List: The 20 best (and worst) things about Lollapalooza 2013

Lollapalooza took over Chicago’s Grant Park once again, and I looked at all the best (and some of the worst) stuff that went down.

Last weekend, I spent three beautiful days at Lollapalooza in Chicago. I saw hip-hop. I saw country. I saw Southern rock. I saw punk rock. I saw singer-songwriters. I saw DJs.

Over three days, I saw 22 artists, ate about 10 mozzarella sticks and had a great time seeing at least 15 of those groups. (Some weren’t so great, to be honest.)

It was an incredible weekend, and I’m still sifting through memories, notes, photos and a long list of music that I’m tracking down.
Here’s a look at my five favorite acts from the festival as well as other things I thought you might find interesting.

The Best of the Festival                                                                              

The Postal Service
They started with “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight,” their biggest hit, and finished with “Brand New Colony.” There was also “A Tattered Line of String,” “Such Great Heights” and a practically EDM version of Beat Happening’s “Our Secret.” The band’s second-to-last performance ever was full of real, touching lyrics to give the band’s dancehall pop some real depth. They’re introspective stories set to music you want to dance to.

Band of Horses
The first band I saw all weekend blasted through an hour of Southern rock constructed on loss and the catharsis that comes from singing about it. Singer Ben Bridwell wore a J.J. Cale T-shirt and covered the late singer’s “Thirteen Days” and then finished the set with “The Funeral,” a song that turned the thousands gathered into a sea of waving arms.

The Vaccines
The most fun I had all weekend came from the British punk band’s set full of singalong songs such as “Teenage Icon,” “Post Break-Up Sex” and “Norgaard.” I went to the festival excited to see them and left wanting to download all of their records. I’d say that’s a success on their part.

The Cure
Robert Smith looked like an old doll up there, but that’s his thing. And who cares what he looked like anyway? Smith led The Cure through a hits-filled, career-spanning set that included “Just Like Heaven,” “Lovesong” and “Close to Me” as well as lush versions of “Fascination Street” and “Wrong Number.” Smith and the band hit its stride with some perfect pop and familiar songs to sing along to.

Ben Howard
My only complaint about British singer-guitarist Ben Howard’s set was that he didn’t play my favorite song of his. Otherwise perfect, his set featured a five-piece band that seemed there to fill in his finger-picked notes with other sounds like a orchestra backing a soloist.

The not so great                                                                                             

Wild Belle
A neo-soul band has a problem when it’s not particularly soulful. They picked it up by the end, but the band was seriously unmemorable.


Nine Inch Nails
I was excited for Nine Inch Nails’ first American performance in several years, and it was pretty lame. Trent Reznor’s latest came as chunky, industrial EDM that lacked the “dance” part. No thanks. At least “1,000,000″ and “Head Like a Hole” were fun.

Best discovery                                                                                                 

A trio of sisters, HAIM’s songs pulled me in, and the band wasn’t even playing at their assigned time. HAIM was moved up in the lineup as a last-minute replacement for Azealia Banks and Death Grips, two artists that canceled shortly before the festival began. Sharp guitar riffs and bass with some bounce in “Falling” and “Don’t Save Me” made for some fun songs.


Best food                                                                                                           

Wow Bao
wowbaoHot asian bao buns filled with teriyaki chicken were fluffy, warm, flavorful and absolutely delicious. They were the most wonderful thing. Next time I’m in Chicago, I’m going to hunt the place down.



I’m Bummed I Missed                                                                                 
I drove to Chicago, and some delays in my trip made me late to the festival and I missed Swedish pop duo Icona Pop. Apparently, the rain stopped right when the the group played its super-danceable hit “I Love It.”

Coolest thing an Omahan did                                                                  
Laura Burhenn played keyboards, vibraphone and sang vocals for The Postal Service, a gig she’s had all year.

Best thing anyone said all weekend                                                      
Eric Church: “It’s not about what genre of music you like,” he said. “It’s about the music you like.”

Most annoying phenomenon                                                                    
It happened last time I was at Lollapalooza, but people brought more stuffed animals, blow-up mascots and cut-out pictures that they attached to poles, sticks and swimming pool noodles, which they’d make “dance” while shaking them around. I don’t get what the deal is with the things and why someone would want to carry it around a festival for 10 hours, but I do know that it’s annoying when some moron is flailing the thing about right in front of a band’s lead singer.

Cutest thing that happened                                                                     
It would have been Band of Horses’ Ben Bridwell saying hi to his daughters via the live Lollapalooza webcast, but then a guy in the crowd about 10 feet from me dropped on his knees in the mud while New Order played “Temptation” and proposed. She said yes.

Best spot to watch a band                                                                          
One guy climbed a tree near The Grove stage (he wasn’t alone up there, either) to see HAIM, which gave him a better shot of the stage than anyone other than those in the front row. HAIM’s bassist, Este Haim, saw him up there and said, “What’s up, Swiss Family Robinson?” It was funny.

Best (and only) mosh pit                                                                           
During “Norgaard” by The Vaccines, the fans got so jacked up that they just started bouncing around like crazy people. It was cathartic and fun.

Best-dressed band                                                                                        
Hands down, Wild Belle in their white suits. In a three-piece suit, The National’s Matt Berninger was a close second.

Best indie rock celebrity that I saw backstage                                 
Ben Howard. He was nonchalantly hanging out backstage and, in a worn down hat and T-shirt, most people didn’t recognize him.

Best mustache                                                                                                
I don’t know his name, but The Vaccines’ roadie had a pretty great handlebar mustache.

Coolest guy                                                                                                       
While seeing 2 Chainz, definitely the most insane set I caught any part of, one man in a wheelchair crowdsurfed. That is awesome. And then 2 Chainz called him a VIP, asked the crowd to chant “V-I-P” and made sure he was taken care of at the front of the crowd.

All photos courtesy Lollapalooza. Check out photos from every artist at the festival’s Flickr page.



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One Response to List: The 20 best (and worst) things about Lollapalooza 2013

  1. Jon Flanagan says:

    I’m pretty sure the stuffed animals on sticks thing is a strategy to help groups reunite in the crowd.