The sunny, temperate afternoon began with the garage rock ramblings of Parquet Courts. Huddled into the concrete shell of the Petrillo stage, the group is more apt for the crowds Pitchfork Music Festival, at which they performed in 2013.
They shuttled into their first cut but the PA was off, rendering it indecipherable. The crowd frantically tried to point their fingers upward in a “turn it up” motion, but this probably appeared quite like fist pumping to anyone watching from a distance, and the sound was out for an awkward few minutes.
But when the PA kicked into life, so did the crowd and performance. A slightly spastic mosh pit broke out and fans shouted even the most obscure of the group’s tongue-in-cheek and spot-on lyrics.
“You don’t have to watch through your phone, you can watch the show with your eyes,” said guitarist Andrew Brown halfway midway through the set.
Frontman Andrew Savage has a strange stage presence about him, appearing either like he was glaring at the crowd or glazed over into his own world. He noted something about bringing rock back to Lollapalooza at one point; later, Brown said that the last time he had been at Grant Park was “about seven or six years ago when Obama got that thing.”
Despite the initial mishap, Parquet Courts was the strongest undercard I had seen and provided a much-desired punch of exhausting garage rock to the afternoon.
The next few hours were testament to the notably weak mid tier artists this year. This could be my own cognitive dissonance, but artists like The Temper Trap, John Butler Trio, Grouplove,and Fitz & the Tantrums are fairly lackluster picks for such a large budget festival. A mid-day buzz band or and up-and-coming hip hop artist could have beefed up the bottom half of the lineup.
Standing in back to enjoy Fitz & the Tantrums’ afternoon set was one of the few times I encountered anyone lighting up joints. Security has been tight: I was submitted to a full patdown on my way in, and because Malia Obama’s was in attendance at least Friday, the secret service was present.
Fitz & the Tantrums were expectedly campy, but are a strong festival group. Energetic and unafraid to rouse a passing audience, their funky pop was a pleasant addition.
Stepping over to the Perry’s Stage to watch Gramatik, I expected the worst. Admittedly, over the past few years of attendance, my personal rule has been to avoid the EDM centered stage; first, this was due to not enjoying electronic music, but lately it has been due to the massive crowds, and the blatantly irresponsible drug use by what appear to be underage teenagers looking for a kick.
But Gramatik’s midtempo beats and glitchy grooves sparsed out the crowd into a dust-kicking dance party atop the baseball diamond of Perry’s. He was joined by fellow producer and horn player Russ Liquid, who added some funkier flares with trumpet and sax solos blended into the mix.
Spoon seemed to satisfy Lollapalooza’s alternative booking slot, a prudent choice given the overwise dance and hip-hop heavy evening to come. Their presence was that of old favorites, relaxed but unafraid to banter with the crowd.
The ensuing rush of fans before the evening’s headlining sets was telling. Where Spoon had just wrapped up, producer Calvin Harris would play just a half hour later; seeing Outkast required a trek across Grant Park. Descending into the south mainstage area, it was clear that the hip hop outfit had warranted easily the largest draw of the festival, with the small inclines on either side already packed in tight.
Though excited, I was a bit wary of Outkast’s performance. Their first-weekend Coachella performance had been largely described as a misstep, wrought with sound and production issues; never mind the high expectations that any reunion must live up to. But Coachella was back in April, and Andre 3000 and Big Boi have since had months and dozens of festivals to fine tune.
It certainly showed. Opening with “B.O.B.,” the duo strutted with confidence, flanked by costumed backup singers and a live band. “Ms.Jackson” expectedly spurred a mass singalong, as fireworks shot off over the just-darkened skyline. It was the reunion gig that fans expected and Outcast deserved.
I left midway through their set for Cut Copy; this decision was one I had been grappling with all evening and that is justifiable because of the intimacy of their performance. Besides being slated against such legends, the synth pop outfit had to compete with heavy-bass contenders Calvin Harris and Krewella, and likewise I slid comfortably to the front. Leadman Dan Whitford initially had some difficulties rousing the audience to dance, especially with a set heavy in “Free Your Mind” cuts. Dipping into the opening swirly synth arpeggio of “Hearts on Fire” roused the sparse crowd into a mass of excited hopping.
In total – and in part due to a more attentive audience — Saturday was a more enjoyable day than the previous.