Ever since Perry Farrell moved his Lollapalooza festival to Chicago, I have managed to attend it every year. In fact, it’s become something of an annual ritual for my older son, Arthur, and me. Like me, Arthur is consumed by music. I have been taking him to concerts since he was a young boy, and I took him to see many established artists, including U2 and Bruce Springsteen. Then as he got more into music, he introduced me to younger up-and-coming artists, and we would go to local clubs together. Arthur now has his own electronic dance music group called Busted Bass, and they have been playing clubs around Cleveland.
Unlike a lot of other festivals, Lollapalooza features a wide mix of music. This year’s lineup included everyone from 2006 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees Black Sabbath to Ohio’s hugely popular Black Keys, from such hot electronic dance music artists as Bassnector and Kaskade to the hot British soul singer Michael Kiwanuka, from the folksy young band Dawes to the soulful young band Alabama Shakes.
One of my favorite artists at this year’s festival was the singer-guitarist Gary Clark Jr. The Austin, Texas–based Clark first made his mark back in 2010, when he played Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival, joining Clapton onstage at one point. That performance really stuck with me. Earlier this year, I saw him at the South by Southwest music festival, where once again he was terrific. True to form, his set at Lollapalooza was amazing. He is a talented, inspired bluesy guitar player, and he has a powerful voice. He has been called the savior of the blues, and Rolling Stone magazine called him the “Best Young Gun” in its Best of Rock issue in April 2011.
Some of my other favorite performances this year included the Afghan Whigs, a band originally from Cincinnati, Ohio. I actually helped market the Whigs’ 1993 album, Gentlemen, when I was vice president of product development at Elektra Records. I also enjoyed the Shins, Delta Spirit, the Gaslight Anthem, Florence and the Machine, Bear in Heaven, the Head and the Heart and Sharon Van Etten (who'll perform live at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio, on August 22, 2012). On the final day, I checked out the headlining set by the French electronic duo Justice. One of the things that has really struck me at the last few Lollapalooza festivals is just how big electronic dance music has become. Perry Farrell has a stage that features deejays the entire day, and it is constantly crammed with people, and several of the headliners at the big stages are now electronic groups. After taking in Justice’s energetic set, it’s easy to understand the appeal. Still, this year’s festival brought a first that briefly dampened the party.
It was blistering hot all day on Friday, then, on Saturday, a big storm hit Chicago and closed the festival for the first time in its history. After the rain, the park became a giant mud pit, adding a messy element to the revelry. The storms cleared and the sun returned for the final day, and overall, it was a fabulous weekend of music. If you haven’t been to Lollapalooza, you should check it out when it comes back next summer.