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Monday, August 4, 2008

Lollapalooza Day 1: Dancing ninjas, diva pigs, and frying our little brains

Day 1 of Lollapalooza 2008. Photos and videos taken by your intrepid reporters, Deena and Scott. Reviews by both of us except where noted.

12:30 Holy Fuck

Kicking off the event with electronic rock band Holy Fuck was a great way to start the weekend. “Royal Gregory” was a treat, with Brian Borcherdt using some sort of vocoder device to create the song’s distorted vocals. With electronic music, there’s often the risk of being repetitive, but their songs constantly evolved and grew in just the right places. They closed with “Lovely Allen,” a brilliant instrumental that they slowly built up into a massive climax.

Video clip: Holy Fuck – "Lovely Allen"

2:15 The Go! Team

The Go! Team’s lively dance-pop music provided one of the most fun shows of the day. The colorful British ensemble perfectly replicated tracks from 2007’s Proof of Youth like “Grip Like a Vice” and “The Wrath of Marcie.” The Lollapalooza program touted The Go! Team’s lead singer, Ninja, as a “frontwoman/force of nature,” and they weren’t kidding. Ninja gripped the crowd like an overzealous aerobics instructor, giving us dance moves and encouraging participation. One great thing about this sextet is that their musical roles changed a lot during the 60-minute set, showing a breadth of skill and creating an interesting dynamic. Though they didn’t play the songs which resemble cheerleading chants (it would’ve been sweet to hear “The Power Is On” or "We Just Won't Be Defeated"), the show was still plenty fun without them.

Video clip: The Go! Team - "Titanic Vandalism"

3:15 Duffy (Scott)

This was my first Duffy experience, and it was quite a surprise. Based on all the buzz I’ve been hearing, I was expecting rich, soulful pipes along the lines of Joss Stone, but instead, Duffy has this little baby voice, like a cross between Paris Hilton and Porky Pig. It was unsettling. Her performance was quite polished and professional, but not nearly as impressive as I’d hoped.

3:15 Louis XIV (Deena)
I only knew a few of Louis XIV’s songs, but quickly realized that was all I needed to know. Their brand of “cock rock” was not terribly appealing and frontman Jason Hill’s style of sing-speaking got old after a few songs. Their lyrics seem similar to those of Electric Six—highly sexual, innuendo-filled, and dirty—except instead of being cute and tongue-in-cheek, they are serious, which is a bit obnoxious.

4:00 The Kills (Deena)

This male-female duo produces a more mellowed style of music than I typically enjoy, but their slinky, stripped-down songs grew on me. They closed strong with “Cheap and Cheerful” and “Fry My Little Brains,” a fitting song for how everyone felt out in the sweltering heat today.

4:15 Gogol Bordello

These crazy Gypsy freaks are probably not capable of putting on a bad show. What’s not to love about passionate eastern European music with accordions, fiddles, screaming dancers, and an indefatigable frontman? They rocked the mainstage with a set closely resembling their Bonnaroo performance, “Wonderlust King” and “American Wedding” being the main highlights.

5:15 Your Vegas (Deena)

Your Vegas was a last minute addition to my itinerary after hearing several of their songs on last.fm’s Lolla radio station before leaving for Chicago. These boys from Leeds serve up what sounds to me like the love child of Keane and The Killers. Their set did not disappoint, with soaring vocals and beautiful falsetto from their pleasant and gracious frontman, Coyle Girelli.

5:15 Mates of State (Scott)
Lately, I like my pop music overflowing with fun and excitement, like !!! and the Go! Team. And while their harmonies are pleasant enough, I didn’t have the patience for the easygoing, relaxed pop Mates of State were serving up. Sorry, kids.

5:45 Grizzly Bear (Scott)

You can’t be a blogger and not love Grizzly Bear, but I'm only just coming around to appreciating their slow, old-fashioned music, after seeing their performance of "Two Weeks" on Letterman. They opened their Lolla set with it, to a surprisingly tepid response. About half of the band’s songs were engaging and the other half were uninteresting.

6:15 Bloc Party (Deena)

The crowd roared as Bloc Party’s Kele Okereke stepped onstage wearing an Obama shirt, but that was about as excited as I got about Bloc Party’s set. There didn’t seem to be much energy or showmanship in the performance, though it was technically fine. I decided I’ll just stick to listening to their CDs, and I left early to get a good spot for CSS.

7:00 CSS

Having been devastated last year when CSS cancelled, we gave them another shot, and they justified our faith in them. The Brazilian electro-rock group played most of their self-titled debut as well as some of the more rocking tracks from their new release Donkey. Though “Music Is My Hot Hot Sex” was slowed to an almost-undanceable tempo, “Alala” and “Rat is Dead” offered the energy we were expecting. Lovefoxxx wore not one but two full-body leotards, and the entire band interacted with the audience throughout the extremely entertaining show.

8:00 Radiohead

OK, we’re going to say it, and we defy anyone to prove us wrong: This show was boring by Radiohead standards. Maybe we’re grading on a curve here, because even the worst Radiohead show is going to be better than 90% of rock concerts, but this band is capable of so much more. Why they continue to fill half their set with lifeless, uninspiring tracks like “The Gloaming” and “House of Cards” is beyond us. Dudes, you need to RAWK! Even “Paranoid Android” was lacking in the guitar-heavy sections where we could have been blown away. Thrown by the lack of crowd enthusiasm, Thom Yorke said, “You’re all so quiet out there.” And the obvious response was, “Yeah, because you’re putting us to sleep!”

Enough of that, let’s talk about the highlights: The spacey “Everything in Its Right Place” is simply one of the best live songs ever; “Fake Plastic Trees” was beautiful; the brooding “All I Need” was one of the few songs from In Rainbows that stood out; and “Idioteque,” the Radiohead-does-techno number from Kid A, was a stellar show closer.

Friday’s top 5:

1. Gogol Bordello
2. The Go! Team
3. CSS
4. Radiohead
5. Holy Fuck

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