Web Toolbar by Wibiya Bears and Bullets: 2010-08-08

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday Bears: Lollapalooza 2010 Review - Day Three

With only one day left, and the weather turning for the worse, I took my final trip to Grant Park Sunday, August 8. Could Sunday turn my whole vacation into a pile of shit? No, not really.

Day Three:

Well, it really didn't start out too well. Early in the Chicago afternoon, the clouds had crossed over from the west, flooding the area with rain and heavy (emphasis on heavy here) winds. Leaving the Blue-Line train before noon, the rain began to careen, lets say, horizontally. Incidentally, my $5 umbrella snapped and I had to park myself inside a Barnes & Noble until it got better. Weather reports had rain in the area throughout the day, giving me two options: bitch and moan or just bear with it. I think it's pretty obvious at this point that I'd just deal with it.

Arriving slightly late, the rain lightening up a little and the wind calming, I tried to make the best of what was quickly becoming a terrible day. But I guess my luck hadn't run aptly dry just yet, because the clouds ended up subsiding. Take that every weather person that day.

Now if you read the first two parts of my review (you didn't) you'd know that I've grown to appreciate Perry's place more than the previous two years. So while day three started out a bit late, and the early schedule wasn't too much to fawn over, the long hours I spent at Perry's, jumping with crowds with the Felix Cartal, Didi Gutman and Nervo made even my down-time more than worth it.


Yeasayer were the first big act on my radar for the day, so after another mistaken trek to the opposite side of the park (something I did before last year), I made my way back to the Budweiser stage at the north side. The sun had hit its apex at this point, reaching above 90 degrees and glaring on the Brooklyn band. Despite the newfound heat, and Yeasayer lead-singer Chris Keating's affirmation that it "never rains on this band," the show was a bit average. Maybe it was the less-than crowd reception, or the deafening heat index, but one of my more eagerly anticipated bands really just didn't jump out that afternoon.


Again, I found myself stuck in a 5:00 p.m. dilemma. Erykah Badu or Frightened Rabbit? Well, if you guessed neither you'd end up being right. So, it was back to Perry's for another hour and half or so. It's worth noting that the real reason I didn't see Frightened Rabbit was because the crowd was way, way too large, by the way.

A couple more hours of Perry's under my belt, coupled with a nice surprise performance from JFK of MSTRKRFT, had changed the tone of my weekend completely. No longer had I been so compelled to run my head off, trying to catch at least a song out of every single act I had the slightest interest in, but to just relax, see who I really want, and go to Perry's in my down-time.


I was more tired than I ever, and The Temper Trap failed to interest me enough to weather their larger-than you may think fan base, so I settled with waiting patiently for the night's final two acts: The National and Arcade Fire.

Matt Beringer and the rest of The National don't have the usual bombast of bands playing into the night and closing out stages. It's pretty well-established that their type of sound is more casually wrought for the serene closed-door crowd, with songs like "Apartment Story" and "Lemonworld" finding more seams for quiet somberness than a 20,000-plus crowd. Regardless of whether the found fit the scenario, The National are too unique and too enriching to ignore. Plus, there's zero children there.

The National

Unfortunately, I had to leave the National set early to grab an at least "not so bad" seat for Arcade Fire, seeing as how Soundgarden didn't seem so big anymore, despite what ever 30-40 year old guy there would tell you. But whatever you've heard about the Arcade Fire's live performances, they're severely understated. The band, live, is an experience - an all-enriching oeuvre of lights, energy and a youthful orchestra of raw bliss that is not matched by many other acts. Truly, after the show, I was enthralled but not overwhelmed. Looking back, however, I understand now the sheer thrill I saw not only for myself and my friends, but every single other person there that day. It really was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Arcade Fire

And there it was; three days of pure joy, once again proving why I ever decided to go in the first place. As it is, again, I'll be counting down the days until Lollapalooza 2011. Hell, the dates are already set. See you again Chicago, August 5 - 7.

Best Performances: Arcade Fire, The National, Nervo, JFK
Worst Performances: Yeasayer

Highlights: "Crown of Love," by Arcade Fire, "Apartment Story," by the National
Lowlights: The overcrowding at the Sony Bloggie stage for Frightened Rabbit and The Temper Trap.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Thursday Bears: Lollapalooza 2010 Review - Day Two

Day one was an undoubted success, but if anyone is familiar with music festivals, that kind of success isn't usually long-lived. But while day two wasn't the jubilant adventure Friday, August 6 was, the dropoff was hardly noticeable. Already, 2010 was shaping up to surpass 2009.

Day Two:

The perfect weather from Friday carried over the next morning, so me waking up over an hour later than I had originally planned didn't put too much of the damper on the beginning of my day, although it did force me to miss The Morning Benders at noon. I took my first steps in Grant Park that day just fast enough to catch the beginning of Harlem's short set. Quirky, intimate and fun, the Tuscon trio crashed through quick hits from their 2008 debut Free Drugs and this year's Hippies. Although nothing really jumped out of the group's set, the show still proved to be very solid for the early afternoon.


Ubiquitously, apathy set in after my short leave from the Sony Bloggie stage. Wild Beasts and Rogue Wave were both competing for my half-assed attention, with the former winning out. Now while I can't say for certain that Wild Beasts played a good or bad set, I can pretty much tell you I didn't care either way. With that, and the fact that Stars continued to seem less and less appealing at the time, I did what anyone else would (or should) do; go to Perry's place before I grabbed a spot for Gogol Bordello.

It's within that time that I learned my first official lesson for Lollapalooza this year: when you're bored, don't hesitate, just go to Perry's. As pedestrian as it sounds, it really is a constant string of fun - no waiting, non-stop music and unavoidable freaks by the barrel-full. It'll be something to remember for next year.

Balkan Beat Box

And then there's Gogol Bordello. For those who aren't aware of my obsession with their live act, or their devoted, energetic fan-base, Gogol Bordello is one of the most intense, blissful and heavy-hitting live acts out there. And just like 2008, the band proved to be one of the best, if not the best, non-headlining act of the weekend. It's no wonder I've now seen them more than any other group in my life.

Exhausted, covered in sweat and confetti, I decided to forgo a spot for Deer Tick and grab a better one for Spoon. As it always seems to be around five and six o'clock, the crowds begin to swelter and gather in enumerable droves at the main stages. So what came of a nice relaxing spot in the grass quickly grew into a choke-gasm behind the festival's seemingly tallest fans (they were all friends, who would have thought?).

Spoon, by the time they had begun, had proved once again that waiting is usually worth it. The Austin natives played through most of their catalog, from 1998's Series of Sneaks all the way up to this year's Transference, with the set mostly focusing from their previous two albums. Again, it wasn't a set that "blew" people away, that's not the kind of music Spoon plays, but it was eerily pitch perfect, long-lasting and invigorating all in the same time.


With the sun beginning to set on the Chicago skyline, I only had a few choices left for the night: starve to death, see a bit of Cut Copy or wait for Phoenix. Well, I hate starving, so I got that out of the way first, and wedged a spot for Cut Copy. Apparent sound problems drove me out after the group opened up with "Lights and Music," so I made my way back to where I started. It's worth noting that Cut Copy's show was apparently one of the best of the entire festival.

I may have lost my pristine-ish spot for Phoenix, but even from where I was (not too much further back than before) I saw perhaps the best show of the entire weekend. Coming in, knowing well that this was set to be the largest show in the band's ten-year career, and the fact that they supposedly weren't going to be a headliner prior to the festival's lineup announcement, Phoenix blew all my doubts right out the window. Spanning from the group's debut album United to last year's Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (still the backdrop to their shows). While I'm not sure their big enough to still headline other festivals, they certainly are capable of doing so.

Phoenix backdrop

With two fantastic days behind me, I left the park, my fingers crossed until Sunday.

Best Performances: Phoenix, Gogol Bordello
Worst Performances: Wild Beasts

Highlight: "Start Wearing Purple," by Gogol Bordello, "Written in Reverse," by Spoon, "Love Like a Sunset" and "Playground Love" (Air cover) by Phoenix.
Lowlight: None

Day Three Review Tomorrow

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Wednesday Bears: Lollapalooza 2010 Review - Day One

Lollapalooza 2010 has come and gone. And as with every year, I'll post my day-by-day in depth review of everything that happened, to me at least.

Day One:

By now, I feel comfortable calling myself a Lolla veteran. Despite the new shake-ups organizers made to the park - moving some stages and increasing size and ticket revenue - certain things about the festival have now become somewhat predictable. Now that's not me saying that I don't enjoy my time, because I certainly do, but the surprise factor has somewhat been diminished. Regardless, August 6, the festival's first full day, was one of the best I've ever had the privilege of being a part of.

The sun was out in pristine blue sky, as Chicago usually seems to this time of year, at a hot, but bearable 80 degrees. Walking in I noticed two distinct things that we're a bit different: one; the size expansion. The Lolla-area had been extended to Michigan Avenue, allowing several stages their own space, more bathrooms and easier in and out access to the park. The other was the overwhelming amount of Lady Gaga fans. They had come in black and pink droves, with colored hair, flaring costumes and skin-tight everything, parking themselves at the south side of the park for the entire day, hoping to save a seat in the enormous crowd that was growing throughout the day. It was a big change of pace for a festival that had never billed a pure mainstream pop act of this caliber. For once, the festival wasn't a haven for mislabeled hipsters and older fans looking for a fun weekend. More on that later.

So, officially, my third Lollapalooza began with Wavves at around noon. For those familiar with the band and their studio work, you'd understand the risks seeing them. Luckily, or in another sense, predictably, the band is better live than advertised. With a weekend short on surprising acts, Wavves was a good start. The noise rock trio, headed by notorious frontman Nate Williams, were a bit out there (if you know the cover of their King of the Beach album you can pretty much figure it out) for the majority of the show, accusing fans for being Ben Stein and whatnot, but they settled into their own, making them a bit more endearing than before.


Leaving Wavves with a little time to spare, I made my way to the opposite end of the park to catch the Walkmen, the first of my many heavily anticipated performances. While the first five minutes of the show were clouded with immense, for some reason, technical difficulties, the band broke into with the first of many new tracks from their upcoming album Lisbon.

Decked in their usual casual yet formal clothing, the group, thanks most to Hamilton Leithauser's booming vocals, gave maybe the best early performance of the day, mixing in new work and more familiar singles like "In the New Year" and "The Rat" throughout the show. All in all, a pretty damn good start for just being 2:00 p.m.

The Walkmen

My eventual down-time was few and far between, but between 2:00 and 4:00 I had my first breather. I took short trips to see Ana Sia, my first visit to the updated Perry's Place, and a couple minutes with noise-gaze trio Cymbals Eat Guitars, but eventually found myself waiting for the New Pornographers to start.

Kicking off with my favorite song of theirs, "Sing Me Spanish Techno," Neko Case (draped in a sun-protecting hat), AC Newman, Dan Bejar (who came in and out often) and the rest of the group performed almost every hit they've had in their near ten-year careers, spanning from 2001's Mass Romantic to this year's Together. Needless to say, the group sounded flawless on stage, despite the direct sunlight on Case's fair frame. Friday afternoon had again spurned what would turn out to be one of the weekend's best shows.

The New Pornographers

Once 5:00 rolled around, I was caught in my first of several weekend dilemmas. Do I stay at the north side of the park and catch the Dirty Projectors? Or Fuck Buttons? Well, I knew I wasn't going to Matt & Kim on the south side so there wasn't too much worry there, so I tried my time at both and wound up just grabbing my spot for Hot Chip.

It's unfortunate to note that this was probably the only stain on day one. As I mentioned before, the plethora of Gaga fans camping out at the south end of the park eventually begun to choke the area around the main stage. And by 6:00 any person hoping to grab a spot for either Hot Chip or Gaga had to really manage their way through the sidelines. It's a shame too, because the group put on one of the best shows of the weekend, but half of time I was trying not to bump shoulders with 40,000 others. Still, it was another great show for the day.

With the first night a few hours away from closing, I geared up for day one's headliner, The Strokes. I stayed a short time at Jamie Lidell's bearded and disheveled performance, trying to rest my legs in anticipation of two and half hours of straight standing (and/or jumping). Yeah, it didn't really do much to help.

Jamie Lidell

For those who weren't aware, or don't regularly read this thing, this was the first show the Strokes had done in the United States in nearly four years. While there wasn't any new material to speak of (could be a good or a bad thing), the band seemed like they haven't spent too much time apart, performing almost their entire track list from Is This It? and several other songs from their last two albums. It's hard-pressed for Lolla headliners to put on disappointing performances, and aside from the late start and somewhat early exit (making a scheduled hour and half show into an hour and 10 minute show), The Strokes easily delivered. So for fans electing to, or adamant about staying away from anything Gaga, their night ended pretty well.

The Strokes

Best Performances: The Strokes, The New Pornographers, Hot Chip, The Walkmen
Worst Performances: None

Highlights: "Reptilia" by the Strokes, "Bleeding Heart Show" by The New Pornographers and "In the New Year" by The Walkmen
Lowlights: The Gaga crowd at Hot Chip

Day Two Review Tomorrow ...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Tuesday Bears: Back from Chicago

Well, as it always unfortunately is, Lollapalooza must come to its end. I'll post my in-depth three day review later. But for now, enjoy.

Semi-Precious Weapons (with Gaga)