(excuse the cropped pictures, blame last.fm's formatting)
With of list of bands that read like my last.fm top 50, missing the festival was not an option. Over three its days, Lollapalooza was often overwhelming, at times underwhelming, but always worth the five dollar beers, 18 hour trip, and peeling sunburns.
I already posted some pictures and recollections of the trip on myspace
, but I'm going to use this to focus on the music.The Eels
With eight stages, spread across Chicago's sprawling lakeside Grant Park, it was impossible to catch everything worth seeing each day. We built a pretty tight schedule, barely allowing for bathroom breaks and deep dish pizzas, but in the end we managed to cram a pile of shows in. Friday started with The Eels
, who happened to be one of the acts I was most excited to see. E took the stage in a green jumpsuit and flight goggles, and launched into Saturday Morning
. The crowd was pretty receptive, even if the sound mix was initially muddy and quiet. The band had brought along their own security guard, who stood centre stage and performed interpretive kung fu to some of the songs. Later, he dropped down into the crowd and offered free mouthfulls of whipped cream to the audience. I was surprised by how heavy
the eels sounded, unlike the show I caught on the Shootenanny tour, or the recent string-backed live album. With only an hour of time to work with, the show came to an early climax with a fifteen minute Not Ready Yet
that led into a fierce version of Souljacker Part 1
. E seemed surprisingly at ease with the big crowd, and the assault of pure guitar noise set the stage for a festival that leaned heavily on veterans of the feedback fueled 1990s rock scene.Ryan Adams
Before he took the stage, I heard three seperate people in the stage tell the tired "Summer of '69" story. His reputation seems to draw in the curious, hoping for some kind of outburst. People hoping for a trantrum would have left partly
disappointed, because Ryan Adams & The Cardinals
took the stage on time and set about playing a professional set that predictably included an early appearance of Dear Chicago
. Mid-set, Adams took a three-song detour through the Grateful Dead
back catalogue, testing the patience of a few in the crowd. As always, the Cardinals were in top form, effortlessly veering from traditional country ballads to rootsy rock and barroom stomps. They are extremely underrated as a backing band, and they've clearly propelled Ryan Adams towards writing bis best material yet. The only classic Ryan Adams shit talking consisted of a long semi-coherant indictment of Chicago's strict "no eggs after eleven" policy. With time running out, the band tore through an abbreviated Shakedown on 9th St.
, another Dead cover, and a churning [track artist]I See Monsters[/track] that peaked with Ryan Adams looking directly at the angry stage manager who was clearly gesturing for the band to clear the stage. Improbably, maybe even in spite of himself, Ryan Adams turned in one of the best performances of the weekend.Iron & Wine
Iron & Wine took the stage late, thanks to Ryan Adams' standoff across the field, and had to contend with the concussive bass from Lady Soverign
around the corner. Thankfully, he brought a full band, and made himself heard to the huge crowd that had assmbled for the show. While it would clearly be better to catch Iron & Wine in a smaller venue, he charmed with his fragile voice and confident guitar playing.The Raconteurs
There's something wrong with the Raconteurs. They have two of the midwest's finest songwriters at the helm, yet Broken Boy Soldiers
barely stands up against the work of either Jack White
or Brendan Benson
. The band is tight, the arrangements are interesting, but something something doesn't work. Live, they unfortunately don't fare much better. The crowd was more excited to see Jack White than his new not-a-sideproject, saving the loudest cheers for his arrival on stage, or his vocals. It may be that very dynamic that throwd The Raconteurs off balance; it's hard to be a band of equals when one of the members is in a pop culture orbit miles above your own. They got bona-fide hit Steady As She Goes
out of the way early, and the most notable highlights were covers of Bang Bang
(which has shown up as a cover often lately, what gives?), and a fun take on Crazy
. Though the covers inadvertantly drew attention to the shortcomings of their own material, both Intimate Secretary
and Benson's catchy Yellow Sun
were well excecuted and well received. It will be interesting to see how far White and Benson are willing to take the band, and if things improve over time. My Morning Jacket
were on stage at the same time, and by all reports they delivered a fantastic show to those less curious about
what Jack White was up to.Ween
The choice was between Ween and Death Cab for Cutie
, and made the right one. Ween drew the most enthusiastic crowd of the weekend, earning the band's curious position as headliners for the first day. With virtuosso drumming and screeching work, Ween negotiated a position somewhere between country, punk, and bathroom humour. Even non-believers were whipped up into the Weenmania when the band found its groove in the second hour, and they pulled out favourites like The H.I.V. Song
as fireworks exploded overhead. I was never a big Ween fan before, but I'll be their Johnny on th' Spot from now on.
And that was just day one.