By Frank E. Lee
Despite some slightly more than occasional showers and brief bursts of quiet lightning, the 25th year of Lolla got off to a good start. (Big screen weather radar monitors were a nice touch.) Grant Park was in fine shape with good turf conditions and a surprising lack of mud.
Security was visible but unobtrusive although they were quick to respond to the occasional overdose and even a genital display that was hard to unsee. The prevailing fashion for women was tunic-like garments with roman sandals (my high school Latin teacher would have been proud) while the men favored black shirts with straight jeans.
Musically, it was the diverse blend that makes it one of the world’s most delightful displays of songcraft. On my way to Lolla Lounge south, I caught a burst of hip hop from Kehlani which was a good segue into a spirited electro-gospel psychedelic set from Yeasayer, making their third appearance at Lolla if I heard correctly. They addressed the crowd frequently with past tales of live glory and advice on life and how to live it, paving the way with some well-placed f-bombs and leaving with a single non-partisan command: Vote!
Next up was Bastille, whose song “Good Grief” is one of the biggest hits from the assembled performers this year. Charismatic front-man Dan Smith, resplendent in a rib cage t-shirt, danced artfully around the stage singing their lush, pop-rock tunes that maybe owe a little to early Spandau Ballet. After a quick but well-driven ride on the Lolla golf cart express to the North side lounge, it was time for sets by City And Colour and Kurt Vile and the Violators (who played the Blue Cross/Blue Shield performance stage earlier in the day).
Both bands were razor sharp with pristine sound and stylistically reminiscent of mid-period Neil Young and Crazy Horse. (That’s a good thing.) Kudos also to Publican meats and Big Star tacos for some excellent VIP catering.
The Jack Daniels tent was tempting, but it was Thursday. Tonight will be different.