Lolla 2012 Recap: Day Two
JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound – Gene
Local soul-gang JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound kicked off Day 2 of Lolla with a sweltering noon set. Of the few Chicago acts playing the festival this year, Brooks and co. were the singular must see. I’ve caught the group several times, and while it’d be nice to embellish and say they really outdid themselves for Lollapalooza, the truth is that they always seem to give it their all, and in that sense this performance was no different. Their cover of Wilco’s “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” got the crowd moving, but the real show stopper was “River.” The b-side tune from the I Got High 7-inch, is a classic, majestic soul ballad that earned its right to be played before Chicago’s skyline.
For more of Gene’s thoughts on JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound, check out this review from Windy City Rock.
Chief Keef – Andrew
This rising Southside rapper took over Perry’s with his crew to kick off the day. It was a short set, but they were bouncing around the stage the whole time, and the crowd more than fully embraced their hit “I Don’t Like,” a dark but catchy tune that has a chorus that can be appropriated every time something annoys you.
Los Jaivas – Gene
My post-JC plans were kind of up in the air, but I’m glad I opted for checking out Chilean ensemble Los Jaivas in lieu of stuffing more Wow Bao down my gullet. Delicious as the fist-sized dumplings are, Los Jaivas’ blend of South American folk and prog rock was infinitely more satisfying. Drummer Juanita Parra directed the flow, mapping a snappy course for her multi-instrumentalist companions. Mixing native instruments like the charango, quena and zampoña with guitar, bass, violin, keys and a sax, the band pulled off a frolickingly epic sound like none other I’ve heard. Slower, oscillating tunes made dramatic use of the wind instruments and organs, while loopier guitar solos gave Lolla-goers the bombast needed to help shake their lingering Day 1 hangovers.
Aloe Blacc – Andrew
From machine-gun backed rap tracks to soul-jams about lovin’ everyone… you can’t say Lolla doesn’t have a diverse lineup. Highlight: Blacc got the crowd to form two soul-trains, albeit short lived. Naturally, everyone sang along to his biggest hit, “I Need a Dollar” (insert snarky comment about ticket and food prices here).
Neon Indian – Andrew
Not entirely dissuaded by the pre-show from Thursday, I still wanted to see a bit of Neon Indian’s set. Well, it still wasn’t anything too amazing, still struggling with sound issues. And then, twenty minutes into the set, the band announced they had ten minutes left before they were cut off because a massive storm was brewing. Oy, the flashbacks…
tUnE-yArDs – Andrew
Finally, we were back in action. Some sets were cancelled, but luckily Merril Garbus was still able to loop her voice and play her ukulele for us. It was her last American show for a while before she heads back into the studio. Considering she’s been supporting last year’s whokill for quite some time, definitely looking forward to new stuff. That said, always great to hear “Do You Want to Live,” “Gansta” and “Powa” before heading to the North side of the park for Franz.
For more of Andrew’s thoughts on tUnE-yArDs, check out this review from Windy City Rock.
Franz Ferdinand – Gene
I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect from the Scottish troubadours in Franz Ferdinand, but these guys more than made up for Mother Nature’s two and a half hour delay of festivities. They kicked things off with the lazery ramble of “The Dark of the Matinee,” immediately setting the tone for the next hour. Franz battered the crowd with bass-driven dance rock, only ever really pausing to soak in the scene of a giddy, mud-soaked crowd.
The band played the hits, and while “Take Me Out” and “Do You Want To” sounded fine, they were far from set highlights. “Walk Away” found the band taking a more tender, lamenting approach live, giving singer Alex Kapranos a chance to break some hearts as the sun began to set. Conversely, a wild, full-band percussion jam built itself into a torrid rendition of “This Fire.” Backed by what seemed like all of Grant Park chanting and stomping along, Franz Ferdinand snagged the chaos of the day’s earlier evacuation and funneled it into a positively blustering closer. If these guys have a reputation for being an amazing live act, I’m out of the loop. That said, from this point forward I’ll be the first to encourage anyone who has a chance to see them.
Frank Ocean – Andrew
Frank Ocean is undeniably one of the hottest artists out there right now. Having graduated from the Odd Future collective, he’s more into smooth R&B than gangsta rap, with a voice that can hit every note over the span of a few octaves. This year’s Channel Orange has received near unanimous critical acclaim. “Thinkin’ Bout You” got the camera phones and glowsticks out, but it was the tracks from his first mixtape that got the crowd most amped, including “Novacane,” “Strawberry Swing” and “American Wedding.”
Frank was obviously excited to be headlining the show, but was beyond humbled to the response from the crowd not only for appreciating the older hits, but ecstatically cheering when he mentioned his recent coming out. He closed the night out with lead single “Bad Religion” and the nine-minute tale of the life of a stripper, “Pyramids.” Naturally, the crowd begged for more, but none could be obliged, the festival already having pushed back their curfew by an hour to accommodate as few cancellations as possible.
Red Hot Chili Peppers – Gene
Likely to the surprise of no one, my thoughts on RHCP’s set start and end with Flea. The rock legend and bass savant wasted no time in stealing the spotlight Saturday, gurgling through the first of several ridiculous solos. As the crowd hooted and hollered I couldn’t help but watch Flea’s bandmates. You’d think a band just one year shy of it’s 30th anniversary might begin to take each other for granted, but the other Peppers looked to be enjoying Flea’s madness as much as any ticket holder. His jam eventually boiled over the grunge-rumble opening of “Around the World,” and the show was officially on.
Upon returning to Grant Park after the storm, I’d mentioned to Andrew that I was glad a veteran act like the Chili Peppers was closing the festival on Day 2. As riotous as they can be, the band has plenty of mellow hits, and at their core they’re a band whose music is about beauty, transcendence, love and perseverance. I was a little worried watching the wet, booze-fueled crowd press at the festival gates, stumbling through misplaced chants of “USA! USA!” and “Fuck the Police.” Flashbacks of aggressive sets in Lolla’s past by bands like Rage Against The Machine and Tool reminded me of the dangers of over hyping an exhausted, drunken crowd. RHCP were savvy in balancing both their set and qualifying their instigation, leading to charming Flea quotes like, “Be kind, be nice, and fuck shit up. Power to the people.” The bassist is the embodiment of that dichotomy, and in that way a perfect human version of everyone’s favorite Muppet drummer, Animal. As likely to build something beautiful as he is to topple it while moshing, Flea’s energy carried the band through the funky “Suck My Kiss” and the far more somber “Californication.”
Flea-gushing aside, The Peppers’ success has often been a result of frontman Anthony Kiedis’ ability to point the bassist in a direction, to use his skills in crafting anthemic and bold alt-pop tunes. The singer’s masterpiece, 1992’s “Under the Bridge,” was by far the most moving performance of Lollapalooza. Stripped of their pomp and flash on the song, the band instead focused on nuance and emotion. Kiedis sang the ode to Los Angeles with as much sincerity as ever, and the four and half minutes RHCP spent immersed in the tune were the quietest I’ve ever heard a crowd tens of thousands strong.
The Peppers’ encore featured two moments of note: the iconic junk jam “Give it Away,” and one more speech from Flea. He thanked the crowd for their love and encouraged them to continue to support live music of all genres. He specifically urged the crowd to check out their local underground scenes and “support weird music,” which got me thinking about Lolla 2013… Perhaps Perry Farrell and crew might take the suggestion next year and add more local acts to the bill — and further yet, maybe provide a stage to celebrate Chicago’s incredible underground music scene.
That music, and that side to this city, are dear to my heart as well, so here’s a plug: If you’re reading this review you probably dig music, and you probably live in/have visited/are visiting Chicago. Check out Gonzo Chicago and diychi.org for some amazing coverage and information about our own wonderfully weird underground scene. Check out a show. Donate to some truly alternative bands and spaces, and use social media to push Lolla to give that scene its most deserving spot at the festival.