Lollapalooza 2010, The Final Recap: The Happy Hour Bands

As we recap the highlights and lowlights of Lollapalooza 2010, we can’t help but feel a little bad for the bands that play in the middle of the day, as their spot on the schedule means one of two things: either they haven’t ascended to the level of headliner and are holding spots until the big boys play, or they are big enough to headline, but are merely being used as bait to bring people in early. And, to add insult to injury, depending on which stage they’re playing, they get burned to a crisp by the sun. If you ask them, of course, they’ll tell you, like any player called up to the big leagues, that they’re just happy to be here. But we have to think that some of these bands would have preferred to play later to larger crowds, especially one group of spud boys out of Akron who are treating the comeback trail like a warpath.

Devo, Friday, Parkways Foundation Stage
Best show of the weekend that we saw with our own eyes, bar none. Devo’s currently riding a massive wave of good buzz with the release of Something for Everybody, the band’s first album in 20 years, and we were pretty sure that they would beat that new record over the heads of everyone here. And at first, they did, doing a new song/old song bit for the first six songs in the set. And then a strange thing happened – they played “Whip It” halfway through the set so the casual fans could leave (it’s a Lolla thing, leaving after hearing “the hit”), at which point they put on a fans-only show that left us stunned. Sure, we thought there was a good chance they’d play “Peek-a-Boo,” “That’s Good” and “Girl U Want,” but only in our wildest dreams did we expect them to break out “Going Under,” “Gates of Steel,” “Smart Patrol/Mr. DNA,” “Jocko Homo,” “Uncontrollable Urge,” and “Mongoloid.” Both the set list and the performances were out of this world. Let’s hope the younger bands on the bill saw this show and took notes.

Devo
Photo by Dave Mead

Metric, Saturday, Playstation Stage
Ah, Emily Haines. We could watch her dance all day long. Our guy Greg raved about the band’s set at South by Southwest earlier this year, and he was not wrong. Playing the Playstation Stage, which is known as the Petrillo Band Shell the other 362 days of the year, the band sounded very good, though Haines’ vocals were drowned out here and there. The biggest drag is that the stage is sunken, and they drew such a large crowd that we had a hard time seeing Emily without peeking at the Jumbotron. The set wisely consisted primarily of their latest album Fantasies, and their version of “Stadium Love” had the entire crowd doing that “Ooooh-wooo-woooo” bit in the chorus, very cool. Haines could stand to work on her stage banter a bit, though. Actually, just about every band here could improve in that category.

Metric
Photo by Dave Mead

Wolfmother, Sunday, Parkways Foundation Stage
We still remember their performance from 2006 as being the most bone-crushing set anyone’s thrown down at the Chicago Lollas, and our man Eldred told us that the new Stockdale-plus-three-new-members incarnation of the band brought the goods as well. And while the set may have been predictable, the crowd still went “apeshit” for them.

Wolfmother_01
Photo by Dave Mead

F**k Buttons, Friday, Sony Bloggie Stage
We went to the media area to get some water after Devo, while our friend Tim headed north to check out this electronic duo. He was bored and moved on before we even got there.

The Big Pink, Friday, adidas Stage
The best thing we can say about the Big Pink’s set was that it ended 15 minutes early. “Dominos” is catchy enough, but as we were getting food – and well within range of their stage – all we heard was droning. Lots and lots of droning. The 15 minutes of silence before Devo’s set was a blessing.


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Lollapalooza 2010 recap: Saturday night’s all right for rocking

The thing about Lolla is that it gets exponentially harder from day to day. Even with a good night’s sleep, today was, well, fucking impossible. The fact that the lineup was reeeeeeeeeally sparse compared to Friday’s lineup did not help. Damn it, why aren’t the Scissor Sisters here?

Before we hit the grounds, we hit one of our favorite Chicago restaurants: Heaven on Seven. Try the gumbo. The andouille sausage po’ boys are pretty damn good, too.

As we’re entering the grounds, there were some people who were interested in opening a friendly dialogue about religious philosophy and moral ambiguity in modern society. That, or they wanted to stone people to death on the spot, one of the two.

hell

Skybox, BMI stage
These kids are so cute I just want to pinch their little cheeks. They’re a bubblegum pop band from Chicago (think ’60s bubblegum, not the Jonas Brothers), and I love that they play the music they play; I just wished the songwriting was a touch stronger. But they’re young – they can grow into their songwriting shoes. That they’re starting out playing this kind of music, to me, is a sign of good things to come.

The Soft Pack, Budweiser stage
It’s harder and harder for guitar bands to stand apart these days, and these guys are unfortunately victim to that. There were some good tunes in their set, mind you, but they haven’t yet figured out how to separate themselves from the pack. I’m looking forward to the day when they find a way to do that.

Stars, Budweiser stage
There’s a joke here somewhere about how every Canadian musician under the age of 40 is in Broken Social Scene, but it’s just not coming to me at the moment. Everyone in Stars is also in BSS, and their new record The Five Ghosts is a pleasantly airy collection of mid-tempo, mildly electronic music, and surprise! So was their set at Lolla. That didn’t stop a bunch of people from dancing to them, though, and even I was bobbing my head to “We Don’t Want Your Body,” which is just begging to be released as a single.

Dan Black, BMI stage
For three guys with a couple guitars and a bank of machines, Dan Black made sure his show was as human as it could possibly be. And as luck would have it, I showed up one song before he played the “Umbrella”-sampling “Symphonies.” Can’t beat that with a stick.

Lunch break. Grabbed some fish tacos, sat next to a nice couple from New Orleans, who gave us a portable cell phone charger. Which came in handy…when the batteries in my camera died. Hey, I can recharge my phone at the hotel.

Listened to a little of the Royal Bangs after scouting their MySpace page. Not pleased. Moved on.

Metric, Playstation stage
I feel bad for the bands that play the Playstation stage, or the Petrillo band shell as it’s called every other day of the year. They get fabulous acoustics, but they’re on a downward slope, so anyone outside the cement pavillion will be all but unable to see them without peeking at the Jumbotron. Which sucks, because there are few things on this earth I love more than watching Emily Haines dance. I mean damn, is she the cutest thing on the planet or what? Look at the video for “Stadium Love” (easily the highlight of the set). Swoon. That girl owns me.

This pair of shoes and socks stood in front of me. Had to document it. You know, for when alien civilizations come to study us centuries from now.

shoes

Time to head down south and get a spot for Green Day, since they will surely draw another Gaga-esque crowd. But first, food. Chicken on a stick, with lo mein noodles. Yum.

Social Distortion, Parkways stage
Is there such thing as a bad set from these guys? And by that I mean, the margin of error on their sets is pretty damn small, isn’t it? Can one of their sets really be significantly better than another? What I’m saying is, it’s Social Distortion: you know exactly what to expect.

Slightly Stoopid, adidas stage
I’m not a fan of this band, but I felt bad for them. As my friend Tim and I found a spot to sit before Green Day’s set – and was shocked to see that there were a good five times as many people on the Grant Park softball fields for Lady Gaga this time last night as there were for Green Day – Slightly Stoopid had 15 minutes left to play when Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” started playing through Green Day’s speakers. Not at an obnoxious volume, but still loud enough that the band could hear it between songs. Then someone in a rabbit costume (I’m guessing it was Tre Cool) came out on stage acting drunk and silly. If I’m Slightly Stoopid, I’m pissed. That was bad form. If I’m Green Day, I expect to find my tour bus covered in feces, inside and out.

Green Day, Parkways stage
Say this for Green Day’s set: they put on one hell of a rock show. Not exactly a punk show, but a rock show (complete with classic rock medley including Sabbath, Van Halen, Guns ‘n Roses, and AC/DC), and aside from hustling the crowd in to waaaaaaaay too many sing-a-longs, thus stretching songs out a good two to three minutes longer than they needed to, they definitely brought the goods. American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown bookended the set, with pretty much every early-period Green Day song you can imagine in between (they even played “2,000 Light Years Away”), and they even deliberately went long by 15 minutes to make sure the crowd got their “Jesus of Suburbia.” Everyone who wasn’t wearing ear plugs for this show is surely regretting it thought, as the show was littered with fireworks. Loud, loud fireworks.

I texted someone I met over the fish tacos about how Phoenix was on the north side. “They owned,” he said, while Bullz-Eye’s James Eldred, on assignment with another publication since we only got one media pass this year (the economy, we guess), said Empire of the Sun’s set at Perry’s was awesome.

The crowd emptying out of Grant Park was so big that we didn’t even bother trying to get on the train and walked back to our hotel. Add another two miles to the day’s travels. Ow.

  

SXSW 2010 Quick Hits, Day 3: Metric

Canada’s Metric kicked off the evening at Stubbs BBQ with an 8:00 set before a big crowd that reveled in the band’s power-pop prowess. The group was filling the Friday pre-semi-secret headliner slot that Silversun Pickups had occupied last year when opening for Metallica, and Metric rose to the occasion with an entertaining set that never lagged while the crowd awaited the headlining set from Muse.

Vocalist Emily Haines exuded charm and charisma while dancing around and belting out high-energy tunes like “Sick Muse” and hit single “Help I’m Alive,” which rocked the assembled with its melodic hooks and hard rocking groove. Another tune featured Haines’ teasing the chorus of The Beastie Boys’ “You’ve Got to Fight for Your Right to Party” over a big beat that had lots of sonic space. “We’re just a couple of kids from Toronto and a couple of hometown kids from Texas,” said Haines in the middle of the set. “We’re all just trying keep the dream alive, we’re all here for music… Every day I repeat this to myself and I hope that it’s true.” Haines proceeded to a sing a bit of fellow Canadian Neil Young’s “Hey hey, my my, rock ‘n’ roll will never die… rock ‘n’ roll is here to stay,” striking a chord with everyone in the crowd who felt saved by rock ‘n’ roll, which seemed like most of those in attendance. “Stadium Love” closed out the rousing set with a big arena rock sound, and it sounded like Metric are well on their way to achieving such status.

Metric_04

  

SXSW Music 2010, Day 3: Heavy Hitters

It was another day of highlights, many of them provided by female rockers who are out in force at SXSW 2010, which is great to see. But the day started with a great panel featuring Robbie Krieger of the Doors (fresh off his electrifying sit-in with Stone Temple Pilots the previous night). “When You’re Strange” featured Krieger and the current Doors manager discussing the upcoming feature-length documentary on the band that sounds like it will be amazing, with direction from Tom DiCillo and narration from the great Johnny Depp.

Over at the Belmont on West 6th Street, things were running behind schedule at the Paste/Sugar Hill Records/Vanguard Records day party, which enabled me to discover Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles. This bluesy gal looks like a cross between Sarah Silverman and Amy Winehouse, but she rocks! I liked her set better than that of the Watson Twins, the act I went to see. These girls are fab, but their new album is just plain disappointing compared to their great first album. The ladies still sound great, but the new tunes just don’t have the rich, melodic hooks of their debut, Fire Songs.

I caught up with Sass Jordan at the Canadian Blast party at Paradise on East 6th Street, where free enchiladas with rice and beans were served. She only had two acoustic guitarists with her instead of a whole band, but she sounded fabulous on strong material from her new album as well as her early ’90s hits “Make You a Believer ” and “High Road Easy.”

Then it was around the corner to Rusty Spurs, where Grace Potter & the Nocturnals followed up their stellar Thursday night set at Antone’s with another powerhouse set that rocked a packed crowd. Bassist Catherine Popper continued to show why she should win an award for best new addition to a band, while Potter won over a number of new fans with her sultry blues power.

Then it was over to Stubbs BBQ, where Metric warmed up the stage for semi-secret headliners Muse before a jammed house. The power-pop rockers threw down a heartfelt and well-received set that showed they can deliver the goods live. Muse then hit the stage at 10 pm and rocked the house in a triumphant set that was worthy of filling the slot occupied last year by Metallica. The Brit prog-rockers demonstrated a Metallica influence that they mixed up with Radiohead, Queen and Smashing Pumpkins for a sound that was intense. The laser light show was also spectacular, an arena rock spectacle in an intimate setting.

San Antonio’s Girl in a Coma were rocking it at Buffalo Billiards in the 11 pm hour, highlighted by a guest sit-in from none other than Cherie Currie of the Runaways for a charged rendition of “Cherry Bomb” that thrilled the assembled. Guitarist/singer Nina Diaz has a presence that just owned the room and this Tex-Mex grunge trio showed that they are just getting better and better.

There were many options in the midnight hour and 1:00 hours, but I passed on the easy path and fought my way into the Dirty Dog Bar for Hole’s late night set. It’s amazing that the fire marshal didn’t come and shut it down, this little bar was jammed well over capacity. The likes of Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey made the scene, watching from the side of the stage. It was a claustrophobic clusterfuck until about 20 minutes into the set, when some people gave up and elbow room was finally achieved. The band rocked but Courtney Love’s voice was shot, which she blamed on playing so late when she’s a chain smoker. Maybe it’s time to cut back on the smokes, doll. She chastised her guitarist for playing too loud, and at the end she said it was her worst show ever. But tunes like “Malibu,” “Doll Parts,” “Gold Dust Woman” and some of the new stuff sounded strong. Someone just needs to take better care of herself, but it looks like that’s not going to happen.

Rain threatens Day Four on Saturday, so it will be interesting to see how the masses respond as the outdoor shows could become less attractive…

  

Seen Your Video: Metric, “Sick Muse”

We were admittedly late to the Metric party, but after hearing the band’s fantastic new album Fantasies, we are officially smitten. And how cool is this: they just made a video for “Sick Muse,” the song we’ve been putting on mix discs since the album’s release.

The clip itself is simple one: the camera stays still while the band members play, or dance, or sing, or whatever they feel like doing. And if Emily Haines doesn’t have the cutest dance ever, we don’t know who does. Swoon. And as a bonus, this player – which defaults to auto-play, grrrr – contains videos for “Gimme Sympathy” and “Help I’m Alive” as well, along with audio streams of the entire Fantasies album. Sweeeeeeet.

  

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