Lolla 2011 Recap: Day Three
Gold Motel | Photo Credit: Gene Wagendorf III
Gold Motel – Gene
Day Three of Lollapalooza kicked off in the most appropriate way possible, with Chicago’s premier summer pop band, Gold Motel. The group took the stage under the beating sun and wasted little time in getting the sleepy crowd moving to “We’re on the Run.” Shambling surf rock guitars led the crowd through “Summer House,” the title-track from the group’s tight 2010 debut. Much of the music Gold Motel played at Lollapalooza was born in southern California, where fruit smoothie-voiced lead singer Greta Morgan wrote the tunes before returning to the Windy City. The crowd was better for it, as each number helped to transform the concrete in front of the PlayStation Stage until I could almost feel sand between my toes. Morgan’s voice got slightly airier on “Slow Emergency,” which began with some moody keyboard and ended with squeaky guitars and a nice vocal back and forth with guitarist Dan D. The polka dotted keyboard intro to “The Cruel One” gave drummer Adam Coldhouse time to slam a bit of beer before jumping in to lay the boogie foundations the audience had been eating up. “Perfect in My Mind” combines everything Gold Motel is great at and boils it down to three-minutes of bliss. Lyrically freeing (an effervescent chorus of “everything is just fine so long as I’m by your side. It’s perfect in my mind”), the song made me want to bounce on a trampoline with a pretty girl. Ok, what doesn’t make me want to do that? If I was a doctor, and we can spend endless amount of time talking about why that will never happen, I’d be prescribing Gold Motel shows as anti-depressants. Exhibit B: “Safe In L.A.,” was perhaps the song I was most looking forward to hearing at Lolla this year. The sparkling bass line (courtesy of Matt Minx) guides the song through its romp of grin-inducing pop perfection. When Greta sings “baby don’t fear, I’m always near, never too far from where you are” I hope she means it, because no matter how big this band gets I don’t want them to stop calling Chicago home. It’s a better summer when they’re playing around town.
Titus Andronicus – Andrew
I’ll never know if Titus Andronicus’s patriotism is ironic or not. Either way, the set started off with what would turn out to be at least three ‘USA’ chants from the audience. Minimal shade and a harsh sun didn’t stop diehards from catching these existential New Jersey punks. The set kicked off with “A More Perfect Union,” pumping up the crowd with the irresistible line “tramps like us, baby, we were born to die,” before frontman Patrick Stickles kicks in the guitar solo. The best sing along line was during the breakdown of “No Future Part Three: Escape From No Future” with the repeating mantra of “You’ll always be a loser,” the crowd swaying their arms in the air back and forth to the seemingly depressing chant, before Stickles confirms “but that’s OK.” The band, whose name stems from one of Shakespeare’s earlier works, are apt to throw in some literary references but make it relatable (not to mention energetic) enough that you don’t need a master’s degree to enjoy the punk rock assault of the cigarette filtered rasps, pummeling drums, and overdistorted guitars. Stickles, with his working class ethic, made sure to give a shout out to the fest’s crew and security, the ‘unsung heroes’ of the weekend, as well as become briefly mesmerized by Chicago’s skyline from the north facing stage at the south end of Grant Park (as every other band I saw at that stage mention as well). Overall, the set was good, but it was sort of disappointing the songs were entirely from last year’s “The Monitor”. Don’t get me wrong, I love the album, but it would have been nice to hear something off “The Airing of Grievances” or get treated to some new tracks, as I had heard they debuted some at Reggie’s the night before. Oh well. The epic tales of ‘The Battle of Hampton Roads’ and ‘Four Score and Seven Years,’ are, well, just epic. And I never anticipated that the lyric ‘I’m covered in urine and excrement but I’m alive,’ could become so relatable (yes, folks, that’s what we in the biz call “foreshadow”).
The Joy Formidable | Photo Credit: Gene Wagendorf III
The Joy Formidable – Gene
Each year Lollapalooza offers bands the opportunity to claim the title of “this year’s breakout act,” but anyone playing after 1 on Sunday didn’t ever have a real shot. For that you can thank Ritzy Bryan, Rhydian Dafydd and Matt Thomas, the North Wales trio that makes up The Joy Formidable. A sizable, beach-ball bouncing crowd was knocked about three steps back by the hailstorm of guitar fuzz that kicked off “A Heavy Abacus.” Beach-balls were quickly forgotten about. Anyone still hungover from Saturday night’s slew of chic after-parties got a quick aural bitch slap from the song, which at four minutes felt more like fifteen. Ritzy’s slight frame and sugary looks are a complete misdirection — on-stage she’s a long stick of dynamite with a short fuse. The siren’s vocal chords got a brief respite during “Austere,” a number charged by Dafydd’s rubber-band bass work. The song ended with the two engaging in a musical firefight over Thomas’ machine gun drumming and a deafening round of applause form the sweaty audience. A pulsing synth melody started off the broody “The Greatest Light is the Greatest Shade,” which did nothing to dispel my growing sense that The Joy Formidable weren’t long for the small club circuit. At three people they make an incredible amount of noise, but it’s a dynamic noise saturated with magnetic hooks and provocative dream-scape lyrics. Matt Thomas began “Cradle” with a snappy, typewriter drum solo before Ritzy’s guitar blew in. The song’s final lyrics feature the line “my viscous tongue cradles just one,” but it seemed Sunday like it was cradled around a few thousand. Before ending their set the singer thanked the crowd. “We had a fucking great morning. Thank you so very very much. We’re gonna love and leave you. Have a great time. Fucking escape all the shit from day to day.” Cymbal crashes and guitar noodling followed, opening up the speakers for the ten minute bombast that was “Whirring.” The number melted into a haze of distortion, screeching guitars while Thomas kept the rhythm steady. Eventually Ritzy began beating her guitar into a giant gong while some nightmare versions of the Cheshire Cat’s head were inflated on each side of the stage. After her instrument was properly smacked to shit she switched to using a mallet, before tossing it to Dafydd’s so he could bash a bit while she tried to pull a few more notes out of the guitar. Day to day shit? Quickly forgotten.
The Cars – Andrew
Much like B.A.D. being the closest thing I’ll ever see to the Clash, so too were the Cars the closest thing I’ll see to Television. I kid. For some reason, I have a real soft spot for Ric Ocasek’s 80s pop gems. Take their self-titled debut album — nine tracks and pretty much every one is a hit. They kicked things off with ‘Let the Good Times Roll,’ a bit of an obvious one, but the crowd loved it all the same. They followed this with some new stuff, which I honestly didn’t know they had. But after a while they went back to the familiar. ‘My Best Friends Girl,’ ‘Just What I Needed,’ ‘Let’s Go’: they were all there. My personal favorite? ‘Moving in Stereo,’ featuring probably the bands catchiest hooks and a certain association to Phoebe Cates in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. From the best of what I can read from my notes which nature eventually destroyed (there’s that “foreshadow” thing again) they closed out the day with ‘You’re All I’ve Got Tonight.’ For another seemingly token veteran act to the fest, I can’t say I left this one disappointed.
Explosions in the Sky – Andrew
So you know that whole foreshadow thing I was mentioning? Oh yeah, monsoon time kicked in at around five o’clock (after Gene and I had a chance to step inside the ADIDAS Iconic Shoebox and look at shoes and Snoop Dogg’s afro pic). Naturally we tried to find shelter. When we realized it was futile we headed to the south stages hoping to catch some bits of Arctic Monkeys. Except they delayed it. Sort of lame. I thought this was rock’n’roll? Well, when things slowed down a bit they started up, some nice energetic tunes to soundtrack the kids mudsliding down a hill into garbage cans. I took a dive into the mud myself, despite my awareness to the awful stench of goose droppings permeating the entire area (thus the Titus Andronicus lyrics). But hey, it’s a party and I’m wipeable. After all this, for whatever reason, it was Explosions in the Sky that got their set time cut and not the Monkeys. Bummer. But they promised an hour’s worth of rock in 45 minutes. Mission accomplished to say the least. As Gene pointed out, the sound was epic without being cheesy, focusing on dramatic and lengthy instrumental jams focused around intense and dynamic percussion and electric guitars. The sun peeking through the skyline and a double rainbow over the lake created a beautiful post-rain atmosphere, adding to the power of the music. The shortened set meant only five songs, but it’s a good thing they average ten minutes in length. Explosions songs do have a tendency to run together, but the highlights include ‘Let Me Back In’ from this year’s “Take Care Take Care Take Care” and ‘The Only Moment We Were Alone’ from The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place. I was hoping for a powerful show during a sunset over Chicago and it really couldn’t have turned out better.
Foo Fighters | Photo Credit: Gene Wagendorf III
Headliner: Foo Fighters – Gene
Not more than two minutes after Explosions in the Sky ended their majestic set, Foo Fighters took the stage across the southern end of Grant Park and launched into “Bridge Burning,” the lead track from their 2011 release, “Wasting Light.” A massive crowd pushed through the mud to get as close as possible as Dave Grohl crooned the opening of “The Pretender,” anticipating the explosion that was on its way. Beach bum looking drummer Taylor Hawkins was glistening with sweat three songs in as the sky began to darken with the arrival of another round of black clouds. A blinding down pour barraged the stage and crowd alike just as the song was wrapping up. Grohl quickly whipped out 1997’s “My Hero,” creating the greatest concert moment I have ever been a part of. Those watching at home on YouTube’s webcast of the event were stuck with a weather delay message while the mud-soaked masses at Lolla got the greatest shower/show imaginable. The lead singer, looking more like a grungy mop than a dreamy front-man, focused on wailing away at his guitar while the crowd sang “there goes my hero. Watch him as he goes.” The song is epic enough by itself, full of all the things that made the ’90s alternative scene so powerful, but on a giant stage with giant speakers, in hurricane like conditions with the Chicago skyline behind you, well, I’ve got shivers just recalling it. Grohl summed up the audience’s sentiment after the extended-jam ending by growling into the microphone “Hey! I don’t give a fuck if it’s raining tonight! This is fun as shit! You stinky motherfuckers finally got a bath!.” The band then fittingly began “Learn to Fly,” getting a rise out of the crowd with the line “I’m looking to the sky to save me, looking for a sign of life.” Guitarist Pat Smear bounced around the stage manically, still looking on-stage like he did twenty years ago with Nirvana.
The closest anyone got to seeing something from that band was “White Limo,” a throbbing rocker also from Wasting Light that channeled the more accessible end of angsty grunge. After “Breakout” Grohl took a swig of beer and coyly asked “How many people have never seen the Foo Fighters before?” before adding, “You’re welcome. Thanks for coming… sixteen years later.” Hawkins interrupted the set as the crowd chanted his name to talk about how seeing Jane’s Addiction when he was younger changed his life. He then dedicated “Cold Day in the Sun” to Jane’s front-man and Lolla organizer Perry Farrell. The drummer took on lead vocal duties for the song, a rocker that appears on the bonus disc of ’05s “In Your Honor.” Grohl, a twenty-year old in a forty-year old’s body, is exactly the smiling, burping goofball you think he is. Not afraid to take the piss out of some of Lolla’s younger acts, he made his thoughts on live computer usage known. “You know what I like? I like it when rock and roll bands come up on-stage and play their instruments and they don’t use fucking computers while they’re playing. Next time you see a rock and roll band, make sure they don’t have that shit behind them while they’re playing, ’cause it’s supposed to sound like this:” was how he introduced the hit “Monkey Wrench.” The people across the park checking out Deadmau5 might disagree, but no one at the Music Unlimited Stage would say any different. Foo Fighters plowed through the song, only stopping so Grohl could tease and hype people up for the song’s screaming crescendo. After a raucous instrumental train derailment Grohl demanded the lights be killed until the park was blackened, only then howling “Monkey Wrench’s” famous vocal explosion.
“These Days,” another new track, found the band at a rare relaxed moment, with subtle guitar picking and softer vocals. The chorus comes up with a blast before returning to ground, showcasing Grohl’s talents as a singer and not just a yeller. The band then left the stage, leaving the singer alone to address the crowd. “When you’re playing a show and you know it’s gonna fucking rain, you go to Weather.com… it shows the clouds with the lightning bolts in it and you think, oh, at least it’s not us. It’s just The Arctic Monkeys that are gonna get it. Then you think, I’m glad it stopped raining, ’cause we have to play now. Then it starts raining and it feels so fucking good and it’s the best show you’ve played in a long time. I’m glad it rained like crazy during that song.” It was easy for Grohl to segue into an ultra-stripped down version of “Times Like These.” Any working lighters were lit as the crowd swayed together in the muck and sang along.
The rest of the Foos returned to the stage and rocked through Mose Allison’s 1959 poppy blues/jazz bit “Young Man’s Blues,” giving it a Yardbird’s like crunch. “Best of You” features Hawkin’s strongest downhill drumming, and “Skin and Bones” devolved into a silly trounce of polka popping, complete with an accordion. Having earlier vowed to not walk off stage and return after rounds of applause for an encore, the band played for a straight two hours, not wasting any time. You’ve got to admire that as it gives the audience more Foo for their buck. The last showcase for Grohl’s notable story-telling skills came when he thanked Chicago for Naked Raygun, the Windy City punk back he saw at The Cubby Bear in ’82. “That show changed my life. It made me want to be a musician. Thank you Chicago.” Grohl also talked about attending the first Lollapalooza in L.A. twenty years while recording Nevermind, and brought Perry on-stage to thank him for “changing music forever.” The crowd chanted Perry as Foo Fighters began jamming on Jane’s Addiction’s “Mountain Song.” I got hard, and then soft, as Grohl giggled and fell of the tune before launching into “Everlong.” Another massive mud covered sing along, the song made it clear to me why the Guitar Hero and Rock Band video game fads exist. You can’t, absolutely can not, see a top notch band like Foo Fighters playing their best song to close out a magical festival like Lolla and not wish you were in a band. Doesn’t matter if you’re a record geek or someone who came for the beer and girls, “Everlong” is the kind of song made for live shows. There’s guitars, there’s drums, there’s bass, and there’s on grizzly, cheeky lead-singer hollering his ass off. Can’t imagine a better conclusion to Lollapalooza’s big 20th year anniversary, Here’s to 20 more.
Aftershow: Bag Raiders at the Mid – Andrew
Those of you who’ve been following our Lolla coverage all weekend could probably have guessed by now that Gene and I aren’t the best resources on electronic music. I wanted to check out Daedelus and hoped he would play some of his own stuff at Perry’s DJ tent earlier in the day, but it turned into a lot of dubstep real quick, so I made my escape. For some reason though, I really dig the Austrailian duo Bag Raiders. They played a sold out aftershow at the Mid in the West Loop. A couple of DJs warmed the crowd up, some of whom you could tell with mud soaked legs came straight from the fest and some who had enough time to wash off the disgustingness at home (I was fortunately a part of the latter). As for the show, it was essentially just two guys doing karaoke to their own music. Love their album, but nothing particular of note live. Although I gotta admit it was nice to be in the excessively air conditioned venue after the long weekend. Caught up with some friends that couldn’t make the Fest and danced and sang and waved our hands ridiculously in the air. A great end to the weekend and yet another reminder to never take sleep for granted.
Lollapalooza Grub: Fuel for the Weekend – Andrew
Kuma’s Corner: Kuma’s was definitely in contention with Lou Malnati’s for longest wait times. For some reason it seems nobody wants a burger around one o’clock, so I waited exactly zero minutes before I was able to enjoy the Neurosis: lettuce, tomato, onion, cheddar, caramelized onion and sautéed mushrooms with horseradish mayo on a pretzel bun. Absolutely delicious, but at 5 oz. it was nearly bite size. Worth it for anyone who’s never been to Kuma’s, but if you’re gonna wait 30 minutes for it, might as well get the real thing.
Grahamwich: There was no way I was going to pass on the Lobster Corndog. Crispy outside, delicate inside. Considering the conventional notion of a corndog it was a weird cognitive dissonance with what I expected taking that first bite. Aided with a garlic aioli smear, it tasted absolutely delicious with a Stella Artois, but not necessarily the greatest thing to eat in super hot weather. If only the actual restaurant carried it.
Tuscany on Taylor: When I hear garlic and provolone stuffed sausage sandwich, I don’t think Tuscany. There’s probably a reason for it. It got the job done but I just felt it was too light on the garlic. But I’m also a garlic fiend so I might be asking for too much. Not bad for a filling bite though.
Sola: My favorite of the weekend, the Kalua pork, with crispy shallots and barbeque sauce on banana bread. I unfortunately picked up my meal at the worst time, right before the monsoon on Sunday. I had to scarf it down, but it was absolutely delicious. The banana bread was a nice little treat at the bottom, and I wish I could have taken my time to enjoy the meal before the rain added its own marinade. Never heard of this restaurant before but may be something I’ll have to check out.
Final Thoughts – Gene
Land of the Mud People. No, that isn’t the name of a band, but it might be a nickname for Grant Park after the monsoon that hit Lollapalooza on Sunday evening. A few shows were delayed (Arctic Monkeys fans were particularly not pleased) and some people opted to book it for the gates. Everyone else who stuck around was treated to the perfect ending to a perfect festival. Puddle stomping, body sliding, rain dancing… you name it, it happened. A hill along the side of the Sony Stage turned into a body bowling alley, complete with a tower of trashcan pins and a sopping, muddy lane. A double-rainbow made an appearance. I got to eat lobster corn dogs while dancing in an outdoor club (Perry’s DJ tent) and chow down on a watermelon-jalapeno popsicle while talking music with soaked friends. I had opinions changed (Bright Eyes, Eminem) and suspicions confirmed (Gold Motel, The Joy Formidable).
If reading about Lolla here and perusing an internet full of videos has got you curious, get a ticket next year. If you were out in the muck this weekend and have something to share, post it below. Hope you all had a great Lolla. See you next year.
The Mud People: Andrew & Gene | Photo Credit: Gene Wagendorf III