From Rihanna popping up as a surprise, artist wristbands on dogs, “Mob Wives”, to urban hikes to the festival – the industry view of scene at Lollapalooza in Chicago.
Known as a city that works, Chicago's reputation for being “organized” was on full display at Lollapalooza this weekend.
I'm not just talking about “organized” in the way that at my first bar stop, someone offered to introduce me to their friend who was on “Mob Wives Chicago.” (“Her dad was an assassin.”) I passed.
The reputation for making the trains run on time translated to how festival producer C3 runs the stages.
Friday night's headliner Eminem, arrived early for duty, taking the stage two minutes earlier than his announced 8:30 time with a “Behind the Music” style documentary preceding his entrance
On the first day of Lollapalooza 2014, here's what stood out onstage, backstage, and around town.
Eminem: Best in the Midwest
Slim Shady drew more fans than simultaneous headliners Arctic Monkeys and EDM sensation Zedd, with the crowd shifting towards his stage over an hour before his call time. The fellow midwesterner ran though old hits (“The Real Slim Shady”) and new (“Not Afraid”) but the highlight of Day 1 came forty minutes in to his set.
Rihanna appeared to join her upcoming stadium tour-mate for three songs: “Love the Way You Lie,” “The Monster,” and singing the part of Dido, “Stan”. The “Stan” duet provided the defining moment of the day. As they performed, the multi-colored light inferno from Zedd's set a few hundred yards away rose above the treeline, but the thumps could not be heard.
What could be heard, all too real at times, were Eminem‘s crystal clear gun shot sound effects. After a summer of gun violence headlines (and headlines about headlines) in Chicago, it was an eerie parallel.
Nelly Gives Chicago the Middle Finger (Literally)
Gone are the days of his giant ecstasy pill with the letter “E” hanging over his stage. For attitude, he now has a middle finger on his kickdrum, the same gesture Nelly would throw up later in the night performing “E.I.” at the Underground, one of Chicago's staple nightspots.
A “Fancy” Furball
Iggy Azalea's dog Jelly not only had her own handler hanging out by her white picket fence in her dressing room's front lawn . She had her own yellow artist's wristband. As my press colleague Meagan Sargeant said, “First things first, (that dog) is the realest.” Agreed. The pup also flies private, as the Azalea crew took off for L.A. immediately after her happy hour time set.
Now Appearing: Lorde's Hair
Lorde kept her head buried in her phone on the way to and from her set. Intentional “don't talk to me” tactic or default 17-year old walking posture? Unclear.
Musical purists who pooh-pooh Coachella for its evolution in to a branded pop culture event will be really disappointed to learn that Lollapalooza has both “Samsung Galaxy” and “Bud Light Stages”.
Samsung is everywhere at the festival with three VIP areas, including a canteen glamping tent in the middle of the artist dressing rooms (tents) backstage. Artists and entourages played cornhole, lounged on hammocks, hit the “make your own trailmix” bar, and could spy each other's sets on screens. (Interpol and Iggy drew peer eyeballs.)
Headliners have their own compound, removed even from the other artists’ riff raff and people like your truly.
Their commitment to music is all-in. They boosted 300 general admission guests to open-bar, free catering VIP status (those bands cost $1,200 before they sold out) for downloading the Milk Music streaming service on the festival grounds. They hosted NY and LA industry types at their side stage platform.
I said it last year as a gut reaction, but it bears repeating: This festival is uber convenient.
Everything that makes getting to and from Coachella a hassle and leaves people feeling like they are returning dusty from a covered wagon journey when they get home at 2 a.m. does not exist here.
People walk right off the urban grid in to the festival, and disperse back in to it with the “El” and blocks of closed streets to swallow the exodus easily. The time from “I want to get out of here” to “back at hotel”/”at party” took 1:40 minutes less time than it does at Coachella, according to sources close to my situation.
10 P.M. What Now?
Unlike other festivals that go until midnight or dawn (I'm looking at you, Electric Daisy Carnival), Lolla closes down around 10:00 p.m.
After dark and away from Grant Park , the Hard Rock Hotel's series of day and night parties is the primary go-to after party spot, walking distance from the grounds. The radius exclusivity clauses for Lolla performers must be more flexible than other festivals.
Dubbed “The Sound of Your Stay” Music Lounge, they have drawn actual festival performers Lykke Li and Betty Who amongst others to their second floor suites and performance space.
Inside, after a line that snaked around the block, they were letting people order Fender guitars or DJ equipment as room service, and Beats by Dre had a huge presence, pushing their music streaming service (not the headphones.)
The Jimmy at the James Hotel has also had festival performers doing DJ sets every night. Way to go on the double dipping.
Soho House is Here
They are here…not like they were in Palm Springs with a one-weekend pop-up. Soho House is actually now here in Chicago.
Timed to the festival the house is opening this weekend, two years after it was announced.
Sunday morning update: The space is huge, gorgeous, and a game changer for Chicago. I would be scared if I owned a rival upscale venue. Sophia Bush graced the poolside at Saturday night's pre-opening party as Jon Batiste and Stay Human climbed on bars, couches, and through the crowd with a medley including”Ready or Not” and “Killing Me Softly” (above). Grey Goose's Le Melon cocktail program flowed freely (literally free), hosting the relaxed gathering that was pitch perfect as a counterpoint to the bombast elsewhere in the city.
Shame on you West Hollywood. This one is a hotel and has a rooftop pool, which many of the other locations do too. A swooshing elevator ride to the top is part of the program here as well.
Several of the talent performing at the festival are rumored to be breaking in the beds for the first time.
Meanwhile, MTV's “The Real World” is back shooting in the same West Loop neighborhood as the Soho House, per the Chicago Tribune. I don't expect those two worlds to collide considering the house's well publicized “no cameras” policy.
The festival continues through Sunday night with headliners Calvin Harris, Kings of Leon, Skrillex, and Outkast yet to come.