Looking Back: Lollapalooza, Day 2

By Staff in Arts & Entertainment on Aug 8, 2010 5:30PM

201008067_lollapalooza 721-1.jpg
Green Day photo by Jim Kopeny

Previously
Day 1: Lady Gaga, Mavis Staples, The Black Keys and more

Day One of Lollapalooza 2010 was a pretty solid start even if we remained a little underwhelmed by Lady Gaga. But that's part of the deal at these fests: for every mind-blowing set and great discovery, there's bound to be disappointment. It's our task to shake it off and hit the ground running for Day Two, when energy can begin to lag under the sun and we risk getting stuck in a lull. While there were certainly some question marks on Day Two's schedule - Blues Traveler? Slightly Stoopid? - and a few bands we knew we should avoid lest we fall asleep under the trees (ex: Grizzly Bore), there were also plenty of bands that we knew would keep us going, propelling us through the midway point of the fest and setting us up for a raucous Day Three.

For the early part of the day, Marcus scoped out bands on the north end of Grant Park.

After the disappointment that was the Lady Gaga show, it seemed something of a reset was in order for the start of Day Two, so it was off to the north end of the park for a duo of straight-forward guitar bands. It started with San Diego's The Soft Pack (formerly The Muslims), a stripped down trio of boys who delivered uptempo, jangly guitar rock that was not ground-breaking any means but sometimes you don't need that. Sometimes all you need is just a solid set of rock music to start off the day and that's where The Soft Pack delivered. Burning their way through songs like "Extinction," they bore a passing resemblance to a host of other bands - including the previous night's headliner on the Bud stage, The Strokes - but, again, that's perfectly okay with me: it was upbeat, it was catchy, and, really, what more could you ask for? Next, it was over to the shade of the Sony bloggie stage for a bit of another guitar-rock trio, Harlem, who set themselves apart from The Soft Pack a bit with a more garage/punk sound. Thundering through "Beautiful and Very Smart" and "Number One" the band, like The Soft Pack, didn't do much to set themselves apart from any number of other bands but for a trio they created quite an entertaining ruckus that provided a welcome jolt to start the day. A pretty solid start to get us set for what was to come.

Back on the Bud stage, we were lucky to catch one of the best sets of the day as Stars bounded onto the stage and delivered a set of their shimmering synth pop. With the one-two vocal punch of Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan, who was literally glittering in a sparkling black dress, the band brought an infectious joy to the stage, firing off a confetti cannon and hurtling through "Set Yourself On Fire" and "Ageless Beauty," as Millan punctuated the songs with the yell of "It's up to you, Lollapalooza!" The pulsating "We Don't Want Your Body" and whirling grandeur of "Your Ex-Lover Is Dead" were joyous affairs and, coupled with a cheer from the crowd as a group of 30 kids crashed a gate and went sprinting through the crowd, Stars provided a spectacle of pure pop bliss.

As Stars wound down I made my way across the field for the xx and was met with the first "Where the fuck did this crowd come from?" moment of this year's fest, reminiscent of MGMT's late afternoon set in 2008. Whether or not it had to do with a lack of major counter-programming (Dan Black, Against Me!) or if the festival undersold the band by placing them on the smaller stage, there was no getting around the crowd jam-packed to see the buzz electro. Literally. Instead of fighting the crowd, I decided that when Lolla gives you lemons, you get the hell out of the crowd and find another, smaller stage.

So it was back to the Sony Bloggie stage to catch a pair of Americana/roots-rock acts, Dawes and Deer Tick, a pair of bands I knew nothing about and, hell, that's what Lolla's about, right? Discovering new acts you might not have otherwise ever had to the chance to see. I knew nothing about either band but found both enjoyable and great compliments to the mid-afternoon sun and shade mix of the stage. Dawes had an amiably country-fried sound that fits somewhere between two other bands at the fest: they're rootsier than Blitzen Trapper while easing up on the honky-tonk of the Drive By Truckers. And if I'm not being clear enough, I mean that in a good way. Deer Tick followed with their own brand of roots/soul, lead singer John J. McCauley crooning "I can't hang around with you like this my friend/ Our time has come to an end" on "Baltimore Blues No. 1" and his gravelly voice lent an edge to recent single "20 Miles." Both bands provided a great respite from the larger crowds without slowing the momentum of the day. There was no lag in energy and I barreled on.

An aside: on the subject of the new Sony Bloggie stage and the expansion eastward in general, I mentioned it briefly yesterday but it really has proven to be a pretty smart move. The stages to the east have provided more room and great chance to take a breather and relax from the hustle of the fest. Including Columbus as a part of the pedestrian path between North and South ends of the park has also made a huge improvement in terms of crowd management, a great alternative way to get from one end of the park to the other. The room at the extra stages has been welcomed as well. While one could argue the merits of expansion at a fest this big, we're okay with these decisions.

201008067_lollapalooza 564.jpg
Metric photo by Jim Kopeny
If Stars were the highlight of the first part of the day, Metric picked up that joyous energy and, if it's possible, pushed it up another notch. Emily Haines bounced around the stage as the band kicked off with the throbbing "Black Sheep" and powered through, the thundering "Help I'm Alive" a highlight of the set, Haines fist pumping to the beat and the crowd following suit. On the galloping "Gold Gun Girls," the refrain "Is it ever gonna be enough?" echoed repeatedly. If you're talking about energy, then yes, it's more than enough. The pop of "Gimme Sympathy" was triumphant and by the time the set closed with an acoustic version of "Combat Baby," the line "fight off the lethargy" stuck out. At the same time the day before, I had nodded off during Dirty Projectors but during Metric's set that was never a problem. Not only did they fight off the lethargy, they beat it down into submission with a fantastic, energetic set.

Jake spent another day soaking in the scene at Perry's Stage. Here's his report.

Day Two at Perry's seemed to lack a bit in comparison to Day One. Sure, Rusko and Kaskade are big names and promised fun, but the lineup was void of anything that seemed particularly notable. We started our day with Steve Porter, a prolific DJ who seemingly never stops making remixes or productions of his own. Despite the droves of hungover people trudging about, Porter energized the crowd with an airtight mix that incorporated some visuals as well. It was a promising start to a long day ahead.

From there we were most excited for Wolfgang Gartner. Wolfgang has experienced recent fame in the electro genre with his more melodic take on things. What was surely going to be a crazy set turned into Wolfgang Gartner not playing one at all. We were never given an explanation for his absence, but instead of allowing for dead time, Joachim Garraud agreed to play an extended set of his no-holds-barred, mostly-hits style of mixing. While the aforementioned style got the crowd going nuts, playing everything from Deadmau5 to The Bloody Beetroots' "Warp 1.9" to Darude's "Sandstorm", the whole thing was cheap and unimaginative, despite his gimmick of incorporating live keytar into the mix.

We scurried a way for a bit and arrived back in time for Rusko, the newly-appointed posterchild of dubstep. His ascent to the top has been rapid due to his signing to Diplo's Mad Decent record label, and his sound is the zeitgeist of the last year of electronic dance music. His set was fun and loud, but mostly what you'd expect. This, of course, is a good thing, because when you go see Rusko, you want the most jarring and dirty dubstep in the world. Rusko did not disappoint.

Tankboy rocked his way through the big sets at the end of the night.

201008067_lollapalooza 628.jpg
Spoon photo by Kim Kopeny
After a more playful start of the game playing "Celebrity Kickball" I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening sprinting from one end of Grant Park to the other. I was exhausted as the evening's headliners started thundering through but the energy created by the final acts gave me a much needed second wind. Spoon eschewed recent album cuts to create a set-list packed with fan favorites and hits. I still think their a band best seen in a small club since the intensity they can create just doesn't translate well in large spaces, but this was the best festival set I've seen them produce.

Over on the other end of Grant Park Green Day took the stage after a brief introductory modern dance interpretation by a large pink -- apparently drunk -- bunny. There is something both deeply weird and deeply satisyfing about seeing a trio of punk dudes, who have been together and doing this thing for the majority of their lives, obviously still taking such great joy in doing what they do. And while the do now depend on pyrotechnics and other stage schlock to accent their show, at the core they're still all about performing tight and punch pop-punk and interacting with their fans. Singer Billie Joe Armstrong pulled people out the crowd to join them on stage and sing along and, considering the number of bands I've seen play, is one of the few that genuinely seemed to be interested in personally making sure everyone was having a good time. Even the security dudes were smiling and that never happens.

Green Day ended up playing way past Grant Park's curfew -- I'm assuming they can afford the fine -- so I missed the end of their set for a chance to see Phoenix rise above the north end of Grant Park. It seems surreal that a band that's over a decade old has suddenly gone from playing Park West last summer to headlining Lollapalooza, but I'm happy to see it happen. Their energetic pop sounds good no matter where you are and they had the crowd bopping along to each second of their songs. After the one-two punch of disappointing sets from Lady GaGa and The Strokes the night before I was pretty happy to see Green Day and Phoenix completely turn things around and own the closing sets of Day Two.

And now? Day Three!