BY ANDERS SMITH LINDALL
For the Sun-Times
It's Hump Day at Lolla. We've been blessed with lower temps and a milder dew point. I've slathered on the sunscreen, so let's get to it: In the words of the great Paul Westerberg, "I was raised in the city, I'm ready to rock."
Photo by Marty Perez for the Sun-Times
Don't ever let it be said the Sun-Times doesn't give you the inside look at Lolla. How much more inside can you get than this?
One of the luxe air-conditioned "mobile lavatories" in the V.I.P. sections (not quite a porta-potty, is it?)
Photos by Anders Smith Lindall
Unauthorized attendees (but hey, this is the people's park, right?)
Rising local rap duo the Cool Kids drew a healthy crowd to their headline slot on a Lollapalooza side stage Friday evening. How did fans amuse themselves during the unexpectedly lengthy delay before their set? By egging on the ragtag bunch loitering outside the low, wobbly chain-link fence, then watching as one after another they took the dare. Men and women, young and older, even one with a skateboard on his back, all leaped or tumbled from outside in:
I stopped counting at 19 fence-jumpers in less than 10 minutes before a lone, beleagured security guard arrived.
Photos by Anders Smith Lindall
And now a word from your promoters
Lollapalooza promoter Charlie Jones of C3 Presents, left, and the festival's founding figurehead, Perry Farrell. Photo by Marty Perez for the Sun-Times
If you thought we'd start the day with fast-breaking news from the festival's official news conference, I'm sorry to disappoint. Perry Farrell, C3 Presents principal Charlie Jones and two members of MGMT indeed faced the media horde shortly after noon, but the toughest question came from Ratso, the lovable Chic-A-Go-Go puppet.
Ratso stumped MGMT's Andrew Van WynGarden with a knock-knock joke. He seemed so nervous and shaken you'd think Ratso was hosting Punk'd.
Jones, for his part, said he considers Lollapalooza's relationship with the city of Chicago to be "an honor and a big responsibility, and we don't take it lightly." He cited the festival's efforts to reduce waste, its monetary contributions to city parks and work with public schools.
Asked how he and other festival organizers book Lolla's bands, Farrell said he relies on his friends, his iPod, the William Morris Agency and C3 partner Charles Attal.
Perry also plugged Lolla's new dance tent--called, um, "Perry's,"--which has a sound system he deemed "really thunderous and subsonic."
Updated 3:15 p.m.:
MASON JENNINGS was born in Hawaii and lives in Minneapolis, but at the Petrillo shell his sound was straight California cool. Spinning folk-rock ruminations (his new single "Fighter Girl"), hushed acoustic meditations ("Adrian") and even fake-funk kiss-offs ("Bullet"), Jennings offered fitting fare for a lakeside loll.
So far, so good
A similar easygoing vibe seemed to settle over the main gates earlier today. At last check, entry lines were running without a hitch.
Root, root -- rage?
Tonight's headline slot won't be Tom Morello's only gig today. The RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE guitarist and Libertyville native turned up at Wrigley Field this afternoon to lead the crowd in "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." (Oh yeah, and the Cubs won.)
Spotted in the crowd
I'm still watching for notable ballcaps. So far throwbacks seem to be the trend, including lots of those great old Brewers hats with the MB glove logo in loud, proud yellow and blue; two ornithologically correct Blue Jays and one politically incorrect Chief Wahoo.
MySpace? Our space! Photo by Marty Perez for the Sun-Times
Updated 7:05 pm: If there was a theme to the southerly stages in the early afternoon, it was midnight sounds under midday sun.
There was the GUTTER TWINS, whose stellar set of soul-soaked rock was all the more impressive because the band 's principals, Greg Dulli and Mark Lanegan, are quintessential rock vampires. You'd think sunshine would shrivel them up, but in fact they thrived. (For a full accounting of Gutter Twins, see Jim's Saturday post.)
BOOKA SHADE kept up the after-hours mood but to entirely different ends. If Dulli and Lanegan took their crowd down dank alleys, Berlin DJ-producers Arno Kammermeier and Walter Merzinger transported listeners to a sleek Euro-disco dancefloor. And while on disc the pair's productions are so pristine they can seem fussy, on stage they tweaked laptop samples and pounded drum pads to build and release tense, sinewy grooves.
What's hot: Accordions
Back up north in Butler Field and just one day after Gogol Bordello employed an accordion as a bludgeon, the Denver-based DEVOTCHKA returned the instrument's more sensitive side. (I'd say "traditional," but there's little tradition of squeezeboxes in rock--to say nothing of Sousaphones, another DeVotchKa tool.) Wheezing and whistling, the band worked its way from the Gypsy strains of Eastern Europe to sounds that evoked the American southwest.
Less is more
EXPLOSIONS IN THE SKY offered no such spectacle, but that's to be expected from a band who made its bones doing soundtracks. Nevertheless the Austin quartet made the most of its plum late-afternoon spot on the north end's biggest stage; Munaf Rayani and Mark Smith's languid, liquid guitar lines meshed and swirled, in no particular hurry and inviting listeners to enjoy the beauty of the ride.
There's a remarkable gulf between this year's very-high-profile headliners and the much more modest acts on the immediate undercard. Like many of the bands above, OKKERVIL RIVER has a sizable but still cultish following and significant though subtle charms. Though the band is rooted in dusty heartland rock, mop-topped frontman Will Sheff--who broke out a pair of suspenders to mark the occasion--tugs his songs in unexpected directions, then drives them home with a desperate strangled yelp that echoes Robert Smith.
Fighting for your right
(photo by Anders Smith Lindall)
"The promoter's ordinance unfairly makes it so everybody would have to be licensed, and the definition of promoter is so broad--bringing in musicians, actors, touring bands--that it would essentially make it illegal to put on shows, especially in small clubs or gallery spaces. In a city that's the home of soul, gospel, blues, Chaka Khan, the Smashing Pumpkins and Kanye West, that's a damn shame. They probably never would have made it with an ordinance like this. [If it passes,] everything's gonna be run by a few corporations--Clear Channel, Live Nation--and that is not what the 1st Amendment or our culture is about." - Gary Kuzminski, aka John E. Showbiz, 40, Chicago
Updated 10:00 p.m.: The DAP-KINGS are old-school, disciples of a day when audiences had to work to see a star. So SHARON JONES never just comes out on stage with her hot band; they play a few songs to warm up the crowd first, and this set was no different. She finally entered to this introduction: "Ladies and gentlemen, the super soul sister with the magnetic je ne sais quois!" What followed was a classic R&B clinic, replete with sassy shouting and even a little mashed-potato step, that one hopes the likes of Duffy (who played a going-through-the-motions set on the same stage yesterday) stuck around to watch.
Wilco picks fashion over politics
No, there was no cameo by the junior senator from Illinois, better known to the world as Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. The White House hopeful's possible presence at Wilco's headlining set in Butler Field was the subject of speculation in the days leading up to Lolla, but Obama spent Saturday campaigning in Florida.
Instead, the most notable thing about Wilco was Jeff Tweedy & Co.'s clothing, a psychedelic sartorial explosion in the form of vibrantly colored and spangled Nudie suits worn by each member. Porter Wagoner would have been jealous: Tweedy's suit, scarlet with gold accents, was emblazoned with Pokemon; Glenn Kotche sweated it out behind the kit in powder blue and canary yellow while bassman John Stirratt strutted in a royal blue coat with a nautical theme that featured a ship, tiller and killer whale.
"We've been doing a lot of sewing for the past few months, preparing for this show," Tweedy cracked.
This was Wilco's second Lolla appearance and the band's sixth Chicago show this year, following a five-night run at the Riviera in February. They've also played two Obama benefit gigs here recently, and maybe as a result of all that exposure--combined with the draw of the reunited Rage Against the Machine opposite them--the crowd was relatively small and very relaxed. Couples and groups sat and lounged on the grass.
Wilco's set was laidback, too. They opened with the fractured folk of "Misunderstood," made their way through a twitchy "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart," and played gleaming versions of "Handshake Drugs" and "Spiders," all of it impeccable but all of it restrained.
Don't get me wrong--Wilco at this moment is a terrific band, a seamlessly complementary and cohesive unit formed from technically brilliant individual players. But it's as if they're too good, or too comfortable. Watching them is impressive, but not breathtaking.
The band did play one new song, termed by Tweedy a work in progress. It was a minimal, minor-key composition with surging instrumental breaks powered by Nels Cline's fuzztone guitar. "You were a blessing and I was a curse, I did my best not to make things worse for you," Tweedy sang.
There was also a pretty version of one rare nugget, John Stirratt's "It's Just That Simple." I'd call it a winsome bit of backwoods blue-eyed soul fueled by Cline's sublime lap steel, but a girl walking out past me might beg to differ: "Ugh," she groaned. "This sounds like country!"
She wasn't around to hear the rhinestone-speckled Tweedy get the last word. "I have a feeling that our suits enjoyed that."