Lollapalooza | 08.07-08.09 | Chicago

Saturday, 08.08

The Low Anthem - 12:00-12:45 p.m., vitaminwater Stage
Living Things - 12:45-1:30 p.m., Chicago 2016 Stage

Lollapalooza 2009 by Smith
Friday's rain gave way to a scorching weekend, but Saturday was still mostly tolerable. The Low Anthem seemed like it would be the perfect mellow start to the day, but I needed a bit more of a jumpstart than this set. Even the bursts of energy were of the lazy variety, which isn't inherently bad, just not terribly motivating. Living Things were not doing it either; they reminded me of latter-day INXS but even more generic, but I only stuck around for a few songs before walking to the Citi Stage for Constantines, the first major surprise of the weekend. (CR)

Delta Spirit - 12:30-1:30 p.m., Budweiser Stage

Delta Spirit is no stranger to the road or the festival circuit. Having cut their teeth opening for Cold War Kids, Dr. Dog and currently for The Shins, Matthew Vasquez and his bandmates seem at home on big stages as a result of their experiences traversing the country for 150-200 shows a year since forming in 2005. Vasquez commented on how great it was to play to such a huge early crowd saying, "We usually play for 200 people, so this is amazing." Delta Spirit's uplifting jangle soul rock and percussive backbeats were just the thing to get the early birds going as Vasquez beckoned the crowd shouting, "If you're feelin' what I'm feelin' come on/ All you soul-searching people c'mon!" Midway through the set, Vasquez took the mic and explained that it was his brother's wedding day and that he was supposed to be the best man so he decided to give him a call from the stage and get the crowd to help out with his unique wedding day gift by screaming, "Congratulations, Travis," into the phone. But seriously, what kind of brother gets married when his little brother is playing at Lollapalooza? No respect. The anthemic "Trashcan" was sandwiched between a short solo cover of Mark Dvorak's "The Streets of Old Chicago" and a loungy cover of Louis Armstrong's "St. James Infirmary" before the always rousing '60s style political plea "People, Turn Around" to close a brilliant set. (WH)

Constantines - 1:00-1:45 p.m., Citi Stage

Lollapalooza 2009 by Vann
No prefixes or gimmicks or flash required; sometimes all you need for a great rock show is some good fucking songs, and Constantines have a bunch of those. Frontman Steve Lambke has a definite Joe Strummer/Roger Daltrey hybrid going on, and the band as a whole seems to have taken a lot of The Who's best qualities and updated them for the new millennium; "Young Offenders" could've been a modern day "Young Man Blues," and "Nighttime/Anytime (It's Alright)" felt like the sort of dubious rallying cry Pete Townshend used to come up with all the time. The set in a nutshell: solid songcraft plus tight, balls-out performance equals a kick-ass rock show. (CR)

Ida Maria - 2:15-3:00 p.m., Citi Stage

Possibly the "it" girl of the weekend, but unfortunately, what comes off as endearingly bratty pop on record becomes a tad obnoxious when she sings it live. It was still kinda fun, especially for the first few songs, but it began to grate pretty quickly. I suddenly realized that I'd become that guy, just waiting to hear the "Naked" song, so I took off. (CR)

Los Campesinos! - 2:30-3:30 p.m., Budweiser Stage

I figured I'd walk by Perry's en route to Los Campesinos! and see if Animal Collective's DJ set grabbed me. It didn't, but you can't help but be grabbed by the Welsh band with the Spanish name. These guys are nothing if not in your face. They are like electro-Vaselines; just as cute, but not cuddly. They have a lot of really good songs, but they all strike me as a bit sterile, like a bunch of clever jokes they don't think the audience gets. Maybe I just haven't let LC! sink in enough yet, but only "You! Me! Dancing!" really connected with me during this set. Major hipster points for covering Pavement's "Box Elder," though. (CR)

Atmosphere - 2:30-3:30 p.m., Chicago 2016 Stage
DJ Kaskade - 1:30-2:30 p.m., Perry's
Langhorne Slim - 1:45-2:30 p.m., BMI Stage

Atmosphere:: Lollapalooza 2009 by Vann
Heading to the south side of Lolla, the trance beats of local DJ Kaskade were bumpin' through the trees in Perry's dance area and the train continued down to the shadiest little corner of the festival, the scantily attended BMI Stage, to briefly check out Langhorne Slim, a minstrel show style old-time folk rock trio in a similar vein as The Avett Brothers. The shade and foot-stomping music were a nice break before heading south again. Tongue-in-cheek hip-hop artist Atmosphere commented that his friends and critics don't take him seriously and then proceeded to tell us, "The only guarantee in life is a life worth dying for," before ad-libbing, "Now let's go make some smores." Equal parts social commentary and humor-driven rap, Atmosphere is a likeable, genuine hip-hop artist looking to have a good time on stage with a knack for making people laugh along the way. (WH)

Joe Pug - 3:00-3:45 p.m., BMI Stage

I had to catch a bit of Pug's set, and, as it turned out, it was the solo portion of the show, so the burgeoning Dylan parallels were acutely apparent. Yes, in lyrics, voice and harmonica, Pug is an awful lot like Dylan, but he does have something Bob always lacked - warmth. Besides, who wouldn't want to be called Chicago's new Dylan for the 21st century? Pug's songs, particularly the lyrics, are occasionally that good. (CR)

Gomez - 3:30-4:30 p.m., vitaminwater Stage

Gomez :: Lollapalooza 2009 by Vann
British jamband veterans Gomez took the vitaminwater Stage as Atmosphere was still rambling and delivered a mediocre mix of older material and songs from their equally middling latest effort, A New Tide. Most notable from the new LP was "Win Park Slope," a swampy romp that translated beautifully on this sunny afternoon. "Win Park Slope" segued into the "Bone Tired," as it does on the record, and many fans, including yours truly, scurried up the hill to the Citi Stage as a siren-like call beamed from the area where Chairlift was performing. (WH)

Chairlift - 3:30-4:30 p.m., Citi Stage

Like a less dancey, airy version of the Brazilian Girls, Chairlift is an interesting trio that mostly delivers dreamy soundscapes that would fit in perfectly on some tripped-out, foggy sunrise nature video with starlet lead vocalist Caroline Polachek's intoxicating voice zoning the listener into the material. My preconceived notions of this band prior to the weekend could not have been any further removed from reality, and I'm thankful at the opportunity to have seen them twice this weekend (I also caught their set at The Apple Store on Thursday with Passion Pit). (WH)

Coheed And Cambria - 4:30-5:30 p.m., Chicago 2016 Stage

I finally got to witness the phenomenon that is the Coheed And Cambria music factory. You know, it's a shame when such talented musicians devote their talents to such derivative, corny pursuits. Some maddeningly cool shit sometimes happened in the proggy interplay between the instruments, but as long as Claudio Sanchez is up there singing and playing his Satriani-on-steroids guitar, there's no escaping the cheese. And who was clamoring for a power metal makeover of The Church's "Under The Milky Way?" I couldn't help shuddering. (CR)

Arctic Monkeys - 4:30-5:30 p.m., Budweiser Stage

Arctic Monkeys :: Lollapalooza 2009 by Vann
A huge crowd congregated around the Budweiser Stage for the still very young Brit rockers Arctic Monkeys, who had no problem matching the spirit of their fervid audience with an intensely raw brand of no frills rock & roll. The crowd-surfing and mosh pitting commenced as the Monkeys thrashed through fan favourites "The View from the Afternoon" and "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor" before putting a cool spin on Nick Cave's "Red Right Hand," a tune about the tempting business enterprises presented to impoverished inner city teens. It was refreshing to see an alternative rock band in this day and age still content with delivering a balls-to-the-wall, freewheeling set of old-fashioned rock music sans electronic overkill. (WH)

Santigold - 5:30-6:30 p.m., Playstation Stage

The huge crowd migrated ever so slightly over to the Playstation Stage to catch a glimpse of the ceaselessly protean Brooklynite Santigold, one of the most exciting new artists on the scene in 2009. In full command of the late afternoon crowd, little Ms. White entertained us, delivering "L.E.S. Artistes" and "Say Aha" early on as her robotically syncopated dancer/background singers flanked her. Tough to categorize as she moves from ska-punk to diva pop to electro rock with ease, Santi declared boastfully, "I've got to be unstoppable," amongst the stickiest of beats, and judging by her ever-growing fanbase and affable charm we'll probably be seeing her around for years to come. Go see Santigold. (WH)

No Age - 5:00-6:00 p.m., Citi Stage
Glasvegas - 5:30-6:30 p.m., vitaminwater Stage

Santigold :: Lollapalooza 2009 by Vann
The nice thing about shitgaze as a genre is that when you see it live you can just pretend the P.A. system sucks. In that light, I thought No Age's set rocked, because the band has such good songs that would really sound great if it weren't so hip for them not to. It's all in good fun with these guys, who'd be equally at home hobnobbing with Deerhunter or The Dead Milkmen. What you can make out in these songs is kind of intricate tunesmithery for such brief blasts of punkish noise, but it really works, especially live. I couldn't tear myself away, which meant I missed some of Glasvegas, which may have been a mistake but I'll never know. These Scots impressed me more with each song. Singer James Allen has the Celtic gravel of Elvis Costello and the anthemic howl of Eddie Vedder, and he and the rest of the band play with the shimmering determination of Mogwai. Their version of the oft-covered Korgis track "Everybody's Got To Learn Sometime" was the best take on the song I've ever heard. The set was simply stunning.(CR)

Lykke Li - 6:30-7:30 p.m., Citi Stage It would've been tough for anybody to really top Glasvegas, yet Lykke Li somehow pulled it off. She came out almost unassumingly, and the peculiar, immaculate songs began to speak for themselves. I wasn't really expecting her to have this amazingly tight band behind her, but these guys shifted between hi- and lo-fi textures, from busy to minimal, with precision and grace. And that voice! She's even more engrossing live, and I couldn't even see her half the time. It was an hour of perfect, haunting, intoxicating pop music, and I was mesmerized. (CR)

Animal Collective - 7:30-8:30 p.m., vitaminwater Stage

Lykke Li :: Lollapalooza 2009 by Smith
So, as if expectations weren't already high for Animal Collective, the band's sets seem to either be masterpieces or trainwrecks, and I had no idea how the music would translate under the big open sky. Then, the journey began with the unreleased "What Would I Want Sky." If you recorded this set, I pity your attempts at tracking it; songs melted into each other like rainbow sherbet for the next hour, and songs that actually have been released resembled their studio counterparts only fleetingly. The vocal improv in the middle of "Guys Eyes" was just on a different plane than what other bands do. "Daily Routine" crept out of "Bleed" like they were parts of the same song, a pulsing lucid dream sequence. "Fireworks" sprung from the nebulous "Lablakely Dress," which went on an insane tribal glitch jam with Avey Tare on guitar. How they were able to rein it in and return to the song I will never know, but it was breathtaking. "Brother Sport" hit similar highs just before its coda, and might've taken us all away in its supersonic ending loop jam had not Tool started playing precisely at 8:29 p.m. You know how Maynard Keenan is always writing songs where he pretends to be a meathead, but he's really trying to point out how idiotic that bullyish attitude is? Hey, maybe Tool didn't know AC was still on or the big security guard forced Maynard on stage; I just thought it was interesting. I mean, Tool has been playing the same setlist for like four years now; couldn't they have made up those five minutes somehow, so AC could've finished the song? (CR)

Animal Collective - 7:30-8:30 p.m., vitaminwater Stage

BEWARE OF RANT: For the second time this summer, I attended an Animal Collective festival set with high expectations and once again, like their Bonnaroo set, I walked away simply not being able to wrap my head around the hype that has been building for years. Likeminded music fans, blogs, and websites can't seem to get enough of these dudes these days, yet their set of swirling cacophony rarely resembled any kind of coherent melodic thought at any point. I consider myself accepting of all kinds of music and always eager to find new sounds but I just don't get the appeal about this group as a live band. On record these guys show great potential, but I have found their performances to be aimless and desultory as they meander through languid walls of noise and cacophonous yelping. To wrap up this rant, I want to like this band, and as I said, there are several songs on record that lead me to believe there is hope for a "click" moment; I just haven't gotten there yet. The only thing I will likely remember from this show were the two kids who passed out cold within twenty feet of me and within three-minutes of each other. Scary. (WH)

Yeah Yeah Yeahs - 8:30-10:00 p.m., Budweiser Stage

Karen O - Yeah Yeah Yeahs:: Lollapalooza 2009 by Smith
I had to skip across the grounds for Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The people who try to claim that this band is an unfit substitute for the Beastie Boys are really barking up an imaginary tree; I can understand people being pissed about buying a one-day ticket and not being able to get their money back when the Beasties canceled, but YYYs deserve that spotlight as much as any of the non-veteran headliners, if not more. Karen O convinced me that she is not just a great singer but one of the great performers of our time. She was really able to inspire this crowd, and there were some true fanatics around. Still, there were some awkward aspects of the set. Some of the little electronic interludes seemed extended just to make the set longer, and they were especially skeletal compared to what AC had just been creating. And a song like "Maps," with all the women in the crowd singing along, certainly felt like a happening I wasn't privy to, but it's moments like this that can intrigue legions of potential new fans. Besides, after that the band closed with its most exhilarating tracks of the night, "Y Control" and "Date With The Night." Guitarist Nick Zinner came alive with some searing, Thurston-like guitar work, and Karen gave every drop of sweat she had. I can't say it ever blew me away, but it was an occasionally thrilling, ultimately satisfying end to the night. (CR)

Tool - 8:30-10:00 p.m., Chicago 2016 Stage

Tool once again pulled back the curtain to the theater of the morose and despicable, unleashing their visceral fury on Grant Park to close down night two. Vocalist-frontman Maynard James Keenan commented on the incredible gulf between the two bands headlining Saturday night in the most sarcastic of tones: "The only shame is that we had to miss the Yeah Yeah Yeahs," which was met with a smattering of laughter.

Tool :: Lollapalooza 2009 by Vann
The visual element of a Tool show is as important as the music itself, helping to further the distinctly dark, skin crawling discomfort that goes hand-in-hand with their music. Thematically the images are based around torturous zombie-like androgynous bodies in various undesirable situations mostly involving some form of repulsive mutilation. Not for the faint at heart, Keenan's lyrics are both intellectually robust and darkly perverse, addressing the underbelly of the universe, as on "├ćnema" when he sings "Some say end is near/ Some say we'll see Armageddon soon/ I certainly hope we will cuz I sure could use a vacation from this." Their genre-bending style beams across the spectrum, meshing progressive metal with art rock in such a seamlessly intricate way that they exist in a space all their own. Musically fluid and brain-jarring with perhaps the most dexterous, rhythmically sound drummer on the music scene today, Danny Carey, who serves as the lightning rod and backbone for the band's sound as Maynard's silhouette creepily sways back-and-forth like an arachnid figure against the dark stage lights and terrifying imagery.

The crowd for the Tool set was aggressive and anyone with any intention of getting out from the front of the ruckus had to be crowd-surfed out. Intense but respectful, most fans were simply too entrenched in the music to cause a bother. Whether you like them musically or not, these guys bring a certain kind of passion and production to festival main stages that is hard to find anywhere else.

With two days in the book and my brain sufficiently shaken from the horrid imagery of the Tool show, it was now time to head home and then to seek the familiar territory of STS9's late night show at House of Blues. (WH)

Continue reading for Sunday's coverage of Lollapalooza...


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