Can we just start off by admitting that music festivals are really, really hard?
Before you scoff at the notion that anyone should complain about having to spend a long weekend — next to a pretty lake in an awesome city — with the sole purpose of watching as much music as humanly possible, have some sympathy. Porta-potties are revolting, festival beer is warm by your third sip, people on drugs are really annoying when you’re not on drugs, and nothing makes you feel older than a bunch of teenagers running around in extra-extra-small gear from Forever 21 and Urban Outfitters. Also, if you admit that you kind of wanted to see the Red Hot Chili Peppers, those effing teenagers will make fun of you, and not just because Flea is old enough to be their grandfather.
But enough complaining. The fact is, while the lineup for Lolla 2012 may not have been as epic as in years past (oops, was that another complaint?), it was still a solid three-day affair. And sometimes, seeing awesome live music makes triple-digit temperatures and smelling like other people’s sweat somewhat bearable. Also, it’s not like an act of God — or nature — threatened the very gathering of Lollapaloozaites mid-festival. Wait. More on that later.
Thursday evening — or Lolla Eve, if you prefer — had a variety of pre-festival options, but perhaps the most sought-after was the sold-out Band of Horses/Michael Kiwanuka gig at the Metro. Kiwanuka started with a short set to a generally appreciative crowd, but it’s clear that the masses were there for Ben Bridwell & Co. BOH, who was not on the Lolla lineup, played some songs off their upcoming album, Mirage Rock, but focused on the familiar crowd-pleasers. Despite some sound issues, the show was great, but the highlight of the evening was the random superfan with anger management issues who literally turned on the chatty crowd and yelled, “SHUT THE FUCK UP!!!” Crowd = unfazed.
We caught a bit of Metric to kill some time, which is pretty much the best way to kill time, because Metric rules. I was in a hurry to get back to the BMI stage for thenewno2, featuring my aforementioned crush Dhani Harrison. thenewno2 is an experimental electronica, vibey rock outfit, so you’re either going to love it or hate it, but I thought the Son of George et al. totally delivered. Oh, and Lolla founder Perry Farrell and his wife, Etty, were watching the set right in front of me. It’s cool that they still get out in the crowd to catch a show, even if they were flanked by bodyguards. (Since roughly 7 percent of dudes who attend Lolla slightly resemble Perry Farrell, he probably would have slid through unnoticed.)
After this, we had big plans to run back and forth between multiple stages with the eventual goal of ending the night with Ozzy and Black Sabbath. Not being huge Sabbath fans, it just seemed like a bucket-list item. Also, we were promised that, in addition to watching him take hits of oxygen on the side of the stage, we’d get to see him avoid the rope light lining the end of the stage like a dog avoids an electric fence.
But somehow, we ended up watching a flawless Shins set before taking a break in a lounge by Perry’s stage, where we accidentally caught Bassnectar. By the time we figured out what was going on, both Black Sabbath and Black Keys were well underway, and those stages seemed really far away.
So, if you pay attention to anything, you probably know that a massive storm blew through Chicago on Saturday, and the threat of potential 70-mile-per-hour winds was enough for the Lolla bigwigs to evacuate Grant Park by mid-afternoon.
Have you ever seen over 100,000 people being forcibly evicted from something? It ain’t pretty. Being on the wuss side of the human spectrum, we fled north to avoid the stampede of buzzed, neon-clad concertgoers, and awaited updates from our friends in the trenches, who eventually reported that the doors reopened around 6 p.m. After some solid bar food, a few beers, and an excellent view of a TV showing the Olympics, two things became apparent: Lolla attendees sort of dress like Olympic contenders, only dirtier, and there was no way in hell we were going back downtown into that mess.
But wait! Scene intern Wrenne Evans braved the storm for hometown heroes JEFF the Brotherhood, and here's what she had to report from their set:
Luckily, I managed to see my most-anticipated show before the storm: some Bogus Bros straight out of the homeland. Yeah, I'm talking about JEFF the Brotherhood. The crowd reached past the soundboard, and man, we had some seriously hometown pride about that one. Plus, brothers Jake and Jamin Orrall seemed just as pumped about the crowd.
It's only been a couple weeks since the release of the bros' newest album Hypnotic Nights, yet that did not stop the crowd from singing every word. With a couple songs thrown in from We Are the Champions alongside Heavy Days tunes like "U Got The Look," JEFF's set list couldn't have looked better. But wait. After a fellow Nashvillian begged for things to be kicked back to 2006 by shouting a request for "Noo Sixties" from of Castle Storm, Jake surveyed the crowd and asked how many people knew the reference. As you might guess, about 12 people raised their hands — mostly Nashvillians, of course. The bros happily obliged and pleased us with some old-school JEFF. We considered the set list close to perfection and the brothers Orrall have never sounded so good. Not trying to sound biased here, but we have dubbed this our favorite show. —WRENNE EVANS
Slightly bummed after missing Saturday sets from Aloe Blacc, Alabama Shakes, fun., LP, Neon Indian, Washed Out, Santigold and — of course — Red Hot Chili Peppers, we pulled it together for the final day of Lolla 2012.
For some reason we were transfixed watching Little Dragon, even though everyone in our party agreed that they sounded awful. And we could have been watching Gary Clark Jr. or The Walkmen during that set! Whatever. Next up was Sigur Ros, which I thought would be totally interesting to see in a festival environment, and they were as gloriously weird and hypnotic as they always are. (Side note: I was a little disappointed that I did not see an ASL Interpreter onstage for this particular show, because I was hoping to see someone translate Jónsi's made-up, "Hopelandic" language into hand-gesture gibberish.)
After Sigur Ros, we popped nearby to check out Toro y Moi before trekking through the mud — which wasn’t as bad as you would expect, considering the entire festival was shut down for hours the day before — for Florence + the Machine. Florence Welch is totally made for Lolla-caliber festivals, and with her flaming hair, flowing dresses and larger-than-life vocals, she owned that main stage.
Since we had heard rumors of a nasty crowd-pushing incident before the Chili Peppers’ set on Saturday night, we decided to head back to the other main stage early for Nashville’s favorite adopted son, Jack White. The temperatures had dropped to where it nearly felt cool out, leading us to wonder if Mr. White himself had some eerie control over the earth’s thermostat. White started with the all-boy band, switching midway to the all-girl band, and his set proved that he’s one of the few artists worth staying for the entire end of a festival weekend for.