Saturday, August 2, 2008

Lollapalooza Friday

At the time I thought my entrance to the festival was taking forever, but it turned out that I actually had it good compared to most people. The median delay for entry was around 45 minutes. Yeesh. I guess this happens when there's a sellout. Unfortunately, the delay meant I couldn't check out K'NAAN and I zoomed straight to Hutchinson field to catch the last three songs from Bang Camaro. The extra hustle was well worth it. They were, in a word, bitchin'. With something like 16 "lead vocalists", they had no trouble getting the small crowd on their side. I would never buy an album, but live, everyone was all smiles. Just a fist-pumpin', head-bangin' good time.Someone later asked if they were taking themselves seriously. there's no way to tell for certain, but looking at this picture, I'm inclined to say yes.
Even at an early hour, the grounds were pretty busy. Lots of dudes were taking their shirts off. It was clear that things were going to get weird - and sunburned.

Holy Fuck featured a great sound mix, really using the major capacity for volume to their advantage. Even with earplugs in and near the other end of the field, you could hear them loud and clear. Unfortunately, they're not much to look at, and they really should have been playing later in the day (or, ideally nearing nighttime on one of the smaller stages). But a great set by them - really tight and full of pep.
Manchester Orchestra
The band plays fine - decent noise rawk. But the vocals are pretty lousy, which makes the band pretty lousy.
The first half of Rogue Wave's set really suffered from the sound bleed coming from Manchester Orchestra. Frontman Zach Rogue even made mention of it, saying "Yeah, we got some competition from other stages, but together we will persevere." Well, once the other band stopped, things picked up, particularly on the song "California," which showed off their nuanced, pretty delicacy. It's not really the best setting for this band, but when they were playing alone, they sounded great.
Yeasayer came out charging. My notes say: "Damn!" Frontman Chris Keating was wearing a jacket despite the heat, and he and Anand Wilder just ripped into their tunes. The sound mix was a bit bass-heavy, but it didn't matter as each note was precisely punctuated and powerful. Drummer Luke Fasano ably plays heavy, but with agility at the same time, while Keating really, really means it on the vocals. Halfway through the set, "2080" was a major high point, with Keating losing his voice a bit near the end. With downbeats popping, they closed the set with "Wintertime" and left me screaming for more. This band nearly played Pitchfork and I couldn't help thinking how much better their set would have fit there. But I can see why Lolla chose to outbid them. My favorite set of the day.
Between his black, three-piece suit and his long hair, Louis XIV lead singer Jason Hill had to be the roastiest person in Chicago. Their set was good, but nothing special, and of course a major portion of the audience bolted after they played "Finding Out True Love Is Blind." That's a bit funny because their rockers were playing much better anyway.

The Kills really did nothing special for me as we watched from afar. Their set ended early because Alison Mosshart was having trouble with the heat. That caused a minor clusterfuck as Louis XIV ended at the same time.

To be sure, the venue was far too big for Gogol Bordello. Still, they were fun as hell. It would have been better to work my way up front for these guys. This has to be the only band with a violin player who dons a beret and a Slayer t-shirt who is over 50. Eugene Hütz was constantly in motion throughout the set, and they even had two female backing vocalists who behaved more like cheerleaders. The beginning half of the set was a bit listless (for them), but things really picked up when they performed "American Wedding" and went right into "Start Wearing Purple." The set ended with a Hütz putting a metal pail on the microphone and beating it with a drumstick. They'd given the crowd all they could handle in one of the top performances of the day.
Mates of State sounded great, even on a big stage from far away. They have a ton of really solid songs and they played all the hits.

Playing on the same stage an hour after Gogol Bordello, Bloc Party had a crowd ready for fire, but also a high bar to reach. They failed to achieve either. Perhaps this is a band that just got way too big, way too soon, but they are totally unable to perform in a venue like this. On a stage that had produced loud sets all day, theirs sounded tinny and weak. They couldn't even drown out the cackling sorority sisters congregating near us. Drummer Matt Tong is clearly the strongest musician in the group, but even he can't replicate the beats he laid on their debut album. Their regular bassist was not present which meant that many of the backing vocals were simply not sung. All in all, an incredibly weak set that ended early with the band bowing together at the front of the stage. I think I'm done with these guys, not matter how much I like their first album.Bloc Party Setlist
Hunting for Witches
Waiting For the 7:18
Song for Clay (Disappear Here)
So Here We Are
The Prayer
"The Mercury's In Retrograde"
This Modern love
The Reckoning
Positive Tension
Like Eating Glass

For Radiohead, Hutchinson Field was crazy packed. The crowded sea of people stretched all the way across the field.That meant some people had tall folks in front of them.With overwhelming anticipation, the band was greeted with a great ovation, but minimal fanfare. They sounded great and despite the discomfort everyone in the audience must have been feeling, they were rapt with attention. Perhaps to keep cameramen off the stage, the videoscreens were utilized in a more artistic manner, which is cool and all, but made it pretty hard to see what was going on. I was just tall enough and just close enough that I could see the stage pretty well, even if the band members looked like Smurfs (just three apples high). The set was dominated by songs from the new record, which the audience seemed to enjoy, but I don't feel like they were as connected to them as, say "No Surprises." I've always liked Radiohead - always appreciated their music and what they've been able to accomplish, but I've never really been a huge fan of theirs. I missed the 2001 performance here that drew such raves. I was hoping that this one would compel me to become a Radioheadhead (for lack of a better term). That did not occur. Perhaps because of the crowd, or perhaps because they failed to give us Karma Police or Just (two of my favorite Radiohead tunes - there's a reason these were such big hits), I'm no more a fan of Radiohead than I was yesterday. They played a great set, and it sounded as good as an outdoor concert can sound. But everything was still a bit distant for me. Perhaps that's the best you can ask for when there are 75,000 people in attendance.Radiohead Setlist
15 Step
There There
All I Need
Weird Fishes/Arpeggi
The Gloaming
The National Anthem
Faust Arp
No Surprises
Jigsaw Falling Into Place
The Bends
Everything In Its Right Place
Fake Plastic Trees
Paranoid Android
Dollars and Cent
House of Cards

On the whole, a somewhat mediocre first day, with Saturday showing little promise early. I do have high hopes for Broken Social Scene and Rage Against the Machine. let's see how it goes!

Jim DeRogatis Review
, and here
Muzzle of Bees Review, and here
Stereogum photo review
HearYa Indie Music Blog review


Anonymous said...

that was probably the biggest waste of my time... keep your day job.

dudeasincool said...

Nice write-up. Ignore the negative folks.

Kozy said...

It looks like the same readiohead set that was used in Amsterdam in July. Nice review!

abacus-rex said...

... damn, now I have to go and wipe tears from my keyboard.