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Foo Fighters | Lollapalooza 2011 Chicago | Greatest Gigs - Live And Die In Music

It was the end of a long day in the blistering heat at Grant Park. My time had been spent reclining on the grass beneath the sun, soaking up the alt-pop offerings of Noah and the Whale, Lissie and Best Coast, anticipating what was to come.
A rather lacklustre set from Arctic Monkeys acted as the precursor. Constant interruptions due to intermittent rain meant that the crowd were somewhat disinterested, growing antsy during the weather breaks. The Monkeys picked it up considerably towards the end of their set, banging out their most recognisable hits and creating the kind of buzz amongst the crowd that should have been there from the start. This was the final hurdle; the last headliner of an unbelievably packed (and sweltering) weekend was just minutes away.
The band arrived onstage to a rapturous reception. A quick, good-natured jibe at the Arctic Monkeys’ aversion to bad weather set the tone. Foo Fighters were here to rock, and the rain wasn’t going to stop them.
‘Bridge Burning’, fresh off the recently released Wasting Light, kick-started the set with the most ostentatious cacophony of sound that had been heard all weekend. Everyone was jolted into motion. Dave Grohl’s screaming proclamations were immediately met with a joyous howl from the crowd, and the pit surged as not a single body could stand still. Before the first few songs even ended, we had to move out of the pit as the muddy ground and the careening bodies made it hard to stay upright. Moving away from the packed-in crowd proved to be a good idea, as the rain became heavier and lakes were beginning to form beneath us. All the better for the mud-dancing that would come later, of course.
The sweeping chorus of ‘My Hero’ led to the loudest sing-along moment of the festival, with a purple Chicago skyline providing the perfect backdrop. Having spent the entire summer in the mid-Western city, we all knew that the scorching heat and rain showers during the day meant only one thing once darkness started to creep in; thunderstorms abound.

Up to our ankles in mud, dancing to ‘Best of You’, while the rain poured down, and lightning cracked above us, will remain one of my all-time favourite memories. Nearly three years later, I can still recall the initial fear of what might happen to my few belongings if they got wet, before giving in completely and joining the madness that was ensuing around me. The rolling sounds of thunder overhead seemed to compliment Taylor Hawkins’ drumming perfectly.
Even the song choices were flawless. Newer cuts like ‘Rope’, ‘White Limo’ and ‘Walk’ flowed seamlessly into the more established tracks, while the heavier tunes only served to showcase the sheer beauty of the acoustic-led ‘Times like These’ and ‘Skin and Bones.’ As the weather calmed, the latter served as the ideal penultimate tune, giving the crowd a breather after the hectic mud dances that had accompanied ‘Best of You.’
It was clear that the band had an emotional connection to the festival. Grohl gave an extremely heartfelt dedication to the hard work of Perry Farrell, the founder of Lollapalooza, before ripping into ‘Cold Day in the Sun.’ The Jane’s Addiction frontman even appeared onstage for the grand finale of the weekend, an aptly-chosen rendition of ‘Everlong’ that seemed to have the entire city singing every word. As the last few chords sounded out, and the cheers of the crowd faded away, the post-festivals blues seemed to hit everyone immediately. The lucky among us would have to wait an entire year to return to Grant Park for another rock-filled weekend. The less fortunate, myself included, would have to wait much, much longer.
However, that nostalgic sadness had to be pushed away as our mud-covered, rain-drenched troupe attempted to navigate our way back to the north side of the city. Delayed only by a quick stop-off for sandwiches and the few minutes spent trying to get my sopping wet dollars into the subway ticket machines, we practically crawled into to our apartment, voices hoarse from screeching the lyrics to ‘Best of You’ on the train back home along with hundreds of new-found friends.
Even though I had only been to festivals in Ireland before, Lollapalooza still struck me as an experience like no other. It’s urban setting, smack-bang in the heart of the city, is a world away from the sprawling fields that most avid festival-goers will be used to frequenting. The bustling metropolis is only too happy to open its doors to tens of thousands of music fans over the weekend and the atmosphere reflects the welcoming nature of the native Chicagoans. It’s hard to tell whether my fond memories of the Foo Fighters’ performance are due to the strength of their set, the amiable crowd or the dreamy ambience that summer festivals always seem to provide. Whatever the reason, the fact that those memories still last to this day is down to a combination of it all; perfect weather, a beautiful city, and a truly great gig.