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.