(Editor’s Note: I did not attend Lollapalooza as a journalist this year. I attended strictly as a fan and to have a good time drinking and listening to music with my friends. That said, as an aspiring music journalist it is my duty to at least bring you some sort of report from an event of this magnitude if I am physically present there. This recap is intended purely for entertainment purposes and all comments are my own opinion of the way I remember things. Obviously I didn’t see every band, nor did I even make it to some that I really wanted to catch, but I will try to make some mention of everything that I was able to take in. I was operating under a pretty serious haze of alcohol for the entire three days, I did not take notes, I did not memorize set lists, and I didn’t even bring a camera. I did, however, bring two packs of smokes and a liter of vodka each day, so if any of this is not 100% accurate I apologize. I would also like to acknowledge that all photos utilized in this post are from the official Lollapalooza flickr account, and I encourage you all to go sift through the 50+ pages to see more photos of your favorite artists HERE. That does it for the disclaimers, so enjoy!)
The Builders and the Butchers:
This was the first band on my must-see list for the weekend, so I showed up on Friday afternoon in the pouring rain to catch their set. They were on one of the smaller side stages, so given that and the fact that it was early afternoon on Friday during a serious downpour the crowd was a bit sparse. I suspect that a lot of folks were still at work, waiting for the rain to stop (it didn’t), or catching Gaslight Anthem or White Lies instead. This is unfortunate because the boys from Oregon put on a pretty killer show. It was heavy on the new album, but it didn’t matter. They closed with “Devil Town,” and that was around the time I started drinking.
I caught a few songs at the end of their set because we were meeting a friend near their stage and their set continued for about thirty minutes after The Builders and the Butchers were done. I wish I had taken a piss or something instead. A bunch of teenage boys dressed in black playing Interpol knock-offs in the rain? No thanks.
I wasn’t sure how Bon Iver’s set would translate to a grandiose festival stage in front of tens of thousands of fans, but I was very pleasantly surprised. Though he normally plays seated and usually alone on stage, he actually stood for this one and brought a talented group of backing musicians with him this time. The result was awesomely appropriate given the inclement weather and generally chill mood. Everything seemed louder than on record, and the additional instruments fit in quite nicely. I don’t recall many details, but he played “Beach Baby” and that made me happy.
Bon Iver – Skinny Love
Ben Folds was not someone that I had planned on seeing, but my friends were into it and there was nobody else really playing at the same time so I obliged and joined them. I don’t particularly care for Ben Folds in general but his set was actually pretty OK and the crowed definitely seemed pleased with it. I don’t know many of his songs so the set list was pretty much a mystery to me, but it was fun bordering on cheesy as I expected. He didn’t play “Brick,” but he did do a few songs I recognized, including that cover of a hip-hop tune that I had heard before.
Caught about half their set, wasn’t particularly impressed, and went to get food. I ordered a gyro and was even less impressed with that. This sucks, because I really like Mykonos off of last year’s Sun Giant.
Fleet Foxes – Mykonos
This performance was a very pleasant surprise for me. I have always liked The Decemberists, but for some reason didn’t have the highest of hopes for their set at Lollapalooza. As it turned out, it was probably my favorite of the entire weekend, despite some reports that I have seen from others who were less impressed with it. The sound was amazing and the band didn’t appear to miss a single note throughout the hour that they played. The catch to their set was the curious decision to play the entire The Hazards of Love album from start to finish rather than relying on a set full of hits and favorites as many bands do in such a setting. Though many, including myself, would say that Hazards is the band’s weakest studio album, something about watching it come to life was thrilling to me. As on the record, Lavender Diamond’s Becky Stark and My Brightest Diamond’s Shara Worden were on hand lending their amazing vocals in addition to acting out their respective roles on the sprawling concept album. Also of note was Coln Meloy’s stellar guitar playing. He may hate America, but the way he shredded on Friday evening almost made up for that.
Kings of Leon:
This was another surprise for me. There was a time when I was a pretty big Kings of Leon fan, but that was a long time ago. I fell in love with Youth and Young Manhood when it first dropped, and fell even harder for Aha Shake Heartbreak, which I still think is a great record. Since then, however, I have been an all out hater. Because of the Times was a disappointment, and I found Only by the Night to be utter garbage. Combine that stance with the fact that I had been hearing that they don’t play any of their older material on their current tour and I was reluctant to even bother catching them. As it turned out, I was dead wrong and they actually put on a great show. Sure, there were some generic moments and the obligatory hits from the new record, but for the most part they seemed to be having a good time and playing whatever the hell they wanted. They were five songs in before I heard anything new, and they even played “Taper Jean Girl” and “red Morning Light,” two of my favorites from the good old days. Of course, that was somewhat offset by their obligation to play the god-awful “Sex on Fire,” which turned into such a sing along that you could barely hear the band. There was a time that such a scene was the last thing you would expect from KOL, mainly because you couldn’t understand any of the words. Luckily they got that one out of the way early, allowing many of the teenagers who waited for hours in the rain just to hear that song to cut out early and beat the crowd. Overall I was pleased with the set, and left feeling slightly superior after seeing the confused looks on the faces of many in the crowd during the older and less popular songs. For one last night the old KOL was back. Sorta.
Animal Collective DJ Set:
WTF? That’s all I have to say. When I walked in I thought I was in the wrong place. It seemed like they were oblivious to the fact that they were actually performing for people. The highlight was some stoned hippie dancing on the stage. I left and cracked the seal on my first drink.
We caught Chairlift almost by default. The original destination was supposed to be Gomez, but the stage they were playing on smelled like a cow pasture and in my hung-over state it was making me nauseous. The tightly packed crowd and the 100-degree heat weren’t helping either. That worked out well for me since I was never to keen on Gomez to begin with and Chairlift was on a side stage near the entrance that provided a nice meeting spot for a group of late arriving friends. They sounded OK and they played that song from the iPod commercial. That was about the time I started drinking heavily.
Chairlift – Bruises (Daytrotter Session)
This was another band that I wasn’t particularly looking forward to seeing but ended up just going with the flow. I would have much preferred to stay near the side stage to catch No Age, but a huge group of friends had a spot staked out near the stage and we intended to keep it for TV on the Radio who played there next. My first impression was that they look radically different that the last time I saw them at the Metro on the heels of their debut record. Apparently the chubby guy is no longer in the band and the rest of them look far more grown up, which makes sense I suppose. The set was raucous and fun, but being one of the few bands there in support of an album that is yet to be released the crown was having trouble getting into it. Towards the end they played a few of their older track and the fans near the front erupted. They played “I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor” and a mosh pit broke out. I continued to drink.
Arctic Monkeys – Crying Lightning
After Arctic Monkeys, half of us stayed behind to secure our area while I went across the field with an adventurous crew to scope out a few minutes of Santigold. If it weren’t for the fact that her stage was near the bar and a row of port-a-johns the trip would have been a complete bust. As expected she came out looking ridiculous and sounded utterly disappointing. She played those two songs everybody knows. I peed and got a drink.
TV on the Radio:
This was one of the sets I was looking forward to this weekend and it did not let me down. I’m not afraid to confess my love for TVOTR: they are one of my favorite bands and they probably always will be. This marked the fourth time I had seen them, and yet again they put on a show unlike any of theirs I saw previously. They kept things relatively mellow to an extent, opening with “Love Dog” and “Wrong Way” before launching into “Golden Age.” “Wolf Like Me” was a crown pleaser as usual, but following it with “Red Dress” was the highlight for me. They toned down the rapping a bit on “Dancing Choose,” which was an interesting yet cool choice, and closed with “Staring at the Sun.” Tunde dressed in all white and wiggled across the stage per usual, while Kyp braved the sweltering heat in a neon flannel and whaled on a white-on-white Gibson SG, possibly the coolest looking guitar I have ever seen.
Ben Harper was not on my list of acts to see, and in fact was playing at the same time as Animal Collective, who I REALLY wanted to catch. While leaving TVOTR, however, we had to go past his stage on the way to the south side of the field to catch the second half of AC’s set and settle in for Tool. As we were walking by he blasted into a cover of Zeppelin’s “Good Times, Bad Times” though, so we were compelled to stay and watch that. Needless to say they absolutely nailed it and then followed it by covering – wait for it – Jimi. He nailed that one too (the song was “Red House”) and as he finished that up we were on our way, stopping for more drinks as we walked.
Given the massive size of the festival and the throngs of fans making their way to the Tool stage, it took us literally forever to get to the south end. By the time we made it there Animal Collective was nearly done with their set. We strolled up as they were halfway through “Lablakely Dress” but were lucky enough to catch them play “Fireworks” in its entirety. They sounded amazing and I was sad that I missed so much of their performance, but these are the kinds of things that happen at festivals of this size. They closed with “Brothersport,” which ended up being loudly upended by Tool’s determination to start exactly on time.
I’m not a huge fan of Tool, but I have always appreciated them in a strange way and know a lot of their songs. That combined with the fact that I wasn’t about to trudge all the way back across the festival just for Yeah Yeah Yeahs made my decision pretty easy. The one thing that I must say about their set is that it was LOUD! We were quite far from the stage, and each song pummeled my eardrums with the force of a hurricane. I can’t imagine the aural assault the folks near the front must have endured. They kept the set pretty basic; focusing mainly on the songs that everyone in the crowd was familiar with. They ripped through classics such as “Stinkfist,” Forty-Six & Two,” “Schism,” Aenema,” and “Lateralus” with ease and precision. Their crown was one of the largest I have ever seen at one stage in all my years of attending Lollapalooza, and I imagine all of them left fairly satisfied.
Gaslight Anthem – Double Door after-show:
After Tool a smaller group of us hopped a train and headed north to Wicker Park for the Gaslight Anthem after-show at Double Door. By the time we were in and the band took the stage, I was a liter of vodka and three Natural Lights into the night. My memory of their set is on the hazy side, but I do remember thinking that they rocked my face off as we left. Like some other bands of the weekend, I didn’t expect a lot from this show but was proven way wrong. Maybe it was the alcohol or the small size of the club, but the band absolutely slayed. They ripped through nearly all the songs on their 2008 album The 59’ Sound and did so with authority. It was one of those shows where, about halfway through, you start to think that every song must be the closer. Not because they had been playing for a long time, but because you wonder how they can possibly top the last song they played. Then I got some pizza and went home.
I didn’t watch Kaiser Chiefs so much as they were my entrance music. After two days of booze, rain, and extreme heat I was moving a little slow on Sunday. I missed Portugal. The Man, which sucks considering they were probably the best band in the lineup that day, but at least I made it eventually. Hearing Kaiser Chiefs reminded me of the first Lolla in Chicago, when the singer was climbing the scaffolding that held up the stage. Not sure if they played “I Predict a Riot” or not, but they closed with “Oh My God.” That was around the time I started drinking.
I was pretty far from the stage while The Raveonettes played, but the set sounded good. I used to be really into them but I haven’t paid much attention to their last two records. I didn’t hear a lot of my old favorites so I am guessing they focused more on newer material. My friends and I chatted about the one time we hung out with them at a bar in Wicker Park when they played Double Door on the Pretty in Black tour. They were pretty cool people and they wore cardigans. That’s all I got, sorry. I do have a demo from their soon to be released album available for you, however.
The Raveonettes – Boys Who Rape (Demo)
All I have to say is that Neko was looking extremely hot. I’m not a big fan of her solo material, but the set sounded great and she was very engaging on stage. The sexy red curls and little black dress weren’t bad either.
Neko Case – People Got a Lotta Nerve
This was probably the first set of the day that I really got into. I have always liked Dan Auerbach as part of The Black Keys, but I find that I actually like his solo material better than any the Keys’ records. I’m probably in the minority there, but I just love the dirtier sound and the heaps of Americana that he lays down on his own. Joined on stage by My Morning Jacket drummer Patrick Hallahan and a host of others, Auerbach laid down a blistering set from his solo debut Keep It Hid. It is almost amazing how different this material is while still being so closely related to his previous work, but it really comes across in a live setting. This difference extends to Dan’s personal appearance, with the long hair and t-shirt look stepping aside in favor of a full-on mountain man persona complete with beard and western shirt. The only downside to the set was a lack of material to play, which led to him finishing up about ten minutes early.
Dan Auerbach – Trouble Weighs a Ton
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Lou Reed, but I knew it would be interesting and I was correct. A noted perfectionist, Lou took the stage about twenty minutes late after his crew took care to go through a thorough sound check, leaving the audience wondering how such a situation would play out at a rigidly scheduled festival. After the delay Reed and his band opened with “Sweet Jane” and worked their way through a restrained set of standards. The highlight was a feedback explosion through “Paranoia in the Key of E” that recalled his Velvet Underground days and represented the only experimentalism to be found in the set. Right around there was where the set should have ended, but despite the late start Reed seemed to insist on playing for his full hour and continued on for two more songs. As “Waiting for the Man” (appropriately) began, Band of Horses was scheduled to begin on the opposite stage. After ten minutes the song ended and Reed began yet another track, closing with the classic “Walk on the Wild Side.” At this point throngs of hipsters who had began to leave, certain that he couldn’t play another one, rushed back to the stage. By the time it was all done they had gone twenty minutes into Band of Horses’ set and set the stage for some Lolla drama to come.
Band of Horses:
With Band of Horse starting so late, Jane’s Addiction set to follow as the festival headliners and fronted by the festival’s founder, and a strict mandate that the event must end before 10PM, it was almost certain that BOH would abbreviate their set to accommodate the schedule that Lou Reed completely fucked up. Things started out pretty normal, with the band playing a pretty standard set of material from their two studio albums. As things started to wind down and Jane’s Addiction’s slot neared, BOH was into “No Ones Gonna Love You” and much of the crowd assumed they were winding down. When they followed that with the natural closer “The Funeral” most suspected that all would be fine in the Lolla world. With a dramatic entrance complete with a helicopter planned, there was no way they would cut in to Perry’s finale, right? Wrong. As the final notes on “The Funeral” played, lights went down on the main stage and the bass line and helicopter soundtrack began. As a giant spotlight pointed skyward and Jane’s got into swing, the helicopter hovered feet above the crowd and Perry erupted onto the stage. The only problem was that Band of Horses was still playing and despite the crowd telling them to stop they belted out three more songs. As a result nobody could hear either act, and I’m pretty sure nobody, especially Perry, was very happy about that.
By way of being much closer to the main stage, I was actually able to hear that Perry’s entrance song was “Up the Beach,” but that didn’t change the fact that Band of Horses had essentially ruined the grand entrance that Jane’s Addiction had been planning for their set. And what angered me the most was that my favorite Jane’s song, “Mountain Song,” was half obstructed by some disrespectful bearded hipster playing on the stage behind me. It wasn’t until twenty minutes in that they finally stopped, just in time for “Whores.” Conflict aside, Jane’s Addiction put on one hell of a show, seemingly still in the prime of their early days. Dave Navarro was abusing his white Ibanez while Perry worked the crowd the way only he can, asking us all to “reach deep in our pussies and cocks.” The set rolled through staples like “Been Caught Stealing” and “Ocean Size” before briefly running off to prepare for the encore. When the band reemerged they were joined by Aerosmith’s Joe Perry on guitar for “Jane Says,” the final song of the weekend.
All in all it was another awesome Lollapalooza weekend in Chicago. As the festival ends each year I am always overcome by a host of emotions. On one hand I am drunk, exhausted, and near death, glad for the whole thing to be over. On the other I know that by the time I wake up on Monday I will feel something pulling me to Grant Park for more music and fun, longing for next year’s event that seems forever away. This year was no exception, and if nothing else I know where I’ll be from August 6-8 in 2010.