Ever since I was a youngin' I wanted to go to Lollapalooza. 2008 was the year I finally got to go. As this is a 3day festival, I'm going to review each day seperately.
Day 1: August 1, 2008
I walked a mile in line to get into the gates and that was at 12:30ish before the majority of people showed up. I caught the last two songs of K'Naan's set and it was pretty interesting. very rhythmic angry black rapping. The Black Lips were up next, and they were strait up garage rock mixing 50s-60s style rhythms with grungey guitars. They were very energetic and put on a good show. Back to the Playstation Stage for Butch Walker. This guy comes out with an acoustic guitar and immediately I think he's going to suck... well unless he sang "But Lovin'." The first song he sang was just a mellow ballad, but then on his second song he did a neat trick and looped two bars of music on his guitar, a shaker, a keyboard, and a bass guitar in succession, and rapped out the story of his life in a charlie daniels singsongy way. He was joined by the rest of his band and proceded to rock out.
The Go! Team was up next back on the Bud Light Stage, and while it seemed like it was going to be pretty cool, it really wasn't. For one, they had 2 drummers. For two, they had this crazy frontwoman who rapped all the songs. If you could actually hear what she was saying over the music, it may have been better... oh but then they had to play some Jpop. Public Enemy sounding stuff good; JPop bad. The Kills were playing over on the other half of the park but I caught their set on the jumbotron at Lederhosen's Beer Garden. Wow was it terrible. I'm glad I didn't walk over there to see them. Maybe it's the inner bass player in me, but I'm not particularly big on 2 piece acts. Which brings us to the Black Keys. If you took the Black Lips, got rid of two of them and slowed the two others to half energy, you'd get the Black Keys. That said, they were good, but not great.
After the Black Keys set, I walked over to the south half of the park. It was shitty that I had to skip out on The Raconteurs to go see The Jicks, but before I could see them, I had to overhear Bloc Party's set. The band has so much promise, and yet puts out crap. At least I got move up close to the myspace stage while they played across the field. Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks were right up there with Butch Walker as the best acts of Day One. I knew Malkmus from his Pavement days and knew that he would kick ass live. If only every early 90s indie rock band's frontman went out on their own. Finally the night ended with Radiohead. While walking around during Bloc Party's set everyone was super psyched about seeing Radiohead. I, myself, have never gotten in to Radiohead, but I figured I would give their live show a chance. After the first three songs, I saw all that I needed to see. Im sure it was a great show to Radiohead fans, but I just dont care about Radiohead.
Day 1 Highlight: Tie between Butch Walker's song about Brookyln and Stephen Malkmus interacting with a rabid fan talking about how we need more people like him.... in the White House, and telling him he was going to get a groin injury from screaming.
Day 1 Lowlight: Not getting any cell phone reception during the show. The show is fucking sponsored by ATT and yet I couldn't call or text anyone to find out where they were.
Day Two: August 2, 2008
With no one really catching my eye on the bill, I decided to start out on one of the small stages and saw a New York band known as The Postelles. They were super young and it seemed like all their stage prescence was derived from That Thing You Do. But they were having a blast playing on stage for 200 people or so. After their set, I went over to the Bud Light Stage where Does It Offend You, Yeah? was playing, and they were awesome. A great show featuring raw electro rock, if thats such a thing. Imagine if Dave Gahan got together with Jon Spencer, and you'd have an idea of how awesome it was. After them I went back to the BMI stage where the crowd had tripled for a and called Innerparty System--quite possibly the best thing to come out of Philly since Stevie Richards. The best I can describe them is Orgy, if they were four indie rock guys instead of rivetheads (or as close to rivetheads as Orgy gets). You know a band is awesome when even the keyboard player goes nuts on stage. The Foals were the next band I saw over, on the other small stage. They had jam band sort of feel at the beginning, and I wasn't really big on seeing a bunch of people stand on stage in a circle and play to themselves instead of the crowd, but later in their set they opened up their sound with big melodies and U2 like vocals. Almost as good as the band was watching the group of hippies in front of us do their little hippie twostep.
The next three bands weren't much to write home about, but I will, anyways. MGMT was another band that had promise, but exactly like Bloc Party, they weren't very good. Explosions in the Sky would be an awesome band to listen to in the background, but their almost Ambient, fully instrumental rock doesn't translate the festival stage. Okkerville River would have been good if you were a girl who listens to college rock, but not if you were at a show getting ready for rage.
Lupe Fiasco was an impecable showman and with a live band behind him really tore up the joint. The Toadies played the spot on the Myspace Stage that the Jicks played friday, right before the closer on the ATT stage, but nobody noticed. Well, I take that back, when they played Possum Kingdom, people remembered who they were. And then there was Rage. Wow. You know a show is just exploding when Zach had to stop 3 or 4 times and tell the crowd to take 5 steps back.
Day 2 Highlight: Killing in the Name Of, especially thanks to the guy in front of us who probably exhausted himself rocking out. Despite his buddy bailing on him when the girl his buddy was with decided she wanted sex right then, he went so full force that in betwen songs he had to take a knee. Though some of the "smart water" we gave him seemed to perk him up.
Day 2 Lowlight: Probably the slew of laid back no engergy sets in between The Foals and Lupe.
Day Three: August 3, 2008
The first band I caught on day 3 was called The Blakes, an power trio out of Seattle that were nonstop straight up rock and roll. I only caught the last half of their set, but from what I saw, I was rocked. Half an hour after the Blakes, What Made Milwaukee Famous took the Citi stage, and tore it up. I was surprised that a band that good would go on so early on such a small stage, but then again, I guess they are pretty much the Clarks of Austin. This wouldnt be the only weird choice of stages for the day. We went to the Bud Light stage next to see the John Butler Trio. They were super talented, but as Im not really into jam band music, I left after the first half of their set. We stopped to cool off at the shaded BMI stage, where folk artist Newton Falkner was doing his thing. There was one moment of note when he started to sing a cover of Dead or Alive's You Spin Me.
From there we went to the MySpace stage where Chromeo was kicking it old school. One of the better 3 electro bands of the festival. Nothin' says lovin' like 80s funk, complete with Zapp inspired voicebox. G Love and Special Sauce were up next, and cooled down the whole crowd with their laid back blues. We needed our rest too, because the next band on our queue was the high octane Irish rock of Flogging Molly, who also played on way too small of a stage. There were definately more people crammed into the Playstation stage for Flogging Molly, than the next band up on the Bud Light Stage, Love and Rockets. Love and Rockets are completley meh. It's like watching The Cult but without both Ian or Billy. For their closer, weird black and white beelike costumed dancers came out and jerked around on stage behind the band. It was weird, and unnecessary, but Perry seemed to like them as they showed him rocking out backstage.
The National took the space previously occupied by Flogging Molly and put on a great show. Turning back around to the Bud Light stage, Nine Inch Nails began their set... and thoroughly disappointed me. I dont think there were any keyboards on the first three songs they played. Larry and I weren't really feeling it, so we decided to join up with the rest of the group for Kanye. We got over to the ATT stage just as he took the stage. Kanye had great visuals, put on a great show, but I think that I was the only person in the group of 1000 people in our area of the field that didn't know anything Kanye. I will say this, the super white Sunday news anchor from Chicago's ABC affiliate was right. It was off the hook.
Day 3 Highlight: Kanye givin up to his overwhelmingly honkey crowd by playing Dont Stop Believin' before his closer.
Day 3 Lowlight: poor stage choices. Kid Sister gets to sing about her toes getting painted on the ATT stage cause she's a friend of Kanye, but Flogging Molly and What Made Milwaukee Famous get pushed onto smaller stages despite having more fans.
Overall, I had a blast at Lollapalooza and will go back next year. It must be an amazing feeling for the bands too, especially the smaller acts who start with a loyal cabal of 20-30 fans, but by sets end look out and see that 500 people are digging their sound.