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Lollapalooza 2015 Festival Review: From Worst to Best

on August 03, 2015, 2:00pm
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This Lollapalooza 2015 coverage is presented by the JVC XX Elation

JVCKenwood_Lolla XX v1It’s weird: Ten years ago, Lollapalooza found a new home in Chicago’s Grant Park, and the whole festival atmosphere felt so fresh and exciting. Now, it’s second nature. The pre-gaming starts Thursday night, the following three days whiz on by, the cleanup begins, next year’s dates are announced, speculation heats up, a headliner surfaces, those two-weekend rumors pop up again (only to be quickly squashed), another headliner leaks, and finally, the full lineup drops. No matter who’s on the poster — it could be The Cure or Kings of Leon or Lady Gaga or Paul McCartney, whatever — people moan and groan and smash their keys in anger. It’s all for naught, though, because the damn thing sells out in five minutes anyhow.

Times have certainly changed since those salad days of 2005. What was once Perry Farrell’s traveling festival of alternative oddities has now instead become a lucrative global brand, thanks to thriving installments firmly established in Santiago, Chile, and São Paulo, Brazil, with two more on the way for Berlin, Germany, and Bogotá, Colombia. And considering that Live Nation has a controlling interest in C3 Presents, this aggressive expansion should only continue, which means, hey, maybe we’ll finally get that oft-rumored Lollapalooza Toronto. Or Lollapalooza Israel. Wouldn’t that be wild? Roger Waters could headline!

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Photo by Philip Cosores

Jokes aside, there was something curiously nostalgic about this year’s Chicago installment. While it’s technically the 11th time Lollapalooza has taken over (and strangled) Grant Park, it’s actually been a clean 10 years since the fruitful partnership began. Walking around, I tried to remember that understated first year, back when only the south fields were in operation and acts like Weezer or Death Cab for Cutie could headline over Arcade Fire and The Killers. Late Saturday afternoon, I stood under the same friendly trees behind the Sprint stage, where I watched the madness ensue around me, recalling a time when there were four stages blasting music at hour-long intervals and the record heat was keeping everyone away from Ben Kweller.

Squint hard enough and you can still see fragments of that era in today’s festivities. It’s just bigger, louder, and overstuffed with younger audiences starved for every “button-pushing” act at that one-time little tent called Perry’s. Some might also argue there’s an assault of corporatization, and they’d be right, but that might not necessarily be a bad thing. Late Friday evening, Contributing Editor Philip Cosores remarked on how the glut of corporate sponsors wasn’t offensive enough to detract from the bolder and more useful amenities on site. The food’s more affordable and diverse than most destination festivals, the security’s startlingly efficient and effective, and there’s an arguably strong commitment to everyone from GA to VIP to Press.

10-Hippo-Campus-Cosores

Photo by Philip Cosores

One of the reasons I’m always drawn to Lollapalooza is because it’s so synonymous with Consequence of Sound. This site wouldn’t exist without that make-it-or-break-it year in Grant Park. The brand’s Chicago resurrection came with a lively message board that connected me with my colleague and partner Alex Young, and the rest is as you see it today. And so, each passing year feels like a new step we’re also taking. But, let’s be real: We’ve also changed drastically. We work with more and more sponsors each month, and we’ve expanded and experienced a variety of face lifts, too. There are always going to be ugly factors with regards to change, but I’d like to believe that change only works if the positives outweigh the negatives.

Once again, Lollapalooza proved just that. Did the undercard suffer from having both Sir Paul McCartney and Metallica on the bill? Sure, but over 80,000 ecstatic fans walked out of the park singing “Hey Jude” or screaming “Master of Puppets” as they flooded the streets of downtown Chicago. Sure, that tense and unexpected evacuation was hardly ideal on Sunday afternoon, but somehow over 48,000 festival-goers and 4,000 staff, artists, and vendors were safely evacuated and then reentered into the park in under an hour. To their further credit, the organizers were even able to rearrange the splintered schedule and accommodate the early close in preparation for the next storm.

tameimpala kaplan lolla sat 14 Lollapalooza 2015 Festival Review: From Worst to Best

Photo by Heather Kaplan

There’s something remarkable about this 10-year-long winning streak of Lollapalooza, even to a cynical dickhead like myself. Forgive me for getting a tad sentimental about the proceedings, but as someone who’s only missed one year in Grant Park — the great lineup of 2007, all because of a negligent landlord (it’s a long story) — I feel comfortable in saying I’ve seen all the ups and downs of this polarizing franchise. I’ll agree the festival’s long been removed from its original roots and will also contend that there’s something depressing about this, but for all of its radical changes, whether it’s the cheap assault of EDM or the Live Nation takeover, the honest echoes are still vibrant enough to keep considering this a must-see event.

To paraphrase the weekend’s third headliner: “How Big, How Shrewd, How Beautiful.”

–Michael Roffman
Editor-in-Chief

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