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Lollapalooza’s Spirit Alive In Chicago

By The Raleigh Telegram

RALEIGH – Summer is in full bloom, Chicago’s Grant Park resonates with it’s familiar flutter of musical genius and smells of some of Chicago’s finest tastes draws in the yearly masses.

Much has changed since Jane’s Addiction front man Perry Farrell’s brainchild Lollapalooza festival debuted in 1991. But, despite uncountable political, technological and cultural shifts from then until now, Lollapalooza remains, if nothing else, the ultimate summer celebration of music.

The 2012 incarnation marked the festival’s eighth year since its rebirth as a single-venue, destination-weekend event, and its adoption of Chicago’s Grant Park as its home. From Aug. 3-5, more than 140 artists entertained 270,000 attendees on eight stages across much of the downtown park’s 300-plus acres.

Veteran rockers Red Hot Chili Peppers served as the centerpiece of Lollapalooza’s second day, playing a nearly two-hour set to a jam-packed and excessively muddy Hutchinson Field on the park’s south end. Six hours prior, organizers evacuated the grounds due to approaching mid-day storms that turned the park’s many baseball and softball diamonds and sprawling flat fields into muddy mosh pits. The adverse conditions seemed only to energize the band as it plowed many of its best-known hits and tracks from its latest album I’m With You, 20 years after headlining the 1992 Lollapalooza tour.

Flea and the Red Hot Chili Peppers captivated the crowd of over 100,000 music fans (Photo by Andy Martin Jr)

The park’s evacuation inevitably grabbed the headlines, but notable acts like the Florence + The Machine, At The Drive-In, The Shins, Franz Ferdinand and Sigur Ros, delivered banner performances in the festival’s prime time slots. Re-united metal icons Black Sabbath drew a respectable crowd on Friday, despite playing head-to-head against white-hot rock duo The Black Keys as two of the weekend’s top-billed acts closed the festival’s opening day on opposite ends of Grant Park.

Early morning mud in Grant Park after a solid rain (Photo by Andy Martin Jr)

Jack White, of White Stripes and Raconteurs fame, drew festival-closing duties as Sunday’s headliner and delivered a performance worthy of the time slot. Much of White’s set focused on material from his solo debut Blunderbuss released earlier this year, but he did manage to resurrect White Stripes staples The Hardest Button to Button and Seven-Nation Army much to the delight of an already-enthralled crowd.

On the festival’s smaller stages and in afternoon time slots, artists like Chairlift, Dawes, Dr. Dog, Dum Dum Girls, First Aid Kit, Fun, The Gaslight Anthem, Mona, and others helped serve Lollapalooza’s roots of exposing fans to rising artists. Dance-music enthusiasts gathered at Perry’s Stage all weekend for sets from well-known DJs like Bassnectar, Calvin Harris and Kaskade, and families spent time at the tree-covered and smoke-free Kidz Stage.

If any criticism can be made of Lollapalooza, it is perhaps that its grandiosity is just too… grandiose. Attendees are forced to choose seeing one band over another as acts overlap time slots, or have adjacent time slots on stages separated by distances difficult to cover quickly on foot.

But, regardless of any logistical difficulties, Lollapalooza stands alone among music festivals. From its birth as an out-of-the-mainstream touring festival, to its new life as an annual event in downtown Chicago, it has weathered 21 years of shifting culture, adapted, improved and grown, and continues to be an American icon. ::

Article Posted: August 6th, 2012.