Lollapalooza? More like Lollapawowza!

As I meandered across the unimaginably long distances between Lollapalooza stages (over two kilometers total) on April 5th and 6th, all sorts of unique characters and faces kept popping up. There were dirty-looking wannabe hippies walking alongside overdressed partiers in heels, while some more creative people wore costumes (Super Mario was my favorite). With over 80,000 festival goers at the Autódromo de Interlagos, this was no surprise.

People were there for different reasons, and there were more than enough acts to keep everyone entertained. While it seems that the trend among Graded students was to spend most of their time at “Perry’s Tent,” where the electronic musicians performed, I did not go there once, preferring to spend my time at the festival’s main stages, Onix and Skol. As cool as seeing Flux Pavilion, Kid Cudi, Krewella, Axwell or any other act at the “Palco do Perry” may have been, I think that the best of Lollapalooza 2014 happened elsewhere.

For me, there were four bands that stood out in particular: Phoenix and Muse, on Saturday; and Vampire Weekend and Arcade Fire on Sunday.

Phoenix, a French indie-pop/rock band hailing from Paris, took the stage to roaring cheers, wasting no time before getting to their latest hit, “Entertainment,” from their new album Bankrupt! Thomas Hedlund’s frenetic drumming and piercing synths soared as the crowd sang along with the Thomas Mars’ slightly awkward vocals. They followed with two songs from the Grammy-Award-winning album, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix: “Lasso” and “Lisztomania.” These fan favorites sent the crowd into a dancing frenzy. They played sexy tune after sexy tune, complemented by a beautiful light show. Even though the crowd showed less enthusiasm for older songs like as “If I Ever Feel Better,” it would have been cool to have more songs from their back catalogue. They were fun and dancey, and their performance was one of the liveliest shows of the weekend.

Later that night, Muse came on, as the headliner for the day. Their performance alone amassed over 80,000 people at the Skol Stage. The show began and, to my surprise, they played an extremely heavy set full of older material. The more poppy, sappy songs were few and far between, with the band even paying homage to Nirvana, with a cover of “Lithium,” which delighted the audience. Muse was forced to cancel a show on Thursday, April 3, after lead singer, guitarist and pianist Matt Bellamy contracted an illness and lost his voice, and it was clear he had not recovered: he often sang passages in a lower register or did not sing at all, making the audience do the job for him. This was a minor flaw, though, since the impeccable performances from drummer Dominic Howard and bassist Christopher Wolstenholme more than made up for it. Ending with the brilliant “Knights of Cydonia,” fans left the show on an energetic high.

On the following day, in scorching heat, Vampire Weekend performed brilliantly. Made up of former Columbia University students, the New York City band loved by hipsters worldwide played an hour-long set of their characteristically hyperactive and jubilant music. It was extremely fun and happy, perfect for daytime. A mix of newer songs like “Diane Young” and “Hannah Hunt” and older hits like “A-Punk” kept the younger crowd hopping in a daze for the entirety of the gig. Mostly nonchalant, lead singer and guitarist Ezra Koenig did his part by flattering the audience in broken Portuguese: “Nova Iorque é melhor cidade da América do Norte e São Paulo é a melhor cidade da América do Sul. Estamos juntos.”

Finally, there was Arcade Fire, who ended Lollapalooza on Sunday with a bang. They played at the same time as New Order, which was a shame because, in a parallel universe, I would have watched both. After a weird-looking thing (a person dressed in a costume covered in mirrors) introduced the band, on came the five million members that make up the army that is Arcade Fire. Okay, it was more like ten people, including touring performers, but for a rock group that’s almost unheard of. It seems like quantity meant quality for them, because their performance was mindblowingly good. Win Butler’s vocals, his wife Régine Chassagne’s multi-instrumental brilliance and his brother Will Butler’s frantic antics made the show relentlessly exhilarating. What really stood out were the quirky interludes, such as when a line of people with huge masks danced across the stage as the band played a short cover of “Aquarela do Brasil.” Their show began with “Reflektor,” a funky, Talking Heads-esque tune, and ended with “Wake Up,” a song so awesome even David Bowie played it with them. Every person in the crowd sang along to the refrain and continued to chant it even after the show was over and they started headed home. That was easily the most memorable event over the whole weekend.

Whether it was for the thrill of the DJs at the electronic tent, or for the old school rock n’ roll of the Pixies and Soundgarden, Lollapalooza 2014 had something for everyone. Sure, the distance between the stages was annoying, but it was worth it to be able to see some of the world’s best bands play for some of the world’s best fans.