Friday: Robot rock
11:45: The Fratellis, MySpace stage (pic #1, right)
Bullz-Eye reviews: Costello Music (2007)
David: Very clever, those Lolla schedule planners, front-loading the first day with one of the hottest bands alive at the moment, and it was clear that while the band appreciated the adoration, they did not appreciate the early wake-up call. “We’ll be good before the set’s over,” singer/guitarist Jon Fratelli told the crowd. He was not wrong.
Actually, he was slightly wrong: the band kicked ass from the very beginning. Jon’s vocals were spot on, drummer Mince Fratelli is a hoot to watch (and can sing to boot), and bassist Barry Fratelli…well, he provided a mighty fine rhythm. Despite not being much to look at in terms of stage presence, the band sounded great, and by the time the band finished their set 45 minutes later with the insidiously catchy “Chelsea Dagger” (best, drunken, barroom chorus, ever), they had attracted the largest A.M. crowd I’ve seen at any of the Grant Park Lollas. Bravo, gents. Now get back to the bus and take a nap.
11:30: Rock for Kids Youth Jam Band, Kidzapalooza stage
Jason: My first day out at my first ever Lollapalooza found me in the Kidzapalooza section. I wanted to see and hear some groovy tunes from the Rock for Kids Youth Jam Band, but unfortunately nothing really happened. Perhaps it was because it was the first thing scheduled over there and most of the people filtering in just as the festival was opened weren’t tots or slightly older kids, but the whole area was pretty dead. There were a couple kids looking around, but not even what you would term a “small crowd.”
So I waited and when the music finally started, there wasn’t a hell of a lot to recommend it, sadly. The kids were playing their tunes, but overall it seemed more like I had stumbled onto some random garage band noodling away instead of witnessing the full-on show I had been hoping to experience. It was nondescript and a bit of a bore. So I headed off to the Citibank stage to wait for my next scheduled band, Illinois.
11:15: Helicopters, Citibank stage (#2)
Jason: There was plenty of time to kill before Illinois showed up, so I caught the Helicopters on the same stage, who were by now in the middle of their set. They were at Lolla as part of the Last Band Standing contest. Direct from Chicago, this three-piece wowed me enough to stick around for the rest of their set. The Helicopters play great, original modern rock with all the right hooks and melodies and are not one of those pathetic “let’s sing about how badly we all feel” bands that the kids seem to dig so much these days.
In fact, I enjoyed the Helicopters so much that on our second day at Lolla I went into the FYE merch tent and scored their CD which was being sold at the excitingly reasonable price of $9.17. It was nice to see that the indie groups weren’t being outrageously priced as FYE is wont to do with everything else (and basically were with the larger acts). Sure enough, the self-titled disc had the songs on it I enjoyed live, including the wonderful “Goodbye Little New York.” If you happen to be in Chicago, do seek these guys out, as they are terrific.
12:00: Illinois, Citibank Stage (#3-4)
Jason: After enjoying the Helicopters’ show, I was pretty keyed up to groove on some Illinois. I had listened to their clips on the official Lolla page, and liked what I had heard, so on they went to my schedule. They hail from Pennsylvania and came out rocking with a lead banjo of all things that cooked mightily. Unfortunately, the band’s second tune was riddled with keyboard and lead vocal microphone problems, so much so that by the time the stuff was all fixed, the song was basically over. No matter, the band soldiered through well and without a hitch afterwards.
I was right next to their big speaker at the left of the stage and it got pretty crazy on the overdrive a couple times. At one point, I actually felt dizzy from the soundwaves blasting out at me that I had to take a few steps back. All in all, it was an enjoyable show, though I only stayed for about 30 minutes of the entire 45 minute set. I did enjoy Helicopters more, but Illinois have plenty of good songs to hear and are worth checking out as well. As for me, I needed some water and headed to the media tents.
1:00: Improv Comedy: The Second City, MOTO Mindfield stage
Jason: After relaxing, having a bite of lunch and some tasty lemonade, I arrived at the MOTO Mindfield just in time for Chicago’s fabled Second City comedy troupe to begin. The show started with a hilarious short film displayed on the jumbotrons on either side of the stage. The film was about a group of office workers taking an elevator to their respective floors. One of the suits in the elevator is having phone sex with his wife over his cell phone. There’s a Twinkie and a dog involved, and needless to say the guys in the audience were howling with laughter while the women looked morbidly appalled.
The Second City then came out and did a whole set of skits that felt more pre-scripted than improvised, but it could have been a mix. There were songs, including a hilarious bit of singing during a skit regarding a dad singing to his son about the “dangers” of beer and pot, as well as a very topical closing sketch about record label interest groups wanting to censor rap lyrics and making them sound even dumber in cleaned-up versions. There were only a couple short moments that weren’t particularly funny, but all in all these guys had me laughing my ass off, making me more than happy that I caught their show.
1:30: Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, MySpace stage
Bullz-Eye reviews: Living with the Living (2007)
David: To paraphrase Morrissey, I was bored before they even began. After about a minute, my buddy Tim and I headed for Hutchison Park (a.k.a. the north side) to grab a bite. On the way we checked out the Kidzapalooza stage, which was pretty sweet. Petting zoo, Playstation tent (which I’m sure the parents hated: “No, Aiden, you’re not playing video games at a concert!”), and a hip hop tent where kids could pretend to scratch records like a DJ. They were also giving away earplugs, which was very fortunate, because for the next band, we would need them.
2:30: Polyphonic Spree, Bud Light stage (#5)
Bullz-Eye reviews: The Fragile Army (2007)
David: I was all kinds of pumped for this one. I love their new album The Fragile Army, and I love the idea behind the band (happy, life-affirming music at Lollapalooza? Who’d a thunk it?). But about ten minutes in, I was ready to leave. For starters, the sound was way too loud – I had earplugs in, and was a good hundred yards from the stage, and my ears still hurt – and the mix job was way off. Oh, and Tim DeLaughter doesn’t hit notes so much as he dances around them. It’s endearing on record, but is a liability in concert.
And yet, there they were, the happiest black suit wearing 25-piece band you’ll ever see, jumping around like a Goth version of Up With People. Who wouldn’t want to see the Goth version of Up With People? Still, I wish I could say that the concert experience was as awesome as I wanted them to be. I heard later that they did their infamous cover of Nirvana’s “Lithium,” much to the crowd’s delight, but by that time, I was in the AT&T Oasis, watching the feed for…
2:30: Jack's Mannequin, AT&T stage (#6)
Bullz-Eye reviews: Everything in Transit (2005)
David: I love Everything in Transit as much as the next 20-year-old girl, but I had to get out of the sun. So Tim and I popped into the cooling tent on the southern end of the park, and voila, Jack’s Mannequin is on the TV. Dude, this is perfect. “Dark blue, dark blue, have you ever been alone in a crowded room…” Wow, as a matter of fact, that’s exactly where I am right now. They were handing out these portable fans, which were cute and all, but when you’re out in the fields, they weren’t much help since the air they’re blowing has a humidity of about 350,000 percent. Still, Jack’s Mannequin can bring it live. Not quite Ben Folds Five, but pretty damn good just the same.
3:30: Slightly Stoopid, MySpace stage
David: Tim and I are feeling pretty smart, as we just found the perfect place to sit in Grant Park (a.k.a. the south side), and that is on the east side of the giant metal structure in between the two main stages. Not only was it in the shade, there were giant fans blowing cold water, like you’d see on the sidelines of a football game. It was awesome. If only I could say that the band playing at the time was equally awesome.
Now, let me just say right up front that I am painfully aware that Slightly Stoopid isn’t making music for me. In fact, I hadn’t even heard of them before they took the stage, and at first, their 311-ish reggae seemed tolerable enough. It was when they tried to go all Check Your Head that they lost me. They did not, however, lose the crowd, who had their hands in the air, waving like they just don’t care, etc. Man, how much longer until Daft Punk? Four and a half hours?
Screw it, I’m done. It’s 90 degrees, there isn’t a cloud in the sky, and I’m wiped out. Back to the hotel, so we can gear up for tomorrow. That’s right, I’m skipping Daft Punk, the band I was all excited to see about five hours ago. That’s how hot it was; it literally sucked the love for Daft Punk right out of me.
Mr. Eldred, care to take it from here?
6:30 : Satellite Party, AT&T stage (#7-8)
Bullz-Eye reviews: Ultra Payload (2007)
James: I would rather see the Black Keys, but it’s really hot out I just don’t want to make the trek. Besides, the show’s program heavily suggested that Perry and his crew would be delivering a set heavy with Jane’s Addiction and Porno for Pyros. Thankfully it was right, and classics like “Been Caught Stealin’” and “Mountain Song” were played to a huge response from the audience, and a surprise performance of “Pets” made Perry’s die-hard fans pretty damn happy. Perry and company’s maniacal energy and enthusiastic moving about even helped make some of the lesser songs off of Satellite Party’s debut record a bit more tolerable. Closing the set with “Jane Says” may have been more than a little predictable, but it’s not like he had any other choice.
7:30: LCD Soundsystem, MySpace Stage (#9)
Bullz-Eye reviews: Sound of Silver (2007)
James: It’s getting late and it doesn’t seem to be getting any damn cooler. My desire to rock out to groovy tracks like “North American Scum” and “Yeah” was overcome by the glorious comfort of the grass and a mist-fan. Still, from my near-passed-out state, I was able to enjoy DFA co-founder James Murphy and gang deliver and entertaining, if slightly monotonous, set as the sun set. Putting a slight hamper on the set was Daft Punk, who decided to blare out Michael Jackson tunes from the main stage as their crew set things up. An impromptu mash-up of “Daft Punk Is Playing at My House” (yes, Murphy made a comment about the supposed irony of him playing that song) and “Billy Jean” was not welcome.
8:30: Daft Punk, AT&T Stage (#10-11)
Bullz-Eye reviews: Human After All (2005)
Murphy finished off his set with a command for his audience to “go over there,” pointing to the stage where Daft Punk were about to perform. Almost everyone followed his orders, with few running off to go catch Ben Harper clear on the other side of the park. As much as I love Ben Harper, nothing the singer-songwriter could have done would have compared to the insane spectacle that is Daft Punk’s live show. Emerging from a giant pyramid covered in LED lights. The French-Robot duo mixed their hits like “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” and “Around the World” while sliding in some of the stronger material off of the much-maligned Human After All as well as some new stuff. Despite the overbearing heat of the day and having spent 11 hours on my feet, they kept me (along with most of the people in attendance) on their feet and dancing their damn brains out until they wrapped things up a little after 10:00.