Well, put another one in the books: Lollapalooza 2012 is over. I had a whole lot of fun (as I do every year) and saw a whole lot of great music (which also happens every year). I’ll have a whole lengthy writeup on the weekend’s big winners and losers coming up in the next couple days, along with photo sets of pretty much every artist I saw. So yeah, there’s a little more Lolla coverage coming your way. In the meantime though, let me get to this quick summary of what happened on Day 3. The weather actually cooperated nicely, with a balmy 82 degree high temperature and barely a cloud in the sky. After the oppressive heat of Friday and the severe weather evacuation of Saturday, having one perfect day was just what the doctor ordered. My mental doctor also ordered that I stay home and rest just a little longer than the previous two days so I could make it all the way through still able to walk. Starting the day at noon or 1 PM and then partying until 2 or 3 AM is not a recipe for good health, so I’ve learned from personal experience. Anyways, here’s what I saw and my very brief impressions.
They did everything a good band needs to do on stage. They were filled with energy and upbeat sentiments, and physicalized those things into something a crowd could get behind. Their double drummer attack and big melodies were very helpful too. Their albums might be a little lacking in creativity on the whole, but the songs morph into something else entirely when they’re performing them live.
I very much like The Walkmen, but also promised myself I’d never go see them perform again because nothing could ever top the previous time I saw them. The reason I ultimately watched their set was because there wasn’t anything else good on, and it was on my way before Sigur Ros. In other words, The Walkmen were a choice borne out of convenience. That’s pretty much how they treated their set, too. Frontman Hamilton Leithauser may wail up a storm on stage with his gravelly voice, but there’s not much substance beyond that. So no, they were unable to do better than the last time I saw them.
Not only was Sigur Ros’ set one of my predetermined highlights of Sunday, but for me it was a highlight of the entire festival. While I was (and continue to be) upset over their 4 PM time slot (they performed at 8:30 PM at the Osheaga Festival two days earlier), it didn’t seem to matter much to the band. They were the same as they always are, soft, beautiful and somber melodies with explosive crescendos made of pure brute force, the whole thing anchored by Jonsi’s angelic voice. New song “Varúð” was part of their shortened festival set, and it fit in perfectly. With the vast size of Grant Park as their canvas, the band accompanied by their orchestral friends in Amiina painted a picture so beautiful you couldn’t help but be inspired.
Toro Y Moi
I wish I could say a lot of nice things about this set. The last Toro Y Moi record was really good, and hopefully the one coming out later this year will be too. The new songs previewed sounded solid, but then again so did pretty much everything. It was a lovely dance party if you were only listening to it, but watching was a whole other matter. The band may have been bobbing their heads while performing, but frontman Chaz Bundick didn’t seem to know how to engage the crowd. In other words, it was good, but it could have been much better.
At the Drive-In
If you saw At the Drive-In perform when they were still together over a decade ago, you understand the power of their performances. They’re high energy and intensely fun, with Cedric Bixler-Zavala as key ringleader and mischief-maker. Watching them reunited at Lolla, they haven’t lost a single step. Jumping off the bass drum and throwing the microphone stand into the air are just a couple of the wild things that happened during their set. Even technical difficulties couldn’t stop them from entertaining the crowd, filling the time with awkward stage banter that encouraged people to throw their shoes on stage. What’s missing in the end is only a deeper connection to the crowd. ATDI are a band of the people, and having them perform atop a high stage was almost like the difference between animals in the zoo and animals in the wild. So long as it’s not life threatening, you want to be as close to the animals as possible.
After their set was cancelled thanks to the storm on Saturday, DJ Mel was bumped from Sunday evening’s lineup to make room for Chairlift instead. With a new album full of really catchy synth-pop songs to perform, they dove right in and never looked back. With Florence + the Machine having just finished their set at the neighboring stage and Jack White set to start on the opposite side of the park, odds were against Chairlift. The stage may have been larger than the one they were originally scheduled to perform on, but the crowd was arguably smaller thanks to those tough time slot choices. Their set left me pleased, especially when frontwoman Caroline Polachek spun around or clapped/snapped. Call it a harmless but rather enjoyable late Sunday night set.
In case you didn’t know it already, Jack White is the MAN. He’s one of the best guitar players living today, and to hear him tear a song to shreds is invigorating and inspiring. Naturally then, his headlining set was exactly that, along with a fair amount of showmanship to elevate the whole thing. There was the blue and black color scheme, and the two different backing bands, one all male and the other all female. They switched them out in the middle of the set, and thanks to the quiet duet of “Love Interruption” it went seamlessly. There was material from his solo debut album, with a handful of tracks from his other projects including The White Stripes, The Dead Weather and The Raconteurs. There were even a couple covers thrown in for good measure. Of the three major stage headlining performances I saw this past weekend, this was easily my favorite.