I went to 2/3rds of Lollapalooza with a friend whose name is approximately Kevin, though in i.r.l. his name sounds and looks nothing like Kevin. Because Lollapalooza was so much fun, every act I saw will get an award.
Some of the following videos may contain nudity, and I would not display them on a projector at a work meeting.
BEST NON-METAL BAND WITH A METAL NAME: Doomtree
We caught about ten minutes of Doomtree. Neither of us had heard Doomtree before. I could not find any YouTube videos that captured the power of their sound live, so I’ve docked them a brain from what I was going to give them when I started writing this column in my head, just in case I was imagining things. If my review meant anything, I wouldn’t assign a rating to an act I saw ten minutes of.
I remember Doomtree sounding like an electronic beer bottle breaking on someone’s head. Kevin even commented that he was comfortable with this rap group grabbing a metal name. Whatever happened for those ten minutes may not have been captured in a studio.
BEST PERFORMANCE I WAS NOT EXPECTING TO GIVE A FLYING FUCK ABOUT: GIVERS
The GIVERS were tucked away on a side stage, surrounded by trees. The only reminder you were in Chicago was the city skyscrapers poking over the treeline, and all the people who went shopping exclusively at American Apparel.
GIVERS were a band I had never heard of, that we saw because Kevin knew people that would be there. They gave a mighty powerful performance, like songs from Vampire Weekend played by Arcade Fire on a barge floating down the Mississippi — just maybe toned down a notch or two in quality.
I doubt any albums will hold up to the live experience. It was a very fitting summertime show. The crowd was alive and in love from the first song. The band played from the bottom of their hearts. Their co-drummer/miscellaneous string player/co-vocalist was a female probably in her mid-teens who would raise her drum-stick in the air as high as possible than crash it down as hard as possible.
Did that help the sound? Absolutely. They sounded like earnest celebration.
BEST PERFORMANCE THAT DID NOT HAPPEN: Alabama Shakes
About one Bud Light tall boy after GIVERS, there were rumors chirping through the crowd that Lollapalooza would be shutting down due to a storm. About two Bud Light tall boys after GIVERS, an official voice from a speaker said they were evacuating the area due to an impending storm.
Kevin and I walked to a bar on the other side of the loop, to get away from the sea of high-waisted Guess jorts. After a beer and a shared pitcher and a plate of nachos supreme, a drunk, chubby Mexican girl told me a story:
Her cousin sat at a bar with his friends, while a random couple were making-out in a corner. He nudged his friends and they watched a while. Then the guy came over and said he heard they were talking shit about him and his girl. So, her cousin grabbed a beer bottle and smashed it on the side of the guy’s head.
The story was very good live, but I can’t promise it translates into any recordings.
Anyway, the lightening cancelled the Alabama Shakes. Everyone who didn’t suck was looking forward to the Alabama Shakes. They could have been pushed back a time slot or two from 4:30 and still drawn a huge crowd. I’m sure I would have given them at least four out of five zombie feed patties had they played.
BEST BAND I DID NOT LIKE: FUN.
Post-rain, we met back up with Kevin’s posse at FUN. I do not like FUN. They’re not bad in the sense that the Black Eyed Peas are bad. In fact, they’re not bad at all, but every song features some type of catchy anthem that I can’t get myself to care about.
They do give a solid, fun show. There were children climbing in trees to see them, like they were Jesus or even Ron Paul. I guess you could give them a rating proportional to how much you would love living in Wrigleyville. I consider having lived in Lincoln Park an understandable mistake. Hence, three out of five human figs.
BEST BAND WHOSE EVOKEMENT OF DISAPPOINTMENT WAS PROPORTIONAL TO WHAT YOU WOULD EXPECT: Bloc Party
I got the feeling that the lead singer doesn’t have the best relationship with critics. He occasionally made comments that I didn’t entirely understand, but understood to be negative. At some point after playing a recognizable song from Silent Alarm, he said, “Goodbye photographers!” and went into a heavier riff. I take it that’s what he feels their discography would sound like if you played each album in chronological order. It would also probably sound like attractive, depressive girls from the suburbs smoking weed and smiling at their show a little and then leaving.
Bloc Party is a solid band that gave a solid performance, but they always seem like they’re on the edge of something brilliant that doesn’t quite come through. I hope someday they put out another album they love and everybody else loves, too.
We left a little early.
BEST USE OF LIGHTING TO WEED OUT PARAPALEGICS FROM YOUR FAN BASE: Twin Shadow
The 80′s are a decade I just don’t understand. It seems like things started and ended well, with hardcore punk and Paul Volcker rebuking Keynesian economics (if in practice, only) and then the beginnings of grunge. But there’s all this phony shit in the middle.
The Five Seconds video is pretty cool, but I expect Twin Shadow to last as long as the 80′s themed clothing lasts in Urban Outfitters. Then again, I was born in the mid-80′s, and it’s taken more than two decades for me to come around on myself.
I had to look away from the stage several times, not because the lead singer was wearing a shiny jacket with no shirt, but because the bright flashing lights were designed to give me a seizure. I did vaguely appreciate that the drummer wasn’t facing the crowd, but instead angled his set in towards the center of the stage, with a spotlight behind his head so you just saw the silhouette of his moppy hair.
If you listen to Twin Shadow’s albums, stripped of the artistically violent video snippets, they’re just kind of boring. In true 80′s fashion, they’re expressing the stylized impression of emotions, rather than the emotions themselves; the 80′s were when the reptilians ruled, putting on their human act. The most interesting aspect of their live performance was watching the Office-Space-Michael-Bolton look-a-like standing in front of me rock out. Good for him.
BEST SUBLIMINAL USE OF NEW WORLD ORDER SYMBOLS: Frank Ocean
I did not see the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The only reason I waited out Twin Shadow was to get a good spot for the R&B stand-out from the collective of Satan’s emissaries known as Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All: Frank Ocean.
Frank Ocean is an all-star wide-receiver who doesn’t do touchdown dances. He had a keyboardist/miscellaneous electronics handler, guitarist, bassist, and drummer spaced out evenly behind him. Frank the man held two poses: standing and a primal full-squat stretch. Between songs, he’s very soft-spoken.
As Kevin commented, Frank Ocean gives one sexy performance. Every song he sings seems very sincerely felt. Right before Bad Religion, an effiminate male voice somewhere behind me screamed, “IF I CRY, YOU HAVE TO CRY WITH ME.” During the funkier riffs of Pyramids, they let the bass blast so hard I could barely breathe.
Of course, as a member of OFWGKTA, Frank Ocean is creating worship music for the new religion of the New World Order. Fools may say Pyramids is about lost love or prostitution or love lost to poverty and prostitution. Fools will be the slave fodder of the New World Order.
As Frank Ocean sang she’s working at the pyramid tonight, the future slaves threw up the Rockefeller diamond in praise and worship. The image of a flying saucer made of TV’s spun behind Frank Ocean and his band. Television is the most blatant brainwashing tool of the New World Order. Do aliens have something to do with Satan or the Illuminati?
Trick question. Satan is the Illuminati.
Even being bisexual or gay or whatever Frank Ocean is leads to tyrannical, one world government. The mind and spirit-control science is pretty complicated, and I don’t have time to get into it now.
In any event, Frank Ocean gives a great live performance; a performance to usher in the Anti-Christ.
BEST BLUEGRASS ACT THAT I SAW: Trampled By Turtles
When we arrived on Sunday, we headed straight for the main stage that Trampled By Turtles was playing at. The field smelled like sewage from the previous day’s rain, and there were big lakes of mud forcing the crowd to spread out.
I don’t remember too much of what Trampled By Turtles played. I do remember a modern-day pseudo hippie dancing barefoot in the mud with his less hippie girlfriend. And watching fashion forward Chicagoans balk at the prospect of getting muddy made me feel very bluegrass.
I’m sure the show was good.
BEST BAND PERFORMING MUSIC NOT FITTING FOR THE SWELTERING HEAT: The Walkmen
The Walkmen came out wearing full suits, and all I could think was: fuck. I still love the album You and Me, and the album You and Me is still The Walkmen in my mind. I first heard You and Me in the winter, and The Walkmen seems like a band you’re supposed to see late at night in a bar during a light snowstorm while drinking coffee and beer and whiskey, in three separate cups.
The crowd didn’t seem particularly large or enthusiastic to be there. The Walkmen did have a three o’clock time slot on the third day of the festival. But the sounds of hopeful dejectedness shined and The Walkmen triumphed in the pain of full suits despite the humidity of the midwestern summer day.
BEST BAND FROM ICELAND: Sigur Ros
Sigur Ros was Sigur Ros. Flawless victory. The crowd cheered for Hoppipolla. Would have been better taken with a psychedelic, though maybe I would have convinced myself I was being chased around by a naked Shia LaBeouf trying to cut me with shards of glass.
Yeah, would have been better taken with a psychedelic.
BEST SHOW TO SHOVE STRANGERS AT WITH OR WITHOUT A BONER: At The Drive-In
Before At The Drive-In, we stopped dicking around and started trying to get almost fucked up. Some people had to work on Monday. Kevin and I met up again with the extended posse and everyone double-fisted tall boys except me because I don’t mind being a pussy anymore. I just had one tall boy and a little bit of some pumpkin bread crumbs from a girl whose foot I would later inadvertently stomp on.
Due to mud aversion from the general public, we were able to pretty much walk up to the center of the stage, about seventy-five feet back. Everybody was happy. I couldn’t stop smiling and wasn’t sure why. Then I remembered eating bread crumbs out of a clear plastic bag.
All I wore were homemade jorts and a shirt made of chest hair and a pair of shoes with an outer layer of mud. Everything was as it should be. The crowd rushed forward from the opening of the set and pushed back and pushed right and pushed left and sang along and pushed all around and it was an angry sweaty mess of humanity celebrating life.
At The Drive-In needs to be heard live, felt live, experienced live. They rise and crash in waves, and sound like someone shaking their right knee and then nodding their head and then banging their head with a motion starting in their chest and then shoving their friends.
Someone from the posse screamed: THEY’RE GOING TO CLOSE WITH ONE ARMED SCISSOR AND I’M GOING TO KILL A THIRTEEN-YEAR-OLD. When the final song began the friendly shoving paused only so people could shout: CUT AWAY! CUT AWAY!
At the end of the song I was on the outskirts of the closest thing to a mosh pit you got at Lollapalooza when I saw a frail blonde girl in a black lace bra push her way in and then I finally believed in love at first sight. Unfortunately for this story, she left too soon after the set was over for me to get a public boner in my homemade jorts.
I’ve read some reviews complaining that At The Drive-In still has some rust. These reviews were written by people too scared to cross the mud and swallow the sweat of strangers.
BEST PERFORMANCE I WOULD EXPECT TO BE GOOD BUT WAS EVEN BETTER THAN I WAS EXPECTING: Jack White
After At The Drive-In, all of my friends and extended friends left to go to the bathroom and get water and breathe. I stayed right the fuck put. I had never seen the White Stripes or The Raconteurs or any other incarnation of Jack White live, but I’d seen footage and I did not want to risk losing that view.
But as sweaty bodies from At The Drive-In cleared out to recover and fully clothed opportunists took their space, complete with blankets they laid down so they didn’t have to stand for the whole hour before Jack White would begin, I began to resent the people and resent Jack White. It seemed they hadn’t earned their spot.
“This is going to be intense.” I looked over. A very clean man in his thirties with a classic California look was talking to me.
“Yeah. Though I was just here for At The Drive-In, and it’s not going to be as intense as that.”
The all-American trailed off, “You don’t think so? Yeah, well, different crowd, I guess.”
When the drummer came out the crowd rushed forward, on their tip toes. There was no pushing and shoving.
But Jack White came out with much more of a bite than I could have possibly expected. He was not accepting prisoners, but he was stashing musicians backstage. There seemed to be ten free floating people in his traveling band.
One thing was cleared up immediately: a concert from Jack White does not mean a concert of Jack White solo material. It means a concert of anything Jack White has ever worked on with whoever he wants to put on stage.
I don’t know if the White Stripes would have crushed more souls as a full band. I don’t know if Jack White was more intense than At The Drive-In. It would just depend on your crowd.