Lollapalooza, a rock festival at its roots branches out

By: Lisa Sanders for HorizonVU Music

2010 marked my third year attending Lollapalooza in Chicago. I look forward to the three-day music festival every year,and this year was no exception. By no means am I any kind of music expert, nor do I claim a great deal of knowledge about the business—I’m simply a person who enjoys all types of music. Lollapalooza, which is a rock festival at its roots, has branched out to include everything from techno to hip-hop. This is a big point of conflict among music lovers, with some saying that including genres outside of rock taints what the festival is about. I disagree. The variety of music brings in audiences of all kinds—each person coming to see his or her preferred act. But, throughout the weekend, these niche audiences can’t help but be exposed to something different than what they usually listen to, which is what music festivals as a whole should be about. In fact, it’s a big part of what draws me to beautiful Grant Park summer after summer.

Unfortunately, I was working with a festival sponsor at the park this year, so I didn’t get a chance to see many of the daytime acts. Don’t get me wrong though—the evening lineup was fantastic. In the evening on Friday, I was able to take in a bit of Matt & Kim. They are a duo that has really blown up in the past year. In fact, around this time last year I saw them in a fairly small venue in Madison, Wisconsin. This time around, the crowd was huge—too big for the medium-sized stage they were on. I enjoy their happy, stripped-down rock sound, but it also becomes very repetitive to the point where it’s hard to differentiate songs from one another. Regardless, their energy is contagious and I would recommend giving them a listen or going out to see them if given the chance.

Photo: Sam Hendrick/MTV News

Lady Gaga, Photo: Sam Hendrick/MTV News

Friday night I was torn between seeing Lady Gaga and The Strokes who were playing at opposite ends of the park, but I opted for the ever-fascinating Gaga. I had seen her in January earlier this year, so I knew I would be in for a great show. Her Lolla act was very similar to the one I had seen previously, however it did not play out as well as it did in a smaller venue. She spent a lot of time talking, doing her shtick about not fitting in high school and just generally being bizarre, which I think turned off a lot of the audience who weren’t at the festival to see her specifically. When she was singing though, it was truly great. Her vocals, especially considering her choreography, are so impressive and refreshing to see in a pop act.



Saturday evening I was able to see Spoon, a band that seems to be an ever-present fixture at Lolla and other music festivals. It’s understandable why though, because they are so damn consistent. This marked my third time seeing them live, and each time I’ve enjoyed more than the last. Lead singer Britt Daniels gritty and Brit-rock sounding vocals never get old in my book. Every song made the audience groove, even sending a shower of crowd-surfers overhead for majority of the set. Definitely pick up on of their albums (start with Gimme Fiction, it’s my favorite).

Wolfmother, Photo:

Wolfmother, Photo:

On Sunday evening I ventured out of comfort zone to see a band I hadn’t planned on watching, and was pleasantly surprised. Instead of seeing trendy “experimental rock” group MGMT, I went to the other end of the park to watch Wolfmother. While the crowd wasn’t the biggest, I was impressed by their energy and sound. Lead singer Andrew Stockdale has an incredible set of pipes, often resembling Robert Plant. I got there later in the set, but I wish I could have seen the whole thing. Next, I took in part of The National’s show. They are new on my musical radar screen, although they’ve been around for over a decade. I found Matt Berninger’s deep vocals to be refreshing compared to many rock bands out there now that are into this falsetto trend (see MGMT or Passion Pit). It was obvious that the audience contained some truly die-hard fans, and the band gave them everything they had.

Arcade Fire,

Arcade Fire, Photo: Sean Edgar/Paste Magazine

Next up, Arcade Fire. This is another band whose popularity has really grown this year, recently playing a sold out Madison Square Garden. I’m not the biggest fan, although I enjoy listening to them from time to time. The part that stands out the most to me was how humble the band seemed, and how genuinely excited the seemed to be headlining Lollapalooza. They’re set was nothing to sneeze at though. They brought a big sound and I think made a lot of new fans that night.

Overall, I had a great three days at Lollapalooza. I would have loved to have been able to see more shows during the day, like The xx, Mumford & Sons, or The New Pornographers, all of whom I heard were nothing short of fantastic. There is truly nothing better than listening to great music set against the gorgeous Chicago skyline. If you get the chance—GO. Even if it’s just for one of the three days. It’s an experience like none other.

Lisa Sanders attends the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she studies Communication Arts.

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