Lollapalooza 2012: Evacuated and muddy, but musically unbowed

Lollapalooza 2012: Evacuated and muddy, but musically unbowed

In a year marred by stage collapses and concert dust-ups, it makes sense that C3 Presents, the organizers of Lollapalooza, wasn’t about to take any chances with a serious thunderstorm that ripped through the festival’s grounds—Chicago’s Grant Park—on Saturday. The Austin, Texas-based company ordered a full-out evacuation of festival-goers, thus making the 2012 festival one of the most talked-about in the fest’s seven-year Chicago history. A simple thunderstorm can’t keep down 100,000 young, CamelBak-clad people looking to have a good time, though, and the festival persevered. 120-odd bands—including Black Sabbath, Jack White, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and The Black Keys—played over three full days and nights, and The A.V. Club was there for all of it to capture the best and worst musical moments—plus some pretty bad tattoos.

Biggest Clusterfuck: Lollapalooza tickets specify the event happens rain or shine, and people who attended last year’s event will remember the torrential downpours that struck on the last day. But Saturday afternoon, as a super-intense thunderstorm bore down on Chicago, festival organizers made the unprecedented decision to evacuate Grant Park—to go where, no one knew. As a result, 60,000 people descended upon downtown Chicago at once, ensnaring traffic on Michigan Avenue and overloading just about every business in the area, especially if it was a bar. (The Chicago Sun-Times reported that a liquor store near the Congress Hotel locked its doors and that a nearby Starbucks kicked everyone out.) A push notification from the Lollapalooza app directed people to three areas, but didn’t specify that they were underground parking garages. Confusion reigned, but spirits remained high, and the crowds were as orderly as they were going to get when thousands of people all leave the same place at once. “Isn’t this kinda fun, though?” said a woman we passed on State Street. “It’s like the apocalypse!” When the storm finally hit about an hour later, it lived up to its reputation. The sky went green, then almost black, with high winds (and even bigger gusts), hail, and then sheets of rain—which flooded the kitchen of the bar where The A.V. Club took refuge. The storm passed, and at 5:45 p.m., the Twitter feed of Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that the festival was re-opening and given permission to go beyond its usual 10 p.m. curfew. By 6, a press release from Lollapalooza announced gates were back open, and thousands of people joyfully streamed back into the park, feeling victorious over a storm that threatened to ruin the whole day. Some set times were pushed back, and several artists—including Alabama Shakes and B.o.B.—had their sets canceled altogether. [KR]

The drop that never was: After having to extend the fest’s curfew on Saturday because of the rain delay, Lollapalooza organizers were quick on the draw when it came time to end the show on Sunday, pulling the plug on sound at 10 on the dot—right in the middle of the final song from Chicago DJ Kaskade, who was in the middle of whipping the crowd at Perry’s into a frenzy when the speakers suddenly went quiet. Coming near the apex of a spiraling synth crescendo, the silence seemed for a nanosecond like the preface to a huge bass drop, but all that came was the huge, echoing groan of thousands of kids getting their buzz killed all at once. [GK]

Biggest beneficiaries of the evacuation: In the wake of the Lollapocalypse, frayed nerves gave way to a survivors’ bonhomie—no doubt aided by all the drinking done at sheltering bars—that made everyone seem looser and friendlier. And two acts benefited greatly from their being the calm after the storm. First up was Toronto’s no-longer-so-mysterious The Weeknd, who provided a sunset-backed set of airy R&B to ease everyone back into the bog. “Mother Nature is a fucking bitch, huh?” singer Abel Tesfaye asked at one point, though—other than the threatening edge of some his lyrics, and a particularly hard-rock rendition of “Life Of The Party”—he was mostly there to soothe the savage, soaked beast. Songs like opener “High For This” may have lost some of their seductive drama on the big festival stage, particularly a stage not everyone was excited about standing in ankle-deep water to get close to, but the we-may-be-wounded-but-we-came-to-party aura of songs like “The Morning” and the Drake co-owned “Crew Love” perfectly matched the vibe of the crowd.

Of course, perhaps no one got a bigger payoff from catastrophe than Frank Ocean. Already riding a wave of exponential attention in the wake of his opening up about his sexuality, he found himself similarly lifted by larger forces into a headlining slot directly opposite Red Hot Chili Peppers and Avicii, and delivered a set that proved he belonged there. It started off somewhat confusingly, with Ocean opening with renditions of Sade’s “By Your Side” and his own “Summer Remains” delivered on acoustic guitar—an intimacy suited to the confessional nature of his music, but (judging by immediate Twitter reactions) had some wondering whether they were at the right stage. But once the set opened up with “Thinkin Bout You”—and definitely when the more synth-heavy R&B tracks like “Novacane,” “Swim Good,” and especially epic closer “Pyramids” dropped through—Ocean found that sweet spot between intimacy and amphitheater-ready bravado. 

And having been suddenly thrust into the spotlight as a symbol of the ongoing, idiotic, ideological war over love, he gave it right back: to Chicago (it has “the flyest architecture” he’s ever seen), to the super-fans that seemed to know every word (“We’re gonna start a Lollapalooza choir tonight”), and the whole wide world, encouraging everyone at the Google stage to turn and say “I love you” to their neighbor. By the time Ocean got to stunning Channel Orange centerpiece “Bad Religion,” introducing it by obliquely acknowledging its importance for “some of the things I’ve said in the last month,” things were running at an unusually emotional high for an outdoor-festival set. Would everyone have been swept up in that groundswell of love and togetherness had Ocean been merely capping off another sweaty Saturday, instead of playing the blessedly cool and breezy aftermath of narrowly averted disaster? Maybe. But like everything else in Ocean’s quick rise to fame so far, it felt like he was being carried by forces bigger than himself. [SO]

Best Post-Storm Song: New York band Fun. had one of the first sets after the park re-opened, which may help explain the enormous crowd that gathered at the too-small Google Play to watch it. But no band had a more perfect song to herald the re-opening of Lollapalooza than Fun.’s ubiquitous hit, “We Are Young.” The crowd erupted as drummer Will Noon hit his toms to start the song, and the song’s chorus—“Tonight, we are young / So let’s set the world on fire” might as well have been Lollapalooza’s motto. “We Are Young” was the penultimate song in Fun.’s set, and The A.V. Club was ready to hand out the Gnarls Barkley Memorial Play Your Hit And GTFO Award, but most of the crowd stuck around for set closer “Some Nights,” which also received a big response. [KR]

Biggest whimper: Given his spot as one of the first acts scheduled to play post-rainy apocalypse, Kristian Matsson’s The Tallest Man On Earth had the opportunity to tear the proverbial roof off Lolla. Instead, with the set being centered around just Matsson and an acoustic guitar, it was kind of a gloomy whimper—albeit a well-intended one. Matsson tried to engage the ever-returning crowd, even putting on a lei someone threw from the audience and saying “it went well with all of [his] hopeful songs,” but considering his tunes are more solo lamentation than kick-in-the-pants rock ’n’ roll, it all fell just a little flat. [ME]

Saddest flash mob: Fence-jumping is by now standard at big festivals like Lollapalooza, and combined with the ominous threat of the “flash mob”—which has managed to accomplish big things before, like ripping off stores for thousands of dollars, causing mass injuries, and completely fucking up the term “flash mob”—you’d think they’d be an unstoppable force. But the group of 40 or so kids determined that the strength in their numbers would help them overcome made a pretty pathetic show of it, rushing the gate with a war cry that tapered off as soon as security so much as looked in their direction, and only two quickly wrangled and booted kids even making the leap. “This isn’t over!” one of the mob’s leaders shouted at the smirking guards. [SO]

Most important drum solo ever: Beset by health problems and the ravages of age—not to mention plenty of self-imposed ravages over the decades—the reunited Black Sabbath took the stage to a mixture of excitement and empathetic concern on Friday, along with potential resentment from the handful of purists who believed the band shouldn’t have bothered “reuniting” without drummer Bill Ward. All of these feelings made the nearly 10-minute drum solo from fill-in scab Tommy Clufetos a surprisingly crucial part of the show: Not only was it his chance to prove he had the technical skills to substitute (which isn’t really the point, but whatever), but it ended up affording Ozzy Osbourne the opportunity to regroup after a shaky first half that saw him noticeably straining against his already-limited upper register, struggling to match the power of the still-unimpeachable twosome of Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler as they thundered through tunes like “The Wizard” and “Behind The Wall Of Sleep” and he weakly tried to keep up. 

By the time Osbourne’s voice disappointingly cracked and collapsed during “War Pigs,” it was clear that Ozzy needed a rest if he was going to make it through the second hour—even though, to his credit, he kept up his manic, demonic aerobics-instructor act, bellowing, “Jump!” at every opportunity. But after Clufetos provided his inherently overlong, self-indulgent drum break—and Osbourne toddled off to have a spot of tea with honey or something—the back half was much, much improved, with “Iron Man” through “Children Of The Grave” and encore closer “Paranoid” delivering all the dark, doom-laden power they deserved. It was the rare occasion when everyone said, “Man, I’m really glad they had that drum solo.” [SO]

Best comeback story: Given the recent news of Passion Pit frontman Michael Angelakos’ struggles with mental health and the group’s string of cancelled tour dates, just showing up at Lolla waxed triumph enough for the Boston-based electro-pop act. Angelakos and company went above and beyond cursory attendance, though, putting on an electric set for a massive, fist-pumping crowd. Rocking out business-casual style in a shirt and tie, Angelakos led triumphant, high-pitched singalongs to old tracks like “Sleepyhead” and new cuts like “Take A Walk,” the lead single off the group’s excellent new record, Gossamer. Considering Angelakos’ problems, his—and the group’s—troubles are surely not over, but for the hour he was on stage at Lolla, everything seemed hunky-dory. [ME]

Worst T-shirt on a sixtysomething-year-old man: During the Passion Pit set, a man well older than middle-aged and clad in Dad-style jean shorts was rocking out near the front in a shirt reading “Weekend forecast: Mostly drunk with a chance of horny.” [ME]

Most obvious sign that the rain didn’t take all of the heat with it: By the time of Sunday’s headlining sets, skies cleared and temperatures dropped to “tolerable.” The daylight hours, however, felt like the latest variation on a sweltering Chicago-summer theme, demonstrated by the perspiration-saturated dress shirts worn by The Walkmen’s five members. By the time the band reached the last quarter of its set—a portion heavy with sun-dappled selections from 2010’s Lisbon—frontman Hamilton Leithauser had completely soaked through his Tarantino-esque white shirt/skinny black tie combo, a state no doubt helped along by the epic holler he emitted near the end of “All Hands And The Cook” When Leithauser reached the alliance declaring coda of “Juveniles,” it seemed like “You’re one of us / Or one of them” could apply equally to the separate factions represented in the song and festival-goers who, like The Walkmen, chose dapper duds over dressing appropriately for the weather. [EA]

Worst sartorial choice for a million-degree day: Newly re-formed for a celebratory 25th-anniversary tour, the three members of The Afghan Whigs took the stage wearing heel-to-throat black, and looked like they were roasting alive up on the Red Bull stage at 4:15 on Friday. Frontman Greg Dulli in particular was red-faced and dripping with sweat, and by the very end of the group’s hour-long set, he’d lost some of his energy and emphasis. But the music itself never flagged, and at its height, Dulli’s performance was blistering, a vicious, shouting performance that felt nearly as oppressive as the blazing sunlight. (Not so with the band’s raw, crooning late-set cover of Frank Ocean’s “LoveCrimes,” which brought the intensity down to less-suffocating levels. Incidentally, the cover is available for free download on The Afghan Whigs’ website.) The throbbing performance of “66” and “Going To Town” may have gone over many attendees’ heads, though; at one point, the crowd-cam focused on a single fan leaping and jumping with excitement, while everyone around him onscreen seemed sun-dazzled, exhausted, and overwhelmed. It was too hot and too early in the day for the kind of powerful hard rock that belongs in a packed late-night club—so it’s fortunate that The Afghan Whigs were back at the Metro for a Saturday post-midnight show. [TR]

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Best lyrical choices for instant sing-alongs: Seattle’s The Head And The Heart is instantly ingratiating, with its self-effacing presentation, plunky piano-heavy tunes, sweet harmonies, and wistful feel-good vibe, even on morbid-on-paper songs like “Ghosts” and “Honey Come Home.” But seeing the group in concert, it’s hard to miss how many of its songs have “Whooooah whoa whoa” choruses or “Bah doo dee dop” breakdowns. Catchy songs + instantly graspable non-lyrics = instant audience participation, perfect for a sunny summer afternoon where everyone’s been out in the sun half the day and can’t manage anything more complicated than a harmonious “Oooooooooo” anyway. Though the audience did muster up the energy to whoop and cheer whenever violinist/vocalist Charity Rose Thielen took a vocal or instrumental solo; she’s clearly a crowd favorite. So was the sublimely sentimental closing song, “Rivers And Roads,” which turned into a full-participation croon-along, even outside the “Ohhhhh” chorus. Where The Afghan Whigs seemed a little heavy for such an intensely hot day, The Head And The Heart was an ideally light, airy match for the weather, though the band members apparently weren’t feeling the match: Most of the male band members played with shirts covering their heads at various points, and vocalist Jonathan Russell paused to compliment the audience for enduring the heat: “You guys are troupers, man… I don’t know how you do this all day.” [TR]

Most helpful frontman: The Head And The Heart frontman Josiah Johnson to the audience, shortly after his band’s set started: “I don't want to get all maternal with you, but I just saw a girl faint over there. It’s probably water, though I guess it could be drugs, I don’t know.” [TR]

Worst accessory spotted on a 90-degree, 90-percent humidity day: A replica of the mask Bane wears in The Dark Knight Rises. [GK]

Best timing: Icelandic folk-poppers Of Monsters And Men put on a downright charming early-evening set on Sunday at the shade-dappled Google Plus stage, their clap-happy, horn-bedecked tunes appeasing a tired, sun-baked audience composed 90 percent of people waiting to hear the group’s breakout song, “Little Talks.” (OMAM smartly saved it for second-to-last, after which the crowd seemed to move en masse to the nearby Bud Light stage to catch the remainder of Florence + The Machine.) It was a nice respite of a set that turned slightly magical as the group broke into “Mountain Sound” just as the sun was setting behind the skyscrapers on Michigan Avenue, creating a sunburst effect behind singer-guitarists Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir and Ragnar “Raggi” Þórhallsson as they led the audience in a chant-along of the incredibly well-timed (if not exactly thematically appropriate) chorus: “We sleep until the sun goes down.” [GK]

Best way to get the crowds to ignore your music entirely: During DJ Zebo’s ho-hum set Friday night before Black Sabbath, the Chicago-area DJ was surrounded the entire time by four pasty-clad women in garters and metal underwear who made “sexy” faces as they ground power tools against their crotches, yielding endless streams of sparks. While fans seemed into it, they were undoubtedly more intrigued by the possibility of a nip-slip than by the DJ’s just-okay set. [ME]

Most harmonious couple: Given the group’s non-enviable slot as the first band to play on Sunday morning, Bowerbirds seemed to take its smallish crowd in stride, bouncing through tracks off its latest record, The Clearing, with aplomb. The group’s core—actual couple Beth Tacular and Phil Moore—might have been a little sleepy, coming straight off a plane from Pickathon in Portland, Oregon, but their harmonies were anything but snoozy. Songs like “In The Yard” and “Tuck The Darkness In” were great, and post-“Stitch The Hem,” one Lolla-goer even yelled out a very clear request for an immediate digital release of the synthed-out version. [ME]

Shortest distance traveled for festival promotion: When Metric played Lollapalooza in 2010, the band had an afternoon slot on the smaller PlayStation Stage. This year, the band still had an afternoon slot but on the neighboring Bud Light one. That’s a headliner stage, and with an enormous, cheering crowd spreading out before it, the band looked like headliner material. The big stage suited singer Emily Haines, who bounded around as the band played a set dominated by songs from the excellent new Synthetica and 2009’s similarly great Fantasies. (A retooled version of “Empty” from 2005’s Live It Out was a nice touch too.) Metric naturally closed with “Stadium Love,” which sounded tailor-made for a giant festival crowd. [KR]

World’s biggest dubstep fan: The guy walking around on Friday with a white tanktop that said “SEX, DRUGS & DUBSTEP” and a matching white-mesh cap that said the same thing. [KR]

Most ubiquitous accessory: Body glitter, body glitter everywhere this year… including on two twentysomething women who paused before a show Sunday night so one could touch up the other’s sweaty, increasingly glitter-lite face by manually transferring excess glitter from her boobs. [TR]

Biggest T-shirt trend: “Keep calm and carry on” variant T-shirts spotted over the course of the weekend: Eight different ones, with the frequency winner being “Keep calm and chive on,” a reference to a popular boob-reposting site. [TR]

Biggest “things on sticks” trend: Every year at Lolla, more people show up toting helium balloons or carrying ridiculous things so they can wave them high enough for their friends to find them among the crowds. This year, some of the solutions were particularly creative. Spotted on sticks or pool noodles in various audiences: a red-wire lawn deer, a cardboard poster of a stoned Admiral Ackbar with a caption reading “It’s a trip!”, a cigarette-smoking Lambchop puppet, a rubber Hulk fist attached to a sign reading “This is a good sign,” an eviscerated-looking Elmo puppet, and a seemingly infinite number of stuffed animals. But the prize goes to the guy with an inflatable Batman… riding the back of a giant inflatable pool-toy dragon. [TR]

Most unusual product being hawked outside of main entrance: drug-test kits being sold by a granola twentysomething—only these purportedly check to ensure drugs you’ve purchased are legitimate, not if someone has been taking them. “Don’t buy fake drugs!” the guy shouted to passersby. [KR]

Tat watch: Guy with the USDA Organic logo on his left shoulder blade. [KR]

Best choice for a set-closing song: British band Bloc Party has a new album, Four, coming out on August 20, so the band’s set Saturday night leaned heavily on new material. The polite crowd was receptive, but it wasn’t until “Song For Clay (Disappear Here)”—from 2007’s excellent and underrated A Weekend In The City—that the crowd really livened up. Festival crowds want to hear something they know, so when the band closed with its biggest hit, “Helicopter,” from 2005’s Silent Alarm, Bloc Party got its biggest response of the night. (The band also wisely avoided much material from 2008’s lackluster Intimacy.) [KR]

Tat watch: Guy with a Monster Energy Drink logo right above his heart. (No, it wasn’t a temporary promotional tattoo.) Right above it: the No Fear logo. [KR]

Most disciplined: L.A. indie band Dum Dum Girls has a simple MO: play songs, speak little, and look good doing it. Led by singer-guitarist Dee Dee Dum Dum (a.k.a. Kristin Gundred), the band has made waves the past couple of years on the strength of a couple of excellent albums, 2010’s I Will Be and last year’s Only In Dreams, both for Sub Pop. On the Google Play stage, banter was sparse, the songs came quickly, and the band—dressed head to toe in black—convincingly expressed the femmes fatale image Gundred has so carefully crafted: no dumb jokes, no filler, just good songs. If only every band were so focused. [KR]

Most hits in the middle of the set: While most bands will build up to their biggest songs, The Gaslight Anthem dropped three of its hits in the middle of its set, segueing from “Handwritten” to “The ’59 Sound” into “American Slang” for what would otherwise be a fine set-closing sequence. Nope, three other songs followed, though none engendered the same kind of fist-pumping as “The ’59 Sound.” [KR]

Most warmly received reunion: Just as 2000’s Relationship Of Command was taking off, Texas post-hardcore band At The Drive-In called it quits, acrimoniously splitting into two halves—prog-rock band The Mars Volta and more traditional rock outfit Sparta—that never surpassed what came before. Members of At The Drive-In make no bones that this reunion is almost exclusively a payday, but they’d need hearts of stone not to be moved by the massive crowd that turned out for their performance on the Red Bull Stage. Considering how many fists pumped through the air for songs like “One Armed Scissor” and “Enfilade,” both from an album that’s a dozen years old, maybe the ex-members of At The Drive-In shouldn’t go their separate ways after festival season. After all, the world isn’t clamoring for another Mars Volta record. Really. [KR]

Best minor comeback: The Shins emerged from a five-year hiatus earlier this year with a new album, Port Of Morrow, and an extensive list of tour dates to be played by frontman James Mercer and an entirely new cast of musicians. During the group’s Friday set, however, the current roster sounded as if it has been together since the beginning, and was as polished as could be. Mercer’s voice sounded good, though it isn’t what it used to be: A few missed high notes on his part during Wincing The Night Away’s “Phantom Limb” served as a reminder of both of how long he’s been away and how long The Shins have been kicking around in general. Undoubtedly the biggest standout of the new Shins lineup, which includes Modest Mouse drummer Joe Plummer, was Seattle’s Jessica Dobson, who was invaluable on the guitar and backing-vocal duty. With her help, “Caring Is Creepy” was transformed into a rock song and a fine way to start the band’s early-evening set. The Shins eventually rifled through all the hits, playing a nice selection of songs from each of their four records to a sizeable and highly receptive audience. [CG]

Best reason to ditch the loops: Toro Y Moi’s in-concert incarnation still partially relies on the type of expertly woven, pre-recorded samples with which frontman Chaz Bundick made his name in the deadbeat summer of 2009. But as chillwave moved out of the bedroom and onto the festival stage, Bundick broadened his musical horizons—giving in to soft-focus R&B on 2011’s Underneath The Pine, then fleshing out those sounds with a crack live band. The result is a much richer, fuller sound—demonstrated Sunday on the Sony stage—in addition to a frontman who’s no longer occupied with triggering every squiggly synth riff or thump of kick drum. Judging by the amount of tie-dyed dancers in the crowd, Toro Y Moi’s spaced-out Off The Wall-isms hit the sweet spot between jam-inclined festival-goers and Perry’s stage kids, an intersection best represented by the army-helmet/mirror-ball hybrid that ended up on several heads in the middle of the crowd. The setup even enabled Bundick to get out from behind his keyboards and show off his own dance moves, an expression of the freedom afforded and killer grooves offered by the musicians behind him. [EA]

Biggest rave, non-Perry’s edition: Massive drops, curlicue synths, and questionable fashion statements are de rigueur at the strobe-bedecked Perry’s stage all weekend, but the searing blacktop confines of the Playstation stage got their own dose of kids-these-days spectacle courtesy of South African shock-rappers Die Antwoord on Friday afternoon. The profanity-bedecked raps of bug-eyed MC Ninja and the Cabbage-Patch-doll-on-acid vocal stylings of Yo-Landi Vi$$er (who wore those creepy all-black contact lenses throughout the show) were complimented by big, gaudy beats from silent, rubber-masked DJ Hi-Tek and a parade of eye-catching outfits both onstage and off. Entering to a strobing lightshow—which was mostly wasted in the blinding afternoon sunlight—wearing eye-searing safety-orange sweat suits, Die Antwoord put on a high-energy, frequently head-scratching set, featuring borderline-novelty songs like “Fatty Boom Boom” and “Rich Bitch” and lots of heavily accented screamed profanities. It was wild, weird, and at times only borderline-listenable, but it grabbed and kept the attention of fans and curious onlookers alike. [GK]

Most committed to matching: The guy/girl pair sporting corresponding bathing-suit tops and floral-print shorts, a combination made all the more “Hey, stop watching those bands and look at us!” by the DayGlo green of the tops. [EA]

Most patently false T-shirt: A spangly “I’m in Miami, bitch” number. No, you’re not—and don’t call me “bitch.” [EA]

Most glaring omission: Jack White’s Sunday-night headliner set functioned as a sort of career retrospective, alternating between roughly half the tracks from this year’s Blunderbuss and juiced-up, full-band takes on a bunch of White Stripes classics, with a couple of Raconteurs tracks thrown in for good measure. Hell, even that Danger Mouse collaboration from last year made an appearance. (The Dead Weather was presumably exempt because even White couldn’t figure out a suitable way to replicate Alison Mosshart’s vocals.) White and his two, yes two backing bands—the all-female Peacocks seamlessly swapped in for the all-male Buzzards midway through the set—were particularly scorching on Blunderbuss tracks like opener “Sixteen Saltines” and “Love Interruption,” and took some fun liberties in filling out the White Stripes songs, especially a honky-tonkified, barn-burning rendition of “Hotel Yorba.” It was just about everything a Jack White fan could hope for, culminating in an exceptionally beefy-sounding “Seven Nation Army” that would have led perfectly into a “Fell In Love With A Girl” finale to close out the fest… except it didn’t, and White and his bands took their bows with nearly 10 minutes left in the set. It was still a great end to the night—the crowd continued to chant the “Seven Nation Army” guitar riff as they filed out of the south field—but considering the inclusive nature of the set, it seemed like a curious omission. [GK]

Most incongruously low-tech: Compared to the visible-from-space style of lightshow employed by most artists playing the Perry’s stage throughout the weekend, Santigolds Saturday-night closing set was about as technologically advanced as a school talent show. Santi White and her two backup dancers forwent using the stage’s three giant, curved LCD light screens, instead utilizing club-level spectacle techniques like tear-away costume changes and choreographed dances using croquet mallets, pom-pons, and umbrellas. It was actually quite charming, and the small crowd assembled ate it up—especially when Santi invited a bunch of them onstage for “Creator”—but most of the Lolla-goers who typically patronize Perry’s had long since split to see headliner Avicii by the time the two-guys-in-a-horse costume waddled onstage to dance around for a bit. [GK] 

Best tests of audience compliance: Man, Florence Welch of Florence + The Machine sure is bossy. After butterfly-ing around the stage for a bit, caftan-wings spread and flowing dramatically, she started ordering her packed-in audience to display their affections for her group in specific ways: For “Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)” she proclaimed, “We are Florence + The Machine, and we demand some human sacrifices! We want your bodies!” Specifically, she wanted as many bodies to climb up on other bodies’ shoulders as possible, and many audience members complied. Immediately after that, for “Spectrum,” she ordered the audience to start hugging, and promised drummer Isabella Summers would kiss whoever displayed the most public affection. (After repeatedly complimenting the audience on their group “snogging,” Welch picked a winner, and Summers complied… with an air kiss blown from the stage. Rip-off!) And she demanded that everyone repeatedly jump up and down as a ritual sendoff for the show. But in spite of the insistence on group aerobics, and in spite of Welch’s somewhat silly habit of alternating queenly acknowledging-her-subjects arm gestures and eyes-closed underwater swaying with manic whirling, pogo-ing, and caftan-flapping around the stage, she and her band put on a terrific set, a feel-good, emotionally powerful love-fest fit for a group of dedicated fans collectively knowledgeable enough to sing along with “Breath Of Life,” a Snow White & The Huntsman soundtrack cut Welch said she’d never before performed live. While the group made the bold, odd decision not to lead or close with its biggest hit, “Dog Days Are Over”—sandwiching it in without fanfare toward the close of the show, then following up by draining the crowd energy with the personal, quiet downbeat “Never Let Me Go”—Welch still played the audience well, encouraging them, reading their handmade signs out loud, complimenting them, and generally swooning over them almost as much as they were swooning over her. [TR]

Dumbest thing overheard at Florence + The Machine: “She’s so… British.” [GK]

Most observant thing overheard at Florence + The Machine: Guy in the crowd, as Florence Welch stretched out her arms in a Christ pose, closed her eyes, and rolled her head back and forth for the third or fourth time during her set: “I wonder if she’s going to just start levitating.” [TR]

Most uncomfortable thing overheard at Florence + The Machine: Girl in the crowd, after obediently climbing onto a man’s shoulders for “Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)”: “Woooooooo! I don’t know this guy at all!” [TR]

Best reaction from a fan who had no idea what he was getting: The hyped-up guy walking away from Sigur Rós’ set yelling, “I did not know they could rock out like that! I was in a euphoric trance, and then my mind was blown!” Other fans more familiar with the group’s icy, dreamy albums than its live act were probably equally surprised to see vocalist-guitarist Jón Þór “Jónsi” Birgisson hunched over his guitar, frantically bowing it in a sweaty haze, then flinging the bow into the audience in triumph. The whole set seemed to be a long, slow buildup to a pounding, triumphantly intense rock-out climax, with Jónsi’s high, singsong voice slicing through the air in the early going, then dropping to a lower register for the second half of the set. Most charming thing about Sigur Rós’ performance: After the set wrapped, the band members and supporting players left the stage, then returned, linked hands, and bowed as a group, for all the world like the cast of a high-school play. Most unusual thing (apart from the Hopelandic vocals, at least): All the Lolla stages have giant Jumbotron-style video screens on both sides, so people far back in the audience can see what’s going on onstage. Rather than the standard-video simulcast, Sigur Rós played arty black-and-white images of extreme, often out-of-focus close-ups of their hands and instruments, cross-faded with or superimposed over abstract images of bubbles rising in water, sun shining through trees, a boy in a white sheet, and so on. And the video became visually distorted, with increasingly rapid cuts, as the music sped up, until at points it looked far more like a nature-focused Nine Inch Nails video than a live feed from the stage. Sigur Rós: creating and then defying expectations since 1994. [TR]

Most potentially dangerous liquid: It’s frequently so hot in the sun at Lollapalooza that people spray everyone around them with open water bottles or CamelBak tubes, often to general cheers. One guy wandered through the audience after Sigur Rós’ set with a spray bottle, spritzing the faces of anyone who approached him. A group of girls waved him over, then asked after their baptism, “Wait, there’s no disease in that, is there?” “Eh,” he answered, moving on to the next group, “It’s just a little Hep C.” [TR]

Rudest awakening: The beleaguered security staff of the Perry’s stage looked shell-shocked following the explosive Saturday set by Calvin Harris, which seemed to have more people crowd-surfing than not at most times. They were pulling people out of the pit long after the Scottish DJ left the stage, including a young-looking, barely conscious guy whom they revived by dunking headfirst into a tub of ice. [GK]

Classiest T-shirt at Lolla: It’s a tie! Congratulations “Party With My Sluts” and “Don’t Bro Me If You Don’t Know Me”! [GK]

Best/Worst “look at me” tattoos: A head-to-waist back piece that says “Immortal” down the spine and a guy with large, rainbow-colored circles arranged in a vertical line down the side of his leg… with holes cut in the sides of his jeans to frame the circles. [GK]

Most surprisingly straightforward set: The fuzzy, psychedelic pop of Tame Impala’s 2010 breakout album Innerspeaker—re-created quite faithfully live, thanks to lots of reverb and effect pedals that literally melted in the afternoon sun as they melted frontman Kevin Parker’s catchy guitar riffs into dreamy ear candy—is perfectly suited for meandering, self-indulgent jamming when played live. But in the group’s Friday set, it not only kept the Innerspeaker tracks tight and mostly to album length; it also tempered them with a handful of slightly more rock-leaning, driving tracks from its 2008 EP and its forthcoming album Lonerism. The resulting combination struck a commendable balance between hazy and propulsive, thereby highlighting the best aspects of each side of that coin and making them both more enjoyable. The only way thing that could have really improved the band’s set was even just the smallest amount of cloud cover. [CG]

Worst opening one-liner: The Black Keys took the stage Friday night in a haze of smoke, with Dan Auerbach’s voice from the stage announcing “Chicago! I can’t see you! I’m lost up here! The guy doing the fog machine is new!” It was a funny moment, but not exactly the kickoff blast of excitement befitting a headliner. The Keys made up for it in energy when they launched into “Howlin’ For You,” opening a 20-song set that rarely bothered with pauses or between-song banter. Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney eventually got back to basics, dismissing their backup players for a while to play a mid-show mini-set on their own; the duo managed a remarkably full sound, to the point where when they brought back the support team mid-song on “Little Black Submarines” for a booming conclusion, it almost felt unnecessary. At times, The Keys seemed to take a back seat to the perfect night environment; the crane camera throwing their image up on the giant video screens flanking the stage spent as much time focused on the beautiful, glowing Chicago skyline as anything else, and a mid-concert fireworks show to the south briefly threatened to upstage them. But they boomed their way through a series of crowd-happy sing-alongs, culminating in a bluesy, ass-waggling extended finish with “I Got Mine,” and they played their big-rock-star roles to the hilt. [TR]

Biggest turd: ’80s superfan who admitted he was born in 1989, holding court at Five Guys after Black Keys let out: “The ’80s were the greatest decade, man, with the greatest culture that has ever been. I was born with a Flock Of Seagulls haircut!” [TR]

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