LOLLAPALOOZA 05: A HOT ROCK REVIVAL

Words: Ted Kartzman | Photos: Adam George

Lollapalooza | Day 1 | Saturday, July 23

"Indie Rock." Is it the new "jam"? Meaning is it a blanket label that really more accurately describes a type of fan more than the music? With a few notable exceptions, the music could be loosely categorized as: 80's Revival Rock (Kaiser Chiefs, Louis XIV, The Ponys, The Killers, The Bravery, The Arcade Fire), 90's Rock Revisited (Weezer, Primus, Pixies, Dinosaur Jr., G. Love, Liz Phair), and the dance/hip-hop/dj element (Mark Farina, STS9, Derrick Carter, DJ Muggs, Z-Trip), which was mainly confined to the Planet Stage, located across bustling Columbus Avenue for some reason.


Lollapalooza 2005 at Chicago's Grant Park
This Lollapalooza really did redefine the city festival. Right in downtown Chicago with the lake on one side of Grant Park and the skyline on the other, it was very accessible within the city, just as Chicago is very accessible within the Midwestern states. Stage flow moved smoothly; they pretty seamlessly did 60 bands on 5 stages in 2 days and finished both nights before 10pm. The only complaint was the stage bleed - you could hear both stages unless you were right in front of one of the stages, but maybe that was the point? Here's the general timeline of what went down.


The Redwalls
11:49am. Day 1 begins with the sweet jangle pop sounds of The Redwalls, from the north shore of Liverpool - I mean Deerfield, IL. Beatles-esque yes, but so catchy! There really was great music during the early part of the day from rising stars M83 (French electronica), Ambulance LTD (more Beatles-esque melodies) and The Dead 60s (Liverpool rock).

2:17pm. Approaching the SBC East Stage to the sight of AYWKUBT Trail Of Dead trashing their instruments, ruining two perfectly good-looking drum kits. Yes, Lollapalooza was back! This punk/rock set was the closest we'd get to something like the industrial Ministry at Lolla '92, as this Lolla has grown up (as Perry has) and gone for the kiddie stages and tamer bands. It's OK, we all have to grow up sometime... or so we're told. I read that Perry said something like "the mainstream isn't so bad." Please tell me that was taken out of context!


Liz Phair
2:32pm. Liz Phair opened with some new material, asking to 'Rock Me'... "Just take off my dress, let's mess with everybody's mind." Umm, OK? Give her credit, when her career plateaued, she took a different angle, gave birth and has now become a confident performer with or without guitar. It was nice to see Phair booked, not just because she's a Midwestern girl, but also because there were only four singers the whole weekend. At least Ladybug would be there later on.

2:57pm. Predicting a riot, I headed over to see the Kaiser Chiefs. However, frontman said he left his voice in Washington, but proceeded to run around the stage and rile the crowd up, screaming "We're English ya' know. It's fuckin' ott! Hey, we're working 'ere and don't like interruptions. Could someone go tell Liz Phair to quiet down?" Subscribing to the new indie rocker skinny tie manifesto, KC killed 'em with "Every Day I Love You Less and Less" and then, as predicted, "I Predict a Riot."


VHS or Beta
3:18pm. Had to catch VHS or Beta as they absolutely killed it last night in Indy. If you would have told me ten years ago that I would really be way into a band that blends Duran Duran with the Cure/New Order/80's sound and house music (three things I don't really care for), I would have laughed you out of the room. But somehow, they blend these noises into a fun and surprisingly original sound of their own. They even have authentic mullets (Zeke Buck's "Kentucky Waterfall" and Craig Pfunder's Bleached Rat-tail (see them both here) to make the 80's revival legit. Bottom line is that most of the songs are great (check the "You Got Me" bassline or the catchy single "Night on Fire") and they can erupt into a house band when the time is right, but they don't rely on the redundant 4/4.


Brian Jonestown Massacre
3:54pm. Did you see that movie Dig? No, not yet, but most of us have heard enough about Anton Newcomb and his tired antics at this point. Brian Jonestown Massacre's three-guitar, bass, and drum attack had moments of brilliance, but eventually droned on and on without direction. The talking between tracks was more interesting: "You guys on the other stage, you can go fuck yourself! Party over here, fuck you over there! I wipe my ass with contemporary urban pop culture." Next song, he toasts a can of beer to the mothers of the world. Next song again, "This one's for your mother!" Then they promised to start their next song "as soon as Jon Bon Jovi shuts the fuck up!"

Come on Anton, everyone watching you knows Chris Carrabba is a pussy - that's why we are at your stage! The least you can do is rock us and prove your worth. OK, we get it - it's a massacre... of our patience. You're a freak, but special thanks to the rain shower for cooling us off, finally giving us something with a steady beat and keeping the dust settled. Once the dense drone exceeded eight minutes, I went for a reprieve with a cold beverage and perhaps a slice of Cake.

4:15pm. Skipped over to the Kidzapalooza mini stage, caught a baby drum circle with baby bongos. Very cute kids, all loving music and having fun. That could have been the "this is what it is all about" moment, one of those that make you want to reproduce.

5:35pm. Blonde Redhead was pretty interesting, surprisingly captivating - might even be the surprise of Day One for me, as I'd never heard a note before I saw them, yet they've been around since 1993! It's indie rock, whatever that means, but wow, Kazu Makino's voice is beautiful, and her stage presence is graceful. A quite nice rock band with some very pretty melodic emo rock.


Billy Idol
6:18pm. Figuring it was a nice day to start again, we wandered over to the other stage, hoping to catch a "White Wedding," but Billy Idol just played some weak new stuff that bored us within three minutes. Dude really looks like he's got leather skin molded to his skull, living the life of "eyes without a face."

6:38pm. Black Keys guitarist Dan has true bluesman skills, almost a cleaner Jack White (without the selling the soul to the devil thing). Sorry, the Black and White double duo comparison is just so hard to ignore. The BKs are raw yet tasteful, moving smoothly from an all-out instrumental assault to a deft Beatles cover of "She Said, She Said."


Primus
7:12pm. Primus is as Primus does, straightforward rock and roll as only Les, Ler, and Tim can do. Solid renditions of the classics like "My Name is Mud" and "Jerry Was a Race Car Driver" kept the crowd moving. Les talking about home turf of Contra Costa County made me realize how much cooler it would be in SF right now. Some people really, really love Primus. I forgot how much.

7:31pm. The Pixies! This band broke up in 1992 and has never been bigger. It's amazing really, showing you can have integrity in your career and write good songs and rock and roll never forgets. Oh, they also have Kim Deal. She is the Tina Weymouth of her generation, what a bassist! For some reason, she was dressed like a nun! Frank's guitar was not working well until halfway through the set, but they worked it out and the "Wave of Mutilation" was superb. They played all the hits: "Debaser," "Gigantic," and of course, "Where Is My Mind?" Respect to them for not talking, just playing some great songs and humbly leaving the stage.


The Pixies
8:46pm. Weezer came out to "When You Wish Upon a Star" with a huuuge W behind the stage. Please say it Ain't So, no Dubya props! Oh, it stands for Weezer. Right. First song, a great rock and roll moment - 40,000 people yelling "Say it ain't so-oh-oheoooohhhhhhh" - each in a different key.

Never totally got the Weezer thing, I chalk it up to not making the age cutoff when their blue album came out in 1994. I guess I just lost my mind (a couple of times) on Phish tour and wasn't listening to songs under eight minutes. I'll tell you what, I knew (and mangled) the words to more than half the songs. They write a catchy rock song and prove that sing-along rock songs make long term fans. Mixing the old with the new, we got that "Sweater Song," just lyin' on the floor. Also "My Name Is Jonas." Rivers was singing to the half-Japanese girls, "I think I'd be good for you, and you'd be good for me." Was hoping they'd play my mom's favorite song, "Island in the Sun."

9:27pm. Called my mom and reminded her that she was "hip, hip." Also told her about the spacey intro to "Buddy Holly." The crowd loved the triple encore featuring the last highlight of "Surf Wax America." Looking back, the end of night was a total 90's revival with Pixies, Digable Planets, Weezer, Primus... And much more 90's to come tomorrow.

11:45pm. Always love the juxtaposition of leaving a 40,000 person rock show and then seeing gritty club rock in front of 40 people. Caught some brilliant moments of an early Black Crowes-esque rock band called The 8th Grade and called it a night.

Be sure to click on "Continue Reading" for Day 2...


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