Monday, August 7th, 2006
Lollapalooza Day Three
Oh my God, is it over yet?
Shockingly, I made it to Grant Park early on the final day of the festival so I was well in place to see What Made Milwaukee Famous kick things off. Hailing from Austin, I got a copy of their debut CD Trying To Never Catch Up last week and while I haven’t listened heavily, it was interesting enough that they’re on my radar. Purveyors of fairly synthy indie pop, I liked what I heard and will have to make a point of giving the record some more attention. I had to bail after just a couple songs, though, as there was something special going down over at the Kidzapalooza stage.
Patti Smith had been a late addition to the festival and was slated to play the Kidz stage, coming straight from the airport. Not surprisingly she was delayed so to fill in time, festival organizer Perry Farrell and Porno For Pyros cohort Peter DiStefano jammed out a number of tunes including some PfP songs – those certainly took me back to high school. Farrell is an odd duck, that’s for sure, especially around small children.
MySpace: Porno For Pyros
And when Patti Smith finally did arrive, she played a few songs but unfortunately, my schedule called me elsewhere after just two numbers. But still, it was quite cool to be in the presence of someone so legendary and influential. I guess she heard what I wrote about Sonic Youth yesterday and decided to one-up them.
MySpace: Patti Smith
And then it was back to the Q101 stage for The Hold Steady. Yeah, I just saw them on Monday but I was already pretty anxious to see them again. And they did not disappoint – it’s rare the band that is equally at home in the dark, sweaty club and the festival stage but The Hold Steady somehow pull it off. So much fun.
People from all over have been telling me to get into Hot Chip. I’ve got at least three of their records in a pile somewhere, so I have no excuse, and after seeing their live show, I now have some motivation. There’s something about an electronic band that makes the effort to create a solid, organic live experience – when they do it right, it’s almost always terrific. Which is a roundabout way of saying Hot Chip was terrific live. Tight, dancable but surprisingly soulful. Those records will be getting dug out of their piles when I get home
There was quite a surprisingly large turnout for Andrew Bird but I suspect a lot of the crowd didn’t know who he was. He was just, you know, convenient. I was there because I really enjoyed seeing him open for The Magnetic Fields a couple years ago. This time he played with a drummer but even so, he was still very much a one-man orchestra. It’s fascinating to watch him work and multitask, handling violin, guitar, glockenspiel, looper and voice, both singing and whistling, is mesmerizing. The fact that he crafts beautiful songs as well is just unfair.
I managed to dodge the Death Cab on Friday but was hip deep in the indie kids yesterday for The Shins. They’re not a band you would expect to own the festival stage but they did quite well up there. They don’t do rock spectacle but in taking the friendly, chatty approach and making the kids feel like their lives are changing, they did fine. Blending old favourites with new material from the forthcoming Sleeping Lessons (which sounded just fine and Shins-y and is apparently out January-ish), they offered a nice soundtrack to sitting under a tree, gently drifting off. Which is pretty much what I did.
Ah, Wilco. I had hoped that a homecoming show for them would be extra-special, and I was not disappointed. The sea of adoring fans who gathered to see them was nothing short of astonishing – hasn’t this town ever heard of backlash? But the love was reciprocated by the band and they turned in a glorious late afternoon set. In addition to the three new songs they’d been playing on the Canadian tour, they broke out another new one which also sounded great. It was really a shame that I had to catch a golf cart shuttle down to the other end of Grant Park before their set ended – but as the day and festival were winding down, time was of the essence. And anyway, I had my own hometown show to get to.
I’ve always wondered what Broken Social Scene was like on the road. When they play Toronto, I’ve always thought they maybe take advantage of the adulation of the home crowd to get a little too shambolic or plain messed up. Surely the road audiences wouldn’t be so indulgent? As it turns out there’d be no need – they brought their entire roster, 16 strong by my count and all four BSS ladies, and their A-game. I’ve always thought that Broken Social relies on a certain random chemistry to work their magic live and on this night, they were awash in it. Seriously, there was something amazing happening onstage – indescribable. The band knew it and the audience knew it. I was so dismayed that I had to tear myself away to fight my way into the last photo pit of the night – watching the band on the video screen as I pushed and elbowed my way through the great unwashed I could see, even without being able to hear, that something special happening back there. In hindsight I think I would have rather had my festival end with Broken Social. I really hope that a recording of that set makes it out – I need to hear the whole thing.
Though at first I thought the choice of the Red Hot Chili Peppers as festival closers was a little dated, on second thought it’s pretty canny. They’re veterans, so it can be argued they earned it, and yet they still sell tons of records. They’ve got top 40 cred, alternative cred, and thanks to the generation who grew up in the 90s with Blood Sugar Sex Magic, they’ve got indie/nostalgia cred. Of course, I haven’t heard hardly anything they’ve done since, oh, 1994, but that’s okay. As it turned out, I only stuck around for the first three songs of the set – the pit was super crowded and the mood from the crowd was pretty dark and aggressive. People were getting crushed against the barricade, hurled over the barricade, manhandled by security… yeah. Arena rock, I guess. Not my scene at all. The Peppers were terrific from what I saw – super tight and John Frusciante was on fire – but watching the scene from the safety of the media area, it was kind of hard to reconcile the chaos below with the almost uniformly great vibes that had permeated the fest till that point. I’m sure most in attendance will say it was great, but I was kind of happy to get out of there – and not just because I was completely wiped out.
And that’s Lollapalooza 2006. What a thing. I will be back with a proper wrap-up post tomorrow, but for now, once again, check out Flickr for a photo of each performer I saw yesterday. I’ll let you know when the full photosets are up, but the grand total is somewhere around 10GB now so… be patient.
And now? I want to go home.