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Lollapalooza Day Three: Soaked

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Aug 8, 2011 5:40PM

Foo Fighters photo by Jim Kopeny

Sunday saw Lollapalooza go out with a bang ... and a volley of thunderclaps as the sky opened up to soak everyone there. But we get ahead of ourselves. The day opened hot and steamy and the crowd wandering through Grant park was starting to look a little ragged. This didn't stop the kids from going insane in Perry's Stage all day long, or slow down any of the bands we saw perform.

Let's turn things over to Kimberly Bellware for awhile. - Tankboy

UK-based Noah and the Whale started out with a devotion to quirk and all things Wes Anderson when they first broke through with their infectiously sunny hit, the ukulele and whistle-powered “5 Years Time.” It may have made their early music--while still very good--a bit too precious, which could have easily been their undoing. After all, mimicking The Royal Tenenbaums when you’re young is precocious; embodying that same aesthetic years later is tired. But early in the afternoon at Day 3 of Lollapalooza Sunday, the band displayed a remarkable growth unlike any we’ve seen from a young band in a long time. We were kicking ourselves when we learned their opener (which we just missed) was a cover of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” pre-recorded in a brass arrangement. The crowd was already in serious love with the quintet by the time they launched into “Give A Little Love.” An early standout was drummer Michael Petulla whose stellar drumming seemed to take over the collective pulse of the crowd and the group built a fluid set that included “Blue Skies,” “Love of an Orchestra” and “Waiting For My Chance to Come.” Vocal harmonies have always been the guys’ strong suit, but their sound mixing was probably the best we’ve heard during all three days. Tom Hobden’s fiddling sounded positively magical as he wove pretty melodies over the park. The true test came when the band geared up for “5 Years Time.” They no longer have their female band mate, the honey-voiced Laura Marling, but the men made do just fine on their own low and lower voiced harmonies. They’ve also ditched the pan flute and ukulele in favor of a clean sounding electric guitar. It was a winning adaptation of a band’s hit song that didn’t make us yearn for the original. Noah and the Whale seems to be drawing a little from The Kinks now rather than Anderson, a sure sign that they’re growing up. With their display of tight focus and versatility they proved that being on one of the biggest stages as Lollapalooza is exactly where they should be.

Here’s an easy way to break The Pains of Being Pure at Heart down into a geometric illustration: the excellence of the band’s music is directly proportional to the ridiculousness of the band’s name. We won’t hold out hope that the NYC-based foursome will pick a new moniker, but we will tell you that their mid-afternoon set is the only thing that kept us wilting under the blast-furnace heat in Grant Park. POBPAH songs are in many ways are very Cure-like: lyrically perfect for the heart sick days when you don’t want to leave your bed, sonically crafted to get your ass moving nonetheless. Much of the set list was from the band’s latest release, “Belong,” including “My Terrible Friend,” a track with an opening riff that would make Robert Smith proud. Alex Naidus’ bright bass and Peggy Wang’s sparkling keys stood apart, the two providing the shape over which the rest of the band could throw their various articles of catchy, jangly pop. “Young Adult Friction” seemed to be the crowd favorite, coaxing much of the over-sunned audience to its feet, while “Heaven’s Gonna Happen Now” gave the late comers a chance to shimmy around a bit before the band wrapped it up. If POBPAH’s set proved anything other than terrible names don’t always translate into terrible music, it’s that guitar-driven melancholy might spark the next dance craze.

Best Coast photo by Jim Kopeny
We didn’t anticipate any surprises from The Cars, and we sure didn’t get any--which was, actually, just fine. The veteran rockers rolled out a hit parade for the massive crowd that had gathered for their late afternoon set, jamming a solid block of hits into their hour of play time. It was predictable that The Cars played their best-loved tracks, but you could hardly fault them; most bands of that age or era in New Wave don’t get invited to festivals to experiment. Those that try to--or those who pump their new material and deny the fans the hits they want--are rarely invited back. The most adventurous thing the band probably did was play a man down as a foursome rather than hire a fill-in for bassist Benjamin Orr who died in 2000. But a bass-less (and sadly, Orr-less) Cars was still a good Cars. When they started with “Let the Good Times Roll,” there was delight from the fans, with everyone on the South end of the park listening intently to hear how the band’s sound has held up. Ric Ocasek’s vocals were only the slightest bit rusty, but things picked up considerably by the time The Cars started into their third number, “Up and Down.” “My Best Friend’s Girl” drew the first big wave of park-wide cheers, with plenty of excited clapping in the audience to lead in the song. The command the band had over the crowd, surely lessened from their heydey, was still strong despite the guys looking a bit stiff onstage. The Cars stage presence wasn’t exactly going to prompt a shower of panties onstage, but it was fun--and fascinating--to watch so many people in genuine throes of happiness enjoy a band they love. “Just What I Needed” signaled the start of high-fives and fist pumps, evidence that The Cars--playing their best songs with their original lineup--were going over well with all ages at Lolla. Things continued to rock right through “Magic,” where Elliot Eaton’s guitar really drove (heh) the songs forward, until the band closed out with “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight.” Sure, the band didn’t exactly put on a clinic for the younguns at the fest, and the songs probably had more heat in them back in the day, but despite playing it safe, The Cars proved they still have something left in the engine.

Someone just had to go and talk shit about Bethany Cosentino's cat. Moments before Best Coast started their set, a heckler shouted at the famously feline-loving Cosentino "you're cat sucks!" In defense of her pet, Snacks, (he also graces the band's LP cover and t-shirts) Cosentino shouted "Fuck you!"--then introduced the group--"We're Best Coast!"--then went back to the heckler-- "I'll kick your fucking teeth in!" Whether or not her half-serious rage triggered the monsoon, she had only to play a single note before the heavens opened up and rained all over Best Coast's lo-fi beach party. The rain snuffed the energy from the crowd, but since there were few places to duck and cover, most everyone stayed put (though the Google Plus stage probably the best tree cover in the park). Rain and all, Best Coast gamely played a full, fun set that included "Boyfriend," "Crazy For You" and very appropriately, "When The Sun Don't Shine." Through the rain, we were impressed at how sharp the band sounded, with Cosentino's Shangri-Las-like vocals cutting through the air. A few times the sound seemed a little murkier, but we couldn't tell if it was because what we were hearing was being filtered through a million raindrops, hundreds of bodies, an umbrella and our poncho-wearing friends huddled en masse. The pace was kept steady and upbeat thanks to former Vivian Girls drummer Ali Koehler who blasted through each song, rain be dammed. Sad for both Best Coast and the audience that the set had to be experienced in a mudslide, but the group gave a solid showing despite the weather. Of course, as soon as Cosentino stopped playing, the skies cleared to reveal a double rainbow. - Kimberly Bellware

That rainbow didn't stick around for long since the rain returned just in time to douse the crowd during the Foo Fighters' festival closing set. Folks might have been soaked but their spirits were aflame as thousands of fists pumped along with smiling faces as the crowd took lead Foo Dave Grohl's energy and channeled into outright ecstasy. The weekend was filled with lots of solid performances, but the Foo Fighters stole the title of most memorable performance. Part of it was due to luck; how is thousands of rain soaked yet still super energetic fans not provide an indelible snapshot for the weekend? But most of the credit is due Grohl and his five man band managing to sound incredibly tight and polished while still managing to sneak an edge of rock and/or roll raggedness into every sound they made. Now let's see who can top them next year.- Tankboy