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11 unique moments of Lollapalooza Argentina 2018

Josh Petersel and Jon Fritz (creators of the magazine Eleven and collaborators of Consequence of Sound) came from the United States to review especially for Soy Rock what they experienced in the festival held last weekend in Buenos Aires.

TXT: Josh Petersel // Photos: Jon Fritz

Part of the Lollapalooza story you already know. The most viral event from the weekend was that thunderstorms forced the cancellation of an entire day of the festival — even publications from back in Lollapalooza’s home base in Chicago opportunistically picked up the bad news. Pearl Jam, arguably the fest’s biggest draw, never got to perform. A lucky few might have still been able to catch LCD Soundsystem for their Tuesday night sideshow. But let’s be clear: The festival still rocked for two solid days, with plenty to see and hear, and the promise of a full three-day festival in the year to come has never been more exciting.

Here’s the eleven most notable things to go down during this year’s fest.

  1. The Weather – Saturday 11pm until Sunday 10pm, Hipodromo de San Isidro

We’d better address the elephant in the room. The only thing that could supplant the thunder from Eddie Vedder’s guitar was the actual thunder from a torrential storm Saturday night. It sucks — sucks — that an entire day (arguably the best day!) of the festival was cancelled due to inclement weather. Saturday night’s storm was massive, and there’s no telling the true destruction that the weather caused (though Twitter offers a glimpse). Perhaps this is a good opportunity, nonetheless, to exercise thankfulness: Due to expert management and critical decision-making under extreme pressure, nobody died. Nobody was seriously injured, and everyone with weekend-long passes got to enjoy a two day festival which is just what was offered last year. Refunds are being offered (keep an eye here) even though the festival normally has a staunch “no refund” policy. We’re glad Lollapalooza did the right thing, kept fans safe, and gave refunds to ease the situation.

  1. The Killers – Saturday 3/17, 8:30pm, Main Stage 1

The band is called “The Killers,” but really, you might shorten it to just “The Killer.” This is Brandon Flowers’ show, and in what wound up being the festival-closing set Saturday night, boy did Flowers kill

Flowers may well be a golden god of rock music at this point. Of course, it doesn’t hurt his case that he reemerged for his Saturday encore in a gilded and glittering golden getup to the tune of “The Calling” from the band’s latest album. It helps his appearance of agelessness that he shares the stage not with his official bandmates Dave Keuning and Mark Stoermer, but a pair of stand-ins who each look grizzled enough not to be Flowers’ parents, but perhaps his former babysitters. Hair stylists could spend years puzzling over how his hair remains perfectly coiffed through a 90 minute tour de force spanning hits like “Somebody Told Me,” “When You Were Young” and “Mr. Brightside,” and newer tracks like “The Man” and “Run for Cover.” In short, Flowers’ performance, stage command, and charisma have all been tuned to perfection.

The Killers closed their set with renowned crowd-pleaser “All These Things That I’ve Done,” but the best live track rendition was probably “Human” mid-set, which brought together background singers, crowd chanters, and wistful lamentations on the modern state of romance. Before closing, Flowers remarked “Life can be tough… but sometimes, it goes the other way too.” Clearly, this was one of the good times.

  1. Khalid – Saturday 3/17, 5:15pm, Main Stage 2

Khalid’s set was the weekend’s biggest positive surprise.

He’s only 20 years old, and he’s already gone quadruple-platinum. That’s a dual-distinction he shared with festival headliner Camila Cabello until she turned 21 earlier this month, though Camila had Fifth Harmony to serve as a launching pad.

Khalid captures a distinct, modern, millennial perspective on what the “blues” in R&B means: He laments having no money in set closer “Young Dumb & Broke,” but remarks optimistically that he’s got a long life ahead (along with, within the context of the song, illustrating how high he is). In “Saved,” the song Khalid reveals was the first he ever wrote, he laments over lost love by describing how he’s deleted his ex’s photos from his smartphone, but kept her number in the contact book. Beyonce’s not that old; surely she’s felt the same twang of pain… but it’s hard to say if she’s ever used her iPhone contact list as a memento box.

Most importantly, Khalid’s stage presence is contagious; his audience size and crowd command wildly outpace his 5:15pm timeslot. Flanked by two “American Teen” cheerleaders, Khalid controls the audience through bobs, hand waves, and even a few karate kicks thrown in for good measure. Should he come back aside from the festival to perform a show on his own, it’ll definitely be worth buying a ticket.

  1. Metronomy – Thursday 3/15, 9:00pm, Teatro Vorterix; Saturday 3/17, 4:15pm, Main Stage 1

Confession: I think smartphone video recordings are a scourge at concerts. They ruin the atmosphere, they block everyone else’s view, they encourage you to focus on a tiny screen recreation of the live affair actually happening right in front of you. The output is gross pixelated graphics and abysmally muted audio, invariably uploaded to YouTube in a video that’s never going to be watched again (and was not even palatable to watch in the first place.)

Confession #2: For the first time ever, I understood the video recording phenomenon. Metronomy’s most popular track, “The Look,” is incomprehensibly bubbly and infectious, and after spending the past seven years shaking my hips with an old roommate to the studio recorded version on our living room stereo, I couldn’t help but to slip my phone out of my pocket and loft it overhead. It won’t look good or sound good — seriously, everyone else avert your eyes and ears — but Kevin, I hope you can live this one vicariously with me.

The rest of Metronomy’s set delights as well. Metronomy is the rare band where all members contribute vocals to most every song — and for some tracks, including “Everything Goes My Way” and sideshow encore “Love’s Not an Obstacle,” frontman Joseph Mount switches to drums allowing regular drummer Anna Prior to takeover lead & tambourine.

  1. Miranda! – Friday 3/16, 3:00pm, Main Stage 2

Argentina may be often known for its rock and its cumbia, but Buenos Aires dance/electronica outfit Miranda! sure know how to put on a show to please a crowd.

Clad in all-pink attire, Miranda! stormed the stage to “Ya Lo Sabia,” a thumping pop track seemingly perfectly designed to energize the crowd baking in the afternoon sun.

Right around “Perfecta,” a troupe of dancers from local gay party Plop! joined band to diversify the band’s color scheme to a rainbow array. The sound and sexually avant garde aesthetic evoke memories of 2006-era Scissor Sisters; “Yo te Diré” would nestle in seamlessly between “I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’” and “She’s My Man” on Tah Dah, or in the soundsystem at an alt scene bar just as the clock turns to 3:00am.

Argentine dance/electronica might not have a big enough following to fill a stadium on its own, but for early on in a music festival bill, it’s a perfect change of pace from the rest of the day’s rock & roll.

  1. Las Pelotas – Friday 3/16, 4:35pm, Main Stage 2

It’s always a rush to see local bands share stages with iconic artists known around the world, and Las Pelotas didn’t disappoint.

In fact, they might want to consider adopting the moniker “Las Calabazas” — the band, and especially vocalist/guitarist German Daffunchio do that good a job of parallelling Billy Corgan and The Smashing Pumpkins’ signature grunge-rock sound. The live rendition of “¿Qué Podes Dar?” could pass for “1979” until you notice that Las Pelotas happen to be singing in Spanish.

And like the Pumpkins, Las Pelotas’ sound has evolved and grown over time. This sonic exploration is less effective on “Personalmente,” a song with elements of heartland rock similar to the sound of The War on Drugs. On the other hand, “Victimas del Cielo” applies a synth intro which feels like it’s even more in the band’s wheelhouse.

  1. Spoon – Friday 3/16, 5:30pm, Alternative Stage

With roughly a quarter of a century of experience, Spoon is just about as seasoned in rock as any band performing all weekend. They’re a perfect combination of exceptional performance, variety of sound, and an intimate crowd size a few orders of magnitude smaller than any other band who’s been this good for this long.

Arguably, much of Spoon’s best work comes from its most recent offerings, albums They Want My Soul and Hot Thoughts, which only arrived 21 and 24 years respectively into the band’s existence. Friday’s set effectively balanced the old and the new, weaving the classics “I Turn My Camera On” and “The Underdog” in between new hits like “Hot Thoughts,” “Inside Out,” and “Do You.” Lead singer Britt Daniel closed the set with the punchy “Rent I Pay,” before bidding farewell and remarking that this won’t be the last South America sees of the band. We hope they’ll be back soon.

  1. Red Hot Chili Peppers – Friday 3/16, 10:00pm, Main Stage 1

You know what to expect here. “Can’t Stop,” “Snow (Hey Oh),” “Under the Bridge,” “By The Way” all hit the crowd in an overpowering force. Anthony Kiedis, Flea, Chad Smith, and Josh Klinghoffer are all peak-performing machines — a bit older now, maybe, but not worse for the wear. Kiedis will inevitably take his shirt off at some point during the set; maybe someday ten or twenty years from now he’ll get old enough that this sight gag will lose its luster, but you can fully expect that the band will still otherwise know how to rock.

A 105-minute set leaves ample time for filler. Some opportunity to showcase lesser-known tracks, sure… but I think the girl in the crowd next to me put it best around when “Nevermind” and “Go Robot” came on: “I can’t tell if these are really old tracks, or really new ones.” (The answer: One of each.)

  1. Chance the Rapper – Friday 3/16, 7:30pm, Main Stage 1

Chance the Rapper’s connection to Chicago and Chicago native Kanye West are notorious. His performance of Kanye’s “Ultralight Beam” was solid, and his Chicago t-shirt was on-brand. But the love for Chance is clearly far from a local phenomenon.

Chance brought the house down with an hour-long set as the day’s first and only rap artist. The crowd shook the ground jumping to “No Problem,” and swooned to a reprise of “Blessings” to close the set. Trap is proliferating in Latin America; EDM has a stage entirely to itself at Lolla; Chance’s performance and reception are strong evidence that rap is more than a casual passing interest, it’s mainstream — we hope next year’s festival will up the dosage higher than one major artist per day.

  1. Lana Del Rey – Saturday 3/17, 7:15pm, Main Stage 2

 

Del Rey has a curious stage presence. For whatever reason, the oversized crowd seems to have way more cameras out than the crowds for inarguably bigger bands like RHCP and The Killers. Is it that Del Rey’s music is just less dance-y, and easier to sway to while holding a smartphone overhead? Is she just that much more magnetic?

We’d believe it’s the latter. Del Rey did pause her performance for 10 minutes after “National Anthem” to take intimate photos and selfies with various members of the crowd (she’s got a history of doing this). She has broad aesthetic appeal: Simultaneously a crooning vocalist who’d fit comfortably in an intimate jazz club, and a naive girl next door who somehow doesn’t seem to be aware of her own sexual prowess (“Lust for Life” boasts a daft chorus of “Take off, take off, take off all your clothes,” for example).

Nonetheless, Del Rey’s hooks are catchy, and capture a unique breed of melancholy nostalgia, best punctuated not just by live renditions of staples “Born to Die,” “Summertime Sadness,” and “Video Games,” but by a sultry cover mid-set of Marilyn Monroe’s “Happy Birthday, Mr. President.”

  1. Mac Miller – Saturday 3/17, 6:15pm, Alternative Stage

Fans of indie hip-hop had to look no further than Mac Miller, who brought a stripped-down, old-school flavor to his set. With his hype man and DJ backing him up, Miller kicked of his set with the booming trap beat of “Cinderella.” Rapidly sauntering back and forth across the stage, it didn’t take long for him to get everyone’s hands up and bouncing to the beat. This couldn’t have been more true during “Donald Trump,” whose infectious hook and rapid-fire rhymes has hopefully made it to the Presidential Spotify playlist. Miller’s music has that rare combination of great beats without compromising on lyrical integrity, making it easy to engage while appreciating his verbal mastery. Towards the end of his set, Miller slowed it down and centered himself stage with a lone mic stand for the lower key “Weekend” and “God is Fair, Sexy, Nasty.” Thought we all enjoyed the reprieve, luckily Miller cranked the intensity back up for closer “When in Rome,” giving every last bit of energy he had to his cheering fans.

 

Two common threads among the festival’s performances:

  1. Bands won easy brownie points by including some very basic spanish in their introductions (Lana Del Rey, RHCP, and Metronomy each included some basic variant of “Hola Argentina!” or “Gracias!”)
  2. Crowds succumbed to rancorous chants of “Olé, Olé-Olé-Olé,” subbing the band name in for the second stanza (“Olé, Olé-Olé-Olé / Metro-nomy” in Metronomy’s case.)

The best Spanish accent goes to Spoon’s Alex Fischel, who lead singer Britt Daniel referred to as “our resident spanish expert” and thanked the audience for their attendance in perfect prose.

The worst rendition of the Olé chant goes to the Lana Del Rey crowd, which opted for the awkward “Olé, Olé-Olé-Olé / Lana, Lana” instead of a perfectly-rhyming “Olé, Olé-Olé-Olé / Lana-DelRey.”

For spanish version click here

Jon Fritz and Josh Petersel have more than ten years of experience covering music around the world, since together they co-founded Eleven magazine in St. Louis, Missouri, in the United States in 2006. They then worked independently for Consequence of Sound and 2018 found Jon at Amazon, from Seattle, and Josh at Spotify, from New York.