Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Lollapalooza 2009 - Last Thoughts

Here are some odds and ends from the weekend that was:

Biggest Balls Call #3 - The Gaslight Anthem, choosing to play their two hits to date, "The '59 Sound" and "Great Expectations" mid-set, instead of closing with them like most other bands would.

Biggest Balls Call #2 - The Yeah Yeah Yeahs opening with one of the quietest songs, "Runaway," off their new album, instead of trying to grab the crowd with a big loud number. Pretty brave for a band who people were questioning whether they should be headlining.

Biggest Balls Call #1 - Band Of Horses, stuck starting their set 20 minutes due to Lou Reed dragging on too long, decide to keep going with their set while headliners Jane's Addiction (with Lolla mastermind Perry Farrell at the lead) began their set right across the field. Not just that, but BoH continued to play for at least 15 minutes at the same time as Jane's.

Funniest Moment of the Weekend - Being stuck behind a young half naked couple making out like they're on the Titanic and it's going down, during the incredibly romantic cover of N.W.A.'s "Bitches Ain't Shit" during Ben Folds set ("Bitches ain't shit but ho's and tricks/Lick on these nuts and suck the dick"). Glad to know romance is still alive in the next generation.

Strangest Sight of the Weekend - Seeing Ronny "Woo Woo" walking around the BMI stage during Band of Skulls' early set (it's a Chicago thing people)

Time of First Beastie Boys Cover - 8:45 on Saturday, as Nick Zinner from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs throws in a snippet of the guitar line from "So What'cha Want?" during "Phenomena"

Best Seemingly Incredibly Short Set - TV on the Radio, whose hour long set seemed to pass somehow in only 15 minutes

Worst Unintentionally Short Set (not their fault) - Hockey, who were first up on the Playstation stage on Friday, and due to power problems, barely got two songs out before their time was up

Worsth Intentionally Long Set - LOU REED.

If I Had a Dime - For every Tool shirt on Saturday, I could have easilly paid for my $170 weekend pass.

Worst Potential Sunburn in Process Competition - Ida Maria vs. Los Campesinos! It was the fair skinned girl from Norway vs. the fair skinned lads from Wales in a competition to see who would be a roasted red by the end of their set. The winner: The leader singer from Los Campesinos!, who was a nice cherry tomato red by the end of his hour. His reward, a great bit bottle of aloe.

Medal of Honor - Goes to guitarist Randy Randall of No Age, who played through his entire set after dislocating his shoulder the night before.

Number of Times I Was Offered Shrooms or Weed - Once, during Animal Collective's lousy set. Guess they would have helped.

Greatest Wind EVER - The one that suddenly ripped through the crowd in the middle of Passion Pit's closer "The Reeling"

Strangest New Trend I'm Apparently Too Old to Understand - A bunch of kids (okay probably 17-18 year olds) snuck in a big gallon sized bag with a tap on the side of it that must have been filled with Kool-Aid I'm sure. Before anyone could drink out of it, they had to slap the side of it to make the sound like slapping someone's ass. We didn't understand it, but Brian and I plan on drinking like this anywhere and everywhere we go from now on.

Best Surprise Drum Solo - The one done by Bon Iver's drummer during "Wolves" which on record sounds like a roomful of drums being set off by a floor filled with mousetraps going off, was recreated amazingly well by only one guy live

Best Potentially Annoying Audience Member - The "Lollapop" guy in the front at the Ida Maria set, who I've seen in past years, mainly because he brings two huge spray bottles filled with cold water and showers the audience as much as possible just for the fun of it.

Best Seemingly Sincere Compliment By a Band - The Constantines singer, in the middle of tuning his guitar, stops while hearing Living Things roaring on the main stage, and says "Who is that? They're pretty good!"

Worst Compliment By a Band That Really Doesn't Seem Sincere - Almost every single band who said that the crowd was the greatest one ever.

Most Unnecessary Near-Encore - "Poet" Thax Douglas, standing practically on stage during Bon Iver's set after reading one of his "poems" at the start, looking like he was more than ready to read a second one

Best Impersonation of What Their Photos Would Look Like the Next Day - Kings of Leon, who barely moved throughout their set, so much that the photos I saw of the band were practically videos of their performance

Band MVP #3 - Silversun Pickups drummer Christopher Guanlao, whose fantastic playing and flailing arms and hair make for a great visual centerpiece for the band

Band MVP #2 - The lead singer of Friendly Fires, who madly danced and flailed around in the scorching midday sun like he was in a dark nightclub

Band MVP #1 - The piano/backup vocal/extra drum player in Manchester Orchestra, who when he wasn't adding to the band's sound, was playing the greatest set of air drums I've seen in some time

Lastly, Siblings I'll Most Likely Be Seeing Play at Lollapalooza 2017 - This set of kids we saw taking a rest in the middle of Sunday

Lollapalooza 2009 - Day 3.1 Dan Deacon/Deerhunter/No Age at the Logan Square Auditorium

Yes, despite spending the entire day standing in the brutally hot sun, and already having heard over 30 hours of music in 3 days, I was still ready for more after leaving the Lollapalooza grounds. I got on the Blue line, and headed to Logan Square to catch what was hopefully going to be one of the more interesting shows I've seen in a while.

Three of the bands at Lollapalooza, Dan Deacon, Deerhunter and No Age, were on a small tour for a few weeks, and held their final date on Sunday night after their Lollapalooza performances. There was an interesting twist to the tour, instead of all three playing their normal sets, all three bands were set up at the same time in the same space, and all were playing together.

At least the impression I got was that they would all be playing together throughout each others' songs, to make this a very unique tour that would probably never happen again. However, it was slightly different than I thought, all three bands basically took turns playing, starting with Deerhunter, then No Age, the Dan Deacon, and followed that pattern for the rest of the night.

I was pretty much completely exhausted by this point in the weekend, but I managed to find a spot near a wall and was able to sit then prop myself up for the remainder of the night. They unfortunately decided to have 3 performers open the set, but thankfully each only got 20 minutes. The first two made some droning noise that went on for most of the 20 minutes and was nothing to note. The third guy was decent, he performed only with singing and with a drum, at least he was more tollerable than the previous two guys.

Things got pretty interesting from that point on. The marching band that performed with Dan Deacon at his Lolla set filled the center of the already crowded room, and proceeded to play 3 or 4 songs of their own while moving carefully through the crowd.

From that point on, it was time for the main event. The set started with Deerhunter going first, and they played a slow building song that took a while to get moving. Next up was No Age, who again cranked through one of their speedy stomping numbers in no time. They were then followed by Dan Deacon, who immediately whipped the crowd into a jumping dancing frenzy with another of his crazy dance tracks.

It was obvious from that point on who the real star of the evening was, and who the majority of the crowd was there to see. While Deerhunter and No Age took another turn, the marching band quietly filtered in again and filled in the already cramped space that Deacon was performing in. They then blasted through "Woof Woof," which was already a highlight on the main stage, and was even crazier in the confined space of the Logan Square Auditorium.

After that, even Deerhunter's lead singer Bradford Cox admitted he had the impossible task of following Deacon's insane song, and didn't even try to match his energy, instead playing a slow, mostly solo song with only his guitar. After another No Age track, Deacon again stepped up, with the marching band still surroudning him, and again attempted the interpretive dance circle routine that he did so well at his Lolla set during "Of the Mountains."

The crowd was so insane during part of the song, while they were all jumping up and down together, that I swear the floor of the Auditorium was bowing and could have collapsed at any point. And how I didn't develop seizures because of the crazy lights Deacon was using, I will never know.

After one more round, of songs, with the other bands getting an extra song or two in, Deacon had one more track, and he busted out "Wham City" from his previous album "Spiderman of the Rings" and drove the crowd into a further frenzy. After that, there was time for another song, and the other bands decided to play together, but nothing could match what had just happened before that.

It was pretty much 1:30 am by the time that happened, and it was doubtful much else was going to happen from there, so I took that as my cue to call it a weekend, hop back on the train, and head towards home and throw my exhausted carcass onto the bed. I think I heard rougly 35 hours of music all weekend long, it was a very memorable and great time all around.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Lollapalooza 2009 - Day 3

After a good 6 hours of sleep or so, I was ready once again for another full day of music and sun and heat for the Sunday lineup at Lolla. In the past few years at Lollapalooza, Sunday was usually the weakest lineup of all, giving fans a good chance to pick and see maybe 2 or 3 good bands in the day, and get plenty of rest for the other hours of the day.

That was definitely not the case with this year's lineup. Sunday turned out to have the best lineup of the weekend, having some interesting band to see almost entirely from 12:30 til the close at 10 pm. It was also of course the hottest day of the past few months, so it was going to be a day of balancing rest from the sun and getting close for some views of some good bands.

I actually somehow managed to get downtown around 11:30 again despite being out so late the night before, so I decided to check out a few bands I've never heard of til the schedule really kicked in. First up on the tiny and very well shaded BMI stage was the Nashville band Mike's Pawn Shop. I had no idea what to expect from them, but was very happy with what I heard.

They were a harder punk-pop type band that was a sound that was badly missing from the weekend otherwise. Not only were their songs good, but you could tell they were actually excited to be there and were putting every fiber in their beings into impressing those who wandered over to their set. I'll definitely be checking them out again at a future show.

Next up, I headed to one of the north stages to check out the Sam Roberts Band, who are apparently HUGE in Canada. I guess it's for the same reason Jason Mraz is so popular here, pretty much completely inoffensive, safe rock that really wasn't too memorable an hour afterwards. It was a good time to get a big ice cream cone and a little extra rest in the shade while the sun was as brutal as it got all weekend long.

Shortly after that, the schedule started getting packed, and it was time to get moving around the grounds. I started on the north end by checking out the heavily buzzed band Friendly Fires, since I heard a song or two of their trippy dance rock before the festival. They were actually really good live, they got the crowd moving early on in the extremely brutal heat and sun, and their lead singer definitely was one of the best performers of the weekend, as he danced and flailed around with every song and gave it everything he had despite the brutal heat.

I stayed at their set for about 15 minutes and was very impressed with what I saw, but I had to head to the south end of the park to catch the remained of the set by Ra Ra Riot. Their gentle swooning songs are ideal for a festival setting, but it was a bit too gentle for such a brutally hot day. I found a good spot to rest in some shade while their set finished, since there was a lot more to see in the day ahead.

I met up with my friend Brian once again to complete our Lollapalooza weekend and rib sandwich fest, and our next stop was Bat For Lashes on the other south stage. I've heard both of the band's albums, and like what I've heard, but knew it was going to be a bit difficult to pull off in a festival setting. The band, which is basically main member Natasha Khan, is widely compared to the likes of Tori Amos, Bjork and Kate Bush, which I consider to be pretty high praise.

The songs were great and all, but once again, the oppressive heat made it extremely difficult to keep interested in the intricate songs. We had to find a spot in the shade near the stage and hear what we could for the remainder of the set while Cage the Elephant blared their generic alterna-rock from the nearby sound stage at the same time. I wouldn't mind seeing Bat For Lashes in a sit-down theater, but that was too rough on Sunday.

It was then time for one of 2 breaks left in the day where there was nothing I was too interested in seeing. Since we had to choose between the Arcade Fire rip-off Airborne Toxic Event and Brits Kaiser Chiefs, who had one or two songs I've liked in the past, we headed up towards the Kaiser Chiefs, and listened to them while we secured a good spot for the Raveonettes, who were up on the other north stage next. I would say that the Kaiser Chiefs were good there, they did put on a great high energy midday set that the crowd did seem to eat up.

We then were into the best part of the day, and possibly the best part of the weekend. First up was the set by the Raveonettes. They pretty much played the exact same set as they did the night before at the Empty Bottle, but it didn't matter, since it was 20 times louder at Lolla than in the smaller club, which is ideal for their massive wall of sound. The band did seem to be enjoying themselves in an actual set played during daylight hours, which I never thought would ever happen. I believe I even saw them crack a smile, which is another first in the 6 years I've been seeing them.

Before the Raveonettes started, we had another of our most amusing festival moments of the weekend. We had a spot very close to the barricade at the front of the stage. Usually, the security guys they have working at these points are forced to stand around and grimace at the crowd before pulling down crowdsurfers or threatening to kick other peoples' asses. However, the guards at the front of the stage at the Raveonettes' set were offering to dunk peoples' hats in the cool buckets of water they had, and they soon began taking dozens of bottles of ice cold water and doused everyone they possibly could remotely near the stage. It got to the point where I was so soaked that I looked like I went on a water ride at an amusement park. Everyone in the crowd of course loved it, and it was a rare treat to see these guards enjoying themselves as much as we were. I tip my hat to them once again.

Since I had seen their set already, I hoofed it after about 20 minutes back to the south end of the park to check out the set by Dan Deacon. Now, I knew from reading on Pitchfork about his concerts for the past few years that they were usually pretty crazy experiences, and usually involved alot of audience participation. His songs are great too, the best way I can describe most of them would be to take your average dance rock band, put their cd on fast forward, and then put that cd player in a blender, and you'll get close to the sound of his shows.

I guess before we got there, Deacon was fighting with the sound people over some technical glitch, but everything was off and running by the time we got there. Deacon, who usually plays a series of keyboards and effects pedals, was joined by a large marching band and other odds and end players to make an incredibly unique experience. His first audience participation experiment was to have the massive crowd form a big circle by holding arms and forming a giant snaking archway, and then he wanted the crowd to run through the archway and continue it as long as they could, while his bizarre dance rock on meth was blasting in the background.

It worked well, with smiles all around on the participants as well as everyone watching. He then had the crowd spread out to make a huge empty circle in the front near the stage, and he had a friend of his go into the center of the circle. He then asked his friend to lead an interpretive dance to "Of the Mountains," and asked those all around the circle to exactly mimic what his friend did. It actually worked very well and was again very entertaining to watch while the manic music filled the air, and that was shortly followed by the largest salvo of plastic bottles I think I've ever seen at one time.

All in all, it was definitely one of the most fun and unique sets of the weekend by far. Deacon, who looks about as much of a rock star as Kevin on The Office does, did an incredible job of keeping the crowd all worked up, and for a while, everyone seemed to forget about that nasty weather and all that business.

We the headed to the furthest south stage to check out some of the set by Vampire Weekend, and to meet up with our friends Jenn and Mike. I really liked VW's set at the Pitchfork Festival last year, but quite honestly, after the insanity and genius of Dan Deacon's set, I really didn't pay much attention to VW at all this time around.

We did find Jenn and Mike and hung out and chatted for a bit. They had managed to get a pass to the prestigious exclusive cabana area near the south stage, and offered to get us free food and drinks while we were there. However, we are so loyal to our Robinsons Rib Sandwiches, that we actually passed on the free food, since we were still yet to have the final delicious rib sandwich of the 2009 festival. Now THAT is dedication.

We took off early to get a spot for the last of my greatly anticipated sets of the weekend by Passion Pit on the Citi stage. For those that haven't heard of them yet, Passion Pit have become huge on the internet in the past year for their insanely catchy dance rock. Lead singer Michael Angelakos wrote an ep's worth of songs for a former girlfriendf or Valentine's Day a few years ago, and even though they apparently didn't work with her, the songs became a huge sensation, leading to the even better debut album "Manners."

The street surrounding the Citi stage was as crowded as I've ever seen it, probably as jammed as it was for Girl Talk's insane set there last year. We were in the middle of the crowd, and there was no hope of getting out, so I don't know how far back it went for sure. The band opened with "Make Light," and never slowed down for the next 45 minutes from there. Despite the sun was beating down as bad as it was the entire weekend, the crowd went nuts and was jumping up and down and dancing with every song, with highlights like "Little Secrets" and "Moth's Wings."

One of the most odd and incredible things happened during Passion Pit's set as well. After making it through 40 minutes of sweat soaked oppresive heat, during the closing monster track "The Reeling," right at a point where most of the crowd had their hands in the air, a gigantic wind swept through the crowd that somehow felt 20 degrees cooler than the stagnant air around us to that point. The crowd was shocked, and then more invigorated to finish off the incredible set. It was one of those sets that make standing out in the sun and heat for an entire weekend worth every single moment and more.

After the insanity of Passion Pit's set, we needed a break to catch our breath and regroup. We got some fantastic fruit smoothies (if you ever get to have a Maui Wowi Fresh Hawaiian smoothie, do it!) to cool off, and then stuck around the Citi stage for our final round of bands. Our plan was to first start at Deerhunter's set at the Citi stage, then head to the north end to check out some of the set by legened Lou Reed, then see some of the set by the magnificent Band of Horses, then head south to cacth part of the set by Silversun Pickups, before wrapping up the festival with the closing set by the Killers. But all good plans are doomed to fail of course.

We started at the Deerhunter set, and it was fine, not too exciting. It could partially be blamed on lead singer Bradford Cox having a flu or something (he claimed to be buzzing so hard of a B-12 shot that he got that the crowd members' faces all just looked like blank flesh to him). The band's wall of guitars didn't have the same punch on this stage as it did earlier in the year when I saw them in a tiny club in Florida, but at least they gave it a good effort.

We then headed back to the north end for our solemn duty of savoring the final Robinsons Rib Sandwich of the 2009 Lollapalooza festival. We took our time, since seeing Lou Reed wasn't an extreme priority, and enjoyed every last bite of it and took plenty of photos to mark the occasion. (And yes, to the good folks of Robinsons, we are still anxiously awaiting our free sandwiches for all of the advertising for your delicious, fantastic product)

We got to the north end to hear some of Reed's set, and since it was around 7:10, we were expecting to hear about 20 minutes, and then move on to the majesty of Band of Horses' sweeping epics. However, that was not to be. After about 5 minutes after our arrival, Reed and his band went on a good 10 or 15 minute streak of pure feedback drenched noise, and then somehow around 7:30 or so, they kicked back in to another song. The song dragged on for a few minutes, and by 7:45, 15 minutes already over their alloted time, with Band of Horses ready to start their set, Reed kicked into his biggest hit, "Walk on the Wildside." Amazingly, the song didn't drag on as long as I expected, but BoH still had to wait 20 minutes to start their set.

They finally took the stage and rewarded those who patiently waited through Reed's noise to such great songs off the bat as "Great Salt Lake" and "Is There a Ghost." They sounded majestic once again, and their heavily Neil Young-inspired sound sounded fantastic blasting out into the night sky.

We did want to see some of the Silversun Pickups, and despite feeling very sorry for BoH for them getting screwed by Reed, we headed to the south end. It turned out we missed some of the most interesting events of the weekend, as the headliners Jane's Addiction still went on at their scheduled start time of 8:30, including a ridiculous helicopter flyby to start the set. Despite all that, BoH kept on playing, even continuing their set while Jane's Addiction was starting their set on the same field. That took some brass balls, especially since they kept going for 15 minutes or so, so I applaud them.

We did get to the south end to catch the end of the Silversun Pickups' set, and got there right in time as they started their great new song "Panic Switch," and followed it with a fantastically massive taken on their previous hit "Lazy Eye." True, like most people say, they do owe a huge debt in their sound to the Smashing Pumpkins, but unlike the Pumpkins in the last few years, the band sounded fantastic live, and definitely proved that they were capable of delivering a great set in a prime spot at such a festival as Lollapalooza.

We then stayed to listen to most of the set by the somehow gigantically huge Killers. I can admit that I like the band, but I do agree with most critics that despite how great many of their singles are, they have yet to make a truly great album from beginning to end. The band had a great light show, and kicked off with "Human," and didn't waste any time peppering their set with their big hits like "Somebody Told Me" and "Smile Like You Mean It."

I don't know if it was the exhaustion of being in the sun so much for the previous two days, or just the proper end to an insane weekend, but the crowd around us at the Killers' set was one of the most amusing ones we have seen. There were definitely some of the whitest people I've seen dancing around us, and there was one woman in particular who made the Elaine dance from Seinfeld look like proper ballroom dancing in comparison. Yes, it was so amusing, we even had to record a video of it.

I did end up leaving the Killers' set early, partially out of exhaustion, but also, yes, because I had yet another show to attend that night. I said my goodbye to Lollapalooza, got some photos of the grounds and the gorgeous night sky in the city, hopped on the train and headed off to my final destination of the weekend.

Thanks once again Lollapalooza, you kicked my ass, and I loved every minute of it.

Lollapalooza 2009 - Day 2.1 - The Raveonettes at the Empty Bottle

As with last year, the 10 hours of baking in the sun and seeing a constant stream of bands (16 by my count) was once again not enough for me, I decided to head out to one of the local clubs for one of the official Lolla aftershows going on around the city.

Longtime readers might remember that I decided to do the same thing last year at the Double Door, but the results were not so great. I braved it again this year in the hopes that things would run alot smoother, and that I might actually be able to see a headliner play before 1 AM.

I went to go and see Living Things again at the Empty Bottle, as they were opening for another band I love, the Raveonettes, at the Empty Bottle. It took me a little while to get back to my car from the L that I took, then only about another 15 minutes or so to get to the venue from where I parked. The fun part was then driving all around that neighborhood for a good 10 minutes until I could find a good place to park about a mile away. Good times.

I got into the venue around 11, and Living Things were already on. I thought the show was supposed to start at 11, so I wasn't too worried about it. However, it turned out that they had been on since around 10:30, so I missed almost all of their set and only got to see 3 songs. It was okay, since it was 3 songs I hadn't seen at their set at Lolla, including a stomping "I Owe," which had singer Lillian Berlin planted in the audience, passing around the mic to have some help belting out the song's chorus.

Thankfully for me and my 35 year old knees and feet, the Raveonettes set up pretty quickly after that. The good news also was that the Raveonettes' record label were videotaping their performance to put out there somehow when their new album comes out later this year. I was standing right next to one of the cameramen, so it'll be just like watching the show from my perspective in some parts.

I've been a fan of the Raveonettes ever since they first broke through here in the US in 2003. Their a Danish band, and the best way to describe their sound is to take a guy/girl group from the 1950's, and have them sing with a band recreating the massive wall-of-guitar sound made by bands like Jesus & Mary Chain in the 1980's and 90's. And how can you not love any band who intentionally wrote every song on their debut album in the same key?

The band is essentially only guitarist/singer Sune Rose Wagner and guitarist/co-lead singer/goddess Sharin Foo (who bumped into me while she was walking to the backstage area, which I have to assume means she is in love with me), and they vary who they have backing them tour to tour. This time around, they did have a percussionist and bass player, which they haven't had in a couple of years.

The band started off with some of their better album tracks, and quickly moved into some brand new material, which they said was being played for the first time anywhere. The songs didn't stray far from their formula at all, which is fine since they do it so well.

They did play most of their best songs, including "Attack of the Ghost Rider," "Aly, Walk With Me" and "Great Love Sound," so it was a very special treat for the fans not just for the new material, but to get to hear the best of their old stuff as well.

They pretty much finished within an hour, which pretty much meant that was the set they'd be playing the next day at Lolla, so it was a good sneak peek of what to expect out in the blazing sun the next day. And the good news is that by 1:15, the show was over and I was on my way home to finally get off my feet, and rest up for one more day at Lollapalooza.

Lollapalooza 2009 - Day 2 More Pics

More photos from day 2, including Ezra Furman, Miike Snow, more Living Things, and of course, the second rib sandwich!

Lollapalooza 2009 - Day 2

It was going to be a completely different day at Lollapalooza on Saturday, since I walked out of the door of my house and was slapped in the face by a warm muggy day. Guess the poncho wasn't necessary anymore...

Saturday was looking to be a pretty full day, with a pretty decent break halfway through, but with lots of heat, sunshine, and walking ahead. I got there early around 11:30 and watched a few minutes of Band of Skulls on the tiny BMI stage, but wasn't too impressed. I did a quick sampler that hour, starting first at Chicagoan Ezra Furman & the Harpoons' set on the north end, which came too close to the Violent Femmes at times for me.

After a quick stop for Robinson's Rib Sandwich number 2 (with a piece of pulled pork thrown in, bonus!), I headed to the south end and caught a few minutes of Thenewno2, a.k.a. the band featuring the son of George Harrison. The advance word made it sound like they would be more electronic or trippy or something, but it pretty much sound like standard indie rock from what I heard. I then stopped for a few minutes at the south stage to watch some of the Low Anthem. They weren't bad, sort of folky-rocky/country-ish, but not much else to speak of there.

Next up on the biggest stage was Living Things, out of St. Louis. Unfortunately, they are as well known (if they are known at all) for their left-leaning politics as they are for their stompy blues-rock, which shouldn't be the case since their music is strong enough to stand on its own. The band focused on their songs from their strong album from this year, "Habeus Corpus," which was a very good thing, since it got the day off to a great start with infectious fist-pumping songs like "Let It Rain" and "Brass Knuckles."

We did leave their set a little early, since I would be seeing them later that night at another show (more on that later). We then headed to the smaller Citi stage to catch some of the Constantines. The Canadian band came off a bit like Spoon to me, but that is a very good thing.

We then headed over to watch some of the set by Miike Snow (no, that is not a typo). The band is a collection of 3 big producers I guess, two of whom wrote some big songs for Britney Spears and such. Luckily, their music was much more interesting than their bio. They started off wearing Phantom of the Opera-esque masks and all black otherwise, they wisely took off the masks after a few songs since they were staring directly at the blazing early afternoon sun. They provided the one case of dance-rock that I'd end up seeing that day, so that worked out well.

Next up was another of my most anticipated acts of the weekend, Ida Maria. She's from Sweden, and released what is still one of the best songs of the year by far, "I Like You So Much Better When You're Naked," from her great debut cd "Fortress Round My Heart." Wearing a shiny gold dress, the pale skinned singer lead her band through a high charged set again directly in the brutal midday sun.

They hit almost every song on her debut in their short set, closing with the best tracks, "I Like You.." and "Oh My God." Ida Maria encouraged her audience to get naked during the first track, with limited results since most people were too hot to do much more than stand and watch, but the audience still gave her a hearty response to her impressive set. She's another future star that we'll be hearing much more from in the future.

As soon as Ida Maria was finished, I got to the far north end of the grounds as quickly as I could to catch the last half of the set by the Welsh indie collective Los Campesinos! I had seen them back in February at the tiny Logan Square Auditorium, but their sunny, bright indie pop was made for the sunshine of an outdoor festival. The band played a joyous, highly energized set, with the main singer getting as deep into the audience as the barricades would allow and later stage diving as well.

I also have to give them credit as well, at the end of their set, two of the band members crowd surfed as well, and one almost made it all the way back to the soundbooth, which definitely took the award for the longest distance crowdsurfing at Lolla 2009.

I headed back to the south end of the park to catch part of the set by Chairlift on the Citi stage. They didn't do much for me when I saw them at the Metro in the spring, but playing out in the sun and the open air seemed to help and bring more life to the breezy songs. That and getting to see their lovely singer/keyboardist Carolyn Polachek out in the sun certainly helped as well.

We also stepped over to the nearby big stage to catch some of the set by Gomez. Their songs definitely made me feel like we had briefly stepped into a big outdoor festival in England instead of Chicago, but the blazing sun didn't let me forget that for too long.

After a food break, things were going to start picking up and require much more movement across the grounds. We first started back at the Citi stage to watch some of No Age, a guitar/drun duo who have been getting loads of hype from Pitchfork. Unfortunately, the set wasn't to be as lively as it may usually be, since the guitars had separated his shoulder the night before in a "dance-off" at one of their shows. The few songs we stayed for were fine, but they may be worth seeing again when the guitarist has recovered.

We headed back again to the big nearby stage to watch some of Glasvegas, another British band that would be more at home there singing soccer anthems than they were in Chicago. Their set didn't do much for me, the songs seemed a bit too similar after a while and weren't distinguishable from many of the other bands we were seeing that weekend.

We headed to the north end again for another big set of the weekend by TV on the Radio. On the tail end of their tour in support of last year's amazing "Dear Science," the band played to a packed lawn enrapt in their music. The only problem I had with their set is that somehow I thought they had only played a few songs, looked at my watch and noticed that somehow 40 minutes had already passed.

I guess it was too much of a good thing or something, but their set was over before I even knew it. They did hit some of their biggest songs like "Dancing Choose" and "Golden Age," but had to pass on some of their better songs like "Family Tree" and "Lover's Day" due to the time limit. I'd rather have the band go back to write a follow-up rather than coming back on tour again, but I won't get my hopes up.

We then hauled ass to back to the south end once again to catch as much as we could of the set by the heavily hyped Brooklynites Animal Collective. Their music on cd can be very difficult, as it can be very dense, repetetive and droning at times. Their release from this year, Meriwheather Post Pavillion, is their most accessible album yet, and compared to some of their older stuff, it sounds like a Hanson album.

Unfortunately, the band didn't take advantage of its prime spot closing the second stage before Tool played on the big stage. They played a blobby mess of droning noise, going 5 or 10 minutes at a time in their hour long set before an actual song was discernable. As far as I know, they didn't play their two best songs from this new album, "My Girls" and "Summertime Clothes." They didn't do much on stage either, since they mainly stuck behind their computer consoles while psychedic vidoes played over the big stage screens. It's too bad, I had really high hopes for this set, but they chose to go the hard route. When even Pitchfork was criticizing them for their set, you know something was wrong.

We headed back up to the north end once more, to catch the closing set by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, who stepped in at the last minute when the Beastie Boys had to drop out. Although it was debated, the band turned out to be an excellent choice to fill the spot. Even though they've been around roughly the same amount of time, the YYY's showed the Kings of Leon how a band as young as them could rise to the status of true headliners, as frontwoman Karen O was a great center of attention. Her theatrics were enough, but the massive guitars of Nick Zenner and the powerhouse drums of Brian Chase were enough to keep the crowd entertained.

They only had 3 albums to draw from, so it was going to be a miracle for them to fill out the hour and a half time slot they had. That meant they hit every solid song possible, from the latest hit "Zero" to "Gold Lion" and "Y Control" from their debut. The one spot that I thought the stumbled was with their biggest song, the lovely ballad "Maps." They decided to do the song acoustic, robbing it of the great drum beat and storming guitars that liven up the song. Otherwise, the band proved they had every right to be there as headliners, and will most likely be there again in the future.

I headed out as they were finishing their encores, but my night was not over yet. More to come.

Lollapalooza 2009 - Day 1

The 2009 Lollapalooza weekend kicked off on Friday, and unfortunately the weather was going to be the key issue of the weekend. Friday rain was predicted all day long, then Saturday and Sunday were looking at very bad heat, the worst we've had in a very mild summer. So with plenty of preparation (a poncho on Friday and plenty of bottled water the other days), the weekend was off and running.

The weather predictions were dead on as I got there on Friday, but I headed straight for the stage that would host one of my first anticipated sets of the weekend, but Atlanta's Manchester Orchestra. The band is touring on their outstanding album from this year, "Mean Everything to Nothing," and gave the rain-soaked crowd a great welcome with a solid set of anthems like "Shake It Out," "I've Got Friends," "Everything to Nothing," and the powerful closer "The River." They were definitely a great highlight of the weekend, and they were just the first band I saw.

Next was the first of three fantastic Robinsons Rib Sandwiches, and a trek all the way across the festival grounds to the largest stage on the south end of the park for another very anticiapted set by New Jersey's Gaslight Anthem. Their 2008 release "The '59 Sound" proved to be one of the biggest surprises of the year, coming out of nowhere to deliver a solid set of Springsteen flavored anthems.

The band did not disappoint, despite the rain coming down even harder than before in the day. They plowed through the majority of the album, even playing their singles "The '59 Sound" and "Great Expectations," which is pretty brave for a young band to not close with them. They threw out salutes to some of their heroes like Elvis Costello and the Clash, and closed the powerful set with the album closer "The Backseat," proving they are definitely the real deal, and we'll be hearing much more from them in the future.

My friend Brian and I then walked quickly through the rain back to the far north end to try and catch as much of the set by cheesehead band Bon Iver as possible. Bon Iver's fanstatic 2008 album "For Emma, Forever Ago" did not make my best of 2008 list only because I couldn't find it cheap anywhere, but once I got it, I have not stopped listening to it. It's a gorgeous acoustic record that's as close to you get to peeking into someone's diary as you can without doing it.

For once Brian and I were lucky that the Chicago "poet" Thax Douglas read one of his "poems" before they started, so that delayed them enough so that we could get there when they started. For those of you outside of Chicago, Douglas goes on before bands, does a "poem" named after the band, and then does a "poem" that has the exact same meter and meaningless jumble of words that all sound identical, and yet he gets applause and gets to keep doing it. I don't quite understand.

Bon Iver proved they could pull off the delicate album live, beefing up some of the songs with electric guitars and two percusionists. Main man Justin Vernon's high croon was clear and powerful live, despite yet another strong round of rain dampening their set. Songs like "Skinny Love," "For Emma," and "Re: Stacks" worked well even in the large outdoor setting, and "The Wolves" even ended with a surprising drum solo.

Thankfully it was a short walk to the next stage to see Ben Folds. His piano rock was hopefully going to be a good antidote to the hours of rain we'd been standing through, and thankfully it was. He and his band cranked through a great set, with standouts like "Effington," "Rockin' the Suburbs" and his hillarious cover of NWA's "Bitches Ain't Shit" working pefectly in a festival setting.

Since he only had an hour, his setlist was pretty limited, skipping great songs like "Not the Same" and his biggest hit "Brick" in favor of other upbeat tracks. He did throw in a couple of nuggets for fans of his Ben Folds Five days, with "Kate" and the closer "Army."

Once again, we thankfully just had to turn around to see the next set by Fleet Foxes. Their gorgeous debut album was another of my favorites from 2008, but the rain was still pouring down and had turned the lawn into a giant mash of mud and grass and garbage. Too appreciate Fleet Foxes the best, you need to be able to sprawl out on the lawn and let the sun beat down on you and soak it all in, but the gloomy weather wasn't making that an option on Friday.

Instead, we decided to head to the south stages to catch some of the set by Crystal Castles. I've only heard one or two of their songs, but what I know of them is that the shows usually end in some sort of disaster or another, so it was worth seeing something risky compared to the calmer, more mellower stuff we were seeing to that point. We caught about 20 minutes of their set, and about half of that time was spent with them either fixing technical issues, or with their lead singer picking a fight or yelling at some audience member or someone. I read that I guess someone tried grabbing her microphone while she was diving in the crowd, no idea. The last song pretty much sounded like her mic was off anyways, so I have no idea.

The day for me had pretty much peaked by that point. After a dinner break, we watched a few minutes of Peter, Bjorn and John, who despite having some really great poppy songs, just don't interest me live. We also heard some of the Decemberists while we were making our way to the north end of things, and I still don't undrestand why critics love them so much, I just don't connect with them.

Next up was Chicagoan Andrew Bird, who somehow got the plum hour plus set leading up the night's closer. His whimsical, dare I say artsy-fartsy, violin based songs were fine, but they got repetetive and indistinguishable from one another by 3 songs in, especially when half of them had whistling mixed in throughout.

I decided at that point to wander over to the new and improved DJ tent that Perry Farrell had set up this year to watch some of Simain Mobile Disco. The area was really well done, it was much more elaborate than in years past, and provided a good spot to relax on the grass. It also provided a spot to hear the same thumping beat repeated for a good 20 minutes or so, so I didn't spend too much time there.

Last up for the night for me was Kings of Leon. I really love the band on album, they really have some fantastic songs, and I think they have moved on well to making big stadium anthem type songs like "Sex On Fire" and "Use Somebody" from their days as a southern stomping rock band. The problem is, despite how great they are on record, they are a bit of a bore live. The band members barely move, if at all, while performing the songs, and there wasn't much else going on visually to help them out.

I did stick around for half of their set, they did sound good and all, but it wasn't enough to hold my interest. I knew I had two very long days ahead, with intense heat to boot, so I called it a night and headed home.