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.

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