Grant Park, Chicago
Friday, August 1 — Sunday, August 3, 2008
It takes a certain type of person to do the whole three-day festival thing. The lines, the prices, the sun . . . the portable toilets. It’s not easy, or always fun. Lucky for IE we have Andy Argyrakis, Jamie De’Medici, and Timothy Hiatt, who volunteered to battle the sweltering summer heat and moshing mad Rage Against The Machine crowd to provide the words and pictures (click here for the entire gallery) of Lolla 2008.
Though the weekend also featured a Wilco headlining slot, lead singer/guitarist Jeff Tweedy also unplugged for a personal performance in the Kidz Zone. Skipping the stage completely, he set up on the lawn across the street from Lake Michigan and performed a stripped-back set for the little ones (and their even more appreciative parents, plus tons of childless onlookers). The casual environment leant itself well to Wilco’s comforting “What Light” and “Hummingbird,” while also serving as the ideal platform for requests, though Tweedy admitted he’d have to tweak some lyrics (such as on “Heavy Metal Drummer”) to make them age appropriate. (Andy Argyrakis)
Even if The Kills also comprised a mere two members, the electro-punkers were much more convincing than the aforementioned pairs. Not only did the ferocious Alison “VV” Mosshart possess an unrelenting intensity on the microphone (often diving to her knees when not running around), but she was even more aggressive when plugging in an electric guitar. Partner Jamie “Hotel” Hince also echoed her supercharged sentiments with blistering leads as electronic sequencing swirled in flawless unison. (AA)
The Black Keys
Akron blues rockers The Black Keys built a perfect stylistic bridge to The Raconteurs, but couldn’t quite conquer the festival setting. The duo, vocalist/guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney, have been generally consistent in club settings with 2008’s Attack & Release (Nonesuch), but even the wildest strums and most menacing drum kicks couldn’t cope with for the mammoth main stage sizing. (AA) . . . or maybe . . . It wasn’t long after The Kills exited their stage that another act across the park picked up where they left off. Offering their own take on blues-punk, The Black Keys moved through a loose and laid back set, full of messy guitar jamming and fast but fine-tuned drumming. While it would be hard to classify the outfit as stadium rock, the group’s sound did translate surprisingly well into the wide open Grant Park air. Moods alternated between songs, from the playful and hooky “10 A.M. Automatic” to the more ominous, like on “Strange Times,” with the band holding their own on a day distractingly full of talent. (Jaime de’Medici)
Mates Of State
The exact same problem plagued husband/wife duo Mates Of State, who were even more restricted behind their respective instruments. Singer/keyboardist Kori Gardner is a sultry indie pop siren, but lacks the charisma of a more mobile frontwoman, while drummer Jason Hammel can strike the same animated poses only so many times before growing old. Nonetheless, the couple’s vibrant harmonies and jangly rhythms were easy on the ears and fairly pleasant under the blazing sun. (AA)
On record, Bloc Party have always been inconsistent. For every engaging moment, there are a dozen more that seem little more than filler. So it’s not surprising that onstage, Bloc Party were primarily and inoffensively inconsistent. The unassuming “Waiting For The 7:18” served as a perfect complement for the late atmosphere, with drummer Matt Tong elevating the song beyond its fey recorded ballad form. And the early single “Banquet” still holds up as a strong indicator of the group’s potential for melodic, well crafted U.K. rock. Unfortunately, for every dynamic and engrossing performance the group delivered, they waded through a handful more that served as little more than background noise. With a 20-minute set, Bloc Party would have been brilliant. (JD)
Even though The Raconteurs’ second album, Consolers Of The Lonely, hasn’t connected as 2006’s Broken Boy Soldiers did, the indie rock super group had no trouble translating it to the stage. Splitting the set fairly between both discs, frontmen Brendan Benson and Jack White exchanged snarling licks for a solid 90 minutes and painted a rebellious musical mural of the Deep South. (AA)
Brazil’s CSS, or Cansei de Ser Sexy, stood as one of Lollapalooza’s most playful acts. Led by living cartoon character Lovefoxxx, the outfit delivered a series of irreverent electro-bangers and straight up girl-led brat-rawk. Tunes like the synthy “Let’s Reggae All Night” and iPod anthem “Music Is My Hot Hot Sex” demonstrated the group’s palpable energy, which spread through a packed crowd that showed up to dance in spite of the overbearing afternoon heat. While it would be hard to claim CSS’ music holds any sort of substance, by being irreverent and not taking themselves too seriously, the group also ended up as one of the day’s most enjoyable acts. Coincidence? (JD)
Unfortunately, a fun and playful vibe was nowhere to be found at the south end of Grant Park that night. Perhaps the most disappointing, underwhelming, and puzzling set came from Friday night headliners Radiohead. With no other talent closing out the north end of the festival, the day’s collective attendees flocked to the AT&T stage, forming a sea of bodies that extended back from the base of the stage. It was a mass decision that made sense; the last time Radiohead touched down in Grant Park was in 2001, for a legendary performance those who witnessed still discuss in revered tones.
Unfortunately, the Radiohead that visited seven years back was nowhere to be found. Instead, the group that showed up played as though they were afraid to wake the neighbors. The evening’s quietest songs barely reached to the end of the crowd, with “Fake Plastic Trees” nearly drowned out by mid-set fireworks. While the band played fairly competently — if not quietly, Thom Yorke sounded bored, disinterested, and distracted (reports were he was ill). It didn’t help the group moved through all of its sleepiest songs, which asked the question — didn’t Radiohead use to have songs that weren’t this medicated? Even more frenetic fare such as “Paranoid Android” came off weaker than usual, with what little energy it managed to display coming across as too little, too late. Or, as Thom’s own words, Radiohead themselves set off “no alarms” with “no surprises,” leaving a crowd wishing “that something would happen.” (JD)