Lolla Recap 2010: Day Two


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I’m writing this wearing my Devo energy dome. Yeah, I’m still not over that. So day two: it was warmer, we started earlier, we ended later, we were rocked much harder.

Woke up in the morning with the usual Lollapalooza aches but still felt a million times better than I did the day before. My friend Brandon decided to bust out with the line of the day first thing in the morning when he declared Lady Gaga “Lady Wah-Wah”. Why didn’t I think of that? He completely trumped my “Lady Gagged at Lolla”. Oh well, I guess there’s room in the world for more than one Gaga insult-moniker.

The Mimicking Birds

These guys have the stink of Modest Mouse all over them, but I mean that in a nice way. Apparently Isaac Brock of Mouse has signed and recorded the Mimicking Birds, and his influence shows. This proved to be excellent music to ease us into our day two at Lolla. The sun was still tucked behind the clouds and the tunes seemed to amble out of the speakers, mention something casually and then saunter off. Imagine Modest Mouse and Fleet Foxes being smashed in that Star Wars garbage compactor and this is what you get.

The Morning Benders

I wish I could say that I was on some kind of morning bender when seeing the guys, but in reality I was still wiping the sleep from my eyes. What struck me most about this band was just how absolutely thankful they were to have an audience to play for, let alone one of that size. Despite a noon start time and a relatively unknown band, the poor little “Sony bloggie” stage was packed. By the way, can someone please tell me what the fuck a “bloggie” is? I asked my resident techy friend, thinking it was something in the world of the Internet I was clueless about, but he assured me it was in fact gibberish. I suppose I could Google it, but comments at the end of this article will probably prove to be funnier. Anyway, the Benders didn’t play “Grain of Salt”, which I was really looking forward to, but they did make it through a quality, crisp sounding and relaxed set. (Editors note: A Sony Bloggie is a kind of Sony camcorder)

The Soft Pack

Love it when a drummer drums standing up. Love it when a bass player pulls a really dirty jangly sound out of his bass. The combination of the Soft Pack’s clean garage rock and the expert Frisbee tossing of some nearby hippies made for a nice afternoon stop. I was really, really impressed by the stage presence of the lead singer. These guys seemed confident in their act and their music. I think this was the first A show of the day. The little Lollapalooza band guide compares the Soft Pack to the Kinks. This seems a totally deserved compliment.

Rogue Wave

Meh.

Dragonette

I was told that Dragonette sounded like a synthy No Doubt and that they’ve opened for New Order. That was all I needed to hear. I feel like the groovy electro-pop would have been better served by one of the more polished sound systems on a larger stage, but such is early billing. I’m not sure how sold I was on Dragonette’s live performance, but I will be adding their record to my collection. I’m picturing this moment — people are over, we’re drinking, everyone kinda wants to dance, I’ve played New Order’s “State of the Nation” and “True Faith” at the last three get-togethers, I think I’ll throw on some Dragonette. Dancing ensues.

Stars

At a giant music festival where much of the crowd is seeing bands for the first time I feel like the onus is on the bands to have a little flair, a little pizazz, to do something to get the audience’s attention. At the very least they need to look and sound like they care. Stars did not. If you can’t be moved to invest in your own music while on stage than I will exercise my right as a Lollapalooza ticket holder to go check out another band. Hello the Verve Pipe!

The Verve Pipe

I should have known better. The Verve Pipe, sensitive 90s rockers behind the ballad “The Freshman”, are playing two sets at Lolla this year, both at the Kidzapalooza tent. My friends and I assumed they’d be doing some family-friendly covers and some acoustic versions of their own tunes, perhaps with the words changed so that they weren’t crooning to eight year-olds about abortion and Valium abuse. Wrong. A lot of adults turned out for this set, and 90% of the audience had disappeared within the first minute of the first song, a cutey folk song about getting up on time for school. I felt embarrassed for the Verve Pipe, but it’s a down economy and I guess everyone has to make a paycheck.

Gogol Bordello

Gogol Bordello totally wins the “Devo of Saturday” award for band that killed with a middle-of-the-day-set that no one could follow. I’d seen these guys before a couple years ago and they only seem to have gotten better. Energy, viscous, living energy is the only way to describe them. Lead singer Eugene Hutz whipped the crowd into a frenzy, conducting the communal mood like an orchestra. At one moment he was a protest march leader, at another head punk of the mosh pit, and then back to party MC. The first pumping that took place at this set would’ve made Zack de la Rocha jealous. By the end of the set every person in the crowd, which was the largest of the day yet, was completely spent. Gogol got hands down the loudest and longest ovation after closing with a blistering version of “Start Wearing Purple.” I think there may be a fan or two still clapping.

Metric

Another band I like, another band I’ve seen before, so I didn’t stick around too long. Wanted to see something new and I knew that Emily Haine’s crew was not going to be satisfying after the onslaught that was Gogol Bordello. They played some tunes off of their last record, sounded ok. Their brand of synth-infused pop is just better served for a place like Metro or Double Door. Metric did draw a pretty sizeable crowd, many of whom seemed to be trying to come down from Gogol too.

Social Distortion

Social Distortion is a band I should have been listening to for years but just never seemed to get around to it. Their set was perfect — crunchy, cocky and loud. They played with a mature set, every note with conviction, without hamming it up. By far the most sincere punk rock show I’ve ever been to. The highlight for me was “Don’t Drag Me Down,” which is far from their best, in my opinion, but seemed to be a personal favorite of the lead singer. When I ripped Stars for not caring this is what I was talking about. From chord one it was obvious the song meant something to Mike Ness, and that feeling translated very well.

Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros

Cool name, but really, that’s all I’ve got. I’ll be honest, I smoked some very good stuff during Social Distortion and by the time I made it over to the Sony bloggie stage I wasn’t quite sure who I was. In a good way. I can only describe what I heard as some kind of hipster soul music, but really I’ll remember it was the soundtrack to when I lost my friends and spent a half hour (felt like about six years) wandering the crowd looking for them. For being on a small stage it felt like there were a lot of people there, people who seemed to be enjoying it, but for all I know it was the same three guys and I was just stumbling around them in circles.

Cut Copy

This had 80s UK written all over it. Lead singer Dan Whitfod was dressed like he was kicked out of Joy Division but sounded like he used to roll with Depeche Mode. It was awesome. Where Gogol Bordello had a massive crowd near rioting, Cut Copy had an even bigger crowd dancing, doing a better job of converting the park into a club than Perry Farrell could have thought possible. Aside from completely infectious dance tunes, Cut Copy also brought along a massive contingent of Australian trouble makers. More on this later. As for the set, normally I would say this kind of music would be more fun in a small club, but with this band venue doesn’t seem to matter. Seeing them perform with the glittering skyscraper backdrop immediately took me back to Depeche Mode’s headlining set last year. I can only hope Cut Copy has the staying power of Dave Gahan’s crew.

Phoenix

All their songs sound the same. And normally, normally, I would hate that, but in this case they’re just so damn good that I can’t. Ok, to be fair, they spice it up every now and then. And they sound incredible. I don’t know how long Phoenix has been together, but they have achieved a level of musical tightness usually reserved for the most seasoned of acts. Even though I like them and own some records I was somewhat critical of them being awarded headliner status. They quelled those worries quickly. The set opened with their hit “Lisztomania” and closed during an epic encore of “1901.” It’s not often that short, radio-friendly pop songs can be called epic, but this is the exception to the rule, as is Phoenix. I’d have to recommend that anyone with the chance to see them get running.

All in all, day two slayed day one. As it should have. A quick warning to all Chicagoans, as I am on the “front line”, we’re being invaded. An Aussie take over is under way. I’ve spent the last two days gathering facts, and if I survive Sunday without being kangaroo kicked or choked with a vegemite gag I’ll have some more information for you. Until then, cheers, and turn the volume up.

Gene Wagendorf III

About Gene Wagendorf III

Gene is a writer who has spent his entire quarter century of life as a resident of Chicago. When not exploring the city he can be found wandering flea markets and garage sales or having a cigarette between classes at Northeastern Illinois University, where he hopes to acquire a degree in the next quarter century. His favorite smells are old books and bowling alleys. His poetry (how embarrassing!) can be found in issues of Kill Poet, Ditch, Word Riot, O Sweet Flowery Roses and Vowel Movements.

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