Lollapalooza 2003

UMB Bank Pavilion, St. Louis, August 9, 2003

It just wouldn’t feel like summer in St. Louis without at least one all-day excursion out to UMB Bank Pavilion for that essential concert lover’s ritual known as the summer festival. Unlike past years, which offered up a vast array of diverse choices (HORDE, Lilith, etc.), this season’s selection was rather one-dimensional (Pointfest, Warped, Ozzfest), making the decision of which one is most worthy of its high price tag almost too easy: Lollapalooza. Triumphantly returning this summer after a six-year hiatus which allowed festival organizer and mastermind Perry Farrell to “rethink and reorganize,” the granddaddy of all American modern rock festivals boasted an outstanding two-stage lineup that blended up-and-coming talent with well-established heavy-hitters.

Additionally, this year’s Lollapalooza offered concert-goers the opportunity to observe and participate in several interactive activities that surrounded the second stage, such as a batting cage, skateboarding demonstrations, and a Jello-eating contest. There were even several festival staffers dressed up in weird costumes walking around the concourse and lawn; it was not at all unusual to be engaged in conversation with someone when you suddenly notice a human-sized rabbit, angel, or lobster stroll by.

Although the weather forecast had predicted scattered showers, the sky was cloudless and dry, hovering over a hot yet slightly breezy 94-degree afternoon, which turned into a beautiful evening. And despite the lack of some of the cooler bands that played other tour dates, such as Burning Brides, The Music, 30 Seconds to Mars, and A Perfect Circle, the UMB show was only the third date on the tour, allowing high levels of enthusiastic energy to prevail among most of the performers. Here’s a brief overview of some of the acts that contributed to making the St. Louis version of Lollapalooza such a successful and fun-filled event, in chronological order:

The Donnas | As this year’s official cool all-female rock group, The Donnas are riding their recent climb to the top of the charts without any difficulty whatsoever. The fact that their set was early in the day during peak heat hours didn’t prevent them from kicking some serious butt onstage. Lead singer Donna R. danced and swung her long hair around in true rock star form, and her bandmates all played a tight and well-received set, seemingly genuinely stoked to be part of their first festival.

Campfire Girls | An all-male band who surprisingly blew the heavily populated side-stage audience away, even though it’s unlikely that anyone knew anything about them, including why they have chosen such a ridiculous band name. With lots of soaring guitars, spacey melodies, and hypnotic vocals, chances are very good that we will see and hear more from these guys in the not-too-distant future.

Cave In | These Boston-area boys are finally becoming well-known after years of struggling through the competition. Their side-stage set was nothing short of awesome; however, the dark and moody nature of their music would have sounded even better under a nighttime sky than it did in the late afternoon. Nonetheless, it’s great to see more bands playing this style of music recently, which seems to be becoming a replacement for that awful rap-metal trend of a few years ago.

Steve-O | I didn’t see this performance by the motion picture and MTV series Jackass star and was thankful that I missed witnessing what I was told included, among other disgusting things, Steve-O forcing himself to vomit three separate times. Now that’s the kind of quality entertainment that this world truly needs more of!

Queens of the Stone Age | An odd and spotty set, which haphazardly alternated between lukewarm and near-genius. During one particularly quiet moment of a lo-fi instrumental tweak-out, the silence hovering over both the pavilion and lawn was almost scary. The hits “No One Knows” and “Go With the Flow” were saved for last and managed to bring music that made sense back to an understandably somewhat confused crowd.

Incubus | It’s been about three years since their last CD was released, making them the band on the festival’s bill that had the oldest batch of most recent material. Although their songs all sounded great live, especially “Pardon Me,” “Nice to Know You,” and “Drive,” it would have been nice to hear something brand-new and unfamiliar. Still, it’s hard to complain too much about a band whose lead singer is as sexy as Brandon Boyd.

Audioslave | Drummer Brad Wilk faced the back of the stage throughout the entire set, while huge mirrors hung behind the the stage, creating colorful prisms whenever Wilk hit the cymbals. The godlike Tom Morello delivered some superb solos on his guitar, which had the words “Soul Power” written on it. Chris Cornell positively ruled the stage, demonstrating how his voice is in a league of its own, especially on the acoustic beginning of the beautiful “I Am the Highway” and on “Show Me How to Live,” which ended with Cornell chanting in a crouched position. A surprisingly cool cover of the White Stripes’ “7 Nation Army” was a definite crowd pleaser. This was undoubtedly my favorite set of the day.

Jane’s Addiction | Three bikini-clad women gave a brief, slightly erotic dance performance in front of the stage’s curtain before it parted to reveal the event’s headlining act. Dressed in a very glammy, sparkly red vest and pants suit, Perry Farrell led his legendary band throughout an awesome set filled with bouncy, catchy, pop-flavored material and trippy, spacey instrumentals. Despite some technical difficulties near the beginning of their set, hits like “Been Caught Stealing” and the epic “Mountain Song” sounded as great as they did 15 years ago, and a surprisingly cool cover of the Who’s “Tommy” overture was positively chill-inducing. The set ended with an extra long version of “Jane Says,” complete with a tribal-flavored percussion jam. Dave Navarro, looking quite sexy in his low-cut black leather pants, is one of rock’s most underrated guitar gods. And Farrell seems to be heading down the same path as Mick Jagger: a mentally, physically, and spiritually fit aging musical icon who is still able to outperform many musicians half his age. Hopefully his bandmates will be able to keep up with him.

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