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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Lollapalooza Day 3: Alice Cooper makeup and drunken lullabies

Day 3 of Lollapalooza 2008. Photos and videos taken by Deena and Scott. Reviews by both of us except where noted.

12:30 Kid Sister (Scott)
The most interesting thing about Kanye protégé Kid Sister is that she named her just-released debut album Koko B. Ware, after the parrot-wielding 1980s WWF wrestler. She capably brought the hip hop, though she came off like a lesser M.I.A.

12:30 White Lies (Deena)

I decided to check out White Lies and weasel my way up to a prime spot for The Weakerthans, who were scheduled to play at 1:15. These four attractive British gents delivered a bit of a rushed show (they had been scheduled to play at a different stage), with not much audience banter, but their Depeche Mode-esque songs were well-delivered with excellent vocals from singer/guitarist Harry McVeigh. By the time they finished I was planted firmly against the fence in the front row, only to discover that the next band introduced was Office, due to a poorly-publicized cancellation by The Weakerthans. I left a bit disgruntled, through no fault of White Lies.

1:00 What Made Milwaukee Famous (Scott)

This band gets the “Chin Up Chin Up award” for being the act that I remember least at Lolla. WMMF had a cool keyboard line here, a nifty drum roll there, but nothing that set them apart from countless other indie rock acts.

1:30 The Whigs (Scott)
The Whigs have a heavier sound than you’d expect from a band signed to Dave Matthews’ ATO label. Their powerful guitar riffs and catchy melodies packed a real punch. They were one of our best discoveries of the festival.

2:15 Nicole Atkins & the Sea

We interviewed Nicole last year, and though she hasn’t taken off yet, if she keeps performing like this, it’s only a matter of time. She played all the best from Neptune City, including the ones where she gets to let loose, like “The Way It Is.” Her strong voice was matched by her delightful personality, like when she feared that her makeup was running in the overwhelming heat - “Do I look like Alice Cooper yet? That was kinda my goal.”

Video clip: Nicole Atkins – “Maybe Tonight”

3:15 Chromeo

“We’ve been friends since we were kids... and he doesn’t have a shirt on,” said Chromeo’s Dave 1 of his bandmate P-Thug. These Canadians are the coolest dorks on the planet, as evidenced by the combination of pre-recorded electronic elements and live guitars and keys, with late ‘80s-style dance music and sleazy love songs that had fans at the MySpace stage dancing their asses off.

4:15 Eli “Paperboy” Reed & The True Loves

There’s been a revival of the ‘60s R&B sound recently, but most of those performers are female. On Nicole Atkins’ recommendation, we checked out Eli “Paperboy” Reed, who preaches this music to a new generation of listeners. He channeled James Brown vocally, and his big band helped serve up one of the more unique styles during the weekend.

4:45 Iron & Wine (Scott)
Iron & Wine was pure beauty. Sam Beam and company added a touch of twang to “Boy With a Coin,” and Beam’s guitar noodling at the end of the slow-burning “Upward Over the Mountain” was exquisite.

Video clip: Iron & Wine – “Boy With a Coin”

5:15 Flogging Molly

“I’d like to dedicate this song to myself!” said singer Dave King. His band’s Irish punk rock was great fun. His band gets a run for its money - they’re great musicians to be able to play these fast songs so well live. We’ve seen Flogging Molly before, but they were never this good. “Drunken Lullabies” was the biggest highlight.

6:15 Gnarls Barkley
We didn’t get to watch much of their set, but got to hear true-to-album versions of favorites like “Gone Daddy Gone,” “Run,” and “Don’t Be Surprised.” Cee-Lo was in fine form.

6:45 Girl Talk

Someone at Lolla who has no clue decided to put Pittsburgh mashup DJ Girl Talk on a small side stage, which resulted in the most packed-together crowd of the weekend. Then again, since that setup facilitated lots of sweating and dancing, maybe it was better that way. Girl Talk brought out giant balloons and toilet paper cannons to make the party insane. Which was good, because his actual performance wasn’t quite as strong. The transitions between songs were too deliberate – he stayed on “Whoomp! There It Is!” for several minutes, for instance. The ending was classic, though, as Girl Talk surfed the crowd in an inflatable raft to Journey’s “Faithfully.”

Video clip: Giant balloon during Girl Talk performance

7:30 The National (Scott)

The National closed with a great one-two punch of “Fake Empire” and the spirited “Mr. November,” which Matt Berninger made sure to point out “is not dedicated to John McCain.”

7:30 Mark Ronson (Deena)

Despite the small crowd (due to the anticipation of Kanye West’s performance at the adjacent stage, I suspect), Mark Ronson provided an entertaining, diverse set of stylized cover songs. Among those joining him and his band, which included brass and string sections, were Daniel Merriweather and rap duo Plastic Little. And though Radiohead didn’t play “Just,” one of my favorites of theirs, Ronson supplied his own unique, soulful version of the tune.

8:15 Nine Inch Nails

We caught the first half of Trent Reznor’s set, and though “Discipline” and “March of the Pigs” were strong, he also wandered into meandering instrumentals that lost the crowd. It looks like the rest of the set was great – too bad we missed “Piggy” and “Head Like a Hole.”

8:45 Kanye West

Kanye West elicits such strong feelings from people - they either love him or hate him. (Or they think he’s ok.)

Yeah, he’s cocky. But only the most biased Kanye haters would deny that his Lolla show was off the hook. It was everything Kanye’s performance at Bonnaroo was not: There was enthusiasm, spontaneity, graciousness, even a live band and backup singers. The band made a noticeable difference, turning “Hey Mama,” Kanye’s ode to his mother, into an even more forlorn, delicate ballad, and the electric guitars made the dark, moody “Can’t Tell Me Nuthin” frighteningly intense.

There was an odd 4-minute soliloquy in which Kanye boasted about trying to be the greatest musician of all-time, claiming, “I ain’t saying I’m there yet, but I’m going to the studio tonight – that might change by the morning.” A great “Kanye being Kanye” moment.

“Put On” was one of the most mind-blowing moments of the festival, Kanye saluting his hometown of Chicago with fury and sincerity. That was followed by “Touch the Sky,” which segued directly into “The Good Life,” both of which featured lots of throwing hands into the sky. “Stronger” capped the show and closed out the festival in memorable fashion.

Video clip: Kanye West boasts

Sunday’s top 5:
1. Kanye West
2. Chromeo
3. Flogging Molly
4. Nicole Atkins & the Sea
5. (tie) Iron & Wine
(tie) Mark Ronson


Kiernan said...

How sweet was Chromeo's on-stage banter? This was a fun read -- I'm glad you guys seemed to like Okkervil River as much as I did.

Deena said...

Yeah, Chromeo and Okkervil River were real standout performances for both of us. I had never even heard of Okkervil River until Lolla--just goest to show that you can watch an amazing set even when you've never heard a single song by a band!