Lollapalooza 2012: Surviving The Evacuation & Rock Vs. EDM

A brief storm had the potential to knock this year’s Lollapalooza on its feet, but the Chicago music festival wasn’t down for the count.

Following its first-ever evacuation of festivalgoers around 3:30PM on Saturday (August 4), Lollapalooza reopened its gates less than three hours later. There were a few set cancellations (Alabama Shakes and B.o.B. among them), a whole mess of mud, and just a touch of chaos. Fans weren’t exactly sure how the schedule had been rearranged and condensed, but by nightfall, the masses seemed content, the majority flocking to see the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

The Peppers‘ chaotic live show suited the day, with bassist Flea encouraging the crowd to get wild (as if they already hadn’t, many of them drinking through the storm at nearby hotels). The group is no stranger to Lollapalooza, headlining the festival three times and remaining one of rock’s most enduring live acts. Lolla may have given DJs like Bassnectar and Avicii headlining slots and expanded Perry’s dance stage this year, but booking massive rock acts like the Chili Peppers arguably appeals to a wider range of festivalgoers. So fear not, rock fans: No one thinks the established rockers that are headlining Lolla are going anywhere. The Black Sabbaths of the world have a stage to reunite on, as they did Friday night to a roaring crowd.

But that’s not to say EDM fans aren’t flocking to the festival as well. This year more than ever, scantily-clad, DayGlo teens and pre-teens made their invasion for acts like Calvin Harris, who drew an unthinkably massive crowd on Saturday evening. Since Lollapalooza cemented itself as a destination festival in Chicago’s Grant Park back in 2005, it has traded the “alternative nation” ethos of its ’90s roots for mass appeal, to some extent. The festival consistently sells out and has expanded to international levels. In other words, Lolla founder (and Jane’s Addiction frontman) Perry Farrell has little to worry about in way of the “dance people” annoying the “rock people” (and vice versa).

As for sets with mass appeal, Jack White’s headlining set Sunday night – the festival’s longest time slot at nearly two hours – was a hoedown of epic proportions. Fans may like the White Stripes frontman a little more rock’n’roll than country, but they danced along contently even if Jack’s taking his Nashville influence a little far. Naturally, White Stripes hits like “Seven Nation Army” received the most crowd love.

The opposite was true for the Black Keys on Friday night, with fans roaring the loudest over the duo’s new songs. However, it wasn’t all El Camino tracks. The Keys got back to their roots with a jam session of songs off their first three albums as well.

The awards for most crowded sets go to fun. and Florence + the Machine, both of whom packed in a truly unthinkable amount of people for early evening sets on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. The elaborately-costumed Florence Welch got her exercise in for the month, running from one side of the stage to another and managing to sing Ceremonials tracks in the process. She was dramatic as usual, but extra chatty and engaging with the crowd. It was clear she had tailored the set for a massive festival turn-out.

Fun.’s 30-minute performance was the first to go on after Saturday’s storm, with kids climbing up trees and on picnic tables just to get a glimpse of the alt-pop trio at the hidden Google Play stage. The wooded location – smaller than a headlining stage – also played home to acts like Frank Ocean, Gaslight Anthem and Of Monsters and Men, all of whom also inspired fanatical singalongs to their spirited performances. R&B wonderboy Ocean was particularly “on” during his Saturday headlining slot, where he got chatty about the festival’s boxed water and his recent coming out.

Other random highlights (there always are) from the weekend include: Franz Ferdinand’s cover of Donna Summer’s disco classic “I Fee Love,” the gourmet eats at Lolla’s Chow Town (like Kuma’s Black Sabbath burger, Electric Funeral), and a reunited Afghan Whigs tearing it to shreds on Friday. Until next year!

– Jillian Mapes, CBS Local


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