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Looking back at Lollapalooza 2012

7:21 AM, Aug 6, 2012   |    comments
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Lollapalooza, the three-day festival in Grant Park, was not short on surprises, with a record 300,000 attendees, a newly announced 2013 fest in Tel Aviv and a storm evacuation Saturday. And, yes, there was music, plenty of it. From a hotly anticipated Frank Ocean set to crowd favorite Jack White, the lineup spanned genres and eras. USA TODAY surveyed the action.

The next generation:

For the band thenewno2, thefearofmissingout isn't just the name of its new album. It also represents what's going on with society. "That's what social media is all about - it's not about where you are, it's about where you aren't," says Dhani Harrison (son of Beatle George). So what do band members fear they're missing out on at Lollapalooza? "I missed Nero," Harrison says. Adds Paul Hicks: "Well, I'd have had a little boogie to Porter Robinson if we weren't playing (at the same time Friday)." Their electro-tinged rock had a looser style live than on the record.

Fashion forward: It has been an interesting year for electro/pop/hip-hop singer Dev. "Having a baby (daughter Emilia, 8 months old) and putting out an album (debut The Night the Sun Came Up) are two of the gnarliest things that could have happened at the same time," she says. She and Emilia's father, professional skateboarder Jimmy Gorecki, are engaged, though they haven't set a date. "I did buy my wedding dress, which is a little bit backward, but it doesn't matter because the dress is so awesome."

Dance and romance: Last month, Passion Pit's Michael Angelakos canceled tour dates "to work on improving my mental health," he wrote on the band's site. If anything was ailing him, however, it didn't show. Launching with Take a Walk, he was buoyant, as was the crowd. Though songs from new album Gossamer traversed the singer's darkly personal issues, the set - wrapped in swaths of synth - was more exuberant catharsis. By comparison, The Shins and their crowd were a more mellow, though pretty, affair. Reflective songs such as field-wide singalong Phantom Limb and spine-tingly classic New Slang were crowd favorites.

Big time: The Black Keys have moved up the Lollapalooza ladder, a move that made sense, judging from the crowd's utter rapture. Frontman Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney rounded out their heady, stomping blues-rock with a bassist and keyboardist, which gave songs such as Money Maker even more swagger. Lonely Boy incited an impromptu dance pit that built until set's end, leaving the booty-shakers sweat-soaked and dusty.

Opening-slot winners: It can be a challenge to get noticed when any band launches. That was the case for indie-folk quintet Milo Greene. But the group found an inventive way to get attention by making up a fictional, but functional, character. "I created 'Milo Greene' to kind of go out and promote (us)," Robbie Arnett says. "We created this Gmail account, this MySpace, and called people. We put on a (British) accent and they took us more seriously." The band has the live chops to back up its business savvy. Saturday's songs, such as Perfectly Aligned, with its multi-part harmonies and "Oh, whoa, oh, ohs," were immediately catchy.

Back to the fun. Post-storm ponds formed around the grounds, making navigation more precarious, but that didn't stop the party. "Let's just sing along and dance, all right?" declared fun. singer Nate Ruess, to which the large crowd happily obliged.

Nice lights: Swedish DJ and producer Avicii boasted a spectacular light show and a decently large crowd, shaking it to Le7els and a remix of Florence + The Machine's Spectrum (Say My Name).

A powerful Ocean: Frank Ocean proved the night's most compelling performer. Songs from his new album Channel Orange, such as the romantic Thinkin Bout You and ambitious closing epic Pyramids, were spellbinding, his falsettos drawing goose bumps, body grooving and audience-wide singalongs. "This is really important to me after what I said last month," Ocean told the crowd, referring to his blog post that revealed that his first love was a man. "It's taken the fear away, so thank you," he said before launching into the heart-wrenching Bad Religion.

Fresh faces from overseas: Of Monsters And Men and Sigur Rós both performed Sunday in what has to be the first time two Icelandic acts have played Lollapalooza at the same time. "It's kind of strange someone can understand me," Monsters singer/guitarist Nanna Hilmarsdottir said, laughing. So what has the trajectory to fest fame been like for the Icelanders, known for their infectious, folky songs? "It's weird going into catering and At the Drive-In is there," she says. "You hear about these bands, now they're around you."

After the show, it's the afterparty: Artists on the festival bill, such as Frank Ocean, the Afghan Whigs and Avicii, played sold-out aftershows, but bands that didn't perform at the festival made splashes, too. They ranged from big acts, including Jane's Addiction, to newcomers Rosco Bandana. The group was signed by new label Hard Rock Records, who presented Rosco Bandana at an official Lollapalooza afterparty. The label was created to give new bands a leg up, says James Buell, co-head of artists and repertoire for Hard Rock Records. "We don't look for any take from sales of CDs or touring, there's no 360 deals with us. It's all going back to the band." The Mississippi group's debut album, Time to Begin, is out Sept. 25.

Driven to reunite: When At the Drive-In was at the height of its popularity in 2001, having recently released the critically acclaimed Relationship of Command, the group suddenly called it quits. A decade later, the influential group reformed to play a handful of announced dates, including the Lollapalooza reunion show. Founding members Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Jim Ward launched separate bands, splitting the band for their next projects. (Rodriguez-Lopez and Cedric Bixler formed Mars Volta, while Jim Ward took bandmates Paul Hinojos and Tony Hajjar to launch Sparta.)

Given that they've been successful in their respective bands, why reunite now? "People have a hard time understanding that being friends was more important than making money," Rodriguez-Lopez says. "It's not about a five-year band life or a single, it's about, 'I'm going to be an old man with this guy.' "

In that way, the band resembles a marriage. "We had a problem with communication and fighting," says Rodriguez-Lopez. There were also substance abuse problems. Two years ago, Rodriguez-Lopez invited the former bandmates to his home in Mexico and talk of playing again swirled. "You get to a point in your life when (you want) the real important people around you," Ward says. "And these are my best friends."

"For the first time, the music is a byproduct of our chemistry, it's the child of the marriage," Rodriguez-Lopez says. "It's everything beyond the music, it's the meals we have together, it's the plane rides, it's the laughter we have, it's the interviews we have."

And though the relationship appears fruitful the second time around, At the Drive-In's recording future is more nebulous. "We're just playing the shows that we booked," Ward says, adding they've not been working on new material. "We have no master plan."

By Althea Legaspi

USA Today

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