Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Lollapalooza 2007 - Day 3

An overnight downpour left the air steamy and the ground moist. This cut down on the places where one could sit and chill, and with highs expected in the 90s, it was going to be a long day for many festival goers. Early in the day, a blazing sun gave rise to hopes that the humidity would dissipate, but that of course only made things hotter. While it was still nothing compared to the public sauna of the last two years, the heat took its toll on many fans. Actually, I can sum this up quickly. Here’s how hot it was: Wakefield, England’s The Cribs are all brothers, though I didn’t know that when I was watching them play. They look enough alike, I suppose, but they didn’t mention it at all. The crowd gathered at the Bud Light stage to check them out was rather sparse. Their sound was much poppier than I expected. Since their singles feature some good rawkin’ out and shouting, I figured they’d have some heavy stuff in their repertoire. As the set went along, their voices started to crack, particularly that of bassist Gary Jarman. But that was not a problem; it fit the songs anyway. They played their singles, “Mens Needs” and “Hey Scensters!” back to back near the end of their set and got a decent reaction from the audience. I am sure the heat dampened everyone’s enthusiasm, though. This was definitely a tough slot to be playing. Guitarist Ryan Jarman displayed some solid chops. The band has quite a bit of potential if they can go beyond their pop-post-punk thing. Right now, there isn’t much distinctive about them, but they played pretty well. I’d heard a bit about Rodrigo y Gabriela and checked out their myspace tunes. That was enough to get me intrigued, but their performance surpassed my expectations. They are from Mexico by way of Ireland and play instrumental folk-metal. The first thing you notice is that they’re both incredibly skilled. They have different roles on each song, so they’re playing separately yet also together, but wicked fast. They often slap their guitars to imitate the sound of a kick bass drum, but we thought they had some pedals for that as well. It was really hard to tell exactly how they were doing everything. The set included covers of Metallica (“Orion,” “One,” various riffs from the album Master of Puppets) and Led Zeppelin (a somehow not cliché “Stairway to Heaven”), plus our second Inna Gadda Davida riff of the weekend. There are no microphones near their faces when they play, but they did pull them over to talk to the crowd a bit between songs. Gabriela talks like a sailor. “We’re fuckin’ happy to be here,” was the first thing out of her mouth. Later, she told us, “This is a new tune. It doesn’t have a name yet. So you’re welcome to fuckin’ dance naked if you want to.” The highlight of the set was easily when they went into Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here,” and let the crowd sing the first verse and chorus. It was impressive how many people knew the words, and all sang in tune – it had to give everyone there chills. The result was, quite deservedly, one of the most talked about sets of the weekend. I will see these guys again at every future opportunity. Amy Winehouse has a reputation for missing shows and flaking out on stage due to drunkenness or perhaps just a general lack of professionalism. While she did arrive on stage a few minutes late, there were no problems completing the set. A huge crowd showed up to hear her, and we were quite far back for this one as evidenced by the grainy picture below. Unfortunately, the sound quality where we were standing was terrible for the first two thirds of her performance. It kept fading in and out – almost as if the wind was messing with what we could hear. While she didn’t notoriously flake out or anything, Winehouse didn’t exactly give a riveting performance. She spent most of her set gazing off into the distance and did not seem the least bit like she wanted to be there. There was one brief moment where the wind blew her skirt up just a bit, causing her to quickly push it back down with her hands, after which she flashed a quick grin. That was the only time she broke character. She did do a nice cover of Sam Cooke’s “Cupid” in the style of Toots & the Maytals, but everyone was clearly there to hear “Rehab.” Once she played it, there was a mass exodus. Winehouse possesses obvious talent, but until she develops some stage presence and showmanship, she’s only going to be one tenth the performer she could be. I was pretty disappointed by this set. It would be a shame for a voice like that to fail to reach its full potential. Rather than watching Paolo Nutini or racing south to see Annuals, we set ourselves up about fifteen yards in front of the sound booth in preparation for The Stooges. I must admit, when people were complaining when the lineup was first announced, seeing them listed was enough for me to refute any and all complaints. If I could pick one band in the world to see at this point in my life, this would be it. That of course made me a bit nervous. “What if they suck?” I asked myself. That would be tragic. Even before Iggy raced out to the microphone, Mike Watt and the Asheton brothers were charging into “Loose” and I was losing my damn mind. I swear I was jumping five feet off the ground and everyone around me seemingly felt the same way. Iggy jumped, gyrated, and writhed all over the stage. He climed a stack of speakers and humped them. After rolling around on the ground, he came up with guitar picks stuck to his back, but kept right on with the crazy. All the while, the sound rumbled out of the speakers with Ron Asheton ripping into solo after solo. Scott Asheton (drums) and Mike Watt (bass) provided the thunder, Ron Asheton the lighting and Iggy was the rain – going all over the stage and getting to each member of that audience. It was an experience. After their second song, Iggy addressed the crowd, “Hello, motherfucker! We. Are. The fucking Stooges!” As they went into “No Fun,” Iggy says, “Let ‘em up.” The crowd immediately attacked the stage, and hundreds of people managed to get up, making quite the spectacle. Aside from Iggy’s roadie pulling double duty as his personal bodyguard and decking a couple of them, it was peaceful and celebratory. Of course, once the song was finished, they had to get the crowd down so the show could continue. After telling everyone to “cool out”, Iggy said, “It was fun, but if we let it go any further, it could get weird.” That drew a laugh and got “The Lollapalooza Dancers” off the stage so they could bring out sax player Steve Mackay. Near the end of “Fun House,” Iggy wailed, “Lots of people aren’t nice. They’re mean. And I got a fuckin’ problem with it!” They closed with “Skull Ring,” the song that likely led to this reunion in the first place. What a time. This was one of those rare shows that provoked something visceral in me, and it wasn’t just nostalgia or the sake of finally seeing them. Even my friends who didn’t know anything about The Stooges had a “real cool time.”

Where's Iggy?
Stooges setlist:
Down on the Street
I Wanna Be Your Dog
T.V. Eye
My Idea of Fun
Real Cool Time
No Fun
“I Took a Trip Down to the Mind Room”
Fun House
Skull Ring

Somehow, after all that, I was supposed to keep on watching Rock N Roll. At this time, I probably should have moseyed my way south, grabbed some food and checked out My Morning Jacket playing with the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra. But I decided to stay put and wait for Modest Mouse. In our little pocket in front of the sound booth, it was a lot more packed than it had been for The Stooges, but I have no idea who drew more fans to Butler Field farther out. The band strolled out unassumingly, giving a slight wave to the audience before starting their songs. Honestly, I think the heat was getting to me by this point because I can’t recall a ton of details about the show. They did play both “Dashboard” and “Float On” relatively early in the set, but people did not bolt after hearing them. The most notable thing was that Isaac Brock’s vocals were way too low, and his distortion-microphone wasn’t working at all on a couple of the songs. That issue, coupled with the fact that a drunk high school girl with a shrill voice was standing next to me and screeching along with every word made it hard to fully appreciate the set. There was a ton of crowd surfing. It must have been extremely irritating for anyone who was up front. As the set progressed, Isaac Brock became more and more disheveled, first discarding his hat and then glasses in violent fashion. By the end, he was drenched in sweat and screaming vocals into his guitar pickups. Perhaps I would have enjoyed this set more if I had more energy, but I do think that the issues with the vocals took a ton of the power out of their songs. At that point, we joined the masses and plodded south to Hutchinson Field. Café Tacuba sounded fierce and fun, but once I started moving, there was no way I was going to stop. We passed TV on the Radio as well, which was regrettable. But by the time we got to the field, their set was already over a third of the way done and their area crowded. We found a pristine patch of grass on the left side of the field and took a breather until Pearl Jam came on. Lying down, I was stepped on and spilled on, but didn’t care because taking a rest was so heavenly.

I have no idea how many people came to see Pearl Jam, but Hutchinson Field was totally full. I should mention that I’ve never been into Pearl Jam, even though during my college years, they were the biggest thing going (93-97 in case you’re curious). I’ve always felt that they are a band of marginal talent that relies heavily on lifting from other musicians’ songs, but clearly has a superb frontman. That said, my perspective going in (aside from being exhausted) was one of curiosity and open-mindedness. I did not want to dislike them at all. They opened with “Why Go” to wild approval from everyone in attendance. It was a bombastic, powerful start. My notes at that point say, “They sound good.” Soundgarden’s Matt Cameron is now their drummer which was news to me. It doesn’t seem like their music affords him the ability to show off his chops, but I bet he’s eatin’ well. Eddie Vedder more than lived up to the billing. After sitting in with other bands throughout the weekend, he took center stage and was able to connect with the audience despite the gigantic venue. One of my favorite moments was when he deftly brought up the issue of Indiana reprehensibly allowing BP/Amoco to use the world’s largest supply of fresh water as their personal toilet (my words, not Eddie’s). He started by talking about Chicago’s lakefront and what a unique, beautiful place it is. After calling for a boycott, he and the band actually played a tune about it to send the message home with people, getting the whole crowd to chant, “Don’t go, BP Amoco!” Later, they riffed Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall,” but Vedder changed the lyrics to “George Bush leave this world alone.” 80% of Pearl Jam’s songs don’t have the power to play to a field this large. But Vedder is able to transcend that. The dude is impressive.
So after three solid days of this, what’s my take on the whole thing? There were only a handful of acts I was really pumped to see, and all of them delivered. But I came away impressed by several others. I will forever be in Lollapalooza’s debt for giving me The Stooges, particularly in such a fantastic performance. As the Chicago Tribune’s Greg Kot said, the weekend belonged to them. But the coverage here continues! Call it Lollapalooza Week if you must. Later today I’ll have just a few words on the Peter, Bjorn & John afterparty at the Double Door Sunday night. And tomorrow, we’ll be back with all the stories that couldn’t fit into these reviews. In sum, I definitely got my money’s worth out of this weekend.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

TV on the Radio got BSSed