|PHOTOS BY JASON GONULSEN UNLESS NOTED|
Written by Jason Gonulsen
I don’t know when my festival-hopping life will end, but I don’t want it to any time soon. I will admit, though, there are many times during a music festival as big as Lollapalooza that I feel like giving up. It’s too hot, it’s too cold, it may rain, I’m hungry, my back hurts, my feet hurt…all the while thinking, what the hell am I doing here? Am I too old for this? (I’m not too old for this.)
Those moments are fleeting.
They exist because of the unknown, which is created by my own brain. Will I get the shot I want? Will I get the feel-good chills, ever, during these four days? What if that feeling never comes? I suppose all of these worries are part of being human, but I almost always mistake them for simply being me. There is a difference, and I am still learning.
Another Lollapalooza has come and gone, and this year’s moments were more elusive than previous years. That happens. So what if it was time to dig deep? Here’s what I learned.
There’s a reason why Cage the Elephant is playing almost every major U.S. festival. Their front man, Matt Shultz, has turned into a Mick Jagger/Iggy Pop clone, and if you think I’m exaggerating, then you haven’t recently seen the band from Bowling Green. I mean, the guy wore a dress with fish net stockings, and climbed the soundboard to end his band’s set. The songs, for the most part, are solid, but the fire they lack on the recorded versions are amplified x10 by the fact that Shultz has the charisma to fuel Cage for the next decade.
Spoon is a different band. Their front man, Britt Daniel, is by no means a robot, but he’s not going to be wearing a dress anytime soon. He’s cool as hell, though, and his band’s songs, in my opinion, are deeper than Cage the Elephant’s. They led off with “Do I Have To Talk You Into It,” from their latest album, Hot Thoughts. For all the run-of-the mill bands I saw perform over the weekend, Spoon stood out because they put a premium on giving a shit about the music they perform.
|Blossoms portrait by Bridgette Aikens|
On Saturday, I sat down with UK band Blossoms for a few minutes. Their self-titled album went to #1 in the UK, and it seems they’re on the road to similar success in the US. When I talked to them, they were just coming off the high of their Lollapalooza set they performed earlier that day. “We really, really enjoyed it,” said lead singer Tom Ogden. “It’s one of the best festivals we’ve done all summer, really.” Added bassist Charlie Salt: “We’re touring off the first album, so we’re doing things for the first time, and we’re all in the same position. It’s nice.” At the moment, Odgen noted, that American audiences are still quite reserved, but their UK audiences are “more rowdy” and “throw drinks” and such. Give it time.
|Dan Luke & the Raid portrait by Bridgette Aikens|
I also sat down with Dan Luke & the Raid, a “Breaking Big” band according to Entertainment Weekly. They had an opening slot for Warpaint at an official Lollapalooza after show, which was a big deal for front man Dan Shultz, brother of Cage the Elephant’s Brad and Matt Shultz. “We have definitely done some mental prepping. And then we’re going on tour after this with Declan McKenna,” Shultz told me. “We’re in a 1987 Chevy van. (laughs) We got it tuned up a little bit.” Their band came together about a year ago. “We had a group of songs, then went into the studio with Brad (Shultz), and recently put out our first single, ‘Black Cat Heavy Metal.'” A gritty rocker for sure, and it was new to me. Maybe to you, too.
The Shins didn’t necessarily fit in this year’s Lollapalooza lineup. But dammit if they didn’t turn it up to 11 and rock the park, probably giving Arcade Fire a scare; you know, the kind of scare when you’re like, “wait, we have to follow this?” You might not believe me, but I know what I saw and heard: “Simple Song,” played extremely loud, and “New Slang,” played very carefully, while the sun was setting, was something to behold.
London Grammar really has no business playing a festival where an EDM stage is like a block away from the one they’re scheduled to play. They pulled it off though, without compromise. The songs Hannah Reid chose to sing were as delicate as you would imagine they should be. She even sat at the end of the stage during “Rooting For You.” A simple band can still be a powerful band.
Zara Larsson is from Sweden, and she’s all of 19 years old. She’s on her way to being a mega pop star because she is ridiculously good at what she does. But here’s the thing: she can really sing. I was not expecting that kind of power, especially during “What They Say.” The sky isn’t even the limit for her.