Lolla 2013 Recap: Day Two
The biggest story of the second day of Lollapalooza was that of a band that didn’t even bother to show up. Noise-rap outfit Death Grips bailed on their fans at an official Lolla after party at Bottom Lounge Friday night, and according to festival reps “chose not to show up” for their set Saturday night in Grant Park. As much as certain corners of the internet were buzzing about the fiasco, not much of the festival crowd seemed to even notice, which is a perfectly fitting reaction for what looks like a shitty publicity stunt. Now, on to the bands that did play.
64 year old former James Brown impersonator Charles Bradley made instant fans out of the huge crowd that turned out for his show on Lolla’s Bud Light stage. The singer’s larger than life stage presence was only upstaged by his grizzled, seductive voice; as punchy as Brown’s but as tender as that of Otis Redding. The band behind him walked the line between subtly and braggadocio, content to serve as the backdrop for Bradley’s crooning while ready to shine a little when he decided to dance or take off into the crowd. The music was classic soul, strolling along almost effortlessly before erupting into cathartic fits. Love was a common theme, but Bradley’s proclamations seemed directed as much at the crowd as any muse. He took being appreciative of his audience to a whole new level when, at sets end, he bolted off the stage into the crowd, shaking hands and hugging as many people as possible. For a talent as big as Bradley’s to toil in obscurity for so long, his performance at Lollapalooza was a well earned spotlight moment. He more than delivered.
LA pop-rock band HAIM brought their bubbly, feel-good jams to Lolla’s quiet, tree-covered Grove stage. The comparisons to Fleetwood Mac were justified (they even covered “Oh Well”), but I think a better description is Gold Motel playing Michael Jackson tunes. “The Wire,” from the group’s soon-to-be-released Days Are Gone, featured singer Danielle Haim doing some Gloved One-esque scatting over rattling bass and sharp licks. Much of the set followed this electric-folk meets ’90s R&B formula, and was pulled off with expert precision. The rolling bass and husky vocals of “Don’t Save Me” built a funky drama until bursting into a new wave-y dance track with whiplash percussion. Non-musical highlight of the set? A fan tossed a bra onstage that had “I will always support you” written on it. Aaaww…
Tasked with filling in for no-show Death Grips was Bad Things, a band only slated to play a set with Perry Farrell at the Kidzapalooza stage. All anyone seemed to know about the group going in was that their lineup included Olympic snowboarder Shaun White on guitar, but even that stirred more curiosity in me than anything The Postal Service of Mumford & Sons were offering. The songs were mostly straight-up rockers with a few dancier numbers thrown in. If that doesn’t sound remarkable, well, it shouldn’t. What was impressive was the delivery of those songs. Bad Things played like they were getting away with something, possibly because they were. The embarrassingly scarce crowd kept growing, as people rushing between the other two headliners caught sight of how much the few who turned out were having. Most everyone was dancing, which made it all the more obnoxious when singer David LeDuke began pleading with the crowd to “fuck being cool” and let loose. His tired banter aside, the frontman was everything you want from a high energy rock band; a showman with a versatile voice and fuel to burn.
It was hard to judge just what I was seeing in the moment. Bad Things were putting on a killer show, but the fact that they’d risen to the occasion colored my perception. A relatively unknown band scheduled to play an afternoon set for children got thrown into a headlining slot at one of the country’s largest music festivals. The fact that they went balls out and delivered in any capacity was impressive. The deal sealer came when the band admitted they didn’t even have enough songs to fill an hour before launching in to a blistering cover of The Stooges’ “Search and Destroy.” It carried all the muscle of the original, turning the now packed crowd into one huge, fist-pumping mess. Called back on for an actual true, unscripted encore, Bad Things offered up one more song and offered up thanks to both the crowd and Death Grips. The prospect of a non-music celebrity starting a band is always a bit dicey, but this wasn’t The Bruce Willis Blues Band. Shaun White came off as just a dude in a band who happened to be really good at something else. That alone could be considered a success, but their set went above and beyond.
If you enjoyed this year’s Lollapalooza coverage check out windycityrock.net, where Gene reports on all things Chicago music.