Sunday, August 16, 2009

music madness: lollapalooza recap

As you know, I headed to Lollapalooza last weekend to catch some of my favorite bands and check out some new ones. As usual, I did not hit up every band on my list, but I did get in some good shows. Unfortunately the weather didn't cooperate very well this year, so my perspective of the concerts is somewhat skewed by the pouring rain on Friday and extreme heat of Sunday.

Overall, I enjoyed what may be my last "Lolla" (I'll hit 30 in January and not sure if I can deal with festivals much longer), and had the added bonus of catching up with great friends in addition to catching great music.


After a frustrating early-morning train ride, I was extremely glad that The Henry Clay People was totally worth the trip. I would love to catch these guys in a smoky bar, definitely real rock n' roll. Catchy originals and the added cover of "Running on Empty" was a highlight of the fest for me. My first "I'm old" moment though, as some of the kids around me definitely weren't familiar with the song. Yikes.

Next up was the highly energetic Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears, another band probably best seen at a smaller venue. They were so much fun and I would absolutely catch them again. Glad my friends recommended I make this a "don't miss" of my weekend. Their current album is a good-time listen. I suggest you check it out.

At the end of BJL, I met up with my pal Brian from college over at The Gaslight Anthem. There's a ton of hype around this band because of some Springsteen-factors, but I think they may be the Slumdog Millionaire of hot bands for me -- I just didn't love it. Honestly, all the songs sounded sort of the same, and the dudes were way too clean cut (albiet for their tattoo-sleeves) for my vision of real-rock. If I want to listen to The Boss, I'll stick to Bruce himself, or The Hold Steady.

Luckily during this show I shared Brian's umbrella and didn't notice how much the rain had picked up. Unluckily, I headed over to my next show unprepared.

I love, love, love me some Bon Iver. Wisconsin's favorite indie son was my top album (and second best concert) of 2009. Too bad mother nature (and suburban high schools girls belting out "Skinny Love") ruined his Lolla set for me. Lucky for Milwaukeeans, Justin Vernon will be chairing AIDS Walk Wisconsin and performing at the Riverside Theater on October 11. I am going to try my best to make it to both.

I sacrificed catching Ben Folds to spend the best $5 of the weekend -- on a lovely blue poncho. It did little to dry me off, but it did prevent me from completely drowning during the rest of the night.

Fleet Foxes did not disappoint with their beautiful, haunting melodies. The poncho enabled me to enjoy the show a bit more, but this is another one I'd like to see in a concert hall versus a wet park.

By this point I'd resolved to sacrifice the headliners and head out a little early to a warm, dry place. But not before I caught what was my guaranteed album of the year (more on that later).

The Decemberists Riverside Theater show is likely going to be my concert of the year, so the Lolla show was like a second scoop of ice cream for me. It was great to hear Hazards of Love played straight through again and see Shara Worden steal the show once more. However, the hour set time didn't allow for any audience interaction and regular Decemberists tunes after the rock opera. The set was a perfect way to end the long day for me.


Spending the morning with my dear hosts allowed me to avoid the bulk of the sweltering heat of the day.

I arrived, water in hand, just in time for Los Campesinos! This band has enough insane energy to be great in a small venue or a giant stage. This was also a band where I saw a couple members wandering around the grounds like normal people. I think they definitely win the award for "Band I'd Most Like to Be Buds With." And not just because they're Welsh (therefore awesome) or because they are really into the stage dives.

After LC! I met up with my friend Keiker who came down from Milwaukee for the day. She and I are both huge TV on the Radio fans, so we were both looking forward to that in the evening. We met up at the Kidzapalooza Stage after I got a text alert that there was a surprise Band of Horses set scheduled. They played just around 2-3 songs, but it was a nice time to sit in the shade.

Keiker and I split up so I could check out Blind Pilot on another small stage. They opened for The Decemberists in Milwaukee, but it was nice to get a chance to really give them a listen. Their album is very tight and another strong recommendation for 2009.

I headed over to Santigold next and as luck would have it ran into Keiker, which was a fantastic twist of fate since AT&T service was horrific on the grounds. She put on an over-the-top show, and I was disappointed I couldn't even get a good jumbotron shot of the outfits of her and the back up dancers. Keiker and I decided to head over to get a solid spot for TVOTR. This worked out perfectly -- we could still hear Santi and we landed a fabulous position.

This was the show of the festival. I wish Tunde Adebimpe and crew would come to Milwaukee sometime. I have been a long-time fan of the albums, but never imagined the band would be so dynamic live. Their songs on the albums are so nuanced, from dark & slow to upbeat & dancey, but live each performance in the set had a definitive spark.

Keiker and I both left this one with huge smiles on our faces. We grabbed some food, caught some of Ben Harper and the Relentless7, and staked a place for the headliner.

I didn't have any expectations for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, but had I, Karen O. would have blown them away. The woman is the Chrissy Hynde of the Millenials, and definitely (after Shara Worden) the rockstar I'd most want to be. Even though my concert buddy had to head out halfway through the show, I stuck around and danced out the rest of the set solo.


Sunday was hot. Really, really hot. I missed the days when Lolla was a two-day festival. 

I started out with Ra Ra Riot, which admittedly was a huge disappointment. I'd heard their live performance talked up, but I think the issue really may have been my baking under the blazing sun. I would give them a second chance in a venue like Turner Hall, when I wasn't 120 degrees.

Halfway through RRR, my friend Ryan texted me that he was waiting by the Bat for Lashes stage. I didn't find him, but I spotted an opening front and center under the stage. As soon as Natasha Khan stepped on stage I was captivated. This show was in tight running with TV on the Radio for best of the fest. I really hope the Pabst/Turner group can bring BFL to Milwaukee as I'd absolutely see this magical show again. And Two Suns now may beating out Hazards of Love for album of the year.

Mesmerized and sweltering, I left Bat for Lashes, I headed to refill my water and connect with friends. Walking away from the stage I saw a pale hippie pass out, eyes roll back into head, head thump on the dirt. Terrifying. Fortunately the medical staff saw this at the same time, so I could move on, the horrible image embedded in my head.

It was really, really hot.

I found Ryan over at Kaiser Chiefs, a band which I'm not a huge fan. We chatted a bit and I left to catch Gang Gang Dance at a shaded stage on the other side of the grounds.

This was the perfect chill group to take a nice break with. I watched about half the set and then connected with my old co-worker, Darcie, who I found out was at the festival via Twitter. We found a spot of one of the staircases to catch Vampire Weekend, who failed to impress. Their set wasn't much different than the one at Turner in April 2008 and they were clearly slowing down their songs to fill the hour timeslot. Thus, one of my favorite shows of '08 turned into one of the most forgettable of '09.

Our small group packed up to head over to the band usurping the "it" title.

Passion Pit brought it. The small stage they were on was PACKED and they could've easily owned the mainstage.  While they definitely straddle the border between indie and emo, they fall on the Death Cab side of the line (aka bands I really do like). I will be downloading Manners soon.

I ended up staying through the whole set, which caused me to miss much of Dan Auerbach, who my friend Brian claims put on the best show of the festival. I will have to try and catch him in Milwaukee this fall.

Everyone was a little (well a lotta) pissed at Lou Reed. He started his set nearly 15 minutes late, and I guess threw off the rest of the festival for the evening. I was happy to hear "Sweet Jane" before I had to sprint to the train station (I opted to skip the later Megabus), but underimpressed overall.

Lou was responsible however, for my 10 seconds of VIPness at the festival. For some inexplicable reason the exit I'd used the previous two evenings was closed on Sunday until the end of the festival. After explaining to two sympathetic guards that I didn't have time to wander through the grounds as Lou's lateness was pushing my time to get to the train, they directed me to the side of the stage. There, security escorted me out the VIP exit backstage. I didn't push my luck and look around or whip out my iPhone. But I can tell you that the special folks use a portapotty just like the rest of us.

Speaking of "special people," I think the two British-looking dudes are Kaiser Chiefs, but is the dude in the middle the dude from The Hangover? Or just a look-a-like? You be the judge in the comments.

1 comment:

  1. You know, I think I would have been disappointed if you had reported that Lou Reed HADN'T behaved like kind of an asshole! He has a reputation to uphold, you know.

    Thanks for the photos and the write up. I almost feel like I was there, minus the hassles and physical discomfort


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