Lollapalooza | 08.02.08

fest_lolla_sm.gifYou would have known just by looking up DeVotchka’s stage diagram that their concert would be unique to the mostly guitar-driven, amp-fueled Lolla bands.

 

 

Grant Park, Chicago

Day 2

Saturday may have had the fewest bands that I liked quantity-wise, but it very well could have been my favorite. With Day One, I could have chosen a completely different path and been pretty content, where as Day Two’s agenda was more focused, excluding artists that I am only moderately into, namely Weakerthans, Okkervil River, De Novo Dahl, Does it Offend You, Yeah?, Lupe Fiasco, MGMT and Jamie Lidell.

Tiny Masters of Today were the reason for getting on the bus early Sunday morning, and definitely worth it. Direct songs from genuine music fans and pure souls — all of the band members are not yet old enough to drive — was a refreshing way to start the day. For example, the Brooklyn-based trio’s anti-Bush song was introduced thusly: "This song is about how we don’t like the President; it’s called Bushy"; its lyrics go as follows: "All my friends agree with me / you’re the worst president, Bushy." The small but adoring crowd, who sat down in appreciation for the talented youngsters at the Kidz stage, also got to experience their cover of House of Pain’s "Jump Around"; check that out on YouTube.

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The Ting Tings followed, but had little impact on Saturday’s awesomeness. Although I had never seen nor even heard music from this English duo before, their set hardly varied from the countless English bands that rely on catchy melodies and contain repetitious lyrical mediocrity. I did find myself tapping along to their music and, to be fair, they did meet their aim, to be fun, which is what festivals are all about.

Things got a little more serious, though still quirky, when the Philly quintet Dr. Dog took the MySpace stage at 1:30. The band’s fourth LP Fate, which dropped a week prior to their performance, added five of their best songs to their already impressive song-bag. Unfortunately, Fate‘s opener "The Breeze" was absent from the set, as was my favorite gem from 2008, their Passed Away demos (Google search "MySpace Dr. Dog Passed Away"). Their set was a near-greatest hits, opening with "The Way the Lazy Do" and highlighted by "The World May Never Know," "The Rabbit, the Bat, and rhe Reindeer," "From" and "Ain’t It Strange." Their sound wasn’t always crisp and the incredible studio jam on "The Old Days" didn’t quite measure up, but their lo-fi garage-rock and sincere souls powered through anything mechanically wrong.

If it weren’t for the DeVotchka/MGMT scheduling conflict, I would have chose to see MGMT in the 2:30 time slot instead of leisurely skipping from the Gutter Twins and the Foals. Reflectively, getting a good position for DeVotchka proved to be the best choice, as their performance ranked among my top three favorites.

You would have known just by looking up DeVotchka’s stage diagram that their concert would be unique to the mostly guitar-driven, amp-fueled Lolla bands. Led by singer/acoustic-guitarist/whistler Nick Urata, the well-dressed quintet played about a dozen different instruments. I anticipated material from the forthcoming A Mad and Faithful Telling, and their better-than-Sinatra rendition of "Something Stupid." Although the songs played were cover-free, DeVotchka hit upon all their best, including a few new ones, best among them "We’re Leaving" and "Clockwise Witness." The increasingly intricate and beautifully executed compositions that ended the last few songs showcased the band’s Eastern music influence and put the now enormous crowd in awe. In between verses on the finale, "Such a Lovely Thing," Urata chugged his bottle of wine to a crowd of cheers, completing perhaps my best spent hour of the weekend. Fans seemed to have more familiarity with the band than their famous affiliation scoring the Grammy-nominated soundtrack to Little Miss Sunshine.

Going from DeVotchka to Spank Rock created the same sort of jolt that Gogol Bordello to Cat Power produced, only this time it was positive. Now a group of DJs backed the confrontational rappers, most notably Naeem Juwan and Amanda Blank. While never being totally convinced with Spank Rock’s depth — though I am a pretty big fan of "Put That Pussy on Me," "Bootay" and their latest hit, "Bump" — I awarded their solid hour the "Biggest Surprise Act." Not unlike fellow confident women rappers whose lyrics are direct and vulgar, the beautiful Amanda Blank’s presence stole the show, pumping up the crowd and using every inch of the stage. The crowd made the show, however. They sang along to Spank’s infectious choruses and danced; everyone bunched up as close to the stage as they could. Juwan could hardly manage one more, taking breathers during Blank’s solo moments, but their energy stayed intact for the whole hour. I don’t know the name of the last song, but Miss Blank sings, "Imma make it take girl"; it’s a gem. Another cool moment came after they finished their incredible set when the group all embraced and congratulated each other…something that often seems absent from rock music.

Floating on the girl-driven vulgarity, I decided to try my luck with Uffie, the 20-year-old most famously sampled in Justice’s "The Party," and recognized in her own right for "Pop the Glock," "Ready to Uff" and "Hot Chick." Unfortunately, the time I actually saw her perform was short because her plane was delayed; she came on stage 20 minutes late, and the sound quality was poor. From what I did hear, it was pretty fun, and if it weren’t for the busy schedule, which included BSS on deck, I would have stayed

For Broken Social Scene, a band whose semi-legendary Lollapalooza 2006 performance I witnessed (though I feel was overrated), I chose to sit down and not take any notes. Broken Social Scene’s tight instrumentation and dreamy singing inspired the huge crowd, and a large portion of them sat, as well. Although the full ensemble wasn’t there (Feist, etc.), a lot of bands were represented, Apostle of Hustle and Stars included. The band, who this year presented both Kevin Drew’s and Brendan Canning’s solo albums, played a song each from their records which turned out nicely. My favorite song today was "7/4 (Shoreline)," but "Fire Eye’d Boy" came out better. Drew’s "Pressure Kids" was among the most enjoyable. The band ended with the same clap-for-yourself routine, and the Canadian-based band urged everyone to make sure to vote (for Obama), his philosophy being that when the U.S. elects their president, it elects it for the whole world, not just America. BSS’s set was what was expected, which is more of a compliment than it sounds.

I was able to get a prime spot for Sharon Jones, one of the performances I most anticipated, by watching the last couple songs from BSS on the Jumbo-Tron. Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings’ tribute to soul music — she referenced Tina Turner and James Brown during the show — was not only genuine, but came naturally (Capp was born in the ’50s). This was another case of my favorite songs missing from the set and it not mattering whatsoever. Everything from the three-song warm-up before Jones tore up the stage, the two onstage audience interactions, and the Syl Johnson collaboration on "Different Strokes" were all amazing; best of all were the pure Jones tracks, however: "Let Them Knock" and "Got to Be the Way It Is." Backed by flawless instrumentation, full dance-participation led by the stage direction of Jones herself, and constant flows of humor from the two hilarious audience members and Sharon’s stories, this was an extremely enjoyable hour and one very difficult to part from. Sharon made the day complete…even before Wilco came on.

Wilco was the icing on the cake. With Chicago roots and mellow music that allowed the 100,000 to unwind, sustained with a Wilco fan’s dream of a setlist (if you like the pop hits, that is), Saturday ended excellently. The new song, "One Wing," sounded up to standards. Tweedy was in a great mood, poking fun at the band’s odd stitched clothing. I appreciated the "Outta Mind (Outta Sight)" close, a lesser-known and catchier Wilco tune. | Joseph O’Fallon

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