Transforms Grant Park into indie rock heaven

This year I deemed it necessary I attend one of the largest and longest living music festivals with in driving distance from my home base in Toronto.

With a line up this flamboyant I'd be an idiot not to! So some friends and I took on the seven hour drive to arrive in the heart of Chicago, not really knowing what to expect. After reading about this festival for years and years, it was time to see it all for myself.

17 years after its conception the festival is known world wide for unbelievably great line ups. So year after year Lolla takes over downtown Chicago and transforms Grant Park into indie rock heaven where hipsters and scenesters alike gather from all over the globe to share unforgettable musical moments, and well of course… beers and doobies.

So there I am Friday morning dropped in the center of this cultural phenomenon. The streets of Chicago swarming with record store and Starbucks employees in their 20 something's heading towards the big blow up "Lolla" sign at the main entrance. Behind the big entrance, the huge elegant Buckingham Fountain providing mist and begging to be photographed. It's as if the fountain whispered clearly into everyone's ears "come on in. This is where you need to be. This is the break from everything you've been waiting for. Let every other worry escape you. You're finally here." And suddenly the worries about the traffic on the highway, the hotel arrangements, my credit card being maxed out… all of it just disintegrated. Welcome to Lollapalooza.

After picking my jaw off the ground on a few different occasions I soon remembered what I was there for. It's easy to get lost in a parade of bad tattoos, bad accents, and bad hair dos. I came up gasping for air just as Somalia/Toronto rapper K'naan, was wrapping up a set filled with bongo drum deliciousness.

Next up Atlanta, Georgia's jammy bunch, the Black Lips doused the audience in psychedelic pop frenzies. Although still pretty early on in the day, the festival was alive and kicking, and the Black Lips brought their version of musical fire to the main stage shaking everyone out of their morning skin and into the sun. Not-yet-sunburnt faces clapped and danced along willingly! I had never quite fallen in love the Black Lips on record, but live they put the missing pieces of the puzzle together and I soon began to understand why they have such a loyal following.

Over at one of the side stages Manchester Orchestra was still sound checking. They started off their set with blades of noise piercing the sky, and continued through their moody atmospheric rock catalogue impressively. Playing fan favourites from their latest album, I'm Like a Virgin Losing a Child, these Brand New tour mates sure knew how to build up and break down. Their songs, although addressing depressing subjects like lost love and broken hearts, lit up the afternoon with a refreshing accessibility evoking many a sing-a-long.

By the afternoon the sun was beating down on shoulders and heads. Sweat was oozing from pores. But not even the heat could stop the Go! Team's lead girl Ninja from going bat shit crazy on stage, and thus the audience alongside her. Not for one second did any member on stage stop jumping and dancing! The crowd looked as if they were all shocked by some super tazer gun and was soon bouncing off the grass with peculiar dance moves alongside the Brighton groups' crazy mash ups and vocoder assaults. They rotated instruments and didn't stop for a breath once except for a nice ballad where Kaori Tsuchida (one of the cutest girls ever) proved quite adept on the recorder. It was a stunning set and after all I could think about was sitting down for a second and letting it all sink in.

Luckily, there was a chance for this. As your mom's newest car-ride-sing-a-long obsession, and well the rest of the world's favourite Wales songstress phenom, Duffy was up for her Lolla set. Her voice filled the sky and I must admit, I get what everyone likes about her bluesy tunes, but I just don't quite find them too special. I would much rather spend my time singing along to an artist like Cat Power (who luckily was coming on the exact same stage in a few hours). The sound wasn't too great for Duffy either, which is unfortunate. Every time she wailed her high croon the speakers cracked and people cringed and covered their ears.

On the other main stage, the Black Keys were gearing up for an hour long set packed with twangy and down right dirty rock and roll. Between songs they shown with pride about their hometown Akron, Ohio but for the most part they just stuck to melting faces with beyond human guitar soloing. At the end of their set it looked as if they had both just jumped into a swimming pool they were so drenched, but alas that's what the sun and rock and roll will do to you.

Click here for Part Two!

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