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!


Anonymous said...

I went the Muse route of the Muse vs Interpol face off. I was going to be pissed that I missed one of them regardless, so it was unavoidable. Muse put on a pretty rocking show. They definitely went a little flat during the slower songs (not super great for a festival...ahem My Morning Jacket), but their hard songs were phenomanol. You could still hear Interpol down at the Muse show.
The Roots put on a fantastic performance. Tapes N Tapes were sounded great. I definitely liked their new songs more this time around than the first time I heard them play them live. Yeah Yeah Yeahs were awesome. I was always a casual fan of theirs, but they definitely won me over as a big fan. The highlight of the day was the Scottish or British (I am horrible at identifying accents) dude at the Muse show. I have never seen such passion in throwing his body around (I can't call it dancing). He had a circular clearing with a diameter of roughly 20 feet to himself. His performance was capped by him spinning around in a circle while head banging and punching the air for 5 minutes follow by him stopping, grabbing his head and yelling "SO DIZZY" and falling over where he proceded to lie for 3 minutes. After that, he got up and ran down a line of people slapping everyone high 5. That kind himself was almost worth the price of admission. I want to put him in a bottle and take him with me where ever I go.

My Top 4
3)Yeah Yeah Yeahs
4) Tapes N Tapes

Scott said...

Nice review... you saw a bunch of bands I didn't get to catch... I agree the Hold Steady rocked...