One of the best and worst parts of Lollapalooza is that it takes place in Chicago in late summer. That fact often means you’ll get amazing sunsets just as the headlining bands are taking their stages, and the breeze from Lake Michigan cools off everything a little bit.
But it also means there’s a possibility of rain. And day three of Lollapalooza made that possibility a reality.
The day started with a huge downpour, but that didn’t stop a large turnout from appearing in Grant Park on Sunday. Fields were packed together for almost every show I saw, including Cool Kids, my first stop of the day. It was a difficult decision—The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. and The Cool Kids were all playing at the same time. Considering I’d hardly seen any hip-hop during my weekend, I elected to see Chicago’s own rap-about-sneakers duo perform before a rabid crowd. And the group didn’t disappoint, ripping through tracks from their long-in-the-making debut album, When Fish Ride Bicycles. The crowd ate up every moment of the bass-heavy set, so much so that The Cool Kids ran over their allotted time and had the power cut off on them.
Next was an odd stretch of time with a few bands I didn’t have much interest in seeing. It’s a rarity at a festival like Lollapalooza—usually there’s at least one band you want to see at any given moment. But I wasn’t particularly interested in seeing The Cars or Flogging Molly, so I wandered around to both for just a song or two each. The Cars seemed a little listless, but they also might be bored of playing the same songs after 25 years. Still, it was fun to hear “You Might Think” live. Flogging Molly was all Celtic and punk-y, just like you’d expect. Which meant there were a lot of people really into it.
Next up was Best Coast, who I was eager to see. Their debut album, Crazy For You, was perfectly warbly surf-pop (though it gets a little old to hear lead singer Bethany Cosentino sing about how much she needs someone who also drives her crazy) and I was curious to see how it would translate to the stage.
Then, black clouds started rolling in.
Just before Best Coast came on stage, the skies opened and it started pouring. It wasn’t just a little drizzle either—after it finished, I wrung out my shirt and poured water out of my shoe. But the downpour didn’t dampen (much) the crowd’s enthusiasm, and Cosentino was visibly amazed that people stuck out the entire set. Best Coast was a tight band, even though some of their songs tend to blend together, and in concert the “I really need a boyfriend” vibe was still grating.
While I tried to dry off, I wandered over to Arctic Monkeys, who have probably played almost exactly the same set for the last six years, just with a few more new songs sprinkled in. After all, when you have a song like “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor,” why mess with set lists?
Arctic Monkeys ended up going about 20 minutes too long (probably because of the rain/lightning) which meant Explosions in the Sky had a shortened set. Which is too bad, as they are incredibly epic live. Their set time also meant they were going just before Foo Fighters, and much of their set was only seen by a smaller number of hardcore fans and people passing by to get their seats for Foo Fighters. Which made it hard to concentrate on their intricate instrumental post-rock. However, as soon as they launched into “The Only Moment We Were Alone,” it earned them some new fans. There is nothing like hearing that song, with all of its emotional build-up, as the sun sets behind the Chicago skyline. It was, dare I say, worshipful.
Immediately after Explosions finished their set, Foo Fighters started (literally—the drums started as Explosions were saying “thank you” to the crowd). And for a band that’s been around for more than 15 years, they know how to rock out. It’s clear Dave Grohl, in particular, has more than earned the headlining spot of Lollapalooza. The band tore through some of their hits from all of their albums, leading the almost-as-big-as-Eminem crowd in a gigantic singalong.
But remember how I said it rained three times? During Foo Fighters second song, I saw the clouds roll in and began to try to head back to shelter—which was more difficult than it sounds, as most of Grant Park was a giant mud pit. As I reached a tent, I could hear “My Hero” starting, but was also thankful that I was under cover, because the sky split open and rain gushed out. It clearly didn’t make any of the crowd leave early, but it was the obvious ending to my 2011 Lollapalooza trip. Though, Dave Grohl is such a rock star, he probably single-handedly scared the rain away later.
Photo credits: Foo Fighters photos from Cambria Harkey, mud photo by Jack Edinger, Best Coast by Will Rice