Despite some rain late Thursday night, the weather in Chicago’s Grant Park was perfect for this year’s 2008 Lollapalooza festival. A nice breeze off the lake made this the perfect weekend to host the excellent and diverse lineup of music. The park was kept in pristine conditions as crews constantly walked around encouraging recycling and a cleaner environment. This festival knows what it’s doing and is one of the best organized and most considerate (they even had lots vegetarian options at the food booths!) shows in the business.
The whole weekend was sold out for the first time in the history of the festival. Friday had a record-breaking turnout as headliners Radiohead drew a sold out crowd of 75,000. Although, the earlier portion of the day wasn’t quite as packed, a solid crowd showed up to see the fine bands performing at the different stages leading up to Radiohead.
Starting off my day was Butch Walker on the PlayStation 3 Stage. Walker started his set solo with some fun loops on two new songs off his highly anticipated new album Sycamore Meadows before his band joined him on “State Line.” Walker performed a solid set showing that he is just as good an artist as he is a producer. If the new songs from his set are any indication of his new album, it is going to be phenomenal.
Any act following up the strong set by Walker would have a hard time not falling a little flat. Sure enough, the next act on the Bud Light Stage The Go! Team did just that. Maybe it is all that jumping around, but just because you want to be energetic in your presence doesn’t mean you should let the vocals suffer. Instrumental tracks like “Junior Kickstart” were just fine, but anytime Ninja would open her mouth I kind of wanted to go ninja and karate chop her throat.
After the poor pitches of the Go! Team, Welsh singer Duffy‘s soulful vocals were a welcome refreshment at the PlayStation 3 Stage. The young singer definitely has some pipes, but her stage presence could use a little work. Her hand motions quickly got repetitive, but maybe with a little experience, her set will get a little fresher.
Following Duffy, I caught a few songs by rockers Louis XIV over on the Citi Stage. Despite a few technical difficulties, the crowd went wild over radio single “Finding Out True Love Is Blind.” I didn’t stick around too long for Louis XIV because I didn’t want to miss a second of gypsy punk group Gogol Bordello over on the AT&T Stage and this was definitely not the set to miss. This raucous set was exactly what the crowd needed as an energy boost to get through the rest of the day. After walking around all morning in the sun, Gogol Bordello brought the crowd back to their feet for a big dance party as the band played through their accordion rock set.
Next up was Lawrence, Kansas indie rockers Mates of State. Their gentler set on the MySpace Stage was beautiful and it was a nice touch when the couple was joined by some strings. The crowd loved them, but it was hard to settle into their set after jumping around with Gogol Bordello.
Playing at the same time as Mates of State across the venue at the PlayStation 3 Stage was songstress Cat Power. Cat’s voice was just as great live as it is recorded. It is a shame that her set had to be the same time as Mates of State because they attract the same crowd.
Toward the end of Cat Power, the crowd quickly scrambled for a place to see The Raconteurs perform on the Bud Light Stage. Jack White and crew sounded great, but there was something a little off about their set. It could have been that they weren’t in their usual uniform, but street clothes or it could have been the technical difficulties causing Brendan Benson to drop out during the vocals of “Level,” but it just wasn’t as tight as their club performances.
I stopped at the Citi Stage for a few songs from Brazilian electro group CSS. Lovefoxxx must be tired of looking sexy because she sported a bright red spandex outfit with ruffles wrapping around it. CSS sounded a lot better live than their recording, surprisingly, and the crowd loved dancing around to their beats.
Radiohead closed out Friday on the AT&T stage. Thom Yorke and the rest of the guys thrilled the crowd by combining their tight instrumental skills with an amazing light show and fireworks as they performed songs like “Airbag,” “Fake Plastic Trees” and “There, There.” Friday’s crowd went home pleased after Radiohead’s double encore.
Radiohead wasn’t the only reason to attend this festival and Saturday looked just as packed. British group The Ting Tings was the perfect start to the day. Katie White (Interview at Diesel U Music Lounge at the Hard Rock Hotel) easily draws the eyes of the crowd as she energetically moves around singing their hits, but Jules de Martino should not be overlooked as he plays and sings with precision.
There was a little lag after the Ting Tings. Dr. Dog took to the MySpace stage, but was unmemorable. Foals played some fun dance songs over at the Citi Stage, but didn’t stand up to the high standard for other electro dance groups set by the Ting Tings. MGMT sounded phenomenal live, but their disinterest in a majority of their own set detracted from the performance. They finally loosened up and started bantering by the end of their set.
Brand New was the band to beat for best performance of the day, although Jesse Lacey‘s attitude may have detracted from the musical experience causing many to quickly forget just how good this performance was in actuality. Joined by Kevin Devine for their first song, they took to the AT&T Stage and put on the most powerful performance of the day. Jesse Lacey’s performance is better than ever, but he appears just as moody.
He seemed to be in a good mood at first as he seemingly jokingly told the crowd, “You should all be at Explosions in the Sky. You’re all fools.” But as the set progressed through “Sowing Season,” “Sic Transit Gloria,” “Jesus Christ” and a new song (tentatively called “Bride”), Lacey grew more and more frustrated with a pocket of disinterested crowd members before finally climaxing and throwing his guitar into the drum set and leaving the stage a full fifteen minutes before the set was meant to end. Despite this mishap, this was still one of the best performances of the day and the part of the crowd that was interested was left confused and chanting for an encore.
After Brand New, I caught some of Okkervil River‘s set across the venue at the PlayStation 3 Stage and their sweet indie rock was a nice respite. They were followed by Broken Social Scene over on the Bud Light Stage, but BSS is more suited for a smaller setting where their fun instrumentations can completely engulf the listener. As great as Okkervil and Broken were, they just couldn’t match the amphitheatric power of Brand New’s set.
To be quite honest, the crowd gathering for Saturday’s headliners Rage Against the Machine didn’t really appeal to us and we headed out early to get a head start home, which is lucky we did because the Chicago Transit system got backed up by three hours from the large crowd leaving Lollapalooza.
Lollapalooza continued on to Sunday and featured the usual buzz acts like Black Kids, but the real buzz swarming the venue all weekend was the suspected appearance of democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. Unfortunately, Obama didn’t put in an appearance, but there were still plenty of special guests present at the festival. While Stars member Amy Millan joined the boys in Broken Social Scene on the Bud Light Stage, guitarist Slash joined festival co-founder Perry Farrell for a few songs. Plus, there were plenty of celebrities to spot like Lindsay Lohan and the Wentzes if you just kept your eyes open. This festival was filled with fun surprises and definitely not a weekend to miss.
Written by: Bethany
Filed under: concerts | Tagged: Amy Millan, barack obama, bethany, black kids, Brand New, brendan benson, Broken Social Scene, butch walker, C.S.S., cat power, concerts, dr. dog, duffy, Explosions in the Sky, foals, gogol bordello, jack white, Jesse Lacey, jules de martino, katie white, kevin devine, lindsay lohan, Lollapalooza, Louis XIV, Lovefoxxx, mates of state, mgmt, Ninja, Okkervil River, Perry Farrell, radiohead, Rage Against the Machine, Slash, stars, The Go! Team, the raconteurs, the ting tings, Thom Yorke, Wentz |