Lollapalooza Day 2 Review: St Lucia, Family of the Year, Haim

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Editor’s Note: These are Celeste’s notes as she takes to her annual Lollapalooza trip.

Best swagger of Lollapalooza Saturday: Not even a contest – St Lucia brought the swagger in spades. Frontman Jean-Philip Grobler rocked out in a pair of pink pants and a paintball splattered button-up, and amped up the crowd to the point of frenzy – definitely the most intense dance party of Lolla Saturday. He also had a great rapport with the crowd – getting everyone to holler the “Don’t Go, Don’t Go Away” chorus of We Got it Wrong.

Most distracting backdrop of Lollapalooza Saturday: The National. Why? Why you gotta have something that looks like a screen saver from the 90’s blazing in the background? You all are talented enough that I’m happy to just see you create music – no swirling discs of color needed.

Best sister trio of Lollapalooza Saturday: Haim Haim Haim. Also Haim. This sister trio has so much obvious sibling love going on you can’t help but smile. What’s better than seeing people who look alike having fun? Seeing three talented people who look alike having fun on a stage. Also best crowd interaction: some very enthusiastic girl threw her bra onstage with “I will always support you” written on it.

Overall winner of Lollapalooza Saturday: A fight to the death between Family of the Year and St. Lucia but I’ve got to give this one to Family of the Year for the sole reason that they were an utter surprise. When the bassist of this band boogied (and I don’t use that term lightly) onto the stage with his long hair, his jorts and a beer in hand I thought the group was going to be an absolute mess. They weren’t. They were a surprising refreshing delight. Family of the year had a folk/indie mashup vibe that fit well with the theme of Lolla Saturday (Lumineers and Mumford headlined) and while they played relatively early on, they drew a very enthusiastic crowd to the tucked away Grove Stage, and in the midst of a blazing hot day they created a shady cool refreshing oasis of sound. Their keyboardist also wins for her highlighter yellow hair.

Lollapalooza Day 3 Review: Of Monsters and Men, The Devil Makes Three, Sigur Ros, The Walkmen, August 5, Chicago

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Winner of Lollapalooza Sunday: Of Monsters and Men.

Let me explain to you how amazing Of Monsters and Men are: I was bled on, copiously, by a stranger while waiting for this set to start, and yet I ended it with a ginormous grin on my face. They’re that good. Having read Ricky’s post in April about their show at the Phoenix Theater, I knew that I needed to experience the magic. Sure enough, approximately 20 seconds into their set, I already had that warm, fuzzy feeling in my stomach. Lead singers Hilmarsdóttir and ÞórhallssonI (the band is Icelandic) have voices that play off each other beautifully, and they’re backed impeccably by horns, drums, accordions and tambourines. Hilmarsdóttir’s vocals shine in particular – she sounds like what I would imagine a nicotine-addicted angel would: throaty and angelic.

I feel impelled to give a shout-out to the crowd at this set as well – best crowd ever (except, of course, for the one losing her life force all over my legs). Everyone was under 5’6’’ so I had a perfect view of the stage, they brought bubbles, streamers, and blow up birthday cakes, which were all tossed in the air at the exact correct moments, and everyone was as appropriately appreciative of this amazing band as they should have been. Well done guys!

Best bluegrass act of Lollapalooza Sunday: The Devil Makes Three.

I had already created this category in my mind before heading to Lolla on Sunday, knowing that Trampled by Turtles would take the prize. Shnope! Just kidding! While Trampled by Turtles was excellent in their own right, The Devils Makes Three came out of nowhere, jammin’ like nobody’s business to snatch that title. The trio hails from Santa Cruz and consists of a guitar, a banjo and a upright bass (if your band has an upright bass you win, but if your band has an enthusiastic, female upright bassist then you double win.) The threesome put on an incredibly high energy show for the crowd, who made up for their small
size by doubling their enthusiasm – I’ve never seen a group of people break out into so many small, simultaneous hoedowns.

Least impressive act of Lollapalooza Sunday: Sigur Ros.

I would give Sigur Ros my “Most ‘meh’ act of Lollapalooza Sunday” category, but as I see it, Sigur Ros doesn’t even make it that far. This band confuses me. I know there’s something I’m missing – I have friends with great taste in music who love them. In my opinion though, Sigur Ros commits the two cardinal sins of band-hood: they make music that is not only unappealing, it’s also boring. (I already feel bad for writing that – for those who disagree, just chalk it up to my heat stroke).

Most pleasant surprise of Lollapalooza Sunday: The Walkmen.

The Walkmen toured with Fleet Foxes back in 2011, which is when the band came to my attention. I’m a big Fleet Foxes fan, so I looked up the Walkmen thinking that I would probably enjoy them as well. I was completely nonplussed with what I found, so when I saw they were coming to Lollapalooza I was unenthusiastic. My plan was to head from Trampled by Turtles to Gary Clark Jr., but when Trampled by Turtles finished their set and I turned to walk towards the Playstation Stage, I found myself facing the Sony Stage, where an impeccably suited-up man with a massive set of lungs was belting out some seriously wiggle-inducing music, and I knew I wasn’t going anywhere. I’m not sure what it is about their live performance that makes it so distinctive from their recorded music for me – I think their recorded material sounds just a little more punk than their live performance, which has a little more finesse to it, which apparently makes all the difference.

Best all female band of Lollapalooza Sunday: Dum Dum Girls.

I constantly bemoan the fact that there aren’t more all female bands out there (it just seems odd to me that there are so many solo female acts – Lady Gaga, Florence and the Machine, Santigold, M.I.A., Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj – and yet the indie world, as well as most other genres of music, almost completely lacks for female bands.) Which is why I was thrilled that

a) Lollapalooza had an all female band and
b) I super enjoyed them.

Overall winner of Lollapalooza: JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound.

This one was a fight to the death between Of Monsters and Men and JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound, but in the end the element of pure surprise and joy that came with showing up 30 minutes early for the set I was planning on seeing, only to find myself faced with the world’s most charismatic front-man of a post-punk, retro, R&B group doing his “weed dance” clinched it for me. You know that when you find yourself laughing with delight multiple times during a concert that the band is doing something right. If you happen to be local to Chicago, get ready to make these guys your hometown sweethearts, and if you’re not local to Chicago, get ready to see these guys when they tour. Awesome.

Lollapalooza Day 2 Review: Doomtree, JC Brooks and Uptown Sound, Neon Indian, August 4, Chicago

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Winner of Lollapalooza Saturday: JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound.

Whoa. I got to Lolla early this morning so that I could see Doomtree, my pick for best Midwestern collective hip hop group, and I happened to catch the last half of JC Brooks’ set. Brooks has a fun, funky, retro, post-punk, R&B sound going on, and the leading man has the charisma necessary to pull off this odd mixture in spades. My favorite song of the set was “I Got High” which came complete with Brooks’ “weed dance.” Also, unless I was entirely mistaken, I think his Mom was onstage with him playing the tambourine. Love.

Best Midwestern collective hip hop group of Lollapalooza Saturday: Doomtree

Doomtree is a 7 piece hip hop collective that hails from Minnesota. I like the group entirely based on their song “bangarang” which is a reference to the lost boys in the movie Hook. I’m not really sure what else there is to say.

Most “meh” act of Lollapalooza Saturday: Neon Indian.

Neon Indian is a solid synthpop band with a lot of songs that I really enjoy – Polish Girl and Deadbeat Summer being my favorites – but their sound didn’t come across all that well in the live setting for me, and I think this was true for a lot of fans, as quite a few people left the set about three songs in. Their recorded material is crisp and vibrant but live all the songs sounded muddled and a little vague. To be fair though, things were starting to pick up halfway through when Neon Indian had to leave the stage because of thunderstorm warnings.

Loser of Lollapalooza Saturday: Me.

Really Lollapalooza? Really?? If you evacuate Grant Park for a thunderstorm and then at 6:25 tell us that you’re starting again at 6:30 you know what happens? I end up missing Fun. and my day is ruined. First world problems.

Festival Review: Lollapalooza 2010, Grant Park, August 8 – Day 3

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X Japan

Chicago – What’s a music festival without a little rain?  Well … it’s a nicer day, for one thing.  Luckily, the rain ended by 1:00 making the rest of the day pleasant and sunny, albeit a bit muddy.  However, being a guy who wants to get the most out of a music festival, I was there bright and early … in the rain. 

The Antlers got the Budweiser stage going for the day.  Having seen them once before at Massey Hall, I wondered beforehand how their lush, moody music would go over in an outdoor festival setting.  Of course it went over perfectly … because of the rain, not in spite of it.  Frontman Peter Silberman put it best: “Thanks for coming out in the rain.  We’re from New York so we’re used to it.  We’re  not really a surf pop band so this is probably better.”  They played to a smallish but rapt audience, some with umbrellas, some without, but even those without didn’t mind getting a little wet.  The Antler’s set led to the only real scheduling mix up of the day.  As they finished playing “Two,” I figured their set must be done as they had like 2 minutes left in their set and The Antlers definitely do not play two minute songs.  As they launched into “Wake,” I thought, “Hmmm… how will this play out?”  They continued to play, going slightly past their set and into that of The Dodos, who were playing the stage right across from them immediately afterwards.  The Dodos, not wanting to lose out on their alotted time, just started playing at the same time.  I’m sure this wasn’t an intentional snub on the part of The Antlers, and for all I know they had to start their set late, but it was a bit of a blemish on an otherwise well organized schedule. 

The Antlers

I wanted to check out The Cribs for one primary reason – to see Johnny Marr play.  Not being overly familiar with them, I figured it would be a good set, but it turned out to be really good.  They won me over with their high energy performance.  Definitely one of the highlights of the day.

The Cribs 

The other big highlight of the day as well as a pleasant surprise was X Japan, a Japanese metal band formed in 1982 who play an interesting mix of power metal, prog, glam metal and old school speed metal.  In other words, they stuck out like a sore thumb on the bill. 

They broke up in 1997 and are currently on a reunion tour.  This was their first ever American show.  I knew very little about the band going in and was a little bummed that they were on opposite Yeasayer, who I really wanted to see, but I figured I can see Yeasayer again and I’m fairly certain I won’t get a chance to see X Japan again.  And what can I say?  This band was glorious.  They pretty much match Lady Gaga and Empire of the Sun for over the top theatricality.  As they entered to some piped in intro music, a small group of dedicated hardcore fans cheered loudly.  Shortly thereafter, many more of us were instantly converted into fans.  My favourite bandmember to watch was drummer Yoshiki, who entered wearing some sort of robe, wore a neckbrace throughout the show, and switched between drums and piano.  He also performed on the 1994 Kiss tribute album Kiss My Ass.  I bought that album on cassette back then and thought, “Who the hell is Yoshiki?”  Now I know.  Rather than say too much about their performance, I’ll just let these videos of their performance do the talking.  “We Are!” “X!”

After X, I figured I’d stay in that vicinity and check out Erykah Badu.  Big mistake.  While I was interested in seeing her and while she sounded good when she finally came out, little did I know that she wouldn’t even grace us with her presence on stage until 15 minutes into her set!  Those 15 minutes were filled first with her DJ playing other people’s music to warm up the crowd (which is fair enough since the Japanese metal that preceded her probably didn’t fit the mood she wanted to create, but still…) and her backup band jamming on some tune for awhile.  Had i known she would take this long, I probably would have gone to check something else out (which I eventually did).  Badu would later reappear onstage with Cypress Hill during their set, and Cypress Hill put on a great show.  Opening strong with “How I Could Just Kill A Man,” they played a mix of old and new songs, including classics like “Insane In The Brain.” “I Wanna Get High.” and “Hits From The Bong,” the performance of which actually involved them taking hits from a bong onstage.  

Cypress Hill

MGMT played just before Cypress Hill at the other end of the park to one of the largest crowds of the day.  While Sarah wasn’t overly impressed with their performance at Coachella, and Ricky echoed those sentiments after seeing their most recent Toronto show, I would have to say that my opinion differs slightly.  Looking a bit like mid ’60s Bob Dylan, Andrew VanWyngarden led the band through a selection of songs from their latest Congratulations, plus a few older tunes.  The songs sounded good, and the band was tight.  I couldn’t see anything wrong with their performance … but I do agree somewhat that it was still a bit of an underwhelming performance for me at least, probably partly because I was looking forward to Cypress Hill, Soundgarden, and Arcade Fire and partly because they weren’t as over the top as X Japan. 

I split the rest of the night between Soundgarden and Arcade Fire.    Both bands delivered solid sets that satisfied for different reasons – Soundgarden primarily as nostalgia.  As I watched them play I had forgotten how heavy songs like “Jesus Christ Pose” and “Gun” sounded.  Sadly, I left to catch the last part of Arcade Fire before they played Black Hole Sun, but there’s a whole bunch of videos of it on youtube anyways, so I guess that’ll do.  Arcade Fire sounded great too, closing out with a few classics like “Rebellion (Lies),” “Keep The Car Running,” and “Wake Up.”  You guys are great,” said Win Butler, clearly impressed with the response he was getting from the crowd.  “Usually at the end of festivals, people are burned out, but you guys must have been pacing yourselves.”  It’s all about moderation I guess.