Predictably, early bird tickets sold faster than Starbucks coffee during a winter work commute, once again. The Lollapalooza 2013 lineup for August 2-4 boasted an impressive variety of musical artists suitable for even the most finicky of viewers, myself included: Mumford & Sons, Ellie Goulding, Lana Del Ray, The Killers, Baauer, just to name a few. For now, let’s skip the big names that headlined in favor of three lesser-known but equally noteworthy groups: Vampire Weekend, Matt & Kim and Postal Service.
Vampire Weekend’s performances at the Aragon Ballroom 2011, Pitchfork Festival 2012, and Lollapalooza 2013 were consistent crowd pleasers. Ezra's lilting, albeit high-pitched, voice engages his audience as much as his humble stage presence. Music goers are gluttons for groups that can perform as well live as they can on the track, and Vampire Weekend takes the cake on that one. Their lyrics are inspiring, poetic and insanely original and cover everything from kings and the republic to revolution and bureaucrat love. The medley of instruments utilized—keyboards, cello, violin, African drums, the triangle— add diversity and charm to their song. Will there be a day they swap their prim and proper suede blazers and purple skinny corduroys in favor of something a bit more visceral, to match the street side "Let's bang on trash cans in cobblestone Europe and sing our lungs out" adage of their hit "A-Punk?”
Moving on to Matt & Kim, the Brooklyn based duo that opened with the teaser: listen to music and have a lot of animalistic sex! This American indie pop duo defines defiance and risk-taking in musical endeavors. Their albums resonate well with an audience of restless youngsters who have memorized every word and every beat to every song. With Kim on drums and Matt upfront on vocals, the two certainly know how to strike a memorable performance. They prioritize connecting with their audience, hence the barrage of balloons and beach balls. But, possibly more importantly, the pair has fun amidst it all—unbridled, reckless, genuine fun.
Postal Service was a sober finale to a chaotic Saturday. Picture this: stars winking in the summer evening sky; a stage set glowing smoky blue; cigarette butts illuminating a sea of beach towels and picnic blankets; two silhouettes soulfully belting out lyrics on stage and strumming acoustic guitars; a motionless, appreciative crowd. Somber and haunting tunes captivate an audience who loves Ben Gibbard and Death Cab for Cutie. Most that aren’t familiar with Postal Service might dismiss it as “weird” or “interesting,” but the lyrics are honest and the melody is heartfelt and brooding.
Musicians and talents galore. Funky and imaginative art shacks, records, posters, clothing lines, and antique jewelry. Enough sweat, body paint, and hippie getup to last a lifetime. Of course, there were plenty of downers, such as clashing time slots for two bands playing at the same time, and stinky lavatories with lines stretching out of Grant Park. But, it was worth every minute, every chaotic dash to the front row, every elbow in the face, and every penny spent. The lesser known bands deserve just as much of a chance as the mainstream names.
Here's my reader challenge: dive into new music and immerse yourself without bias or hesitation. Form an opinion of your own. Like it, love it or loathe it, but give it a listen first. When I started following indie music years ago, I never since looked back. Keeping an open mind and spotlighting lesser-known artists gives me the opportunity to enrich a community and introduce them to a vastly different musical world they may have otherwise never dappled in.