Yesterday I claimed I was writing a “brief” recap and it turned into a multi-hour write fest that concluded with me falling asleep on my keyboard more times than I can count. Today, I’m telling the truth. This will be quick and hopefully cleaner than yesterday’s recap. Lots of interesting artists I happened to catch. I bounced around on Day 2 much more than on Day 1, and probably more than I will for Day 3. Still, it was a whole lot of fun. There wasn’t a singular standout moment for me, but there were plenty of pretty good ones. Allow me to run the whole thing down for you, again, in brief form.
My day started over at Grouplove, a band I’ll confess to knowing not a ton about. I have enjoyed the music I’ve heard from them, and seeing them live it was no different. They were a whole lot of fun and a delightful way to start Saturday.
An Horse was next, a decision I made in the hopes that they’d pull out a fantastic set. I have a moderate respect for their latest album “Walls”, but not to the point where I’d ever actively seek out their live show unless my other options were less desirable. Now that I have seen the Australian duo live, I can tell you – they’re nothing worth writing home about. They were just okay in their set, not great, and not terrible.
In terms of duos, Phantogram turned out to be much better. Of course they performed as a trio with a drummer on hand, but I don’t know if that made a difference. It rained for the first half of the band’s set, and in many ways Phantogram is better when it rains. The music, at least, lends itself to a darker and more depressing day. Yet they were positively vibrant on stage and the songs from their last album “Eyelid Movies” and an upcoming EP were well translated outside of the studio.
Bouncing over to the other side of the park, the sun had re-emerged just in time for Friendly Fires. What followed was a massive dance party, as should be expected. These guys were great the two times I saw them in small clubs, but with a huge stage and an energized crowd to work with, they made the most of it. The songs only got bigger and frontman Ed Macfarlane only got more daring in his on stage bravado. Climbing over the barricades and dancing in the middle of a crowd for “On Board” while not missing a single word was impressive and super fun. Also super fun: the massive dance circles I encountered. It wound up making for one of, if not the best set of Saturday.
Black Lips were up next, and as soon as they emerged on stage Evil Jared spit into the crowd and another guy shotgunned a beer. From the looks of it, they were setting up for one of their more active and insane shows. Cooler heads prevailed in the end, at least on stage, and the band gave an excitable but not necessarily out of control performance. The crowd primarily loved it though, judging purely by the high number of crowd surfers.
I wanted to make sure that I didn’t miss all of Dom‘s performance, so I skipped out on Black Lips a touch early to go see that. If you’re familiar with the music of Dom then you know it’s a lot of sun-soaked, catchy throwback pop. Seeing it done live, there was not much difference between the recorded versions, though a cover of The Cure’s “Boys Don’t Cry” was a nice added touch. With such strong material, you’d hope for an even better show. Given how young this band is though, maybe that will come with time.
One of the most highly anticipated sets of Saturday, and arguably the entire festival, was Death From Above 1979. Crowds swelled and there was the fear that if a large enough group of people were to get violent, there could be serious injuries. Thankfully logic and heat did a nice job of keeping everyone in check. The band sounded fantastic, but like many duos performing this weekend, they lacked a certain engaging visual component. Watching drums get pounded and guitars/keyboards get played is one thing, but bouncing all over the stage and showing a little life is even better.
After a majority of Death From Above 1979’s set, I pulled the full trek and went over to see how Big Audio Dynamite were doing. They’re the “legacy” act of the day, the band that you knew from the 80s, now reunited with the original lineup. It should come as no surprise that these veterans knew what they were doing, both in their old studio material and today. They wound up playing a bunch of new songs from a new album, which ironically sounded like a lot of their old songs. The great news is they were ahead of their time back in the day, and music is just now catching up. Still, tracks like “E=MC2” and “Rush” made for a more than solid set.
In what world are Local Natives considered more popular than Big Audio Dynamite? The Lollapalooza world, apparently. Having only one album to work with, Local Natives put on a decent set where the vocal harmonies were the stars. After awhile things slowed down and the crowd became restless, but an exceptional rendition of “Sun Hands” turned it all right once again.
At this point, I saw The Pretty Reckless were playing at a small stage, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see Taylor Momsen in action. If you don’t know who that is, let me give you a super fast primer. The teenager used to be one of the stars of “Gossip Girl”, that is until her band got some legs underneath it. She’s also courted controversy by chain smoking and wearing tight and revealing leather outfits – all before turning 18. The music itself is of mediocre quality, and the main reason I went to see their set was to heckle the band. The whole thing was hilarious, though I will say that Momsen is a talent to watch. If she gets smarter, hires a new band and completely changes her sound, there’s real potential in her future.
I’ve been raving about Lykke Li ever since I first listened to her record, and her live show back in the day only made me fall harder. Well, it seems like the secret’s out, because not only was her set at Lollapalooza one of Saturday’s most attended, but she’s even upped her own game just a little bit. The new songs were great live, and her dancing is second to none. Expect her to go even bigger and better in the next couple years.
Last but by no means least was headliner Eminem. I chose to see him over My Morning Jacket and Beirut because I had seen both those bands before. Eminem was something new, and I wish I’d seen him back in his heyday closer to 2001. He hasn’t been back to Chicago in ages either, and who knows when he’s coming back. His set was primarily a mixture of all his hits, but what’s moderately odd was how he never actually performed anything from start to finish. Instead it was almost always a 1-verse thing, buttressed by those memorable choruses. I suppose all the shortened songs were to ensure that as many were gotten to as possible within the 90 minute time frame. Either way, Eminem’s set was also bolstered by guest spots from Bruno Mars and Skylar Grey, both of which did a great job. It was a fine way to cap off the night, though I’m thinking My Morning Jacket was probably better. Next time.