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.

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.

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.

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.

Social Distortion, Saturday, Parkways Foundation Stage
How these guys didn’t get the slot just before Green Day (it instead went to Slightly Stoopid) is a mystery. They’re not a perfect match to Green Day’s bombastic power punk, but it’s a damned sight closer than Slightly Stoopid, that’s for sure. And you would think, based on their legacy alone, that they’d get the second to last slot, but nope: Lolla went with the hot hand, even though the only time we’ve ever heard these guys is at Lollapalooza. They’re surely getting airplay somewhere, but not where we live, and we have one of the best modern rock stations in the country.

Photo by Matt Ellis

As for Social D’s set, we only caught the tail end, and surprise! It sounded solid. Do they ever put on a bad show? Their sets are probably all about the same, aren’t they? You have to wonder how they would have reacted if Green Day had pulled that ‘disco rabbit’ stunt on them. “Green Day Drummer Injures Himself in Fall” would have read the headline in the Sun-Times the following morning. Uh huh, a ‘fall.’

Dan Black, Saturday, BMI Stage
We didn’t catch the whole thing, but what we saw from this bedroom pop Brit and his two guitar playing mates was a lot of fun. I was amused by the one guy who insisted on hitting a real cymbal whenever it came up in the backing tapes, because sometimes he’d forget…and we’d still hear the cymbal. Whoops.

Hot Chip, Friday, Parkways Foundation Stage
The already gigantic crowd streaming in for Gaga is getting bigger by the second, so we find a comfortable spot on the western hill between the bar and the handicap ramp and lie down. It felt good to lie down. So good that…we fell asleep. This is not a total knock on Hot Chip’s set, but if we’re being honest, nothing really leapt out at us, either. It sounded perfectly competent – it was just a bit bloodless.

Hot Chip
Photo by Dave Mead

X Japan, Sunday, Parkways Soundstage
Got a press release about this band a couple days before leaving for Lolla, and while it’s not exactly in our wheelhouse, the band’s crazy quotient appealed to us. Says our man Eldred, “the crowd was full of psychotic Japanese fans and confused Americans. The band was over-the-top crazy and louder than fuck.” That sounds about right.

Semi Precious Weapons, Friday, BMI Stage
Lady Gaga went crowd surfing during their set. She knows they suck, right?

Matt & Kim, Friday, adidas Stage
Here’s what we remember about their set: they played Biz Markie’s “Just a Friend,” and drummer Kim wanted a Jumbotron close-up of her tits.