All photos © 2009 Lollapalooza or Bullz-Eye.com, all rights reserved
When we arrived at Grant Park, the weather was actually perfect. It was cool, overcast and breezy, tailor-made for spending hours in a field watching bands play. This lasted for about five minutes.
Yuto Miyazawa, Kidzapalooza stage
David: It might seem odd to begin the day at the kid's stage (though keep in mind that Jeff Tweedy played there once), but Yuto is not like seeing the Sippie Cups. He's a nine-year-old Japanese boy who can absolutely shred on guitar. He loves Ozzy, and put that love on display by playing "Mr. Crowley," "Crazy Train" and "Paranoid." His voice is wafer thin, but so what? He's already a better guitarist than half the guys fronting emo bands, and he'll grow into his voice in time. I saw a guy in the media area with a T-shirt that said "Yuto!" with a likeness of Yuto skateboarding a Flying V guitar. Awesome.
Manchester Orchestra, Budweiser stage
David: You know how drummers will tend to overact in music videos by swinging their arms wildly through the air, even when they're playing a mid-tempo 4/4 beat? The drummer from Manchester Orchestra actually plays like that, and it took every ounce of strength I had not to laugh out loud watching him play. Neil Peart would hang his head in shame, though I suppose Neil Peart's opinion probably doesn't mean much to the drummer from Manchester Orchestra.
The kids apparently love these guys, so I went to see what the hoopla was about. I heard some hookless song, and then in the middle, the lead singer did that goddamn screamo thing. Ugh, this is unbearable. Smell ya later, guys.
Gringo Star, BMI stage
Bullz-Eye reviews: All Y'all (2008)
David: Anyone who came of age in the '80s would surely smile at the sight of a band like Gringo Star. They're from Atlanta, they play vintage guitars, and like to sing. Very much a throwback band, but they're quite good. Definitely helped get the taste of Manchester Orchestra out of my mouth.
Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears, Vitamin Water stage
Bullz-Eye reviews: Tell 'em What Your Name Is! (2009)
David: I love the fact that Black Joe Lewis has somehow become a fixture on modern rock radio. He's a screamin' James Brown type backed by bass, guitar, drums, sax and trumpet. He does lots of count-offs with the band, the whole back-and-forth that Eddie Murphy so perfectly impersonated all those years ago. Having said that, he couldn't have been happy to be playing in front of one of the smaller main stage crowds – it was, remember, early Friday, and raining – but if he was unhappy, he didn't let it show in his performance. He riffed all through his hit "Get Yo Shit," and people were screaming for him to play "I'm Broke," which he gladly obliged. The rain was getting a bit heavy, though, so I went to grab a bite (gotta get the grilled chicken on a stick and noodles) and eat under a tree, and wound up in the sound bleed zone between Black Joe Lewis and the Knux. Wait, am I hearing House of Pain? What the hell?
The Knux, Citi stage
James: These guys are from New Orleans, so they sure as hell weren't going to let a little rain get in the way of their good time. With a manic energy that rivaled high-energy rap performers of Lollapalooza past such as Saul Williams and Spank Rock, Knux got the rain-soaked Citi stage audience on their feet and jumping to their infectious grooves and silly lyrics about cappuccino and lost loves. By the end of their set they had turned the drenched stage into a house party, complete with a dozen or so fans on stage and a random DJ-selected playlist that included MGMT's "Electric Feel" and House of Pain's "Jump Around." Different, but good.
White Lies, Budweiser stage
Bullz-Eye reviews: To Lose My Life (2009)
James: Everything I've seen of these British Goth boys had made me hate them. They just seem to try too hard, always decked out in black from head to toe and never smiling. Their perfectly combed black hair cuts in high contrast to their impossibly pale skin (seriously, if they were any whiter they'd be transparent). I was convinced they were awful before I had even heard them. Damn them for proving me wrong. Maybe I was in the right mindset thanks to the dark skies and pouring rain, or maybe they just felt at home for the same reason, but White Lies kicked my ass. Their gothic style of post-punk is interesting, saved by an abundance of synth-hooks and incredibly catchy choruses. Still, I couldn't stick around for their full set because by this point I had been out in the rain for over four hours, and I need to hightail it back to the hotel to dry off if I wanted to survive for the night's big acts.
Amazing Baby, Citi stage
Bullz-Eye reviews: Rewild (2009)
David: I'm quite fond of Rewild, the debut album by New York glam rockers Amazing Baby, and they sounded quite good live, but enough was enough. I was getting drenched even when I stood under the trees. James sent me a text message saying he was back at the hotel drying off (he had a room at the Hilton on Michigan, lucky dog), so I went to his room, where his friend Lisa gave me a poncho. Man, what a difference that made.
Ben Folds, Budweiser stage
Bullz-Eye reviews: Way to Normal (2009)
David: It's raining even harder than before, but the poncho – the first I've ever worn, for the record – is making a huge difference, and Ben Folds, whom I almost literally ran into in the media area before his set, is bringing the noise. He has a quite versatile band playing with him (the drummer, in particular, kicked ass), and they kept things pretty lively, even when playing downbeat songs like "Narcolepsy," a song I was stunned to hear. Folds naturally spent the majority of the time playing his most recent album Way to Normal, and that was fine, but the set's highlights were when he played the earlier stuff, especially "Kate," "Army" and "Rockin' the Suburbs." He even pulled out his cover of Dr. Dre's "Bitches Ain't Shit," which the crowd loved. Strangely, he played nothing from the first Ben Folds Five album, but on the plus side, he didn't play "Brick," either. I hoped that Regina Spektor would join him on "You Don't Know Me," but no dice.
Crystal Castles, Vitamin Water stage
James: Freshly dried and toweled, I returned to the park just in time to get a prime spot for these guys, whose glitchy chiptune self-titled debut landed on my best of 2008 list. I've heard some crazy stories about their live shows (on-stage cutting, picking fights with the crew, etc.), so I know I was in for a treat when Alice stumbled onto the stage with a bottle of liquor in one hand and the mic in the other. While she had problems with the mic for the first half of the set, her booze was working quite fine, and she got hammered, even picking a fight with someone in the front row before offering the rest of the crowd swigs of her drink (much to the chagrin of the security). It was pure insanity. And the music wasn't half bad, either.
Thievery Corporation, Chicago 2016 stage
David: I was in the media area while Thievery Corporation was playing – two words: free booze – because I wanted a dry place to sit down. Once I got a drink and a seat, and TC did their world beat thing (not to be confused with, say, Paul Simon's world beat thing), all was right in the world. Good stuff, and I was thrilled to see them get a late slot on a large stage.
Funny thing about the media area, though; I was one of the only people wearing a poncho. As it turns out, the poncho was an icebreaker, because I was approached by the only other person who dared to wear a poncho in the media area, and we proceeded to make fun of the hipsters who were all dolled up and showing no ill effects of the day-long downpour. Leyla, take it from here.
Leyla: It was interesting to see that the hipsters in the media area were too cool to get wet. I am serious. Everyone else in the park looked like crap, but not the hipsters. Most people were covered in mud, hair and makeup was messed up, and everyone was wearing an ugly poncho. Um, NOT at the media area. The girls were still in their perfectly planned-out "concert" outfits and the guys were still dry and rock-and-roll looking. How? Did it not rain back there? I guess cool people are always cool, regardless of the elements.
Of Montreal, Vitamin Water stage
James: First someone dressed like King from "Tekken" came out and posed for the cameras. Then the band slowly gathered on stage, each one more glammed out than the last. Then a bunch of dudes in gas masks came out to exchange Christmas gifts. After than a chick in an inflated garbage bag pranced around the stage while some ninjas tried to kill her (I think). By the time the third song rolled around, the lead singer was trading balloons with an androgynous person while hairy men in leotards performed interpretive dance in front of them. So...that was something. It was so glam that David Bowie would have thought, "Man, those guys are really glam" (and, of course, they covered Bowie's "Moonage Daydream"). Some of the stuff going on was so insane that members of the band were taking pictures of it on their camera phones. When shit gets this crazy the music is almost secondary, but thankfully Of Montreal can back it up with some great tunes. Definitely something I won't forget anytime soon.
Depeche Mode, Chicago 2016 Stage
Bullz-Eye reviews:Sounds of the Universe (2009)
James: Time for full disclosure. I love Depeche Mode. I mean, I really love Depeche Mode. Not only do I own all of the albums, I own most of them on vinyl, as well as most of their 12'' singles, CD maxi-singles and import 7 inch singles. I own two of their box sets collecting their singles and I even bought the super-mega-deluxe edition of Sounds of the Universe, which cost me close to a hundred bucks. So maybe I'm not the best person to talk to when it comes to a fair and unbiased review of their live performance, the first of theirs I ever saw. But I think I can do it.
Now, with that out of the way...oh my God, they were totally awesome! They played "Fly on the Windscreen!" It was awesome! They played "Policy of Truth!" That was awesome too! Then they played "Enjoy the Silence" and "Never Let Me Down Again!" That was the most awesome part! Actually, no, for the encore they played "Personal Jesus!" I couldn't believe how awesome that was! David Gahan was great, Martin Gore wore an amazing silver tuxedo, the LED screen behind them was insane. Totally awesome!
See, that was totally fair and balanced coverage.
David: Hi, I'm David, long-time Depeche Mode listener, first-time concertgoer. I went in thinking that there is no way Depeche is going to live up to my expectations, considering that my favorite albums of theirs are anywhere from 16 to 25 years old. Boy, did they show me. Yes, the set had about two or three songs too many from their new album, and yes, Dave Gahan asked us to do the singing for him too many times. But they played three songs from Black Celebration (my favorite of theirs), and the one-two punch of "Enjoy the Silence" and "Never Let Me Down Again," each of them drawn out into extended versions, was absolute bliss. Most importantly, they left out nearly every one of their now-overplayed hits ("People Are People," "Strangelove," "Just Can't Get Enough," "Everything Counts"), and no one seemed at all upset about it. I confess that I grew tired of "Personal Jesus" a while back, but seeing them play it live is a different matter altogether. It flat-out rocked. Well done, gents.
Leyla: The couple in front of me, both huge DM fans, had their four-year old with them who knew ALL THE WORDS to every song.