by Jeff Niesel
Lollapalooza, the three-day music festival that took place over the weekend at Chicago’s Grant Park, offered an excellent opportunity to see a number of good bands that have bypassed Cleveland on their current tours. The National, Vampire Weekend and Queens of the Stone Age all have excellent new albums out and have been touring in support of them. But for whatever reason, they didn’t include Cleveland on their respective tours. Don’t they know Cleveland is the home of rock ‘n’ roll. So seeing them — along with a few hundred other bands that performed during the weekend — was a treat. Think of the festival as the musical equivalent of a one-stop shopping experience.
The festival also included one of the only North American performances by the retooled Nine Inch Nails. The industrial rock band will tour extensively in the fall (and Cleveland is one of the stops) but Lollapalooza was one of only a handful of summer shows. While singer Trent Reznor doesn’t rage like he did in the old days, he still puts on a good show. This time, the bulked-up singer started slow and arrived on stage without any accompaniment to perform. A single light bulb at the front of the stage illuminated his face as he softly sang the intro to “Copy A.” A full band would eventually arrive on stage and Reznor would turn on the volume during a driving 90-minute set that concluded with the anti-anthem “Hurt.” The festival’s other real treat was a rare performance by the Cure. Singer Robert Smith is in his fifties and certainly looks it. He hasn’t lost much hair, however, and his trademark bushy hair was a tangled mess as always; his vocals sounded sharp as the band delivered dead-on renditions of its many Goth hits. Though Smith wasn’t particularly animated (he never was), that wasn’t a huge detriment and the band sounded solid during a two-hour set.
Phoenix and Vampire Weekend, two acts who have played Lollapalooza in the past, proved up to the task again this year. Phoenix headlined Sunday night and it offered a rousing set of synth-pop tunes that manage to sound both retro and contemporary at the same time. The guys are nothing to look at but they’re solid musicians and songwriters. The same goes for Vampire Weekend. Its world beat influenced music came across well (at times, the music echoed Paul Simon’s Graceland) and they were one of the few non-electronic acts that had patrons dancing.
Speaking of electronic dance music, that was again a big draw as a slew of DJs and producers performed on the enormous stage christened “Perry’s.” Toronto’s Kuts N Krates’ set of dubstep and hip-hop benefited from live drums and Detroit-based producer Griz won the crowd over with his mix of funk, soul and techno. The partying at Perry’s was a non-stop affair as fans danced and drank with abandon.
Lollapalooza producers are to be lauded for bringing such a diverse ix of music to the festival. We heard everything from hip-hop (Kendrick Lamar) to country (Court Yard Hounds) and pop (Lana Del Ray) over the course of the three days. And while tickets to all three days sold out in record time, the festival was well-managed so overcrowding wasn’t a huge issue. One stop shopping has never been so much fun.