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Lollapalooza’s 20th Anniversary

05:01 PM Monday 8/8/11 |   |

Contributing Pollstar photographer John Davisson lives to tell the tale of Lollapalooza No. 20.

  • Coldplay

    Lollapalooza's 20th anniversary, Grant Park, Chicago.
    August 5, 2011

    (John Davisson)

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Lollapalooza’s 20th anniversary is now one for the history books. In the weeks leading up to the festival, I was often thinking back on the many Lollapalooza’s I have photographed in the past. I went to the first tour in 1991 when it hit Florida and got some photos of Siouxsie & The Banshees and Living Colour from the audience (I did not know what a photo pass was then).

One of my favorites was 1992 when I was introduced to the grunge scene and photographed Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and the Red Hot Chili Peppers (that time I did have a photo pass for a local magazine). I remember Anthony Kiedis encouraging fans to come into the photo pit, but after one song I clambered out under the stage because the pit was too chaotic.

In 2005, the festival moved to Grant Park for one weekend rather than touring the country. It covered less than half as much acreage as now, and was headlined by Weezer. The next year the size doubled and it has gotten larger almost every year since.

This year’s Perry’s stage – which began in 2008 as a too-small tent stage and moved across the street last year – was in a huge tent. Covered the first day, they opened up some of the roof on the second day to get more ventilation. It is amazing how Lollapalooza has grown in size so much; by the time the 30th anniversary happens, I will need a jetpack to get between stages timely.

  • The Vaccines

    Lollapalooza at Grant Park, Chicago.
    August 5, 2011

    (John Davisson)

    | 

I began my photographic adventure on Friday with The Vaccines on the Music Unlimited main stage and then went across the street to check out Perry’s tent because I like photographing DJ’s if I can get a decent vantage point. The DJ table was so high though that I could not even see the DJ from the photo pit. I went back to the soundboard, got a few shots of Lady D and then headed to the Sony Stage for The Naked and Famous before crossing past the fountain in the center of Grant Park to photograph Electric Touch on the BMI Stage (a nice place to visit during the afternoon with plenty of shade).

  • Electric Touch

    Lollapalooza's BMI Stage, Grant Park, Chicago.
    August 5, 2011

    (John Davisson)

    | 

I then checked out the Google+ Stage in the Grove across the street and then headed back to the Sony Stage for Foster the People. Foster the People had a huge crowd and were obviously one of the most anticipated acts of the day.

I decided to stay on the south side of Grant Park, close to the Press Area, for White Lies, Two Door Cinema Club, A Perfect Circle and Crystal Castles. I finished the day back at the North side for Coldplay with some shots of their laser show against the city backdrop.

  • Coldplay

    The band brings plenty of lasers to Lollapalooza's first night.
    August 5, 2011

    (John Davisson)

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  • Coldplay

    Lollapalooza at Grant Park in Chicago.
    August 5, 2011

    (John Davisson)

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I began Saturday fairly early too with Phantogram on the Sony Stage and then headed to the BMI Stage for Skylar Grey, who people were talking about. Skylar Grey sounded great and will probably be on a bigger stage the next time I see her. I then checked out the PlayStation Stage (the only permanent stage at Lollapalooza) for The Black Lips who were pretty sloppy and gnarly. Walking back towards the south side, I caught Dom in the Grove and went to Perry’s stage for Perryetty vs Chris Cox. Almost every year I catch Perry Farrell somewhere in Grant Park (it is his festival after all). Fortunately Perry and Etty sang some in front of the DJ deck, which made for some nice shots.

  • Phantogram

    Sarah Barthel points to the sky as Josh Carter plays on at Lollapalooza in Chicago.
    August 6, 2011

    (John Davisson)

    | 

  • Skylar Grey

    Lollapalooza at Chicago's Grant Park.
    August 6, 2011

    (John Davisson)

    | 

Then it was time for one of my favorites, Big Audio Dynamite. I used to play their first tape all the time while driving around Florida in my college days and seeing them reunite this year at Coachella and Lollapalooza has been wonderful for me. I even ran into Mick Jones earlier in the day when he was hanging out near his bus; he is one of the few musicians I get excited about seeing offstage, he’s always really nice.

  • Big Audio Dynamite

    Still B.A.D. after all these years, playing the Lollapalooza 20th anniversary at Grant Park in Chicago.
    August 6, 2011

    (John Davisson)

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  • Mick Jones

    Big Audio Dynamite's Mick Jones at Lollapalooza in Chicago.
    August 6, 2011

    (John Davisson)

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  • Big Audio Dynamite

    Lollapalooza's 20th anniversary, Grant Park, Chicago.
    August 6, 2011

    (John Davisson)

    | 

I finished the afternoon with a trio of chick shows. Ellie Goulding is growing in popularity in the states (she’s bigger in the UK) and I’ve seen her three times now and enjoy her sets. The Pretty Reckless played on the BMI Stage and had a good size crowd in the trees. Lykke Li was the best though, with a nice set in the Google+ Grove. She had some nice lights and a band with her, and played a very upbeat set that showed why she is popular outside her native Sweden.

  • Lykke Li

    Lollapalooza's 20th anniversary, Grant Park, Chicago.
    August 6, 2011

    (John Davisson)

    | 

The end of the day was a difficult choice. Eminem was not allowing many photographers, so I didn’t have to think about photographing him. I decided to photograph Pretty Lights in Perry’s tent because I have heard a lot of good things about him. He had his own DJ deck and I could see his head over the deck, but it was difficult to shoot from the pit.

For the final day, I was looking forward to seeing Imelda May (for the first time since Bonnaroo 2010); I always enjoy her music, it’s different from most of the popular music of today. I then went to the Grove for Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. I wasn’t familiar with them, having only seen an acoustic set on YouTube, but I enjoyed their music which was more electric at Lollapalooza and featured bubble machines onstage rather than fog machines. Midway through their set though I wanted to head to the main Stage for one of the only festival appearances by The Cars.

  • The Cars

    Performing at Lollapalooza at Chicago's Grant Park.
    August 7, 2011

    (John Davisson)

    | 

Then it was back to the Grove for one of my favorites this year, Lissie. I stayed for her entire set, sitting in the back after photographing, because I like hearing what she is doing. She is from the area and was happy to be back (and had her family visiting). She ended her set by saying she was going to do a cover song for a guy in the audience. I was hoping it would be her cover of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” as it was my introduction to Lissie (via YouTube). I found it amazing how she took a simple pop song and made it into a much darker scenario while still being catchy. But the song she covered was a Kid Cudi song.

  • Lissie


    August 7, 2011

    (John Davisson)

    | 

After Lissie’s set, some rain hit Lollapalooza and I headed for shelter for a couple of hours. Rain is just not good for camera gear. But I enjoyed talking to some fans and chilling out. The rain cooled things down on the hot afternoon and that was a welcome relief for many of the fans. By the time the rain ended, the fields were pretty muddy and fans were turning mud bogs into slip and slides.

There was a huge crowd for Deadmau5’s headlining slot. It started pouring again right as Deadmau5 started but that didn’t seem to deter any of the fans who were in a celebratory mood. Deadmau5’s light show is awesome and a joy to photograph. His DJ deck is a giant cube of lights and he has other geometric lighting video boxes that move up and down on cables. He also had Sofi along to sing a few songs. The dance music fans were quite happy to dance in several inches of water near the front of the stage.

  • Deadmau5

    Lighting Up Lollapalooza in Chicago.
    August 7, 2011

    (John Davisson)

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  • Deadmau5 & Sofi

    Lollapalooza at Grant Park, Chicago.
    August 7, 2011

    (John Davisson)

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It was a great way to finish the twentieth anniversary Lollapalooza.


Comments

  1. Southern Boy wrote:

    06:56 AM, Aug 11, 2011

    Awsome pics!  It was a super fun weekend.  Great performances from the Kills, Ween, Wye Oak, A Perfect Circle, and too many others to list.  Could've done without the rain on Sunday, but it was still great.  Still recouping.

  2. djinginthenameof wrote:

    08:21 AM, Aug 10, 2011

    Hi thanks for mentioning Lady D in your piece.  It was a great time.  Any chance we can see the pics or have her linked like the other artists who played/you shot?  Thanks a bunch!  Nadia P. (Tour Manager, DJ Lady D- djladydmusic.com)

  3. jcray wrote:

    06:29 AM, Aug 09, 2011

    It's always great to see your visual accounts of these festivals, John!  

  4. Scott Legato wrote:

    05:56 PM, Aug 08, 2011

    Nicely done John...It was an AMAZING TIME!