Sun-Times contributor Anders Smith Lindall reports:
Live from the sauna that is Grant Park, it's the third and final day of Lollapalooza.
As usual I'll be focused on the northernmost stages--which today promise the likes of Jane's Addiction, Lou Reed and Neko Case--while Jim holds down the south. Apart from those big three, though, I have fewer must-sees today and more inclination to just follow my ears.
Powered by the lingering buzz of several excellent shows on Saturday, I have my hopes up.
Music aside, an aspect of this iteration of Lolla that's drawn notice from fans is the video boards, which are order of magnitude sharper than any I've seen before. (Their colors also seem super-saturated, lending an almost hyper-real look to the filmed images.)
Scenes from the crowd at Lollapalooza early in day three Sunday; Sun-Times photos by Marty Perez.
Follow the jump for more on the video operation, including an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at a the production of a planned 3D documentary feature.
Special report on Lolla video
Behind the scenes of any event as large as Lollapalooza are multitudes of staff whose skill and sweat go mostly unnoticed. An exception this weekend was the 80-plus camera operators, editors and others whose film fueled the video boards that flanked the big stages.
Those boards were even more eye-catching than usual, with high-definition images and vibrant color--and for good reason: This year's festival was shot with cutting-edge camera technology provided by a partnership of high-end outfits including Network Live and Action 3D.
The images on the Lolla live boards were only a slice of the crew's output, which streamed over the festival's Webcast, will be edited into an hour-long HD special for broadcast Saturday on cable's Fuse TV, and is intended for a 3D documentary feature.
All that demanded an extensive set-up. The big Budweiser stage alone boasted eight different camera positions, including two onstage (source of the you-are-there close-ups) and two on cranes (for the long, swooping shots over the crowd).
The secret to three-dimensional film images that look realistic but really pop? Each of those eight positions featured not one but two cameras set side-by-side--since humans, after all, have two eyes.
Three staffers manned each position. Bobby Settlemire, an L.A. industry hand who more often shoots feature films and underwater specials, said the biggest challenge at a live concert is "trying to restrain yourself from getting so into the show you start bopping around and bumping the camera."
The streams from those 16 feeds snaked through fiber-optic cable to a production truck parked nearby. Its dimly lit interior bristled with banks of video screens and enough tech toys to make NASA jealous.
In the truck's icy AC I checked out 3D footage filmed Friday night. While special glasses are still required, those too have come a long way from red and blue lenses in paper frames. The new specs look more like Ray-Bans--or as one staffer quipped, "Walk in here when we're filming and we all look like Jake and Elwood."
Behind the glasses, I felt like I was standing at center stage. The clips I saw made even the workmanlike Kings of Leon seem exciting; imagine what they'll do for dynamite performers like TV on the Radio or Lou Reed.
10:00 p.m. update: Sunday recap
What was supposed to be a scene-stealing capstone to Lollapalooza's last night turned into an embarrassingly botched stunt shortly before 9 p.m. Sunday. It happened when Perry Farrell's alt-rock nostalgia act Jane's Addiction was making its entrance on the main stage in Butler Field while a helicopter circled low overhead, its searchlight sweeping the crowd.
As the copter buzzed and Jane's launched into "Mountain Song" (its refrain, "cash in now, honey," never sounded more apt), there was just one problem: Band of Horses was still on stage at the adjacent Petrillo Band Shell, and they weren't done yet. Add the noise and confusion of the chopper fly-by to the din of two bands playing in the same field at the same time, and the obvious result was cacophony--and not the good kind.
A more rewarding brand of noise was supplied by Velvet Underground founder and art-rock icon Lou Reed. The only true legend on the festival bill, Uncle Lou wasn't flawless--his reliance on reading lyrics from a teleprompter was a distraction, and the seven-piece band behind him was a bit too much--but he didn't disappoint.
Looking remarkably fit at age 67, Reed wore glasses, a charcoal tee-shirt, skinny black jeans and yellow Nikes. Instead of greeting the crowd he opened with an unmistakable calling card, the iconic snarling riff of "Sweet Jane." He called out solos in a swinging take on "Senselessly Cruel," rode ebbs and surges of momentum in "Dirty Blvd.," and channeled fierce passions in "Mad," his fist stabbing the air with every drum kick.
The propulsive "Paranoia Key of E" devolved into a lengthy fusillade of feedback and skronking saxophone, a reminder that Reed is the man behind "Metal Machine Music." Eventually the noise assault gave way to a percussive groove; it was the set's second Velvets chestnut, "I'm Waiting for the Man." Finally, with the clock ticking overtime, Reed spat, "All right, 'Wild Side,' hurry up." The crowd erupted for his only true solo hit, 1972's "Walk on the Wild Side."
In all, this was a powerful assertion of the breadth of Reed's catalog and his enduring influence.
(It should be said that Reed took the stage nearly 15 minutes late and ran well past his allotted time, pushing back Band of Horses and setting in motion their sonic clash with Jane's Addiction. Now, nobody's going to cut Reed short, nor should they have, but someone in a position of responsibility should have made sure there was no miscommunication or competition between subsequent acts.)
The north end's other notable set was supplied by Neko Case. Joined by her usual supporting cast--among them longtime collaborators Tom Ray, Jon Rauhouse and Kelly Hogan--the former Chicagoan turned the neat trick of making the big festival setting seem almost as intimate as a gig at the Hideout.
Like Jeff Tweedy before her, it's been a treat to watch Case grow as a songwriter, bandleader and performer. Her latest singles "Maneater" and "This Tornado Loves You" aren't just fine pop songs on album; as this set showed, she can deliver them elegantly in concert, too. What's more, Case is now so confident and her band so skilled that they can focus on such subtleties as the rattling-bones banjo in "Things That Scare Me" and drummer Barry Mirochnik's deft brushwork in "Maybe Sparrow," Rauhouse's gauzy steel guitar in "I'm An Animal" and the bell-clear harmonies of "Teenage Feeling" or "Vengeance Is Sleeping."
I wish I could say as much for the other acts on the north end's main stages Sunday, but none of the pub-rousing Kaiser Chiefs, woozy Danish rock duo the Raveonettes and Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach made even half the impression. Each is a familiar act breaking little new ground; at least the Kaiser Chiefs revved up the crowd with "Oh My God" and "I Predict A Riot."
Or maybe the problem was me. With the Kaiser Chiefs and Raveonettes playing back-to-back at the height of Sunday's heat, I found myself distracted by the desire to get cool. On that front, before storms finally threatened, the wind shifted and the temperature dropped, I joined hundreds of other concertgoers in gravitating away from the stages to seek shade, stand in the spray next to Buckingham Fountain, and soak under this fire department contraption:
Anders Smith Lindall is a Chicago-based freelance writer and critic, and since 1997 a regular contributor to the Sun-Times. His music writing has appeared in Salon, the Chicago Reader, Minneapolis City Pages, No Depression, and many other publications, most of them defunct. Anders has also worked for the Pitchfork Music Festival.