All photos © 2009 Lollapalooza or Bullz-Eye.com, all rights reserved
We'll be honest: by the time Sunday rolls around, we're flat-out gassed. The natural curiosity to see unknown bands early in the day has vanished in a haze of exhaustion and soreness (our apologies to Esser, who was on our to-do list when the weekend began). The exhaustion then morphs into frustration over the fact that the Airborne Toxic Event and Kaiser Chiefs, two of our must-see bands, are scheduled opposite each other. Ugh. All right, enough bellyaching. Time to suck it up for one more day of rock, along with some interesting, and quite disparate, post-Lolla concert plans…
First text message of the day from Eldred: "Wow Alberta Cross sucks."
Ra Ra Riot, Chicago 2016 stage
James: I'm tempted just to write "sa sa sucked" and be done with it, but that's not really fair. I'm sure these guys have their fans and I'm sure they were happy with the performance. I, on the other hand, was hot, drenched in sweat and in no mood to see a band that featured an electric cello player, even if she was pretty hot. I headed for the shade after two songs. Maybe they didn't "sa sa suck" but the sure as hell were "ba ba boring" for me.
Portugal, The Man, Playstation stage
David: I was extremely passive when listening to Portugal, The Man as I waited for the Kaiser Chiefs to take the stage. I heard a "Black Magic Woman"-style jam session at one point, and honestly, that's all I remember.
Bat for Lashes, Vitamin Water stage
James: A female-heavy crowd waited patiently for Bat for Lashes to take the stage. The band (which is mostly singer/songwriter Natasha Khan in the studio) came on during the hottest part of the day and were met with powerful wind gusts that nearly tore the stage apart at one point. Khan claimed that the heat and wind were going to affect her singing, but if that was the case it wasn't noticeable. The audience watched Khan with rapt attention, and at times there was almost a feeling of stunned silence in the crowd, something that she even noted. About the only people who weren't completely transfixed by her amazing performance was a group of teenage boys standing next to me and drinking beer they no doubt got illegally. I really wanted to lean over to them and tell them to pay attention, this is the kind of music you tell the sensitive indie chicks in college you like so they might go out with you, but they ran off before I could. Their loss.
Kaiser Chiefs, Budweiser stage
Bullz-Eye reviews: Off With Their Heads (2008)
David: There's no other way to put it: the Kaiser Chiefs fucking KILLED.
Most bands were stingy with the goods, saving the big hits for the end of their sets – case in point: Depeche Mode, who subjected their audience to almost nothing but their new album for the first 30 minutes – but the Kaiser Chiefs came out swinging, opening with "Never Miss a Beat," "Everything Is Average Nowadays," "Everyday I Love You Less and Less," and "Ruby." The end of the set was just as loaded, finishing the crowd off with "I Predict a Riot," "The Angry Mob," Employment bonus track "Take My Temperature" (where Ricky stood with the sign language woman to sign the words "Kaiser Chiefs" over and over), and "Oh My God." They played at the hottest time of the hottest day, and they had the crowd pogoing from start to finish.
Is it finally time to include Kaiser Chiefs singer Ricky Wilson in the list of best front men of all time? He performed with a broken rib, for crying out loud, but you never would have known it. He jumped into the crowd twice, launched a series of audience arm waves (the best was the slow left to right during "Love's Not a Competition (But I'm Winning)"), and climbed the speakers during "Riot." Easily one of the best performances of the weekend, and it warmed our hearts to see them playing to a crowd five times the size of the one that saw them at Lolla in 2005. We wonder, though, if Ricky got the band in trouble when he asked the crew to get the audience 20,000 beers, "but not Bud." We're thinking the stage's sponsor couldn't have liked that much.
Still, I had to miss the Airborne Toxic Event in order to see them. I wonder how they were…
Airborne Toxic Event, Chicago 2016 stage
Bullz-Eye reviews: The Airborne Toxic Event (2008)
Leyla: The crowd was filled with younger kids in their late teens – and me. While waiting for the band to start, I was speaking with a teenaged couple, when I revealed that I was 37, they were in complete disbelief. The kids said, "I thought you were like 22." My head grew a little inflated until I realized that they were so young that 22 seemed really old to them. It was not that I looked that young, but the thought of anyone being OVER the age of 22 was absurd to them.
The band seemed eternally grateful to be on the stage at Lolla. It was one of those music festival experiences where you enjoy watching the band play because they are truly enjoying the experience as much as you are as an audience member.
Dan Deacon, Vitamin Water stage
James: Word on the street is that Dan Deacon can be kind of an asshole when it comes to setting up his live shows. Anyone who got to the Vitamin Water stage early enough to see Deacon and his crew set up got to see it in person, as Deacon thrashed about trying to get the audio mix to sound just right. It took him so long that he started a few minutes late. Then he stopped everything after the first two songs because things still weren't up to his strict standards. Even with those major annoyances, Deacon was still the highlight of the day, maybe even the festival, thanks to his one-of-a-kind performance that included himself, three drummers, two xylophone/vibraphone players, three or more keyboardists, a bass player, a mini-marching band and just about anyone else he could fit on stage. You've never heard anything like it, and you've never seen anything like it either, as Deacon's control freak nature extends to his control of the audience, whom he instructed to form a circle in the front of the stage for one of his band members to jump down and command the audience like a conductor to an orchestra. At one point during a song, he has everyone throw water bottles in the air. I look around and everyone is smiling, laughing and enjoying each other's company. It's the polar opposite of last year's Lollapalooza, when Rage Against the Machine brought out the macho dickhead in everyone. Now everyone is chilled, relaxing and genuinely having a good time, and it's all because of Dan Deacon. I'm not one for enjoying the company of my fellow man, but Dan Deacon made me genuinely like the people around me just by the power of his music and positive energy, and that blew my fucking mind.
The Hood Internet, Perry's
David: First, a quick thank you to the gents at the drink station who saw fit to give away bottles of water. After the Kaiser Chiefs, I was about two quarts low. That was a huge help.
Mash-ups, who wants mash-ups? This pair of Chicago DJs served mash-ups by the pound, which is great fun for me because I get to play Name That Beat. The Ting Tings, Walter Meego (a Chicago electronic band, which leads me to think that they know each other), Mylo and New Order provided the beats, while Michael Jackson, Rivers Cuomo – you've heard nothing until you've heard "Buddy Holly" to a house beat – and some birthday texting song (so Leyla told me) sang lead. It was a very fun set for concertgoers old (me) and new (everyone else). This is fast becoming my favorite stage in the park. I said goodbye to Leyla and headed for my last Lolla band of the day. I had a date with an old friend up north.
Vampire Weekend, Chicago
Leyla: Vampire Weekend was the biggest letdown of the weekend for me. The lead singer came out in yellow shorts and a plaid shirt, made for an interesting combo. Their music is very light, airy and melodic but nothing with any punch or kick. They played "I Stand Corrected" very well. The lead singer seemed to hit all of the high points of the song well, sang it flawlessly. At this point in the day, the crowd was dense; it was a sea of people. The band applauded the crowd for their stamina and for withstanding the rain, the heat and humidity just before they played "One (Blake's Got a New Face)." The people around me seemed as if they were just hanging out, versus there to see the band. Overall, I found Vampire Weekend to be sort of lollipop: happy, easy music to listen to, but they just didn't rock enough for me. Kinda vanilla.
Neko Case, Budweiser stage
Bullz-Eye reviews: Middle Cyclone (2009)
David: Ahhhhh, Neko. She has one of those sing-me-the-phone-book voices, though I will admit that I don't know her solo catalog very well outside of her two most recent albums. (I do, however, own all of the New Pornographers' albums.) Chicago, of course, is her unofficial hometown, which makes me wonder why it took them this long to book her. Heck, she didn't even play with the New Pornographers when they played Lolla in 2006.
Then she started playing, and I instantly understood why this was the first time we had seen her.
She sounded just fine, mind you; it's just that her music – her delicate, soft, wistful music – does not translate well on a festival stage. There were two guys in front of me who heard three notes, began shaking their heads and walked away, which I thought was very telling. Neko herself seemed to know she was out of her element because she acknowledged that "we're playing a nighttime set for a daytime crowd." Not only that, you're following the Kaiser Chiefs, who just lit the stage on fire. Had I stayed any longer, I surely would have fallen asleep. It would have been a pleasant way to nap, but I didn't come to Lolla to nap. I walked off to the strains of "Teenage Feeling," and headed back to the hotel for a shower. Schuba's, here I come.
Passion Pit, Citi stage
Bullz-Eye reviews: Manners (2009)
James: Riding high off the killer vibes from Dan Deacon's set, I hit the Citi stage once more to see up-and-coming electronic act Passion Pit. When they hit the stage the sun was blaring directly on their faces, and the audience was baking from the hot cement under their feet. The crowd-surfing and dangers of dehydration gave security a rough time, but the upbeat grooves of Passion Pit (and possibly leftover positive energy from Deacon's set) kept things happy and mellow for all. When the group launched into their hit "Sleepyhead," the place exploded. Then it cleared out as half the crowd was just sticking around long enough to hear that song. Still, they were really good.
Snoop Dogg, Chicago 2016 stage
Bullz-Eye reviews: Ego Trippin' (2008)
Leyla: Snoop Dogg had the biggest crowd; you simply cannot fathom the sprawling crowd. It was as if the whole park was there to see Snoop.
When Snoop Dogg got on stage, it was like a lightning bolt of energy, the crowd went mental for him. Everybody just lost it. It was totally unbelievable. Maybe the only true rap "rock" star. He moved that audience into a cohesive unit. We all swayed and chanted and professed our marijuana smoking publicly per his asking, and many displayed it proudly. He started with earlier songs, his hits, then went into a newer song he sang with Akon called "I Want to Fuck You." He then challenged the audience regarding their Snoop knowledge asking who had his first album and went into a song from 1994. Snoop also asked the audience who was "with" his friend Tupac, but the mostly white audience just did not pick up on what he was referring to and didn't get it.
Lou Reed, Playstation stage
Leyla: I ran, I sprinted, I hip-checked 15-year-olds out of my way to make it through the crowd. I made it from the front of the Chicago 2016 stage (on the south end of the park) where Snoop Dogg was playing, to the first row of Lou Reed at the Budweiser stage. And...I stopped for beer. Everyone in the media tent said I could never make it to both Snoop Dogg and Lou Reed, but I did it! This is where being a recreational runner came in handy.
The Lou Reed crowd was more pleasant than any other crowd that weekend. When fellow audience members saw my media wristband, they welcomed me. They really felt strongly about Lou and they wanted Lou Reed to enjoy the same media coverage that his much younger cohorts were receiving. Various audience members pointed out to me was that Lou made a few of his songs more "politically correct." He cleaned up his performance by saying "Waiting for MY man" vs. "Waiting for THE man". And in "Walk on the Wild Side," he said "the girls dance" instead of "the colored girls dance."
I realize that Lou went over by 20 minutes (which is a huge "no no" at Lolla), but the last moments of Lou's set lent something both beautiful and meaningful to the event. People of all ages were able to enjoy this melodic ending to his set. In my opinion, nothing else I witnessed at Lolla struck this chord.
The Killers, Chicago 2016 stage
Bullz-Eye reviews: Day and Age (2008)
James: In 2005, when Lollapalooza was revived as a destination festival at Grant Park, the Killers played opposite the Dandy Warhols, serving as an opening act for Death Cab for Cutie and/or Widespread Panic. Now it's four years later and they are effectively the show's headliner, closing out the festival opposite Jane's Addiction. The Killers by far drew the bigger crowd, which must have made them ecstatic, as they are one of the only bands gunning for the "biggest band in the world" title that U2 seems on the verge of giving up every few years. Backed by neon lights and palm trees (possibly to curb homesickness from Las Vegas?), their set was practically an audition for U2's gig. Brandon Flowers strutted about the stage like he owned it, and he pretty much did, as he commanded the audience to sing along with hit ("Human") after hit ("Bones") after hit ("Mr. Brightside"). He even had them rocking out to their cover of Joy Division's "Shadowplay," which is no small feat. They concluded their encore with "All These Things That I've Done," complete with pyrotechnic explosions and a shower of sparks. Over-the-top bombastic beauty for sure, but it's the kind of things that the Killers' fans eat up like crazy. However, it has to make you wonder; In 1991 Perry started Lollapalooza almost as an attack to acts like this, as a way to get smaller and lesser-known bands in the spotlight. Remember, without Lollapalooza, we would probably never have had the term "alternative music." Sure, rocking out to what might be the biggest band in America is a lot of fun, but it really isn't that "alternative," is it?
David responds: I look at it this way: the fact that nearly all of the biggest bands in the world are alternative acts is a testament to Perry and Lolla's accomplishments, not an indictment of them. It was his goal to get this music heard by a larger group of people, and he has succeeded beyond anyone's wildest dreams. And we're all better off because of it.
Jane's Addiction, Budweiser stage
Leyla: A curtain dropped and I watched Perry Farrell, Dave Navarro, Eric Avery and Stephen Perkins show all the other baby rock stars from that weekend how it is done.
We heard the sounds of helicopters overhead. The lights from the helicopters illuminated the stage. The crowd is confused and thrilled, and people are literally losing their minds with excitement. And then you hear the bass line for "Mountain Song." The crowd is overwhelmed, and the place is now up for grabs. At that moment, I felt as if I was 17 again.
Perry took multiple opportunities to speak to the audience, at one point he says, "We heard you guys got naked yesterday... we love whores, we love Chicago..." Then the band breaks into "Been Caught Stealing." Perry asks Dave, "How do you look so fucking sexy...C'mon, I want to know," then they explode into "Ocean Size." Just before they started "Whores," Perry Farrell says, "I'm a married man, but if I wasn't, I'd fuck everybody."
They leave the stage, and it is unclear if there is going to be an encore. Then, from backstage, you hear Perry say, "You better fucking cheer or I'm not coming out!" Which makes the crowd go wild, they come back out and play "Summertime Rolls." For the last song of their encore, Perry makes an introduction, it is a bit confusing, he talks about a friend who recently hurt himself and that this other person is here with whom he shares a name – but we're not really sure what is going on. And then…Joe Perry from Aerosmith takes the stage. It was a Rock God moment. The final song of the night was "Jane Says," and the whole band came up front to play the song. Perry closes the night by telling everyone to "Have children and raise them as you lived." He insisted that everyone "Go out, stay up all night and live to tell about it."
BONUS COVERAGE: More concert reviews from the weekend
Two of us decided that Lolla wasn't enough, and we finished our weekend inside tiny clubs on Chicago's north side.
Them Crooked Vultures, Metro
For the uninitiated, Them Crooked Vultures is a rock supergroup featuring Josh Homme, John Paul Jones (yes, that John Paul Jones), and Dave Grohl at his rightful place behind the drum kit. This was their first live performance.
Leyla: Them Crooked Vultures was much appreciated by everyone. It is not my kind of music (which I hate to admit), but the crowd loved it. Lots of VIPs and music execs in the audience, the whole second floor of the Metro was reserved for VIPs. And Dave Grohl is an out-of-control MACHINE of a drummer. I could barely see the stage from where I was standing, but I could see him, and all you could see was hair and drum sticks. Josh Homme has a great voice.
The Trashcan Sinatras, Schuba's
David: I've been a staunch fan of Scotland's finest since 1993, and I've never seen them live. There was nothing, not even the Killers, Lou Reed and Jane's Addiction, that was going to keep me from seeing them this time. Plus, I just did an interview with guitarist Paul Livingston, who said he'd buy me a drink after the show. And I never turn down a free drink.
After a delightful set by Brookville, the new project of Ivy frontman (and Trashcans producer) Andy Chase, the band takes the stage a little later than I would have hoped (shortly before Jane's and the Killers were wrapping up), but no one in the sold-out crowd was complaining. The band featured an awful lot of their new album In the Music, and that makes sense since they really need this one to sell, but they focused on it at the expense of my favorite album of theirs, 1996's A Happy Pocket, which only made one appearance with "How Can I Apply?" (On the plus side, they played half of I've Seen Everything, my second favorite Trashcans album.) Both bands commented about how hot it was, which made me chuckle. The place actually felt great to me after melting in the sun for two days straight.
The band was selling shirts at the merchandise table that said "Trashcan Sinatras: Legendary Scottish Band." I wish I had bought one.
Met up with Paul after the show – he told me he wasn't used to being quoted so literally – as well as the Douglas brothers, guitarist John and drummer Stephen. All three are super nice (their keyboardist, however, was kind of a jerk), and when Paul complains about the beer he's drinking (Goose Island), I buy him a Jack and Coke. He is most grateful. It's well past midnight at this point, and both the band and I need to hit the road. But despite being completely exhausted, this was the perfect way to end the weekend. Lolla's always a good time, but there is nothing like seeing a band in a small club.