Saturday: Mardi Gras in Grant Park
1:30 - Mix Master Mike, Hard Rock Hotel
David: Mother, fucking, Mix Master Mike. Or at least that’s the message I left in Will’s voice mail.
Here’s the deal. We were bombarded with emails from publicists who repped their bands, but the one that really blew up my skirt was Mix Master Mike, the Beastie Boys’ DJ, at the Hard Rock Hotel. I had just seen "Awesome; I... Shot That!," so I was dying to see the man in action.
I got there early, and I stayed late. Never saw Mix Master Mike.
In stark contrast to the timely nature of the four big stages at Lolla, the Hard Rock Lounge, apparently, thinks that the later a performer is, the cooler he is. But for anyone who was on a schedule, like me and the girl sitting next to me, who happened to be USA Today’s Pop Candy blogger Whitney Matheson, this was death, death, death. Whitney was smart; she left just after 2:00 to see Built to Spill. I looked at the amount of time I had already spent waiting for MMM and figured that hey, he’ll be out here any minute now. That’s what everyone was telling us, after all. Still, the Go! Team is playing down on the Q101 state at Lolla. I wonder if they’re any good....
It’s now 3:00. MMM is an hour and a half late, and Wolfmother - WOLFMOTHER - is hitting the stage in 30 minutes. Everyone I talk to about Mike’s inexcusable tardiness says, "He should be here any minute," and eventually, after that reply no longer holds water, I get, "He’s doing interviews upstairs." He’s doing interviews? He was supposed to play an hour and a half ago! You’ve got him doing interviews when he’s 90 minutes late? They shrug their shoulders indifferently. Snakes on a plane, dude.
Yeah, well I’ll snakes-on-a-plane you. Everyone is on a schedule this weekend. NO ONE at Lolla is more than five or ten minutes late. That should include the four people who are playing the Hard Rock, too. I don’t know how much input he had over the decision to be so late, but I left thinking of Mix Master Mike as the DJ equivalent of Axl Rose. Show some respect for the people who are on a schedule, guys.
So, Will, how were the Go! Team? And please, don’t spare the whip.
1:30: The Go! Team, Q101 stage
Bullz-Eye Reviews: Thunder, Lightning, Strike (2005)
Will: As painful as it may be for David to read this after the Mix Master Mike fiasco, it nonetheless must be said: the Go! Team were, in fact, fucking awesome.
If you’ve heard the band’s debut album, Thunder, Lightning, Strike, then you know they’ve got a highly animated bunch of brightly-colored dance-pop songs in their repertoire, but seeing them live finds the group upping the enthusiasm level tenfold. I mean, lead singer Ninja...yes, Ninja...wears a cheerleading outfit, for God’s sake (pics #1 and #2, right)!
"Are you hot out there?" asks Ninja. "Well, you’re gonna get even hotter!" The enthusiasm level of the group’s performance never drops, from "Junior Kickstart" to "Huddle Formation," even to the fab pair of new songs the band works into the set. There’s even a bit of audience participation here and there, with Ninja asking the crowd to sing along. It’s just plain cute, however, when the band’s wee percussionist, Chi Fukami Taylor, steps out from behind her kit and fronts the mike for the twee piano pop of "Hold Yr Terror Close." The banjo-laden instrumental "Everyone’s A VIP to Someone" also gives folks a few more minutes to rest their weary dancing shoes. "Bottle Rocket," however, brings the damned house down and succeeds in drawing many a passerby into the band’s audience out of sheer curiosity...as in, "Who are these people, and how can they possible be this energetic in this heat? And why does their music cause my feet to suddenly start moving and my ass to start shaking as if under some outside control?"
Make a note: if the Go! Team come to your town, take your cue from their very name and just GO!
3:30: Wolfmother, Q101 stage
Bullz-Eye Reviews: Dimension EP (2006)
David: WOLFMOTHER! Need anything else be said?
Okay, how about this: they rock. Hard. Lead singer Andrew Stockdale (#3) doesn’t channel Robert Plant quite like Jack White can, but he’s close, and his guitar riffs can break bones. It was hot when they were playing, too, and the fans were moshing just the same. But here’s the thing: as impressed as I was with Wolfmother, they didn’t leave much of an impression. I couldn’t tell you a single lyric or hook that they played. I just remember them sounding like no one else at the show all weekend. They even had a woman on the side of the stage, doing sign language of the lyrics for the audience. This struck me as completely pointless, but oh well.
4:30 - Sonic Youth, Bud Light stage
Will: Sonic Youth is playing? How can I not go see Sonic Youth...?
Answer: I can’t. I have to make the walk.
I get all the way down to the North Side and, after watching Kim Gordon, Thurston Moore, and company for about four songs, I realize that I am painfully bored. Bored bored bored. And I like Sonic Youth, so I’m legitimately depressed to find myself feeling this way. But even with tired feet, I just feel like I’d be better served by trudging back to the South to catch Gnarls Barkley, instead.
4:30: Gnarls Barkley, AT&T stage
Bullz-Eye Reviews: St. Elsewhere (2006)
David: Smart move, Will. Gnarls Barkley was awwwwwwwwesome.
Did you catch the band’s performance of "Crazy" on the MTV Movie Awards, dressed as "Star Wars" characters? Apparently the outfit theme is their thing, because they took the stage at Lolla wearing...tennis outfits, while the band cranked out an instrumental version of "We Are the Champions," which the crowd sang lustily. Backed by 10 additional performers (three singers, three-piece string section (#6), guitar, bass, keys, drums), Danger Mouse and Cee-Lo brought their crazy soul to life in ways that wouldn’t have seemed possible. The string section hammed it up during "The Boogie Monster," and Cee-Lo (#4) freaking brings it live. I secretly wished that they would return the favor from yesterday and cover the Raconteurs’ "Steady as She Goes," but they covered Holly Golightly instead, which, now that I think about it, can still be connected to Jack White since she sings on "It’s True That We Love One Another." The saddest part: I had to head up to the North Side for the next band before Gnarls played "Crazy."
5:30: Smoking Popes, Q101 stage
Will: The Smoking Popes’ major-label debut, Born to Quit, was a significant part of my personal soundtrack to 1995, so when I heard the band was back together again (they’d broken up in 1999) and playing Lollapalooza, thereby giving me my first opportunity to see them live since seeing them open for Morrissey in 1997, there was never any chance I was going to miss out.
The Popes are actually from Chicago, and their reunion show last year sold out in less than an hour, so it’s no real surprise that there’s a huge crowd for the band. "Chicago loves you," chants the audience, and the Popes quickly indicate that the reverse is true as well. It’s great to hear alternative radio hits like "Need You Around" interspersed amongst album tracks like "Paul" and "Megan," and it’s obvious that the audience knows almost every single guitar-powered pop song by heart. The most pleasant surprise of the set, however, comes from the inclusion of a pair of new songs, "If You Don’t Care" and "Welcome to Janesville," which - Caterer announces - will appear on a new Popes album, coming soon to a record store near you.
In a word: sweeeeeeet.
5:30: Dresden Dolls, Adidas-Champs stage
David: Morbid curiosity drew me to check out the Dresden Dolls more than anything else. I like "Girl Anachronism," but I also totally get why most people cannot stand "Coin Operated Boy." They have an extremely high annoyance factor, which is naturally inherent in any band that is inspired by German cabaret and wears white makeup.
Luckily for them, they positively kick ass live.
Brian Viglione (#7) might be the best drummer that no one talks about. He doesn’t do anything fancy, but damn, can he bash. Amanda Palmer (#8) is, well, Amanda Palmer. Feisty, spirited and, soon after we had to leave the camera well, topless. Apparently that yellow dress was suffocating her, so she whipped it off and popped on a black top, onstage. Whoa.
But wait, it gets better. As I’m wandering toward the Bud Light stage to check out the Flaming Lips, I hear Palmer yell, "This is a Black Sabbath song!" And the Dolls, armed with only a piano and drums, belt out the greatest cover of "War Pigs" you’ve ever heard. All of the muscled, tattooed guys walking around were banging their heads furiously. The Dresden Dolls had won over the hard boys.
Had to shoot a picture of a girl in the front who was doing the Dolls thing with the makeup and black hair pulled back (#9). We’re now friends on MySpace. Wolfmother, Gnarls Barkley, Dresden Dolls...this was shaping up to be a damn good day, and my beloved New Pornographers were on the horizon. Could the Flaming Lips keep things going?
6:30: Flaming Lips, Bud Light stage
David: Oh, my, God. Best, opening, ever. Seriously. I will never forget the Lips’ opening at Lolla as long as I live.
Beatle Bob was all over the place today. He introduced the Go! Team, and I got a shot of him with Wayne Coyne. Things started predictably enough, with Coyne hopping in the giant inflatable ball and rolling over the crowd, apologizing in advance if he steps on anyone. Then he gets back to the stage, the band tears into "Race for the Prize," and all hell breaks loose. Fifty giant inflatable blue balls are thrown into the crowd. Coyne is shooting streamers out of a hand cannon, along with tossing bags of confetti into the air. There are alien cheerleaders dancing on the left of the stage, Santa Clauses on the right (#10-13). The entire crowd is pogoing like they’re watching the Kaiser Chiefs, and "Race for the Prize" is not a pogo-friendly song. But that speaks to the sheer joy that the Lips bring to their live show. If everyone else simply played at Lollapalooza, the Flaming Lips put on a show. And it was bar none the highlight of the weekend.
Pity, then, that I had to leave early, never getting to hear if the Lips played "The W.A.N.D.," to see my favorite band on the planet.
7:30: New Pornographers, Q101 stage
Bullz-Eye Reviews: Twin Cinema (2005)
David: I heart the New Pornographers. Twin Cinema is my favorite album of the decade so far. Neko Case could sing me the takeout menu for Donato’s, and I’d be swooning. Carl Newman’s (#14) songs bend and blossom in ways that I thought had been completely forgotten in modern pop songwriting.
But after the display that the Flaming Lips put on up on the North Side, the New Porns looked downright Amish.
Sure, they sounded great, with drummer Kurt Dahle drumming, singing and smoking a cigarette at the same time. But Case was not there (her parts were all handed admirably by Kathryn Calder, who is Newman’s niece), and for as good as they sounded, it all seemed like a letdown after the Mardi Gras party that the Flaming Lips just threw. The set also seemed to lean more on their second album, Electric Version, than Twin Cinema, which I just don’t get. Maybe it’s because no one but Neko can sing the dazzling "These are the Fables," but if they can pull off "The Bleeding Heart Show" live - which they did - they can take a swipe at "Stacked Crooked." It was great to see them, it really was. But the addition of Neko would have been huuuuuuge.
I could hear their last song, "Sing Me Spanish Techno," from across Michigan Avenue on our way to the subway. What’s that? We skipped Kanye West? Damn right we did. There’s a margarita at Blue Agave with my name all over it, and my legs are killing me.
On our way to the stage, I saw a really sad scene. A girl, clearly drunk, wearing a men’s denim shirt, tube top, panties, and high heels. Not sure where her shorts/skirt went. She asked us where the Q101 stage was, we showed her, and she slowly stumbled along. I wanted to help her, but wasn’t sure exactly what I could do and get to the New Porns in time. Sweetie, if you’re reading this, get new friends. They should be ashamed of themselves for abandoning you like that.