) were way cooler than the ones deadmau5 himself wore onstage. These people are dedicated.

COOLEST MOMENTS


Rain
I’ll never forget Best Coast’s set or when it started pouring at the exact moment that deadmau5 came onstage. That was incredible and one of the crazy, unpredictable things that makes these giant festivals so great.

Dave Grohl’s stories
On Sunday night at the close of the festival, Dave Grohl told two quick stories. The first was about his very first rock concert at the Cubby Bear near Wrigley Field. He saw Chicago punk band Naked Raygun and said it changed his life forever.
The second, which you can read here, was about him and Kurt Cobain going to the very first Lollapalooza and how amazed they were.
Both touching stories from a guy who’s been a part of rock ‘n roll culture for as long as Lollapalooza itself.

All photos © Lollapalooa unless otherwise noted.

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