Sunday’s are designed for one thing: being lazy. For the greater Chicago population, this past Sunday was anything but that. Instead, it was all about sweating off those Lobster Corn Dogs, wearing down those already worn out Chucks, and irritating those well-established sunburns from Saturday’s “fun in the sun.” But that summarizes every closing day at Lollapalooza — it’s what gives each festivalgoer that merit badge by sundown. And if we’ve learned anything from Cub (or Girl) Scouts, those badges don’t come easy.
Grant Park didn’t make it any easier, either. As the hours skated by, and the day rolled forward, the south fields’ odors grew stronger — and more foul. If Saturday’s manure stench brought cringes from passerbys, Sunday’s nearly induced vomiting. It was unbearable. To quote Richard Lewis, it was the locker room…”from hell.” In retrospect, it’s kind of gross that hundreds of people were dining on the spoiled grass, let alone lounging on it!
But that’s all part of the festival’s, what do you call it, oh yeah, charm!
Ra Ra Riot
Chicago 2016: 12:30-1:30 p.m.
Ra Ra Riot is almost too cute for its own good. From the indie cheerleading name, to the cute female string players, and honey-toned vocals, it’s all a little overwhelming. They’re all accomplished musicians, and the songs are all pleasant, which might explain why the 12:30 p.m. crowd was about as large as the 5:00 p.m. crowd two days ago. Perhaps they were all here for Snoop Dogg, The Killers and Vampire Weekend, as fans of the latter should find the baroque indie pop of Ra Ra Riot appealing. Regardless of who came, the precious, sweet sounds were a “cool breeze,” just as vocalist Wes Miles had hoped. Not surprisingly, the set was, for the most part, very upbeat, light and… cute. While there wasn’t a ton of variety, the whole of it was extremely inoffensive and mildly entertaining. -A.K.
Bat For Lashes
Vitaminwater: 1:30-2:30 p.m.
Lying on a spectrum between Joanna Newsom, Tori Amos, and Bjork (definitely closest to Bjork), Bat For Lashes (alias of Brit Natasha Khan) did her best to help people ignore the overwhelming stench (which permeated the South field all weekend, but inexplicably was absent North-ward) and the overwhelming heat (which permeated damn near everything). Her clothes gave a pretty clear indication of her music, for those who like judging books by their covers: a sequined, rainbow leotard paired with blue leggings, moccasins and huge jewelery. The sort of flashy mysticism is Khan’s purview. With song titles like “Horse and I”, “The Wizard” and “Two Planets”, that’s all quite clear; the creepy twin baby dolls and stuffed crow perched on the synthesizers at the back of the stage. The biggest standout of the set could have been the superb drumming of Sarah Jones, whose set included a full-size timpani drum. -A.K.
The Airborne Toxic Event
Chicago 2016: 2:30-3:30 p.m.
What proved to be the most brutal weather throughout the entire festival, day three of Lollapalooza certainly made itself clear that this was the mother lode to end on. After grazing the hot sands of Grant Park, Los Angeles’ own Airborne Toxic Event took to the stage. Right from the get go, the band seemed a bit ill-prepared as sound problems persisted throughout the band’s set. Overall their stage demeanor led by guitarist/singer Mike Jollett floated between elegant and energetic, but sadly their overall performance was shrouded in muddiness. It was as if the band were lost in some never-ending pipe that stretched for miles with no means of reaching daylight. Another factor that sealed the group’s slim performance existed in their constant dependence on the same stylistic musical progressions, much like in the vein of The Arcade Fire. While yes the band sounded tight, their sound had been done before countless times and by the end of the day, nothing really showed for it; ‘twas undercooked a bit much. Though, who doesn’t love a good cover of Q. Lazarus’ “Goodbye Horses”? -J.Z.
Gang Gang Dance
Citi: 3:30-4:30 p.m.
Manhattan’s world beats authoritarians Gang Gang Dance has a lot going for them. For one, they look hip. Vocalist and percussionist Liz Bougatsos can charm the trendiest hipster out there, while also impress the snottiest music instructor of any institution. Then there’s the fact that their fourth studio album, last year’s Saint Dymphna, won over several acclaimed critics. So, it’s unfortunate that their short set over at the lovely Citi stage happened to be overwhelmed with delays, sound technicalities, and an undersold crowd. For the first 15 minutes, Bougatsos appeared visibly upset with her mix, arguing with the sound team as her band triumphed through. It’s not their fault, and don’t let this performance underscore the band for you. They’ll be back Chicago, and you will, too. -M.R.
Vitaminwater: 3:30-4:30 p.m.
Electro-composer Dan Deacon has come a long way from house parties, but maybe someone needs to remind him of that. Despite the fact that his complex, orchestrated pieces are plenty interesting on their own, he still relies on goofy crowd interaction that’s not really ideal for a crowd as large as the one he had at Lollapalooza. No matter how hard you try, you’re not going to get thousands of people to dance through each others’ arms. His many discussions with the sound people over problems he had weren’t helping either. But, in the long run, the joys of songs like “Woof Woof” and “Snookered” outshone the annoying. With help from Make Cheer (a marching band with a full horn section and multiple drummers) adding to his already 13 piece live lineup, the sound tumbled off the stage just as easily as the crowd-surfers tumbled over the gates. By the end of the set, there were nearly thirty musicians on stage, which would probably come to a shock to anyone who saw Deacon’s early touring, with just him and his trippy green skull. Fan favorite “Crystal Cat” drew the set to a close, with plenty of ecstatic pogoing all around. -A.K.
Playstation: 3:30-4:30 p.m.
Getting into the hottest peak of the day, Copenhagen’s excellent shoegaze rockers The Raveonettes took the Playstation stage by force. Upon first viewing, these guys seemed like a perennial indie rock bonanza, leveling their sound with exquisite periods of quietness and cupcakes. These guys couldn’t be farther from that at all. Guitarist/singer Sharin Foo kicked on her fuzzy Fender Jaguar and shocked the Chicago faithful with an earful of heavy undertones. Mush like yesterday’s Scottish juggernauts Glasvegas, The Raveonettes preyed on simple heavy rock n’ roll progressions while injecting their swagger of shoegaze, spaghetti western guitar riffs and thickly layered harmonies. At times they reminded me of the late and great lost French alternative rock band Les Thugs in regards to their vocal strengths. Foo’s cute demeanor along with the rest of the band’s subtle aggressiveness made for a great surprise to hit the final calling of Lolla’s days in the Windy City. In between heavy handed numbers, the Danish quartet announced the release of its fourth record In and Out of Control on October 6th. Count this writer in as we should see more good stuff to come from these guys. -J.Z.
Chicago 2016: 4:30-5:30 p.m.
If Sunday’s crowds were any indication, New York’s indie-darlings Vampire Weekend can no longer be considered New York’s indie darlings. This band, still supporting its 2008 self-titled debut, is on another level these days. By the time Ezra Koenig and his band pals arrived, looking like the hip kids from a posh country club in the Hampton’s, the headliner-sized audience erupted. Some threw up signs (“Ezra, say ‘Happy Birthday for…”), a few tossed hats, and there was even an inflatable sex doll passed around, though it popped sometime mid-set. Koenig acknowleded it all, especially the latter, to which he added shortly after its death, “That’s not a nice thing to do to a blow-up doll.” He’s a jovial folk, and when he’s not strumming away or caw-caw’ing, he’s putzing around with his neighboring bassist, Chris Baio.
As for the set itself, the band nailed each oldie with admirable precision. “I Stand Corrected” swooned every girl present (there were plenty), “One (Blake’s Got A New Face)” roped in some crowd interaction, “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” honored John Hughes, and “Walcott” itched up the spine. More importantly, they punctuated the performance with b-sides (“Boston”) and new material (“White Sky”, “Fun”). “White Sky” has been a live staple since early ’08, but “Fun” came as a surprise. Those worried about the band experiencing the damning “sophomore slump” can sleep sound, as the new tune is a good harbinger for the highly anticipated follow up (release date, guys?): bubbly bass lines, marching drum beats, and more of that South African flair. It’s a different progression for the band, but they’re not necessarily leaving the beaten path, either. Smart move, because if they can continue to ride this wave, you shouldn’t be surprised to see them headline in the near future. No, we’re not kidding. -M.R.
Budweiser: 4:30-5:30 p.m.
Sometime New Pornographer Neko Case was a pleasant antidote to the nearly crushing ADD oblivion that was the Dan Deacon set. Her self-professed genre may be “Modern Independent Loud Singing” (according to a recent appearance on NPR’s excellent quiz show “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me”), but in actuality, it falls somewhere closer to Indie Alt Country (as if that were any clearer). And, just as on her radio appearance previously mentioned, she was charming and very engaging. “Hold On, Hold On” (co-written with Toronto indie country group The Sadies and appearing on 2006’s Fox Confessor Brings the Flood) washed over the crowd serenely. Before stepping into an impressive rendition of “The Tigers Have Spoken”, Case revealed her affinity for writing songs relating to nature. “We’ve sung about birds and killer whales,” she admitted. “It’s the tiger’s turn now.” Two of the best tracks from this year’s great Middle Cyclone, namely “This Tornado Loves You” and a cover of Harry Nilsson’s “Don’t Forget Me” made for a perfect Sunday afternoon set, sitting in the grass as the sun slowly went down. -A.K.
Citi: 5:00-6:00 p.m.
If there’s one thing to learn from Passion Pit‘s short but perfect afternoon set, it’s that each year, Lolla is going to book the hottest act at the small, uncomfortable Citi stage. Much like Girl Talk’s Sunday evening chaos last year, the electronic boys of Cambridge oversaw one hellish crowd, too, all with the intention of “getting down and jiggy with it.” That’s not their quote, but something that pretty much explains the dance-hall madness, where attendees topped the thousands, all in a location that could comfortably house maybe half of that. When band favorites “Sleepyhead”, “To Kingdom Come”, and “Moth’s Wings” grooved by, fans didn’t so much dance as move together, all in unison and all because that was the only way they’d comfortably experience the group. Call it an act of god, or perhaps a signature of approval, but during set closer “The Reeling”, an eerie, downright chilly breeze swept on through. It felt great, but heads turned in confusion. Maybe it’s just the indie-rock gods saying, “Keep an eye out on these, guys.” Or, maybe that’s just the words of a bias journalist. -M.R.
Cold War Kids
Vitaminwater: 5:30-6:30 p.m.
Lollapalooza 2006 proved to be a catapult of sorts for the Cold War Kids, propelling the California rockers from relative obscurity to the the year’s “it” band. Three years later, CWK returned to Grant Park in the wake of a rather disappointing year, the result of a sophomore studio effort that fell victim to the dreaded sophomore slump. Needless to say, the backdrop was perfect — “High-profile indie rockers regain their mojo with a masterful return to Lolla.” Unfortunately, this was not to be the case. It’s not that the Cold War Kids were bad. Anyone who has seen them perform “We Used to Vacation” or “St. John” live will tell you that. It’s more like there was nothing special, nothing unique to make you go “wow, these boys have something to prove!” Oh, well, there’s always next year. -A.Y.
Chicago 2016: 6:30-7:30 p.m.
For those of you lucky to catch the legendary West Coast rapper’s stranglehold on the rap world at the Chicago stage, consider that not just a concert but a place in time that will never be the same again. Performing just as hard and heavy as the previous bands throughout the weekend, Snoop Dogg delivered a show for the ages. Donned in his goldenrod Lakers jersey and extravagant chains, Snoop and Co. kickstarted the party way early, but it served as a great wake up call. Pulling out no stops whatsoever, and launching into “Gin & Juice”, Snoop rose the troops so to speak amongst the Chicago faithful. For what seemed like miles upon end, everyone threw down their grooves, lifted hands high above their heads and frankly didn’t give a shit what else was going on. After Snoop’s savvy delivery, “Put ya muthafuckin’ hands in the air! I wanna get fucked up!”, the Chicago crowd cheered, hooted and hollered for the Chosen One of rap. Following this excellent marksmanship, the slinky rapper cut loose with the classic track “Ain’t Nothin’ But A G Thang” which riled the Lolla faithful. With his repetitive “Rock this shit!”, Snoop’s drummer broke into sick drum solos which followed into a snippet of classic rap favorites House of Pain’s “Jump Around”, which segued straight into “Drop It Like It’s Hot”. After ending the rap moniker with a band, he parted the stage with elegance and grace, but not before asking the Lolla crowd if they were there to see The Killers. Fo shizzle right? Talk about class. -J.Z.
Budweiser: 6:30-7:30 p.m.
About 10 minutes over his slotted set time, elder statesman Lou Reed had yet to make his way onto the stage. With a large portion of the festival attendance over at Snoop Dogg, the largely middle-aged crowd waiting for the former Velvet Underground front man to arrive was getting antsy. Eventually, Reed and his crew climbed on stage and quickly kicked in to a rollicking version of “Sweet Jane”, a Velvet Underground cut off of 1970’s Loaded. 1976’s “Senselessly Cruel” showed Reed sounding maybe a little bit older than he did for its original release. Some of the crowd was still chattering aimlessly over the wailing sax solo and thrumming guitar, but nobody seemed to mind, as Reed and Co. worked very hard to keep things moving. 80’s tunes like “Dirty Blvd.” and “Waves of Fear” were kind of reminiscent of an older, deeper Bruce Springsteen. Tony “Thunder” Smith’s drumming lived up to his nickname on the annoyed “Mad” and the rambling, aggressive “Paranoia Key of E” (both from 2000’s overlooked Ecstasy).
What came next seemed to drive away some crowd, but it surely was a treat for anyone fond of the oft-deemed un-listenable Metal Machine Music: a long, unhinged feedback-covered drone freakout courtesy of Reed, saxophonist Ulrich Krieger and synth-man Seth Calhoun. Before too long though, the rest of the band rejoined the three experimentalists for crowd pleasers “I’m Waiting For The Man” (off the legendary 1967 release Velvet Underground & Nico) and “Walk on the Wild Side” (Reed’s most prominent solo hit, from 1972’s Transformer). All in all, the set was a terrific, genre and career-spanning effort, showcasing many of Reed’s creative high points (though I wouldn’t complain if he were to return to play a longer set). -A.K.
Vitaminwater: 7:30-8:30 p.m.
After the block party Snoop Dogg landed on the Chicago stage, Los Angeles’ own Silversun Pickups sadly did not live up to the previous events. From a distance, the band thrashed and played a fairly decent set, complete with a rip roaring version of “Well Thought Out Twinkles”. However, the overall vibe meshed with dissonance, and unfairly docked the modern shoegazing quartet a few notches below expectations. Singer/guitarist Brian Aubert struggled at times to stay consistent, allowing his voice to become hoarse roughly halfway through the band’s set. To his credit however, the vocals were not as loud as the music, which may have caused the singer to strain more than normal. The band proceeded to rock out extensively on “Future Foe Scenarios” and “Little Lover’s So Polite” towards the end of their set which brought some great guitar work to the forefront. Overall, Silversun Pickups weren’t bad, but being the band to perform after Snoop Dogg’s ridiculously awesome performance? That’s truly just a tough call all in its own. -J.Z.
Band of Horses
Playstation: 7:30-8:30 p.m.
What a catastrophe this set could have been. After Lou Reed played the 20 minutes he lost from delays, possibly from sound technicalities, the frat-tastic crowd in front of the Playstation stage went, to be blunt, apeshit. Water-filled bottles were thrown –some from the ingenious security guards up front — and hundreds chanted, “Fuck Lou Reed! Fuck Lou Reed!” While the delays were irritable, sure, few could understand that Reed only performs every other decade (an exaggeration, but go with it). When’s the next time he’ll come back to the Second City, if ever? One person hip to this idea was frontman Ben Bridwell, who casually strolled out about 10 minutes to eight, and asked the crowd calmly, “What cha all been up to?” Finally, the irate fans were treated to an amped up Band of Horses-medley, with highlights being, of course, “The Great Salt Lake”, “Is There A Ghost”, “Funeral”, and the beautiful ballad, “No Ones Gonna Love You”. It went over time, even bleeding into Jane’s set, but fans were pleased. Lesson to be learned: Some people need to step out of the proverbial “idiot box” once and awhile. -M.R.
Chicago 2016: 8:30-10:00 p.m.
90 minutes of over indulgent and directionless music led by a feather wearing prima donna. That’s how I would have liked to describe The Killers’ headlining performance on Sunday night.
Unfortunately, this I can not do. The fact is that for the 40,000 or so who gathered at the Chicago 2016 stage to watch Brandon Flowers and Co. close out this year’s edition of Lollapalooza, those 90 minutes were much more. The set was a spectacle of sorts, consisting of catchy music, eye-pleasing graphics, and a frontman whose confidence is only overshadowed by his ability to get a crowd of thousands believing they are watching the era’s greatest band.
So while a few cynical critics, like yours truly, may have viewed the performance with a “eh,” the crowd sure as hell didn’t. Set opener “Human” got the blood flowing, “For Reasons Unknown” had the bodies moving, and “Somebody Told Me” resulted in an all out chaos of mosh pitting, sing-a-longing chaos. By the time “When You Were Young” rang aloud, a sort of ecstasy was in the air, the type that proved to be perfect emotion to cap off a weekend full of all different kinds. – A.Y.
Budweiser: 8:30-10:00 p.m.
Everyone knows Lolla is Perry Farrell’s party. So naturally, if the guy’s on closing duties, he’s going to bring the festivities — and that’s exactly what he did. Some may argue otherwise, but they wouldn’t have much of a case. Between decorative, flashy backdrops, floating Michel Gondry-esque paper waves, and Asian burlesque dancers, there’s little to debate. Hell, a city chopper flew over the crowd with a flood light! Hands down, the reunited Jane’s Addiction received the full-star treatment, all from their own star.
Regardless of the over-the-top decadence — surely to compete with Mr. Brandon Flowers’ own across the park — the L.A. veterans brought plenty of grit. Don’t let Farrell’s glittery golden suit or guitarist Dave Navarro’s trendy bucket hat deceive you. In their hearts, they’re still the straggly, foul-mouthed, dirty alternative rockers from yesteryear, they’re just a little older, and maybe a little wealthier, too. In fact, the four look better. Farrell’s youth has hardly faded, Navarro seems healthy, drummer Stephen Perkins hits heavier, and bassist Eric Avery continues where he left off. This just might be the best looking reunion in years.
Everything sounds the same, too, just bigger. “Mountain Song” storms along and glides as it always has, only now it soars. The very progressive “Three Days” is the band’s essential jam now, and while it offers Navarro an opportunity to make guitar soloing look easy, it lets Farrell channel his inner-Jim Morrison (as if to persuade us that, yes, they’re still an L.A. band). When they finally reached “Been Caught Stealing”, arguably one of the band’s biggest singles to date, it’s as if they were debuting the tune right there on the spot.
To play Devil’s advocate, there was something odd about the whole thing. Maybe it’s that the band has such a questionable future and such a remarkable history of disbanding and reassembling. But there’s this bitter aftertaste that comes with such an explosive performance. Is this really a band? Or is this just another one-off tour? Furthermore, what should fans make of this, and most importantly, what should casual fans take from it? When it boils down to it, it’s just another chance to see a band perform its back catalog — nothing more, nothing less. There’s something disappointing about that, though, and it’s hard to find any enthusiasm beyond witnessing what is essentially a novelty performance.
Still, what they have right now is something impressive. This line up has and always will be thee Jane’s Addiction (even if 2003’s Strays was a blast to listen to), and tonight’s performance was a landmark in the band’s rattled and controversial career. Adding to the performance’s eccentricities, the band surprised the thousands watching when they pulled out Aerosmith‘s own Joe Perry for the encore cut of, yes, you predicted it, “Jane Says”. Reunion or not, this was Farrell’s party, and he could cry if he wanted to, and also do pretty much anything else, as well. Let’s just hope he manages to keep this thing going, before it becomes another entry in the long, never-ending history of Jane’s Addiction. -M.R.