china is the gift of choice for a 20th anniversary. But considering
that Lollapalooza debuted in 1991 with a lineup that featured Jane's
Addiction, Nine Inch Nails, and Ice-T, the only thing Perry Farrell
& Co. should've been doing with china for the music fest's big 2-0
is breaking it over unsuspecting festivalgoers' heads. Some fans felt
just this way when they realized that there was no Daft Punk, Red Hot
Chili Peppers, or Biggie (you snicker, I heard rumors) on the roster.
Though some dubbed this year's lineup the worst in Lollapalooza history,
Perry Farrell knew what he was doing and shut the haters up with three
days packed with solid sets -- and even a few mind-blowing ones.Don't believe me? Read on. DAY 1
>> SLIDESHOW: Lollapalooza 2011 <<
The Vaccines The
first act on my itinerary was probably my second in line as far as
"Acts I Would Rather Die Before Missing." On yonder Isle of Britain,
word has been getting around about these boys that go by the name of the
Vaccines. They are currently being hailed as Britain's next great
guitar band. I'd say they're on the right track, but with only one
full-length under their belts, they still have a lot to prove.
This didn't stop them from coming out with a "we got this"
attitude and a sufficient amount of swagger. Lead singer Justin Young
sported his own band's T-shirt on stage, which was complemented by a
candy-apple-red ‘50s letterman jacket with his first name blazing across
the back. Ego: check. The group launched into their feisty up-tempo
garage rock with fan favorites such as "Norgaard," the melodramatic
"Post Break Up Sex" and "If You Wanna" which got the audience's hips
swiveling and the hands clapping. At one point, Young paused to
establish his discontent with his band's set time and staging. "Thanks
for waking up, that was a great idea," he said, gesturing to the Sony
stage across the field that was providing minimal distraction.
While Young did cop a bit of an attitude and wore a
permanent sneer (I think that's just how he sings), the talent was
obviously there in the punchy melodies and energetic performance. Verdict: 7/10 The Naked and Famous I was unable to attend the WFNX Clambake a couple months ago
because I am 20 ½ years old, so I decided to check out one of the bands
I missed, The Naked and Famous. Ask any true movie geek about New
Zealand and odds are they'll say something about "Lord of the Rings"
being filmed there. And before that, the only thing they were known for
was ... wool. But these kids are here to set the record straight: New
Zealand is awesome, they have electricity and Mordor doesn't really
A modest, yet sizeable, gathering formed around the Sony
stage in preparation of their set and I just made it over from The
Vaccines in time to catch them open with "All of This." The collective's
electro-tinged rock was friendly on the ears and provoked toe-tapping
and head-nodding. Some of the more die-hard fans could be seen with
their hands raised, saluting the band while they hung on their every
word. Front duo Thom Powers and Alisa Xayalith were the main attractions
for the most part while the other members were hovered over their
instruments while they proceeded to rock out.
Xayalith's vocals were a little pitchy at times and unlike
their album, the sound didn't seem as expansive. I understand that an
album cannot translate perfectly to a live production, but some crucial
elements were just completely left out. Seeing them at an indoor venue
may help fix this when the sound can resonate off the walls. The power
in the sound was diminished greatly by the time it reached me. Overall,
it was an average set by a promising young band that's in the process of
making a splash. Verdict: 5/10 Foster the People
Keeping with my Clambake Redemption theme, I stuck around at
Sony for Foster the People. I managed to weasel my way up to just in
front of the sound booth, which proved to be a smart move because the
spectators came in droves. People have obviously gotten the memo about
these guys. With their ridiculously catchy single "Pumped Up Kicks,"
(resisting the urge to whistle along is about as torturous as
water-boarding) all the kids were flocking to Sony to get their dance
on. I tried to stand on my toes to see where the people ended, and alas,
I could not.
The trio and their backing instrumentalists obviously
weren't expecting such a turnout as they emerged with wide eyes and
grins from ear to ear. Lead singer Mark Foster acknowledged that this
was the biggest crowd they'd ever played to and was answered by rousing
applause and chants from the laxbros camped out next to me.
Unlike most bands that have one hit single, Foster the
People have made enough of an impact for people to actually get their
hands on the whole album. Those congregated sang along to each song with
unbounded enthusiasm while dancing their asses off in the unrelenting
heat. By the third song, Foster's dress shirt was completely saturated
with sweat, but he showed no signs of stopping as he gave motivational
speeches in between numbers. Every now and then he'd break out the
sticks and bang away on a free-standing drum at his side while the sweat
poured from his forehead.
But one of his most impressive feats may have been his
soaring falsetto in "I Would Do Anything For You." After listening to
the album, one may not expect him to be able to hit such a note, but he
certainly shocked me with that range. The guy can sing. I've also got to
give a shout out to their tasteful rendition of Neil Young's "Heart of
It's always nice to see a band that just enjoys performing
and there's no doubt that these boys live for just that. When their
intensity is matched by those in the crowd, something magical happens,
and their set was one of the most memorable of the festival. Verdict: 8.5/10 The Kills
I am a huge fan of The Kills and I have the biggest crush on
Alison Mosshart. That wiley temptress has me wrapped around her finger.
I honestly thought I could skip their set and see White Lies, but no,
she pulled me in again. Apparently I was not the only one. A massive
crowd descended on the Bud Light stage to see the gloom and doom duo
strut their stuff under the setting sun.
The Kills are a joy to watch perform because their chemistry
is so solid. My friend actually asked me if they were "lovers."
Unfortunately, this is not true. Guitar player Jamie Hince just married
model Kate Moss a few weeks ago. But I swear Alison is luring him into
infidelity on stage. She cunningly taunts him with each step she takes
across the stage towards him and it turns out to be one musical game of
cat and mouse.
The Kills have reached a point in their career where their
setlist is relatively predictable. The pair sampled a few songs from
their previous three albums such as crowd-pleasers "No Wow," "Sour
Cherry" and "The Tape Song." The remainder featured cuts from their
phenomenal LP "Blood Pressures."
Mosshart spent her time on stage prowling around and glaring
at her spectators. Her hair is always in motion as she whips it around
and mangles it with her hands that seem more like claws when in
performance mode. She climbs onto speakers to get a better look at her
audience as if she's sizing them up for a nasty kill. Her mic stand
functions like some demented stripper pole as she twirls away.
Meanwhile, Hince displays the typified image of cool when he hides
behind his shades, watching his partner go to work. Eventually the heat
becomes too much and Mosshart grabs a sopping towel from a bin to cool
herself down while crawling around on all fours.
In a nutshell, that's a typical Kills show. You're not sure
whether to be entertained or disturbed. Either way, the audience is
always in for a treat. So if you ever want to see what an exorcism looks
like, check them out. Verdict: 7/10 Muse
And then we come to the headliner for the evening. We had a
choice between Coldplay and Muse. I've never seen Coldplay and I've seen
Muse twice, but there's a reason why they were named Best Act in the
World Today at the Q Awards. So sorry, Chris Martin, but I had to go
with Matt Bellamy and some good new-fashioned space rock.
Everything with Muse is about showmanship and being
gratuitously over the top, and that's why their live shows are
absolutely insane. Laser beams, fireworks and floating ballooned
eyeballs? You betcha.
The trio emerged and kicked of the party with their
political unrest anthem, "Uprising." This is the one that Glenn Beck so
aptly dubbed "propaganda." But to the thousands of Muse devotees
standing at the Music Unlimited Stage, it's just a way to say, "hey,
we're sick of this shit."
The first third of the set packed in the hits with
"Hysteria," "Map of the Problematique" and "Supermassive Black Hole"
which was made annoyingly popular by the "Twilight" series. However, the
momentum stumbled towards the middle with songs like "Guiding Light," a
seemingly never-ending version of "Citizen Erased" (usually a badass
cut). The inner part of the set also sported "United States of Eurasia"
which is an all right song, but Freddie Mercury is rolling in his grave.
I don't get why people compare Muse to Radiohead when they have songs
like "USoE" that scream Queen.
The set eventually picked back up at the end with the crowd
clapping along to "Starlight" before the band returned for an encore
with a one-two punch of "Plug in Baby" and "Knights of Cydonia" to bring
the night to a dramatic close as jets of steam shot up with the last
remaining power chords. Verdict: 8/10 DAY 2
Phantogram used a significant portion of their hour-long set
to test out new songs that will be featured on their upcoming EP due
out in September. New-comers "Make a Fist" and "Don't Cry" left a
favorable impression on the crowd as they bobbed their heads to tricked
out beat patterns. Barthel's airy vocals hovered over the tracks casting
a dream-like aura on the spectators gazing up at her. Carter (also with
a thick beard) rocked back and forth as he elaborated on Barthel's
synthetic elements with driving rhythms on his guitar. The set really
broke loose with "When I'm Small" as Barthel wailed into the mic, "I'd
rather die, than to be with you."
There was one major turn off to the performance. The bass
drowned so much out that it was hard to distinguish the different
elements. This really hurt as Phantogram incorporates so much into each
second of a track. Verdict: 6/10 Dom
What's that?! Another band I couldn't see at the Clambake?
Right you are! This time it's Massachusetts' own Dom. When I first
bought the "Sun Bronzed Greek Gods" EP, I knew these guys were on to
something. The hooks were brilliant and Dom's voice fits into the
instrumentals perfectly. So I booked it over to the Google+ stage after
Phantogram to get a good spot for my boys. And they did not disappoint.
I knew it was going to be good when Dom stepped onto the
stage wearing green jeans while saying, "thank you, Octabazooka" (at
least that's what it sounded like). He continued to garble song titles
with introductions such as "Jesus, Hail Satan" (actually just "Jesus")
and "Brochicha" (actually "Bochicha," an anthem for Dom's cat. Be sure
to like him on Facebook).
Dom and Co. also took the opportunity to showcase new songs
from the "Family of Love" EP that dropped on August 9th. I'm willing to
bet that "Telephone" is the only song out there that utilizes a
touch-tone phone as a musical instrument. And "Family of Love," may
sound upbeat, but underneath it's actually heartbreaking. Dom provides a
rare glimpse into his life as an orphan.
Another shout-out is necessary for their spot-on cover of
The Cure's "Boys Don't Cry." It truly was one of the best ‘80s covers in
a weekend full of them. Two things that bothered me: they stopped 15
minutes early and you could barely hear the synth. I wanted to hear that
cool hook going into "Living in America" (my summer jam). It's
basically a big "fuck you" to Green Day's "American Idiot." America.
Fuck yeah. Verdict: 8/10 Big Audio Dynamite Coming off that excellent Cure cover, I was in the mood some
more ‘80s! Let's be honest, I'll never turn down the ‘80s. And yes, the
haters will hate. It was time to hit up Big Audio Dynamite, Mick Jones'
recently reunited side-project. For the most part, Clash material is
hit or miss with me, usually hit, but B.A.D is just quirky enough to
reel me in. Also, the hair on Don Letts and Leo Williams is a draw in
and of itself.
B.A.D.'s set came right from the back of a greatest hits
jacket. All of the staples came through such as "Medicine Shop," "C'Mon
Every Beatbox" and my personal favorite, "Sightsee M.C." The audience
grooved along to the funk-tinted rock as they were hearkened back to the
band's glory days. Jones cracked jokes in between songs and even forgot
where the last place they played was. Turns out it was London, go
Obviously I'm not old enough to know what B.A.D. was like in
their hey-day, but from what I gathered, they still got it. The setlist
was relatively short, mainly because of the prolonged variations on
some of the songs. "Bottom Line" is a terrific song. But do we really
need 13 repetitions of the refrain? Verdict: 6/10 Cee Lo Green
I will admit it. "Crazy" was my song in the summer of 2006.
If you were in the car with me, ears were being covered to stifle my
off-key shrieking. But that's pretty much where my love affair with Cee
Lo Green ends; I'm a Danger Mouse fan. Nothing could prepare me for the
karaoke setlist that Mr. Green had lined up.
First of all, he came out wearing some spiked leather
ensemble and was flanked by a harem of equally as frighteningly dressed
women. Imagine the characters of "Star Wars" getting ready for an
S&M extravaganza. I don't need to say who played Jabba the Hutt.
"Bring me Solo and the Wookie!"
Here's a list of covers he labored through: Danzig's
"Mother," The Violent Femmes' "Gone Daddy Gone," Billy Idol's "Flesh for
Fantasy" and Journey's "Don't Stop Believin.'" Leave our Journey alone.
This brings the ‘80s covers up to five for the weekend, a critical
level for the freakiest of all ‘80s super freaks.
It was just funny to watch Lollapalooza act like this was
some amazing acquisition for the lineup with his higher-than-deserved
billing. Let's call it what it is, filler space before the act that
everyone was waiting for, Eminem.
Cee Lo would frequently start songs only to have them
sputter out, leaving the crowd wondering if this was purposeful or
something was legitimately wrong. Something was wrong all right. Many
people simply stood there waiting for the set to end so they could score
a primo spot for His Shadiness. Verdict: 2/10 Eminem
I'm not a fan of rap. There are about three rappers I
respect and genuinely enjoy listening to. And with two of them releasing
a joint album recently that basically celebrates their lavish lifestyle
and not much else, that list is dwindling down to Eminem. Even though
his raps tend to be hate-filled rages, he at least draws inspiration
from real shit that doesn't involve frozen pizza and rollin' on 24s.
Eminem was certainly the main draw for the evening, if not,
the entire weekend. I saw the My Morning Jacket crowd for their opposing
headlining slot. There was no one there. A sea of people turned up for
Slim's performance and some of them had camped out at the Music
Unlimited stage all day.
Em emerged from the stage amidst deafening screams and a
projection screen that gave a quick back-story about how he had given up
performing live until tonight (and Kanrocksas the night before).
Accompanied by his hypeman Mr. Porter, he wasted no time in getting down
to business. He shuffled across the stage while unleashing his furious
flow on his eager minions below who tried to keep up with each passing
Shady had one of the most well-balanced sets of the weekend.
His lineup included oldies hits "Stan," "The Real Slim Shady," "My Name
Is" and "Without Me," as well as newer cuts such as his Rihanna duet
"Love the Way You Lie" and the sequel to B.o.B.'s "Airplanes."
Of course it wouldn't be a rap show without some special
guests. I was seriously waiting for Dr. Dre to pop out during "I Need a
Doctor" which featured live vocals by fellow Lolla artist Skylar Grey.
Alas, that did not happen. We did however get to see Bruno Mars take the
stage for "Lighters," much to the delight of the squealing females in
One of the cornier moments came with Eminem threatening to
"relapse" onstage as Mr. Porter begged the crowd to make him stop. Some
cheered, some booed. Em grabbed a handle of vodka and took a nice, long
swallow. Only to have it...come leaking out of his chest and stomach?!
Witchcraft is afoot! Or it was just an orchestrated stage antic that
just seemed a little weird and unnecessary.
At the end of it all, the performance can be judged as a
smash success and one of the most talked about from the weekend. And I'm
pretty sure the bylaws of hip-hop and rap require me to say he "killed
it." Verdict: 8/10 DAY 3
I showed up to their set just a little too late. When I saw
the crowd at the Bud Light stage, I was shocked. I couldn't believe how
many people were there. I'm certain there was more there than for the
previous night's headliner, My Morning Jacket.
The trio was already in full-on shred mode when I showed up. Bass player Rhydian Dafydd
was thrashing around while Bryan used the entire stage to cater to the
vast audience. The group let up only once so Bryan could urge their fans
to enjoy the weekend and "escape the shit of the day-to-day."
They closed out the set in the grandest of fashions with
single "Whirring" which lasted for what seemed like ages. Just enough
time for Bryan to smash her guitar against a standing gong a few times
before ultimately throwing it down and exiting the stage with a
shit-eating grin. Verdict: 8/10 The Pains of Being Pure at Heart I'm quite certain it's impossible to hate the Pains of Being
Pure at Heart. They're just a bunch of kids having fun and making some
kickass music while doing so. If there was ever a "soft garage rock"
genre, they would fit it. Their fuzzed out melodies ease into the ears
and provide a carefree ambiance.
The people sure were excited to see them. The band worked
through their soundcheck as yelps and cheers rose up from the pit. Lead
singer Kip Berman and keeper of the keys Peggy Wang responded to their
admirers with sheepish smiles and averted glances.
The group remained stationary during the majority of their
set and let the music speak for itself. The tracks transitioned quite
well from the albums to the stage. One of their catchiest numbers,
"Heart in Your Heartbreak" got the crowd riled up as they clapped along
and pumped their fists in the air during the song's down-and-out chorus.
Berman's fragile vocals could have been a little stronger, but their
frailty is one of the more attractive aspects to TPOBPAH's craft.Their quirky synthetic lines mixed with Berman's powerful strumming when the sustain kicked in was a sure-fire hit. Verdict: 7/10 The Cars
I feel as though I could never step onto a street in Boston
again if I skipped The Cars. Luckily, no one remotely tempting was going
up against them so I found myself back at the Music Unlimited stage
along with a slew of veteran Cars fans and some fresher ones.
It's a good thing Ric Ocasek is a little past the point of
having kids, because damn, those black jeans were tight. The lead singer
stepped up to the mic and was showered with a hearty welcome from the
band's fans before they kicked things off with "Let the Good Times
Roll." This song was probably awesome early on in the band's career, but
with lackluster vocals and very little movement on stage, it fell flat.
The band eventually got things going with a little help from
the crowd during "My Best Friend's Girl." Forty-somethings and teenage
laxbros all shouted along as they sang about their one-time fling
hanging out with another dude.
One of the highlights was their electrified new single, "Sad
Song," which is classic Cars with a tasty modern edge. The crowd
responded positively and was even more psyched when it was followed by
the lead-in to "Just What I Needed." Naturally, everyone had a little
freakout. The group hit their stride here with the audience's full
support. It was a solid rendition, but it was evident that the song, and
not just the band, had aged quite a bit.
In the grand scheme of things, it felt exactly as I thought
it would. It's a once-great band picking up the instruments, setting
aside their differences and saying, "let's try this again." Regrettably,
the set didn't bring us back to the glory days, but it left a favorable
impression. Verdict: 5/10 Cage the Elephant I usually don't speak/write in "text," but OMFG. Cage the
Elephant stole the mother-loving show at Lolla this year. These Bowling
Green punks blew everyone out of the water (almost literally) with a
rage-filled set that had the audience writhing in ecstasy. Maybe it was
lead singer Matt Shultz crowd-surfing before the first song was halfway
over. Maybe it was the thousands of people that the band clearly didn't
expect. Or maybe it was the ass-load of rain that chose to make itself
known after their second song. I'm going with D, all of the above.
Shultz politely requested that the crowd pass around his
body for the rest of the day should he be knocked unconscious. Those
present were only too happy to help with that. This seemed like a very
real possibility as Shultz spent more time being hoisted above
spectators' heads than on stage. When he was on his feet though, he
flailed his way around the stage in the form of demonic fits.
Early in the set, the sky began turning black, thunder
rolled in and the skies opened up to give us some of the craziest rain
I've ever seen in my life. The pit immediately turned into a pool and it
just seemed fitting to watch this band in the middle of an effing
thunderstorm. I wasn't the only one that thought this. People lost their
After performing the soft cut "Flow," Shultz said that this
was a gig he'd remember for the rest of his life. I think we all felt
the same, especially when single "Shake Me Down" came around. Every hand
in the joint was raised as the people chanted, "even on a cloudy day,
I'll keep my eyes fixed on the sun." It was a truly inspirational
When all was said and done, Shultz had made his way to the
center of the crowd and, with a glowing lightsaber in hand, stood on
fans' shoulders. Cage the Elephant had conquered Lolla. Verdict: 10/10 Foo Fighters
The epic nature of Lolla's final day did not end with Cage
the Elephant. I was super excited to cross "see Dave Grohl live" off my
bucket list. By now, the skies had cleared, we were wringing out our
shirts and a magnificent double rainbow reached across Grant Park. The
field was a mess. My shoes were saturated with mud, but this didn't
really matter. I came to see a rock icon, as did the countless others
who packed the Music Unlimited stage to close out the festival.
The group stormed onto the stage with a roar of approval
from the Foo fans. It was especially loud when Grohl stepped out of the
shadows with his blue guitar hanging at his waist. We were off.
The opening tracks were incredible: "Bridge Burning" and
"Rope" off their latest LP followed by staples "The Pretender" and "My
Hero." Mother Nature decided she wasn't quite finished and chose to
douse the crowd with an even stronger thunderstorm. With the rain
whipping, Grohl seemed like a lunatic as he led the crowd in a riotous
version of "My Hero." There's nothing quite like thousands of people
singing in hurricane-like weather as the band smiles down at them with
Drummer Taylor Hawkins dedicated "Cold Day in the Sun" (or
lack thereof) to Jane's Addiction singer and Lolla curator Perry Farrell
for saving rock and roll for him. Hawkins pounded away at the drumheads
while he sang and the rest of the band gradually joined in.
The set focused heavily on newer material, but the Foos
managed to close out the night with "Best of You" and "Everlong." Grohl
dragged Perry Farrell out onto the stage at the end of their set to
thank him. "If it weren't for you, I swear to God we wouldn't fuckin' be
here right now. And when I say we, I mean fuckin' we," he said, while
gesturing to the crowd. Verdict: 9/10 So. Worst lineup in Lollapalooza's history? I think not.