Lollapalooza | 08.07.09

lolla_perry.jpgIf Of Montreal is available to play your festival, you would be foolish not to book them.







Millennium Park, Chicago

Claiming to be a fan of rock music is about as specific as liking food. Indie rock has become only slightly more narrow of a term, as evident by Lollapalooza’s eight stages, three days and 130-plus bands that all fit within its boundaries. Definite trends and groupings can be made within indie rock, however, and one might include the folkier, acoustic, softer (girlier) acts such as Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes and Band of Horses’ sophomore effort. Friday was highlighted—for some—by the indie staples’ rain-soaked sets of Bon Iver and Fleet Foxes, which didn’t grab me like the rougher artists of the genre like Peter and the Wolf, Phosphorescent, Bonnie "Prince" Billy, and Antony and the Johnsons (or even Iron and Wine). With longer lulls, miserable weather and the fewest first-time Lolla attractions, Friday was the worst day. Still, as a testament to the strength of the festival, it was a pretty great day.

While I was on my sixth hour of seeing several pretty good bands, I cannot say that I fully enjoyed and devoted my time to one specific artist until Peter Bjorn and John‘s 6:30 slot at Citi Stage. Prior, I had caught a sweet array of bands starting with New Jersey’s Gaslight Anthem. This often-recommended punk four-piece powered through their set to a fairly large and certainly appreciative crowd, with "Casanova, Baby" topping the set. Of course, parallels to bands like Against Me! can be made here, with similar aggressive elements and the often-turned-to-scratchy masculine voice during song climaxes; however, Gaslight’s song formula puts a twist on a variety of influences to make for a worthwhile festival experience. Amazing Baby—as you might guess from the band name—isn’t the greatest or by any means coolest band, but when you’re already within Millennium Park’s gates, there is no need to pass up on "Headdress" or their summery gem, "Bayonets." A-Trak was among the A-list of Perry’s DJ dance stage, who kept the beat thumping and fans dancing between remixes of the Phoenix single "Litzomania," Count and Sinden’s "Beeper" and the irresistible DJ selection "Everybody Dance Now," which was on repeat until melding into Kid Sister’s "Pro Nails," which he produced.

So, Peter Bjorn and John, who had been providing interviews, relaxing and downing some beers all suited up in the media tent beforehand, took the Citi Stage at 6:30 in a hilariously Swedish outfit of a beige sport coat over a short-sleeve button-up, short blue tennis shorts, higher-than ankle socks and Keds. The band’s excitement of returning to Lolla at this semi-primetime slot, with a fresh batch of more great songs, was apparent. PB+J kept the set moving along at a pretty quick pace, frequently fitting in brief "thank you"s, and leaving most of the interaction to dancing up a storm on stage, visiting the crowd and getting everyone to clap or join him for the LaLaLa’s of "Just the Past." Starting with the catchy Living Thing single "Nothing to Worry About" was a good choice that ended with a brilliant distorted harmonica solo from Peter. Bjorn introduced the new album title track in his awesome voice, which was highlighted with a kickass guitar solo and a reverse-Duck-Walk. Third up was the familiar Falling Out track, "It Beats Me Every Time," which Peter introduced—"We stole it from Janet Jackson; thank you, Janet"—much to my confusion and curiosity. According the Lolla message board, PB+J covered Joy Division’s "Transmission" fourth, joining the Killers who also covered Joy Division with "Shadowplay" on Sunday night. "Young Folks" and "Amsterdam," probably the two most played-out songs for the band, underwent some percussive changes, with special attention to echo-levels that was consistent and well-executed throughout their tight set. "Lay It Down" might have edged out all the rest; "Just the Past" had a nice crowd interaction moment; and "Up Against the Wall" completed the set of this quasi-veteran band. Missing from the set was "Let’s Call It Off." If I have a regret, it’s not asking Bjorn to play the Living Things standout "I Want You" when I had the chance backstage.

If Of Montreal is available to play your festival, you would be foolish not to book them. Here’s why: There’s a constant guarantee of insane stage antics and costumes, a wave of hilarious jumbo-tron projections unlike any others, thousands of dancing fans, a set list that draws from well over a hundred songs and nine albums, and the potential of any sort of cover song from Kevin Barnes’ huge cover catalogue. For this particular Lolla Friday at 7 p.m. on the Vitamin Stage we saw fathered costumes, slayed angels and red demons (something like that), accompanied by videos of awkward cartoons of couples making out, thousands sloshing around dancing in the mud, "She’s a Rejecter," "Bunny Ain’t No Kind of Rider" and "Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse" among the hits, and the David Bowie "Moonage Daydream" cover. They didn’t disappoint. | Joseph O’Fallon

Photogallery: Lollapalooza by Nick Licata

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