Friday, August 12, 2011
I rarely meet Sunday, the final day of Lollapalooza, with aggressive eagerness. The varied anticipation is usually mulled by paramount exhaustion and the daunting fact that, well, it's all but over. In previous years, the final night had been met by the weekend's most anticipated acts, like Arcade Fire last year, and Kanye West in 2008. This year, organizers found it befitting that Deadmau5, the first headlining electronic act since Daft Punk in 2007, would close out the north side, while modern rock staples Foo Fighters set the night on the south. What they didn't have in mind, unfortunately, was the timely monsoon that would set in on the skyline.
Waking up early, nothing but grey rain was visible through my hotel window. For a festival sweltering with enough people, it's bad enough, but at Grant Park, which has a tendency to get muddy with even the slightest bit of water, it's a potential disaster. Keep in mind, a little (or a lot) of mud and rain won't hurt anybody, but it will absolutely destroy your phone, wallet, and whatever else you have in your pocket at the time, as it did my Ipod (temporarily).
Luckily, after a quick shower, light had shone through and the sky was completely blue again - a perfect start to the day, which began thankfully with Titus Andronicus.
The New Jersey (hey) art punks shone on the brightest part of Sunday afternoon, which may not be terribly befitting to the band's post-civil war era - if there ever was such a thing - punk. The group raced through tracks from their first two albums, starting with fan favorite "A More Perfect Union." It was an unfortunately abrupt set, but that's what you get for a 12:45 main stage billing. Still, the show was insatiable, even though the sounds do more justice in an enclosed area for longer.
The next few hours were a spaced mix of Perry's casual curiosity and dragged exhaustion after days of dancing, screaming, and pushing with little to no sleep to speak of. Daedelus did a fine early afternoon show, but those common household assholes made their way around to Cool Kids, making yet another insufferable Perry's experience. It's a shame for an act that seemed to so effortlessly control the crowd and feed off their energy, but I couldn't get out fast enough.
Gathering time to collect myself, the first shroud of death clouds crept over the Chicago skyline, raining through nearly the entirety of Best Coast's late-afternoon set. While my friends chose to spend their hours in the mud on the park's south side, I was spent for shelter. It wasn't until 7 p.m., when Manchester Orchestra took the same stage that rain had eventually died out and I gave it another go around.
Now, I can't go on the record proclaiming I'm actually a fan of Manchester Orchestra - I've never given them a shot, nor have seen them the numerous times they've appeared at Lollapalooza. In fact, since 2006, no single artist (aside from Perry Farrell himself, which shouldn't count) has appeared at the festival more than Manchester Orchestra, a total of four times. Regardless, the group puts on a fine, if not-to-describable show.
Leaving early was key for grabbing a spot for Deadmau5, considering the shit-storm of mud and garbage that had glossed over the park at that point. And like predictable clock-work, the rain cloud of all rain clouds set in. Now, as I said before, a little rain and mud can't hurt anybody (unless you drown, but, come on), but it will destroy your electronic equipment if you can't protect it. Call it whatever you want, but I wasn't risking all of my possessions being destroyed, Deadmau5 or not. So, I booked it out of there in time to save my stuff (except my clothes, which belong to the trash gods now).
Some people can deal with it, I clearly can't. It's absolutely unfortunate what happened, but at the very least I have solace knowing I took every moment in that weekend before that. I would say that the rain ruined that end, but everything leading up to that point was still a success, so I can't gripe too much.
So, that's the end. Four years in, I feel absolutely normal riding the blue line train into center city in the morning, as if my commute to work. I've fallen in love with the city and the festival over the years, and 2011 was no exception. And with luck, 2012 will be the same. Speaking of, if you haven't heard, the dates for next year are already scheduled: August 3 - 5. If all goes as planned, I'll be doing this all over again.
Best Performances: Titus Andronicus
Worst Performances: Weather
Highlight: "A More Perfect Union," by Titus Andronicus
Lowlight: What do you think?
Hey, no more Lollapalooza posts for a while? Deal.
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Day one went well, for the most part, but would that trend last through Saturday? My Morning Jacket were set to play later that night, who if you may recall, were my most anticipated act of this year's festival, as were a handful of others earlier in the day. And as far as streaks go, Lollapalooza's second day always turns out well, so the odds were in my favor.
The early afternoon sun was quickly covered by an earthy grey overcast, setting doubts that rain would be at any point avoidable. Through J Roddy Waltson and the Business' noon set on the north side, the rain luckily strayed away. The Baltimore four-piece received a modest crowd on a stage that they're likely not used to, but rampaged through sets of hard-nosed blues. Waltson, the band's lead, mashed his way through Little Richard covers and some of the group's more well-known spins, including "Used to Did," the band's first single. Lollapalooza organizers did good justice to record this themselves, which you can watch below.
J Roddy Waltson and the Business
Unlike Friday, Saturday wasn't totally over-saturated with scheduling conflicts, and the split between J Roddy Waltson and Friendly Fires served a better purpose. The rain unfortunately did amass, but nothing more than a short spray between sets. The Hertfordshire (UK) group were a bit of a surprise to me, despite hearing both of their previous albums and their numerous appearances on BBC, I was unsure of what to expect from a live show.
In the group's second venture to Lollapalooza, the performance was more than what I hopefully expected. Frontman Ed Macfarlane is single-handily enough to see, but the group's power-blast dance rock only fueled one of the weekend's most fun sets. Macfarlane danced through each and every note, while giving the crowd even more incentive to by jumping in a few times. Some bands just don't do well in a festival setting, with wide open air and sunlight - Friendly Fires, on the other hand, excel in this type of setting, and are worth seeing whenever they come around.
Ed Macfarlance of Friendly Fires
A short walk away, I got ready for one of my favorite acts of the year - Black Lips. I talk about them enough as it is, so a synopsis isn't totally necessary. The band's insane. The stage was covered in puke and beer, while the more "into it" fans found it easier to throw their fists here than at any other show during the weekend. A large portion of the crowd were just casual onlookers, but I couldn't help myself getting into the fights, which included one for one of the band's broken guitars. I unfortunately lost that fight, but this guy didn't.
We were all winners
Gleefully exhausted, I took the short trek back to the same stage where Friendly Fires performed to catch Death From Above 1979. I've heard that their shows were loud, but the actual thing was ridiculous. Sebastien Granger yells, yells, and yells to ear-cracking extremes while Jesse Keeler's thundering bass makes any guitar sound almost pathetic. The show definitely isn't for everyone, but for a few hundred (or thousand) rabid fans it was exactly what they wanted. The duo is better suited in an enclosed setting, but a lot of the show still proved to be endearing.
Granger from DFA gets around sign language
Much like the day before, the Sony stage on the park's south side for Local Natives was literally choked with far, far too many people. Arriving at any point other than 10 minutes before it started pretty much guaranteed you a less than ideal spot. I took it as a time to relax and just listen nearby, rather than struggle in the mid-day heat.
Live, the band is a total joy, as was their set at Pitchfork in 2010. The limited source material actually served the band surprisingly well, with only a few onlookers not knowing what to expect. Still, the group hasn't released anything since 2009's Gorilla Manor, which is odd a band playing anything but a closing set.
Local Natives - Who Knows Who Cares (Live at Lollapalooza 2011)
Rather than squander my chances by checking over a few other acts, I opted to grab an early spot for My Morning Jacket. Thanks mostly to Eminem, who was playing on the opposite side of the park that night, but there may have never been a smaller crowd for a headlining act in recent Lollapalooza history. Literally getting from the back to the near front is an impossible feat for any closing act, but it was relatively easy that Saturday night. Thankfully, it only enhanced the atmosphere for fans of the band, who would have gladly opted for a more comfortable setting, compared to Eminem's slew of mud-drenched fans.
Live, MMJ are a must, for any and every festival. The band is pitch perfect, masterful instrumentalists who are fully capable of putting on an awe-inspiring show, and Saturday wasn't an exception. Blasting through over 20 songs throughout the band's catalog, the closing "One Big Holiday" became the staple of the entire weekend, which you can watch below (I'm also in the video for a split second).
My Morning Jacket - One Big Holiday (Live at Lollapalooza 2011)
Again, another success story. Find out tomorrow how the festival's final day turned out.
Best Performances: My Morning Jacket, Black Lips, Friendly Fires
Worst Performances: None
Highlight: "One Big Holiday," "Wordless Chorus," and "Mahgeeta" by My Morning Jacket. "Bad Kids," by Black Lips
Lowlight: Local Natives' all too enormous crowd, missing The Glitch Mob.
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Four years up, four years down. If there was any hesitation that I had become a festival regular at this point, it's been thoroughly tossed aside. With every new expansion of the park, there's still the staples: That smell from the mud on the south side, the BMI stage being consistently empty, the north side offering crowd size relief, lines at Kuma's, etc.
But with Lollapalooza's 20th Anniversary, there were some notable changes. First and foremost was the newly expanded Perry's Place, which in four years had expanded from a small gathering to the football field-sized cave. Over those years, festival organizers (and notably Perry Farrell himself) have done a lot for electronica music, growing and moving the stage every year, gathering bigger and bigger acts. In addition, with the size growth, the largest Lolla crowd ever (270,000 + fence jumpers over all three days) didn't seem as overwhelming as it had in years past, sans for a few way, way too overcrowded acts (Foster the People).
Festival-goers noted that day one was easily the most crowded booking of all three days, with enormous acts laced throughout the schedule, causing numerous scheduling conflicts. For me, it all started with The Vaccines.
The much-hyped UK act had a very early slot on the first day, sitting comfortably on the south side's main stage. I don't quite know what it is, but the first act I see every year usually delivers, and the group was no exception. Pacing through nearly their entire debut album (closing with "Norgaard"), the four-piece put on at the very least a solid show, setting the trend for early Friday afternoon.
After a small break, Delta Spirit were set to play on the same stage. Already familiar with the act after seeing them at Lolla two years ago, I knew kinda what to expect - a rowdier than thou spectacle befitting a band with a little more publicity to back up their name. Live, the band is in another world of exceptional, baiting singles here and there with lead-singer Matthew Vasquez easily leading the crowd. Sure, there were a handful of Muse fans here and there, with just permanent frows of disappointment that they weren't listening to Muse yet (they played the same stage later that night), but they couldn't take away from an outstanding show, led by an incredibly enigmatic front-man. With all respect, if you missed this show, you missed one of the best of the weekend - bar none.
What followed next was a series of glory and frustration, all at Perry's. Through Feed Me, Bloody Beetroots Death Crew 1977, and Skrillex, I was immersed in a shroud of deluded assholes, genuinely nice people, and then many more assholes. The Bloody Beetroots Death Crew 1977 proved to actually be one of the weekend's all-around best acts, far and away, but wading through Feed Me and Skrillex's crowd was unbearable. It in itself explained this year's greatest flaw and asset - the Perry's crowd.
Looking around the tent's outside, one could easily see throngs of kids in large groups - far too large to have traveled far distances. It's apt that the bros would only hang around the other local bros, because that was all they cared to see, aside from Eminem the next night. It's no coincidence, however, that because of this the shows outside of Perry's were for the most part very comfortable and easy to manage. Still, it's an absolute shame that the generic Perry's crowd dragged down the atmosphere of the park.
After a sweaty stagger away from the tent, I crossed shortly over to catch Crystal Castles' set. After a notoriously poor showing in 2009, the set was plagued with technical problems. Alice Glass' mic was continually cut off or spaced out, with the show ending a few minutes early. Still, the crowd seemed more than pleased, despite the clear difficulties, with the duo ending the set with "Not in Love," one of the best songs of the weekend. It's somewhat apparent that this is more of an indoor, late night band, rather than one playing for an oversized crowd of casual onlookers. Maybe the festival scene just isn't right for them.
For the first time in the festival's Chicago history, four headliners would close out the night. The near 100,000 Friday fans were split among the aforementioned Muse on the south side, Girl Talk at Perry's, Coldplay on the north side, or Ratatat at the smaller Google+ stage. I gladly opted for the smaller act, with a much better guaranteed seat.
Ratatat is truly an act better seen in the dark, as was evident with their performance at Coachella. While the fireworks and light shows were meant for Muse and Coldplay, Ratatat gave a fine light show performance tucked in Grant Park's corner. It likely didn't have the bravado of the two other acts' already well-established shows, but it did prove to be a nice outlet for those who don't really care for them.
Aside from the occasional asshole, Friday was an astounding success, just like the previous years (sans 2009). Tomorrow, I'll be posting my Saturday review.
Best Performances: Delta Spirit, Bloody Beetroots Death Crew 1977, Ratatat
Worst Performances: Crystal Castles
Highlight: "Bushwick Blues," by Delta Spirit. "Warp 1.9," by Bloody Beetroots Death Crew 1977. "Not In Love," by Crystal Castles. "Louder Pipes," by Ratatat
Lowlight: The Skrillex crowd.