Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Lollapalooza: Day Two

After the thumping bass blitz last night, it was going to be hard to please this time around. Tapes N' Tapes realized that. "I mean we left our giant tripod at home, so we're just going to keep playing some songs." Sure, no light show, but they still managed to impress. They started off with the one-two hit off of "The Loon" of "Just Drums" and "the Iliad." Great, I thought, but is this just going to be a rehash of that album? Say no more, doubting listener. They followed it up with an older song off of their EP's "Beach Girls" and followed it up with the first of a few new songs, "Demon Apple." Some of the new songs worked with TnT's abrasive/calming tempo switches, but this one stood out by far. And what do you know? I ust happened to tape the whole song.

The rest of the show was a fairly impressive mix of the new and old, finally pleasing the crowd by ending on favorites "Cowbell,"
"Insistor" (which I sang along to fairly loudly until I saw my quickly ballooning afro bobbing out of control on the jumbo-tron) and a stunning finish with "Jakov's Suite." I will say this about the show - Jeremy Hanson really didn't put nearly as much energy into his drumming as he did on the studio recording. Songs like "10 Gallon Ascots" and "In Houston" sounded a little less bombastic because Hanson relied on simple beats rather than his military-style assault one would normally hear on those songs. Yet, if that was the only misstep, consider that show a success.

Here's my only question: Who is this guy in the yellow? He was jumping to every song backstage until he came on and consistently shook his tambourine. If anyone knows who is he, let me know, eh?

There was a little break in the show as neither me nor Mary were particularly interested in Silverchair or Stephen Marley, plus she nearly fainted during Tapes N' Tapes. So we sat for awhile, listening to Silverchair's Australian alternative rehash in the distance before heading over to Cold War Kids at the Citi stage.

Well, we tried to at least. The stage was quite far from our vantage point as we had not anticipated...this.

I was astounded. Enough people here had obvious heard Jeff Buckley and were hoping he'd be reincarnated in the person of Jeff Willet. Well, it took a few songs for them to get into their groove, but that lovely streaming voice hit us all the way back by the food court. Amazing projection considering the smaller stage and speaker size, but songs like "Hang Me Up to Dry" still sounded crystal clear across the street. It was raining, cloudy and incredibly cramped, but I still managed to sway a little.

After Cold War Kids, it was time to make a hard decision. When I ventured over to the Bud Light stage at this time yesterday, I was seriously disappointed by M.I.A. and Maya's struggle to put on a decent show and keep the crowd engaged. This time it was The Roots, whom I had never seen live but was enthralled at the prospect. I know that Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! are already coming to Madison and I doubt they could really push their whiny lo-fi sound to the masses. So, I jogged over to the Roots.

What a pleasant surprise. They started off with some standard fare from Phrenology before allowing Hub to launch into an extended bass solo, followed by Black Thought referencing the "hip hop is dead" mantra before taking the band through a sample medely that probably gave every person in the audience a firm understanding of why hip hop is NOT dead. Unfortunately, this would be the last time the Bud Light stage would perform such auditory feats for me, every other group I saw on that stage was a muddled mess.

I left Roots with 15 minutes left to go catch the Hold Steady. I had attempted to see them last year until my concert partner that year, Isaiah said the music sounded boring and we caught the Frames instead (who weren't that bad, but not as exciting as the show we missed that day.) I passed Matt & Kim (fill in's for CSS, a band I hated anyway.) who seemed pretty drunk as they explained their unbridled joy at being asked to fill in while providing some incoherent commentary on their daily lives. I skipped past those low-budget Mates of State and stood amongst the Minnesota faithful as they awaited their hometown boys.

The night before, I looked over a year old Rolling Stone that called them "the Best Bar Band Ever." I found that title to be a bit underwhelming. It's like saying, "The Hold Steady are the best band to play our of their parents garage!" It's more an insult than a badge of honor. Yet, despite their rising fame, they're still humble. As they made their way onstage, front man Craig Finn wearing a Twins jersey and seeming absolutely delighted to be staring at such an enthusiastic and smiling crowd. They ripped into "Boys and Girls" opener "Stuck Between Stations" and never let up. Every song by the Hold Steady is either one of two things - a fairly clever story or an anthemic head-banging sing-along. I found myself repeating the chorus to Chips Ahoy! and "You Can Make Him Like You" while Craig Finn stepped back from the microphone and repeated his lyrics as if he reacting to his own story. Just before launching into closer "Killer Parties" Finn gave a heartfelt little speech saying that he started the band because he wanted to have a practice once a week where he could drink with his friends and four years later, "we're going to Dublin next week to open for the Stones." This was a dedication to those Twin City fanatics jumping around who had turned lyrically rich alternative rock into a truly unifying experience. Hell, I nearly cried.

Hold Steady finished and Karen O took the stage across the way. As much as I would have liked to hear them, I was far more dedicated to Spoon, and waited while Britt tuned his guitar and Karen O played peek-a-boo with the crowd via a little curtain of streamers she kept placing in front of her face. My friend Chris later went on to say, "The only songs I had heard before that were Maps and a demo of Gold Lion but, after that show...I think I'm in love with Karen O." Certainly, they looked like they were having fun.

Ahh, but Spoon was my treat for the day. They open with some Gimme Fiction material (My Mathematical Mind) and a spin through a few Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga tunes (Don't you Evah and Rthm and Soul) before turning back toward "Fitted Shirt" off of Girls Can Tell. So where was the new stuff? Yes, they could have brought some horns to accompany them on "The Underdog" and it would have been fantastic, or they could have brought a piano out for "Ghost of You Lingers," but it would have put a damper on the already High-Octane Rock and Roll sound they were crafting this night. The last time they came to Lollapalooza, they sort of plodded their way through a very weak piano driven set where Britt looked fairly uninterested. This time, Britt gripped his guitar firmly and made it clear during a performance of "The Beast and Dragon, Adored" that is vastly superior to the brooding studio recording: "It took its time to work it into my soul/ I've got to believe it come from Rock N' Roll." "Don't Make Me a Target" was similarly blistering with Britt taking full advantage of the song's manic bridge to abuse his guitar. The set ended on "Black Like Me" and the crowd couldn't get enough, shouting "one more song". I've seen this before and it didn't turn out that well for Broken Social Scene. I left before they started shouting "Fuck Muse!"

And herein lies the major dilemma of the weekend. Two Bands - one captures the classic rock part of my heart dedicated to Queen and British theatrics and the other has a hold on my the post-punk part of my sensibilities that still pay homage to a fallen Ian Curtis. Muse or Interpol? Well, let's sample both and see whom we stick with. I started with Muse as they scrolled some long quote on the screen about subversion and secrets given by President Kennedy before launching into their overdone and childish Bush bashing via "Take a Bow." Then came a bit of "Hysteria" and "Supermassive Black Hole." Ok, all this new material didn't impress me much, so it was time to rush over to Interpol.

Man, did I come at the wrong time. When I got there, Interpol decided to dedicate about 20 minutes to their new material, "Rest My Chemistry," "Mammoth" (which I actually like) amongst others. I stayed on, waiting to hear my favorite Antics "Evil" then left during "PDA" yes, I loved the songs, but there was no stage presence, as Paul Banks simply peered through the cracks of his shaggy hair-cut and cradled a flying V guitar labeled with a sticker that said "BREASTS." Meanwhile, Carlos D looked like a 20's movie villian with his frizzy beard and cigarillo.

Muse was finishing up their main set when I got there, but was still delighted to hear something off of Origin of Symmetry as they launched into "New Born," a song most of the crowd didn't seem to know, and looked strangely at me as I belted out the chorus in off-key Bellamy style falsetto.

As it turned out, had I switched spots and started with Interpol, left to see Muse and gone back to Interpol, I probably would have recieved a musical prime rib instead of the fatty edges. While I listened to Muse start their set, Interpol started with some old favorites from Turn on the Bright Lights. When I saw Interpol, Muse took a side step and played "Sunburn" off of their first album, Showbiz, and my personal favorite: a cover of Nina Simone's "Feeling Good." Then, while I watched Muse launch into their encore with an absurdly karoke (the lyrics flashing in bold red letters on the light board behind them) version of "Knight of Cydonia," Interpol finished with an encore including "Stella was a Diver" and my personal favorite, "NYC."

I suppose you can't win them all. Still, Muse took it to 10:05 while Interpol ended 10 minutes earlier. So, not that bad. It was close, but this night was only nearly edged out by Friday as the best of the festival. But only slightly.

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