I knew going into it that Saturday was going to be a marathon session for me. Thankfully Bella was unknowingly cooperative, she managed to sleep without a stir all the way til 8:30 that morning (it was my morning to wake up with her too), so that worked out beautifully. What wasn't so beautiful was that she decided for some reason to take off her diaper before she woke up at some point, so that was new. (Thankfully there were no messes to clean up at least)
So I headed back into the city and got down to Lolla around noon once again. There was going to be a lot more walking on this day, and a lot more time spent baking in the sun. The weather was supposed to be more cooperative at least, but the sun was still beating down ruthlessly, and even a good coating of sunscreen couldn't prevent a nice sunburn from happening.
I started off checking out De Novo Dahl, a band I've never heard hailing from Nashville. The Lolla guide compared them to the Flaming Lips, but that was off the mark, they were more straight ahead pop rock than anything. They did a cover of Rod Stewart's "Young Hearts" in their set, and it fit in pretty well with the rest of their songs. They did impress me though, they brought a lot of energy and did what they could to convert those wandering by in the early afternoon, and it worked for me.
I tried checking out a few minutes of Does It Offend You, Yeah?, but the set times didn't work out, since I had to make the trek all the way across the grounds for the next band on my lineup. That was the Ting Tings, a British duo who were one of the more heavily anticipated young bands in the lineup. Riding a wave of internet buzz and an iTunes commercial track (Shut Up and Let Me Go), they took the huge AT&T stage ready to prove they were more than just hype. Lead singer/guitarist/occasional bass drum and cowbell player Katie wowed the crowed with her hyper performance, and drummer Jules, kept the set in control with a great steady beat. Despite the crowd already being filled at 12:30 with fans camping out for Rage Against the Machine (not playing til 8), they blew away the crowd and converted many fans in the process.
Dr. Dog had the unenviable task of following the Ting Tings, and they put on a sloppier and more ragged set than the one they did when they opened for Wilco last year at Millenium Park. The fact that the sun was extra brutal that day made hanging around for the rest of their set not an option.
I headed back to the AT&T stage to catch the Gutter Twins, the "supergroup" fronted by Greg Dulli, formerly of one of my favorite bands of the 90's, the Afghan Whigs, and Mark Lanegan, former frontman of the Screaming Trees. Those in the know were anxious to see this set, since it was occurring at 2 pm, and Dulli has not performed before 10 pm in Chicago in probably 14 years. He did not burst into flames as expected, instead the churned out a solid 45 minute set of dark bluesy rock. Lanegan impressed me not just with his gravelly voice, but for the fact that he stood anchored in the exact same position on the stage for 43 of the set's minutes, with his head turning slightly to his left as the only thing keeping him from spending the full 45 minutes in the same position.
Next up across the field was buzz band MGMT, whose debut is one of the breakouts of 2008, but that is mostly thanks to the production of Dave Fridmann (most notable for producing the Flaming Lips many masterpieces). The band is known to be fans of certain illicit substances, and it was apparent they may have been partaking in those before their set. They didn't do much on the stage to bring their songs fuller to life, so I decided to head back across the field to get a good spot for the next set.
I have note at this point, as my friend Brian agreed, that I saw more pot being smoked by this point in the weekend than I probably have ever anywhere else. People were being pretty brazen in their use of it as well, it was relegated to the shady hidden treelines or anything, people were doing it in the middle of the field and just about everywhere else. Oh well.
I grabbed a good spot back on the AT&T stage for the next band, Brand New. The Rage fans that were still camped out were starting to get a little surly, since they haven't had a band catering to their tastes to that point in the day. I got stuck next to three kids who couldn't have been past 18, who decided to partake in the above mentioned substance. They passed around their pipe, while being barely 3 feet away from the gate being closely watched by security. One of the guards saw the kid in mid-puff, and demanded the pipe from the kid, and the kid pretended to not know what he was talking about and tried just giving him his lighter instead. Ah, amusing audience members, make the day go by so much faster.
But I digress. Brand New came on, and thankfully leaned heavily on the material from their last great release, Jesus and the Devil are Raging Inside Me. Most of the best tracks on the album were represented (Millstone, Jesus Christ, Sowing Season), as well as a couple of songs from their previous great album, Deja Entendu. In a move that certainly won over those were on the fence on them, lead singer Jesse Lacey told the crowd "You all should be seeing Explosions in the Sky. You are fools." Wow, way to convert the masses Jesse. The crowd was surprisingly receptive to their emo-esque sound, starting up a warm-up mosh pit or two through the set. At about 45 minutes into the set, the band launched into You Won't Know, another of the best songs from Jesus and the Devil. During one of the mid song outbursts, Lacey nearly kicked over a monitor, and flung himself backwards at another point. At about 3/4 way through the song, while screaming out another lyrical blast, Lacey turned and flung his guitar full force at the back of the stage with no warning. It wasn't one of those "look, I'm tossing my guitar to my tech and he'll catch it," this was, "I'm throwing this and s-it is going to get broken." The band abruptly stopped at that point and all walked off at once. I have no idea if that was planned, or if something happened, but that was it for their set. Unintentionally or not, it was one of the most powerful and awesome sets of the weekend.
I then made the great migration across the Lolla grounds to continue an annual tradition with Brian, the consumption of the fantastic Robinson's Rib Sandwich. You just cannot possibly go wrong wtih the rib shaped possibly rib meat based Rib Sandwich, so much so that we actually make sure eat at least one per day while attending Lolla. They have the sandwiches at the Pitchfork fest as well, but somehow it is just not the same, I can't explain it.
We then planted ourselves for one of the more anticipated sets of the weekend, by the Canadian collective Broken Social Scene. The band provided what was one of the most incredible performances of 2006, putting on an awe inspiring set with somewhere around 15 members just before the Red Hot Chili Peppers closed the festival, leaving thousands (myself included) chanting "f-ck the Peppers" a good 5 minutes into RHCP's set. The band had slimmed down to merely 12 or so members for this year's performance, and one of the biggest gossip discussions of the weekend (that didn't involve Obama or NIN canceling) was whether or not their breakout star Feist or any of the other female singers in the band would be there. Sadly, no Feist, but Amy Milan from the band Stars filled in on all of the female vocal duties.
The set didn't quite live up to the spectacle of the 2006 set, but it was still pretty great anyways. They mixed some of their popular tracks, like Cause = Time and 7/4 Shoreline with new material released as solo material by members Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning. The best tracks were the ones from their self titled 2005 released, such as Major Label Debut and Fire Eye'd Boy. They saved the best for last though, with an incredible 10 minute version of It's All Gonna Break, with an incredible synchronized ending that left the giant crowd stunned.
Thankfully there were no bands of interest playing for an hour, so we went and got a great spot for Wilco, closing out the north end of the grounds while Rage closed out the south end. Wilco is in my top 3 favorite bands in the world, so this was a pretty easy choice, plus their live sets are always guaranteed to be outstanding. They rose to the occasion by coming out in matching suits that had goofy things sewn on them, each band member getting their own color and special emblems.
Jeff Tweedy was the solid bandleader as always, joking with the crowd that they had been sewing those suits for months, while leading the band through a set sprawled all over their career. They did debut a new song, which fit in well with the material from the last two albums, and Tweedy even let bass player John Stirratt take over the vocals for a track from their debut A.M. They thankfully played the song I requested through their website Spiders (Kidsmoke), and I can safely assume that was because I had requested it. Glenn Kotche again proved why he is one of the greatest drummers in rock, flailing around in a percussive whirlwind through Spiders and many of the other great tracks, and guitarist Nels Cline again earned the MVP award as well for his incredible fluid solos that look as though he could do them in his sleep at this point.
It was yet another great day in a great weekend, an my 10 hours of rocking was just the beginning of my day. More to come...