The Shit List: The Five Best Sets From Lollapalooza 2014

Lollapalooza isn't just a music festival, it's a three-day immersion into a whole other world; one full of every type of aural and visual stimuli imaginable.  At the end of those three days, thousands of us trudged out of Grant Park for the last time (until next year, of course) like zombies looking for brains and, well, trains.

It took me another day to decompress, catch up on my sleep, respond to three days of unanswered emails and phone messages (yes, I went off the grid for Lolla), and put my thoughts together for this article, which comprises the five best sets from Lollapalooza 2014.  One thing all five of these acts had in common going in was the fact that I was still "on the fence" about them, for one reason or another.  To put it simply, these five knocked me off the fence.

5. Fitz and The Tantrums

While we're still trying to understand why the band chose to work with producer Tony Hoffer on their second album, last May's More Than Just A Dream, instead of Chris Seefried, who crafted the iconic sound that made their debut Pickin' Up The Pieces such an aural thrill, the band took to the Lollapalooza stage on Saturday afternoon with something to prove and turned the Samsung Galaxy stage into Funk City U.S.A. circa 1973.

4. Jenny Lewis

Our main gripe with modern artists is that there are very few who a) have any sort of knowledge or respect for musical tradition, b) have any actual talent above that of a semi-decent karaoke crooner, c) are able to rise above their very obvious influences, and d) can pull it off live with just a guitar and voice.

Jenny Lewis is one of the few artists that you can mention in the same breath as Linda Rondstadt and not be laughed out of the room and her set at Lollapalooza connected with everyone who saw it because Lewis is just about the most effortlessly bad-ass performer to grace The Grove stage all festival long.

Mark our words, the next time she appears at Lollapalooza, it will be as a headliner.

3. Interpol

As we were waiting for Interpol's set to start, a woman behind me proclaimed to her friends, and I quote, "I just fucked the bass player for Interpol.  Well, at least that's who he told me he was."  Whether that was true or not (we're leaning heavily towards the latter), the return of the band to the Chicago area certainly brought out the ladies.

In confident, understated fashion, Interpol returned from their lengthiest absence to date and, in a span of three songs, succeeded in winding the clock all the way back to 2002. One minor quibble, though: not a single tune from 2007's Our Love To Admire?

2. Cage The Elephant

England-by-way-of-Kentucky's Cage The Elephant have quickly mastered the art of wearing a multitude of '80s and '90s influences on their sleeve without sounding completely derivative.  On their third album, Melophobia, the band's knack for stadium-sized melodies was finally melded with a production style that would guarantee them a place on stadium stages around the world and, at Lolla, they proved themselves worthy to the task.

Singer Matthew Schultz is without peer when it comes to being a riveting frontman.  His antics throughout the show, including walking into the middle of the audience during "Ain't No Rest For The Wicked" and giving the guy in charge of untangling his mic cable (which must have been 300 feet long) a run for his money. Maybe a wireless mic next time?  Just a thought.  As for the brief snippet of "Seven Nation Army" that they played near the end of their regular set, what better way to re-energize every exhausted ear in Grant Park?

1. Arctic Monkeys

I was one of the first folks in the U.S. to sing the praises of the pride of Sheffield, England back in 2006, but even I was taken aback by the band's fifth album, AM, which marked a notable leap forward on all fronts. What had once been a cult band that specialized in jittery, caffeinated pop marked by singer Alex Turner's wickedly intelligent lyrics suddenly became, for a lack of a better term, a big league home run hitting machine.

But it was their performance at Lolla that proved to the masses that this is a band for the ages.  Maybe not to the extent that anyone will ever call them "the voice of a generation", but watching the ease with which the band slayed a very musically-fatigued crowd in Grant Park without resorting to ridiculous histrionics was enough to win the band the top spot on this list.

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