Sun-Times freelancer Anders Smith Lindall reports:
First post, 10:55 a.m.: It's a few minutes before 11 on Saturday morning; Lolla Day Two is about to begin. The conditions are already soupy on the lakefront, as today promises to be a real steam bath. At least it will be a change from Friday's relentless rain. This pic I snapped during the Bon Iver set pretty well sums up yesterday's conditions:
There might be an up side to the worrisome practice of Lolla bar tents selling beer in aluminum cans--including 24-ounce tallboys--rather than plastic cups. While security personnel fret that the cans could become dangerous missiles, the value of aluminum recyclables may be keeping them off the ground and out of the garbage:
Finally, must-see recommendations from two more notable faces in the crowd.
Rock-poster artist and Dianogah bass player Jay Ryan, buttonholed backstage at yesterday's Andrew Bird gig: "I'd like to see TV on the Radio and Neko Case. But I'll be at a wedding instead."
WXRT host Marty Lennartz: "I'm looking forward to Lou Reed. It's been so long since he did a real rock show, a festival show. For years he's been doing these oddball projects. I'm sure he has something special planned."
Regular updates follow the jump.
Refresh this page for periodic updates throughout the day.
Updated 12:50 p.m.: There may indeed be nothing new under the rock'n'roll sun, but invigorating reinventions of tried and true forms are still out there, waiting to be discovered. In that vein, my discovery of the festival so far is the Evanston-native quartet Ezra Furman and the Harpoons.
Treading a path of guitar-bass-drums rock and witty lyrics well-worn from Jonathan Richman to "Like A Rolling Stone" and Buddy Holly before that, Furman and Co. still pack a bracing punch. Over a frantic kick-drum thump and galloping guitar, the fresh-faced front man hollered and yelped knotty tales of heartbreak thick with internal rhyme.
Interrupting "We Should Fight" with an aside that turned into a kind of mission statement, Furman told the crowd, "I learned when I was really young that rock'n'roll is about the right backbeat, and a lot of honesty, and wildness, and being who you really are." Amen.
*Grounds report: Before the crowds started streaming in earlier today, the south end of Hutchinson Field appeared to be holding up remarkably well in spite of yesterday's rain:
As for Hutchinson's north end ... well, see for yourself:
*Faces in the crowd: I've long wondered why I've never spied club-scene fixture Thax Douglas and Cubs bleacher bum Ronnie "Woo-Woo" Wickers in one place. Could they actually be the same person? The following shots from the Ezra Furman show don't quite dispel my theory, but it's close:
*As for the recently-resurrected Thax, he preceded Furman with a poem that referred to a "hot love sundae the chicks will gobble until they get sick." Um, I think I'll just let that one lie.
Now back to the music--see you here later on.
Updated 9:00 p.m.: Apologies for not chiming in as frequently as promised; Lolla logistics conspired to keep me on the run today--and mostly on the north end of the park, well away from the media tent. Quite honestly, there was always so much music happening, and so much of it was so rewarding, that I opted to leave the laptop-tapping 'til later. So here, better late than never, is the recap of my afternoon and evening.
By midafternoon the sun was blazing, but a pair of veteran rap soldiers matched its intensity with their performance on the big Chicago 2016 stage. They were Slug, the MC, and Ant, the DJ, who've been making music together as Atmosphere for more than a dozen years. For this set the duo had a guitarist, keyboard player and female vocalist in tow; with them recreating cool jazz or mournful soul backdrops, Ant had few duties but to drop beats on his turntable or laptop, and to smoke cigarettes while Slug's rhymes smoldered.
A Minneapolis native born Sean Daley, Slug paced the stage and worked the crowd, quickly sweating through his white tee. His larger message is one of solidarity and uplift--he invoked a favorite twist on hip-hop cliché by commanding everyone in earshot to "make some noise for the person standing next to you right now"--but his rhymes are dark. The mean streets he chronicles are the bombed-out hoods of his inner space; from older fan favorites "Trying to Find a Balance" and "Modern Man's Hustle" to tracks from Atmosphere's latest disc, "If Life Gives You Lemons," Slug and crew declaimed on "life, love, stress and setbacks" with a fierce passion and deep groove.
The mood was measurably lighter at the Kidzapalooza stage, where a cameo by Band of Horses was an ill-kept secret and actual kids in the crowd were vastly outnumbered by the Sub Pop act's adult fans. Saving their stamina for their regularly scheduled Sunday set, the quintet played a quick three songs. They tucked one for the children--a ditty called "Nature" that singer Ben Bridwell said will appear next season on the cable show "Yo Gabba Gabba!"--between the familiar, mournful "Is There A Ghost" and "The General Specific."
Another special guest was promised at the Perry's dance platform, where Mr. Farrell himself held court. Flanked by a bevy of hangers-on, Lolla's nominal host sang, shouted out Chicago platitudes and twirled to the sounds of a DJ and percussionist. Though various rumors said Perry would be joined again by LeAnn Rimes (as he was Friday on the kiddie stage) or perhaps a rapper said to be Farrell's nephew, neither had materialized by the time I had to move on.
Whether it was the perils of performing on a big festival stage, the dreaded maturation process or just a late afternoon torpor, something tripped up Arctic Monkeys right out of the gate. Instead of showcasing the scrappy, scuzzy, loud-fast-rules post-punk that fueled the band's first rise on the UK rock scene, here the Brit quartet spent far too long being much too mild. Only at set's end did we get hard-charging takes on "I Bet You Look Good On the Dancefloor" and "The View from the Afternoon."
By 5 p.m. the crowd in Butler Field was crushingly dense, and making the way back to the Petrillo shell was a long slog through a sweaty human sea. It was frankly remarkable how patient and positive people seemed to be despite such stifling conditions.
I did finally reach Petrillo to see Santigold, a k a Brooklyn-based singer Santi White, her band and backing vocalists. White wasn't much of a physical presence, but the band's polished attack and her own big, rangy voice were compensation enough. Whether she sang low and smoky over an undulating island groove or soared to shout above a spy-caper riff, the packed crowd ate it up. (One onlooker worth noting was Wu-Tang rapper and frequent White collaborator GZA, who watched from the wings.)
Around the same time Santigold's set wound down, a merciful south wind kicked up and the sun sank behind the city skyline to the west. For the first time all day, conditions were comfortable as TV on the Radio took the stage; a few gauzy clouds streaked the deepening blue sky.
Unlike Arctic Monkeys before them, TV on the Radio had no trouble rising to the festival challenge and filling even this massive space. That's no small feat for any band, much less one whose dense, menacing sound is so perfectly suited for intimate club settings. Tunde Adebimpe, Kyp Malone and the rest fared well in part because they built on their sound--adding a three-piece horn section to already-layered compositions that weave guitar, percussion, keys and vocal harmonies--and in part because the pulsing polyrhythms that underpin even their artiest songs are so sturdy and tough. "Wolf Like Me" and "Staring at the Sun" were especially stunning, the rhythm section a tooth-rattling train, Dave Sitek's guitar sizzling, and atop it all, the bob-and-weave interplay of Malone and Adebimpe's soul-soaked voices.
It fell to yet another Brooklyn band to hold down the headline slot--not the Beastie Boys, as originally scheduled, but Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The band has two particularly distinctive traits--Nick Zinner's shape-shifting guitar work and Karen O's outsized charisma--and on songs like "Runaway," "Dull Life" and "Gold Lion," both elements were on full display. Much more than six strings, Zinner variously evoked a careering motorcycle or a wailing siren, a whirring cloud of insects or an alien's laser gun. Karen strutted, paraded and swiveled her hips; she whispered and cackled, shrieked and yowled. Yeah Yeah Yeahs may not merit top billing by the numbers alone, but on this night at least they held their own.
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.