Lollapalooza 2010, The Final Recap: The Opening Acts

In this final installment of our recap of Lollapalooza 2010, we cover the stars of tomorrow, or what is known in baseball circles as the Futures Game. Well, most of them are potential stars of tomorrow, anyway. One of them was a big time star of the past, and not even one with hipster cred like Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, or Roky Erickson. Easily the biggest blemish on the lineup as a whole. Going a bit overboard in bashing the band, you say? Ha. We’re just getting warmed up.

Foxy Shazam, Friday, Sony Bloggie Stage
Our man Eldred is into these wildly ambitious Cincinnati glam rockers a tad more (which is to say, about a million times more) than we are, but after reading Eldred’s amusing interview with Foxy lead singer Eric Sean Nally, where he swore they could win over any crowd, we knew a bet when we saw one. Sadly, we missed the majority of the set thanks to the new reworking of the grounds (enter at Roosevelt? Dude, that’s a mile from here), but once we arrived, we got their appeal, instantly. And if we didn’t, their closing number sealed the deal. Nally leapfrogged onto the guitarist’s shoulders, who didn’t miss a beat on his solo until Nally started kicking his guitar. The keyboardist is literally stomping on the keys, and not Jerry Lee Lewis-style – more like Dance Dance Revolution-style. Nally then took off one of the drummer’s cymbals and chucked it at the drums before walking off the stage. The crowd went absolutely fucking bonkers. Can’t say we blame them.

Foxy_Shazam_02
Photo by Ashley Garmon

Nally also had the best between-song banter of the weekend, where he spoke of how his father knew John Lennon, which we’re pretty sure is bollocks. Either way, this was the best first performance we’ve seen since Hard-Fi in 2005.

HEALTH, Sunday, adidas MEGA Stage
Our boy Eldred was most impressed with this band, claiming that the blew the bad weather away with pure noise. The former sounds nice, the blowing away the weather. The latter, well, it depends. Are we talking Pixies/My Bloody Valentine noise, or, you know, noise noise?

(*hits band’s MySpace page*)

Ooh, My Bloody Valentine noise. Damn. Sorry we missed this one.

Stars, Saturday, Budweiser Stage
As a means of eliminating accidental bias – hey, we’re human, it happens – we tend to listen to bands knowing as little about them as possible. There are drawbacks to this, of course, especially if you cling to your hipster credibility like an oxygen mask. For example, we had no idea until after we were writing up Stars’ performance that they were all members of the much-beloved Broken Social Scene, which has ties to every Canadian band from the last 30 years. If we had, then perhaps we would have felt an urge to find a better superlative to describe their set than ‘pleasant.’ Ah, but hipster credibility means absolutely nothing to us, so here it is: they were fine, and occasionally great. (Their song “We Don’t Want Your Body” is easily the best track on their new album The Five Ghosts.) But at 2:00 in the afternoon on a steamy Saturday, we were perfectly content to lounge in the wake zone between the northern stages and let the mind wander. Read into that what you will.

Stars_01
Photo by Dave Mead

Skybox, Saturday, BMI Stage
It warms our hearts to see a group of kids play the kind of pop that their parents would have listened to as kids. We can’t imagine that they stand much of a chance in terms of radio success, but they might become soundtrack darlings, and goodness knows that’s a more lucrative career path these days than banking on radio to sell your record. We’re not sure the songwriting is at peak level yet, but they have the right idea, that’s for sure.

Nneka, Sunday, Parkways Foundation Stage
Eldred’s last five words made us glad we skipped her, especially considering she played in the middle of a rain shower with gale-force winds: “Too quiet for a festival.” This same thing plagued Neko Case last year, and we would listen to Neko sing the ingredients to a can of soup. Gorgeous voice, but sometimes the music just can’t measure up to the atmosphere. Props to Perry for trying to inject a little variety (read: color) into the lineup, but he’d be wise to take energy into consideration, especially on a Sunday when everyone is already wiped out.

Ancient Astronauts, Friday, Perry’s
The new Perry’s stage, and the space in front of it, is twice the size of last year’s location, and that’s good because it got really tight there last year, especially when Perry himself made an appearance. We dug the last Ancient Astronauts record, a strange blend of New York hip hop and French sensibility, but what we saw of their DJ set was pretty flat. Aside from a fun mash-up involving “Blitzkrieg Bop,” they seemed trapped in a reggae fugue. We lasted 15 minutes.

Astronauts_01
Photo by Matthew Taplinger

See that hat he’s wearing? They were inescapable all weekend, and every time we saw one – which was a lot – we thought, “Tool.” Just sayin’. If you own one, put it in the closet. Or better yet, throw it away.

The Soft Pack, Saturday, Budweiser Stage
It’s hard to stand apart from the guitar alt-rock crowd these days, and granted, these guys didn’t do a great job of standing apart themselves, but there was something in their sound that caught our ear. A similarity to Catherine Wheel, perhaps, or perhaps we were just relieved that someone was coming out of the gate bringing the energy, because Lollapalooza isn’t a music festival so much as a grueling three-day death march of music (if you’re over 30, that is). Bands like the Soft Pack at noon on Saturday are the equivalent of a shot of adrenaline to the heart. Once they were finished, we felt kind of bad for them once we saw that they’d be followed by the decidedly softer Wild Beasts. Don’t let the name fool you, they are anything but.

Blues Traveler, Saturday, Parkways Foundation Stage
Blues Traveler has played every even-numbered Chicago Lolla. The only thing we can’t figure out is why.

Modern rock radio hasn’t touched them since 1995. They never played any of the touring Lollas, receiving their first invite in 2006. Granted, much of that was due to the fact that John Popper & Co. were tied up with the traveling jam band H.O.R.D.E. tours until 1998, but doesn’t that alone demonstrate just how much one of these things is not like the others? Yes, there is some crossover between the festivals in terms of artists, but they largely involved the bands that were exceptions to the H.O.R.D.E. philosophy, not the other way around. And since they’ve been playing the festival every other year in the last five years, they haven’t been gone long enough for people to miss them now. For us, Blues Traveler at Lolla is like Homer Simpson reading a Far Side calendar: “I don’t get. I don’t get it. I….don’t get it.”

All right, rant over. Truth be told, we only heard their first two songs, “Runaround” (leading with the hit? Unheard of) and…wait for it…a cover of Sublime’s “What I Got.” Knowing wink, or calculated attempt to wring nostalgia from a moment that doesn’t call for it? You be the judge. We’ve judged enough as it is.

Raphael Saadiq, Friday, Parkways Foundation Stage
This is admittedly another ‘one of these things is not like the other’ situation, but as big fans of Saadiq’s 2008 album The Way I See It, we were thrilled that he brought his pitch-perfect Motown groove to Lolla. (Why they decided to have Mavis Staples play at the same time on the north side, however, was a head-scratcher.) Armed with a crack band – our friend Tim, a drummer, was most impressed with Saadiq’s drummer – Saadiq played a slightly sped-up version of his catalog, and threw everyone for a loop when his all-black band laid down the hardest guitar riff that anyone played all day. Smart move, given the crowd they were playing to were pretty damn white (hey, they were on the stage that Lady Gaga would grace six hours later). We even caught a guy so caught up in the groove that he danced like he didn’t have a care in the world. While our buddy Tim said, “Man, I’m so glad that’s not you,” we were actually moved by his lack of self-awareness. He was completely caught up in the moment; that’s what it’s all about in the end, right?

  

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.

  

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