Monday, August 13, 2007

We Live to Fight Another Day

I regret to announce that things here are winding down for the time being. This has to happen because I am embarking on a new project dealing with the fans, history, and traditions of College Football. Seems like an odd departure from music and movies, huh? It is a sport about which I and many others happen to be very passionate. I will be spending the entire 2007 college football season traveling across America, going from school to school to find interesting fans who are even more devoted to their sport than you are to Skinny Puppy and The Coen Brothers. The end product will be an interesting look at our country and hopefully a book people will want to read.

The seven months for me here at Fighting the Youth have been joyful ones. We covered a lot of ground in that time and even did a little analysis along the way. I’m not taking the site down by any means, and will possibly post some new material if the spirit moves me and I somehow find the time. We’ll bring things back full time in 2008. To see what I’m up to in the meanwhile, my new blog tracking my travels is located here. Feel free to check it out and give me a shout along the way. It’ll get lonely on the road and nice to hear from friendly folks.

Thanks so much to everyone for reading. It’s really been a blast for me, and I truly appreciate y’all checking out my rants, raves, and reviews. So until 2008, keep on rawkin’, rollin’ and rejoicing. I'll see you right back here then!


Friday, August 10, 2007

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Thursday Youtube

Seeing as it's unofficial "Lolla Week" here at FtY, here's what you're going to get. The best of the Lolla performances currently up on Youtube. In chronological order Enjoy!

Fratellis: Chelsea Dagger

Ted Leo: Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone? (out of focus, but audio is good)

Silversun Pickups: Lazy Eye

LCD Soundsystem: North American Scum

Ryan Shaw: Nobody

Interpol: NYC

Rodrigo y Gabriela: Wish You Were Here (part of it, anyway)

The Stooges: I Wanna Be Your Dog (camera is shaky, but audio is excellent)

A $40 Hat… and other tales from Lolla-land

There was so much fun in the sun last weekend that didn’t fit into the standard reviews. But I still wanted to share the stories with you as they were definitely part of the Lollapalooza experience. So consider this all the news that didn't fit...

Cholly Make Me Feel Good I suppose I shouldn’t have been so surprised, but there was a dearth of hipsters present. At the Pitchfork Festival, it was practically a competition of people trying to outhipster one another with ironic t-shirts, goofy sunglasses, and tiny man-shorts. At Lolla, there was the odd funny shirt, but beyond that and the guy dressed as a mustard squeeze bottle, the hipsters were vastly outnumbered by the overweight and braless. I was really shocked at how many obese people were in attendance. It appeared to me that there was a correlation between the amount of Cubs gear someone was wearing and how fat they were. A cap meant they had a few extra pounds. A T-shirt generally meant they were a little chunky. A jersey translated to being overweight. When someone donned the cap and jersey combo, you had to give ‘em a wide berth. The hippie factor was somewhat low. There were just a lot more disgusting people than I expected.

Oh Baby My friends brought their twelve-week-old baby to the festival. I can only imagine when he’s all grows up and people as him, “What was your first concert?” He’ll say, “Lollapalooza 2007.” “Lolla-puh-what?” “Pearl Jam played there.” “That sounds gross, man.” That’s going to be infinitely cooler than my “John Mellencamp at the Rosemont Horizon” response. Anyway, this happens to be a particularly adorable baby and nearly every single person that passed by paused to look at him (especially the women). I kept thinking they were people who knew one of us and were about to say hello, but they were just randoms who wanted to stare at the baby. Some took pictures and a couple even patted his head (which they couldn’t exactly ask to do since The Hold Steady was pounding ear drums at the time). They just came close and reached out to touch him. That was creepy. The mother said that it happens everywhere she goes – even shopping at the grocery store. It especially bothered her when the overweight and braless folks decided they needed to get a closer look. I suppose that’s you make a cute baby and you have to deal with all the consequences – good and bad.

Slow Bus Movin' As I mentioned in Day 1’s review, my brother is the Silversun Pickups’ tour manager. Because the band has been touring like crazy, I hadn’t seen him in months. It was a shame that in his brief homecoming he had to spend so much of his time working, but we did have a few minutes here and there to hang out. In the early afternoon of Day 1, we were able to talk my way backstage and onto to the band’s bus. I had notions of conducting an interview for the blog, but as soon as I arrived there, I learned that they had five other interviews to do with vapid DJ’s, VJ’s and members of the press. “So, are you happy to be here?” “What do you think of Chicago?” “I love these festivals, don’t you?” If you think I’m being unkind to these interviewers, look no further than here to judge for yourself. I’ve met the band before and they all know who I am, but I’m certainly not friends with any of them. This is probably my fourth time on a tour bus and I always seem to act the same way – quiet and unassuming. There’s a strange pressure to be cool, but not too cool. I feel like I know them a lot better than they know me, partly because I have their CDs, partly because of my brother. Maybe they read my blog though…It’s possible. So I just spent the time talking with my brother and making the occasional joke to the band members. I was definitely not myself because I didn’t want to intrude. Furthermore, that bus happens to be my brother’s office for the time being. I wouldn’t want him crashing my office and yukking it up with my coworkers either. Anyway, it was a weird feeling and despite the relief granted by the air conditioning, I felt happy to be back on the festival grounds, looking to rock like Joe average fan. A tour bus, particularly pre-show, isn’t as fascinating a place as one might think.

A Picture’s Worth Three Songs Did you know that the people in photographers’ row are only allowed to shoot for three songs? I was unaware of this, and was always curious why they staged a mass exodus during each set. Late in Ted Leo’s performance, a guy from the Tribune pushed through me and the people around me so he could be right up front. I was utterly baffled. I thought, “Why don’t you just go behind the barricade?” There wasn’t much space for this guy, and without knowing that it was too late in the set for him to get behind the barricade, he came across as rude. I took a picture of him to show you. Look at the girl standing next to him. She’s all “WTF, man?!?” Shouldn’t the official photographers be allowed to do journalistic work? What if something significant occurs more than three songs into a set? They have to wade through the crowd like the rest of us, but probably won’t bother. I don’t see how this helps anyone. I doubt the bands are distracted by the photo journalists. I felt a bit bad for cursing the guy under my breath once I found out what the deal was. But at the same time, he didn’t have to be quite as disruptive as he was.

You Ain’t Starvin’ The food on the grounds was surprisingly diverse and quite cheap. The most interesting thing I ate was from renowned vegetarian restaurant, The Chicago Diner. It was a chicken fajita wrap that so closely resembled real chicken, it kind of weirded me out. They let you bring in water, but a friend of mine had their Propel taken. I guess if there’s any flavor added, it somehow ceases to be water. I smuggled in a Clif Bar each day, but on the last one, they caught me. I told the guy I was going to eat it right away instead, but then just went across to the other entrance and smuggled it in anyway. I realize they don’t want people bringing in full picnics, but one Clif Bar isn’t exactly going to kill their revenue. If they have a water quota, they can have a Clif Bar quota, too.

What Goes Around Comes Around A friend told me that she almost wore her Ohio State gear to the festival. I said, “Why, so you could look tacky?” She said, “You’re just saying that because you went to Michigan.” “No, Michigan gear is tacky, too.” Well, no sooner than an hour later, I was watching The Hold Steady and a chunky drunk in a “Big House” maize and blue t-shirt was jumping around barefoot and generally making a buffoon out of himself. Anytime someone walked past him, he would follow them for a few steps and leer with a maniacal grin. He reminded me of a jack-o-lantern. My friends (Illinois and U of Chicago grads) delighted in making fun of me at this point and there wasn’t much I could do other than shake my head in embarrassment. They got theirs, though. He was one of the people who patted the baby on the head which meant he was also the craziest person that baby has ever met.

Cover Me, I’m Going In Before the festival, I asked if there was going to be a most oft-played song to assume the role “Crazy” had last year. While Pete Yorn covered PB&J’s “Young Folks,” the next most often played tune was “Inna Gadda Davida.” Well, it was just riffed a few times I suppose. But we also had two Nirvana, two Pink Floyd, and two Sam Cooke renditions. Rodrigo y Gabriela played two full Metallica songs and various riffs, but to my knowledge no one else made their way in that direction. They also did a Led Zeppelin cover, and I believe Rhymefest dabbled in some Zep as well, though I arrived at his set too late to hear it.

We Do Care About the Old Folks When I was pressed near the stage for an hour, awaiting Interpol’s set, there was a guy right in front of me who was probably in his mid 40s. He was acting a bit goofy, particularly in regard to the teenage girl to his right. He didn’t do anything overly untoward, but he was talking to her about drinking and smoking pot and some other odd topics. At first I thought he was her subversive uncle or something, but it quickly became clear that they didn’t know one another. But it was close quarters and maybe he didn’t have anything else to talk about. Really, it wasn’t as nefarious as it sounds. Once the band took the stage and the concert got going, I didn’t think about him much. Until he started jabbing his elbow into my ribs. I had no idea what was going on, so I asked him “Hey, what’s wrong?” He said I was pushing him for which I apologized. Soon after, he did the same thing to the kid next to me. We both asked him to relax, but didn’t get much of a response, though the jabbing did not continue. More on this issue later. Finally, about two thirds of the way through Interpol’s main set, he bent over and then sat down. The wildly eager woman to my left was able to ask him if he was OK. He must have said something unintelligible because when she came back up she said, “He’s just drunk.” The guy sat there, basically on my feet for about four songs until finally rising and lumbering out of there. Maybe he shouldn’t have smoked that joint before the band took the stage.

A Forty Dollar Hat As I said above, there was a crush of people near the stage for Interpol. We all waited, piled in together for an hour, but spirits were high and camaraderie ruled. But once the show began, a young man and his girlfriend entered the area, pushing and shoving people aside so they could get closer. They jumped on peoples backs and knocked them into one another. They took a position just to my right, continually shoving this poor kid into me. That’s what led to the older guy getting angry with us. After they decided that was the appropriate spot, they started making out, and not just idle smooching. I thought they were going to have intercourse right then and there. All this time, they’re still pushing and leaning on all the people around them. It was a disgusting and wholly inconsiderate display. For the first six songs, my concertgoing experience was completely ruined. I waited hemmed in with this mass of people for an hour to get the best possible view of the concert only to have these lewd usurpers batter people into me. I hit a breaking point. The people around this couple were all a bit meek and afraid to do anything, though they were clearly furious. So I took action.

The first thing I did was stick my finger in the guy’s ear during one of their makeout/pawing sessions. This had no impact whatsoever. I then reached out and grabbed the guy’s butt. I’m not sure why I went this route, but I just wanted to provoke a reaction that would say (a) we’re not happy with you and/or (b) please get out of here. I got neither reaction as he merely gave me a brief nudge with his elbow. I should mention that these people were likely in high school – definitely under 21 – and the guy was only about 5’5”. My actions had no impact on the situation. I was ready to give up. But soon after I took these steps, they decided it was time to push forward once again. The guy put his girlfriend in front of him, hoping that she would draw less ire from those she was shoving. However, the first person they encountered was our older friend from above. A fight was about to break out between them, but I had really gone over the edge. I pulled off the young man’s Cubs hat and threw it back into the crowd about ten feet behind us.

He was not pleased with my actions. He grabbed me and lightly slapped me across the chin. It was clear that he wasn’t going to throw a punch. I told him, “You’re ruining this concert for everyone. Knock it off.” He responded by yelling, “I could kill you!” “I’m sure you could. I’m sure you could kill me.” Then I just stared at him for a bit. I’m 6’0”, and he had no idea that I had no friends with me. Meanwhile about six people started patting me on the back. The young man started shouting, “That’s a forty dollar hat! A forty dollar hat!” I just kept staring at him, my point having been made already. “A forty dollar hat!” Intent on shutting things down and getting back to the concert I’d diligently waited to see, I simply said, “Go make out with your fat girlfriend.” They turned, got closer to the stage and did exactly what I asked them to do.

So how do I feel about all this? Honestly conflicted. I’m still not sure if I did the right thing. Part of my reason for action was the poor kids near them who wouldn’t stand up for themselves. As bad as these two had made things for me, it was four times worse for those kids. It was the brazen disregard for their feelings that got me angry enough to behave the way I did. Could I have just talked to them about it between songs? Maybe. I am fairly certain that this guy wouldn’t have given a damn about anything I had to say, nor would his chunky girlfriend (“fat” was an intentional exaggeration, though not wholly incorrect). Seeing the looks on the kids faces after these people left made me feel at least a bit justified in my actions, wrong though they may have been. Did this guy deserve to lose his forty dollar hat? Yeah, he was an a-hole who got what was coming to him. Was I right to lash out the way I did? Probably not. But I enjoyed the second half of the show a lot better than the first. And they got to keep licking each others faces.

It was a wondeful time, and I can't wait to do it all again next year. Well, except for the fat people and the human jack-o-lantern, and the older drunk guy, and the near fisticuffs. But everything else was great!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

OWR: The Host

63: Scattered

Peter, Bjorn and John @ Double Door

As we left Lollapalooza 2007 behind us, I said to Brad, “anyone who goes to an afterparty now is an idiot.” I suppose this makes me the biggest of idiots. I think this was an invite-only show or something, but I’m guessing if you happened to talk to the right people at the festival, you’d get a pass. I lucked my way onto the guestlist and was happy to be there. But in order to impress me at all, they were going to have to really pull out something great. I was totally spent after three days of Lolla-ing around in the sun.

Earlier in the day, the Citi stage lost power which cut into half of Peter, Bjorn & John's allotted time. Early in their Double Door set, one of them thanked the crowd for coming out and noted, “It’s been a long day.” The first half of their performance was very poppy and somewhat flat. Thax Douglas was there and bopping his head along, though he didn't recite a poem. I saw him only briefly at the festival, but he was there (not sure if recited anything before any band's performance there, either). They brought Nikki from Silversun Pickups on stage to sing their hit song, “Young Folks” with them. What can I say, the girl gets around... The whistling portion of the song was obviously on a loop, but they pretended to whistle into a microphone anyway. I can see why they have to do this – if they just danced around and the whistles just appeared out of the snowhere, people be put off, right? After “Young Folks,” they went to their more rockin’ selections and the whole scene changed. I was all prepared to slam them for a weak set (and partly blame my exhaustion), but every track after this was great. The crowd matched them, bouncing around to these tunes, particularly the encore, “Up Against the Wall.” I gotta hand it to them as well because I am fairly certain all of them were at Lollapalooza today and had to deal with the heat. Finishing on a high note was the way to go, and I left with the desire to see them again on a day where I'm not already rawked out. No photos on this one as I only took a couple horrendous ones before my camera ran out of juice. Those boys were right, it was a long day – even for machines.

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.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Lollapalooza 2007 - Day 2

Once again making the train in perfect time, I arrived early enough to hear I’m From Barcelona singing a song about the Chicken Pox with a chorus of kazoos behind them. Sure it was fun and interesting, but wasn't it just too silly? I wasn’t there long enough to fairly judge, but the audience seemed like they were enjoying it.

I scooted over to the Playstation stage to see soul act Ryan Shaw. He led off with an a capella rendition of Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” that immediately gave me chills. The band he fronts consists of three mellow guys on guitar, bass, and drums who sing spot-on harmonies. Shaw is short in stature, and his voice is more soulful than it is powerful. Apparently he’s spent most of his life singing in church and only recently come to secular music. He did a fine job of working the crowd up, and while most of the audience seemed to be there mainly out of curiosity, they quickly became Ryan Shaw fans. His first single, “Nobody,” featured some audience call-response and was probably the highlight of the set.
It was hard to leave Shaw while he was still throwing the soul, but I wasn’t going to miss Tapes ‘n Tapes. The last time they played Chicago, I was jet-lagged and exhausted, but still greatly enjoyed their performance. This set was at another level. Frontman Josh Grier clearly isn’t that interested in the onstage banter, but gave a few quips including the fact that they left their giant pyramid at home. Tapes ‘n Tapes are one of the rare indie bands whose sound is enhanced by being on a larger stage with a bigger audio setup. Their new tracks in particular contained a fat fuzz that provoked a visceral reaction from the crowd. The entire set kept building to a climax near the end of “Insistor” when Grier let out a fierce “Aahhh!” They finished with “Jakov’s Theme,” featuring an opening where the entire band shredded the hell out of their instruments. While the crowd was somewhat stoic for most of the set, they got going near the end, clapping along with the kick drum on “Insistor.” This was a superb performance. I can’t wait to see them again. Tapes ‘n Tapes setlist (with some laughable guesses on the names of the new songs):
Just Drums
The Iliad
Beach Girls
New song (“You traded ‘em all”)
New song (“In the night”)
In Houston
Ten Gallon Ascots
New song
New song
New song (“Are you holding?”)
Jakov’s Theme

I sat down and heard Stephen Marley play some of his dad’s songs. I couldn’t help but wonder why he’s here. I know they have to satisfy the hippie contingent as they have lots of dough, but it’s not exactly groundbreaking work. However, it was certainly inoffensive.

I got to Rhymefest later than I’d hoped and missed the start of his set. By the time made it over, he had breakdancers on stage sporting “Chicago Tribe” T-shirts. These kids had solid moves, and seemed ecstatic just to be performing, which only made it better. The music here was fine, but unfortunately, his backing band was not very good. Notes were missed and consequently the music was neither crisp nor powerful. The best moments of this performance were when he rapped a capella which came off more like spoken word poetry than hip-hop. He nearly brought himself to tears during one of these moments. My friend Chris theorized that the guys in his band were just his friends and he was pulling them up with him. That may be true, but if he’s going to play with a live band, they’ve got to be better than this.
A tremendous mass of people flocked to Butler Field to see The Roots. It was packed. We were so far away, we pretty much had to watch the jumbotron which I hate doing ‘cause you might as well be watching TV at home. The Roots always deliver live, but from my vantage point, it was just too hard to get into it. They did have a sousaphone on stage which, while a big gimmicky, was still pretty neat. They covered Sly and the Family Stone’s “Everybody is a Star,” and later there was a fabulous bass solo which included a quick Inna Gadda Davida riff.

I decided to catch the start of Roky Erickson’s set. He was introduced by Beatle Bob – my only BB sighting of the weekend. Roky and his band are clearly the oldest looking group in the Lolla lineup. His fans were also of the older variety, but they were very enthusiastic and excited to see him. Without his distinctive vocals, their bluesy rock wouldn’t really be anything unique. Unfortunately, the bass was turned way up and overlapped with Roky’s voice. I would have liked to stay for the entire set, but had to make a quick choice to bolt…
…to see The Hold Steady. I was planning to see Regina Spektor at this time slot, but over the last week or so, The Hold Steady’s albums were finally growing on me (and they were really good last year). So I ditched one group of friends to meet another who were set up right near the sound booth. The band came out pumped up with their keyboardist in a tuxedo and frontman Craig Finn wearing a Twins jersey. They easily earned the distinction of “band most happy to be here,” thoughtfully recalling their garage-band beginnings and telling the audience, “There’s so much joy in what we do up here. Thank you for sharing that joy with us.” Finn bounced all over the stage, often shouting to the audience off-mike as if they could hear him. He reminded me of comedian Louis Black, only if he was on Gleemonex infused with caffeine. Despite Finn’s exuberance, the band played extremely tight – their downbeats popped and they rocked much harder than on their albums. That was some fun rock n roll.

I had no idea the Yeah Yeah Yeahs were this popular. I knew they had a following, but Hutchinson Field was thick with people way, way back. Karen O zoomed from one side of the stage to the other and then rolled around behind her monitors, all the while singing at the top of her lungs. A friend who was closer to the stage texted me, “She is hot and wild!” Halfway through, I went north to get set up for Interpol.

But I was able to catch the last several Snow Patrol songs which included Nikki from Silversun Pickups singing on “Set Fire to the Third Bar.” I’m not versed in Snow Patrol’s music as it’s a bit straightforward for me, but their sound was clean and pure. Later, lead singer Gary Lightbody climbed into the audience while playing guitar. I couldn’t help but notice that many of the fans around me looked to the jumbotron to see him in the audience, even though he was just as close as the TV screen. That blew my mind. They could have probably spit to him, but chose to watch TV instead.
As soon as they finished I settled in about ten feet from the stage along with a whole mess of people who waited for Interpol with me in close quarters. Sadly, they were not showing the Patti Smith show on the jumbotron on our end. I have no idea why not. It would at least have given us something to look at, plus she sounded great as far I could tell. At that time I was regretting my choice to miss her set. However, there was a fair amount of camaraderie in my area. There were some cool college students from Philadelphia right behind me and a cool kid from Springfield to my right. The consistent drizzle did not hinder conversation and general good feelings from everyone in the area. Interpol finally took the stage five minutes late to a fervent reception. They opened with “Pioneer to the Falls,” and I was struck by how good Paul Banks’ voice sounded. I’d seen some live videos and was concerned that he would be very flat, but that was not the case. The band is tight as hell, but completely impassive. They did not acknowledge the audience at any point, not that this surprised anyone. The setlist covered all three albums equally. “Evil” brought more passion from the crowd, and people seemed more engaged from that point on. However, when the band left the stage before their encore, there was hardly any cheering from anyone. One could argue the band was getting what they deserved, but I still thought it was pretty weak. The night peaked when they led their encore with NYC. That song remained in my head for the rest of the night. I was really hoping to hear “All Fired Up,” but that will have to wait for another time. So two days in, we’ve seen a ton of great shows, and even though it rained a bit, the cooler temps made it far more comfortable than yesterday. Didn’t stop this guy from taking a snooze in the shade by the Playstation stage, though: Tomorrow we have one crucial appointment – with The Stooges at 4:15. Beyond that, I expect the final day to be the frosting on this already tasty cake. Ugh – did I just write that? It’s clearly well past bedtime and I've got a big day tomorrow... G'nite!

Monday, August 6, 2007

OWR: V for Vendetta

76: Amplified

Lollapalooza 2007 - Day 1

With a weather forecast worthy of challenging this year’s Pitchfork festival, Lollapalooza started out promising and took off from there. While most seem to agree that the lineup was not as stacked as last year, there were still plenty of acts worth seeing. I promised myself that I would take it easier this year, but I still caught part of ten sets today. Here’s what happened.

Getting a later start than I’d hoped, the rawk gods must have been smiling on me because I barely made a train and zoomed over to the Myspace stage in time to catch The Fratellis’ first Chicago performance (first visit, actually). There was already a moderate sized crowd watching them, but the start of the set was somewhat flat. That assessment was buoyed when Jon Fratelli said, “It’s too bloody early. We’ll wake up, though.” His words proved prophetic. After about their third song, the band really started to cook, with the vocal harmonies between guitarist Jon and drummer Mince playing together perfectly. Despite giving decent ovations between songs, the audience remained timid during them. Once the band “woke up”, the set was superb, with the faster songs getting more traction and playing better – no surprise given their position as first main stage band of the fest. The set peaked near the end with “Got Ma Nuts From A Hippy.” Despite the fact that Jon said goodbye by saying, “Sorry I wasn’t more awake,” they set a high bar given their unenviable position. I was ready for more rawk.

Fratellis’ setlist:
Baby Fratelli
Everybody Knows You Cried Last Night
Whistle for the Choir
Ole Black N Blue Eyes
new song (Sally all right? So I realize? I couldn't hear because they strummed the guitar when they named the song Apparently it's called "Tell Me a Lie")
For the Girl
Go Ma Nuts From A Hippy
Chelsea Dagger

From there I set up to be as close to the stage as possible for Ted Leo. Watching Ghostland Observatory from extremely far away, I was unimpressed. Perhaps I was not getting enough of the other sound, but the vocals came across as extremely whiny. It’s probably not fair for me to judge since I was so far away.

At Pitchfork last year, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists gave a blistering performance, replete with a forehead-to-microphone bashing that left Ted bloodied during the last song. I was hoping for similar antics today, not to mention another fine set. Ted did not disappoint. Dressed head to toe in black, he played mostly new songs as well as a few of his hits. Very early in the set, he took a tumble, cutting his hand open. When the song ended, he remarked, “It wouldn’t be a show of ours if I didn’t fall and cut myself.” Though last year’s injury was intentional, he’s two for two at Chicago festivals now. The excellent performance was marred only by two fugly women who decided to push up in front of me as soon as the set began. They were clearly not Ted Leo fans, and the thicker redhead in front of me was of course doing her own variation on the hippie dance. They actually split a group of kids who’d been waiting there for an hour. Then they left half-way through the set. Believe me when I called them fugly women, I was being as kind as possible. Anyhoo, the only true complaint I could have about Leo’s set was that it could have been longer. But they played with a lot of energy and got the crowd worked up more and more with each song.
After strolling around a bit and passing by the signing tents (The Fratellis had three gussied up models standing behind them in their booth), I checked out the second half of The Polyphonic Spree. The stage configuration is different this year, with the two main stages on the ends of the fields instead of in the corners. This is a vast improvement as they can fit a lot more people in the audience. Nice work, Perry. As I approached the north end of the grounds, it was clear that the speakers were crackling a bit. That’s a major problem. Compounding that problem was the fact that the singing was clearly not in tune. If you’re an act where your thing is to have twenty people singing at once, they’d better be in tune or it’s no better than a campfire singalong. There was a ton of action on stage, but it wasn’t doing much to mitigate the two above issues. All members of the band were dressed in black up until they said that it would be their “last song”. They surprised the crowd by changing into white robes and playing three more tunes, including a cover of Nirvana’s “Lithium.” That was a cool idea, but again, it just sounded bad. Perhaps they had an off day, but their version of the band-camp-experiments-avec-religion thing isn’t nearly as inspired as The Arcade Fire’s (if you read here often, you know what an unfair comparison that is for me to use).
The Electric Six started by saying, “We’re gonna play the hits ‘cause we know you wanna hear ‘em. But first, we’re gonna play this.” Through five songs, their set was pretty good. They’re a solid rawk outfit, but they also weren’t thrilling me, either.

So I hit the other end of the festival to catch Against Me! (I’m not yelling – there’s a ! in their name.) I arrived in time to see the most passionate fans of the day, pointing and hollering lyrics right back at the band for every song. This wasn’t everyone at the Citi stage, but a strong contingent front and center. These fans, along with the bands intensity, got the entire audience into the set. The fact that the sun had gone behind the stage, casting a refreshing shadow over the die-hards only fueled their enthusiasm. I wish I would have caught their entire performance, because it was real rock. After the set, they threw some setlists out to the audience, and I saw a dude go headfirst over the railing for one. He came back around to collect his girlfriend, and I asked, “Didja get it?” His response: “Fuckin’ got it, dude.” It would have been a shame if he hadn’t after taking that header. Full disclosure time – my brother is the tour manager for Silversun Pickups, so I’ve met the band a few times and kind of know them. I’ll try to maintain my objectivity anyway, which will be easy because their set kicked ass.

The area around the Citi stage was jammed almost immediately after the Against Me! fans cleared out. The band entered to strong applause and excitement. An absolutely roaring Well Thought Out Twinkles began the set, with Brian Aubert stalking the entire stage with his guitar. Despite some wry smiles from Aubert and bassist Nikki Monniger, there was surprisingly little onstage banter for the first four songs. That changed after “Waste It On,” at which point Brian took the time to talk up Chicago (“I’ve been happy since I arrived at noon yesterday”) and the people in the back of the audience. When Nikki took her turn on vocals for “Little Lover’s So Polite,” the crowd on the right side of the stage couldn’t get enough of her. Later, after messing up some lyrics on “Three Seed,” Brian confessed he was distracted by a woman passionately singing along in the audience: “You made me forget the words. Sorry. But I don’t like when bands apologize for anything. So fuck it.” When the time came to play “Lazy Eye,” it was clear that this was the song many had come to hear. Most of the audience really shouted along (“like wow!” say my notes), including some who’d been relatively sedentary for most of the set. People were seriously going nuts. I wish they would have done that on some of the other songs, but I understand the reality of the hit single at the festival show.
Silversun Pickups setlist:
Well Thought Out Twinkles
Dream at Tempo 119
Rusted Wheel
Waste It On
Little Lover’s So Polite
Future Foe Scenarios
Kissing Families
Three Seed
Lazy Eye
Common Reactor

After strolling and eating, we plopped ourselves down in a grassy spot on Butler Field and checked out The Black Keys from afar. Those boys can really play, but their live songs had a little trouble going beyond their studio work. I can’t offer a full review because I wasn’t exactly giving them my full attention. Their tunes fit our mood at the time perfectly. It is amazing how much sound they get out of two instruments. They manage to hit all the notes and get all the sound that is present with the album.

As we entered Hutchinson Field, we heard Satellite Party covering Porno For Pyros’ “Pets.” They closed the set with “Jane Says” and apparently also played “Been Caught Stealin’” earlier. I get that Perry has to give the people what they want to a certain degree, but if you’re going to play old songs, why not play the best of them? (I’m talking Tahitian Moon, Mountain Song, Three Days – anything but Been Caught Stealin’!)

I’ve never really gotten into LCD Soundsytem because I’ve never really gotten it. It’s clearly something new and unique, but to me it’s always been mediocre dance music. Well, I get it now. They put on one of the top performances of the day, one people were raving about long into the night. By the time they played their second song, “Daft Punk is Playing at My House,” the whole crowd was worked up and everyone was grooving. Frontman James Murphy was modest, saying, “Thank you for coming to see us. Well, even if you didn’t come to see us, thank you for wandering over here.” That attitude continued later: “Are you ready? What do you have to be ready for? We’re playing. It should be, ‘Are we ready?’ That’s why we lumber into songs.” The set peaked about halfway through with “North American Scum.” People were jumping around, with a pocket in front of the stage going particularly crazy. Was all the jubilation because the crowd was finally, um, properly lubricated? That may be possible, but truly the credit belongs with LCD Soundsystem. Their rhythms were undeniable, getting even the most stoic observers to get down. The only (minor) complaint would be that they could have ended on a really high note, but played another four minute song that was kind of flat. They would have been better off without it. Superb set.
Daft Punk performed atop a giant pyramid, opening with the theme from Close Encounters. I didn’t realize quite how many huge hits they have. We didn’t get very close to the stage, but we had space to get our groove on and watch the indie hipsters cut a rug (always entertaining). I walked closer to check out the vibe, and there were concentric rings of behavior as you neared the stage. Up front, people were dancing and jumping around. Then there was a thick wave of people who were mostly standing and watching, or even sitting down. In this ring, probably only 20% of the audience was dancing at all. I found it odd since it was the last show of the night, and despite a decent light show, there wasn’t much to see on stage. Why didn’t these people go home? Behind that ring, there was a ton of space and most people were dancing their butts off, which is what you want to see. It was far less crowded than I anticipated, but I wasn’t complaining. The photos I took of Daft Punk are vastly below that of even my meager standards, so instead I give you the pizza Brad purchased for ten bucks. Brad, that was the most inspired move of the day. Top Notch. A-one. World Class. I salute you, sir! After one very full day of rawk and or roll, I was pretty beat and ready for a shower and a long nap. Nearly every act I saw today played really well. Tapes ‘n Tapes and Interpol are up tomorrow, and I’m certain that this festival is going to be an overwhelming success. Reviews for Day 2 & Day 3 will be published tomorrow and the next day. We'll follow that with some other tidbits that wouldn't fit. G'nite!

Friday, August 3, 2007

OWR: The Break-up

39: Juvenile

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Unyielding Commissioning Shut In

I know what I'm doing for the next eight weeks. Roger Ebert has archived all of his television reviews, 31 years worth. Now you can watch any of them - whether they are with Gene Siskel or Richard Roeper. That's right. You can wonder in amazement as Siskel blasphemously pans The Big Lebowski or The Silence of the Lambs. See them justifiably gush over Pulp Fiction or Hoop Dreams. Revel in their astonishment after being forced to sit through Jaws: The Revenge. As an added bonus, you can see how Ebert's weight and hair has changed over the years, not to mention Siskel's sweatervests. Seriously, I could watch these all day. One of my friends should check on me to make sure I'm eating and leaving the house every so often.

Lolla forecast. It's gonna be hot, people. But not as bad as last year, and certainly nothing like the year before when we managed 108. High 80s with a chance of rain on both Saturday and Sunday. Wear sunscreen, and bring water. You're allowed 2 liters of water as long as they're unopened.

Hot song? Last year, Crazy was the most oft-played tune at the festival. Covered by both Mates of State and The Raconteurs and of course played by Gnarls Barkley, fans couldn't get enough of it. Here's The Racs' performance:

Will there be a big cover this year? If so, I'm guessing it's Justin Timberlake, but we'll have to see...

Thursday Youtube

First some fun. Some dudes at Black 20 have put together some new trailers. Pirates of The Caribbean:

Then, they sanitized 300 for the family crowd:

This one is of a more serious tone (and done by someone else). SPOILER ALERT! If you have not seen Once Upon a Time in the West, you may not wish to watch this. It contains the ending of the film, but someone had the brilliant idea of using Arcade Fire as the soundtrack. Pretty amazing stuff.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

The Best of The Onion

The Onion is likely the funniest satire newspaper ever written. Here are eleven favorites:

11) Christ Returns to NBA This isn't quite on par with King Missle's "Jesus Was Way Cool", but the photo of him dunking is great.

10) Al Qaeda Also Fed Up With Ground Zero Construction Delays I was a bit skeptical of their new video segments, but they've had some winners. This one is hysterical.

9) Political Cartoon Even More Boring And Confusing Than Issue I love the ire professed in this one.

8) Weekly Radio Address: March 18, 2006: Domestic Security Really, the dude shoplifted from Target. That part is not a joke.

7) Coca-Cola Introduces New 30-Liter Size This article came up time and time again in my job in the CPG industry. Professor Edmund Tillerton really summed this move up well.

6) College Binge Drinking: What Do You Think? Daryl Woodley's response is just amazing. But they changed the photos on this! I swear to you in the original publication, Daryl had the same photo as Rich Durban in this one.

5) Fuck Everything, We're Doing Five Blades Another one that tied in very well to my job, it was only a matter of time until the Onion would be proven right here. Ah, to be living in simpler times with simpler razors.

4) Top Halloween Costumes, Women 18-34 I could have sworn they had "Sexy Corpse" on here, but I guess I remembered it wrong. Perhaps that should be added to the list.

3) Weekly Radio Address: January 28, 2006 "Listen to the terror."

2) I Look Back On My Boxing Career With Greebert A punch drunk fighter sums up his professional life. I about died laughing the first time I read this.

1) Bush: 'Our Long National Nightmare Of Peace And Prosperity Is Finally Over' Downright prophetic.

OWR: 300

73: Red-blooded