Web Toolbar by Wibiya Bears and Bullets: 2009-08-09

Friday, August 14, 2009

Lollapalooza 2009 Review (Day Three)

After soaking in the rousing success that was day two of Lollapalooza I boarded the Chicago Blue Line Sunday morning anticipating (or at least hoping) for day three to be as good. While the headlining acts of Jane's Addiction and the Killers may be a bit lacking in my opinion, the rest of the schedule was stocked full of notable acts that I could hardly wait to see.

Day Three:

Taking the short walk to Grant Park I noticed the sun was bearing down much harder than the day before, reaching the mid-90's by early afternoon. With sweat and sunscreen on my face, I took to the Chicago 2016 stage to catch Syracuse indie-pop group Ra Ra Riot. The band, only in their second year of existence, played mostly from their full-length debut The Rhumb Line, released last year. The limited amount of material may have held them back a bit, but the on-stage product remained an early-day delight for many of the fans who stood patiently in the sweltering heat.

Ra Ra Riot

As the female counterparts of the band, Alexandra Lawn and Rebecca Zeller, careened their string instruments through the band's songs, strong likeness of The Shins and the fanciful pop of the Arcade Fire remained prevalent. While this charmed the aesthetics of many, a little maturity would suit the group well. In a few year's the band could be filling a steadier spot in the festival line-up, but as of now they still have a bit of growing to do.

After a small break I made my way towards to the Vitamin water stage to catch English via Pakistan act Bat for Lashes. Natasha Khan's powerful harmonizing voice resembles something of early listener friendly Bjork, touching the subject of mythical and imaginative love in songs like "Sleep Alone" and "Siren Song."

Bat for Lashes

A moment of surreality came when Natasha's voice rose so far that the Chicago winds blew the tarps completely off the stage, to which Khan gently commented, "Whoops" garnering a laugh from the crowd. The show, despite the raging heat and uncontrollable winds, went off extremely well, showcasing Khan's on-stage talents and irresistible charms.

After taking a small walk around for food and a meet and greet with Natasha herself, I hurried back to the Vitamin water stage just in time to snag a spot for Baltimore electronica dynamo Dan Deacon. His shows were rumored to be fantastical events where fans get riled up into furious frenzies of excitement and energy, and his Lollapalooza appearance definitely proved those remarks true. The show started off fairly normal, with Deacon getting the crowd going with "Get Older" off this year's Bromst LP. From then on the energy continued to climb and climb, with Deacon getting into the crowd, making them yell, hold each other, form tunnels, and dance around a circle, along with bringing out the What Cheer? Brigade as he orchestrated an intense ending show climax with "Of the Mountains" and "Crystal Cat."

Dan Deacon with The What Cheer? Brigade

Fans from faraway could see the sheer amount of people bursting through the crowd, as countless numbers of them proceeded to crowd-surf their way to the front as streams of bottles, floats, and toilet paper streamed through the air. The final result was impossibly satisfying, as sweaty fans drudged their way away from the stage (like myself) physically and mentally exhausted from what they have just experienced. And while I may have known what I was getting myself into, I'm still at awe of what I witnessed. Unlike anything else in my concert going experiences, Dan Deacon's shows are a must not for just electronica and indie music fans, but for anyone who has the nerve to they could have a better time somewhere else.

Drained, I elected to skip Vampire Weekend (who had already started their set at the nearby Chicago 2016 stage) and instead grab a nice spot for indie-pop upstarts Passion Pit at the Citi stage. My total exhaustion (along with the massive crowd) forced me to take a 15 minute breather in the nearby grass. As I collected myself the Citi stage crowd grew and grew, proving a miscalculation by concert organizers (see; Girl Talk 2008).

Passion Pit

After I collected myself, the band rounded out their hour-long set with two of my favorites "Sleepyhead," and a song that proved to be my favorite of the day, "The Reeling." Afterwards, while legions people fled to the South and North sides of the park to catch Snoop Dogg and Lou Reed (another hard decision to skip), I grabbed a good spot for Atlanta group Deerhunter. Technical disturbances (again, Citi stage) became a bit of a problem at the beginning as making out much of what frotman Bradford Cox said became a bit difficult. Half-way through the show Cox came out of his shell, throwing out witty banter discussing his talent, making fun of Tool, and how sick he truly is.


The set was full of Deerhunter favorites, including; "Nothing Ever Happens," "Little Kids," "Vox Celeste," and the very new "Circulation," off the group's new Rainwater Cassette Exchange EP. One cannot ignore Cox indelable on-stage charisma and humor as he frequently took credit for writing other artists songs. "This is a song we wrote in 1965 called 'Heroin,' " Cox said. "After that we'll play a song we wrote in 1967 called 'What Goes On.' Then we'll play a song we wrote in 1992 called 'Gin n' Juice'" (remarking how the fans elected to skip both Reed and Snoop Dogg to see his band instead). Full of humor and solid songs, Deerhunter's set was another solid show, which makes me regret more and more that I did not go to Deerhunter, No Age, and Dan Deacon's aftershow later that night.

After a short trip over to Perry's Tent to catch MSTRKRFT (and a surprise encounter will Chicago Bull's starting center Joakim Noah) I trecked back to the South side of the park for one of the last shows of the festival from the Killers. As it stands now I was somewhat unaware of how much I actually dislike the Killers music. After only two songs I couldn't take the mediocrity of 80's ideologies and left the show to catch (ironically another 80's band) Jane's Addiction. Again, I choose to leave and instead spent most of my final night at Perry's Tent during Deadmau5's set.

As for Perry's, I have not given the stage a fair assessment yet. For the most part the acts and set-up blew away last year's, proving endless entertainment for electro fanatics. Fans loved it and even fair-weather fans frequented the area. To those who opt to see only main-stage acts you're seriously missing out on one of the festival's shining achievements.

Exhausted yet again, my legs torn from constant walking and dancing, the final night of Lollapalooza 2009 came to an inevitable close. And while it's always so sad to see it go, the amount of joy recieved is hard pressed to be replicated. At this point it is obvious to why I've become such a fan-boy of the annual festival, and I think it goes without question that I'll be doing the same next year.

By the way, the dates have already been set up for 2010; August 6-8. Tickets with be available on the 17th. And to whom is rumored to headline next year? Bjork, The Arcade Fire, and The White Stripes appear to be strong contenders.

Best Performances: Dan Deacon, Deerhunter, Deadmau5, Bat for Lashes
Worst Performances: Killers

Highlight: "Of the Mountains" and "Crystal Cat" by Dan Deacon. "The Reeling" by Passion Pit.
Lowlight: The Killers ending the festival.

Counting down the days until Lollapalooza 2010 ...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Lollapalooza 2009 Review (Day Two)

While day one of Lollapalooza 2009 proved to be very disappointing for the most part, day two more than made up for it

Day Two:

The weather was perfect, contrary to Friday, with a steady stream of sunlight cascading on Grant Park throughout the day. Along with the much welcomed weather, the line-up picked up the slack significantly with much anticipated acts like Animal Collective, TV on the Radio, Lykke Li, Santigold, and headliners Tool and Yeah Yeah Yeahs, among dozens of other notable acts set to round out the night.

At around 11:45 AM, roughly an hour earlier than the day before, I entered the park with a much more attentive smile on my face. The mud had all but disappeared from the park grounds while lines for concessions and bathrooms were completely absent. In those first few moments it was almost as if I had already had a better time than the day before.

My first venture took me back to the Playstation stage - where Andrew Bird finished the previous night - to check out the quirky New England four-piece Ezra Furman & The Harpoons. The group proved to be one of the best pre-noon acts of the festival as Furman enchanted the crowd in a suggested ironic raincoat as he spouted clever stories with his Gordon Gano-esque voice.

Ezra Furman & The Harpoons

As 12:15 drew near, I made my short walk to the Budweiser stage where I was asked by a grey-bearded older gentlemen for the time. In yet another lapse of deluded ignorance, I had no idea I was talking to Chicago rock poet-laureate Thax Douglas, who introduced the next act on my schedule, Delta Spirit.

The poem (from Thax's Myspace), entitled "Delta Spirit No. 3" went:

"like caramel drizzlings on the skin the brands glow dully whenever the body needs to cook a new version of itself- the fresh new body is vain of the brands which its fingers read as birthmarks tattooed by God, the brands taking a much needed vacation by riding the new body's vanity until their services are needed." -8/7/09 Schuba's.

My bewildered face was quickly erased once Matt Vasquez and the rest of the San Diego rock/blues group took the stage. Although they addressed the fact that they never played such a large crowd before, the group thoroughly impressed. Vasquez stands out as one of those rare true rock frontmen that has such a foregoing attitude that the outstanding music being played behind him almost seems to fulfill his true nature as a traveling bluesman.

Delta Spirit

The set closed with an amazing rendition of "People, Turn Around" as Chicago Cubs super-fan Ronnie Woo Woo (apparently, he's a big Delta Spirit fan) made his way through the crowd. At this time, Lollapalooza promoters sent me a text informing that rock & roll legend Buddy Guy was set to appear at the Kidzapalooza stage to perform alongside child guitar-prodigy Quinn Sullivan at 1:30.

A chance to see Guy enticed me enough to run to the stage, which seemed to be a mistake considering the heat. However, Guy didn't make the appearance on time and I was (almost) forced to listen to Sullivan, a child who's talents are more than admirable, but is still a 12 year-old kid. Needless to say, the child's songs about his guitar, how much he likes guitar, and about how he wishes it was 1973 again, tested my patience.

After an angry departure I decided to get a good spot for Minneapolis rap group Atmosphere at the Chicago 2016 stage. For those familiar with the schedule at this time I elected to pass up Animal Collective's DJ Set at Perry's and British indie-pop group Los Campesinos! on the opposite end of the park. Still, as I may regret missing Campesinos! a little, Atmosphere put on a spectacular show. Slug's rhyme's are chaotically intrinsic, full of challenging imagery and skill that would more than likely put any other MC at this year's festival (mostly Asher Roth) to shame.


After Atmosphere's extra long 16 song set, I grabbed my first (and last) food of the day, a bratwurst with grilled onions, which proved to be the only good food I bought during the whole festival. I made my way to the Citi stage to catch Ipod friendly group Chairlift as my friends and I accidentally met up. They shortly departed to catch Coheed & Cambria while I waded through the spacey twee of the Brooklyn trio. The short, sweet set was clouded by enormous feedback and tiny technical disturbances that made making out anything Caroline Polachek said a bit of a struggle. Still, fans seemed to enjoy themselves enough, especially during "Bruises," one of the better songs of the day.


Soon after, Dean Spunt and Randy Randall of No Age made their way to the Citi stage, with Randall sitting in a chair for the entire show as the result of a dislocated shoulder from the night before. The Southern California noise-rock duo brought with them a following of musicians including Deerhunter's Bradford Cox and TV on the Radio's Tunde Adebimpe and Dave Sitek listening on the sidelines, not to mention a group of avid fans (one so avid that he ran on stage, danced, gave Spunt a note, and dove back into the crowd nearly untouched by security). The show, despite Randall's handicap, was vibrant and loud, full of jumpy singles from the band's 2008 album Nouns and 2007's Weirdo Rippers.

No Age

Exhausted and my ears ringing, I filled my water bottles and moved to the opposite side of the park to grab a spot for TV on the Radio. The north side of the park at this time was immensely packed from people seeing Santigold at the Playstation stage and the Arctic Monkeys at the Budweiser stage. Trudging through was difficult, but my efforts were rewarded as I squeezed into a spot on the right side of the stage (same method I use every time).

As Santi's set ended (with a invigorating version of "Creator") TV on the Radio opened up with Dear Science's "Love Dog." The atmosphere surrounding the collective sound was lush with Dave Sitek's acutely organized feedback and backing rhythm section while Adebimpe and Kyp (the beard) Mylone took control of center stage. Adebimpe seemed to fall into his own, commanding stage as a modern Mick Jagger, effortlessly shifting from Dear Science and Return to Cookie Mountain, to the band's earlier work from the group's 2003 Young Liars EP. If I were to be brash I'd say in another couple years there's almost no doubt that TV on the Radio could achieve headline status.

TV on the Radio

The group closed out with a perfect "Staring at the Sun," that still remains possibly the best song of the festival. With the group sending off and Ben Harper and The Relentless 7 starting off close by the hardest decision of my weekend came; do I wait and get a great spot for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (the only headline act I anticipated) or do I venture across the park and get a little of Animal Collective's show (who, for those that regularly read my posts, will note was my most anticipated act of the festival)? I elected the former, passing up what many regarded as a good show from Animal Collective in order to save my spot.

My patience once again was justly rewarded, as I witnessed arguably the best show of the festival with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Karen O., possibly the best frontwoman in music today, graced the stage in an obscure yet fitting Native American headdress, starting the show with "Runaway" from this year's It's Blitz! LP. The show only got better as the group scattered gems from It's Blitz!, 2006's Show Your Bones, and their spectacular 2003 debut Fever to Tell.

Karen frequently addressed the band replacing the originally scheduled Beastie Boys (guitarist Nick Zinner even played a riff from "So What'cha Want" from the Beastie's 1992 album Check Your Head) and how shocked they were to be there. None the less, the show was extraordinary. The trio filled the headline spot easily as jubilation from the fans filled the air when the group performed their hits "Heads Will Roll," "Zero," and a very special "Maps" in which Karen O. cheerily forgot the words to her most famous song.

In all, day two embarrassingly surpassed day one. The music was nearly perfect along with the weather and fans, creating an unforgettable atmosphere in the park. And with my luck still prevailing that trend would continue to day three.

Best Performances: Yeah Yeah Yeahs, TV on the Radio, Delta Spirit
Worst Performances: Quinn Sullivan

Highlight: "Staring at the Sun" by TV on the Radio
Lowlight: Skipping Animal Collective.

Day Three Review Tomorrow

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Lollapalooza 2009 Review (Day One)

After months and months of predicting, planning, and effort, my second annual trek to Chicago's Lollapalooza music festival has come to an exhausting close.

A week ago at this time my friends and I were making our trip through the darkness of Pennsylvania as we spanned nearly one-third of the country in a single car to Illinois. Alas, the efforts always have their benefits, because there's nothing like Chicago in the middle of summer; it's vibrant, hot, serene, and cool on a constant basis.

Day one of the festival, however, did not follow the regular pattern.

Day One:

Lollapalooza 2008 could not have gone off better - with a median temperature of 83 degrees and sunshine on all three days, there were no worries on the weather's part. But imagine my disappointment when I took my first steps into Grant Park in nearly a year and rain began to fall. Heading into the weekend I already knew that day one would more than likely end up being the weakest day of the festival, with paltry upper-tier artists like The Decemberists and Thievery Corporation taking to the large stages in the early evening and lack-luster (in my opinion) headliners Depeche Mode and Kings of Leon - coupled with the poor weather, the day proved to be one of the least enjoyable in recent Lollapalooza memory.

However, even on the weakest day there were some nice highlights. The first act of the festival I made my way to was Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears. The Texas group appeared at the festival last year, however, because of schedule conflicts with The Kills and Gogol Bordello, I regretfully missed their performance.

Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears

The group made the most of the early day show, with the charismatic Lewis leading the way through the light rain. The blues/funk ensemble played through their hits from the band's 2008 self-titled EP and this year's full-length Tell 'Em What Your Name Is! including wonderful renditions of "I'm Broke," "Get Yo Shit," and a very special "Bitch, I Love You." Weather withstanding, at this point of the day things were still looking bright.

From there, however, things began to spiral downward. My friends and I made our way to the Citi stage on the south side of the park to see Amazing Baby, a band with listenable studio material, but seriously lacking stage-presence. The songs were loose and the band members seemed too lost in themselves to take seriously. In short, leaving the set (that proved to be the worst of the entire festival) was one of the easiest choices of my weekend.

A steady stream of disappointment began to take over as the amount of rain, mud, and massive crowds all increased. While waiting for Bon Iver I listened to Bruce Springsteen cop-outs The Gaslight Anthem at the south side of the park. I now find my stupidity at the time outstanding, as I had forgotten that Bon Iver's show would take place at the north side of the park. So, as I paced through the crowds, my umbrella only covering my head and shoulders, I made it to the Playstation stage only to find an enormous crowd already waiting. At this point, the rain was still not relenting and the day was continually getting worse.

As the legions of Bon Iver faithful left the puddle-filled area of the PlayStation stage, I stood pat waiting for Fleet Foxes 5:00 performance. The rain, still going strong, left fans drenched and shivering, impatient for something to turn their day around. While Fleet Foxes weren't the stand-out highlight of day one, they certainly put on one of Friday's better performances. The Seattle band, only a year after gaining prominence from the band's Sun Giant EP and eponymous full-length debut, fit seamlessly with the cloudy Chicago day. Half-way into the group's set the rain finally began to part and along with it the ever-pressing allusion of disappointment.

Fleet Foxes

As Fleet Foxes closed their set with "Mykonos" and "Blue Ridge Mountains," two songs that have become obvious crowd favorites, fans drove out of the area to catch the aforementioned Decemberists, Of Montreal, and Peter Bjorn and John, while I made my way towards the front of the Playstation stage for the heavily anticipated Andrew Bird set.

By the time the Chicago native took the stage the rain had become a light mist, and soon dissipated completely. While I only took in roughly seven acts on the first day, Bird easily topped them all. The musical virtuoso showed his immense talents swapping between violin and guitar, whistling songs from 2005's Mysterious Production of Eggs to this year's Noble Beast, with a can't miss rendition of "Scythian Empires" from 2007's Armchair Apocrypha.

Andrew Bird

I was lucky enough to meet Mr. Bird after the show, as Kings of Leon took over the nearby Budweiser stage. The band, while providing crowd-friendly rock music, did not seem to fit so well in the headlining spot - just not quite yet.

Walking through the park, which had finally resembled something close to "dry," at the end of day one, a legion of visually drunk bros could be spotted at every turn. The day closed out fairly well, compared to the early afternoon, but I couldn't help but fear that this may be what the rest of the festival turns out be. Thankfully, my fears never came to fruition.

Best Performances: Andrew Bird, Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears, Fleet Foxes
Worst Performances: Amazing Baby, The Gaslight Anthem, Kings of Leon

Highlight: "Scythian Empires" by Andrew Bird
Lowlight: Finding out Bon Iver was too crowded to even see the performance.

Day Two Review Tomorrow

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Welcome Back

It'll take me a little to get situated, but I'm finally back from a long, exhausting, hot Chicago weekend.

Photos and videos will also be uploaded.