As 300,000 people from all over the country filed their way into the stunningly beautiful Grant Park for Lollapalooza, the level of anticipation for the 130 impending sets was as diverse as the crowd itself. Since three-day passes sold out before the lineup was even announced, there were a fair amount of festival-goers who didn’t seem overly enthralled with any one act in particular, thus making some of the crowd experiences feel more like a tailgate for a football game than a show. I wasn’t entirely surprised but nevertheless massively disenchanted to overhear a mostly blonde fleet of 18-year-old girls wearing identical flower headbands talk about the “scary old dude” in Nine Inch Nails while taking duck-faced selfies on their bedazzled iPhones. It was almost as though the festival attracted two general categories of music lovers: the NIN/Postal Service fans and the Killers/Mumford fans. Of course, this is an incredibly broad generalization but for the most part it encapsulates the very apparent demographic division between attendees that remained constant throughout the three-day festivitiez. Regardless, the headliner subcategories were somewhat irrelevant because they each proved to have irrevocably mastered their niche and put on exquisitely flawless sets that captivated even the most novice of fans. This year, Lolla shined brightest during the seven-song, sunshine-drenched early afternoon sets that will undoubtedly become token “I saw them when..” stories for the unexpectedly lucky fans in attendance. That being said, there were still a few headlining moments that snagged a spot in the top 10 because, come on, you would cry if you saw “Such Great Heights” live, too.
10. Deap Valley: With ominous clouds overhead, this female duo from the City of Angels took the Perillo Stage and proved they were there to shake sh*t up. Their talent speaks for itself but their live show is where they really set themselves apart from the myriad garage rock duos that seem to be popping up at an alarmingly rate.
9. Chance the Rapper: If you were lucky enough to be in the crowd singing “Everybody’s Something” a cappella during this future hip hop superstar’s rebel-rousing set, you should cherish that memory for the remainder of your existence.
8. Crystal Castles: We need to talk about Alice Glass, guys. The blonde electro darling was all over the place in the best way possible. Her dazed but determined facial expressions had to have made everyone in the crowd debate what drug she was on at least once — but the weirder she got, the more mud went flying, (it rained.) Suffice to say if you could stand still throughout this set, you probably don’t have a soul.
7. The National: Even though they write songs that feel best when listened to alone in a windowless room, the Ohio natives delivered a raw, sonically flawless set that transcended the contradictory setting. With such a broad discography to choose from, M. Berninger & co. gave the substantial-size crowd exactly what they wanted — the classics.
6. Haim: These insanely gifted sisters must’ve come out of the womb destined for superstardom. They perform with so much confidence and innate musicality it’s easy to forget you’re watching a trio of 20-something festival newcomers. They’re as charismatic as they are talented and their impressive set of summery yet deeply raw tunes evoked emotion from even the most stone cold rock ‘n rollers.
5. Kendrick Lamar: By far the most unexpectedly heartwarming moment of the entire festival took place during Mr. Lamar’s set when two spritely fans in wheelchairs ascended above the masses and crowd surfed to the very front of the massive Red Bull Stage to thunderous applause. The typically loquacious rapper was left speechless and dedicated the rest of his set to his two ridiculously brave young fans who deservingly stole the show.
4. Palma Violets: It won’t be long until these dudes are selling out arenas just like their British rock ‘n roll predecessors. Electric frontman Samuel Fryer stole the show wailing the choruses with so much unabashed vigor it was like it was the first time he’d ever sung them.
3. The Postal Service: The previously elusive “side project” of Ben Gibbard finally played the stage they were destined to play for the last decade, thus fulfilling the dreams of thousands of diehard fans who thought they’d never hear their beloved iPod nano favorites “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight” live. Expectations were high but the quartet made sure the set was as magical as the fans always dreamed it would be.
2. Reignwolf: There’s always that breakout set during every festival where you genuinely can’t believe the astounding perfection of what you’re witnessing and you feel compelled to tell every human being you’ve ever known to drop whatever they’re doing and get ready to have their minds blown apart. Reignwolf was that set at this year’s Lollapalooza. Don’t believe me? Ask one of the thousand fans screaming “encore” at 2:45 pm. Go. See. Them. Live.
1. Nine Inch Nails: The Prophet, Trent Reznor, delivered a 2-hour set so unbelievably mesmerizing it ensured that from now until eternity he can no longer be compared to anyone but himself. Playing favorites like “Closer,” “Head Like a Hole,” “Hurt,” and “The Hand that Feeds” alongside a killer light show, Mr. Reznor gave the fans exactly what they wanted; an authentic NIN live performance.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vF6BXLi2OyA