From Soggy To Sweltering; Lollapalooza Day Two
By Staff in Arts & Entertainment on Aug 9, 2009 4:30PM
Rise Against photo by Jim Kopeny
We're beginning to think God hates Lollapalooza. Look, last year he missed the festival by one day with threatened tornadoes. Friday he tried to drown us. And yesterday he tried to fry us. Well you know what God? We DO like Lollapalooza, and nothing you throw our way is gonna dampen our enthusiasm! That said, today looks to be dangerously hot, so please please please stay hydrated and don't pass out in the sun. How did we deal with the heat yesterday? Let's fill you in.
O.K., I'll be honest, after faithfully tromping around festival grounds shooting bands during yesterday's deluge, I decided that Saturday would be my day to relax. So instead of heading straight for Grant Park I stopped off at the Playboy Rockstar Brunch. It was an amusing affair, but I had fun. To be honest I expected there to be a high level of douchebaggery gawking at girls in hot pants, but it was actually a pretty mellow affair, populated by a chill crowd. DJ Momjeans, a.k.a. That '70s Show's Hyde, provided a pleasant soundtrack, and while the lines for the two bars never seemed to shrink the vibe was enjoyably upbeat.
We went from there to the Hard Rock Hotel to check out the Music Lounge during the day and discovered STV SLV of The Hood Internet was laying down the soundtrack for band members and friends who were playing video games, getting their phones tattooed, actually getting flesh tattooed by an on-site tattoo artist, and generally relaxing on the floors made of AstroTurf.
I left and trekked down to Grant Park to catch Glasvegas, and while I found their moody, atmospheric, and soaring melodies enjoyable, they never really took off. They just circled in a holding pattern. Rise Against followed and melted the crowd. I admit to never having been a fan, even back in their Fireside days, but the group onstage yesterday were fantastic. Their catchy punk tunes took the crowd's energy and channeled it through the roof. They also got bonus points for being the only group to take note of Grant Park's varied history, ranging from the 1968 Democratic National Convention riots to the rally celebration Barack Obama's election last year.
The energy Rise Against built up was completely squandered by Animal Collective's astoundingly listless and boring set. Their set at Pitchfork a few years back was hypnotic and excellent, but last night's show did nothing but reinforce my belief that they're morphing into Phish and that hula-hoops are the new hackey sack.
I didn't get on the strangely restrictive photo list for Tool so I ran to the other end of grant Park to shoot the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I've been pretty vocal in my belief that they were a poor choice as a replacement for the Beastie Boys, and while Karen O and company did everything they could to win over the crowd they didn't convince me I was totally wrong. I did think it was a sweet gesture that they injected a few riffs from The Beastie's "Sabotage" into their set -- something I later learned the band debated even doing until showtime -- and I can also appreciate that they put on a solid show for a field of fans stretching far into the distance. And, now that I think of it, while I don't agree with most that Karen O is the most fantastic stage presence in rock and/or roll right now, she did make me smile with her obvious delight performing in front of such an enthusiastic audience.
At Lollapalooza wrapped up in Grant Park I was off to the various aftershows, with mixed results. I attempted to see Ida Maria, one of the acts I was most excited about this year, for her set at The Chopin Theater, but lackluster attendance delayed the show by over an hour and I had to leave. LaSalle Power Company was no better, with Hey Champ's set also being delayed by hours, and when you combined that with a staff that was stunningly rude to everyone coming in the door I jetted out of that scene too.
Which brought me back to the Hard Rock Hotel afterparty. Two huge lines snaked around the building and my hopes began to sink. Security and organizers were both doing super-heroic jobs of trying to manage everyone but some folks had been waiting in line for 2+ hours. I did appreciate the fact that security treated VIPs and regular attendees both with a level of measured politeness, no easy feat when you have throngs of people screaming at you to let them in. One guard turned to me and said, "One of the problem is everyone in this line literally "knows somebody" connected to the festival and some of them aren't used to being told no." I tried a couple other routes in (one hilariously ending with two burly but polite security guards stopping me from entering through a kitchen off a back stairwell) and finally was generously ushered in by a friend.
If you finally got into the party last night you know it was worth the wait. I won't even try to describe the alternate universe of free flowing booze and impassioned dancing that goes on at this party, fueled by killer sets from both Santigold and Passion Pit. And the mix of celebrities, VIPs, and kids off the street created a vibe that erased most of the barriers the class of access can build up. We stumbled out at 2 a.m. to grab a late night breakfast and seal the evening on a pretty incredible Lolla experience.
Lolla kids in trees photo by Jim Kopeny
While I spent all Friday on the North End with bands I was mainly familiar, I decided to forgo the same end (and the same familiarity with bands) on Saturday and instead focus on the South End stages seeing bands I wasn't familiar with at all. Because that's part of the fun of these festivals: discovering new bands. And that happened right away with The Low Anthem. The band is on Nonesuch Records, home to Emmylou Harris and Wilco, and it's an appropriate fit. The roots rockers helped ease the crowd into the warm, windy day with songs that were reminiscent of solo Springsteen and even hints of early Dylan. It wasn't anything ground-breaking, but it was a solid set from the stomp of their cover of Blind Willie McTell's "Don't Let Nobody Turn You Around," to the wooziness of their own "This Goddamn House." The only down-side was being scheduled at the same time as electro-poppers Thenewno2 who over-powered them at time from the Citi stage.
Next up was the kinetic garage punk of The Living Things on the Chicago 2016 stage. The opening song wasn't even done when lead singer Lillian Berlin had lept off stage and was singing to the masses in front. The band is known for its political stances and politics were front and center with Lillian toast Barack Obama, the troops, and draped in an American flag as he launched into the bouncing "Bom Bom Bom" with lyrics such as "Hey Hey Hey this is our birthright/To be bought and sold ready to die/We're ready to fight." And the group made an impression on The Constantines. A few songs into their over-lapping set at the City stage, lead singer Bryan Webb paused, cocked an ear, and asked the crowd, "Who's that? It's good." The Constantines were more than able to fight rock fire with rock fire, though, with their own brand of hard rock with songs like "I Will Not Sing A Hateful Song." The Canadian rockers were the band I was most familiar with going into the day and it was nice to hear the band dedicate "Hard Feelings" to the Empty Bottle.
It was a change of pace to head over to the VitaminWater stage next for Miike Snow. I had no idea what to expect and knew only what the Lolla program told me: that one of the guys was responsible for the best song Britney Spears ever did ("Toxic"). Not exactly the type of pedigree indie legend is built on, but in terms of pop hooks, not a bad one. And while you can definitely hear the origins of that hook in the group's spacey dance pop of songs like "Burial." Veronica also caught the set and has more to offer. It was back over to the Citi Stage for Ida Maria, who is described as "spunky" and it makes sense. She bounded on stage in a sparkly gold dress and delivered a solid set of garage punk-pop that concluded with a cover of Iggy Pop's "I Wanna Be Your Dog."
Atmosphere may not be a household name, but you wouldn't know it from the enormous crowd gathered at the 2016 stage for one of the few hip-hop acts on the bill this weekend. And I'll say this for Slug, the main MC of Atmosphere: he more than held his own, literally owning the stage as he shooed away the cameramen and stomped through songs like "GODLOVESUGLY" and spitting, "Gonna go far, with charisma and skill/ Until they put my face on a million dollar bill." Judging by the throngs bobbing their heads and digging his set, Slug may not have to wait long. At the risk of being swallowed by the cavernous stage, he was a mid-afternoon highlight on the South End. I concluded a short day at the fest with Gomez, the British band who don't sound particularly British depending on what song you hear. An eclectic set from an eclectic band, which included a cover of Zepplin's, "Bron-Y-Aur Stomp" and peaked with an absolutely rollicking version of "Silence."
After shows: While not an official Lollapalooza after show, Wilco leader Jeff Tweedy picked an appropriate weekend to return to the stage as it was last year's Lollapalooza that was the scene of the band's last show in Chicago (though Tweedy himself played at Second City's Christmas benefit and a pair of benefit shows at the Vic in February). This solo show was also a benefit for Emanuel Congregation and Tweedy put on a stunning set, and even dedicated "I'm The Man Who Loves You" to his wife in honor of their recent wedding anniversary. There were a few stumbles - Jeff stopped and walked off stage to get lyrics from a fan in front when he forgot the words to "Pick Up The Change" - but the show had plenty of stunning moments.
Concluding a whirlwind evening, I made it back up to the Metro in time to catch a good portion of Dungen's opening set at the Metro, definitely a psychedelic affair made more surreal by the oppressive heat in the venue. "Panda" and "Ta det Lungt" were stand-outs - it's not every day you see an opener get called out for an encore. Headliners Fleet Foxes had their work cut out for them, trying to captivate a hot, tired audience, but the tight harmonies on songs like "White Winter Hymnal" kept the crowd enraptured and by the time the band closed out with "Blue Ridge Mountains" the heat wasn't a concern to the sweaty mass of people, bobbing along even into the wee hours of Sunday morning.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs photo by Jim Kopeny
Rain gave way to sun and heat for day two of Lolla. Buckets of sweat weren't going to break my spirit. It was a brand new day, and I was determined to meet it with enthusiasm.
I arrived just in time to miss Ezra Fuhrman & The Harpoons and guarantee myself a prime spot for Miike Snow's set. Miike Snow and I have had a rocky relationship this year. Like many people, I got hooked on the Swedish band after hearing their hit, "Animal". I awaited their album a little too eagerly and was ultimately disappointed. Fortunately, I can't say the same for their live show. The Swedish act had me grinning from ear to ear through an energetic set marked by flying drumsticks and twinkling synths. Miike Snow were easily my favorite act of Saturday and everything that I felt was missing in their album was present tenfold onstage.
Spur of the moment, I decided to check out Norwegian Ida Maria next. Dressed head to toe in gold and glittering in the afternoon sun, Ida Maria blew me away with her confidence and demeanor. Ida wailed and cooed, engaging the crowd for every minute of her set and ended with a cover of Iggy Pop's "I Wanna Be Your Dog". I stuck around the Citi stage after Ida Maria to check out Chairlift. Vocalist Caroline Polachek has an incredible voice, but Chairlift's dark, droning tunes need a very specific setting to be properly appreciated and a mid-day summer festival stage just isn't it.
Post-Chairlift I was getting a bit tired and Santigold should have been just the kick I needed to reset myself for the evening's acts. I wish I could say she was everything I had hoped and more. Hell, I wish I could just say I saw her. Closely timed and located sets from Santigold and TV on the Radio turned the North side of the park into an impenetrable, unmoving crowd. It was clear I wasn't getting within 1,000 feet of Santigold and with my head hung low, I backed out of the crowd and tried to cheer up over the end of Hercules & Love Affair's elegant disco at the nearby Perry's Stage.
After catching some air, I staked out a great spot for Lykke Li. I'm a huge fan of the pint-sized Swedish songstress, but this was my first time seeing her live. Dressed entirely in black, the princess of dark pop dominated the stage, alternating between wild bouts of dancing and ethereal, somber moments. Armed with a kazoo and a megaphone, Lykke ended her set by debuting several new songs and performing a duet with the vocalist of Miike Snow.
I had some time to kill before the Yeah Yeah Yeahs so I found a nice spot on the grass and relaxed to Animal Collective's gentle, sweeping blips and vocal warbles. I'm normally not the biggest AnCo fan but it was the right place, the right time and the right sound. I stretched out on the hill, staring at the sky and reflecting on what had been an epic day.
Relaxed and rejuvenated, I trekked onward to the North end of the park for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The crowd was massive and Karen O took the stage dressed like a neon shaman from the future. Fans knew every word to the songs and weren't afraid to shout along. Maybe my heart just wasn't in it, still not considering the Yeah Yeah Yeahs Lolla headliner worthy. It was a fun romp, but not the memorable set the Beastie Boys would have brought to the evening's close.
I ended day two tired, happy and completely satisfied. There's one more day left, and I just hope I have the energy to stand upright.