Lollapalooza 2012: Best and Worst of the Festival

From the tunes to the tazoyaki, check out the highlights (and lowlights) of this year’s music fest

Lollapalooza evacuation
Festgoers cross a street in the Loop after Lollapalooza was suspended due to a storm Saturday afternoon.
 

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Despite Lollapalooza’s first-ever suspension and evacuation due to inclement weather, the 2012 festival was still a hit, drawing 270,000 fans to a jam-packed Grant Park this weekend. We were there, too, shooting the latest styles and eavesdropping on the craziest comments from fans. These are just some of the best and worst moments from the three days of Lolla.

BEST:

Calvin Harris. Saturday may have been interrupted by a torrential downpour and park evacuation (see “worst”), but there was no sign of the mid-day trauma during Cavin Harris’s late-night set at the Perry Stage. The Scottish DJ broke it down with his single “Feel So Close,” but the set reached its height with the echo of thousands of people singing “We Found Love,” which Harris played toward the end of his performance.

Frank Ocean. It’s a bold move to open with a cover song, but Ocean pulled it off with total success. Making a quiet entrance onto the stage, the New Orleans rapper (and Odd Future collective member) started things off with Sade’s “By Your Side.” His rendition was not only heartfelt and moving, but he also managed to get countless 20-something frat boys to sing along to the sultry R&B single—good work, Frank.

Sigur Ros. Every year it seems like Lolla moves further toward becoming an electronic festival (the Perry stage was one the biggest this year), but the Icelandic experimental group was a powerful counterpoint to the numerous DJ sets scattered throughout the weekend. Between the percussion, guitars, strings and Jónsi Birgisson’s eerie falsetto vocals, the group’s enormous sound created an alcove of ephemeral, dazed noise that left us in a trance.

Redmoon, DJ Fire. Leave it to Redmoon to bring a little bit of weird to the party. The West Side theater company has spent the summer staging “urban interventions” around the city, and on Sunday night, the group set up camp by Buckingham Fountain with a fire-releasing device, keytar, and laptop. Nessun Dorma accompanied by keytar? Yes please.

The Lolla App. Finally, a dedicated app to a festival that was actually useful. Fest organizers (and official app sponsor Hard Rock Hotel) scored major points for nailing the technology. With the full lineup listed, a clickable map to find the nearest music (and bar) in any area, and regular notifications on schedule changes and evacuation notices, the app made an overwhelming weekend much more manageable.

Chizakaya’s Takoyaki. Once again, Lolla’s food corridor, Chow Town, featured some of the best local eateries for the weekend, including the delicious takoyaki from the Lakeview Japanese pub. Among the other highlights on our staff: Wow Bao’s spicy Mongolian beef bao, Frank ‘N Dawg’s truffle fries, and Haus of Sausages big-a$$ brat. The fresh doughnuts from Do-Rite were also a welcome treat on Saturday night.

WORST:

J. Cole. The hip-hop artist hit the Bud Light stage Sunday afternoon with an odd rock band accompaniment that detracted from his better-sounding beats. Cole also relied way too much on audience participation (which was awkwardly absent in the crowd). The auto-tune solo from a band member didn’t help much either.

Smoke Daddy’s Pulled Pork Sandwich. Not every vendor amazed with its offerings this weekend. Smoke Daddy’s pulled pork sandwich, for instance, was nowhere near as delicious as their in-store version. Runner-ups for biggest disappointment: Kuma’s Corner’s Doom Burger (too dry) and Lou Malnati’s (messy and small).

The Storm. It’s already being called the “evacuation festival” and “Storm-apalooza” after more than 60,000 fans fled Grant Park Saturday afternoon when a major storm rolled through Chicago. While fest-goers swarmed nearby bars, hotels, and parking garages, Lolla was forced to cancel performances by Alabama Shakes, B.o.B., and other bands. Still, kudos to the planners for proving the skeptics wrong and handling a tricky situation well.

 

Photograph: Ray Whitehouse

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