Sunday, August 05, 2007


A little bit of rain didn't manage to put a damper on our Day 2 visit to Lollapalooza in Grant Park. In fact the cloudy conditions were really something of a godsend, as the usually baking August Chicago temps were held at bay.

Sights, sounds and impressions...

The festival area is basically two mirror-image ends of the park, bisected by Buckingham Fountain (which, for those who may never have visited it, is easily one of the top 3 coolest things in Chicago -- literally as well as figuratively). The two main stages stand at opposite ends of the venue -- roughly Roosevelt Rd. on the south and Monroe St. on the north -- which literally puts them hell and far gone from each other. A good day's walk to get from one to the other.

In between are a couple of mid-sized stages and a smattering of smaller ones, but most of the day was spent on the south end.

Tapes 'n Tapes played the mid-sized stage in the early afternoon and definitely lit fire on a couple of occasions, especially on a new song called "Demon Apple."

Next was some blanket time while listening from afar to the absurd stage patter of Daniel Johns of Silverchair (as well as listening to their recycled 70s riffs). Daniel demands that you know the band IS NOT GAY!

On to the smaller Citi stage for a late-starting Cold War Kids set. Interestingly, despite the extended sound check, the band was close to inaudible near the middle of the largish crowd. The band had great chemistry, interesting rhythms and a distinctive sound. I think. Fact is, given the quality of the sound mix, all of that was way too hard to hear. Too bad, and this is definitely a band worth seeing in a better setting.

After watching Clap Your Hands Say Yeah get rather overwhelmed by the big stage, I split off to venture to the other end of the park to take in the rest of The Roots set as well as Regina Spektor.

The Roots were incendiary, a hip-hop answer to the JB's. A five-piece brass section (including the second tuba of the day -- take a look at those Tapes 'n Tapes pictures again) complimenting a suitably kick-ass rhythm section (bass solos, though ... never welcome).

Regina Spektor was completely undone (for me anyway) by the sound system at the bandshell (the one permanent stage also had the worst sound mix -- worse even than Cold War Kids'). Roky Erickson on the next stage over was pretty much as loud as Regina, and her style is really not conducive to trying to outshout the competition.

So I bailed on her after a couple of songs and high-tailed it back to the MySpace stage to catch the end of The Hold Steady's set. They may not officially hold the title of "World's Greatest Bar Band," but only because it's an unofficial title. The guitar riffs were chunky (and thankfully loud), and the stage patter included a heartfelt note of the fellas' recent hometown tragedy and the wild improbability of even the band's mid-range success.

After an hour of staking out a space near the stage, listening to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs on the big stage from afar, the headliner (for me, anyway) hit the stage. Spoon played a rock-solid, skin-tight, rain-soaked, hour-long set, with only four songs from Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga and the other eleven from the back catalog. A real greatest hits set.

The core of the band's sound is the rhythmic interplay of all four guys in the band. Every instrument takes a rhythmic lead, and the tight interplay gives the band its lean, angular greatness.

The real closer for the night, though, was Muse. I really had no idea if they were up to the task of closing a festival like this one, but I'll be damned if they weren't completely theatrical, completely over-the-top, and completely up to the task. Great light show, wall of sound, virtuoso playing and utterly remarkable pipes from Matthew Bellamy. Nicely done.


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