Lollapalooza 2009 Recap

The Hells Angels will tell you that it's not a proper concert unless someone leaves in a body bag.

Sadly, fatalities have continued to be a semi-permanent fixture at all of the major music festivals, and this year's Lollapalooza was no exception.

On the bright-side, the 39-year-old who gave up his membership to "The Living Americans" club was the victim of those pesky "natural causes". The autopsy found that Jeffrey Grimm of Oak Park suffered a tear in the wall of his aorta and endured blood entering a sac of his heart. Translation, he'd have died whatever, so on with the show. No really, you can stop feeling sad now, there's music to talk about. Yes we know a family have lost a loved-one, but.... music.

This year has seen something of a change in terms of presentation at the Lol, last year, many were critical of the seeming corporate takeover of the festival. Wal-Mart sponsored the A-maj chord, head-banging was provided courtesy of Red Lobster and your peripheral vision was obscured by more banners than an abortion clinic in Utah. This time though, the presence of corporate America was had subsided dramatically.

Festival figurehead Perry Farrell (Jane's Addiction) made a surprise appearance early on in the event, teaming up with LeAnn "still famous for 'How Do I Live'" Rimes for a duet on the kids stage comprising performances of the Tom Petty/Stevie Nicks number "Stop Dragging My Heart Around," as well as a version of "Here Comes the Sun" by the Beatles.

* photo by Tom Cruze, Chicago Sun-Times

Farrell topped off the lacklustre performance by offering up sacrificial praise to the Sun-god Ra, commanding the deity to cease the precipitation. Unfortunately Ra was busy at the time...

The downcast gloom seemed rather apt though, when Bon Iver took to the stage for their slice of introspective folk-rock. "It's a rainy day so I'm gonna do quieter songs," Bon Iver's alter-ego Justin Vernon told the crowd. You best not have that attitude when you go to Scotland, they're not fans of silence. Vernon breezed lightly through a set comprising "Skinny Love", "Wolves (Act I & II)", "Re: Stacks", "Creature Fear", "Flume" and others only taking occasional moments to address the crowd with generic banter.

The subdued folk didn't abate as Fleet Foxes took the folk-baton and wowed the crowd with their four-part harmonies (sometimes completely a cappella) before ramping up the amplitude for the last few songs.

Now in his forties, that didn't dissuade Ben Folds blasting out such hits as "Rockin' the Suburbs" and "Underground".

When it could rain no more the opposite ends of Grant Park were occupied by Kings of Leon and Depeche Mode, headliners for day one. One band a product of the 80's, the other of the 00's, the generation gap became rather literal as attendees picked their station. With the KoL adherents taking up most the beer, sludge and space, Depeche Mode were left to entertain with throbbing beats and snappy video backdrops. We'll call it a draw, shall we.

Day Two: This was supposed to be the closed by legendary rap group Beastie Boys. However, with one of the members recovering from cancer surgery, it was left to Yeah Yeah Yeahs to fill the void. Thankfully, they didn't take to rapping.

Adopting the Dante Hicks mantra for themselves, the New Yorkers told the crowd "We're not even supposed to be here. We never expected to fill the shoes of the Beastie Boys." yet somehow, never managing to let their smiles leave their faces for even a split second.

We're going to skip the obligatory fashion-rundown of Karen O, suffice to say, she wore clothes. More importantly, they played music. Their spirited performance of "Zero" provided a highlight of the night, eliciting slightly more than the usual amount of stage-slithering from the front-woman.

There were a few slip-ups though, Karen O managed to forget the lyrics to "Maps" at one point and also the sound desk messed up  the intro to "Soft Shock". Besides that though, all was golden in Yeah3s-land.

Before they closed the night though, the rest of the day occurred. Dropping into mid-day, 18:30 saw politically-minded punk artists Rise Against raise their curtain. 

* Photo by Jon Willoughby

Immediately working the crowd into one gigantic moshnado (A tornado made of mosh) the melodic-hardcore band ripped through versions of "Saviour" and "The Good Left Undone", showing that in the live arena, there new material is just as visceral as the old. In honour of tenuous links, Rise Against are ardent vegans, which means they would never consume...

Animal Collective! Perhaps not the best choice for later-in-the-evening entertainment, given the kinetic rush of frenzied adrenaline going on at the surrounding stages, but fans would have enjoyed the set, everyone else made an exit for more exciting shores fairly swiftly.

Sweden's Lykke Li introduced some new material (see above) to the crowd when the day was brighter. Apparently Americans like blonde-haired petite songstresses with honey-smooth vocals and the stage presence of an Abrams tanks. Who'd have thunk it.

Coheed & Cambria, what to say about their unique brand of progressive-rock, punctuated by sweaty swathes of flying hair and guitar operatics. The Tool fans present, waiting for their idols were visibly stoked. Actually, that'll do.

As for the doom metallers themselves, dark clothing was the order of the day and insects were the order of the video crew. You could say that Tool were the Marmite of the festival... they were black and they smelt.

Day Three: Despite being in sonic vicinity with each other, headliners Jane's Addiction and Band of Horses suffered from overlapping sets after the latter ran over schedule. With Jane's Addiction's arrival greeted with a helicopter, you'd think most people would just surrender, not BoH though. The two stages fired volleys at each other like pirate ships off the Indian coastline.

"They told us twice we couldn't do it," Farrell ranted in regard to putting on the festival, without actually detailing who 'they' were and why they were opposed. What Jane's Addiction obviously couldn't do, was write any new material in the run up to their headline slot. The greatest hits occupied all of their setlist.

Vampire Weekend took the time out to dedicate their track “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” to the late John Hughes, purveyor of every 80's movie you ever loved: who passed away last week. Passion Pit's reputation appeared to precede them as the crowds gathered en masse for the band's set today. “Make Light”, “Little Secrets” and “I've Got Your Number" all made appearances as litter rained down upon the audience.

Silversun Pickups failed to make much of an impression as their already repetitive material failed to find any individuality in the live forum. At least with The Killers, you know what to expect: a moderate amount of fun which will likely lead to sugar-sickness. 

Possibly the biggest name at the festival, Snoop Dogg had to make do with a 19:00 set on this Sunday evening. Suitably striding around like he owned the place, he made the wise choice to be backed by a live band. No hip-hop cliché was left unturned as Mr. Dogg barked out "hands in the hair" and other misogynistic stuff about pimps and hos. Still, if there's one thing drunk, stoned crowds can do: it's brain-dead entertainment... wave them like you just don't care.

* Photo by Chicago Tribune


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