One of the best parts of Lollapalooza is covering the wealth of parties going on outside the gates of Grant Park. Rolling Stone Live: Chicago has continually put on one of the most sought after events year after year at Paris Club.
Rolling Stone took over Paris Club for brunch. Even though it started at 12pm-4pm, calling it lunch just isn’t as sexy as brunch. Bub city catered a gourmet brunch and Ketel brought on the refreshments.
Special acoustic sets by Kygo and Marina and the Diamonds kicked off the first half of the party, while Galantis closed out the afternoon with high energy beats and loads of confetti.
The craziest part was coming out of the club buzzed with oversized confetti in my hair… at 4pm on a Saturday. Had it been 12 hours later, maybe that would have been more socially acceptable, but that’s not as fun.
Rolling Stone and Paris Club definitely upped the ante for brunches from now on.
Concluding our Lollapalooza coverage this week is one last spotlight on what turned out to be my favorite Lounge outside the festival — the #DellLounge powered by Windows 10.
Dell took over one of the new Columbia College spaces for the weekend, conveniently on Michigan and Balbo to stop by on the way into the park. The Lounge offered visitors free refreshments and snacks, demos of the upcoming new Windows 10 operating system, games, the most creative photo booth I’ve seen in awhile, DJs spinning tunes (A-Trak and Morgan Page were there Friday and Thursday, respectively.) and much more. This, all on top of swanky lighting and design on the 9th and 10th floors of the building that allowed access to an outdoor deck overlooking Lollapalooza too.
The highlights: for one, we learned how to DJ. The Scratch DJ Academy was on hand, spreading awareness about their courses to actually learn how to DJ and produce music. For the students out there, I highly encourage checking them out. We had a lot of fun literally mixing in 90s hits from Puff and Usher to be heard for a portion of the lounge.
Also, said “most creative photo booth I’ve seen in awhile” — the Emoji Booth.
Visitors like Srirachana and I flocked to play around with the various emoji pillows seen in the gallery above. We also noticed that with the attention to video games (seen on the 1st floor) the Dell Lounge was very attractive to the 21 and under crowd. Lots of youthful energy going around enjoying the music and the various learning perks of the Lounge.
For us, it was also a great first stop before getting to the fest and once again, my favorite experience outside the actual shows this weekend. Hope to see Dell at more festivals like Lolla in the future if they produce events like this. Be sure to scroll through my 20+ photos or so above to uncover even more!
Another Lollapalooza in the books! I needed a full day to recover from another jam-packed 3-day experience this weekend. All the while, my mind hasn’t stopped racing with the variety of artists I saw and what I could take away from a different Lollapalooza than in years past.
Here is the breakdown of the weekend, section by section below, with highlights like who my favorite overall performer was (not who you may think), and a few lowlights and critiques on where I think artists can improve, and a few sentimental festival stories along the way. Feel free to scroll to a section or video that catches your eye because otherwise, you’ll have to settle in.
It’s easy for someone to say now, but we were really up on The Weeknd’s breakout from his debut House of Balloons release ahead of the overall curve. I remember where I was: riding with co-founder Maks G who played the nocturnal tunes en route to a Marcus Shadden fashion show in the spring of 2011. The nighttime Chicago skyline matched the moody jams from the then-unknown singer and I was hooked all summer long, and then in general for the years since.
That’s why it’s pretty neat to reflect that for most of that 2011, we didn’t even know what The Weeknd looked like. 4 years later, he’s headlining the first night of Lollapalooza, with 2 top 10 singles at the moment, and 1 from earlier this year already tucked under his belt.
He’s arguably the hottest, biggest star this summer.
The Weeknd, as a result, is prime for R&B/pop crossover superstardom, as dissected in this great New York Times interview piece last week. His status created a different feel for his set on Friday night than when I saw him last for the Kiss Land Tour.
The difference between Weeknd from a year and a half ago and today was seen at the end of his set. He performed said top 10 singles “The Hills” and “Can’t Feel My Face” towards the end of the set, with the fire pyrotechnics aiding the latter and igniting the biggest rise out of the thousands watching. Actually, maybe it was the new MJ dance moves he debuted at the end of the song that further pay homage to his MJ-esque single? …Was this the same guy??
I know what you’re thinking: The Weeknd has changed. He sold out. I disagree. I actually think he’s well on his way to striking just the right balance of staying true to himself while increasing his mainstream appeal in a tasteful way. The Hills is the yin to Can’t Feel My Face’s yang. It’s my favorite between the two singles and securely on the top tier of Weeknd’s catalogue for me. The Hills blew up, but it’s really as dark and lonely of a song as Weeknd has in his library. I was most interested to hear him perform this one live and it didn’t disappoint. The booming sound of the production translates real well in person.
The moment that felt different was when The Weeknd came back out for an encore. I expected he would, but didn’t realize at the time that he never really does.
The long break in between his last salute led me to believe he was done for good, about 15 minutes before the fest was set to close. But eventually, on came “Wicked Games”.
We crept up further and enjoyed the methodical song as locked armed couples vibed to it nearby. It wasn’t the type of song that gets the biggest rise, especially that in most artists’ cases that’s the encore, so this moment is what drove home the realization of Weeknd’s growth and career arc. The latter of which still very much in progress and still rising. Needless to say, looking forward to diving into Beauty Behind The Madness later this month.
The other artist I circled upon first seeing on the Lolla schedule: Kid Cudi. I’ve seen Cudi a few times already and love the variety of songs he can play to switch the mood up. Plus, his voice translates even more powerfully in person than on the record.
Cudi’s older material is still a go-to for my creativity playlist and out of all of Lollapalooza’s artists this year, I definitely know his library the best.
He took to the same Bud Light stage as Weeknd the night before. (The Bud Light Stage and Samsung Stage are the 2 biggest at Lolla.) The difference in setting though was that while Weeknd was performing under the night sky, only lit by the iconic skyscrapers behind him, Cudi’s set concluded as the sun just began to set.
This led to a different mood that ultimately had me yearning for nighttime for Cudi, overall. That being said, there were plenty of perks to seeing Cudi rock out during the daytime. He actually set the tone for the rest of the nightfall when he performed “Pursuit of Happiness” twice in a row.
Cudi’s first rendition of (maybe) his biggest single in his career was of the original version. The slowed down, sing-along version where Cudi simply stood, feet planted behind his iconic red mic. Then he and his band blended right into the uptempo club version and before we knew it, Cudi was performing into the crowd and running end to end to give the entire first row some dap (I caught this on Snapchat, sorry in advance for the head-tilt.)
This was indeed the most heartwarming part of Cudi’s set. He frequently thanked the Chicago crowd, seemed genuinely amazed at the endless sea of thousands of people in front of him (had to be 80K for the Bud Light Stage), and just marveled that this is his job and that it’s a lot of fun. For him to be in the crowd for this song simply illustrated that love to another level. It’s authenticity like this that make you feel like you can just sit in a room and chat with Cudi like he’s one of your friends.
Not to mention the authenticity in his music too. One of the songs that played better under the sun, rather than the stars, was his new single “Confused”. Cud had just dropped it the night before and performed it acoustically for the first time live to end his set. No encore.
As you’ll see below, Cudi strangely says “OK, bye!” as what turned out to be his final send-off. Not mad at that, that’s just Cudi. I satisfyingly chuckled when it became clear there would be no encore, in fact. Because as I mentioned above, he poured out his heart to the crowd plenty already. He didn’t need another speech or song to cement it more than it already was.
The other standout highlight of Cudi’s Lolla set is one that’s sentimental to me. He blended “Embrace The Martian” into his “Memories” x “Day N Nite” hype mix and it reminded me of my personal all-time favorite concert video we at Gowhere Hip Hop have ever produced: Cudi @ SXSW 2013. My experience with Cudi there will probably never be topped so I simply can’t set a ranking of where Saturday night stands. I just know I flat out enjoyed Cudi at Lolla. He was awesome and the feeling was mutual.
Last nite was beyond the most legendary, most epic, most fuckin ragetastic time ive ever had at Lollapalooza!!! #Lollapalooza2015
That’s right. Over Cudi and Weeknd, two artists I would consider in my top 10 right now, easy.
And amazingly enough, “save the best for last” actually came through for me this year at Lolla. I just didn’t expect it to happen like this, unlike festivals past.
I, much like many of the critics out there, was a fan of FKA twigs debut album, LP1, as about a handful of the songs resonated with me months after and still today in my alternative R&B playlists. She was definitely circled on my Sunday night schedule after missing her at the Metro late last year. That’s not the main reason though. I’m already aware of her performances on award shows or the like, plus her innovative music videos in general.
I also knew I had to be there to catch her intro. I feared though that I wouldn’t be able to catch A$AP Rocky perform “Problems” when I got a sense he was closing with that at 8:30, when FKA was set to start at the nearby, smaller Pepsi stage.
I ended up enjoying “Problems” from a distance, the one song I really wanted to see A$AP perform, as I sped walked to the outer edge of the Pepsi stage when FKA’s haunting LP1 intro blared in the abyss of darkness ahead.
(I had even more goosebumps as the brightest light that shined above was the eerie purple glow from the Metropolitan Tower peeking over the top of the stage.)
I weaved my way through the crowd and went as far to the right as possible, before cutting inward (Pro Tip!). I ended up in the 3rd row while randomly meeting up with a group of friends already posted there. Enjoying her performance with them, all bigger fans of FKA than me going into it, made the experience even better.
The first immediate observation once I got settled in was the incredible lighting. Everything about it. FKA first sang under a flickering white strobe light that hit her face perfectly. The next song was conducted under an eerie blood red light that emphasized the smoke around the stage. The set’s third song featured a neon blue light that stretched even further out into the crowd and fit wonderfully under the dark blue night sky, shortly after the sun had completely set (so it wasn’t pitch black yet.)
Seeing FKA twigs in this setting, at the smaller yet significantly large crowd, was absolutely perfect and matched her music even more.
I kinda lied actually. The first observation anyone makes at an FKA show is her movements. Equal parts precise, hypnotic, seductive, and above all: beautiful. It looks like she is having a theraputic experience with each song, down to each slow, contorting, and smooth flailing of her arms or legs. It adds so much to her stage presence and introduces a strong performance art aspect to her set that, honestly, most of the rappers I saw at Lolla this weekend lacked (more on that later…)
For the first 15 minutes, I was captivated by FKA’s dancing. Her sudden arm swings would brilliantly match the pulsating parts of the production and it made the song all the more powerful every time. The visuals, down to her Nike Pro compression peaking out her red/blue tye dye combo to match the lighting, were next level.
During this first stretch though, I was also surprised at her minimal singing. It’s not like she was skipping notes, she just rode out long instrumental solos with her moves. My favorite was when she would pump fake sing by holding the mic to her lips but ultimately switching to her next contorted move.
The latter two-thirds of her set found the transition into some of the aforementioned handful of songs I still listened to such as “Two Weeks”, “Pendulum”, and “Video Girl”. She even got another dancer into the act towards the end, resulting in an amazing tandem dance performance that I can’t do justice with mere words. It’s an aspect to her show to file in the back of your head for the next time FKA goes out on tour.
Looking ahead, FKA twigs is prepping a new album, LP2, I presume it will be called. She said as much during the lone moment she simply talked to the Chicago crowd. This came about halfway through the set, and after expressing her gratitude towards the crowd and the city of Chicago in general, FKA launched into 2 new songs for the album.
One was yesterday’s “Figure 8”. The other is a soundscape I can’t get out of my head and am eagerly anticipating the release of, as much as any other live teaser in recent memory. As strong as this preview was for me (and of course it felt even bigger in person), just my first, overall experience of FKA twigs made for about as impressive of a first impression as I could have expected. This pretty much guarantees I’ll be at all of her future shows too.
It’s not all praise here. Throughout the weekend, I noticed a lot of subtle flaws whether its within a setlist, transitions, or even a desire for more creativity.
I should first note that I have a pretty high bar to begin with. 7 years of going to literally hundreds of rap shows has desensitized the teenage enthusiasm of discovering a new artist or seeing one I’m already a fan of. As such though, I feel these critiques carry even more weight.
I’ll start with my biggest letdown. Where is the creative stage presence, rappers? I was thinking about this even before FKA twigs electrified with her mix of dance, performance art, and creative lighting… it’s 2015, how can we progress behind the general go-to moves of rapper hands and jumping up and down to get the crowd hyped? I understand in most cases rappers are constricted with just a mic and a stage, but with especially how EDM shows shine under the same festival setups, there’s a glaring difference.
You may not have the dance moves of an R&B singer, but that doesn’t mean you can’t add a little spice to your step individually and to the stage behind you. This came to mind when Logic rocked the Perry’s Stage, one of the few rappers to do so this weekend. Perry’s is notable for being one of Lolla’s most visually engaging stages, possessing a lot of wide backdrops for lights and creative backgrounds.
Logic actually has a great stage presence already, compared to most other rappers at least. He can captivate an audience in 10 seconds with an a capella that contains roughly 300 words in that span. (I saw this again on Saturday.) That’s great. But I was hoping he would have more of a show going on behind him on those video boards or incorporating pyro or lasers if devoid of the darkness that helped sets like that of FKA or The Weeknd. Instead, the one unique addition to his set was the tellng of a story about how one of his songs was created. Interesting for sure, but the story dragged on for over a minute and a half and is better suited for an interview than a festival.
Not to pick on Logic, he just happened to be an example because of the stage he was on and I happened to see him. G-Eazy rocked a similar size stage — the Pepsi — and though I noticed he had some falling light in the photos, I was turned off by his stage presence at a Friday night afterparty at the Renaissance to not go out of my way Saturday night to see him close down there. For him, I noticed many of the same rapper moves with no added showmanship, aside from playing to the front row (that worked) and a notably awesome drummer. In contrast, singer Jidenna rocked the same intimate stage (at the Renaissance) 20 minutes before him, and played to the entire crowd even better and creating a more high-energy experience. (Sidebar: HXLT had a sweet DJ set at the Renaissance that night too. I talked with him at (spoiler alert!) Metallica that there’s new music coming from him tomorrow.)
Moving on, I won’t sit here and dissect everyone’s setlist. In fact, most times I don’t have a gripe about them and artists have a really good sense of what works when, to who, and what doesn’t. That comes with experience.
However, surprise guests. Is it that much of a surprise when you pull up the trending rapper from the festival’s hometown? In this case, Vic Mensa. He was a guest of G-Eazy and A$AP Rocky‘s to turn up with them respectively. By my gauge and a few others’ accounts, I gathered it fell flat and ultimately wasn’t as memorable as it may seem on paper. This was seen even more clearly when A$AP played his new Chief Keef collab that was too new (literally released that day, Saturday) that no one really knew it. It didn’t have the same pop in front of 80K people that I’m sure it did at the A$AP Mob concert at Reggie’s later that night when everyone there would have been more receptive.
I’ll close on perhaps the biggest lowlight: Travi$ Scott. I speak on this more as if you’re a fan of the G.O.O.D. artist because he arrived 30 minutes late, then got kicked out 10 minutes later after encouraging his fans to jump the barricade and ignore security. It’s humorous as a bystander who wasn’t there, but his arrest was lucky to be the worst that came out of it.
TL;DR: Let’s be more creative showmen/women, rappers! Also, be on time and actually perform, Travi$ Scott!
Their hip hop crossover is limited at best, but these are two seldom touring legends that you just have to experience live when the chance presents itself. I’ll be telling my kids about them one day… and have already told my dad and brother, respectively, about each experience.
Paul McCartney was opposite The Weeknd on Friday night — in timing, distance, and just musically overall. The two stages they were on (Samsung and Bud Light) are the biggest of the fest, and the farthest walk between any two stages (probably 20 minutes with foot traffic.) I figured I’d catch the first part of Sir Paul’s set before they overlapped, and as I executed the plan, it didn’t take long to appreciate what we were all seeing.
The vibe was chill and must have been what a festival felt like in the 60’s. McCartney and his band played songs both instantly recognizable to even the most casual of Beatles fans and songs that go deep into his history. My hair-raising moment was singing along with the thousands to “Eleanor Rigby” (and reflecting on hearing this as a child with dad… as well as the fire Talib Kweli remix, ha!). It was also humorous to hear nearby standees disappointed that Rihanna or Kanye didn’t surprise appear for “FourFiveSeconds”.
What I appreciated the most live though was how Sir Paul literally switched instruments from song to song. Different types of guitar, to piano, to even the ukulele, amongst others. He performed in front of ever-changing backdrops too that looked impressive even from far away.
I got my McCartney fix and could have easily stayed for the entire set. The coolest part was probably telling my dad, with The Beatles being his favorite band, as he was pleasantly surprised I got to see one of his all-time favorites growing up.
As for Metallica, I walked up as they first provided the high-octane backdrop to the contrasting majestic sunset on Saturday night — the most beautiful one we saw all weekend.
My older brother, more of a rock fan than anything, got me into music before Maks G got me fully into hip hop. I was young still, but I gravitated to the classic Metallica self-titled album I heard between the walls growing up and soon had a copy myself — one of my first purchased albums, you know, after the Space Jam Soundtrack.
Anyway, Metallica holds a nostalgic place in my childhood bonding with the bro and it was amazing to hear the lengthy, seemingly impromptu solos throughout classics like “Wherever I May Roam” above. My bro texted back in response: “You have now officially gained my complete and utter respect.”
After our quick foray over to Sam Smith, I hustled back to the Samsung stage to catch the fitting “Enter Sandman” encore. I left Lolla that night with that same “I witnessed history” feeling that I had the night before. And I know I wasn’t the only one.
To wrap this up, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a couple more things.
For one, the perks of some of the after-parties and lounges. Srirachana and I had a great time at both the Samsung Owner’s Loungein the festival, which featured an up close experience with A$AP Rocky, and the well-designed Dell Lounge where we learned how to DJ (link coming soon…)
Between the latter and the Friday night afterparty at the Renassance hotel though, I should note that these events aren’t for media only. You’ll be able to find a cool party, cool lounge, and/or cool venue for $FREE.99 — all you have to do is some research and type in an RSVP. This info is aimed for future festival goers: I would definitely look up 1 or 2 of these and add something new to your Lolla experience. Even to those in the Chicago music scene, there’s nothing this big in the industry the rest of the year so I always make it a point to enjoy the grand scale of the other events and afterparties.
The drawback is that it may take away from seeing all the artists you want to see, but I’ve grown to accept that I’ll miss out on some no matter what. (This year for me it was Raury, Lion Babe, Banks, and the hometown’s DJ Trentino. I heard great things about Raury’s set, who sounds like he accomplished the opposite of my critiques above aimed at hip hop performers.)
I saved probably my favorite story of them all for last: my first ever impromptu beach ball party at a festival! It made my experience feel most like a festival than perhaps anything else.
I was with a couple friends walking over to catch Sam Smith on Saturday night and we came across a family of 5 with 3 little kids playing with a beach ball. This quickly snowballed into a circle of 8, half kids, half adults just keeping the ball alive. In the background, we heard the impressive Sam Smith loud and clear, and it was the fitting sound for the happy go lucky time (his sad songs didn’t feel as sad, hah!)
This story proves though that you just can’t predict what spontaneous experiences you’ll undoubtedly have throughout Lollapalooza. That alone is one of the underrated parts that make a trip to the Chi worth your while, whether you’re fighting for tickets amongst your hometown friends or travelling from all across the country.
On that note, hope you enjoyed the read/scroll thru, thanks for getting this far and of course, see you next year! 🙂
Hey folks! It’s 5ABIO here with a quick recap of day two for Lollapalooza. This is more of a blog type post than it is a write up going in full detail about artists. There was so much that I could do with the time I had so I tried to do as much as I could to see as many artists as possible with the time give.
I was at Lolla for Day 2 specifically for Hip-Hop because this day was full of different Hip-Hop artists and had the most to showcase from the three day lineup. I was also able to see other acts from different genres but I went with the intention of seeing as many Hip-Hop artists as I could.
Just for a little further clarification, I was there from 11:30am-10pm so there was much ground to cover. There were also some time conflicts so I was only able to see some artists for about half their set and others for their entire set.
Mick Jenkins 11:45AM [Full Set]
The day started with Mick Jenkins, the lyrical savant from Chicago’s Hip-Hop scene that has amassed nationwide attention as a result of his conscious raps that take a stance against social injustice as well as unrest over the wrongful murders of black youth and black lives. Needless to say, Mick Jenkins was one of the reasons why I decided to come to Lolla because I have been able to see his growth from Trees & Truths to the recent Water[s] and Waves project.
[Vid credit Pursuit of Dopeness]
It was really remarkable to witness his set over the years. The first Mick show I attended was two years ago at Township in Logan Square where he rocked a crowd of 50 people. Years later Mick easily PACKED a crowd of thousands as he had the Pepsi stage over capacity all clinging to every word and knowledge he spoke to his fans.
The highlight of his set was the new music as Mick played three joints off the forthcoming Waves project he is set to release recently.
Raury 12:50pm [Full Set]
[Video credit: Pursuit of Dopeness]
I’m pretty new to Raury. The recent XXL Freshmen and Atlanta, GA native has been captivating crowds because he’s not the norm when t comes to the Atlanta Hip-Hop scene. Up to the point of this performance I had only heard two songs from this promising artists and at first didn’t know what to think of it over than ‘this is different’. That uniqueness has led me to further appreciate Raury after his set. The kid is special. He reminds me of a mix between Outkast and Frank Ocean cause the kid can sing and his production is different, it’s folk, it’s pop, it’s music that should be appreciated for what it is and his live performance turned heads. It definitely made a fan out of me.
//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsGOOD MUSIC signee Travi$ Scott is another artists that I was not too familiar with. I had never heard any of his projects but had been exposed to him on features he was on. He was one of the artists I wanted to see the most because of the fact that he was under Kanye’s brand and is highly considered to be the future of Houston’s Hip-Hop scene. For those that were not in attendance, ‘the Rodeo’ was shut down real quick.
[S/O Pursuit of Dopeness]
This performance was a bit of a disappointment. For the set being expected to be an hour it started with 30mins of DJing which brings down Travi$’ performance to at least a half hour, right? WRONG. Travi$ performance lasted about 5-10minutes before folks in the crowd started creating rampage. It didn’t help that Travi$ pretty much incited a riot and prompting folks to hop on stage with him. This led to a lot of ‘fuckboys’ hopping on stage, security starting to flex people, and eventually the set canceled within 10mins to Travi$ performance. It was a huge letdown for a lot of people that really wanted to see his performance which was packed with his esteemed ‘Rangers’.
Death From Above 1979 is a band I had been put on when I was in high school by my best friend so I looked forward to seeing them live. I spazzed out as they performed as well as I was able to hear my favorite “You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine” in the 30mins I had before running off to see the next performance.
//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsI only know Toro y Moi cause Treated Crew/Legion of Dudez showyousuck made a mixtape rapping over their songs so I had to check it out. It had the ShowYouSuck stamp of approval and I definitely did dig the 30mins of the performance I saw. It’s not what I would usually listen to but it was interesting live.
For those not too familiar with Tyler, The Creator- he is one crazy dude! The substance matter in his lyrics reminds us how wicked and weird we are individually, which is why folks gravitate towards his music. I had only seen videos of him live so I had an expectation of what his set would be. I’ve been following his Bastard project so I expected a wild yet fun performance which is what we got at Lollapalooza as the Golf Wang/ODD Future emcee delivered his fan favorites as well as new joints off his recently released Cherry Bomb project.
Cudder was the highlight of Lolla. From beginning to end his performance was high energy as he continuously interacted with his crowd that was packed. Cudi not only delivered some of his most celebrated material but as well as delivered a new acoustic joint as he showcased what is in store from his forthcoming project. It was a real dope set from beginning to end and definitely one of the highlights of Lolla.
With a two hour set I had to make sure I saw the legendary Metallica. I’m a Hip-Hop head to the core but I know when to give respect where it’s due so seeing this legendary band was my biggest priority. As someone that is not that too familiar with the legendary band, Metallica was not only welcoming to new listeners but played a wide array of classic and newer material to welcome any listener that wanted to give them their time and an ear to play to. This is a once in a generation type band playing for the first time at Lollapalooza which became a once in a lifetime event in my first ever Lollapalooza.
G Eazy 9pm [Half Set]
The last on the list for me to see was G Eazy. He’s another artists that I wasn’t too familiar with but was definitely digging from the few joints I was able to hear as well as the few live television performances I had seen him on previously before seeing him live. The Bay Area emcee not only introduced me more to tracks I hadn’t heard before but as well as payed respect to the city that lay the groundwork for his sound as he embraced his listeners in Chicago and welcomed him to witness more of his roots and influences. Also, one of the cool highlights was G Eazy embracing the greatness behind the Chicago Hip-Hop scene and bringing out Vic Mensa to perform his hit “U MAD”.
Overall, Lollapalooza for me was a real cool experience. I was able to see once in a lifetime performances by some of the best doing it today and it has definitely gotten me thinking of continuing to attend for many years to come.
I heard “Holdin On” by Flume ft. Freddie Gibbs for the first time about two years ago, and its on about 5 of my playlists right now. That is to say, it’s one of those jams that doesn’t go away. It does, from time to time, get lost in that sea of new music, only to reemerge with that same hednotic value that doesn’t seem to depreciate. Its already a classic in my book, obviously. With that being said, I didn’t listen to much of his other music until I saw the 22 year old producer live last Saturday at Concord Music Hall. Things are different now. After a long Lolla weekend of hangovers, unexplained bruises, and spaghetti legs, I’ve spent most of the last week listening to Flume and telling people to shut the f*ck up (I’m listening to Flume).
One thing was instantly clear when the young Australian took the stage – he was having fun. It was apparent that Flume was happy to be in Chicago, and we were willing to follow him down whatever musical journey he was about to lead. Of course we all had expectations of a funky ride, and he didn’t disappoint. Deep grooves and laid back tempos paired with super dope graphics and the infinite prism made for not only the best after show, but the best performance I saw all weekend. Come back soon, man.
The dust (and mud) has settled on Lollapalooza 2014 this weekend, yet everyday this week I’ve thought back to Eminem‘s headlining performance on Day 1 that saw him surprise the thousands in Grant Park with a special guest appearance from Rihanna. I had a feeling Chicago would be the perfect guinea pig for Em and Rihanna to do a dry-run of their collaborations for the Monster Tour. I don’t mean that in a demeaning way to my hometown because in fact, Rihanna’s appearance proved to be a special moment for Chicago. It was the first the two have performed together outside of an award show setting and the very first time Rihanna sang the hook for one of Eminem’s all-time pantheon songs “Stan”.
Point being: the timing of Lollapalooza was wonderful for the two to rehearse live for the upcoming tour and bring Rihanna to the Chi since The Monster Tour is not slated to come through. So, what worked and what didn’t? Let’s start at the top as Rihanna emerged from beneath the stage, singing her extended solo version of “Love The Way You Lie”. This worked. We were taking in the show from far enough away that you couldn’t tell who exactly was rising on stage until they put a close-up of Rihanna on the Jumbotron screen a full five seconds after she started singing. It was cool to experience the initial uproar from the crowd who saw it was Rihanna right away and then the secondary uproar of everyone around us watching the screen. It turns out we had good intel that my prediction would prove to be correct a few hours before the show, so I spent this moment watching the people around us to see if they would be genuinely pleasantly surprised. Success! They were.
But at The Monster Tour, you obviously already know you’ll be seeing Rihanna so how they present “Love The Way You Lie” will be interesting to note, given they went the surprise route in Chicago. I suspect they’ll save their first #1 hit single for the end of the show too, as opposed to Eminem wowing us all about a third of the way through his set. Rihanna’s solo version doubled as more time for her and a great buildup for when the beat and band kicked in for Eminem’s verses. The energy was at a high to that point in the set so I know I’m not alone in saying that Em and Rihanna delivered a smashing success of a performance with “Love The Way You Lie”.
So what about their second #1 hit single? The namesake of the upcoming tour as well, “The Monster” followed “Love The Way You Lie” and, maybe it was just me, fell a touch flat. I believe that had more to do with following up the more powerful song in general and that both “The Monster” and “Love The Way You Lie” have similar tempos. I suppose it was like watching a solid sequel with the highlight of The Monster’s performance being the start of Eminem’s second verse that had me immediately flashing back to the genius music video when the Jumbotron showed a closeup of Em performing at an angle where it was just him and a black backdrop behind him.
After this chill-inducing moment (one of many more I’ll get to below), I expected Rihanna to salute the crowd one last time for her brief but memorable surprise appearance. Besides, those are the only 2 songs Eminem and Rihanna have together so what else could they perform? It was then, moments after the stage went dark, save for eerie blue lights that I realized I made a rookie mistake in underestimating Eminem. Rihanna began singing the aforementioned “Stan” and chills began to set again as the crowd gradually turned on their cell phones to shed light above them that the stage’s spotlights were no longer doing. Ri-Ri actually has the perfect voice to both match the solemness of the iconic Dido sample and give the chorus a fresh twist. Hearing her finish the first rendition, combined with the guitars coming to life, hammered home that I was watching history. Thank God for the fan above with the powerful camera from the 10th row because the long song ended in a flash, leaving me wanting to watch that performance, and Eminem shout out Chicago in the second verse, again. Rihanna then left for good and Em proceeded with many more of his hits to follow. This sounds like a good time to recall his setlist.
Eminem Lollapalooza 2014 Setlist:
Won’t Back Down
Just Don’t Give A Fuck
The Way I Am
Life In The Fast Lane f/ Royce Da 5’9″
Love The Way You Lie f/ Rihanna
The Monster f/ Rihanna
Stan f/ Rihanna
Sing For The Moment
Like Toy Soldiers
Till I Collapse
My Name Is
The Real Slim Shady
Not Afraid *encore*
After the initial rush of Eminem bursting out on stage, alongside his D-12 partner-in-crime hypeman Mr. Porter, I actually felt the first handful of songs lacked the extra level of energy that later on in the show would later prove. One of the highlights from the first handful of songs has to be the demented “Kill You” — the MMLP record with some of Eminem’s most ruthless lyrics that the whole crowd still knows 14 years later. Em cut the song short with some planned fake gunshots that admittedly startled me since I was looking away from the stage. “You can’t be having fake gunshots in Chicago!”, I exclaimed to anyone around me who cared. As you see, “White America” immediately followed — Eminem’s pulsating, politically charged anthem from The Eminem Show. The production is made for a live setting with crowd participation at a maximum to this point with fans waving their hands to the slow and steady beat.
When the set hit “The Way I Am”, it didn’t dip again for the rest of it. One of my top-tier favorites from Eminem has increased sentimental value now as this was the song we first saw one of Eminem’s guitarists rocking our Gowhere Hat on stage #Powerful! You see, in the hour before the set began, we linked up with longtime artist friend of ours, Curt Chambers — one of Eminem’s 2 guitarists on tour for the last 5 years. After our interview (coming soon), we also chopped it up with Eminem’s other guitarist who loved the hat so much he wanted to wear it that night. Given that we didn’t have a straight on angle to see the band in the back, we couldn’t see ‘Gowhere’ until both he and Curt were next to Eminem, which happened during “The Way I Am”. Hey, maybe you’ll see the Gowhere Hat tonight at The Monster Tour — keep an eye out 😉
In between “The Way I Am”, and the above-covered Rihanna cameo, was a cameo from Royce Da 5’9″. No surprise here as they performed the high-octane “Life In The Fast Lane” with the same on-stage chemistry they had last time I saw Eminem at Lollapalooza in 2011. Eminem’s most sentimental stretch of the set began with “Stan” and continued further with “Sing For The Moment” and “Like Toy Soldiers” when Eminem big upped the fallen Proof in the intro. For all the zany Slim Shady hit singles that reels us in, it’s Eminem’s serious side that I always rocked with 100% so this was my favorite stretch of the entire show. It was only missing “Mockingbird”, but we still had those zany singles to cover with time running close to 10pm.
Eminem upped the intensity with his song-stealing verse on 2009’s “Forever”. Quick aside: has there ever been a cooler first-listen experience than “Forever” in recent hip hop history? You had Drake, Kanye, Wayne, and a returning Eminem as the four you knew to expect, but you didn’t know what order it was coming in, and you didn’t know what Eminem you were going to get after some strange moments and deliveries on that year’s Relapse album. You know the story by now. Eminem delivered one of his most memorable verses, as evidenced by the crowd notably rapping every word in comparison to other Shady hits of the night, and in many’s opinion, has the verse of the song… which we wanted to see who had on that first listen. Needless to say, it was special, especially as Em went a capella for the smallest smidgen of time. MMLP2‘s lead single “Berzerk” followed, and to my surprise given the song’s polarity, the crowd, well, went berzerk. The energy was at a different type of high that the show hasn’t seen yet after these two songs and it carried over to the fan-favorite “Till I Collapse” with the late Nate Dogg sounding especially powerful over the loudspeakers.
Skipping ahead to the triumvirate of #1 lead singles, Eminem prefaced “My Name Is” to address the crowd and ask, “Chicago, can I take you back to when I used to get fucked up??”. The crowd went expectedly nuts for “My Name Is”, “Real Slim Shady”, and the na-na-na-na’s of “Without Me”, including the 40-year old mothers now all of a sudden directly in front of me, which absolutely made my night that much more memorable. With the music killed yet again, Eminem launched into the galvanizing anthem “Not Afraid” that I like individually, but realized I like 10x more in a live setting when you can really feel the song’s message resonate with the rabid crowd beneath Marshall Mathers. This brought me back to 2011 Lollapalooza in the best way. Finally, you probably would have guessed, Eminem retired from stage briefly to set up the encore of my favorite song OF ALL-TIME (!) — “Lose Yourself”. Eminem touring is usually few and far between, yet I feel like I’ve seen Eminem more than the 3 times he’s been in Chicago since 2005. Each time he closed with an encore of “Lose Yourself” that never fails to induce the chills. Alas, the perfect segue…
Top 5 Chilling Moments of Eminem Lollapalooza 2014
5. “Not Afraid” — Minor chills at the realization of how Eminem really connects with everyone in a live setting with this song. He’s a shining example of overcoming fears and adversity. 4. “Like Toy Soldiers” — Eminem harmonizing “Big Proof we miss you” at the beginning really affected this ‘stan’ of the late Proof (I was so sad that day he passed.) 3. “Till I Collapse” — The increase of camera phones captured Nate Dogg’s booming voice trailing off into a series of just the crowd’s claps to end the song. 2. “Love The Way You Lie” & “Stan” (tie) — Rihanna’s solo intro was just her, plus goosebumps. The surprise and overall chilling “Stan” was something to experience live. 1. “Lose Yourself” — Eminem, as somehow not mentioned above, was extremely active on stage showing agility and endurance that surprises you when you remember he’s 40. He saved the best for last as he leapt high into the start of the last chorus.
…and, since I had a really great perspective view of the fans in front of the stage…
Top 5 Crowd-Hands Moments of Eminem Lollapalooza 2014
5. “Business” — the first huge Dre beat that translated that way live with fans moving their arms up and down in unison. 4. “Real Slim Shady” — the fast, active hands during the transition to “Guess who’s back?”… the start of “Without Me”. 3. “Sing For The Moment” — hands swaying left to right for the moving chorus. 2. “White America” — the hands slowing up, rising and falling to match the pace of the eerie, booming beat. 1. “Lose Yourself” — last chorus, how can you not think of B. Rabbit in the last battle scene in 8 Mile?
To bring the post full circle, does anything from Eminem Lollapalooza 2014 foreshadow The Monster Tour starting tonight? I’ll take the politically correct, Yes and No. Given the widespread coverage of Rihanna’s surprise guest appearance with extra emphasis on her chorus for “Stan”, I would expect to see that again throughout the tour. But as this was an Eminem-only set, all of Rihanna’s songs were bundled together. I predict this not to be the case for The Monster Tour. Look for “Love The Way You Lie” to be the first collab they rock together with “The Monster” at the very end of the set and “Stan” somewhere in between. The possibilities are fun to guess, including that of any other songs Rihanna may sing the hook for… or, if I was them, stick to the “Lose Yourself” encore with Rihanna rapping the chorus with Eminem. Someone at the Rose Bowl, get back to me!
I’m glad this is a thing now. Drones capturing events from spots that helicopters dream of hovering over. I last posted on drones capturing 4th of July fireworks and this, well, I’m biased, but this is just as cool. Drones hovered over Grant Park in our hometown of Chicago, nabbing spectacular video of the festival from above. Even Skrillex noticed — though he did mistaken a drone for a UFO.
What do you guys think about our capture?
Unrelated (yet related): After watching the drone videos, one of the related videos was “Top 10 NBA All-Star Game Crossovers”. Of course I’m going to watch that. So why not you too?
FWIW, I think #2 > #1 — and that’s coming from someone whose favorite player is #1.
Oh, I’m not done. I feel like this is (somehow) a great segue into the funniest thing I’ve seen all day. Jeremy Lin putting his mom on the dunk cam. So for those counting at home, it only took 2 videos to get from Lollapalooza Drones to #JLinDunkCam. See how good I am at this?