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Lollapalooza Day Two: On the scene with Jim DeRogatis

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Last Band Standing: The Melismatics, 11:30 a.m.

Day Two begins on the northern stage in Hutchinson Field with one of the winner's of Lollapalooza's lame "American Idol"/battle of the bands contest winners, the Melismatics from Minneapolis, who proceed to intersperse weak and thoroughly generic jangle-pop with weak and thoroughly generic alt-rock. If this is the last band standing, I'd hate to hear the bands that are sitting down.

On the (very) bright side: It's a gorgeously sunny 77 degrees in Grant Park with a cool breeze coming off the lake and a projected high of 83. Could it be true: A bona fide perfect day for a festival, in August, in Chicago?

By the way...

A little while ago, I asked: "Another question about day one, before I forget. The sampled male voice that Radiohead manipulated during its set Friday night. Anybody catch it?"

Yeah, it's what I thought it was, now confirmed: The critic from the lesser of Chicago's two daily newspapers rambling on about the juxtaposition of sounds he heard during Ron Hardy's sets back in the heyday of the Chicago house music scene on the radio show said critic co-hosts with yours truly.

Nice going, Mr. Kot. Jealous, moi? Never! (If I was, I wouldn't be posting about it; he's far too modest to do so himself.

More (much, much more as the days goes on) after the jump.

Margot & the Nuclear So and So's, 12:15-12:45

Wes Anderson's "The Royal Tennebaums" (2001) is on my short list of the greatest movies ever made, and Richard Edwards named his Indianapolis-based band after Gwyneth Paltrow's character from that film. Unfortunately, everything good I have to say about Margot and the Nuclear So & So's ends there. Why would Lollapalooza book a thoroughly generic, completely unextraordinary ork-pop band from Indiana when there are a dozen great bands in Chicago mining this turf (among them the Scotland Yard Gospel Choir, the 1900's, Canasta, Brooklyn transplant Chris Mills and the late, lamented Head of Femur, which probably would have reunited for a gig like this?).

Um... wait, wait, I'm trying to figure it out... sorry, got nothing.

The Ting Tings, 12:45-1:30

lady ting ting

Better get her name right: Katie White. Photo by Marty Perez for the Sun-Times

Lollapalooza has really got a fetish about putting these two-person bands in Hutchinson Field, but I'm not complaining, at least not about Salford, England's Ting Tings. Even better live than on their debut album "We Started Nothing," frontwoman Katie White and drummer and vocalist Jules De Martino are a joyful explosion of danceable, melodic, sugary sweet and very highly caffeinated energy in concert, as fun to watch as they are to sing along with.

Everybody now, come on, join in: "They call me 'Stacey'/They call me 'her'/They call me 'Jane'/That's not my name!/That's not my name!"

First highlight of the day, for sure. And there is already an enormous crowd in Hutchinson Field throughout the set.

ting tings

Jules De Martino and Katie White of the Ting Tings. Photo by Marty Perez for the Sun-Times


The more we think about, the creepier and creepier Big Brother's video eye in the sky becomes

eye in sky #1

Here's a photo by Sun-Times freelance ace and Chicago music scene legend Marty Perez of the Chicago Police Department's "Mobile Surveillance Unit/ICX Tactical Platform," the ostentatious lift we were writing about yesterday, which elevates a small, fully enclosed, air-conditioned pod equipped with a battery of video recorders to film all of the action in the crowd from high above their heads.

It turns out that these Spy Cams also were employed at the recent Pitchfork Music Festival, but only during the set by Public Enemy. Officers told the Sun-Times yesterday that they will next be used during the Bud Billiken Parade. There are, of course, a smattering of hip-hop acts in the field where the device is situated this weekend (Lupe Fiasco, Kanye West) and one very raucous, rambunctious and political rap-rock band (Rage Against the Machine, featuring Libertyville native Tom Morello, who is partly of African-American heritage).

Am I suggesting that their could be a pattern here in the tactics and crowd profiling by Chicago's Finest? Nooooo..... never.


eye in sky #2

Looks a little bit like WALL-E, doesn't it? Kinda fitting, given that film's Orwellian vision of the future and the anti-Wal-Mart/tragedy of human complacency and consumerism subtext.

Photo by Marty Perez for the Sun-Times

Dr. Dog, 1:30-2:30

From the high of the Tings Tings to... this, a (hate to use the word again, but nothing else fits) generic indie-pop from Philadelphia, the sort of group you'd catch at 11 a.m. on a side stage at one of Chicago's way-lesser street fairs.

Sure, somebody has to fill those slots at that kinda thing. But what is this doing here?

The Gutter Twins, 2:30-3:30

Gutter Twins

Photo by Marty Perez for the Sun-Times

It takes a truly extraordinary band to make the main stage in Hutchinson Field during a sunny day in the park seem as if it and everyone watching has suddenly been transported to a derelict bar on Bourbon Street or a sado-masochistic sex club on the Lower East Side at 4 in the morning. But then Greg Dulli and Mark Lanegan are truly extraordinary singers.

Unlike some of the other alternative-era icons who've performed here or are yet to appear, to say nothing of the festival's founding figurehead, there is nothing nostalgic about the new partnership between the former vocalists for the Afghan Whigs and the Screaming Trees. According to the bio that came with the group's recent Sub Pop album "Saturnalia," the two battered, bruised and scarred survivors first met at a party in 1989--it doesn't specify whether it was an orgy or a drug-and-liquor bacchanal, but imagination can fill in those details--and the seeds for this collaboration were planted then; it just took 18 years to make it happen.

It was worth the wait, and the dark soulful, raw rock and gutter glam of their collaborative set marked a mesmerizing high point that every act that follows will have a difficult time topping.


"All that I know, shoulda been, coulda been mine": Mark Lannegan, once of Screaming Trees, now a Gutter Twin. Photo by Marty Perez for the Sun-Times

OK, now I'm getting a little jealous


Greg Dulli: Sex God, Gutter Twin... Tribune reader?

Forgot to mention that Greg Dulli came out onstage, faced a crowd of about 20,000 and said, "Good afternoon, Greg Kot."

It's a long story involving a simmering one-way feud about a review a long time ago, and I ain't gonna tell it. But a dis from Dulli sure beats my phoeey from Perry last year.

Lolla 2008: Kot 2, DeRo 0. But we're only midway through.

MGMT, 3:30-4:30

"This might be the summer of MGMT," the Lollapalooza hype reads. "Artist of the Day," according to SPIN; a top 10 "Artist to Watch," says Rolling Stone, and the ninth best band of the year according to the BBC's "Sound of 2008" poll.

Well, I'm sorry to tell ya that the Brooklyn electro-rockers ain't all that. This is the third and weakest time I've seen Ben Goldwasser, Andrew VanWyngarden and their mates, and just because they've made fans of legendary producers Steve Lillywhite and Dave Fridmann doesn't mean their pointlessly meandering indie-pop is very good, especially in such a demanding setting in front of such a large crowd.

Brand New, 4:30-5:30

There just aren't enough synonyms for "generic," that's the problem. Roget lists five--common, comprehensive, general, universal and unspecified--and none of them are particularly satisfying. Merriam-Webster only has one, and "general" just doesn't do it. Therefore...

Generic pop-punk on the emo tip from Long Island. I'm sorry, but isn't the Vans Warped Tour at the First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre in Tinley Park today?

Perry Farrell gets testy--and censorial?

Through much of the day Saturday, William Kelly, the theatrical host of the Emmy Award-winning "Upscale Chicago" on WFLD-TV Fox 32, roamed around the media area interviewing performers (and, briefly, this reporter) and asking their opinions about the festival and the nature of art. During the morning press conference, Kelly says, he posed the same question to the panel of Lollapalooza founding figurehead Perry Farrell, C3 promoter Charlie Jones and members of the band MGMT.

As he put it in an email to me, Kelly asked about, "Being real and the nature of talent--is it arbitrary? Who decides? The big shots? Or is it something else? In my own 'unique' way, that is what I was getting at. If rock and roll is as rebellious as Lollapalooza stands for, then what is really happening here under the surface?"

Kelly also used his time at the mike during the press conference to say that the house band for his show needed a singer, asked if anyone could recommend one and said otherwise, he'd have to do it. He proceeded to deliver a short, silly but inoffensive rap about his dimple and a pimple.

A few hours after that press conference, Kelly says, "I got thrown out of Lollapalooza. Apparently, the head of the festival (Perry Farrell?), one of the publicists and the chief of security thought my 'little rap' a 'serious breach'--enough to warrant me and my camera person getting thrown out of the festival. Hours after it happened. Pretty ironic, huh? And telling."

Ironic indeed, especially given that Kelly's weekly half-hour program, which airs at 12:30 a.m. Sundays, proudly describes itself as giving "the inside track on the secret places the rich and famous shop, eat, relax and party!" Hardly controversial stuff.

"Maybe next time, I'll make sure to get the pre-approved question, comments, and reactions," Kelly says.

Jamie Lidell, 5:30-6:30

Now this is just what we needed for a late-afternoon pick-me-up: A celebratory set by English soul man Jamie Lidell, drawing inspiration from heroes such as Stevie Wonder and Prince to get a sun-baked crowd clapping and swaying to the funky rhythms, all building to a climax with a gorgeous mostly a cappella finale.

For once, a Lollapalooza performer who happened to be a veteran of the Pitchfork Music Festival did better here than there, thanks largely to the fact that Lidell was backed by a kicking band and not just performing to tracks on his laptop. And no, I'm not just biased because he current album is named "Jim."

Lupe Fiasco, 6:30-7:30

Chicago's Wasalu Muhammad Jaco--"Born and raised and never left!" as he proudly proclaimed--built on the promise he's shown at many earlier shows in his hometown and truly kicked things up a notch at twilight during the biggest gig he's ever played here, on Lollapalooza's marquee stage at the southern end of Hutchinson Field.

It was a big leap from his last appearance on that platform, a brief cameo with Kanye West when he rode onstage on a skateboard to introduce himself to the masses, to this victory lap run through a well-chosen, expertly flowing set of songs from his two masterful albums, "Food & Liquor" and "The Cool," both of which deserve a much wider audience than they've won--yet.

Resplendently dressed in white from head to food--a new Lupe from the bedroom musician, video gamer, unapologetic geek and sci-fi freak that we usually to see--the rapper expertly led a kicking 22-piece band complete with horn section and choir from a powerhouse opening with "Kick Push" to "Daydreamin'," which was reworked as a gorgeous, soul-filled slow jam, to a triumphant, stretched-out set-closing "Superstar."

"If you are what you say you are/A superstar/Then have no fear/The camera's here/And the microphones ,and they wanna know/Oh, oh, oh, oh," Lupe's friend and fellow Chicagoan Matt Santos sang again and again as his patron rapped, danced and threw himself body and soul into each verse and refrain, finally repeating the latter over and over again until it went from becoming a wish to an observation to a defiant declaration.

In the end, there were no two ways about it: A superstar is exactly what Lupe Fiasco is.

The Toadies, 7:30-8:30

And from that exquisite high we fall to another inexplicable and dreadful low.

Not only are the Toadies thoroughly (just fill that adjective in here yourself this time, OK?) in that horrible, pseudo-hard-rockin', look at us we're jamming, man mock-alternative way typified by Sponge, Third Eye Blind, Candlebox and that not-at-all-missed ilk, but this is the second time that the group has played Lollapalooza.

I thought for a second that the only way to explain the repeat, unwelcome but very high-profile presence here of Vaden Todd Lewis and his bandmates is that they must be managed by Lollapalooza's Austin, TX-based promoters C3 Presents, but it ain't so. (Festival acts this year that the company does manage include What Made Milwaukee Famous, Free Sol, Black Joe Lewis and, of course, the beyond dreaded Blues Traveler.)

Turns out the Toadies re from Fort Worth, TX, though, and I suppose it's just enough that Texans stick together. (Remember the Alamo?) But hey, it's not like we have to import this kind of god-awful group because we have a shortage of them in these parts. It's just that here, they all tend to sound a bit more like Disturbed.

Oh, yeah, I almost forgot: These goobers actually came out, played a mighty Black Sabbath riff, but stopped short of delivering the tune. Not only do they not deliver the rock, but they're pathetic teases to boot.

Stop the presses!!!

Actually fulfilling the breathless rumors of the days preceding the festival, unlike a certain Democratic contender for President, LINDSEY LOHAN CAME TO LOLLAPALOOZA!

That is all. And I for one really don't care to know anything more about it.

Oh. My. God.

The Toadies are STILL playing. "We have time for one more! You guys are awesome! This has been a great festival, a great experience, your guys are killer!"

The only possible way this could get any worse is if LiLo came out and joined them.


Rage Against the Machine vocalist Zack de la Rocha fights the power... again. Photo by Marty Perez for the Sun-Times

Rage Against the Machine, 8:30-10

Finally, it was time for the reunited godfathers of rap-rock, headlining the main stage in the south at Hutchinson Field and playing opposite Wilco up in the north. Though obviously not quite as full as it was for Radiohead, who played unopposed on Friday, the dirt bowl was once again an endless mass of bouncing, seething and sweating souls, all responding to the frenetic energy of unable to sustain (or even launch) a solo career vocalist Zack de la Rocha, bassist Tim Commerford, drummer Brad Wilk and the band's real star, Libertyville-bred guitarist Tom Morello, partying once again like it was 1993, the year the group first played Lollapalooza, months after the release of its self-titled debut.

And, sad to say, Rage's notoriously raucous fans were every bit as boneheaded in 2008 as they were back in the day.

Within the first three songs, de la Rocha was urging the crowd to calm down a bit and "please take four, five, six steps back," in between railing at "the cops and f---ed-up politicians," seemingly a reference to stringent security procedures in place to make sure Rage's infamously raucous crowd didn't get too out of control.

Within four songs, security was reporting two fans forcibly ejected, with one of them riding away in a squad car. And photographers emerging from the pit in front of the stage were reporting numerous fans passing out in the heat of the rush toward the stage and being carried away and treated by medical personnel.

Then, a little more than half an hour into the set, a crowd that festival security personnel and witnesses estimated as ranging between 500 and 2,000 people rushed a guarded access gate on Columbus Drive near Balbo Drive to gain admittance. These fans had been listening to the show from the grass across Columbus Drive until someone led the charge and others followed, and the sudden rush was only stopped when a dozen Chicago Police officer arrived on horseback.

Police then proceeded to close Columbus Drive, though officers onsite declined to comment. Lollapalooza promoters could not be found for comment Saturday night.

Despite all of this chaos, it all seemed just a little... forced. And all too predictable.

Make no mistake: Rage Against the Machine has become a nostalgia act--a loud, rambunctious nostalgia act, but a nostalgia act nonetheless. "Who controls the past now controls the future/Who controls the present now controls the past," de la Rocha chanted in the opening "Testify," and they were apt words indeed.

As always, for all of de la Rocha's histrionics and rhetoric, Morello was the revelation, once again somehow, impossibly but miraculously mimicking the sounds of scratching turntables, dropping bombs and wailing sirens with six strings and a pick--though to tell the truth, he is both more relevant and more inspired today in his acoustic activist guise as the Nightwatchman.

For all of the energy and anger, the roar and the ranting, you simply cannot turn back the hands of time.


Hometown hero Tom Morello, hands down one of the most creative guitarists in rock history. Photo by Marty Perez for the Sun-Times


All-too-predictable chaos in the crowd as Rage Against the Machine takes the stage. The fan being hoisted over the security barrier at the front of the stage should be lucky he's getting a lift from every Chicago rock fan's favorite security pro, Karl K. Photo by Marty Perez for the Sun-Times

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Jim, I gotta agree with you on the ork-pop thing. Last year, Lolla booked some really great ones (particularly the psycho-popsters the Polyphonic Spree and the juvenile Swedes I'm From Barcelona, both of whom put on excellent sets). The undercard this year was particularly underwhelming.

i saw foxtail summerset yesterday on the citi stage. after hearing they were the winner of a contest i did research and found that there was another winner of the same contest. i went and saw them this morning and i feel the same as you. they were not good. i heard people in the crowd laughing. someone even said is this a high school musical band. lets all hope they have better bands next year!

The Rage reunions are silly. They haven't put out any new music in over 8 years. So what's the point other then them 'cashing-in' like any other old foagie nostalgia act. The silliest part of their show though, is when Zack DeLaRocha told everyone "we all need to help out our brothers and sisters . . . and now our next song is Bullet In The Head"

Since when is Head of Femur done for? I thought they were still at it. Also, the Toadies certainly have not played Lollapalooza before. Not that you'd care about checking your facts on "god-awful goobers." Still, just because it's a "blog" doesn't make it okay to post false information.

It's too bad you stuck to the south field. If you wanted some high-energy non-generic music, De Novo Dahl (who played opposite Margot) would have provided you with that. Same with DeVotchKa (who played opposite MGMT).

As to the Toadies comment, I think you're thinking of Lewis' other project The Burden Brothers who played in 2006.

Wow the author of this article is clearly biased and middle aged. Calling Brand New generic is just an easy cop out to not understanding their style, the same with most of the bands you have dissed on this blog. And then you go and call Lupe a superstar, meanwhile Soundscan disagrees. This is why the Sun Times gets it's image as a horribly managed and written outlet.

I thought Margot were good. But your point is well taken - Chicago bands are clearly superior to all others. I mean, seriously - it's so insulting to have some band from Indiana play! Wake up, Perry!

So out of about 10 acts the only 2 people you liked were chicago-born Lupe and Morello? what a homer! pretty weak from you jim. calling rage a nostalgia act is bold considering all of the issues they speak about are still very relevant today. or is the immigration issue nostalgic too?

I can't argue - Rage was out of hand and their material isn't new. It's still incredible stuff though and the energy for that show put it over the top.

Who would be the dream closers list (2 nights with 2 stages, 1 unopposed) for 2009?

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Jim DeRogatis published on August 2, 2008 4:34 PM.

Lollapalooza Sells Out Again was the previous entry in this blog.

Lollapalooza Day Two: On the scene with Anders Smith Lindall, updated 10:38 p.m. is the next entry in this blog.

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