“I’m getting too old for this shit!” — Danny Glover
HA HA HA HA HA! Hilarious, original and timely reference…right, you guys? Nailed it, basically.
Seriously, though, I’m getting too old for this shit.
As I wake up Saturday morning, my feet hurt, my legs hurt, my ass hurts and I feel like a baked potato, sun- and dehydration wise. My soul doesn’t hurt yet, but we’ve got a couple days to go.
I made my triumphant return to Lollapalooza yesterday, for the first time since Kanye West’s closing set in 2008. Accompanied by the Musky Canadian, I was just a man and his will to survive. Here’s my tale.
The Opening Act: First Aid Kit, who drew the dreaded noon on Friday timeslot. They are, as singer/guitarist Klara Söderberg described them from the stage, “two Swedish singers and a Swedish drummer.” Although folk and acoustic music usually dies a quick and unnoticed death at festivals like this, and although the timeslot — playing to a small crowd as people wander about and get acclimated — is usually a stone killer, the Swedes acquitted themselves well. With guitar, keyboard and drums, they had enough instrumentation to keep people bobbing their heads, and single “Emmylou” drew a warm response. The crowd also seemed in exceptionally good spirits early in the day. Everyone just looked happy to be there, and excited for the weekend ahead. Plus: cute Swedish girls.
Average Age of the Crowd: Mean: 30. Median: 26. Mode: 24. (very scientific)
Number of Douchebags Spotted Wearing Umbrella Hats: Three
Pleasant Surprise: The White Panda, who compelled me to go to the Perry’s stage for the first time in my Lollapalooza career. More specifically, the strains of a dance remix of “Losing My Religion” caught my ear and drew me in like a tractor beam. When that was followed with a version of Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s “Relax,” I was hooked. Even at 1 p.m. on a hot afternoon, the crowd was ebullient and animated (#kinetic, even?), a sea of arms filled the air, and I began to see the appeal of seeing dance music live. The White Panda are a DJ pair with the same nostalgic bent as Girl Talk, and who — at least on this occasion — dressed a lot like Daft Punk. They’re more straightforward and less creative than Girl Talk, but achieve a similar party vibe.
Philip Rivers — Really, Guy? Marmalard 4 Life.
Disappointment: Yellow Ostrich, whose energetic pop doesn’t translate at all live, at least not in a festival setting. They sounded hollow and limp.
Most Improved: Sharon Van Etten, who has gotten more confident as a performer since her opening set at Pitchfork a couple summers ago. It helps that Van Etten now has a backing band, and a really strong batch of songs from Tramp, but she also has gotten more engaging and charismatic as a frontwoman.
Artist That Met Expectations Exactly: War on Drugs, whose hazy wall of guitar and organ noise sounded a lot like the way it does on record. They extended their jams and instrumental breaks a little bit, but otherwise sounded like their album — which is not a bad thing.
Beer Situaish: $6 for a 12 oz. Budweiser can, $8 for a 16 oz. Budweiser can. Given the heat, and the matching price-per-ounce, there was no advantage to tallboys, because the beer got warm before you could finish drinking them. The beer coolers fought a losing battle with the sun all afternoon.
Amount of Time Inside Festival Grounds Before I Saw Someone Pouring Vodka Into a Sprite Can: 90 seconds.
Food Situaish: Pretty damn good. Kuma’s Corner’s burgers were too dry, but Grahamwich’s lobster corndog saved the day. And of course, the ever-present Chicago boneless rib sandwich made an appearance.
Best T-Shirt, Friday: a middle-aged dude wearing a black T-shirt with a gray drawing of Bill Murray’s face on it. No text.
Most T-Shirts Spotted for an Artist Playing that Day: Black Sabbath in a runway
Worst Fans: Black Keys fans, also in a runaway. “Hey man, why are you walking that way? Black Keys are this way!”
Best Location for a Music Festival: The Gorge for Sasquatch, probably. But for an urban setting, Lollapalooza’s pretty tough to beat.
What’s Up With the Shins? A while back, we worried about the Shins’ loss of identity in the wake of James Mercer purging the other members of the band and starting over. Well, we had good reason to worry. Songs from this year’s Port of Morrow sounded lifeless and directionless, while beloved older songs like “Saint Simon” and “Kissing the Lipless” sounded like a bored Shins cover band stuck pandering to the crowd when they’d rather be playing originals.
Weirdest Person Spotted: The dude walking down the sidewalk, yelling “Pinterest! Pinterest! Pinterest”
Cover Watch: First Aid Kid played “When I Grow Up,” by fellow Swede Fever Ray, and Afghan Whigs played their version of “Lovecrimes” by Frank Ocean.
Did Metric’s Emily Haines Wear Short Shorts: Yuh huh.
Best Sets: Afghan Whigs and M83, in that order.
Afghan Whigs do not sound like an aging band reunited. They sound like they’re in their fucking prime. They attacked their songs, giving them everything that they’ve got, got, with Greg Dulli howling in fine voice. Clad in all black, the Whigs sounded almost impossible tight. From a reasonable distance (one from which you couldn’t see the lines on Dulli’s face), this could have been the Afghan Whigs in 1994. One of the most underrated bands of the ’90s are conducting one of the most successful comeback of the 2010s, and I hope it sticks. Oh, and “Gentleman” fucking killed. Unfortunately, the crowd for the Whigs was small and subdued — seriously, the Head and the Heart got a bigger and better crowd. Stupid kids.
M83, on the other hand, drew a crowd ready to dance and party. I think they’re missing that one killer song to bring the hammer down and bring the crowd to an absolute frenzy (Musky Canadian disagrees, arguing they already have that song, and it’s “Midnight City.”). But the set was still a lot of fun, with their vocal minimalism and synth riffs holding sway over a crowd that was well liquored up by 7:30 p.m. It’s fun to see how well sparingly deployed rock-god heroics work for a dance band. Their guitar player also looks like a young Rafael Nadal:
Pandering Shout Outs to Chicago: A lot, but M83 led the field by a wide margin (First Aid Kit placed a distant second). In a heavy French accent, frontman Anthony Gonzalez kept gushing about our beautiful city. That probably got him so much pussy later on.
Love/Hate Relationship: A character calling himself “Squirt Boy,” wearing a T-shirt proclaiming himself as such, who managed to be incredibly annoying and self-satisfied but who also sprayed the overheated crowd with water on a regular basis. I learned that I’m willing to put up with a lot for the occasional misting in the middle of a tight crowd on a 90-degree day.
Headliners Skipped: Black Sabbath, Black Keys
Aftershow: JEFF the Brotherhood with FIDLAR and The Growlers at Subterranean. Technically, The Growlers headlined, but walking past their Lollapalooza set earlier in the day showed there was little need to stay for them. FIDLAR opened, and their music seemed decent in a pop-punk way, but they sang lots of songs about drugs I’m guessing they’ve never done, and the singer’s banter was irritating enough that a drunken Stephen Malkmus Motherfucker felt the need to actively heckle. To be fair to SMM, their Tumblr does seem awful.
Luckily, JEFF the Brotherhood showed up to save the night. The brothers Orrall played a set heavy on songs from We Are Champions and the new Hypnotic Knights, but where those songs sound poppy and Weezer-infused on record, they’re heavier and more pounding live. And Jake Orrall is a flat-out guitar hero. SMM compared them to the Ramones with a metal side, which isn’t far off. David Simon Cowell — joining us LIVE in the fucking US of A for the first time in 18 months — described them as a poor man’s Black Keys, but then again, he had been traveling since 4 a.m. and was drunk.
Up Next: Now, my mission for today — Alison Brie is here! Alison Brie is here! Priorities have shifted, my friends.