Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Can't Start a Fire

Day 1

But, When Do We Switch Seats?

Festivals are always different when you camp at them.  In fact, let us get the differences between Lollapalooza and Coachella out of the way first, so that we don't have to come back to this every 4th paragraph through the course of this recap.

1. We're camping.  Sure, it's car camping, but the car doesn't have a shower nor a microwave and that pretty much removes most people from their element completely.  Oh, and the car only has a sleeping space for one.  Therefore, sexy time for one tent, ends up being sexy time for a few tents.  I'll take the backseat.

2.  The skyscrapers and oak trees of Chicago have been replaced by mountains and palm trees of Southeast California.  The air is drier, the sun beats a little more intensely, and in the evenings, the wind howls a bit more.  So the landscape is just as impressive and just as distracting/enhancing.

3. Coachella is smaller on all accounts.  Fewer bands, smaller space, fewer people.  Yet the action feels just as intense and perhaps even more vivid due to the surrounding ecosystem.  And even with the smaller scale, Coachella demonstrates a significantly lower level of organization... Strange, but not necessarily a bad thing.

4. Coachella allows bands to compete with one another more readily.  At Lollapalooza, once the headliner goes on, everything else stops.  At Coachella, the pre-headliner act is still playing once the headliner takes the stage (generally).  And, there is at least one other band playing at one of the 3 "tents".  So, you got options, even when the guy that made your ticket cost so much take the stage.

5. And, Coachella takes place just outside of LA.  Therefore, it's filled with LA people.  More on this later, but this absolutely paints the festival in a very different light. 

It's a struggle from the start on Friday.  Some of us are sick, hungover, reeling from the audible sexy time (slash verbal coercions) overheard from adjacent tents the previous night, and struggling with some serious ultraviolet radiation.  So, of course, we head to the tent-side Energy Station (beer tent) to down a few before it all gets started. First notes are heard from Canada soft-pop (sensations) Jets Overhead (not really).  Not sure if the name is an attempt at irony or if they just though it sounded magical and airy in a Waking Life sort of way.  It's certainly magical in a I just yawned a couple times, kind of way, so we finish our beverages as rapidly as possible before determining that we should be spending our inaugural dance moves over at Obe-Wan (Gobi).

P.O.S. -  Coachella stacked the hip-hop deck on Friday almost as if they were trying to clear out the riff raff prior to the My Super Sweet 16 filming that Coachella would eventually become throughout the rest of the weekend.  Who knew such racist tendencies would be so overt?  P.O.S.'s impression lies more in his open-minded attitude toward the festival rather than his music.  I'm struggling to locate and latch onto his beats, but trying my hardest to appreciate what I am hearing. Fortunately, we got other priorities.

The best thing about Fridays at a festival is the low turnout.  No matter where the festival occurs, for various reasons (car/traffic trouble, bailouts, Friday "sucks" philosophies, aneurysms) things are more spacious on Friday, allowing for a lack of congestion on the festival grounds and plenty of space on the dance "floor". It also allows for shots like this to happen:

Deer Tick - Easily one of the most anticipated shows of the entire weekend for me.  It's taking place at the Outdoe (Outdoor Stage), which is exactly what it sounds like.  Frontman, John McCauley seems to be his usual, happy self, albeit more feminine on this occasion.  The music is good, but there just seems to be something off.  The crowd is only sort of into it, McCauley is self-admittedly on codeine, and my own health issues seem to be increasing in severity.  That being said, the boys debuted a few songs off of their forthcoming album, as well as one courtesy of McCauley's side project (MG&V).  So it was interesting, but vocal troubles plagued the set, leaving me wanting for more.

We, as in, Deucey and his Deucette remain in striking distance of the Outdoe since the Avetts are up next, but we're basically stumbling around like zombies without a whiff of human flesh.  Maybe water will help?  No... More beer?  I hope not.  Take the pain away!!!

Avett Brothers - I've been terribly unimpressed with the Avett Bros. live performances to date.  Saw them in Boston last Fall and it was fine.  Saw them on Austin City Limits and it was flat.  Saw them at Coachella and it was well, pretty okay.  Good news is that they hired a drummer for the show, which I've been requesting for some time.  As talented as these two are, they're better when they stick to the piano and their string instruments.  I try to rock out to the opening track "Laundry Room" but my brain rebels and I'm relegated to wandering aimlessly in search of a cure.  Not taking anything away from these cats though, because their potential is huge.

Okay.  Get me a bottle of water, a red bull, a two beers.  I think this is gonna work.

Glug glug glug...

Give me a minute...

What?  There's no time?  Yeasayer is on?  Fuuuuuck.

Yeasayer - Friday had so so SO much potential.  Three of our first four targets had wondrous possibilities written all over them, yet all of them failed to deliver on any truly satisfying level.  Yeasayer came into the festival with some of the largest expectations festival-wide.  They've been selling out shows across the country and now it was everyone's shot to get a piece.  The show took place at the Joshua Tree (Mojave), which was garbage pretty much all weekend.  The sound was just never as loud as it needed to be, especially if you were toward the back of the building as was usually the case with wanderers such as ourselves.  The music just barely made it our ears, and as a result, never really made into our hearts.  It was a constant battle with wayward elbows and callous giants and we never achieve lift off.  Maybe next time.

Oh, and the Cribs canceled because Iceland can't keep a lid on its geothermal processes.  They're really not good anyway, and Johnny Marr should still be with Modest Mouse, but it's still a shame... Fuck Iceland.

The original plan was to complete a trifector during the 5:30ish time slots.  Start with Ra Ra Riot at Joshua Tree, run over to Dillinger at Obe-Wan, then finish up with She & Him Outdoe in order to be prepared for Passion Pit.  But, the sorry situation that I found myself in did not permit it.... What the fuck Red Bull?  So, we head back to the Energy Station for some continued refueling.  But before that, we stopped off to play some Hockey at Obe-Wan, who suffered from on of the worst billings possible (next to King Khan, of course), being set opposite Yeasayer.  But they sounded great (better than Yeasayer...), and it was nice to see them moving up the charts, up from their opening slot on Friday back at Lolla in August.  Their set ends, and we continue on our original path to the "Main"  Energy Station situated close to the Big Top (Main stage) and not far from the Outdoe.  From there, She & Him serenaded us as I continued to throw things into my belly searching for a cure.

The sun starts to fall... And I am resurrected.  My H2eineken-Bull cocktails have finally paid off and good thing, because the festival was finally about to take off.  Who likes to rock the party?

Passion Pit - likes to rock the party.  And thank goodness somebody does.  Again, another band with a lot of potential, but also with one huge pitfall: their singer is a tiny ball of falsetto.  Is that going to work out the Outdoe?  In front of (at least) 30,000 people?  I was skeptical at first, but come on, Passion Pit ain't just about vocals.  It's about the hard beats and the infectious interplay between synth and guitar.  And well, the crowd responded.  It was far and away the largest crowd of the day and it was packed.   No pictures, folks.  Mainly because I couldn't even get to the camera in my pocket.  But just as I really started to enjoy myself, I remembered that I had a date with a legend over at the Big Top.

Now, about getting about of this swarm... At any festival, these are words to live by as they could save your life:

When in doubt, just dance.

It's how I got out of the Passion Pit crowd.  I strapped on a smile, bopped my head, and shook my hips from the belly of the beast all the way out to freedom.  And it was a fucking blast.  Randoms engaging me and others acting as if it were a pleasure to move out of the way... Glorious.

Night has come and it's show time, y'all

Them. Crooked. Vultures. - Not sure if you are aware of my mancrush on Ted Leo, but if Ted Leo were my boyfriend, then John Homme's name would be on my Get Out of Jail Free Card.  Oh, and who's that guy on bass?  Oh my... Long story short, they fucking rocked, we were really close, and I don't know how to take pictures at night.  Must be the malted hops and bong resin causing the hypertension to increase and my hands to jitter and twitch.  But, during the picture above, Homme's cool apparently washed over and allowed me to snap this photo of JPJ playing a keyboard solo, while Josh enjoyed a cigarette solo.  The guitars crunched and then soared, the bass wabbled and bounces, and the drums straight pounded.  As for us?  We raged.  Ladies and gentlemen, we have ourselves an early frontrunner.

As I begin to rise, Deucey and the Deucette begin to fade.  Sounds like a good time to hit the Energy Station.  Couple two-three beers before the next show and we're on our way.  Deucey lays down and takes a nap... Pussy.  I just polished up my dancing shoes...

LCD Soundsystem - Before James Murphy and company took the stage, Josh Homme dedicated a song to them.  Not sure if this was genuine, or if Homme was acknowledging the sheer ludicrousness of LCD being billed over Them Crooked Vultures.  But, Murphy acknowledged the dedication and was hoping to thank Homme before the show started, but was apparently in the bathroom.  I can only assume that he was vomiting since he was straight shitfaced.  After the opening tune, he mentioned that since there wasn't enough time, he was going to refrain from talking for too long... But that's exactly what he did, whether he was talking in between songs or during songs, the whole set sounded like a bunch of chatter.  It was some chrystal clear, oft-beat-driven chatter, but chatter nonetheless.

And at the time, I actually thought I was enjoying myself.

Then, without even leaving the Energy Station, I was able to "enjoy" some white, upper class rock courtesy of the Vampsters. 

Vampire Weekend - Now, although they were torn apart on a certain, well-known blog, Contra has actually grown on me a bit, and I was intrigued to see how the boys responded after their risk-free time of Lolla '09.  After departing from the company Snoozy Deuce and the Deucette, I went to the other side of the Igloos, and basically just bopped around to Vampire Weekend, all while dodging the throngs of people coming and going from the poop tents.  It was on par with trying to escape from Passion Pit, but with just a little more urgency from my fleeting dance partners.  The set was fairly weak and lacked energy for some reason, but a humorous exchange did occur at one point:
Guy: (sees me dancing and slightly incredulously asks)  You like these guys?

Me: Meh.  They're getting better and that's the important thing.

Guy: Aren't they, like, "pop"?

Me: Yeah, but so were the Beatles.

Guy:  Hmmm..

Me:  They got some virtuosity, so don't count them out just yet.

Guy: (and girl) Great word!

Hold up...

Jay-Z is up next!

Whoa now...
Jay-Z is late!

Oh boy...
Jay-Z now has a 10 minute countdown up on the HD screens!

... Guess that means I got 5 minutes to finish this beer and get back to Obe-Wan to see see the last few minutes of Ceu the Brazilian goddess of beauty.  And wasn't she charming?  All 200 of us that hadn't cruised over to the Big Top to close out Hip-Hop Friday at Coachella, were smitten, watching Ceu in her flowing aqua dress, providing some well-needed flare to an overtly American evening.  And how about this for irony: Jay-Z just took the stage, yet I'm about to see Whitest Boy Alive.

Whitest Boy Alive - So, in the end, Friday was just a dance party; LCD, Passion Pit, Jay-Z, Yeasayer, the Specials, deadmau5, and my German brethren, WBA.  And it was the perfect way to end the ever-so quirky day at the polo grounds.  Whitest Boy plays an almost overly obvious form of funk.  The bass is pronounced, the drums are minimal, and the delivery is simply hysterical.  You can really see why got the name they have.  Frontman Erland Oye (also of Royksopp) couldn't be any whiter.  I mean, check out that orange-red combination he's rocking in the picture above.  But he played the part and I, as well as a strong contingent of South of the Border fans lapped it up, dancing into the night, engaging in all sorts off insider audience participatory gaggery, and even singing fading melodies long after Jay-Z had finished gouging us for our hard-earned dollar dollar bills, y'all. -

And after that, it was back to Spin City (the campground) for some more late night electronica, sex, drugs, and an overwhelming lack of sleep.

Shithead, anyone?

Comments and Omissions much appreciated.

Monday, August 17, 2009



Inauspicious beginnings... But fuck that shit.

We get to the park as soon as the gates open. Oddly enough, it's the longest wait (queue-wise) we have over all three days. I guess that's because no one is hungover yet. A mini-debate begins as to whether we should see Hockey or Henry Clay People. Since Hockey is better than your favorite band (not really), we head to our first stage (The Arcade) to kick off the festival.

What's that text message? A severe storm warning is in effect for Chicago? Sweet.

Hockey - Frontman; gay, straight, or asexual? None would have surprised me. 8th-note hi-hat all day long (played by a Eugene Hutz look-a-like), yet still strangely compelling. Their sound problems linger for a bit, when all of a sudden; the music stops.

What a start to the festival.

So the band starts hurling Budweiser tall boys (24 oz.) into the crowd while the sound crew gets their shit together. And eventually they do... Sorta.

Hockey returns to the stage, begins playing and they
almost get through the first song! Until the music cuts out once again. The band is pissed and rightfully so. The crowd is cheering, I'm booing, and I guess both should have been happening at the same time.

And so we head South to the opposite end of the park to get some early cardio in. It's raining, but nothing crazy... Yet.

Hey Champ - Down at the other end, at The Future, awaits just what we needed after the disappointment back at the The Arcade. It wasn't spectacular, and it may not have even been good... But it was fun. Hey Champ is a Chicago based, synth-heavy rock group. They probably don't belong on such a huge stage but they thrive in the situation. The music is danceable and the drummer is a madman, sometimes to the band's disadvantage. Plus, the keyboardist is doing this awesome undulating, pelvic-thrust boogaloo that gives us the giggles as well as some extra dance fodder.

Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears - First show of many over at the V Dub stage. Why I even thought for a second that I might split time with The Knux is beyond me. Black Joe may not have been the very best show that day (and then again, they very well could have been, too), but they absolutely brought the most energy. If you can't dance to this show, then you plain can't dance. Not sure many bands have as much fun one stage as these cats do either. And for a while we forget about the rain.

And Jambase, if the best thing you have to say about the band is that they're a James Brown rip-off, well, then you spent too much time up at The Knux destroying your ear drums. Quick! Sound Tribe is coming on! Piss off!

The Knux - Shiti was by far my least favorite stage, but that doesn't mean that it was the worst... Everyone knows that Perry's was the worst. The stage just never sounded right. It had too much competition from V Dub down the hill, and the concrete road that it was settled upon did the acoustics no favors. Bass heaven if you're into droning and throbbing. So the Knux turned up the highs in order to counter the aural situation. Ear-killing.

We retreat back to Black Joe...


First impression: The visuals at this place are fucking amazing. And I don't mean the fabulous Chicago skyline that fills the horizon on every side of the festival grounds (After all, there is that huge lake which occupies some of the landscape), what I mean is the high definition screens which accompanied 4 of the 7 stages. It was basically like watching the concert in a movie theater... Just way fucking cooler because you were actually AT the show. HI-DEF, Bitch!

And it's still raining.

But it's cool, because I found my way Home.

The Builders and the Butchers - I picked up their latest album a week or so before the festival and so I needed to catch them in the flesh. They're playing what quickly would become my favorite venue of the weekend; a canopied piece of heaven centrally located and diametrically opposed to the Shiti stage. Protected from both rain, shine, and the enormous, claustrophobia-inducing crowds. It was my sanctuary.

Oh, and the Butchers were good, too. The sound was a bit off. I just don't think the volume was turned up loud enough. But, it was just loud enough to allow a bath in the the band's ominous, yet blithely-delivered pseudo-gospel. But, Jambase refers to them as a party band. Sigh.

Sound issues ultimately rule the day at this point, however.

Continuing back to where things began...

Bon Iver - This is my first (and only) freak out of the weekend. It's my first taste of a truly large crowd, and the rain is starting to wear on me. Maybe because it's raining harder than it has all day. Sidekick and I get hemmed in, separated from the rest of the group. More than anything it may have been the obstructed view that really bothered me. Tall people, combined with a sea of umbrellas is making vision an issue. Everything came so easy in the early going...

The crowd slowly thins out because I guess Bon Iver (Bone-E-Vere) is wicked "depressing" or whatever. What did you think you were getting into? To be honest, I think it fits the soggy afternoon perfectly. This collection of songs played is truly beautiful, steadily walking the line between heartbreaking and inspiring. I love it. But still I really want to try and check out the Heartless Bastards...


I only make it to the Shiti Stage, where I catch The Virgins wrapping up their set. Not enough to make any kind of reasonable judgment.

And where the fuck are my friends?

And why is it still raining...? Stop already.

Where's a fucking poncho when you need one?


Hollywood Holt sounds all right over at Perry's. And in a good way.

I meet my buds, get my poncho, and try to break off this skeptical shell that begins to close in on me.

Back at The Arcade, Fleet Foxes are on, buuuuut we kinda don't care. Deuce doesn't like them. I'm neither on the fence nor off the fence.

So we go over to the "restrooms" and get high beneath the trees. How come all the pissers at this place are located in the most shady areas? Oh, so your shit doesn't completely stink out the place? Sidekick and I have quite compartmentalization technique when we share a throne. It keeps the line moving and it's a sight to behold. Hand-sanitizer? Don't mind if I do... Fuck Swine Flu is right.

The Decemberists are fast approaching from a far, and I should probably find a condom so I can play this next one safe.

The poncho makes me look kinda like the Apple from the fruit of the loom commercials. Yes, I'm at peace with that at this point. BC are wearing them, too, and it makes me more comfortable even though theirs were clear (and not red).

The Decemberists - Hazards of Love begins and the band is dressed accordingly. My one complaint is that some of the shows just didn't seem to rock as hard as they should have, Decemberists included. I think the sound crew is a little hesitant, especially after that fucking disaster back at The Arcade earlier... I wonder, do sound techs get promoted and demoted like major league pitchers? I mean, let's say you started off at the Hockey set and well, you fucked up. Do they send you over to V Dub hoping to either help you regain confidence and/or simply stir up the mixture like a New England Cardinal circa 1981 (the bullpen)? And then if you still can't get it right, do they then send you over to Shiti as penance (the minors)?

I wonder.

Decemberists play a great set. The songs were tight (and for good reason), the visuals were dramatic, and Shara Worden (playing The Queen) made me howl like a bonewolf.

By the way, all day Bud Light tall boys can really break a fucking seal. I actually stopped drinking for like a 2-hour period centered around the Bon Iver set. Maybe that's why I freaked out... I need 24 ounces of stiff cylinder in my hand at all times in order to make me feel truly comfortable.

Until this happened.

Andrew Bird - He's a Red Giant in a galaxy of White Dwarves. He's just brighter than everyone else. Dude can play the guitar and violin better than you, can whistle better than you, and has a greater grasp of the English language than you. Although to be fair, you are probably less strange and more sociable. His music is most accurately categorized as charming, and secondly intriguing. And again followed closely by lovely.

Even though the Decemberists captured my emotions, I was still a little on edge. But the Birdman managed to bring me right back to earth. Scythian Empire is what did it for me. It was at that moment when I realized that all was well and we were in for a pleasant evening, even if the first day of Lolla were almost over.

They've run out of Tall Boys and I'm not buying it. Think they'll have more tomorrow? Yeah, I doubt it, too. Fuck.

We got Wisco Gold back at the spot anyway.

The Kings
- We shun the big cats because our weathered, prideful egos won't allow it. Yet no matter how hard we try to take them apart, or break them down, they're a good band... Even if we don't really like them. They deserve what they're getting and they showed how appreciative they were to be in that position. From a far, at least, the show sounded and looked real sharp. BC got pretty close and seemed to enjoy themselves...

Let's see
Kid Cudi before we leave!

Whoops! Let's get the fuck out of here!

Asshole anyone?

Omissions and shared stories in the comments, if you would be so kind.

T-Shirt Wars!

One of the most identifiable characteristics of the festival was the fashion choices that attendees made prior to leaving their respective dwellings. The particular vibes generally emitted by these people generally fall into one of the following five categories:

1. "I want you, and/or Snoop Dogg to fuck me."

2. "Look at me! I like music, too!"

3. "I'm clearly more clever, yet less pretentious than you are."

4. "My favorite band is better than yours."

5. "I wear light, hooded sweaters in the dead of summer because... I like sweat."

More than anything though, I want to focus on categories #2 and #4; or
Those Guys.

These guys arrive at the festival representing three specific points of ethos:

1. I'm a fan of this year's band (
Tool and The Kings were this year's big winners), and they happen to be the only reason this bullshit is cool at all.

2. I'm a fan of last year's band (
Radiohead all weekend), and therefore I was here last year. Ergo, I'm better than you.

3. I bought this shirt yesterday (Again,
The Kings, but also Hey Champ). Cool, right?

Now, the donning of a band's shirt is akin to the raising of a flag. It is in the land of LAIRE as it is in the fickle festival world of divided loyalties and frayed interests (we will talk more about this later), where fine borders are drawn and maintained by virtue of the slightest gesture. The only problem is when these fictitious borders are considered to be real.

"Hell yeah, I like Tool. Check out the shirt!"

My favorite thing to say to these people:

"Hey man, is Tool playing this weekend?"

PCU has already demonstrated, albeit too briefly, the folly of this action. And aside from the quip above, what do you say to these people? "Hey, cool shirt, man. I like how it says 'TOOL' on it."

It would be ironic if it weren't already so obvious.

Nope. The folks that I enjoyed the most most were those that embraced the whole affair, either by representing at the macro-level, or by shunning the music-theme all together, non-verbally and humorously voicing their opposition to societal ills (like Cancer!).

Yep, these are my people. Because, at least superficially, they are original and/or generally agreeable. Not like this guy:

(Shirt says, "Got Rings?" Taking a dig at the Cubs futility. Fashion crime of doubling up on sports team apparel aside, he was the most miserable looking mother fucker I'd seen all weekend)

But then again, we all have our flags. Just check out this asshole here:

But if I had it my way, the right way, there would be a whole lot more inclusion, rather than division. The flags that we would raise and fly high would be about something that we could all get down with. And that's a whole lot cooler than being a Tool fan:


If This Ain't Nice...


... Then what the fuck is?

Delays at the gate make me irritable. Actually, it's the hangover that is making me most irritable, but this isn't helping. Shit starts at 11:15 SHARP, I need a beer in one hand and my bone in the other.

Band of Skulls - Well, it's pretty obvious that I was excited about this one. Not only was it a band that I wanted to see, but they were playing my Hometown, so it couldn't really get any better. They rock. Drummer and guitarist are mad men. Bassist sort of looks like Joan Jett (Hot!). Deuce leaves during the first song to get my pampered ass a beer and misses the showstopper. I feel like they did me proud.

A Close Friend dispenses with the notion that they sound like the White Stripes. I'm in love.

We pack some green, but we're all geeked out even though there is probably no reason to be. So we walk over to the Shiti stage because well, I guess because there are even more cops over there. Anyway, The NewNo2 is on and they sound all right. But before I get into it too deep, I have to run down the hill to V Dub where I need to show some local support.

Low Anthem - I was really nervous about this set. I mean, these guys play smaller shows generally, and then King Lolla decrees that they shall be placed on one of the bigger stages. They probably don't deserve to be there, but they played as best as they possibly could. However, these guys like to keep the decibels to a minimum with their hushed melodies, and the NewNo2 crashed their party a little bit.

Quote from a Low Anthem attendee: This right here is fantastic.

Look at the time! One of the bigger debates pre-Lolla was how we would handle the Dirty Sweet-Delta Spirit conflict. Opinion generally leaned in the direction of the Delta boys, and with good reason. But I decided to give Dirty a whirl. Why? Well, because they were playing on the Homefront.

And because they were pretty awesome.

Dirty Sweet - I caught about 4 of their songs. My attention was preoccupied with getting over to the Mud stage for the other act, but I decided to give these guys my full attention as well as my body convulsions for at least two of those songs. With the exception of the Depeche Mode, no one stood out in terms of appearance more than these cats. Tight black jeans and shaggy, long hair, but less than in the "I don't have an ass" kind of black jeans and more in the "Yes, I listen to Foghat" kind of shaggy hair. Great blues and hard rock. Gotta run...

Delta Spirit - I've seen these dudes 3 times this year prior to the festival, and they seem to just keep getting better. They appeared to be very comfortable on this massive stage, the frontman (Vasquez) even taking time to call and wish his brother the best on his wedding day (Like he's gonna miss Lolla for some bullshit wedding?). This is body shaking music. This is great music.

And at the halfway point of the festival, I feel about as good as possible.

Federico Aubele - Takes the stage over at the Arcade and begins to perform his own brand of exotic goodness. You want to just call it Spanish guitar, and he certainly does that, but there seemed to be a lot more going on. The beer line provides me a good opportunity to listen to a few songs, but then my Hometown begins to call once again... Heaven.

Langhorne Slim - I just bought his latest album and I was semi-impressed with it. Maybe slightly overworked in the studio, but an honest effort. But Slim thrives in the live setting. It's energetic and laid back all at once, like getting all amped up to sit on the couch. I'm into this set more than I ever imagined I would be, and yet for several songs, I'm sitting down, in the shade of the beautiful oak (or not oak) canopy that shrouds My Favorite Stage. Slim rocked me.

A Close Friend is enjoying Miike Snow over at V Dub during Slim's set. She says it was one of the best shows all weekend.

Atmosphere - So how to follow up some rambunctious Americana? How bout some White Hop? This was very similar to the way that Hey Champ felt. I'm certainly not loving it, but it's still doing the job, and the way I'm feeling right now, I'd probably even listen to Gang Gang Dance.

During Delta Spirit was the first time that I noticed the cameras getting in the way. Atmosphere noticed almost immediately, and in what would become one of the more entertaining encounters of the weekend, told the cameraman to get away from him.

This dude done yet? Who gives a shit. Brother Gomes is coming on over at V Dub.

Gomez - They're a band that I've probably seen too much of at this point. Maybe I should have been at Robert Earl Keen, or have made the mistake of seeing Charlift. Point is, I didn't,
and I was okay with that. Questionable Zeppelin cover aside, these guys always bring me to Good Times (not Bad Times), and at the moment, I'm not missing an opportunity to hear Airstream Driver. Dancing my pants damn near straight down to my ankles.

And in my blissful haze, things begin to get a little fuzzy... I know that TV On the Radio is the next big thing, but I'm not sure what occurred between now and then. Aside from drugs and alcohol consumption.

Arctic Monkeys maybe?

Blind Pilot kinda?


Yeah, that sounds about right.

Anyway, the Mud Pit beckons.

TV On the Radio - With the exception of the Decemberists, no band benefited more from the High-Def visuals more than these guys. Adebimpe cemented his status as a primetime frontman, and the band at large demonstrated that their magic is not confined strictly to the studio. And, they were playing with a horn section! How fucking cool was that? Horns give Deuce a chub which makes grinding with him rather uncomfortable. They could play all day as far as I'm concerned at this point.

I'm sort of emerging from my cognitive amnesia and shifting back into the joyful awareness of what an awesome day this has been so far.

And then Animal Collective tries to ruin my whole day. What a fucking disaster. I am not judging these cats based on this one performance, but let's just say I'm no rush to taste that dish again.

Word that described the sound being produced: DIN.

Blissful awareness devolves into confused clumsiness. I'm dropping full beers, laughing at my own farts, and openly (and obliviously!) gawking at any woman that walks passed.

You know what this place needs more of? Nihilism.

Holy shit! Just in time, Tool shows up to grant my wish!

Maynard is trying as hard as possible to show that he has a sense of humor. I was just expecting him to come out quoting Heidegger... in German. So, I take what I can get.

But aside from the distracting claymation (trademarked!) productions they threw up on the big screens, they rocked. Danny Carey adds to an already percussion-heavy festival, but he just does better than anyone else could, or probably even should. Whatever that means.

I'm headbanging as much as possible, but it begins to feel as if my brain is beginning to slam through my cerebrospinal fluid and into my skull and I have to reel it in.

Besides, we got 6 hours of drinking to attend to outside the Grant Park gates.


Omissions and shared stories in the comments, if you would be so kind

Loyal Tease

The Precarious Case of Festival Fandom

Playing an early morning set at a festival such as, I don't know, say Lollapalooza has to be one of the most difficult draws for any band (Especially if you happen to be in a band called Hockey). Unless of course said band typically plays their shows in the morning and neither travels nor parties... Ever. First off, the festival crowd is the smallest it is going to be all day. Meaning that there could be any number of potential converts not at the park because they're still in bed, en route, or they only dropped $200 to see The Kings and The Killers and don't have time for The Whothefuckaretheys.

And even the people that are in attendance, either out of previous experience with the band or due to an open-minded willingness to hear your tale are just getting into the groove. Like it or not, but you're just an icebreaker.

I happen to be a pretty big Sam Roberts fan, but even still, it took me a good three or four tunes before the juices started to flow and I could really get into it. And you can even see it in the band's faces and feel it in the energy output (most notably when the audience was instructed to belt out the lyrics, I think my life is passing me by, and couldn't really bring it like Sam was pleading us to). Musicians feed off of the energy that the crowd is giving them. The phenomenal performers can rise above anything, but at 11:30 in the morning even James Brown is still wiping away the previous day. And so are the fans in attendance. And thus, the half-assed tug of war begins; both sides waiting for the other to make a move.

This is further compounded by the logistics and nature of the festival itself. The park is large and there is music literally playing at every second of the day. And this "problem" does not just apply to those bands that open the festival. It applies to one and all (even the bands that close the day contend with one other popular band, as well as those unwilling to deal with the traffic once the day is complete, who flee the scene prior to the end of the set).

Generally, at any festival, loyalty is very limited. The average attendee has two or three bands that are must see, and the rest are either unnecessary, or merely if-convenience-permits. I'm not saying that the average Lolla ticketholder is closed to new bands or experiences, but at the same time, I am. And it's not just the Lollers, for this applies to music fans in general, mostly due to the comfort we receive from the familiar, and the natural fear and/or apathy we have of the unknown.

At any given show, the average attendee is there to see the headliner. Opening acts may receive some attention depending on the scale of the show (and often times the caliber of the act), but again the sum of attention is uneven and wavering. Attendees cannot simply leave the venue (usually) and catch the other band playing around the corner. They are where they are, and the focus of the show will be coming on at any time now. In other words, the attendees are fully invested in that one, singular act. They live and die by it, to put it dramatically. It can make one's night, or ruin one's night, but for better or worse, you are stuck with it, since it is the only game in town. So shit yeah, play a mother fucking encore! I ain't got nowhere else to be!

The lack of competition at a given show is what separates a festival set from the former (specifically, music-wise). As mentioned earlier, bands rely on the energy provided by the crowd. Of course, the thrill of being at such a monstrous and high-profile event such as Lollapalooza should provide plenty of energy on it's own. However, when you are dealing with an audience that is not fully committed, as well as one that is constantly in flux, concentration must become an issue (Hey, where the fuck are you going buddy? What - I don't rock hard enough for you? Oh, Tool is coming on in 4 hours and you need to rub one out just so you don't explode midset?). Or something like that.

Nothing demonstrates the difference more than the lack of the encore at a festival (Regardless of your personal feelings on the legitimacy of the encore itself). Sure, logistically encores can be difficult at a festival. They run on a tight schedule and the smallest disruption (especially if early in the day), can not only shorten the next set, but could disturb the peace at a competing stage where there is potential for musical crossfire. But, would an extra 4 minutes here and there really make that big of a difference? Do roadies really need 45 minutes to setup shop, and tune the instruments?

Rather, the missing encore seemed to stem more from people having one foot in the water and one foot out, leading to a heavy stream away from the concluded set, as soon as the band made their move toward the exit. Tact would suggest that if you did truly enjoy the set, you should wait, continuing to applaud until it becomes clear that they're not coming back. But at the festival, it was as if the school bell rang and class was over. Who's up next, and on what stage?

Ultimately, there is no normative judgment being made with respect to the quality of festival audiences. These are the same people who are at The Metro on Wednesday nights when Calexico is in town. And any deficiency that such tendencies would suggest are vastly outweighed by the overwhelming benefits that the festival offers. The main point is that a festival set is vastly different from any standard show set played in a different setting or venue, and that while bands can certainly benefit from being slotted to play at festivals, anomymity and a tenuous grasp on the collective audience leads to issues for a band not normally encountered at a standard show.

But it would still be nice to get a fucking encore every now and again.

Head Games


Sunday is always a mindfuck.

Sam Roberts Band
- The first song of the day: Oh, Canada

The large and proud canadian contingent spontaneously bursts into their homeland's anthem several minutes before the band takes the stage. I'm pretty much surrounded by singers. Not sure if they are all actually Canadian or if they're merely socialist sympathizers, but it is quite the rendition. My initial reaction is to be annoyed, but I am not even sure why. Maybe it's because I hate the Montreal Canadiens. When it's all said and done I applaud the effort, but still choose to conclude with the following sentiment:

"Nationalism is for queers."

Sam Roberts is popular in Canada but not so much in the US. The early set is always difficult since both the band and audience are still (most likely) shaking off the fuzz from the night before - Especially a festival crowd. It could be best described as a decent set. It starts predictably with the opening track from their latest album and begins to pick up steam halfway through the set. If anything, the attractiveness of the band seems to be what won new fans over, if at all.

My elbows are sweating at the moment. Is that even possible? It's barely noon!

Some people are choosing to bunker down in one location. It seems that the last 48 hours have begin to wear on some. I am trying to maintain energy, but it is difficult.

Ra Ra Riot - A Close Friend is super excited about this act, so I stroll back across. They fit the mood, and I'm in no condition to evaluate their sound. So I stand there, looking around at the skyline, and more than anything just zoning out.

I have to be somewhere...

Oh, that's right, mama is calling me Home.

The Greencards - One more time at Mama's Place for my homer pick of the weekend. I met the lead singer and bassist for this band earlier in the summer and she was really nervous about the Lolla experience. I mean, bluegrass at Lolla? Not a top draw, but certainly a pleasant experience. The set is rife with sound difficulties, which is unfortunate, but they play through it. First fully seated audience of the weekend, but I've never been into following the crowd. By the end of the set, there is a good 10-14 rows of people dancing, and regrettably, clapping.

*Only encore I witnessed during the entire weekend. Also, only 5-minute soliloquy on why you should buy a band's album during the entire weekend. Good with the bad, I guess.

At the same time, Deuce is fudging his undies over at Portugal, the Man

I remain Home for a few more minutes with my Sidekick, enjoying the shade, fearing what awaits beyond the arches, in the land of heatstroke.

We're encouraged to make our way over to Shiti to meet up with BC, the hangover twins, who are hibernating beneath the trees Stage Right. I get separated from the pack, and for the first time all weekend, I begin to stop being interested in dodging and circumventing the crowded masses that occupy my perceptual landscape at every turn.

We catch the end of the ever-so-Myspacey
Cage the Elephant and they are forgettable for the most part. And then, while lying in the shade, I realize that Shiti ain't all bad. I mean, aside from the acts that generally graced the stage over the course of the weekend.

Gang Gang Dance...

I'm missing the Deacon, let's move.

Dan Deacon, that is - Best party of the festival. Multiple percussionists was a trend throughout the weekend, starting with Hockey, to the Decemberists, on down to TV On the Radio. But Deacon's are killing me... In a good way. I'm in the sun now, sweating and dancing, and embracing the moment once again.

At one point Deacon gets the crowd to clear out a circular area in front of V Dub so that an interpretive dancer can fill the void and show everyone how to be super-weird. There's a lot of that going on, but it works.

Deuce and I take one last stroll to the Northside before bunkering down for the big acts later on. Head to the CD tent to have a looksee.
Neko is playing in the background, gently massaging my hazy, yet slowly emerging brain.

The Greencards are selling their album for $20... No wonder they've only sold 3.

Deuce picks up a few new albums, but thinks better of it. Better off supporting Zia, or Newbury.

Heading South again, we stop one last time at Shiti for some
Passion Pit. Enjoyable is all I can superficially say about it.

Oh, and the Lolla staff has begun handing out free bottled water, and they officially win me over. The festival had been run extremely well up until this point. Aside from a small delay getting in Saturday morning, I have had no complaints. Food was always available, varied and with short lines, fluids were reasonably priced, and the emergency response crews appeared to be ready and accessible. And the free water thing just slayed me. Tip of the hat to you, gang.

Cold War Kids - Who never really wow you, but never really let you down either. I remained where I was; firmly stationed between The Future and V Dub, and directly next to the BAR BAR BAR, for obvious reasons.

And then it happens


Snoop Dooooogg - (In yellow) Deuce and BC stream down closer to the stage but I tell 'em that I'll hang back and "watch the stuff". But Snoop brings it. I was only sort of excited to see the D-O-double G, but he damn near brought the sky down during his set. And what the fuck? A House of Pain cover? Holy shit. Sure snoop, I can jump around for yuh.

In all honesty, I expected the set to be mediocre at best. Hip hop is seriously hit or miss, but Snoop put this one into the upper deck.

I head over to the
BAR BAR BAR and decide to roll the dice. I pick out a winner and say to the man, "4 Lights". I receive the same response, followed by 4 Bud Lights. I'm the fucking MAN! Prior to this point, a firm "2 beer per person" policy had been in place all weekend, yet I manage to work around it (Toot! Toot!).

And suddenly, I don't want Lolla to end...

Silversun - Picks up as soon as Snoop is finished soiling my undies.

Meh. These are guys are OK in a harmless sort of way.

Apparently martial law has been declared up at the North End of the grounds where Lou Reed won't stop playing and all the Band of Horses fans are sick of being stimulated by interesting music.

Low blow. I apologize.

There's a mutiny in my group and people just start walking to the Northside. I'm all like, "Nah."

My relationship with The Killers is ambiguous at best. I don't know nearly enough about their music to make a serious judgment, and I know too much about their personal lives to take them very seriously. Nevertheless, I determined on Friday, just before the Decemberists set that I was going to see The Killers and get educated.

So I did.

The Killers - Played a great set. Well, at least the first four songs sounded really good. With the exception of the Greencards set earlier, the sound quality festival-wide improved with each show, peaking during the Killers. BC remain at the festival while I am forced to leave, and subsequently report that the Killers maintained the same energy throughout.

And so it goes. Lollapalooza 2009 in the books. I'm not quite ready to go through the revolving door that shoots me back into the real world, but I'm sure will wait for me. Cheers, Chitown.

Omissions and shared stories in the comments, if you would be so kind.

High Fidelity


Deuce first raised the question as soon as we arrived back at the spot on Sunday night.

My responses were as follows:

  1. The Decemberists
  2. TV On the Radio
  3. Langorne Slim

Langhorne Slim (#3) was deemed a surprise, and I had to agree. Slim's nomination may have been a product of circumstance; I was riding as high as possible during his set (figuratively and literally). Delta Spirit had just finished making me proud on the big stage, I was sun-soaked, and was soon getting dry beneath the shade of BMI. I immediately noticed how different Slim and his band sounded in the live setting. It was
dirty. The album is clean. For a young man he is incredibly poised on stage and the lyrics pouring from lungs suggest an old soul inhabits the corporeal unit which it occupies. This set left me jonesin' for more. That puts it in the top 3.

The Decemberists and TV On the Radio could probably (and will) be switched at this point. The reason the Decemberists (#2) were initially ranked #1 was due to the expectations. Unlike Slim, for which I had no measurable expectations, I had real, high expectations for Meloy and company. There's plenty of hate and prejudice against this collective who are often categorized as over serious and pretentious generally by people who take themselves, well, too seriously. Anyway, their new album is currently my favorite release of the year at this point. A Close Friend calls it creepy, but I call it creative, humorous, and beautiful, even if it leans toward the darker side of English lit. And it is also the reason for my high expectations. My only criticism, as mentioned in the Day 1 recap, was that the sound was on the reserved side. With the exception of Ms. Worden, of course. As cliche as it sounds, a children's choir of some kind for
"Hazards of Love 3" would have gone a long way. And while I enjoyed the faithful nature of the performance, something unexpected would have been a welcomed surprise.

And coming in at the number one spot is TV On the Radio (... #1).

They very well could be the most unique and compelling band out there today. I don't like to mention it, but I don't think that you can ignore the racial makeup of the band either. They're like The Roots only more interesting, and Living Colour only multi-dimensional (If I compared Guns n' Roses to The Ravonettes, would that be considered racialist as well? Then, shut the fuck up). Point is, there is something about this band's sound that is wholly their own. TV's influences are hidden, or at least obscured, which makes their music new and advanced, giving the listener a feeling of adventure, while at the same time remaining accessible and emotionally attached. Just take that, put it on a giant stage, scatter 40,000 or so people around that stage, add a brass section, don't forget about the gorgeous weather and towering skyline, and that's why this was the best show at Lollapalooza this year.

But I also liked these acts, too:

Mentioned Honorably

Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears - From the choreographed moves of the rhythm section to the... amusing subject matter of each song, Black Joe is a top-to-bottom performer. On Friday, anytime the cameras caught the skyline, the HD screens made it appear as though the sky were blue and the sun was shining. More than anything it was just wishful thinking combined with the psychsomatic poncho provided by the soul power flowing forth from the stage. Most unabashedly fun show of the festival.

Dan Deacon - Jesus, what can you say about this guy that has not already been said? How about borderline retard? And I mean that in a good way. Any
King Khan show is spectacle to behold (The Austin Mangina anyone?), but the Deacon is not just a performer, he's also an observer. He gets off on what the crowd is doing just as much as he gets off on what his band is doing. And on Sunday, he had plenty of both to get off on. Hands down the biggest spectacle of the weekend. If you missed it... You missed out.

Snoop - Surprise of the weekend. I should have known better, I just didn't. The mood was absolutely infectious on the lawn. Might have been the single happiest crowd I witnessed all weekend. I was completely consumed by this performance and it came at the perfect time. And my main man, Ubermench came over to visit at the beginning of the show which only made it that much better.

Delta Spirit - It has to be Vasquez' voice. It's so grating, yet so strong. And you know that he believes in everything pouring from his mouth. They've been pulling it off for about a year now, and with the new songs I keep hearing live, it sounds like they'll be doing it some more for the next few years as well.

Andrew Bird - Saw Birdman back in the Bean a few weeks ago, and to be honest, it was a better show. But, anytime a luminary such as this takes the stage and you have the opportunity to see him, then you simply have to. It's like anytime Shawshank is on the tube... It's too good to just change the channel without at least catching a few minutes. The crowd seems to be a little over-concerned with catching The Kings, and that's a shame. But, since I watched this show, I haven't been able to get Noble Beast out of my car stereo for longer than an hour or two.

Bands I Wish I Saw... But Didn't

Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Just caught Fuse's Lollapalooza '09 program the other night, and just didn't realize how awesome Karen O is on stage.

Miike Snow - Heard they brought the goods. They'll be visiting the Bean in a few short weeks anyway, so it's all good. Besides, they played the Shiti stage (V Dub, rather. I stand, corrected).

Heartless Bastards - LPz gave me the heads up to see them, but as recounted earlier, it just wasn't logistically possible due to my impending breakdown on Friday. They're on the list though.


Reactions and individual top 3 lists in the comments section, if you would be so kind.