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Lollapalooza Fri Aug 03 2012
You've got a lot to choose from this weekend at Lollapalooza. Here's our Transmission staff's picks for some of the best sets to catch (or skip) at the festival this weekend. And don't forget to keep an eye here later on for reviews from Grant Park.
Friday, August 3, 2012
2:15pm-3pm - The War on Drugs vs. Dr. Dog vs. The Black Angels
Maybe Philadelphia is the City of Brotherly Love, but two Philly bands at Lollapalooza will be battling for your attention as the festival gets its momentum started in the early afternoon on Friday. The War on Drugs with their keyboards, harmonicas, and earnest drumming (served with a side of Springsteen comparisons) and Dr. Dog, with their (for the most part) happy-go-lucky DIY lo-fi recording prowess, will perhaps be happy to split the difference of mellower rockers in attendance. Afterall, they'll be up against the neo-psych rock of Austin's Black Angels in the same time-slot Friday afternoon. The Black Angels' gritty fuzz is so thick and syrupy, you'd think you were drinking hot motor oil, not water, as the sun beats down on that free bandana you just tied around your head. Basically, here's how it breaks down: if you're toting your own hula hoop, head for Dr. Dog. If you'd rather pogo around and do some head bobs with alternating fist pumps, head over to The War on Drugs' set. But if you wanna see how that first taste of rock tastes after you've thrown your tie in the trash, kicked off your shoes in the grass, and nodded knowingly at some band new best friends, then by all means, head over to The Black Angels and let them blow your hair back a bit.
4-5:15pm - Afghan Whigs vs. Metric
The Afghan Whigs rose to popularity (at least, among indie circles) in the early '90s grunge era, during the original incarnation of Lollapalooza's heyday. Thus it's only fitting that once the band announced they'd be reuniting for a few shows in 2012, a full decade after they had originally split, the band ended up at this year's Lollapalooza. Metric formed around the same time The Afghan Whigs split — rocking just as hard, but with a lot more synthesizers and glam. Both bands are sure to put on a great live set, so this is a tough call. See The Afghan Whigs if you loved them way back when, especially considering this may be your only chance to see them again. Otherwise, Metric is your best bet.
5-6:15pm - Die Antwoord vs. The Head & The Heart
When stacking these two acts up against each other, their musical classifications could not be more opposite. The Head and the Heart is a gentle six-member indie folk band formed in Seattle, Washington that crooned out beautiful, wholesome tunes for their self-titled debut back in 2011. Die Antwoord is a South African hip hop duo whose eclectic dance rap style has caught the attention of many as they released their second full-length album, Ten$ion, this past year. The Head and the Heart's music video for their first single "Lost in my Mind" features their lead singer strumming his guitar and strolling through a tranquil winter forest, gradually joined by other band members as he is illuminated by the soft glow of lanterns in the background. In contrast, Die Antwoord's music videos have produced some controversy, namely the slightly creepy and definitely NSFW "Evil Boy."
When debating your choice between these two extremely different artists, this is a situation in which you're going to have to base your pick off of how you're feeling in the moment. Do you want to relax before the evening headliner and catch a mellow, soothing folk act? Or do you want to go dance to some zef rhythms and undoubtedly see some crazy things happen on stage that you can recount to your friends for days on end? Personally, I'll head to Die Antwoord for the first few songs of their set ("I Fink You Freeky" is rather catchy), but I doubt that they'll hook me the entire time; I'll race over to The Head and the Heart and remain for their strong folk harmonies, perfect for the Friday early evening festival slot.
6-7:15pm - Passion Pit vs. Band of Skulls vs. the Shins
Passion Pit had a hell of a 2009 when Manners broke. Their set at that year's Lollapalooza was straight-up bananas. (It was also way too crowded; a sign that organizers didn't account for their rise in popularity.) They were lively, charismatic and their bouncy electropop was perfect for an outdoor festival. So far, 2012 is not turning out the same way. They've cancelled numerous shows (this weekend being one of the few that hasn't been axed) and their new album, Gossamer, has come across as Manners, Part 2. But they can still whip a crowd into a frenzy (as they did when I last saw them at Fun Fun Fun Fest in November). For the more rock-inclined festivalgoer, Band of Skulls bring the riffs and will appeal to those who need a headbanging warmup before Black Sabbath. And if you're the type of person who likes bands whose albums keep getting progressively worse, the Shins are playing in this time slot, too.
8:05-10pm - Black Sabbath vs. Bassnectar vs. Black Keys
Were you alive when Black Sabbath was popular? Go see Black Sabbath. Does Black Sabbath mean that dude from The Osbournes to you? Go see Bassnectar (and educate yourself young one). Do you love WXRT and and songs from car commercials? See you then at The Black Keys. Sure, there will mostly likely be some overlap but you might as well go take a peak at Ozzy and Co. It's not like they'll be touring often (at least not that we're aware of yet) and The Black Keys usually pop up in Chicago from time to time. As much as I like the blues rock duo, I'd be lying if I didn't say I prefer them in an indoor setting. Gone are the days of them playing the Metro, so a headlining set from them might be a little bittersweet. Meanwhile Bassnectaf is basically your choice of the night if you hate guitars. The headbanger DJ will get the probably barely legal crowd sweaty and in a good groove, as clearly indicated from his impressive light show and incredibly loud set at North Coast festival last year. Overall depending on your musical taste, the answer is crystal clear.
Saturday, August 4, 2012
1:30-2:15pm - JEFF the Brotherhood vs. Bear in Heaven
If you want to start off your Saturday with body slamming and headbanging, head on over to the Playstation stage for JEFF the Brotherhood. This garage rock-inspired guitar/drums duo of actual brothers knows how to rock hard. If you need something a little more mellow so early in the afternoon (or, let's face it, morning for most of us), prog rock/electro group Bear in Heaven will fit the bill over at the Sony Stage. Having caught live sets from both bands, I can say Bear in Heaven and JEFF The Brotherhood are perfect opposites — Bear in Heaven's studio work far exceeds their live performance and JEFF the Brotherhood is exceedingly more enjoyable live than on record. Your best bet is to catch JEFF the Brotherhood and save Bear in Heaven to enjoy in the comfort of your own home.
4:15-5:30pm - Alabama Shakes vs. FUN.
I have a feeling that a lot of Alabama Shakes' set attendees might be seeing the neo-Soul/Southern indie rock band for the first time, since the group skyrocketed to fame faster than lightning this spring. I was lucky enough to catch them at Lincoln Hall as they made their Chicago debut earlier this year (sadly caught in one of the most chatty and aggravating crowds I've ever been around), a show which left me hopeful that the band had enough talent to keep moving forward, and enough humility to know that what was happening to them was a small miracle that they appear to be very thankful for with each and every show. Surely, you've heard them burn and sizzle with soulful rocking on hits like "Hold On" from their debut Boys and Girls on WXRT, but come out and see the group, and especially the supremely talented lead-singer and guitarist Brittany Howard really belt out some amazing songs. Head to this stage if you want to say you "heard them when" to all your friends, but please, respect the rocking — lord knows that Alabama Shakes does.
On the other hand, there's also relative newcomer fun. to consider. Only formed in 2008, the band has churned out albums featuring their own style of easily sing-a-long-able rock. This might be the set of music where you're belting out one band's hooks against another's. fun.'s style can be heavily produced drum and choral ballads like "Some Nights" from their latest album of the same name, or "All The Pretty Girls" from their previous wildly popular album Aim and Ignite which smacks almost of Queen with lead singer Nate Ruess' pretty spot on Freddy Mercury vocal imitation. These guys know their rock history, pulling keyboard breaks and party-down lyrics inspired by the best of the '70s rock gods, and everything in between. No really, Ruess has pretty much confirmed that he's been influenced by artists from Kanye to Smashing Pumpkins to Paul Simon (a quality that's readily apparent when you listen to more than two of the band's songs). It's kind of like listening to something akin to a supergroup cover band, and I don't say that disparagingly. There's something totally....well...fun about a sound like that, and it might be a great way to dive deeper into Saturday night at Lollapalooza, surrounded by "all the pretty girls," after all.
5:15-6:15pm - Tallest Man on Earth vs. tUnE-yArDs
This match up is extremely difficult for me to discuss as they are two of my favorite artists at the current moment, and choosing just one act is going to be rather painstaking. Each puts on a phenomenal live show, and each has forged a musical identity for themselves that cannot be rivaled. Both Merrill Garbus, musical innovator behind tUnE-yArDs, and Kristian Matsson, Dylan-esque Swedish musician known as The Tallest Man on Earth, possess such strong talent and a sheer caliber for music making that you won't be able to take your eyes off them once their first note wails from the speakers.
Garbus will emerge donning her standard face paint, colorful stripes adorning her visage, as she captivates the audience with her unbelievable vocal range, African fusion rhythms, and a set that will have heads bobbing and bodies swaying to her catchy, looped drum beats. Matsson will step onstage with his acoustic guitar, garnering the attention of his audience in a different way; his sweet, simple ballads will capture the hearts of his listeners who will fall in love with his effortless folk sound. Now, if you're forcing me to choose between them right now (which sadly reminds me that I will have to pick during this situation's actual context this weekend), I'd say that you should head over to see The Tallest Man on Earth. His last Chicago concert appearance was back in September of 2010, and he's created new material since then on his fourth album released just this past summer, There's No Leaving Now. Though they will each undoubtedly continue their strong presence within the music scene and mesmerize their audiences during their Lolla set, I just can't move past the thought of missing The Tallest Man on Earth, who will endlessly captivate the audience until Matsson gives his guitar its final strum.
6-7pm - The Weeknd vs. Franz Ferdinand
Franz Ferdinand have played more than enough rock arenas and festivals to know how to put on a good show. Sure, the success of their standout hit "Take Me Out" hasn't been matched again this side of the ocean, but they've continued to draw a large crop of fans to their shows long after many of their contemporaries have called it quits. Not surprising, due to their expansive pop with a kiss of New Wave catalog. Maybe it's the way lead singer Alex Kapranos coolly delivers line after line with an obvious wink and a nod, but there really is something flirtatious, sexy, and fun about Franz Ferdinand.
The Weeknd is one of those overnight sensations that crawl out from music blogs and free mixtapes, suddenly the main act everyone is trading page hits about. Thankfully the product is worth the hype, with an impressive roster of some of the best slickly produced R&B tracks in the past few years. Abel Tesfaye, known to most as The Weeknd, has only played one other show in Chicago. A sold out night at Lincoln Hall earlier this spring delivered an artist still finding his footing live while basking in the obsessive adoration of his devote fans. Despite nerves, The Weeknd delivered a promising set that showcased Tesfaye's vocal range and was testament to just how raw and sexual his songs are live as well as recorded. If you want a good dose of a new generation of baby making music, make sure to catch The Weeknd this weekend.
8:45-10pm - Frank Ocean vs. Santigold
There is little about Frank Ocean that hasn't been written better by someone else. Channel Orange is certainly one of 2012's most pleasant surprises. But does its style of R&B lend itself well to close down an outdoor festival? I don't doubt that Frank Ocean can bring it live. His voice is terrific. The beats are fresh. The songwriting's top-notch. He's a star. But Santigold's a party. Her electronic/hip hop/pop/whatever else hybrid is ideal for outdoor festivals where you don't need to be 100% locked in. Besides, can't you hustle your way into Frank Ocean's gig at Metro on Friday night? It can't be that difficult, right? (That's a joke; it's going to be crazy to get in there.)
Sunday, August 5, 2012
3:30-4:15pm - The Walkmen vs. Dum Dum Girls
The late afternoon is often a difficult time for me to choose between festival acts; I consistently think to myself, is there an act I'm clamoring to see, or would I rather just sit this hour out and cool off in the shade before the evening's headliners? These two acts, however, are forces that should be paid the attention that they are due, even if it is during that awkward late afternoon stretch. The Walkmen are no strangers to Lollapalooza; heck, you might have even, like me, seen them two years ago during their first Lollapalooza appearance. Though I promise you, you won't feel like you're watching the same set this time around; The Walkmen have developed their style immensely since their last Lolla appearance. Each of the group's albums have displayed the band as consistently honing in on their sound, refining and updating their style each time. Their latest album released this year, Heaven, is a glimmering indie rock gem, an emerging cornerstone of The Walkmen's musical catalogue, and will be a great addition to The Walkmen's second Lollapalooza set.
For Dum Dum Girls, this will be their very first Lollapalooza appearance. This group emits an infectious '60s pop vibe, which will send audience members into a toe-tapping frenzy with their sunny, lo-fi beats. For me, this choice is an easy one; The Walkmen have a beautiful sound, but one that is much better suited for an open, cavernous venue in which each soft sound can be amplified for a hushed, watchful audience. I'd much rather put on my dancing shoes and listen to Dum Dum Girls, who will get the crowd moving and energized for the last night of the festival's reign.
5pm-6:15pm - Amadou & Mariam vs. Toro Y Moi
Despite the "and", this battle is between three musicians performing on two stages, not four. Amadou & Mariam are the talented blind singer/songwriters from Mali whose lack of sight, does not in any way hinder their ability to present some totally danceable Afro-pop tracks. Their colorful native costumes, backing by a full band of diggable musicians, along with Amadou's guitar paired with the couple's vocals, make you want to shake your rump and sing along, like only (wait for it) World Music, can — even if they are singing in the Malian language Bambara. On that multilingual front, Lolla has been lacking, though it once featured French/Spanish singer Manu Chao on its stages, which I suppose is fitting since he also produced one of Amadou & Mariam's breakthru albums — Dimanche à Bamako (2004). Several albums later, their most recent release, Folila (2012) features tracks with Santigold as well as members of TV on the Radio, among others, so don't be surprised if maybe there are surprise guests. I'd just be content with Amadou & Mariam, however, so you'd find me there.
If you roll up for Toro y Moi, don't be surprised when it's just one guy up on stage. Known in real life as Chazwick Bundick, Toro y Moi is a one-man chillwave machine, making his own brand of relaxed clubby goodness for only a few years. If you're already spun out on the festival, this would be a good place to lie down and watch the clouds float by. My vote, however, is for the set with the couple from Africa, if anything, to appreciate their journey to Lollapalooza, in every sense of the word.
6-7:30pm - At The Drive-in vs. Florence and the Machine
If you grew up a pop punk kid in the mid to late '90s, chances are you drove around some suburban wasteland screaming along with At the Drive-In. The music was loud, emotional, and full of tension, a very fitting soundtrack for many a high school youth. The band called it quits in 2001, splintering off mainly between the the more instrumental solo heavy The Mars Volta and the still pop punk Sparta. But neither act sounded as strong as At the Drive-In did during their finest hour. The band reunited this year, and Lollapalooza is their only Chicago date thus far, so if you love a good nostalgic reunion act, make sure to drop by and relive someones youth.
Florence and the Machine has come a long way from the days of the soundtracking what seemed to be a one hit wonder movie song. After gaining popularity with her addictive track "Dog Days Are Over," Florence Welch, the main woman behind the moniker, has proven a lasting affect thanks to her honest songwriting and one incredible set of pipes. Welch has a knack for crafting the most uplifting and inspiring choruses, which has garnered critical and worldwide audience attention. Throw in some serious flair in stage presence and wardrobe and you've got the makings of a strong impressive leading lady. The hits might grab you, but Welch will surely enchant you and keep your attention for the rest of the set.
7:15-8:15pm - The Big Pink vs. Miike Snow
In one corner, you have the Big Pink, whose blend of electronic-infused shoegaze/noise came together magnificently on 2009's A Brief History of Love. They were loud, brash, punchy and exuded potential for better things. The following summer, however, they defined "phoning it in" at Lincoln Hall and Lollapalooza with the same dull 40-minute set at both shows. Singer/guitarist Robbie Furze tried to channel coolly indifferent British frontmen, but failed to deliver a worthy performance. In the other corner, you have Miike Snow, who wowed a small but adoring crowd at Lollapalooza in 2009 on the strength of their hit "Animal." The multi-national indie-electronic band improvised on tracks from their debut album with fresh arrangements and had the crowd engaged throughout. At subsequent shows in Chicago (such as at the Empty Bottle, Metro and the Riv), they've always had new tricks up their sleeve. This year's Happy to You should provide them with ample opportunities to wow again.
8:15-10pm - Justice vs. Childish Gambino vs. Jack White
The Lollapalooza gods have been unkind to us Sunday night as they decided to pit three of the best headliners up against each other. On the plus side, you are pretty much guaranteed to close out the festival with a solid show. Over at the Red Bull Soundstage, we've got a man who certainly needs no introduction. Between his time with The White Stripes, The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather, Jack White knows what he's doing. French DJ duo Justice would be a good choice if you're more concerned with dancing and losing yourself in the music than seeing an actual performance, as the two spend their entire show buried behind a wall of Marshall stacks. On the other hand, rapper Childish Gambino (Donald Glover of "Community" fame) knows how to work a stage, likely due to his acting background. If you were smart, you could have snagged a ticket to Childish Gambino's Saturday night after-party at The Vic to free yourself up to check out one of the other acts Sunday night. The show has now been sold out for ages, so you are otherwise out of luck. It's going to be a tough choice on Sunday night, but really any of these acts will be a winner. This one's a toss-up.