Friday, May 20, 2011
Lollapalooza: Day 1
By Jon Stone | @jwstone - August 9, 2010
Grant Park was really lovely yesterday on the opening day of Chicago's biggest music festival. The sun was out, but not too hot (most of the day). The crowd seemed a bit more evenly dispersed with the new acreage that the Lolla folks have opened up; the food was tasty (gyros and giganto- truffle fries for me, thank you very much), and I still drank three liters of water. Oh, and the music...
Here's a quick rundown of my day:
Mavis Staples: I arrived at the north end of the park and into a swarm of dragonflies. They gracefully hovered just above the crowd gathered at the Budweiser stage and Mavis and her band played "The Weight." Seems a bit weird, huh? But it sounded fantastic. She was joined on stage a bit later by Jeff Tweedy (who, as you likely know, produced her upcoming record) who played acoustic guitar and back-up sang on John Fogerty's "Wrote a Song For Everyone" and also played back-up on the song he wrote for that new record, both of which are titled "You are Not Alone." Mavis is such a classy lady and it was fun to see Tweedy in this context -- she wished Jeff and his wife Susie a happy 15th anniversary. We all wished Mavis Staples a happy 60 years as a performer. What a career!
Drive-By Truckers: I caught about half of the Truckers' set and enjoyed what I heard. I still haven't arrived at fan status of this band -- I'm just not familiar enough with their catalog. But seeing the band today and watching them interact with their fans was a large stride in that direction.
The New Pornographers: Carl Newman is a great front-man, but I have a bit of a thing for Neko Case (who doesn't?), but as much as I like her solo work, I like her work with the NPs even more. They put on really great show yesterday, and Case didn't disappoint (though she did wear a big sun hat through most of the set that made it difficult to see her face). She and Carl Newman joked back and forth about Gaga, Dan Bejar drank beer after beer, and they played a great mix of New Pornos tunes ranging from opener "Sing Me Spanish Techno," to the new album opener "Moves." Other highlights included 2003's "Testament to Youth in Verse" and an amazing pair of interpreters for the hearing impaired. They seemed to know every word -- fascinating to watch.
Dirty Projectors: This is going to be the one that I remember for the rest of the year, I think. I've been a fan of Bitte Orca for a while now, but the record has stuff on it that I figured couldn't be reproduced live. I was so wrong. "Stillness is the Move" and "Temecula Sunrise" are complicated enough, but then the women in the band started doing this as the intro to "Remade Horizon." My mouth is still gaping. I read some bad press of this performance on a famous Chicago publication writer's blog, and I just flat out disagree. Not only did the harmonies during this performance mesh, but the band manages to do it while playing some of the most intricate guitar duets I've ever seen. To me, the complicated nature of the music is what makes it so amazing to see rather than just hear on the record. I will never pass up an opportunity to see these guys play again -- like I said yesterday via twitter, it was like being at a prog-rock choir concert.
Jamie Lidell: Every once in a while I come across an artist that I I can't believe I've never heard of because their work is such a perfect fit into my interests. Lidell fits that description perfectly. I've been jamming his records all week in prep for Lolla with exactly that thought. Lidell and his band take the best of Stevie Wonder's 70s funk and revitalize it, imbuing it with the modern sampling and laptop shenanigans that Lidell was first famous for. But looking like Jon Hamm with a beard and singing like he could have shared the stage with Mavis earlier, he had me absolutely captivated. A few songs in, and who should turn up? Pat Sansone! He doesn't get enough of an opportunity to shake that tambourine with Wilco, so did some for Lidell as well. He also played the melodica on a few songs and is credited with production of a few songs on Lidell's new record Compass. All this was to say that I am now a fan of Jamie Lidell. A big one. (oh, and also to say that I think its funny when Sansone shakes a tambo.)
The Strokes: Lady Gaga was the biggest draw on Friday. Evidence was everywhere. Girls with crazy hats, dudes in head-to-toe neon... it was a sight. It's estimated that over two thirds of Friday's attendees were Gaga-ing. I didn't even make it over to that side of the park. It's a long walk. The Strokes, regardless of the audience-split, put on a show. It was my first time seeing Julian Casablancas and his crew, and the first time anyone in America has seen the band play in something like four years. When the Strokes first hit it big, I was hesitant to jump on the band wagon -- there were too many copy-cat groups and it seemed like it was all happening too fast. It seemed like a fad and I didn't even listen to Is This It when it came out in 2001. Tragic, huh? A few years later I fixed all that -- repented of my rash and judgmental ways (and also by then, the wheat had been separated from the chaff, copy-band-wise). Last night The Strokes proved to me once and for all (the rest of the audience didn't need any convincing) that they are the real deal: Blistering guitar work; incredible vocal range and sound; perfect pop/rock tunes.
Here's the setlist:
New York City Cops / The Modern Age / Hard to Explain / What Ever Happened? / You Only Live Once / Soma / This is It / Vision of Division / I Can't Win / Reptilia / Last Nite /(encore:) Juicebox / Someday / Under Control / Heart in a Cage / Take it or Leave it
Saturday should be great as well. I'm looking at Stars, Dawes, Grizzly Bear, Deer Tick, Spoon(!) and Phoenix as my must-sees. Let me know if there is anything else I can't miss.