Hey everyone. I know it's been a long time since I've posted, but what would this blog be like without month-long absences? I don't think I'm even going to promise to try and keep current this time. I've failed miserably everytime I try. But if there is anything that can get me to crawl out of my cybercave and post a new entry, it's Lollapalooza.
I went last year and tried to do a rundown then, but I waited too long and by the time I actually sat down and attempted to type it, I nearly forgot about everything I had seen. It was going to be a short and abbreviated recap, much like this one, but it had all escaped my mind. With it being Monday morning and Lollapalooza still fresh in my mind, things should go a lot better than last year.
As always, there were a bunch of bands that I wanted to see, so I tried to cover as much ground as possible. It's a little like being a kid locked inside a toy store overnight. You know you only have a limited amount of time before the store opens up and you're busted, so you want to play with as much stuff as possible
Got my Lollapalooza off to a disappointing start. It didn't help that the gates didn't open until around 11:30, so it didn't leave me with any time to catch Switches, but that didn't matter since I was looking forward to The Fratellis. Costello Music is one of my favorite albums of the year and I was expecting a raucous and lively set. Maybe these guys are such hard rockers that they're not used to playing so early in the day, but their set was ridiculously lazy and sloppy. "We usually wake up before the end," said lead singer Jon Fratelli. I couldn't bother to stick around and find out.
Very very good, from what I can remember. They get my approval.
Also fairly pleasant.
Elvis Perkins in Dearland
It became apparent that when I finally arrived at the Petrillo Band Shell that this was the set I should have started my day off with. Very breezy and mellow indie pop. My spirits start to perk up immediately.
I've never been too fond of Soulive's recorded output, but I've been told by a few people that they put on a good live show. While they were extremely tight, my tolerance for jamminess can only be so much.
Another pleasant surprise. At this point, he's second behind Elvis Perkins for the day so far. Singer-songwriters are kicking some festival ass.
Another artist whose album I wasn't fond of, but this time, they wowed me away. I kept thinking to myself that their album didn't make half as much of an impact on their live show. I couldn't believe how intense it was, but then again if you wear a cape onstage, you better damn well be entertaining.
Chin Up Chin Up
Thought the album was okay. They were cool too.
Decent. Nothing too extraordinary.
Ted Leo and the Pharmacists
We all know by now that Ted Leo is going to deliver the goods and always be solid. After seeing his set at Pitchfork last year and this year at Lollapalooza, I've convinced myself that I really need to check out one of his shows in a club setting. I feel sorry for anyone who missed him.
Bang Bang Bang
Their set was a nice little fun diversion, but nothing really memorable. Had some rocking moments, but I'm struggling to come up with anything else encouraging to say.
The Polyphonic Spree
My favorite current live act came through and gave the Lolla crowd a much needed boost. Whenever I leave a Polyphonic Spree show, I'm always overcome with joy and positivity, but that had been experienced in such intimate settings like the Empty Bottle and Park West. I was concerned about whether that same joy and positivity would translate for such a huge crowd, especially where more than half of the people there have probably never heard of them. If anything, a festival is more fitting for them. Tim DeLaughter knows how to work a crowd and he simply would not accept any idleness on their behalf, encouraging them to sing along when the choruses were simple enough. The crowd lost their collective shit when the P-Spree reappeared through the crowd with their traditional white robes on. Their cover of Nirvana's "Lithium" contained more sunshine than I thought was possible, but it was still within their comfort zone. By the time, "When A Fool Becomes A King" had ended, there was a sense of amazement on the faces of the concertgoers.
The fest had officially started now. I've been a fan of Against Me! for awhile, but I've never had the chance to check out one of their live shows. It's easy to see how their fanbase has grown with each successive album they've released. The set was heavy on a lot of stuff from Searching For A Clarity, and I don't know which ones are from New Wave since I haven't had a chance to listen to it yet, but they brought it with each song. Sweaty and passionate punk. Is there any better kind? Another set that I feel sorry if you missed.
Sounded decent here and there, but nothing really memorable again.
M.I.A. is a bit hit-or-miss live. Early on before she signed to Interscope, she was still discovering herself onstage with some awkward moments here and there, but with the addition of her friend Cherry as a hypewoman, whose stage presence wore off on M.I.A., her live show was beginning to live up to some of its potential. With M.I.A.'s voice clsoe to going out and constant concern with the sound in her montior, her Lollapalooza set became very stop-and-go and halted momentum. It didn't help that her new material, although sounding great, wasn't as chorus-filled and crowd pleasing as Arular, and could never really get the audience to go truly nuts. While I'm now looking forward to Kala and confident that it will be a worthy sophomore outing, M.I.A.'s wilting voice and the disarray that it caused did not lead to as fun a show as I hoped. At least the images on the jumbo screen were cool, which I'm pretty sure she put together and edited because it looks so much like her style. I got a kick out of seeing Mowgli and Baloo from Disney's The Jungle Book dancing to the music, so kudos to that.
They provided the opportunity to dance that M.I.A. failed to deliver. A blazing set that included some of the better songs from Echoes, at least from what I heard. I feel sorry for myself for missing the whole set.
The first band of the day that I had heard the most about, but never really listened to, except for a few songs that have popped up on my Launchcast. I decided that today would be the day that I would give them a chance. More quiet than I expected for a big stage that wasn't Adidas so late in the day, but still pretty good nonetheless. What I liked is that they were also the first band I had seen all day that really forced you to shut up and listen to their songs. Everything else before had been toe-tapping good times, but Blonde Redhead were mellow without being boring.
The kiddies were out in full force for this guy. The fanbase for potty mouth shock rap will never dry up I guess. There are some moments I like from Mickey Avalon's album, especially the joyously filthy, "My Dick", but after awhile, you just realize he's just an okay job of rapping about turning tricks. If the sleaziness of the stage show had been more exaggerated (the Asian "call girls" were a nice touch), I might have enjoyed it more, but in the end, I just got bored after awhile.
The Black Keys
In one word, ferocious. They haven't been on my radar recently since I haven't really liked anything of theirs since thickfreakness, but logic should have told me that they would be awesome live. I figured I would catch a little of their show before Femi Kuti went on, but I'll know better next time.
I only stayed for about 5 minutes of Femi's set since he went on late and LCD Soundsystem were playing at the same time, but I managed to take a few pics, and of course, the band sounded great as expected. Besides, I can check out his live DVD anytime though.
I'm more of a fan of LCD Soundsystem then I was a few years ago. The singles on their debut were good, but everything else really couldn't come close to some of The DFA's best tracks. With Sound Of Silver more than likely landing in my top 10, I needed to see this show since I was hopeful that it would include the best from the debut and tracks from the latest. Holy hell what an amazing show. James Murphy was hilarious as always and the extended version of "Yeah" slayed. Classic performance.
And now the big one. Years from now, I will be telling my children that I saw Daft Punk play and that it was one of the greatest concert experiences ever. Even without the amazing light show, the constant mixing up of their songs with each other was an unexpected and welcome surprise and would have still made for a legendary show. The light show was just the cookie on top of the sorbet.
Top Five Performances of Day 1
1. Daft Punk
2. The Polyphonic Spree
3. Against Me!
4. LCD Soundsystem
5. Ted Leo & The Pharmacists
Dear and the Highlights
The BMI stage seemed to lean mostly towards safe and soothing music for most of last year, and it appeared that that would be the case again this year. Without a doubt, it's the weakest stage of the fest, but Dear and the Headlights got the stage and the day off to a good start with some energetic indie rock.
Matt & Kim
"Wow, we're not used to playing on a stage this big," said Matt, awestruck at the size of the crowd at the adidas stage. Perhaps, the stage was too big for the keyboard and drum duo since they're a lot more fun on record. They seem like the greatest people on Earth and their stage banter was humble yet humorous, but I kept thinking to myself that I'd rather be seeing Mates Of State instead. I'd recommend seeing them in a smaller setting though.
High Class Elite
One of the worst acts I saw all weekend. Their glam punk preening reeked of desperation and the lead singer just sounded a mess. What's weird is that I actually saw potential in the songs themselves and would be willing to give them a chance on record, but watching them was pretty embarassing and one of the few acts I literally couldn't stomach.
One of the bands I was looking forward to seeing the most. They were signed to Island Records about a year ago and I'm pretty positive that once these guys hit radio, they're gonna be huge. Since I missed their show at The Metro this winter, I knew that this would be the last chance to see these guys without feeling embarassed or being surrounded by a bunch of screaming teens who've never been to a concert before. Ludo's brand of power-pop is comedic at times, but always melodic. Their set was one of the most liveliest at Lollapalooza and I'm pretty sure that a lot of the kids there walked away as fans.
I'm From Barcelona
Challenged the Polyphonic Spree for happiest set of the weekend. The fest could have used more colorful acts like I'm From Barcelona instead of the ton of indistinguishable bands that were booked. Just look at the pics. You know that had to be one hell of a party.
Without a doubt, the biggest surprise at Lollapalooza. I don't think this guy was on anyone's radar, but he absolutely killed it and drew a crowd based on his performance alone. His three-piece band layed down some heavy Stax grooves while Shaw belted out the tunes with the fervor of Wilson Pickett in his prime. This guy is not to be missed the next time he comes to town.
Forgot how good these guys were. I nearly forgot about The Loon, but it made me remember, "Hey, I actually liked that album."
I also saw a bit of Pete Yorn, but the most notable things about his set were his cover of Peter, Bjorn and John's "Young Folks", which he totally Starbucked out and that his guitarist looked a lot like Elvis Costello. I mean, a lot.
His booking was both a blessing and a curse. One one hand, it's nice to see an R&B act on stage, if only to break up the monotony, but I could think of about 50 other lesser known major label R&B artists who would have been a better fit. Nonetheless, his voice sounded good and pure and I know that when his album comes out, it will have at least three good songs. Did his best with a crowd who wasn't sure how to react to him.
Is it unsurprising that this crowd included the most smoke clouds out of all the crowds I'd seen? When looking over everyone, one seemed to go up nearly every 5 seconds, resembling a small villaged that had been pillaged by Vikings or conquistadors. But besides that, the band sounded great. Stephen probably sounds the most like his dad out of all the Marley boys.
Sam Roberts Band
Rocked it out. Thoroughly enjoyed them.
The set with the most wasted potential. All the elements were in place. Dramatic introduction. The DJ had on a sleeveless Iron Maiden jacket. A discoball. Everyone was walking around in underwear. Should have been fun, right? Sad to say, these pics are about as fun as it gets. There were constant problems with the programming of some of the beats since they kept on skipping and would switch to a new song altogether. After a while, it became all too apparent that I was witnessing a real life train wreck.
I admit, I was a bit skeptical about seeing Rhymefest at first, since I had already seen him three times over the course of a year, and each performance was essentially the same. It's awesome seeing him jump down from the stage and start freestyling or stopping "Brand New" in the middle of the song to let the audience know that Kanye would not be appearing, but I didn't want to waste my time on the same bag of tricks again. Don't get me wrong, he's an amazing live performer, but he was not revealing anything new to me after seeing him multiple times. So imagine the shock and delight I had when I find he's being backed up by local jazz favorites, Zzaje. This new dynamic was just the right touch needed to keep me tuned into Rhymefest and he brought the goods as usual. Definitely one of the best sets of the weekend.
Finally! I got the chance to see The Roots in concert. They've long been one of my favorite artists, but luck has never fallen my way when it comes to seeing them live. Their reputation as a great live act is well documented, so all I can do is confirm how great they are and that they definitely know how to please a crowd. Highlights include the old school hip hop medley that included "Rapper's Delite", "Push It", "Apache", "Shimmy Shimmy Ya", and "Planet Rock" among others and spotlights on bassist Hub and guitarist Captain Kirk.
Another thing of note, a lot of the artists at the Bud Light stage had sign language interpreters, which I thought was cool because everyone of them appeared to be fans and it was cool to see them sign the lyrics to the rhythm of the music while dancing. But The Roots' interpreter was so dope. I wish I had footage of how much this guy was getting down. He was signing at a rapid pace to keep up with Black Thought's delivery.
Another mellow act who played at the adidas stage that couldn't compete with a noisier act. Aqualung ran into the same problems last year, and Spektor flying solo with only her piano proved to be no match for Roky Erickson & The Explosives at times. Spektor had two albums worth of great material to choose from, but it was nice to see a lot of the Begin To Hope stuff played just with piano. After wondering what kind of percussion she used on "Poor Little Rich Boy", my questions were answered when she started beating a wooden chair with a drumstick while performing on piano.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
This was the first true rock star sighting of the weekend in every sense of the word. Karen O brought some much needed charisma and eccentric frontwoman antics to Lollapalooza. Decked out in an all black one piece like an extra from Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, Karen O commanded the stage as Brian Chase, Nick Zinner and some other guy on guitar kicked out the jams with delightful intensity. They pretty muched played all of my favorite songs ("Pin", "Y Control", "Cheated Hearts", "Maps", etc.), but I would have killed to hear some stuff from the Master EP, like "Bang!" or "Art Star".
I was familiar with only two Spoon songs beforehand, but I had already seen Patti Smith in concert before, so I thought that I would give Spoon a chance and see what the fuss was about. The songs were definitely there, but I'm not sure I was completely sold on them as a live act. If anything, I wanted to go check out a lot of their back catalogue than wait for the next time they came to town.
Another big light show at the AT&T stage, which should now just be dubbed the Seizure Stage as a warning. Muse had a lot of good songs to choose from and I was stunned at how much Matthew Bellamy's voiced sounded exactly like the recording. I mean, it was damn near spot on. I closed my eyes and I really couldn't tell the difference. The experience overall was grandiose and provided a nice sense of bombast and splashiness to the weekend. The finale of "Knights of Cydonia" was one of the best moments of the weekend.
Top Five Acts for Day 2
1. The Roots
2. I'm From Barcelona
4. Ryan Shaw
I got to Lolla a little later than usual (11:40, I'm such a slacker), so it only left me with time to start the day off with these local favorites. They kicked off the set with my two favorites from their Plume Delivery EP, "A Coming Age" and "Bring The Good Boys Home". Apparently they've got a full length coming out in the fall and some of that stuff was sounding good.
I curse the Lollapalooza gods for scheduling The 1900's and The Postmarks against each other. I was stoked that these two acts had even made it, but there was no way that I was going to miss either of them, especially since The Postmarks have released one of my favorite albums of the year. Sad to say, they hold up better on record instead of live. If it had been a more intimate setting, maybe like the BMI stage, their fragile and beautiful songs might have held up.
Just plain awful and disappointing, since I do like most of their albums. Their albums are full of rockers, but they couldn't get the crowd as a whole quite into it. Must all young UK bands be sloppy and lifeless when playing?
Another awful band. Standard alt rock with no real discernible qualities, except that the lead singer had shades on and his shirt open.
This guy and his band were really letting it rip. Classic rock sound with an emphasis on fun.
Started a little slow, but picked up with "Into The Open" and "Searching For A Ghost." Solid live band.
Okay, I felt a strange sense of shame taking pictures of these young girls, but no one was going to do it for me, so it goes. Probably had the biggest draw I've ever seen at the BMI stage. Their chops and their songs are for real.
Rodrigo y Gabriela
I will kick myself eternally for missing their free show at the Hideout last year. This acoustic duo wowed the crowd with covers of Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here", which induced an audience sing-a-long, and "Stairway to Heaven". I only wish I could have stayed closer to the front of the stage longer, but I needed to get a good spot for Amy Winehouse. Possibly one of the best live acts in the world today for the simple act they had the crowd going nuts with no vocals and two acoustic guitars.
The biggest disappointment of the weekend. I had been waiting three years to see her and she ended up being upstaged by her back-up singers. Winehouse, whose voice sounded great live, lacked any enthusiasm and her band seemed to match her laid back demeanor by playing the songs with hardly any aggression. Everything about the set barely rose above "okay" and could have easily served as background music without grabbing any attention. You know you're in trouble when your big hit fails to get the entire crowd moving. "Rehab" should have been a turning point, but it instead proved that I might have been better off watching Lupe Fiasco. The only highlights included "You Know I'm No Good" and a skanked out version of Sam Cooke's "Cupid".
Another great discovery from the weekend. After being let down by Amy Winehouse, The Diffs provided a huge pick up with some searing and brutal punk. I loved these guys.
After seeing them, I finally understood why there were the indie darlings of the month for a while back in the fall. I had only heard "Brother" before, but I'm sold on them now and need to check out Be He Me.
Apostle Of Hustle
Their onstage antics were more memorable than any songs they did. Not to knock their performance, I actually enjoyed them a bit, but all I can think about when I see their name is one of the guys blindfolding himself.
Iggy & The Stooges
I never thought that I would see Iggy Pop, let alone onstage again with the Asheton brothers. The set was heavy on tracks from the first two albums and a few from their latest, The Weirdness. Iggy was Iggy of course, wild as ever, but even I didn't expect him to invite the crowd onstage for "No Fun". Witnessing that was probably one of the great rock experiences of my life. I thought that there would be a limit to how many people would get on, but they never seemed to stop and the result was the probably the World's Greatest Party At That Exact Moment. But for such a punk rock moment, I couldn't help but thinking how un-punk it was that everyone was whipping out camera phones. If that were a Stooges show back in 1970, those people probably would have gotten booed off the stage for being such a poseurs. Me? I'd probabl have pissed myself. Also, consider my mind blown at seeing "Fun House" performed live. Dreams do come true if you believe, folks.
I had to watch at least a few songs of theirs, mostly out of respect. How could one just walk past The Wailers, I mean, THE frickin' Wailers without stopping for a second and taking in all the history on that stage? Sounded great as expected.
I've been told time and time again that !!! were a disappointing live band. I found that to be blasphemous. How could the folks behind "Me and Giuliani..." and "Dear Can" possibly be lame? Those grooves are sick and I figured that those previous reports were from a bunch of dance-phobes anyway. But when I finally saw them, I barely grooved and all I could think about was how grating the vocalist was. I felt that I should have been dancing, but I couldn't find myself to do it.
Definitely one of the highlights of the entire weekend. Flosstradamus will stop at nothing to please a crowd with their mixing of inescapable pop hits that everyone knows along with lesser known fare by Klaxons and Matt & Kim. Also, the video screen was a trip down memory lane for a pop culture obsessed kid in the 90's as the following clips from TV and movies were chopped and sliced together to provide one dizzying and giddy experience:
the Hulk Hogan film, Suburban Commando
footage from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles "Coming Out Of Their Shells" live action tour (still remember the promotional album from Pizza Hut)
early 90's tv show Dinosaurs
Salt-N-Pepa's 1994 MTV Spring Break performance
Ernest Goes To Jail
Vanilla Ice film, Cold As Ice
footage from the Chicago Bulls' 1991-1992 season
the Muppet Babies scene from Muppets Take Manhattan
commercial for the Back To The Future Ride atUnversal Studios Theme Park
an old Mac Tonight commercial from McDonald's
footage of Sgt. Slaughter training
a bunch of fatalities from Mortal Kombat II
It gave me something to laugh and smile at every 40 seconds. Flosstradamus was great as always and it was the first time I had ever seen bodysurfing at a DJ set.
While I do like TV On The Radio, I could not pass the opportunity to to see Cafe Tacuba, seeing as how TV On The The Radio will likely be around for a while and visit Chicago on every tour they do, I may not muster up the same enthusiasm to see Cafe Tacuba. Their live album, Un Viaje was excellent, but it really doesn't do any justice to seeing the real thing live. They were well worth missing TVOTR and the beginning of Pearl Jam for. With them going against TV On The Radio and Pearl Jam, I knew that I would be amongst a crowd of true fans. Throughout the entire weekend. Cafe Tacuba were the only act where the crowd sang along to all the songs. I mean, everything, verse and chorus. Props must also go to lead singer Ruben Albarran who brought as much rock star wattage to the stage as Karen O or Iggy Pop. After seeing them, I couldn't help but think why their name isn't mentioned when it comes to some of the best bands in their world. There was not one dull song or moment in the set (which even included a choreographed dance) and I wished I had owned all their albums once everything was over.
I lost interest in Pearl Jam a long time ago. I haven't been impressed with any of their albums since Yield, but their reputation as a live act was quickly growing and they've become the new Grateful Dead in a way. I could understand why they've developed such a huge following even though their albums have not been all that great recently. I can't deny that they put on a great show and the extended versions of old favorites like "Evenflow" and "Alive" kept things exciting and fresh. I will never scoff at another person who goes to a Pearl Jam concert.
Top Five Acts for Day 3
1. Cafe Tacuba
2. Iggy & The Stooges
3. Rodrigo y Gabriela
5. The Diffs
Overall, I think I enjoyed myself more than I did last year, mostly due to the awesomeness that was Friday, but I still feel that a third of the acts booked were filler and the festival could probably use some pruning or at least some hipper tastemakes on the selection committee. There are enough great artists out there to fill up an entire three-day fest, but if the lack of entertaining acts over a period of time continue, I would rather the fest be half a day instead of the entire day. Here are some more pics I took.
This banner for Hot Rod was flying around the entire weekend, which I thought was kind of retarded. The movie had just opened that Friday and I doubt that anyone looked up to the sky and thought "Oh man, Hot Rod is in theatres now! Let's ditch this place and go see it now!"
Probably the saddest moment of the weekend for me.