Monday, August 06, 2007

Lollapalooza: 2007.08.06 Grant Park, Chicago Review – Part 1

My day-by-day review of this weekend's Lollapalooza extravaganza in Grant Park, Chicago...

Part 1: Friday
Today’s itinerary included Son Volt, The Polyphonic Spree, Sparklehorse, M.I.A., G Love, The Black Keys, LCD Soundsystem, Ben Harper, and Daft Punk.

Son Volt started off our weekend, and, sadly, not well. I have little patience for generic American roots rock with that alt-country sound. I felt that the band lacked any originality (or energy), and found myself crossing the field to get ready for The Polyphonic Spree.

Our first hit of the weekend! Tim Delaughter (formerly of Tripping Daisy) led his band through a high energy set that included my favorite cover of the weekend, Nirvana’s "Lithium". The first part of the set found the choir in the Fragile Army outfits, playing through songs that almost seemed to be written with Lollapalooza in mind (lots of songs about the sun, smiling, happiness, etc. The band left, only to return in their more traditional white robes, moving into "Lithium". With the audience joining in, especially during the "Yeah yeah yeah!" chorus of the song, we knew that this was going to be a highlight of the weekend.

After the Spree, we moved on to see Sparklehorse, who, though demonstrating his strong songwriting abilities, felt to be a bit of a let down, coming after the energy of the band before him. However, his songs seem to be worthy of taking a closer look.

We took a short break during the set of M.I.A.. However, we could still hear her and watch some of the performance from afar on the large video screen next to the stage. I appreciate her studio works, but I find myself only able to listen to her for 10-15 minutes at a time, and I felt like her performance was equally choppy, and, frankly, uninteresting. I was ready to move on.

Our next anticipated band was The Black Keys, but first we had to plod through another lackluster performance, that of G Love and The Special Sauce. I don’t understand this guy – I’ve never felt he does anything remotely unique, interesting, or, frankly, good. I can think of hundreds of bands in whatever genre you want to put G Love into that are infinitely more interesting than him. My friend outright fell asleep.

The Black Keys were on next. I had seen them open for Radiohead last summer, and, as a result, was excited to see them again. I liken their sound to Jimi Hendrix’s "Band Of Gypsys" project, with a huge guitar sound soaring above the drums. The Black Keys are just two guys, but their sound was big enough to fill the entire field, and the musicianship was top notch. Our second highlight of the day!

I then raced across the park to catch LCD Soundsystem, who, though I’m not a big fan of their (his) studio work, I wanted to see live based on the strength of previous reviews. I was not disappointed. James Murphy has a presence on stage, and the way he built up songs into a hypnotic fervor is inspiring. He also delivered my favorite line of the festival: "All you guys dancing up here in the front…look around you. If there aren’t any girls nearby, then you’re doing it wrong!". It has also been noted many times as to the irony of hearing "Daft Punk Is Playing At My House", when Daft Punk was about to finish the evening a few hundreds yards away (James himself acknowledged that).

We stayed on for Daft Punk, who transformed Hutchinson Field (the south field of Grant Park) into a giant dance floor underneath the lights of the stage, and Chicago’s magnificent skyline (for those who haven’t seen Daft Punk live, do some internet searching for some pictures of their stage – the "pyramid" is hard to describe). By this point, I was really optimistic about the success of this year’s festival. We decided to see what was going on with Ben Harper, and immediately you could see the dichotomy of the two headlining acts. I realize that Ben Harper is talented, but within 10 minutes of seeing Ben, I wanted to go back over to see the remainder of Daft Punk’s set. I hear that Eddie Vedder joined Ben for a spell, but even that wasn’t enough to convince me to stay. Too much roots rock for me.

Daft Punk ended the set with a fiery version of "One More Time", and the crowd left with smiles on their faces, ready for 2 more days…


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