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The Best and Worst of Lollapalooza 2014

Between eight stages, 150 shows, and a couple hundred thousand fans, these were the incredible highs and totally lame lows of the weekend festival.

Cage the Elephant performs on Sunday at Lollapalooza 2014   Photo: Joshua Mellin

The Best

Outkast’s charisma and showmanship

Wearing a white wig and a black jumpsuit with the words “Across all cultures, darker people suffer most, why?” emblazoned across the chest, Andre 3000 was a buoyant source of energy on Saturday night. He joked with Big Boi, whose dance moves with guest star Sleepy Brown were a highlight, and sounded sharp against a live band (a drummer, bassist, three horns, two back-up singers, a DJ, and a keyboardist). The two men were uniformly excellent as they spun through a mix of new and old songs. Though Outkast started hemorrhaging fans after “Hey Ya,” the full set was a truly thrilling experience.

Rihanna’s hook on Eminem’s “Stan”

When Eminem’s regular partner in rhyme joined him on stage Friday night, “Love the Way You Lie” and “The Monster” were obvious picks. “Stan,” on the other hand, was a bit unexpected, given that Rihanna was about ten years old when it hit the airwaves. But, not surprisingly, she nailed it.

Lorde’s visceral dance moves

The teen queen’s angular undulation—part marionette part head banging—was an authentic, bizarre breath of fresh air after Iggy Azalea’s choreographed twerking.

Trombone Shorty’s frenetic energy and “Brain Stew” cover

This New Orleans native has been performing since age four, so it’s no surprise that he played one of the best sets on Sunday afternoon. Conducting his band from the front of the stage, Troy Andrews’s muscular playing was a rare treat at this year’s rock fest. And when he launched into Green Day’s “Brain Stew” melding it with Big Tymers’s “Still Fly,” it was just the cherry on top.

Kate Nash’s platform sneakers

Sure, she wore a cloak, but it was the British pop rocker’s shoes—black platforms boots with gold, jagged teeth on the sides—that were most memorable. “They look like they can attack you,” said one bro to another.

Betty Who’s rain-soaked set

The diva from down under didn’t let the intermittent rain on Sunday stop her from delivering a bouncy, grin-inducing set, capped off by her hit “Somebody Loves You.” Bonus points for covering “Say My Name,” because a little Destiny’s Child never hurts.

Run the Jewels’s swagger

Killer Mike and El-P walked onstage to Queen’s “We Are The Champions,” and they actually lived up to the moniker: They were electric together and the show never dragged, a master class in how a fest rap show should be done.

The Lolla farmers’ market

Not only were some local favorites (Puffs of Doom, Seasons Soda) tucked away off the main Chow Town drag, they always seemed to have blessedly short lines. Hooray for River Valley Kitchens mushroom veggie burgers without a wait.

The Worst

Vic Mensa’s winded rhymes

This isn’t to say Vic Mensa didn’t kill it on the BMI stage Saturday evening (take note Lolla, stop putting Save Money Crew members on small stages), but the young buck sounded a bit winded. Part of what makes Mensa’s INNANETAPE so dazzling is his speedy precision, and that’s a hard effect to nail when you’re jumping around more than your DJ/hype-man.

Rich Homie Quan’s micro-set

Atlanta up-and-comer Rich Homie Quan was scheduled to play the Grove Stage from 4:00 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. on Saturday. What happened instead was his DJ spinning from 4:00 p.m. to 4:17 p.m. eventually peeling off at 4:38 p.m., leaving RHQ on stage for a total of 21 minutes.

The lack of female headliners

Rihanna’s brief, memorable appearance at Eminem’s set on Friday only highlighted the frustrating gender disparity at Lolla this year. Why not give Lorde a headlining spot? Or Nicki Minaj. Or even pop princess Katy Perry? Here’s hoping Lolla tries to make booking women on bigger stages more of a priority next year.

The Dev Hynes and Samantha Urbani debacle

Just hours after Dev Hynes (Blood Orange) and girlfriend Samantha Urbani played the Grove Stage Friday evening wearing homemade anti-violence t-shirts—Urbani’s reading “stop police brutality” and Hynes’s had the names of victims Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, Eric Garner, among others—the Brooklyn singer tweeted that the two of them had been assaulted by security guards. Lolla released a statement Saturday morning saying they were investigating the attack, but as of this posting, the whole thing remains an unfortunate mystery.

The crowds outside Perry’s stage

All of your nightmares about summer music festivals—the mass of humanity, the drunk teenagers, the stench of sweat—could be realized by walking the short stretch of street running alongside Lolla’s EDM showcase, regardless of the time of day.

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