Due to my new job as a corporate shill and some flight delays, my Lollapalooza began at 10pm Friday night, not long after Radiohead had finished their bellowing nonsense. Instead of rushing out to see the end of a band I don’t care for, I met my family for pizza in downtown Chi-Town. This is notable for two reasons: lead singer of the Flaming Lips Wayne Coyne sat next to me at the restaurant, and my little brother got tanked in front of my mother for the first time. I’m still not sure which I enjoyed more.
Roughly 14 hours later, I found myself in Grant Park watching England's latest addition to the already overcrowded sea of hipster dance music, the poorly named Does it Offend You, Yeah? (I'm told this name is taken from the British version of The Office, which makes it marginally less irritating).
Luckily, their music is better than their name might suggest. With a combination of electronica and new wave, DIOYY successfully rocked the midday crowd. Playing almost their entire new album You Have No Idea What You're Getting Yourself Into, DIOYY are masters of the build-and-release style that makes live techno so engaging for crowds of e-popping ravers. Of course, even the sober can enjoy "Dawn of the Dead," "We Are Rockstars," and "Doomed Now," Especially the last two, with which the band closed their set. DIOYY left the stage to clapping hands and warm smiles. Their performance was good enough that I bought the album, and it made my older brother dance, which is an occurrence about as common finding a live platypus under your bed.
I trekked across the park, bought a bottle of wine, and settled in to watch Dr. Dog, Philadelphia's worst-kept and biggest-hyped secret. Some shows demand that you rise to your feet and pay attention, while other shows are just content to have you sit and enjoy. Dr. Dog was one of the latter; their stage show doesn't draw you in, but their songs are sharp enough and the band is tight enough to keep you interested. Their brand of 60s style rock music was the perfect soundtrack to laying in the grass and drinking some wine with friends. And they were good enough that I bought their most recent album, Fate. Better on stage than on album, but still not incendiary, Dr. Dog's polite and professional show was a good comedown after my dance party.
Every year there's a band that comes out of nowhere to slap me in the teeth , have their way with me, and leave me in a bloody pile with a stupid look on my face. This year's band to achieve such violent awesomeness was Foals, an Oxford six-piece that blended elements of Bloc Party post-punk with the angular hooks and tough edge of Minus the Bear. The dudes lurched and stumbled around stage, hitting sharp guitar riffs and seaworthy drum beats, howling into their microphones (everyone was mic-ed) while the teaming masses danced at their feet. Foals drew an impressive crowd, especially for a band in down time on a side stage. Their most recent album Antidotes will be covered on this page soon. In the mean time, if Foals come to town and you are at all interested in hearing what Minus the Bloc Party would sound like, peep them.
Between my now-empty bottle of wine and the frenzy of Foals, I was feeling pretty good. Sadly, all it took was a bad performance to knock the wind from my boozed up sails, as MGMT was Saturday's big letdown. The slow, awkward shuffling and reworking of the songs off their 08 release Oracular Spectacular ruined what could have been a good show. I understand that MGMT is a two man project, only recently fleshed out to a traveling five-piece live band, but after such flaccid and soulless renditions of their music, I wish they had taken a little more time to practice together. MGTM songs can be fun, but live that Saturday, they were anything but.
My mood sufficiently soured, I moseyed on across the park to watch the last few songs of DeVotchKa (who was kind of lame) and give mild attention to Explosions in the Sky (who might have sounded better if I was playing football in the sunset, but really just came off as repetitive and overly-dramatic).
By 6:29, things were looking grim. Despite my fun morning and alcohol fueled afternoon, morale was low thanks to MGMT and the mediocre one-two of DeVotchKa and Explosions. All that would be turned around within two minutes. Thank the good dude for Okkervil River.
It's hard for me to pinpoint exactly what I like so much about Okkervil River. Their music is either in the same genre of or a blatant rip-off of Bright Eyes depending who you ask, and the world has enough folk-rock without adding one more pig to the pile.
It might be in the songwriting, which was on full display with the poetic and ominous opening of "The President's Dead" and followed through on to "Black." But it's probably more simple than that; I like to rock, and Okkervil River rocks. Lead man Will Sheff howled and called in his trademark warble as he stalked the stage with his acoustic guitar on "A Hand to Take Hold of the Scene," "A Girl in Port," and the fucking awesome "Our Life is not A Movie or Maybe" all off of their super-fine 07 release The Stage Names.
I'll admit, I lost my shit a little bit during Okkervil River. But I wasn't the only one. The band had the crowd whipped into a frenzy, delivering all the passion and fire that is sometimes muted on their albums. By the time the band closed the show "Westfall," my spirits were lifted, and I was ready to go again.
Broken Social Scene was next. They played all the hits ("7/4 Shoreline," "Cause = Time," "Fire Eye'd Boy," "Major Label Debut") and I did more than my fair share of dancing. Honestly, I was still too worked up over Okkervil and alcohol to properly take them in. My bad, BSS. Next time.
I took an hour to myself. I reflected. I meditated. I ate some tacos. I had to prepare myself, for one wrong that had plagued my life since 7th grade was finally going to be righted. I was going to see Rage Against the Machine.
Me and about 50,000 other boozed up silverbacks, apparently. To describe the RATM crowd as hostile would be like describing a mass amputation as a flesh wound. The combination of aggressive music, oppressive music and obsessive alcohol consumption made the festival grounds a powder keg for disaster.
Despite a few hairy moments, there were no problems. The band played all their hits like it was 1999. "People of the Sun?" Check. "Bombtrack?" Check. "Know Your Enemy?" Check. "Guerilla Radio," "Sleep now in the Fire," and "Bulls on Parade?" Check, check and fuck yes. Sure, some things sounded dated ("As we move into 92/ still in a room without a view? Come on Zach, get with the times) but the band delivered the same riotous aggression and power that weightlifters and protesters have blasted out of headphones since the mid 90s.
The band had to stop the show three times to beg the crowd to take "five or ten steps back," but we'd all prefer ruined flow to a massive disaster. As it was, Lollapalooza ended that day with a sigh of relief instead of a call for help. I saw a cool new band, got my expectations blown away by a band I already liked, and finally got to see one of my favorite childhood bands live. Not to shabby for a Saturday in the Midwest.