Day Three at Lollapalooza's fourth year as a destination festival in Grant Park.
With Kanye West headlining the main stage at the southern end of the Park Sunday night, and Nine Inch Nails topping the bill up north, two new mysteries have replaced Saturday's drama of whether or not Barack Obama would show.
First, will West throw another festival hissy fit as he did at Bonnaroo? And second, will police tighten down on security and/or overreact as a result of the Rage Against the Machine gate crashers Saturday? (Our reporting on that incident can be found here ).
We'll find out. Meanwhile, C3 spokeswoman Shelby Meade said that it is now official: Tickets for Sunday have sold out, marking the first new Lollapalooza to do so, and bringing what the promoters said will be a total 225,000 to the park this weekend (excluding gate crasher and fence jumpers, of course).
Now on to the music...
The Octopus Project, 11:30-12:15
The third day of Lollapalooza 2008 got off to a soothing and blissful start under a clear and bright blue sky at the southern end of Grant Park with this Austin, TX ambient/electronic quartet and its gorgeous soundscapes rife with analog synthesizer and the impressive theremin playing of Yvonne Lambert.
What a contrast to the previous band from last night, eh?
Another celebrity sighting
I hear that Fall Out Boy's Pete Wentz also was here Saturday night with his new bride Ashley Simpson. Now, on the glitz-o-meter, does that rank above or below Lindsay Lohan and her love, Samantha Ronson? Just wondering.
Kid Sister, 12:15-1:15
"Who'd have thunk it, Chicago?" Melissa Young, the favorite daughter of suburban Markham, IL, asked early in her set. "Main stage at Lollapalooza--what the hell?"
Indeed, the hometown heroine has had a meteoric rise from small clubs and mix tapes to this high-profile platform, especially considering that she has yet to release her debut album. But Young is bursting with talent, and if it wasn't quite enough to carry an hour-long set in front of an already considerable crowd, she certainly more than held her own for at least 45 minutes of that slot, and the show built to a climax with her sassy rendition of "Pro-Nails," the single released on the Gold label run by her boyfriend and Kanye West's DJ, A-Trak.
An irony we've forgotten to mention
At festival whose major sponsor is AT&T, cell phone service from that company has been sporadic to non-existent for customers in the park throughout the weekend; the circuits, it seems, are swamped, though that does not seem to be the case for other providers such as Verizon. Must just be too many iPhones here.
The Whigs, 1:15-2:15
Though not quite as dire as the Toadies on Saturay, this group from Athens, Ga., was yet another of the head-scratching inclusions on this bill. What, we don't have enough Paul Westerberg wannabes in Chicago? Or is it just that we don't have any that also add an obnoxious dollop of Southern-rock jamming, man?
Brazilian Girls, 2:15-3:15
She may not actually be Brazilian--the quartet is comprised of four New Yorkers--but Brazilian Girls frontwoman Sabina Sciubba certainly exudes the sultry, slinky, oh-so-cool sexuality of a girl from Ipanema.
The group's modern digital take on the space age bachelor pad music or Martin Denny exotica records of the'50s and '60s--mixing jazz, bossa nova, reggae and other rhythms from around the world but updating them for the era of electronica--would have been the perfect follow-up to the Octopus Project, helping to continue to mellow, tranced-out vibe of Sunday morning and afternoon. Too bad we had to endure the Whigs in between, but it was worth it to stay south.
Wearing a puffy white outfit that could accurately be called a cloud dress, shimmied, sashayed, seduced and warbled her way through the very enjoyable set, at times evoking Incan princess and giant of this genre Yma Sumac, and building to a high point of asking the crowd to join her in a life-is-good chant of "P----, p----, p----, p----, marijuana!"
Now that's a message.
A now a reminder that not everyone with a synthesizer is capable of doing anything interesting with it.
This Montreal duo tries hard to craft party-hearty electro-funk, but it just winds up sounding like the soundtrack for a bad TV commercial. "This one is called 'Bonafide Lovin'," guitarist-vocalist vocalist Dave One announced at one point during the set. (Real name David Macklovitch, he's the Jewish member; he and his electronics-manipulating partner P-Thugg/Patrick Gemayel like to call themselves the only successful Arab/Jewish collaboration since the beginning of time. Macklovitch is also the older brother of Kanye West DJ Alain/A-Trak, whose name is popping up a lot today.)
Sorry boys, but there was nothing bonafide about this afternoon gig.
G. Love & Special Sauce, 4:15-5:15
Wanna know the secret ingredient in the special sauce? Cheese. A whole lotta cheese.
Blues Traveler, 5:15-6:15
The third dire and painful afternoon lull at the southern end of Grant Park dragged on and on (and on and on) with the funky jamming self-indulgence of G. Love (making its third! appearance at this festival in the last four years) and the jammy funking self-indulgence of Blues Traveler (which is also a chronic repeater undeserving of this stage or festival).
I swore off using the "g word" yesterday, but had so much fun looking for alternatives in the online thesauruses, I thought I'd try to find a synonym for the only word that really applies to these two bands.
As hard as this is to believe, there is no synonym for the verb to describe what G. Love and Blues Traveler do. (Hint: rhymes with masticate.)
Gnarls Barkley, 6:15-7:15
One of the most celebratory sets at Lollapalooza in 2006, Gnarls Barkley came across as an irresistible party band, and everyone wanted to join in the fun: Several other bands playing the festival that year covered the group's signature hit "Crazy," though multi-instrumentalist and producer Danger Mouse (Brian Burton) and vocalist Cee-Lo Green (Thomas Callaway) delivered the best version. This time, the group toned down the outlandish costumes, came out dressed as a cross between a nerdy wedding band and Centry 21 real estate salesmen, and mined the darker psychedelic soul vibe of its second album, "The Odd Couple," which was wonderfully rewarding in a creepy/groovy way, just not partyrific.
Mark Ronson, 7:15-8:30
The turntablist and record company impresario may be a sought-after producer, with Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen topping his resume, but his own albums and concerts are none too impressive, evoking lazy post-recording British soul and favorite covers jam sessions with his numerous friends. Several showed up during this set, but the one who stole the show was Chicago rapper Rhymefest, who typically hurled himself body and soul into his short cameo, jumping into the crowd and surfing on their upstretched arms.
It's pretty clear that this set is all just about biding time until Kanye West takes the stage--and you know he will play no festival before he's good and ready. But Ronson's bar-band-level soul-funk just dragged on... and on... and on... and on. (And darkness fell at least 40 minutes before he was done, thanks to the rolling cloud cover, meaning the stage was well and truly set for Kanye's outer-space extravaganza long before Ronson ran out of wind, right after Rhymefest's cameo.)
Kanye West, 8:30-10
At last, the final set of Lollapalooza 2008 began at the southern end of Grant Park. After a brief medley of his greatest riffs, Kanye West, the most successful rapper Chicago has ever produced and one of the most acclaimed artists, producers and live performers on the current music scene, hit the stage amid clouds of fog and a battery of blinding lights and launched into "Good Morning," amending the lyrics as "Good morning, Chicago!"
Never mind that night had fallen on the last day of a long, hard weekend of sun, music and the masses of people. It was an undeniable burst of energy, and the set maintained that level as West delivered one hit after another ("Touch the Sky," "Diamonds from Sierra Leone," "Flashing Lights") in a stripped-down version of the massive and theatrical Glow in the Dark Tour that he took through arenas a few months ago, including a stop at the United Center.
If anything, West's performance benefited from having to pare back a bit on the beyond-Broadway production values, because it made him--and us--focus on the music, and it was nothing short of extraordinary.
The fact is that for all of his boasting and tantrum-throwing, he's a force of nature on stage. Remember: It ain't bragging if you can deliver the goods.