Lollapalooza, Day Three: A Review
The marathon almost over -- and my shoes finally dry, well, mostly -- I trekked to Lolla on day three with a purpose, determined to see Apostle of Hustle and a ton of other bands (like Scottish popsters Los Campesinos! which some friends saw and said were great, super cute and happy to be at the fest).
Instead, I showed up a bit after that set ended, bought a bottle of water and plopped under a shady tree. For an hour. While trying not to pass out. It was *hot* on Sunday, much hotter than the previous two days. I wore jeans (again) so I could sit in the inevitable mud.
As an aside, the crew at Lollapalooza were astoundingly nice -- both to those who were ill from the heat and those perhaps in need of special assistance. They had free wheelchairs to rent, great access (save for some annoying steps or steep hills here and there, which can't be helped in a park -- although the Lolla folks did their best to mitigate such issues with makeshift ramps and such) and pleasant, accommodating folks to help where needed -- without making you feel like a burden or somehow a pain. Since I knew I had to rock & roll for many hours, I used a cane for balance (it's a pimpette cane, you see). And not only was I able to get closer access to the stage and even (for a bit) a seat -- you'll see why this is cool farther down in this entry -- but people were pleasant and nice, without making me feel weird for asking for help or making me feel out of place. Mad, mad kudos to them.
Digression over: So, I was still close enough to listen to Apostle of Hustle, though, under my shady spot; what I heard was fantastic, almost jam-band-like, but if My Morning Jacket were born in Canada and weaned on new-wave and space-rock instead of granola-riffing. A few hints of Sonic Youth-like electronics emerged, some Bloc Party-ish textures too. In short, it was the perfect band to listen to while trying to cool off on a breezy, sunny summer day.
During AoH's set the Stooges began their own set down the park way. "We're the motherfucking Stooges!" I heard Iggy bellow. Ah, business as usual. Say what you will about new album The Weirdness (most will say it sucks), but the Stooges bring it live. We've talked a ton about the seminal garage-rock-blues-psych-whatever-band before, but the trio of "1969," "I Wanna Be Your Dog" and "TV Eye" dominated the entire half of the park like a steamroller. Fuckin' rock & roll.
Rested, I trekked to the other side of the park for !!!. On the way, I stopped by Peter Bjorn and John's set to preview some tunes -- since they're at the Pageant tonight! With Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin! Poptabulous! The set began with the familiar whistling line from "Young Folks" played on a sitar; it's a tease, that band, as the Swedes played a couple of songs that weren't the "hits." I was surprised at how power-poppy the set was, very Fountains of Wayne/Cars-like almost. Satisfied that the Pageant show TONIGHT was going to be great, I went to prepare for the !!! insanity. (Poor PBJ, though: Right after I left, the sound system totally conked out, and apparently it barely got to play. I did hear "Young Folks" for real later, so something could be salvaged. But what a bummer!)
!!! emerges. Due to some rock-star pimpette-cane access, I'm right in the front, about 30 feet from the band. Or, rather, frontman Nic Offer -- looking every bit like Will Ferrell, what with his curly-brown quasi-Jewfro, some short shorts and a polo shirt -- who hopped offstage, backstage, around the stage and pretty much anywhere else he could go during the hour-long disco-punk explosion. He grinds, he does a modified Macarena, he struts, he jumps, he pumps up the crowd by jumping into them: There really is nothing Offer won't do for the sake of a show.
In fact, at one point Offer even leapt into the wheelchair pit and lapdanced/rocked out with two girls in chairs. Which pretty much was the best thing ever, even if one of the girls was cutely embarrassed after, for Offer's quite the in-your-face dude. (Aside: This all happened five feet in back from where I was -- apparently I could be seen briefly on the video screen, most likely praying he didn't come up to me and dance with me, for then I would die of embarrassment.)
Like the St. Louis show, talented, talented wailer Shannon Funchess came onstage after a few songs and played a female foil to Offer's insanity; heck, she poured a beer over her head and exclaimed something along the lines of, "I feel like Amy Winehouse!" But Offer really had the ilne of the set: "It doesn't get Eddie Vedder than this! I bet he gets that all the time. Ed Ved! Where are you?"
Now, these shenanigans -- and Offer's mention of EdVed -- began just after Kings of Leon's set, which was marked by an appearance by the Pearl Jam vocalist. (He also hopped onstage with first-night headliner Ben Harper.) I also heard some of the roots-country-boogie-blues band's set, and it was amazing, "Knocked Up" and "Charmer" especially -- very Black Crowesy, but to my mind very much akin to the Stooges, in its rawness and general unselfconscious nature. Time is of no essence or matter to the Kings of Leon; what matters is good storytelling and electric shows.
The robust mountain-men of My Morning Jacket were up next, playing with the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra for a handful of songs, including "Gideon." Jim James -- who also appeared on the kid's stage with a banjo, I heard, doing "Rainbow Connection," among other things -- sounded reverent onstage, like a minister preaching to the unwashed masses, even if the soundmix was almost painfully loud to listen to. I like the band just fine, it was pretty astounding live and the set was great and moving, but I was starting to get really, really tired at that point.
TV On the Radio was the next-to-last band on this side of the park. Appropriately enough, it began to drizzle during its first song, "Young Liars" -- as if the soulful band had conjured the weather itself, a reflection of the haunting spiritual overtones of its rock. The band at times showed the fatigue of its year-long-plus tour -- things seemed a bit tired, almost -- although "Wolf Like Me" and "Staring at the Sun" smoked. As usual.
And then came Pearl Jam. The final, final headliner, the only band playing at this point. They deserved that nod of respect: After beginning with the Ten chestnut "Why Go," and the big ol' single "Corduroy," it became clear that the Seattle grunge survivors were going for punkish and thrashy.
And so it did -- whether it was the insane style and solos from drummer Matt Cameron (late of Soundgarden), or Stone Gossard and Mike McCready's making-it-sound-easy boogie-guitar interplay, or Jeff Ament's liquid funk-bass, Pearl Jam showed why it's been one of the best bands in the world since 1992. "Do the Evolution," "Worldwide Suicide," "Given to Fly," "State of Love and Trust," "Alive"...the hits just kept coming. And coming.
Vedder sounded like Grandpa Eddie when he spoke, all grizzled and worn, although this made for some touching moments, like when he told a story about riding the El growing up listening to Iggy Pop and Patti Smith on a Walkmen, or when he sang the folksy lament "Elderly Woman Behind the Counter of a Small Town." (Imagine 100,000+ people singing along to that song's sweetly nostalgic and wistful lament. Chills. Seriously.)
Even his political self-righteousness seemed lighter this night; he turned an anti-BP/Amoco speech (the company's apparently dumping waste in Lake Michigan) into a Ramones-esque punk thrash that's still in my head: "Don't go/to BP/Amoco" is the refrain.
But perhaps it was during the loose, loose, distorto-riffed take on "Even Flow" that the set peaked: As the band motored through the tune, a gigantic fireworks display started going off overhead. This wasn't planned; even Vedder expressed confusion over what was going on. But the driving rock and this celebration seemed entirely appropriate and planned.
We left soon after, tired of being outside. The park looked like anarchy, full of debris, passed-out people and attendees cracked out from three days of pure debauchery.
But overall? It sure was fun.