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... Day 2 | Sunday July 24

Sunday was so hot and with so much 80's vibe floating around, I'm honestly shocked we didn't hear a cover of "Blister in the Sun." OK, poor joke.


The Changes
12:11pm. It was early, and it was hot (getting hotter), but I had to catch Chicago's newest hot act, The Changes - the only unsigned band on the entire bill. The Changes feel like the power pop of The Police meeting the soft pop of the Postal Service, I guess either way they are doing their civic duty. Not just another 80's-style band, there was some originality, like the track "Her, You and I," which would be accessible to the jam enthusiasts.

OK, it's apparently 115 degrees on the field, and kids are dropping like flies. I too was starting to melt, so I ducked into Phil's hotel. My sincerest apologies to Blue Merle, Kasabian, Saul Williams, and DeSol. We meant to get there, we really did, but it was for the best to sit next to air conditioning for another two hours. I mean, even the usually resilient Tegan and Sara puked from heatstroke!

2:48pm. On the way back in, we caught a few minutes of Los Amigos Invisibles - a groovin' five-piece keyboard/guitar quintet led by frontman Julio Briceno. LAI is proving that Latin alt-rock goes beyond the Volta. Too hot to jump around, would gladly see them in a dark cool club sometime. Figuring it's mind over matter, I just dream about anything cool, but I get the feeling I will see LAI again down the road.

3:01pm. Found out that true love is blind from Louis XIV. Good to know, lesson learned. Walked to Dinosaur Jr.


J. Mascis - Dinosaur Jr.
3:04pm. Reminisced about the last time that Dinosaur Jr. was at Lollapalooza. It was 1993 and I was seeing them for the first time. That was a moment in time, was not sure what had hit me afterwards. J. Mascis' long gray hair showed that it had been a long time since 1993, and a lot has changed. There was a steely chill between J and Lou, which kept the stage cool, but the bottom line is that the vocals and guitar were there, the songs are well-written. Highlights were the "Sludgefeast" and the "Chunks" closer.


Satellite Party
3:41pm. Walking up to Perry Farrell's Satellite Party, and Tony Kanal (from No Doubt) is absolutely raging on the bass. Alright, this is gonna be good, who knew? Nuno from Extreme is also shredding, creating an exuberant blend of guitar/bass proficiency. People LOVE Perry, he can do no wrong for some. The band turned out to be good (not great), but fit in for sure with the crowd's support. Moods ranged from more straight-ahead guitar rock to the danceable funky beats with some deft piano work, even layering in Middle Eastern Kabbalistic vocals and texture from percussionist Gabriele Corcos. Perry really seemed Ecstatic to be there, his trademark perma-grin planted squarely in the middle of the face. Interested to see where he goes with this project, rumors are flying about it becoming a rock opera. Or a theme park, or an energy drink.


Patterson Hood - Drive-By Truckers
4:20pm. Considered going to Soulive - tried to muster up the energy, but got a cold drink and got ready for the Drive-By Truckers. DBT has the mark of a great band - they get better every time you see them. It's not the hair or skinny ties, they actually write great songs - go and listen to the lyrics sometime. They did not disappoint, the Truckers brought the heat. OK, the heat was already there, but they brought The Rock. They keep killing the crowds, and they ain't never gonna change. "Carl Perkins' Cadillac" was great, but their southern-fried tribute to arena rock, called "Let There Be Rock" is a classic tune, and I heard people were talking about the lyrics afterwards, all about the youth being young and the concerts we've gone to see. Perfect. Ben Kweller looked like he was having fun from the screen where I stood, but I stuck with the Truckers.

5:25pm. In spite of the heat, the crowd is really building for The Arcade Fire. You can feel that this is going to be a special set. Perry comes out to introduce the band, and he is just gushing about Arcade Fire, telling us TAF is proving it is still possible to be original with music. Staring into the painful sun, wearing suits, they launched into the opening riff of "Wake Up," and anyone that was there will tell you the day was different when this set was done. With arguably the largest crowd of the day thus far cheering loudly, they set us out on a great adventure. The multi-instrumentation in this band is amazing, everyone is constantly switching around from guitars to bass to violin to keys to French Horn - laughably introduced by Win as "the Freedom Horn. Don't let those French bastards enslave you with their names for instruments." LOL! The Roy Orbison cover of "Crown of Love" was just gorgeous, building into crescendo and giving rejuvenating energy back. My skin seems to get thicker as we cruise through "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)". The band continues to stare down the sun and they are winning!

The sun actually starts to fade as we head into the six o'clock hour.... Screaming "It's ok, it's alright... there's the sun, it's alright... there's the moon, it's alright," we all had newfound energy. Pretty much everyone I asked at random felt their set was far and away the tops of day 2.


Alan Evans :: Soulive
6:15pm. Tough to leave but had to see Perry's 2004 (and our 2000) faves STS9. Oh man, they too summoned our collective energies and had a dance party, quite the excellent set! I loved the "married to yesterday" refrain in the closer - so fun and grooving. One point of pride for growing up with the jammers - after watching too many skinny tie-wearing drummers, it is so refreshing to see Zach Velmer hit the kit. He is so good, more than a few of these other drummers could use some lessons.

6:45pm. Spoon front man Britt Daniel has a superb rock voice - one that can reach into your guts and pull them up. A splendid booking effort by the Austin promoters to give their homeboy a nice slot, it just about made my day. On the surface, songs like "I Turn My Camera On" seem like simple pop/rock, but it's more than that. It took its time to work it into my soul, but I gotta believe they come for rock and roll. Aw haw, awl riite. Is that a Thought Sausage at the other stage? Gotta go check it out.

7:09pm. On my way over to the other stage I experienced the art of the "live mash-up," hearing both Spoon and WSP rocking to a similar rock riff during "Use Me" (with Schools overpowering Britt the Spoonman and drawing me in for eighteen wheels of widespread fury).

7:11pm. Fully involved with Widespread Panic. Sorta weird to see the reigning kings of jam closing out the indie rock festival, but it felt right to see them slotted for two sets. It's JB's way, or it just ain't gonna happen. Happy to see a LOT of people to see the Pan. "Use Me" went right into "Imitation Leather Shoes" and the set ended.


Ben Kweller
7:29pm. The Killers are amazingly big - two million records sold, round-the-clock press interviews, articles about a feud with the Bravery dude, riding on the U2 Vertigo jet, multiple sold out nights at Wembley Arena in London. The list goes on and on, but how did this band from Las Vegas get so big? "Somebody Told Me" they were good, they must be! Right? I have to see for myself. OK, wait, is this a joke, major label act singing about keeping it real "cause it's indie rock 'n' roll to me." I don't get it, but god bless them, for they have found their niche and then some.

Well, the Panic is famous for their sandwiches, so doing a set of Panic, then a set of Killers back into a set of Panic was sort of like... a lettuce sandwich on thick, homemade bread. Still 95 degrees out, and people never needed cool, cool water more than now. George McConnell's screaming guitar and Schools' rumblin' bass scared a few thousand shoegazer kids right into a Death Cab.

8:47pm. Death Cab for Cutie closed the indie rock portion of our day. Ben Gibbard is obviously the heart and soul of the band; whether on guitar or keys, he was the band. Ben's voice is quite pretty... actually, in his words, "beautiful, but it don't mean a thing to me." They encored with a one guitar, two bass ditty that was sweet. Although I was standing on the stage, it was still hard to hear their gentle moments as Dave Schools driving a tractor trailer from 200 yards away was simply overpowering.

9:36pm. Watched "Pigeons" on the Roof, thought about the lyrics to "Give": "He said he's in it for the money, but I guess there's truth in lies... 'Cause it's your favorite charity, I think we better give before we take our lives", then remembered that "None of Us Are Free" and closed the whole festival down with a "Climb to Safety" encore... It's no fun to die alone.

10:06pm. Again in true music-junkie fashion, hailed a thankfully air-conditioned cab up to an intimate private showcase by an up-and-coming alt-country band named Backyard Tire Fire at Lincoln Park's Tonic Room.

So Lollapalooza 2005 was great for what it was: hot and musical. Look, it was not a jam collaboration festival, it's an indie rock, short set, play your set and step aside affair. The kids I spoke to felt Lolla went over well. They were happy it was in their native Chicago. If they are invited back to Grant Park next year, it will surely be that much better. The planning starts now while it's fresh in the mind.

TK
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