Lollapalooza’s 10 Most Epic Moments In Pop

Some of the biggest names in rock, dance and pop will descend on Chicago for Lollapalooza on August 3-5, including everyone from Frank Ocean to Florence + the Machine to Fun. But Lolla wasn’t always this inclusive: It began as a the leading authority on alt-rock in the early ’90s, a traveling caravan of flannel and ripped jeans that brought Seattle’s grunge and Cali’s trash-glam to the masses. That iteration of the touring fest folded after ’97, but Lolla was resurrected in 2005 as a single-weekend Chicago festival, and slowly but surely it has opened its loving arms to the sounds of pop music. To get you ready for the fast-approaching festival, here are Lolla’s 10 most epic pop moments.

2010: Lady Gaga Crowdsurfs In Pasties & Panty Hose
Lady Gaga made her Lolla debut in 2007 in front of a small crowd with her (still) largely unknown mentor/spirit guide Lady Starlight. But it was in 2010 that she really made waves at the festival — and it wasn’t even for her set. Wearing platform stilettos and nothing more than a sheer bodysuit and pasties, Gaga launched herself off the stage during the Semi Precious Weapons set — much to the horror of her handlers, who quickly wrangled her. But she broke free and immediately did it again, making sure to get deeper into the rabid crowd. So much exposed skin. So much groping. This was the most punk moment of Lolla ’10.

2008: Kanye West Is Homecoming King
Despite being in his hometown of Chicago, Kanye West‘s 2006 set was plagued by long-winded detours and a skeptical crowd. In two short years, though, Kanye had grown from hip-hop star to mainstream star, and festivals were no longer reserved for insular rockists. West took full advantage of the new circumstances, dedicating the massive show to his recently deceased mother. Vacillating between arrogance and earnestness (as is the Ye Way), he tore through all the hits before closing with “Stronger”. West was officially larger than life — and yet we would learn he was just getting started.

2009: The Killers Kill
Like Gaga and Kanye before them, the Killers made their second stint at Lollapalooza the one people would remember. While 2005′s performance showed them to be masters of arch post-punk nostalgia, that wasn’t an accurate portrait of the band. Four years later, when they unleashed their fists-in-the-air amalgamation of sweeping Springsteen Americana and earnest pop hooks, it was clear that the real Killers had arrived. (And really, is there a better closer than “When You Were Young”?)

2011: Foster The People Break Out
Seeing Foster The People live for the first time can be jarring (in a good way), because you’d never think the polished cool of their debut album Torches would crackle with such energy in person. Not to mention they have the crisp acoustics and cohesion of a band that has already spent a few years going through the ringer. Naturally, the Lolla crowd (at that point the largest they had played for) ate it up, and answered with historic levels of crowd-surfing according to one Time Out reporter. This was when FTP proved they were no mere radio fluke.

2007: Daft Punk Does It Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger
The French dance duo brought their pyramid, helmets and mind-melting light show to Grant Park and completely owned Day One. Remixing and splicing their own songs together over a 90-minute set, Daft Punk‘s barrage of joyous electro was fully integrated with the pulsating lights, a lesson that today’s biggest dance acts have studied closely.

2010: Fan Joins Green Day For “Longview”
During the opening bass line of “Longview,” Green Day singer Billie Joe Armstrong asked for a volunteer to sing, eventually picking out a “skinny little shit” to fulfill the duties. Aforementioned “shit” plants a kiss on Armstrong’s lips before going off to sing the entire song BY HIMSELF. Terrifying, right? The spectacle was sure to fail, but the kid holds a tune and nails the lyrics, all while sprinting back-and-forth because he probably didn’t know what the hell else to do. That Billie Joe’s got a discerning eye.

1994: Beastie Boys Get Ill
Just after the release of  ’90s landmark Ill CommunicationBeastie Boys toured with Lollapalooza at the height of their powers. Funneling their relentless energy into a genre-blurring concoction that could only be described as “cool,” MCA, Ad-Rock and Mike D alternated between playing instruments for their fuzzed-out punk stomps and hopping around stage delivering hyper rhymes. We imagine the highlight of each set — and perhaps of that year in live music — had to be when they broke out “Sabotage”, which was so new it still had that new police car smell.

2006: Gnarls Barkley Serve An Ace
Just how big was Gnarls Barkley at this early stage of their career? Jack White‘s Raconteurs covered “Crazy” during their Friday set, just to hold the masses over until Gnarls took the stage the next day. And when Cee Lo Green, Danger Mouse and the rest of the band emerged dressed in tennis whites for their set (tennis word), it was clear Cee Lo’s plot to take over the world had entered Phase 2.

2011: Coldplay’s First Time
A Coldplay concert is epic by default, so when the biggest band in the land hits up Lolla for the first time, you know it’ll be special. By 2011, the Brits had their live show down to a science — they knew exactly how the crowd would react to each gleaming shard of reverb and each of Chris Martin‘s whimpers. Which is why the debut of then-unreleased tracks from Mylo Xyloto gave this performance a nice bit of unpredictability.

2011: Skrillex And Deadmau5′s Inject An EDM Double Dose
Daft Punk’s 2007 set paved the way for the onslaught of wubs that dominated Lolla in 2011. Skrillex played under Perry’s Tent and worked the crowd into such a rabid, sweaty frenzy that the photo pit had to be shut down. Deadmau5 was the only EDM act on the main stage last year, and the DJ took full advantage of the top billing. Instead of Daft Punk’s pyramid, he was atop an LED cube, a king lording over the ever-expanding land of bass drops.

What are your favorite Lollapalooza moments? Let us know in the comments, or on Facebook and Twitter.

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  • Cody

    I disagree with this list.