Lollapalooza: Saturday (Kenny)
Day 2 started (for me) with a solid performance from Foals, a post-punk outfit out of Oxford, UK. They chugged through their new album, Foals, which, to my surprise, the crowd seemed to dig. Don't get me wrong - it's hard not to tap your foot (or dance crazily) along to the infectious rhythm and sharp guitar - but it's rare that one sees such excitement (see video link below) surrounding a new band in this genre. Regardless, the album definitely translates well live, especially the horn section. Bonus points for the whole band-uniform thing, especially those shorts.
MGMT was next on my list, but let's say, uh, the heat got the best of me. Poor Tara and her friends had to drag my ass out of our prime position in the crowd to the shade, where rehydrated for a bit. They were able to catch at least part of the show, but I admit that I missed most of it. What I heard from behind the stage sounded good, but I'll leave it to her to give you a full description of the going-ons.
Meanwhile, however, I had the pleasure of catching at least part of the Booka Shade show. I had no plans of seeing them beforehand, so call it fate or what you will, but I'm glad I did. The duo's electro stylings seemed a little out of place in comparison to the rest of the line-up, but everyone at the Citi Stage was into it, so why not? In fact, despite my incapacitation, this was one of the high points of my weekend, and one of the reasons huge festivals like Lollapalooza are so vital to the music scene. With over 100 bands and 200,000 people packed into a tiny space, anyone with their eyes and ears open is bound to discover something great they hadn't heard before. Perry Farrell and company can offer no greater gift than that.
Explosions In The Sky
Allow me a short (but hopefully relevant) digression to talk about Lollapalooza's physical locale and history. As Wikipedia helpfully informed me, Lolla was not always a three day music festival in Grant Park - no, before 2005, 40 or so bands would hitch up the wagon train and tour throughout the United States. In 1997, the whole shebang imploded, and remained defunct until 2005, when Perry Farrell once again waved his magic money wand and assembled a stellar (though smaller) line-up. From that point on, the festival was located in Grant Park, Chicago, beneath the city's striking skyline. This last point is essential, as any Lolla attendee can attest to, because there's nothing quite like seeing one of your favorite bands jam dead smack in the middle of Chicago.
So, as I walked toward the Bud Lite stage for Explosions' set, the sun was just beginning to dip in the sky, looming precariously over the western skyline. The band entered, thanked everyone for coming, and immediately began the opening notes of Catastrophe And The Cure. For the next hour, they alternated between relentless attack and soothing release, coaxing pure, lyric-less emotion out of their instruments. As the band transitioned into Memorial, the sun crept between two skyscrapers, silhouetting the city and bathing the entire scene in a red-orange glow. Say what you will about post-rock - nothing seemed more appropriate than listening to achingly beautiful music as the sun set in the middle of the Midwest's largest city.
Broken Social Scene
Broken Social Scene followed Explosions In The Sky on the Bud Lite stage, and not to be outdone, they carried on with their own brand of instrument-packed (and more, er, vocal) indie rock. The band, comprised of an ever-changing line-up, played terrifically together, almost immediately busting out one of my personal favorite tunes, Cause = Time. I'm not really familiar with the collective's discography, but I was definitely entertained - for as many people as they had on stage, their sound and presence cohered well.
They all look the same!
Rage Against The Machine
I've been an avid Rage Against The Machine fan since, well, I started listening to music. Unfortunately, they broke up before then (yeah, I'm a young'n, but that was 8 years ago), so I was left clutching my copy of The Battle of Los Angeles and hoping against hope for a reunion tour. Lo and behold, when the line-up was released this year, I discovered that the Lollapalooza fairy had granted my wish. Sure, I was excited, even though they hadn't released new material since the breakup. So, as I took my place on the field in front of the AT&T stage, I expected this to be the Daft Punk of my Lollapalooza weekend. Air-raid sirens roared as they took the stage, calling to mind the beginning of Public Enemy's It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back. The sirens cut suddenly, the band ripped into Testify, and the crowd (myself included) went fucking nuts.
And yet, maybe halfway through the set (somewhere between the second violence-induced break and lead man Zach De La Rocha's mid-song rant), I realized, "hey, this really isn't all that great." It wasn't the much talked about violence (it's a RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE SHOW for Christ's sake), or even the near-constant stops throughout. No, it was the music - as much as I love Rage Against The Machine, seeing them live wasn't all I thought it would be. All the band members are extremely talented musicians, and they certainly played well live, but it seemed more like a "greatest hits" concert than anything else. In all fairness, I did not come away from the concert disappointed, just... wanting something more. They played the hits - Sleep Now In The Fire, Bulls On Parade, Freedom - and they played them with unparalleled energy. Even so, I recall an interview with Tom Morello, who, when asked why the band was reforming, said:
"I think that the one thing about the Rage catalog is that to me none of it feels dated. You know, it doesn't feel at all like a nostalgia show. It feels like these are songs that were born and bred to be played now."
RATM's catalog is, without a doubt, applicable in this day and age (though I'm not so sure about de la Rocha's fiery rhetoric), but would it hurt to develop some new material?
So that's it for day 2, folks. Come back again tomorrow for my last installment of Lollapalooza 2008 coverage, this time with pictures galore!