Dear and the Headlights
Armed with some earplugs I picked up from the PlayStation tent (not to be confused with the MySpace tent, which is located on the opposite side of the park as the Bud Light stage), I was ready for day 2. This first band didn’t do much for me, but I didn’t expect them to. I just showed up cause they were the only band playing this early.
High Class Elite
I was unsure whether to see High Class Elite or Arckid (the band with the former singer of Spacehog). Both were bands I’d never heard of, so I was just judging them based on their bios. Did I ever make the right choice! This was a glam-rock band from NYC, with fashionable clothes, makeup, and sequin dress-wearing backup singers. Their music was loud and poppy, as glam should be, and though the singer initially looked stunned at how few people were in attendance (I could see, when he first came out, a look on his face like, “I can’t believe I got myself all dolled up and no one’s here!”), the crowd grew steadily, as did the band’s confidence and rambunctiousness. I want to hear more of this band. Now.
This was the first band that I can truly say I became a fan of solely because of the blogosphere. Everyone raved about their music, and I can see why – peppy garage rock, served up in 2-minute songs. The slow songs dragged a little bit but I’m sure they’ll get that worked out before their first record comes out.
Video clip: “Nature of the Experiment”
I’ve seen Pete a few times and I’m fond of his simple, straightforward songs. Though he didn’t play much from his awesome 2002 debut album Musicforthemorningafter, he still kept me entertained. He also dared to cover the song of the summer, “Young Folks” by Peter Bjorn and John, and he did it surprisingly well.
Video clip: “Young Folks”
I was excited to see this band because I like a lot of their ‘90s hits, but they stuck mainly to new songs which weren’t as good. Daniel Johns strutted around in impossibly low-hanging pants and played the guitar with his teeth. If only they sounded as good as they looked. I did like one new song, “Straight Lines,” and they closed with one of my favorite '90s hits, “Freak.”
I saw them last year at Warped Tour. I was surprised at the decent-sized crowd they attracted here; for some reason I thought Lollapalooza attendees were anti-emo.
I tried to stop by the Cold War Kids, but there was absolutely nowhere to stand. They had them playing on a small side stage and I didn’t feel like battling the throngs of people, so I took a lunch break and headed on.
I really wanted to stay longer and see more of these guys. I’m sure their grooveful (is that a word?) R&B would’ve been right up my alley, but I had to get moving to get a good spot for CSS. On my journey I walked past Patti Smith’s band, including renowned guitarist Lenny Kaye, who I briefly considered asking for a picture but decided instead to keep walking.
This is supposed to be where I tell you all about how incredible CSS was, and how their electropunk show was the best performance of the festival. But I can’t, because they DIDN’T SHOW UP. They got stuck in
Roky Erickson & the Explosives
Seriously bummed about the lack of CSS, I dropped by Roky Erickson. He was a guy I’d never heard of until recently, but I kept reading about how he was a great psychedelic artist from the ‘60s, who suffered through countless personal problems in his life and just recently returned to the road. I wish the guy well, but his music wasn’t doing it for me. Then again, after missing CSS, there wasn’t much that could’ve cheered me up at that point.
The Hold Steady
I wasn’t expecting much from these regular joes, but holy crap did they deliver. Singer Craig Finn and his bandmates would not stop smiling the entire show, and their enthusiasm was infectious. The crowd was surprisingly young for a middle-aged band, and they enjoyed it just as much as the band did. Finn was totally geeky, acting out the lyrics, for instance, miming a football toss when he sang a line about a cheerleader. But his geekiness was endearing, and the songs were earnest. I rarely get impressed by a song the first time I hear it, but that was the case with “You Can Make Him Like You.” Finn’s sing-speak is actually clear enough that you can make out every word, unlike 90% of other bands (aside - how on earth did the sign language interpreters understand most of the bands this weekend??). With all the posing in music today it was great to see a band that was just having a blast and wasn’t afraid to show it. I’m not exaggerating when I say this show totally saved my day. It was one of the most positive, enjoyable concerts I have seen in some time.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
I’ve always thought this was one of the most overrated bands around. I know I’m biased – I resent the fact that the YYYs became huge, while their more-talented NYC contemporaries the Liars drifted off into oblivion. But this time, Karen O and her bandmates won me over with their quirky rock tunes. I wished I could’ve stayed longer.
In retrospect I should’ve stayed at the YYYs, but I wanted to at least check out Snow Patrol. I arrived towards the end of “Set the Fire to the Third Bar,” my favorite SP song. On the CD it’s a duet with Martha Wainwright, here the girl from Silversun Pickups filled in. Nothing else in the rest of their set got me excited. I got there too late to hear “Chasing Cars.”
Brief back story – in the early 90s when I first started subscribing to Rolling Stone, I used to resent the fact there were certain artists who were in that magazine all the time, for no apparent reason – Iggy Pop and Patti Smith being two of them. I remember actually saying, Why is she in every fucking magazine? It wasn’t until 2001’s Gung Ho that I became a Patti Smith fan, and having seen her play live 3 times now, I absolutely adore her. I had intended to catch the first half of her set, then run across the park to see Spoon, but I knew deep down that once I got settled in for Patti, I wasn’t going to leave. The beginning was subpar, with slow songs and a so-so cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Are You Experienced?”, but things picked up when she played the classics “Because the Night” and “Gloria”. She followed that with “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” which turned into a passionate ballad with a powerful outro about the evils of war.
It had been overcast all day – perfect weather, in my view – but the sprinkles turned to a heavier rain during this song. She closed with “Rock N Roll N-----,” which I have mixed feelings about because I don’t even like to write that word, let alone hear it shouted repeatedly, but I understand the point of the song and it certainly was powerful. I love Patti. I met her once and it is my great regret that my camera’s batteries died so I couldn’t get a picture with her. Maybe someday…
Neither of tonight’s headliners, Interpol and Muse, excited me, so I decided to catch a chunk of both. During Interpol I smelled pot for the 200th time, which got me to thinking, How can I smell pot everywhere if I never see it? They played two of the songs that I really like, “Slow Hands” and “The Heinrich Maneuver”, and then I moved on. They weren’t bad, but their music is definitely better suited for a club than a massive crowd like this.
Muse, on the other hand, is totally an arena rock band, with big, bombastic songs like “Our Time is Running Out.” I’d kept hearing these guys were great live, and they weren’t bad, but, my god, how much like Radiohead can a band sound? All the other Radiohead-soundalikes at least have singers with different voices or singing styles, but Muse’s singer sounds exactly like Thom Yorke. They’re trying to make a career out of imitating The Bends-era Radiohead, and I’m just not buying what they’re selling.
Bands seen today: 15
Best of today:
1. The Hold Steady
2. Patti Smith
3. Yeah Yeah Yeahs