Lollapalooza 2009, Sunday recap: Spending warm summer days indoors

All right, we didn’t actually spend the day indoors, but we hid in the shade as much as possible, because, well, it was freaking hot today. This led to one of us staying up north (he had other plans, which you’ll read about later) and one of us staying south. Who got the better end of the deal? Let’s just agree to disagree, shall we?

Ra Ra Riot, Chicago 2016 stage
Eldred: These guys sa sa sucked. Okay, not really, but they were ba ba boring. And despite the fact that I found their cellist incredibly hot (wow, I never thought I’d say that) I found my head even hotter, so I headed for the shade.

Bat for Lashes, Vitaminwater stage
Eldred: I’m always hesitant to give bands who primarily play slow-to-mid-tempo music a chance at festivals. I usually don’t have the patience for it when I’m melting away in the sun. However, Bat for Lashes proved to be the exception. The beautiful Natasha Khan (who is Bat for Lashes in the studio) came out in a sequined jumpsuit, and with a powerful bellow held the audience captive while she also played piano, the autoharp and what I think was an accordion. Pretty amazing stuff, made even more amazing by the gale-force wind that nearly destroyed the banners surrounding the stage.

Portugal, The Man, Playstation stage
Medsker: I will concede that I came very late into their set in order to find a good spot to watch the Kaiser Chiefs, but I hoped that some good grooves would come my way. All I remember is some drawn-out, “Black Magic Woman” type of jam session, and little else. Hooks, apparently, are not their strong suit.

Airborne Toxic Event, Chicago 2016 stage
Eldred: I really didn’t make an active choice to see these guys. I more or less collapsed in the shade, and they happened to be playing in the background. I’m more or less indifferentl to them. Sure, their single “Sometime Around Midnight” is a good tune, but I really couldn’t care less about seeing them. I was jealous of my cohorts who made the trip across the park to see the Kaiser Chiefs. Still, I did get to hear the ATE’s unlikely cover of Q Lazzarus’ “Goodbye Horses” (the song that Buffalo Bill dances to in “Silence of the Lambs”), which was actually pretty good and went over great with their fans. I might not like their tunes, but they definitely know how to entertain a crowd.

Kaiser Chiefs, Budweiser stage
Medsker: I was concerned about how the Chiefs would be once I heard that singer Ricky Wilson broke a rib during one of the band’s shows in New York opening for Green Day. I should have known better. They absolutely killed, opening with “Never Miss a Beat” and scarcely letting up from there. Ricky was even diving into the crowd and climbing the speakers. I wonder, though, if there will be any fallout from Ricky saying, “Can we get these people 20,000 beers?” The crowd roars, and then he says, “But no Bud, though.” (Look at which stage they played.) I saw Guster pull a stunt like that at a show. They wound up not getting paid. Sponsorship-bashing issues aside, the Kaiser Chiefs made the most of the last date on their US tour. Please come back soon, boys. Eldred, for one, wants to see what he missed out on.

Dan Deacon, Vitaminwater stage
Eldred: Praise Dan Deacon, that crazy electronic music-playing bear of a man. Sure, he may have taken a bit too much time getting the sound just right, but the payoff was more than enough. Joined by close to 20 people (including a marching band), Deacon not only played music, but the audience, guiding them to create a stage in the lawn for someone to jump down and conduct the crowd, culminated in an ungodly barrage of plastic bottles flying into the air. Pure madness and pure ecstasy. Dan Deacon made the heat go away with the power of his good vibes.

The Hood Internet, Perry’s
Medsker: This pair of Chicago DJs were spinning some crazy mash-ups from the word go. Someone was rapping over “Shut Up and Let Me Go,” while Rivers Cuomo was singing “Buddy Holly” over a monster dance beat. I also heard bits of Walter Meego (another Chicago band, which makes me suspect they know each other), New Order, Mylo, that birthday texting song, and, of course, Michael Jackson. And thank goodness the people by one of the drink stations were giving away bottles of water. After the Kaiser Chiefs, I needed about a gallon.

Neko Case, Budweiser stage
Medsker: Neko has one of those sing-me-the-phone-book voices, but this setting seriously tested my patience. She and her band sounded fine (once they took care of a feedback problem), but as Neko herself admitted, she was playing a nighttime set during a daytime show. She was grateful for the “frisky” people up front. Sadly, I was not one of them. Two guys in front of me gave me the biggest laugh of the day when they waited for Neko to start, heard three notes of her first song, and walked away shaking their heads.

Shortly after this, I called it a day, but I assure you that I have my reasons. One of my all-time favorite bands is playing on the north side of town, and they don’t play here much. My apologies to the Killers and Jane’s Addiction, who will surely put on great shows. Bonus coverage to follow…

Passion Pit, Citi stage
Eldred: Every year the Citi stage seems to be the home of an act that could easily pack one of the larger stages. Last year it was Girl Talk, and this year it was Passion Pit. (Ed. note: Whither Peter Bjorn and John?) People were packed tight on the concrete to see the band perform “Sleepyhead” and other highlights from the debut LP. Well, maybe “other highlights” is a bit of a stretch, since a good portion of the crowd hightailed it after the group belted out their signature tune. Passion Pit didn’t seem to be bothered by the the fleeing masses or the heat, but the latter sure got to me. I caved and went back to the hotel, Snoop Dog be dammed.

The Killers, Chicago 2016
Eldred: Refreshed after a lenghty break in my a/c blasted room, I trekked back for the final act of the festival. Given the choice between the Killers and Jane’s Addiction, I chose the Killers, and not just because they were the closest to my hotel (okay, that may have had something to do with it). There was nothing particularly wrong with the Killers’ performance, but there was nothing really amazing about it, either. I don’t know, maybe seeing Depeche Mode and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs the two nights before set my expectations too high. Everyone seemed to be having a good time though, especially Brandon Flowers, who was eating up the massive crowd (which he claimed was the biggest they’ve had in the States). Maybe they weren’t the best band to close a night, but they sure as hell pleased their fans. All I know is that after three days that included pouring ran, blaring heat, and everything in between while running back and forth both sides of Grant Park to watch over 20 bands, I’m done with rocking out…for a least a few weeks.

Bonus coverage: The Trashcan Sinatras, Schuba’s
Medsker: Ah, now you know where the old man has gone. From the moment that I heard “Hayfever” while I was getting ready for work one lazy morning in 1993, the Trashcan Sintatras have owned me, so once I heard that they were going to be in town the weekend that I was supposed to cover Lolla, I begged the Lolla scheduling gods that I would not have to choose between the Trashcans and either Depeche Mode or the Beastie Boys. As it turned out, they were scheduled against the Killers – whom I saw in 2005, and they were fun – or Jane’s Addiction, and with all apologies to the guy that started this whole thing, I’d rather see the Trashcans. Yes, that’s how much they mean to me.

The show was great fun. They played a bunch of tunes from I’ve Seen Everything, including ‘Hayfever,” and a bunch of songs from their new one In the Music, which hopefully will be out in the States soon. And I made good on my promise to buy the guitarist a drink, for which he was most grateful.

And now, we sleep. Full, detailed recap soon to follow. But for now, night night.

  

Lollapalooza 2009 Saturday recap: Here comes the sun. Stupid sun.

It’s official: the weather gods are fucking with us.

After yesterday’s cool temperatures and nonstop autumn rain, it only makes sense that today would be not just sunny but insufferably hot and humid, with a plague of horseflies thrown in for good measure. And by all accounts, it’s going to worse tomorrow. Hotter, and with next to no cloud cover. And of course, that’s the day the Kaiser Chiefs are playing. Anyone who saw them in 2005 will remember that Ricky Wilson lost his voice and threw up from heat exhaustion at that show. And this time, he’ll be in direct sunlight (and nursing a broken rib). Rut-roh.

Band of Skulls, BMI stage
Medsker: I’d say that this English blues rock trio (think White Stripes with less fuzz and more groove) drew the short straw today and had to open the show, but Lolla has a tendency to put the buzz bands up first to lure people in early. Smart play, because the Skulls drew a pretty big crowd for the BMI stage, and sounded damn good for a band that was clearly not used to playing at 11:15 in the morning. Selfishly, I was glad to see them play their radio hit “I Know What I Like” early in the set, because the flies were eating me alive. Besides, a Beatle offspring was warming up on the south side.

thenewno2, Citi stage
Medsker: Say this for Dhani Harrison, the son of George and leader of thenewno2: he has no interest in sounding like a Beatle. Instead, his merry mates attack their guitars and keyboards like Radiohead after a case of Red Bull. They’re clearly loving the music that they make, and it made me fell guilty that I didn’t share their enthusiasm. I did talk to Dhani in the media area, though, and he couldn’t have been nicer. I mentioned Liam Lynch (creator of “Sifl & Oly” and all around genius nut case), and he told me that Liam hasn’t left his house in over a year. Methinks an intervention is in the cards.

The media area was actually swarmed with rock stars today, and unlike my usual timid self, I actually worked up the nerve to chat with a few of them. James from Glasvegas was very nice, and their drummer has the coolest purse ever: it has the cover of Blondie’s Parallel Lines on it.

Miike Snow, Vitaminwater stage
Eldred: Further lending credence to my theory that the Swedes are taking over the world via catchy pop music, Miike Snow lit up the sun-cooked audience with their unique brand of upbeat dance-friendly rock. Donning freaky white masks for their first two numbers, the members of the group also wore matching black outfits, and the combo made them look like a gang straight out of the classic film “The Warriors.” Accompanying the wacky outfits were some amazing jam-heavy renditions of “Animal,” “Burial” and “In Search Of.” Awesome stuff that made me forget about my baking body for a bit.

Atmosphere, Chicago 2016 stage
Eldred: Look, I wanted to like them, I really did. But it was pushing 100 degrees at this point, there was no shade to be found and most of the people around me were Tool fans already camping out prime real estate for their performance some six hours later. And the Tool fans, well, lets just say they live up to their favorite band’s name. I took off for the shade of the media area and gawked at Coheed And Cambria’s Claudio Sanchez and his permtastic hair.

Perry Farrell, Perry’s DJ stage
Medsker: Leave it to the show’s founding father to break his own rule about punctuality. Dude was 15 minutes late getting to the stage, not that the people there minded. This was my first trip to Perry’s stage in all the years that I’ve been coming to Lolla, and I wished I had done it sooner. It was nice to hear recorded music for a change, especially when the DJ on before Perry was playing Rage Against the Machine, meaning just because people were DJing doesn’t mean that area was strictly a Euro house wankfest. I didn’t know either of the songs I heard Perry sing, but I just loved watching him grooving to beat music. His wife was there backing him up, and if you’ve never seen a picture of Perry Farrell’s wife, you owe it to yourself to look her up. Now.

Arctic Monkeys, Budweiser stage
Medsker: I actually felt bad for the Arctic Monkeys and Glasvegas. The pale European bands had to play at the peak of the day, and they were both directly in the sun. That had to have sucked, not that the Monkeys showed any signs of exhaustion. They went out and did their typically Monkey-like angular rock thing, and they had what looked like a football stadium’s worth of people watching them do it. Unfortunately, I could not stay to see if they played “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor” (I’m assuming they did) because it was my birthday, my wife and daughter are in town, and we have dinner plans with old friends. But fear not: Mr. Eldred stayed for the whole day, and from what he told me via text, things got much, much better from here.

Santigold, Playstation stage
Eldred: Hell yeah, they did. Santigold may have came out 10 minutes late, but no one cared once she tore into high-energy renditions of “Creator,” “L.E.S. Artistes” and “Unstoppable.” Backed with her own brand of hardcore Solid Gold dancers, Santigold rocked, plain and simple. Her rendition of the Cure’s “Killing An Arab” made the older fans go nuts, leaving the younger crowd slightly confused, if still entertained. I say screw the kids, all artists should perform covers of obscure ’80s songs to teach the little bastards some art.

Diplo, Perry’s stage
Eldred: Guitar players may get all the chicks, but DJs get all the chicks who are on Ecstasy. Perry’s stage was crawling with barely-dressed young women screaming like crazy the second Diplo took control of the turntables. Decked out in a three-piece suit and looking suave as hell, he showed how a DJ can dominate a “rock” concert even when focusing on obscure dance and house tracks for most of the first half of his set, which is all I stuck around for because I wanted a prime spot for Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Budweiser stage
Eldred: I was hoping that Tool would draw the majority of the fans, and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ performance would be of the intimate variety. Unfortunately it looked like I wasn’t the only person sick of all the Tool fans, because the place was packed tight. I was nearly killed twice (once by overcrowding, and once by a low-flying crane camera) but it didn’t matter. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs absolutely destroyed the place. My underwear could have been lit on fire and I wouldn’t have noticed as they delivered both the fast-paced singles from their new dance album It’s Blitz! as well as post-punk rockers from Gold Lion and Fever to Tell. Karen O. is a goddess, decked out in a crazy Indian headdress and floating around like Stevie Nicks in her prime, rocking like Siouxsie Sioux and dancing like Terri Nunn. I want to marry her.

  

Lollapalooza 2009, Friday recap: would you like a little water torture with your rock?

It’s amazing what a slow, steady rainfall will do to, um, dampen one’s spirits. The Friday lineup for this year’s Lollapalooza was pretty damn good, but we felt decidedly less frisky once it meant walking or standing in a cold rain. Of course, the forecast for Saturday and Sunday calls for brutally hot temperatures and lots of sun. Ah, Chicago. My favorite city, but the weather really is awful.

Yuto Miyazawa, Kidzapalooza stage
Medsker: How about this for our first band of the day: a nine-year-old Japanese kid who can absolutely shred on guitar. He can’t sing, of course, but no one really minded. He loves Ozzy, and played three Ozzy/Sabbath tunes in his set, as well as a Deep Purple song. Very cool. It’s funny how many Sabbath covers I’ve heard a Lolla over the years. The best is still the Dresden Dolls’ sick cover of “War Pigs.” They own that song now.

Manchester Orchestra, Budweiser stage
Medsker: Perhaps I’m showing my age when we say this, but…oh, there’s just no nice way to say this: I think these guys suck. Their first song didn’t have any discernible hook, and then the singer did that goddamn screamo thing. And their drummer…you know how drummers overact when shooting a music video, with the arms flying up and down to even the simplest or slowest beat? This band’s drummer actually plays like that. I lasted roughly two minutes, and I had had enough.

Gringo Star, BMI stage
Medsker: This unassuming Georgia band helped get the taste of Manchester Orchestra out of my mouth, but the rain was making my antsy. I left after about four songs to head south.

Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears, Vitamin Water stage
Medsker: I was thrilled that Black Joe Lewis was invited to perform at Lolla, but their inclusion also amuses me. They’re more of a Summerfest or Jazzfest band than a Lolla band, but then again, inviting a James Brown-style rock and soul group to Lollapalooza is pretty alternative, now that I think about it. I bet these guys would blow the doors off of a small club. They sounded fine here, but again, the rain was getting to me. Plus, it was lunch time.

Before Black Joe Lewis started, I listened to Hey Champ a keys-drums combo from Rockford, and they were pretty damn good. Definitely looking into them when I get home.

The Knux, Citi stage
Eldred: This New Orleans-based alt-hip-hop group may have been saddled with a side stage appearance, but they could have dominated the biggest stage in Grant Park with their swagger and cocky attitude. They had the tunes to match and ended their high energy set by turning the stage into a dance party, complete with their DJ spinning MGMT’s “Electric Feel” and House of Pain’s “Jump Around.”

White Lies, Budweiser stage
Eldred: It’s pouring down rain and I’ve never heard these guys before, but in every photo I’ve seen of them, their pale asses looked ridiculous, so I had to make time to see them, if only for novelty’s sake. After trekking across the park in the rain and getting colder and wetter, I realize that this is a hell of a commitment for a joke. However, once the pale London boys took the stage, I was shocked that they weren’t that bad. Actually, they were pretty damn good. However, I’m cold and wet so I head back to the hotel after just a couple songs for a drying pit stop.

Amazing Baby, Citi stage
Medsker: I’m very fond of this glam band’s debut album, and they sounded really good live, but enough was enough. I was drenched. I headed back to Eldred’s hotel room (he got a room at the Hilton on Michigan, lucky bastard) to dry off. His friend Lisa gave me a poncho. What a difference that made.

Ben Folds, Budweiser stage
Medsker: Ah, it’s good to see Ben with a band again. The last time I saw Folds live was that piano tour with Rufus Wainwright, which was cute but a far cry from Ben Folds Five’s live shows. His new band is damn good (especially the drummer), and Folds gave the soaking wet audience a good mix of songs from his whole career (though he didn’t play anything from BF5’s first album). The cover of “Bitches Ain’t Shit” got the crowd moving, and then he stunned me by pulling out “Narcolepsy.” Well chosen set, even if he skipped the first album. Even better, I almost literally ran into Folds in the media area during Black Joe Lewis’ set. Very cool.

Crystal Castles, Vitamin Water stage
Eldred: Refreshed, dry and now safely covered in a poncho, I return just in time to see a special breed of insanity by the name of Alice Glass. The lead singer of the electronic duo ran out on stage with a bottle of vodka and tore it up, even when her microphone fell apart. She got a working model just in time to run into the audience and nearly pick a fight with someone in the crowd. Things are reconciled when she pours vodka into the first three rows. Amazing show, but that bitch is crazy.

Of Montreal, Vitamin Water stage
Eldred: Speaking of crazy: capes, men dressed as tigers, gas masks, gender-confused back-up dancers, Of Montreal took crazy to a whole new level, living up to their reputation as one of the most entraining live bands on Earth. It was glamtastic brilliance, so needles to say the cover of Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream” was not at all unexpected. Strange but awesome, however I had to take off early to get a choice spot for Depeche Mode.

Depeche Mode, Chicago 2016 Stage
Eldred: I’ve been waiting to see Depeche Mode for over 10 years. They lived up too all of my unrealistic expectations by blowing the crowd away with choice cuts from the new album, including the single “Wrong” to lesser-known older tunes like “In Your Room” and “Policy of Truth.” (Editor’s note: “Policy of Truth” is lesser known?) Gahan and co. are firing on all cylinders and by the time they get to the epic finale of “Enjoy The Silence” and “Never Let Me Down Again,” I’ve lost my damn mind (along with most of the audience). The encore of “Personal Jesus” is expected, but still welcome. The bar has been set high for the rest of the festival’s closers.

Medsker: They played three songs from Black Celebration. Hell, yes.

On deck for Saturday: Band of Skulls, Beatles offspring, Arctic Monkeys, Miike Snow, and Eldred is faced with a choice: Santigold, or Glasvegas?

  

Lollapalooza Pre-Day One: Chicago, The City That Doesn’t Give Receipts…and kills its favorite sons

I lived here for ten years, so it should not surprise me in the slightest that things will not go according to plan when I pop into Midway. Even a transaction as simple as a receipt for some Combos would be easy…right? Wrong. The credit card-paying woman in front of me got a receipt with no trouble, while I watched the same woman that helped her hit an infinite series of buttons over and over, only to get the “beep beep” sound again and again…and again. I eventually let it go, thinking it was just a buck and change. I collected my suitcase from baggage claim and headed for the Orange Line.

There are multiple options for riders when you are looking for train passes at the CTA. I was looking for a five-day pass, but all I saw were three-day passes, seven-day passes, and the ‘give us all your money and it will never be enough’ passes. I reluctantly bought a seven-day pass, since I knew I had a hell of a lot of train traffic in my future, and to my benefit, I at least got a pass, which the person in front of me did not, because his transaction “timed out.” I asked the machine to print a receipt, and it said ‘Okay’…then did nothing. Damn, man. I paid for two extra days of travel, and you can’t print me a receipt?

Welcome to Chicago, kids. “The city that works.” So I took my seven-day pass and went to get on the Midway stop on the Orange line. Out of curiosity, I asked the woman at the handicapped entrance, “Did they get rid of the five-day pass?” “They sell those at currency exchanges and Jewel/Osco’s,” she told me, about 30 seconds too late. How convenient, I think. That would have required me to buy a pass to get on the train, get off the train, find a currency exchange or Jewel/Osco, buy a five-day pass, then reboard. Again, welcome to Chicago, the city that works…but doesn’t print receipts.

So I jump on the Orange Line train for my hotel, and the second the doors close and the train heads on its way towards downtown…there is an inescapable whistling sound on the train. It has nothing to do with the train’s velocity – it’s just…there. So even as I try to forget everything that has happened up to this point, the damn subway train is taunting me. “You didn’t get a receipt, sucker! Ha ha hahahahahahahaha!” To make matters worse, my wife texts me later in the day and says, “Sit down,” then tells me that John Hughes is dead. This, after I saw some guy tear around the Sears Tower (technically the Willis Tower, but sorry, it’s way too soon for that) in a convertible, which instantly made me think of the garage attendants from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” taking a joy ride with a similar car. Creepy.

Friday’s forecast: Chance of thunderstorms, high ’80s. Sorry, but the day after John Hughes dies, it should rain in Chicago. The entire world lost a brother, a son, a father, an uncle, and their best friend. I know that I’m supposed to be excited about covering a music fesitval, and I am…but damn, man, I just lost John Hughes. In fact, I just talked with English Beat singer Dave Wakeling, and happened to ask him about John Hughes, Man, this makes me sad.

BE: When John Hughes contacted you in 1987 and asked you to write the title track for his latest movie, did you think that you had just been touched by the hand of God?

DW: Well, that god had touched my hand a few months before. He came backstage in Anaheim after we played a concert. And as he shook my hand, he said, “Anybody who’s got the balls to put a bassoon in a pop record, and get it in the charts, is my man.” He was referring to the bassoon part in “Tenderness” [mimics bassoon line]. We became good friends and I went to his house a few times, and he’s got a wall of records, 50 feet long, 12 feet high. You could point to anywhere on it, and he knew exactly which record it was. Far more serious about music than I ever was, that’s for sure. It was before I had become computerized – and probably before a lot of people had – so we’d talk about this idea of “She’s Having a Baby.” We both had young children and we discussed the ways it makes things better and some ways it makes things worse, and the changes it brings to couples once they start having kids. And then we started writing each other, so I wrote the first draft of “She’s Having a Baby,” and I would send it to him, and he wrote back with suggestions, or angles, where he thought the movie was going. We wrote back and forth three or four times, which I thought was one of the most exciting co-writes I’ve ever done, really. Brilliant man. I don’t even know what he does now. Did he just retire, or what?

BE: He pops out a script about once every seven years. It’s weird. He pulled a Terrence Malick; he just disappeared.

DW: I wonder what he does. I’d like to see him. Is he a happy chap, or is he a reclusive type?

BE: I honestly have no idea. I know that I miss him.

Damn. If I only knew.

  

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