CoS vs. Grant Park III: Round Three at Lollapalooza ’10

By the time the gates opened Sunday at Lollapalooza, the scant few that rolled up to Grant Park received some shit news from mother nature. Heavy rain and grey skies blanketed the downtown area like a deathly spirit. It seemed like the day was ruined; a repeat of last year’s Friday downpour. Nevertheless, that wasn’t the case.

The weekend’s good fortune prevailed. The sun returned, and so did the fans. Immediately, people of all sorts scuttled into the park. Excitement flavored the air. Two more headliners. The long-awaited return of 90’s grunge rock legends, Soundgarden, and the uber-hyped Arcade Fire set, which fans have been salivating about since The Suburbs hit the net. All in all, not too shabby of a way to pull down the curtain, blow out the candle, have the fat lady sing, etc.

It’s sort of interesting how Sunday panned out, actually. Whoever scheduled the day divided it in such a way that those who favored more mainstream, aggressive acts were cattled into the south end of the park. Whereas the folks who preferred more indie-centric material had to hike it up north. In a way, it was sort of like a high school cafeteria, where particular groups flock to different tables, sneering at one another and butting heads in the lunch line.

For the most part, there was no ill will. With the exception of a roughneck crowd at MGMT (Care to explain that, anyone?), things remained civil. People danced, people headbanged, and others carried on their own business. Maybe it was because everyone has work tomorrow, but there was a lack of drunken tomfoolery usually seen at Lollapalooza. Very refreshing.

All in all, this year’s Lollapalooza concluded just fine, successfully bookmarking what may be one of the best weekends in the festival’s history. Wait, wait, don’t go down and comment just yet. Mull it over. Ask these questions: Where else would you see The Strokes? How often do you see not one, but two rare international sensations? (e.g. Empire of the Sun, X Japan) What other festival offers you the choice between Soundgarden and Arcade Fire? When was the last time you yelled out, “Holy shit, Green Day was awesome!”, without acting like a sarcastic ass in the comments below?

Rhetorical, rhetorical, rhetorical, and… rhetorical, of course. But, these are all good angles to observe. Without getting ahead of ourselves – after all, you’ve still yet to read our final report – we’re just going to say this: Lollapalooza kicked our asses this year. With smart planning (e.g. opening up Columbus Drive and expanding), great food (Damn you addicting Strawberry Lemonade!), and a handful of timeless performances, Lollapalooza reinvented itself once again. Chicago should only be so proud. Now, how about we write to City Hall and demand an extension on that irritating curfew? Huh?

Well, maybe you should read this first…

Sunday, August 8th

adidas MEGA, 11:30 a.m.

Photo by Lauren Guagno

Chicago may have given us rain, but HEALTH gave the Windy City thunder and lightening. With a really, really rough set time, – 11:30 in the morning on a Sunday – exhausted attendees were even more…exhausted. To add more detriment, it’s the third and final day of the festival, when everyone’s soothing sore legs and counting down the hours. Okay, so not a good slot. Add in the rain and ensuing mud fields, it’s just a downright shitty situation. Nevertheless, dedicated fans who would sit through anything, whether it be some rain or a wave of lava, stuck true to their guns and arrived onsite. What they heard, however, was something marvelous. When “Die Slow” erupted from the set, mud flew and fans drooled all the way until “We Are Water”, where the combination of what seemed like a tornado and waterfall made the setting all worthwhile. Save for a later set time, this couldn’t have been any better, weather conditions included. How’s that for looking on the bright side? -Phillip Roffman

adidas MEGA, 1:00 p.m.

“It’s been a dream of ours to play Lollapalooza for a long time.” – Jon Foreman

Sometimes, you just gotta roll with the punches. Switchfoot was a huge, multi-platinum selling band just a few short years ago. Back then, they could have easily commanded a time slot much later in the day. But things happen, and now they’re a 1:00 side stage band at a festival like Lollapalooza. And while they’ve faded from the public spotlight, they’re still around and kicking. Their booking at this particular festival may have drawn some confusion, but they drew a decent sized crowd for an early afternoon set. Their days of playing to huge audiences helped their stage presence greatly – they were all over the stage and the crowd during their set. They played mostly the hits – something that cannot usually be said for an early afternoon band. Crowd pleasers like “Stars”, “Dare You To Move” and obvious set closer “Meant to Live”. They even threw in an unexpected Beastie Boys cover – “Sabotage”. My Switchfoot phase came and went a long time ago – but I can’t help but think my ninth grade self would have been pleased with this show. -Carson O’Shoney

The Cribs
, 2:00 p.m.

Bad news for Cribs fans: you made up half the audience that saw Blues Traveler the day before on the same stage at the same time. Good news: Johnny Marr is still a Crib. To say it begins and ends with Marr is unfair, The Cribs have been around for nearly a decade. They’ve enjoyed a lot of success overseas in their native country of England, but haven’t quite clicked in the States. As they arrived onstage to the opening theme for Twin Peaks, any evidence of bad weather disappeared (“This is the only time we’ve brought good weather to a festival,” said singer/guitarist Ryan Jarman). They played for a full hour, opening with the fierce “We Were Aborted” from Marr’s debut with the band, Ignore the Ignorant, whose title track was also performed. Other songs included the wild “Hari Kari”, “Cheat on Me”, and the highlight of the set, “Be Safe”, which was accompanied by a pre-recorded video/vocal by Lee Ranaldo (Sonic Youth). Were The Cribs able to hold the attention of the audience for a full hour? No, but there was good to be had, so ignore the ignorant. – Justin Gerber

Photo by Heather Kaplan

Blitzen Trapper
Budweiser, 2:00 p.m.

Photo by Cap Blackard

With a band like Blitzen Trapper and their classic rock meets country sound, you can tell the use of cowbell is sincere. However, as soon as it made an appearance, a bunch of people just started shouting “More!” (It’s been ten years people! Seriously, look it up!). But, those interested in the music took to singing along to their 2008 title track, “Furr”, howling out chorus lines like “I’m a rattlesnake, Babe, I’m like fuel on fire” as if they were in a Western flick. -Adam Kivel

Mumford & Sons
Playstation, 3:00 p.m.

Photo by Cap Blackard

“This is an amazing festival… it’s a good day,” said Marcus Mumford, his thick English accent charming the crowd. That is, a vast crowd extending far away from the stage under a sweltering, rejuvenated sun. Mumford & Sons‘ set opened with a raspy voiced “Sigh No More”, sending waves of claps throughout the crowd, followed by “Awake My Soul” and “Roll Away Your Stone”, where the sound of banjos filled everybody’s ears. The true crowd pleaser seemed to be, “Little Lion Man”, as the crowd vibrantly chanted in unison. Even more intriguing, the band had people jumping up and down easily, as if they weren’t watching a folk band, but were at a club, instead. -Lauren Guagno

X Japan
Parkways, 4:00 p.m.

For months, X Japan had been touted as one of the specialty adds for Lollapalooza. A rare event not to be missed, they said. Some even compared the group, which came together in 1982, to Guns N’ Roses, touting them as Japan’s greatest rock ‘n’ roll band. With that much hype, who wouldn’t skip Yeasayer for them? After a tedious soundcheck, which went five minutes over, the P.A. charged the really, really, really devoted crowd (some even braving the heat in black kimonos, others crying their eyes out in wonder) with epic instrumentals. Finally, members here and there littered the stage, as those aforementioned fans wailed on and on, and a full on metal show ensued. Given the band’s tunes average seven or eight minutes, the setlist lacked some depth, but that didn’t stop them from treating the gig as if it were a two-hour show.

Photo by Heather Kaplan

All the makings of an arena rock event were present. Pyro accented heavy drum fills, solos dug deeper and deeper, all the while frontman Toshi Deyama tugged harder and harder at the crowd. Christ can he wail, too. On opener “Rusty Nail”, Deyama’s vocals rivaled those of Steve Perry, while on newer material like “Jade”, he scowled and gnarled better than Axl Rose could ever dream to anymore. To borrow from Ghostbusters, they came, they saw, they kicked our ass. Sure, the set had its fair share of window shoppers (about 20% of the crowd left after the first song); however, X Japan retained a stable and dedicated enough audience that further ventures into America shouldn’t seem unreasonable. At all. Call it a tad idealistic, but perhaps they’ll finally break through here. Better late than never, right? -Michael Roffman

Budweiser, 4:00 p.m.

Photo by Cap Blackard

File this in the “Woah, I didn’t realize they were that popular” folder: I saw a girl start sobbing because Yeasayer played “O.N.E.”, apparently her favorite song (to be fair, Anand Wilder’s lead performance on the track was powerful). Looking back at the huge crowd bobbing along to early stuff like “Sunrise” and new hit “Ambling Alp” in turn, I started to wonder if a good portion of the people there weren’t just waiting for MGMT as I had earlier expected. Added bonus: apparently, Yeasayer controls the weather. “We thought it was going to rain,” vocalist Chris Keating announced, “But it does not rain on this band, ever.” -Adam Kivel

Frightened Rabbit
Sony bloggie, 5:00 p.m.

Photo by Cap Blackard

Much like Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros set the day before, a great turnout was present for Scotland’s Frightened Rabbit. The crowd had to suffer through the unrelenting sun that refused to set behind one of Chicago’s many skyscrapers, but once the band came out, the sweat and heat were forgotten. First up was the exploding chorus by way of mournful ballad of “The Modern Leper”. Lead singer Scott Hutchison bounded and thrashed his way throughout the set with his guitar in tow, especially through the rousing, anthemic “Nothing Like You”. Having seen Yeasayer earlier, an argument could be made that Frightened Rabbit’s audience was much more receptive. Perhaps next year they’ll find themselves playing the Budweiser stage after The Magnetic Zeros perform at PlayStation (BONUS FACT: Waldo was spotted here in the crowd). – Justin Gerber

Erykah Badu
adidas MEGA, 5:00 p.m.

Photo by Heather Kaplan

“I’m gonna get a little funky now if ya’ll don’t mind.”

Erykah Badu’s debut Lollapalooza performance was a slow starter – but those who waited it out were treated to a wonderful show. For the first 15 minutes of her scheduled set, her DJ simply spun some classic hip-hop records. The crowd was with him for a few minutes, thinking Badu was sure to come out any minute, but after a while the crowd started to fade. Just then, Badu’s band came on to keep entertaining for another five minutes, and Fat Belly Bella (aka Badula Oblongata aka Analogue Girl in a Digital World aka about three other names) finally came out around 5:20 p.m., sporting a wild new hairdo. Her first few songs were fantastic jazzy numbers, starting with opener “20 Feet Tall”. Her voice was spot on and the band was tight – but the slower numbers were all but lost on the crowd. It wasn’t until the third song – “On and On” – that the audience really got into the set. From then on, she got funky – and the crowd loved it. -Carson O’Shoney

Parkways, 6:00 p.m.

It hasn’t been easy for Wolfmother. In other words, it hasn’t been easy for vocalist and guitarist Andrew Stockdale. Replacements galore, the Australian rocker’s yet to really have a consistent working band, but what he does have (and when he has it) works well. Really well. Surging through a powerful set Sunday evening, Stockdale unzipped classics like the always-perfect opener “Dimension”, the ever bouncy “White Unicorn”, and the made-to-be-a-closer “Joker and the Thief”. Some changes were noticeable, however.

Back in 2006, “Woman” was the bee’s knees. Nowadays, it’s sort of a bridge to better songs, like “Vagabond” or “Mind’s Eye”, which really sold this set. New tunes off of last year’s Cosmic Egg were fun, though they’re not as quick and concise as past material (though “California Queen” comes close).

Aside from some microphone issues, Wolfmother’s hour fit in comfortably with the win some, lose some entries available at the south end. It really was a shining example of a perfect evening set. Oh yeah, according to Stockdale’s insider information, a reincarnated Jimi Hendrix flew over Grant Park as a dragonfly, not to rock though, but to “bless the festival.” Hey, you gotta love a dreamer. -Michael Roffman

Photo by Heather Kaplan

, 6:00 p.m.

Ah, the curious case of Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser. Together they make MGMT, whose latest album Congratulations has polarized fans and critics alike. Their set at Lolla was very indicitive of this predicament the young men find themselves in. Choosing to open with the acoustic “Piece of What” from Oracular Spectacular was probably not the best decision for a crowd eager to dance about in the setting sun. Following up with the goodish “Brian Eno” was also questionable. As the songs went on, Lollapaloozans by the dozens were leaving for either The National or Soundgarden, and MGMT were losing their crowd. Despite playing “Electric Feel” earlier in the set, the song was besieged by a serious lack of punch via the bass that makes the track on the album. VanWyngarden’s vocals were often lost in the mix, as well, either due to technical problems from the equipment or the man singing.

Photo by Cap Blackard

It took about 45 minutes before a pulse finally quickened in the crowd, thanks to the response given to “Time to Pretend”. From there on out, everything sounded better. Perhaps the energy of the crowd really made a difference, or perhaps sound issues were worked out. “Destrokk” from the Time to Pretend EP received a warm welcome, as did “The Handshake”, and, of course, “Kids”. Crowd surfing could be seen throughout the set’s conclusion, culminating with “Congratualtions”, which still sounds exactly like The Band’s “The Weight”. Ultimately, we were faced with a maddening, inconsistent set that lasted an hour and 15 minutes. Fortunately, the bands following were raring to go… – Justin Gerber

Perry’s, 6:30 p.m.

Photo by Cap Blackard

I will be the first to admit that I’m no electronic music connoisseur. I can appreciate it, and it’s a lot of fun to dance to, but there are times when a lot of it runs together in my mind. There are only so many different ways you can use “Satisfaction” in a dance song – but of course it still always gets the biggest reaction. Maybe it was because I wasn’t on drugs, but Flosstradamus’ set came across as just another electro set. The constant quick repeating clips on the video screens did provide plenty of entertainment while adding a certain feeling to the music though. But after a crowd-pleasing performance by last minute Dirty South replacement, JFK (of MSTRKRFT), the Chicago duo tried and failed to get the small crowd into the set. They eventually won them over, and the further into the set, the more their fans got into it. Mixing in everything from Lion King music to Barbra Streisand, Flosstradamus was never short on ideas but they didn’t pay off for me. In the end though, it was still Perry’s. There was dancing. There were drugs. And plenty of people had a great time at their show – and there’s nothing wrong with that. -Carson O’Shoney

The National
Playstation, 7:15 p.m.

Sure, Soundgarden may have been making their 13-year return and The Strokes were out to prove they’re still worth your time, but no Lollapalooza act was faced with a more daunting challenge than that of The National. After all, though the Brooklyn indie rockers were playing in support of one of the year’s best albums, they were doing so some 60 minutes before an even bigger band with an even better album was set to cap off this year’s festival in style.

Good thing The National have constructed a pretty solid blueprint over the last two years. When it comes to live performances, the formula is quite simple: play a set heavy in material from the last three albums and make sure it sounds incredibly tight. It helps to include a horn section. Then, add in a few quips from Matt Berninger – “Richie from Soundgarden,” The National frontman proclaimed when introducing Arcade Fire’s Richard Perry guest appearance on “Anyone’s Ghost”. Finally, be sure Berninger has plenty of white wine (how else do you expect him to scream during “Abel”?) and finish up with “Mr. November” into “Terrible Love”.

Of course, anyone who has seen The National over the last six months can attest that said formula is quite successful. It is also becoming somewhat predicate. Both these realities again proved true for their Lollapalooza 2010 set. If it was your first time seeing them, you were likely blown away. If it was your second, or third, you might have been a bit bored… or just waiting for Arcade Fire. -Alex Young

Photo by Heather Kaplan

Parkways, 8:00 p.m.

“This is our millionth time we’ve played Lollapalooza,” frontman Chris Cornell screamed at a humble crowd, before diving head first (somewhat literally) into “Outshined”. With menacing eyes, cutthroat teeth, and from underneath a mop of messy, black hair, Cornell shook the crowd up for a solid two-hour set. But it wasn’t all on his shoulders.

Behind him, his original brethren – guitarist Kim Thayil, bassist Ben Shepherd, and drummer Matt Cameron – delivered the best gift Cornell’s unwrapped in years: Soundgarden’s long gestating, and highly overdue, reunion. Before you read on, try and forget Audioslave, or his troubled recent solo outings. Instead, shake out your memory banks and brush aside the dust. Can you remember the last time you thought Chris Cornell was foreboding?

Photo by Michael Roffman

Probably not. It’s been a long time. Thirteen years, actually. In that time, most have forgotten about the weight and pull the former Seattle quartet carried. It’s not like Cornell’s made it hard to… really, have you heard Scream? Tonight, however, all was forgotten, and all that’s remembered now is how much of a performer the far reaching vocalist can be.

From the two-hit punch of set opener “Searching With My Good Eye Closed” and “Spoonman” to the three-layered kick of “Burden in my Hand”, “Superunknown”, and “Black Hole Sun”, the set achieved exactly what it should have: polished off rockers that breathed and stretched and bled. Prior to witnessing them annihilate “Jesus Christ Pose”, it never registered that these guys hadn’t jammed together in over a decade, but they haven’t. As cliche as it sounds, they really did pick up where they left off, and without a trip in their stride, either. In all honesty, they packed their bags well for their trip down memory lane. That’s why it’s sort of funny when Cornell casually remarked, “We took a short break, but now we’re back.”

Photo by Michael Roffman

As the band grinded out one grunge anthem after another, more and more fans found themselves revisiting their glory days, too. Thirtysomethings skinned their vocal chords raw, teens poured water in their long hair before headbanging violently, and girls clamored over one another when Cornell decided to sing “Outshined” with his many loyal (some not so loyal) fans. And while a great portion of the crowd jumped ship once “Black Hole Sun” came and went, those who stayed, which were still in the tens of thousands, witnessed a pretty loud and vibrant finale: “Face Pollution” into “Like Suicide” and finally peaking at “Slaves and Bulldozers”. It’s hard to tell if this gig is permanent, but if it’s up to Cornell, he’d be wise to stick to his current deck. No gambling this time around, pal. -Michael Roffman

Arcade Fire
Budweiser, 8:30 p.m.

I had always counted Arcade Fire‘s 2005 Lollapalooza performance one of, if not the single greatest sets I’d ever seen. Now, five years later, they topped it. They had every ounce of bombast that a seasoned, headlining band should, but they also had every bit of emotional weight, unique musical sensibility, and humble interaction as any indie band. Whether it was applauding the host city (“Don’t ever let New York tell you they have a better city”), or cracking wise (“Thank you. Our band is called Soundgarden. This next song is off our album and is called ‘Black Hole Sun’.”), vocalist/guitarist/mandolinist/keyboardist Win Butler dominated the stage. That is, except for the few songs when his wife, drummer/keyboardist/accordionist/hurdy-gurdyist Regine Chassagne was. Chassagne, whose family hails from Haiti, crooned the same-named amazing tribute to her family’s homeland and its many troubles.

Everything from their first EP (“No Cars Go”), to their first album Funeral (highlights included the anthemic “Wake Up” as an encore and the rarely played “Crown of Love”, which was dedicated to The National), to 2007’s Neon Bible (“Intervention” and its massive organ), to the week-old The Suburbs (the title track and “Ready to Start”, particularly) got the full sing-along treatment from the thousands of people in the park. The visual accompaniment added a lot, as well; the anxious, Lost Highway-esque crawl of streets for the punky “Month of May”, the kids misbehaving and eventually carrying guns for “The Suburbs”, the frantic, creeping red and white lights for “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)”, everything came together to enhance the epic music the band exhumed from their every pore.

The performance was, flatly put, ecstatic. The camaraderie and power that the band radiates is truly infectious, whipping the humongous audience up into a frenzy that led to chants of the wordless chorus of “Wake Up” ringing up and down the streets of Chicago as Lollapalooza attendees left for their homes, carrying that emotion back with them. -Adam Kivel

Photo by Heather Kaplan

Gallery by Heather Kaplan

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Gallery by Cap Blackard

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