Lollapalooza | 08.08.09

lolla_depeche.jpgSomething more-than-worthwhile was playing somewhere across the mile-long festival grounds at any given point.




Millennium Park, Chicago 

Saturday was a different story. Something more-than-worthwhile was playing somewhere across the mile-long festival grounds at any given point, in the baking sun, with Miike Snow kicking things off at 12:30. The quintet, appropriately dressed in long-sleeve black dress clothes for the scorching hot day, played the best of their killer self-titled debut. The band was pretty slick for rookies, and this Swedish outfit was able to recreate the electronic elements of the album on-stage amazingly well. "Burial" and "Black & Blue" were two sure ones to set off things right. The extended jams to the not-as-fun songs like "Silvia" didn’t compare to "Animal," which was enhanced with a slightly more aggressive drum structure.

I was able to catch the two best songs from the always lively Langhorne Slim after Miike Snow’s shorter-than-scheduled set. The band jammed to a decent-size crowd at the folk-y, shaded BMI stage with the song about being restless—entitled "Restless"—about the time Langhorne "packed a picnic lacking seriously on food/ [with] more wine than [he] knew what with to do." The finale was his finest, "I Will," that closed with a sweet solo and huge in-song "thank you" to Lolla.

At the Bud Light stage, Cardiff, Wales’ most superb Los Campesinos! played 13 kickass songs at twice the speed, and consequently had to fumble for three more songs to fill the hour slot (much to the delight of me and a surprisingly large crowd). The size of the crowd was especially impressive considering Animal Collective was off DJing and Atmosphere was painting lemons gold cross-festival. The seven-piece rivaled Bat for Lashes, Santigold, TV on the Radio and The Raveonettes for the best set. Camp’s Gareth fondly remembered his first U.S. show here at Lollapalooza three festivals ago, and got somewhat emotional before switching into "Memorabilia," a song about death. The hits were as expected ("It Started With a Mix," "You! Me! Dancing!," "Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks," etc.), though no song failed by any means. "Knee Deep at ATP," a song about discovering an ex-lover’s affair at All Tomorrow’s Parties, was a fitting festival choice, and a smart choice too, as it is among their top three best. Other notable selections came with the Pavement cover "Box Elder" (Los Camp’s have made it clear they enjoy Pavement) and the even-tempoed (good) new song that I believe is called "IIC." There is really nothing cooler than when the band gets to their punkest, loudest, screamiest moment…while it’s simultaneously balanced by an innocent glockenspiel.

Saturday afternoon flexed its muscle with the crowded 4:30 to 6:30 slot that included the Arctic Monkeys, Hercules and the Love Affair (DJ set), Santigold, No Age and Glasvegas. Santigold was the only thing I could truly make it for, although I was in earshot and jumbo-tron view of the Arctic Monkeys performing songs like "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor."

A teaser of an intro opened Sanitgold’s set with her verse from the Diplo and Switch collab, Major Lazer’s "Hold the Line," before her first of several addresses to the adoring, wild and packed crowd. "L.E.S. Artistes" and a heavy, gunshot remix to "Shove It" were the standouts of the front half of the set. Apparently Wu-Tang’s GZA was chilling backstage and laughing at Santi, and she would later join GZA on a Lolla after-party later that night. Diplo received a much-deserved warm welcome—his Diplo/Santigold mixtape is one of the best works of last year—who DJ’d behind the cuts "Get It Up," "Unstoppable" and the best song of the performance and perhaps of her repertoire, "I’m a Lady." Diplo’s diverse appreciation of rock, punk, hip-hop and reggae may have fueled the pretty good cover choice of the Cure‘s "Killing an Arab." Before Santi closed with her most popular, "Creator," fans had climbed atop the roof of the sound board and had a mini-dance party—and were lucky enough to see over the sea of fans.

TV on the Radio has somehow managed to remain on my "yet to see live" list for about six years, alongside only a small handful of equally great bands. Being one of the most instrumentally sound bands of the festival, TVOTR didn’t need a perfect set list to dominate every song, be it on saxophone or through Tundre Adebimpe’s raddest voice in rock. Although not in the most conventional manner, TVOTR created a wall of sound; they made me appreciate Dear, Science to the same level as their other albums and the critics’ high praise, and were somehow able to make the already incredible "Staring at the Sun" exponentially better. I overheard one fan say, "Duuude, that was one of the most intense shows I’ve ever seen." The most intense it shouldn’t have been, but "pretty outstanding" is probably an understatement. Shame not to hear "Lover’s Day," but "Wolf Like Me" rocked hard.

I only checked in on Diplo long enough to make sure that he was rocking the Perry’s stage, and then went back to the Bud Light main stage before the 90-minute Yeah Yeah Yeahs set. Karen O dressed in the all-too-common rocker look—the tribal feathered costume—and the band opened with the first of an It’s Blitz-heavy set. In the first 13 songs, "Pin" was the only one to have predated Show Your Bones, although songs like "Gold Lion" and "Cheated Hearts" have quickly become old favorites and big crowd pleasers. The new YYY’s disc seems to have mixed reviews, and while the new exposure and sound probably greatly increased their fan base, it’s not so different that it alienated any of their existing fans. Still, the lack of strumming guitar, all-out punk-rock songs in exchange for the more electronic, scream-less YYY ballads wasn’t nearly as fun live. "Zero" and "Heads Will Roll" grew on me a little and were well-suited gazing into the Chicago night skyline. "Hysteric," one of It’s Blitz’s best, was great and true to the album, and also fit for the headliner-sized light show. After "Turn Into," Karen O expressed her visible excitement for this late-notice headliner opportunity, "Special night…isn’t it special? Yeah Yeah Yeahs never gonna forget this…not even supposed to be here…never expect to fill shoes of the Beastie Boys," before going into the "summer love song," "Maps." This acoustic rendition was dedicated to their loved ones, including Nick’s father, TV on the Radio, Deerhunter and the Lolla fans. Karen O somehow forgot a portion of the lyrics to her super-famous (30-word) song. Rivaling several peaks of a great Saturday, YYY’s went with two of their best, "Y-Control" and "Date With the Night," before sending tens of thousands home to pack to trains and buses. | Joseph O’Fallon

Photogallery: Lollapalooza by Nick Licata

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