Holy shit, has it been a week already? Blame the delay on a strong bout of festival influenza. The recap for this year’s Lollapalooza Brazil is finally here, and since the three previous entries were so fucking popular here at Antiquiet, I’m sticking to a more personal style for this one.
This was a weird one. Lollapalooza Brazil 2015 had arguably the weakest lineup since it first took place around here, so it was already set out to be unusual. A couple of strong headliners, some insanely popular DJs, and many poorly-placed acts, mixed in with a bunch of indie acts most people won’t care about at all in a couple of years. The first day was loaded with great bands, the second had me interested for half a show, if that. Quite uneven.
The first thing to catch my attention was Boogarins, a Brazilian act you should absolutely check out as soon as possible. Heavy-hitting psychedelic music that gives Tame Impala a run for their money. It’s a shame they were on so early and too many people were watching some bullshit on the main stage. Right after that, the little I saw of Fits & The Tantrums was captivating, and the crowd responded very well to it – and I’m guessing most weren’t familiar with the music yet. Then it was on to fill a gap with Alt-J, who started out fine but turned into a snooze-fest ten minutes into their set. Walking to another stage and saving a spot for a better act seemed like a wise choice.
St. Vincent is a fucking goddess. Her set was fantastic, and she deserves every bit of praise she receives. I feel partially guilty for waiting until last year to actually get into her music, but it’s a surprise that it’s taken people this long to give her proper recognition. The robotic theatricality of the performance made a great contrast to Annie Clark’s actual performance, which made her seem quite bare and exposed onstage. And her guitar solos just lit up the crowd, every time.
Then it was on to Robert Plant & The Sensational Space Shifters. The set balanced solo cuts and Led Zeppelin songs, almost one-for-one – the first being rather enjoyable, and the latter going from pretty good to excellent. Occasionally, the band would make frustrating changes to a song (like playing only half of the guitar riff on Black Dog), but the lyrics and vocal melodies were still intact. Luckily, the Lollapalooza crowd was well-versed in Zeppelin, and seemed excited to fill in the gaps when Plant couldn’t reach certain high notes. While the modified versions of classics were appreciated, the more linear performances of The Lemon Song, What Is and What Should Never Be, and Going To California were the highlights.
Then began an endless wait for Jack White, because I’d have to be handsomely paid to walk over to the other stage and watch fucking Skrillex again. Standing there in a crowded space listening to White’s selection of hip-hop music for over an hour was more fun than I’d expected, but two Beastie Boys tracks was pushing it a bit. I’d seen several videos of performances from the Lazaretto and Blunderbuss tours, and I’ve expressed my distaste for playing The White Stripes songs with a full band before. Well, I was wrong.
The difference between watching a live stream and actually being there was as apparent as it could ever be, the moment Jack White signaled the band to start playing Icky Thump. It was the heaviest possible rendition of the track, and my doubts about the new arrangements were blown to pieces then and there. Jumping straight into High Ball Stepper felt like cheating, turning the gig and the crowd past 11 so early on. And White instantly made it clear he was in control of the whole situation – his giving orders to the band members was expected; his walking over to the crowd and demanding singalongs was not. And it worked. As the set progressed, Stripes and Raconteurs staples mixed in with fine selections from his solo career, you could spot audience members getting their money’s worth, one by one. The word “relentless” gets thrown around a bit, but White’s set was just that, having its only true stop during the encore break. Seven Nation Army didn’t feel like a bittersweet goodbye, it felt like relief – that White was finally letting us go from his grasp. A perfect headliner, and a proper way to end the day of a festival.
I’m still not sure how the hell I can define the second (and final) day of the event. “Rainy” would be one word to describe it. “Mediocre” and “bizarre” would work too. I got there too late to witness any of the Brazilian acts that actually interested me (scheduling bands before noon, really?), so it was on to try watching Interpol just as the rain got too thick to tolerate without a raincoat. While the grey skies made for a proper setting during their gig, there’s just no way I can swallow that music down, but I suppose the fans really enjoyed it – a sentence that can be applied for every gig on that lame Sunday. The Kooks? Weak-ass indie music disguised as pop, but a swarm of kids dug it. Foster The People? Weak-ass pop disguised as indie music, but a full-capacity main stage liked it. Three Days Grace? I wanted to shove my raincoat inside my ears, but you could hear the singalong to I Hate Everything About You from a mile away. Young The Giant? What is it with these “the” bands anyway?
I jokingly asked some friends of mine, “who the fuck is going to buy an overpriced ticket to watch Pharrell or Calvin Harris?” Well, it was a rhetorical question, but the answer is “a shit-ton of people,” and “more than those who paid to see Jack White.” I’m still trying to wrap my head around this concept, but there were tens of thousands of people in attendance for both of those artists – people who only know Happy and that one song that sounds like a watered-down I Gotta Feeling. People who went there just for Calvin Harris and Pharrell. While watching The Smashing Pumpkins close the night with a half-good set (the new album’s not that good live), the flaws of the lineup became all-too-apparent. While Lollapalooza doubled down on providing a more comfortable experience for festivalgoers (almost no lines to buy food, for example), they had to sacrifice some slots to the EDM/pop gods. And yes, it brought people in swarms this year, but it’s not sustainable to keep sacrificing the more rock/indie-oriented acts – which have always been the life of the festival anyway.
The first day was great overall. The second day had half of a good Smashing Pumpkins set, and that’s it. Adding more of a pop flavor is fine, and selling lots of tickets is also fine, as long as it doesn’t subtract from the rest of the lineup. We’ll consider this a one-time slip, and hope that things are evened out next year.