It’s been two years since I’ve made it out to the massive spectacle in Grant Park that is Lollapalooza and, evidently, in that time the powers at be have upped what the Perry’s stage—a.k.a. the DJ stage—has come to stand for. And definitely for the better. Offering a respite from the hard beating of the sun, the stage has become a hang for the younger massive with plenty of funky break, dubstep and electro sleaze to break the guitar drone that monopolized many of the fest’s other stages.
Ancient Astronauts The Cologne-based duo finds inspiration from many sources, but it’s the execution that’s caught the eyes and ears of D.C. electronic legends Thievery Corporation. It’s probably this, more than any other single fact, that landed the breakbeat loving pair on Perry’s stage during the early afternoon. That’s not to say they didn’t fill the slot properly: midtempo hip-hop beats mingled with touches of classic funk and disco provided a properly dance-worthy vibe for those who weren’t there solely to revel in the stage’s ample shade. A choice track fronted by the Pharcyde—in recording only, unfortunately—boasted what the duo is truly capable of, rounding out their set before they let go of the reins for DJ Ana Sia.
Peanut Butter Wolf What can we say? PBWolf is a contemporary DJ legend. The owner of prolific hip-hop label Stones Throw and a versatile DJ that can span hip-hop, dusty funk and cuts from Steve Aoki’s Dim Mak label without a sideways glance, Wolf is a pure joy to watch perform. Especially since he’s upgraded to video mixing for his performances. In fact, Wolf took it one step further. Amidst dropping cuts from Daft Punk, Aphex Twin and Jay-Z, he threw in the Chitown love with cuts from Hollywood Holt, and an impromptu live performance from the Cool Kids to round out the last fifteen minutes of his set. He’s not even from the Midwest and he may have shown more hometown respect than anyone else at the fest today.
Caspa Despite his reputation overseas, Caspa is not the biggest dubstep name on the U.S. market. Thankfully this dude didn’t let that deter him from dropping what was easily the set of the day at Perry’s stage. The crowd was well amped for whatever he threw at them, and he wasn’t shy about giving it his all. Dubstep, drum ‘n’ bass, house, garage, 2-step, funky. It all came barreling out of the speakers with laser-like precision from the seasoned DJ. He’s credited with one of the first commercial dubstep DJ mixes to become available commercially in the U.S. and with a set like this one, today, we’d be perfectly content if it was he, and he alone, that kept them coming.
2ManyDJs The boys from Belgium are known far and wide for their more prominent Soulwax persona; live-band electro that they’ve taken around the world to much acclaim. So, when I saw they were leaving that act by the wayside to concentrate on a turntablism-heavy 2ManyDJs show, headlining the Perry’s stage tonight, I knew I couldn’t miss it, Lady Gaga and the Strokes be damned. Unfortunately the lightning-mix, mash-up heavy sound that I’ve always known 2ManyDJs to stand for was altogether absent from the start of their set. Having made a name for themselves leaving no stone unturned—it was perfectly conceivable to hear Jay-Z, Blondie, ABBA and Daft Punk in past DJ sets—tonight they stuck to a buzzsaw electro sound, almost verbatim. That didn’t hold our attention long enough knowing that Lady Gaga was lighting off fireworks and the Strokes were putting on one of their best performances to date within arms reach. I did hear from the rumor mill that the set improved dramatically after we left, I was sorry to hear that.
Photo courtesy of Lollapalooza | Lolla: flickr
Clearly Lollapalooza is not messing around. You may not know every band on the bloated line-up, but chances are someone next to you does. Amidst a decidedly larger crowd than yesterday, there’s enough painted teenagers and ironic NBA jerseys to make for an eye spy alternative to slug bug. There’s also a lot of talent (and don’t be cheeky, we’re talking about the bands). But seeing people sporting Lollapalooza 2009 shirts boasting of Depeche Mode’s headlining slot also reminded me how much more prominent dance music is in popular culture, and I mean this well beyond Lady Gaga’s presence this weekend (or in general). Perry’s stage was an even bigger zoo than yesterday; the dominant age group was the one that couldn’t score the orange Budweister wristbands, and clearly didn’t identify with Social Distortion.
Dragonette Maybe revealing too well that this is one of the larger appearances the band has seen, Martina Sorbara and company stormed the BMI stage to a standing room only crowd. Clearly the trio was ecstatic to see the turnout and were not about to disappoint. Running through an energetic set of emotive electro pop, it was refreshing to see Dragonette’s enthusiasm and raw talent. Sorbara has a wonderfully unique voice and the ebb and flow to their set was a perfect start to the day.
Dan Black Black was met to a backdrop of families entirely decked out in Green Day memorabilia and was all the better for it. He’s clearly a showman and he engagingly bowled through cuts that might borrow from others-he does still like to sample here and there-but he succeeded in establishing familiarity without seeming like rehash.
The xx Who knew so many people loved the xx?! Clearly, not even I was prepared for the ground swell turn out of hip, young ingenues doing their best impressions of Romy Croft. But it was the band that delivered the real goods, it’s performance far exceeded my expectations, and clearly I was not alone.
Grizzly Bear This team of multiple-instrumentalists is so deserving of it’s main stage time slot. Trading off lead guitar, lead vocal and harmony duties Grizzly Bear proved yet again that there’s is a superior form of rock music.
Rusko But they did identify with this easily excitable British transplant, the latest in a wave of overseas producers making a mass exodus to Los Angeles’ warmer clime. A man who’s mission is to turn a pop eye to dubstep in the U.S., Rusko’s got the magnetic personality to pull it off. When he’s dropping bass-throbbing dubplates of never-before-heard material, anyone properly tuned in to his sets is gonna freak. Tonight was no exception, despite a run in with a faulty CD-J turntable. Switched out in a matter of minutes, Rusko was back at it with a curve ball of a skanking “klezmer-step,” shall we call it? No one seemed to miss a beat. But it was his potent retread on the old 2Pac standby “California Love,” which he’s cleverly rechristened “Da Cali Anthem” that actually stopped everyone in their tracks and had them nodding hypnotically with their hands in the air.
Cut Copy Booking it from Rusko’s set at the Perry’s stage to Cut Copy’s set further north, I came up on the quant ampitheater-like PS3 stage only to be stopped in my tracks by a sea of heads, diligently bopping up and down to Cut Copy’s rhythmic Australian take on electro and disco. Tonight, t was these guys, more so than any other, that convinced me of dance music’s viability—with the right rock-ish twist, it’s undeniably infectious, and the shakedown that broke out across the crowd was a brilliant reassurance of this.
Photo courtesy of Lollapalooza | Lolla: flickr
Yeasayer By the time Chris Keating and his merry band of art rockers hit the stage, the temperatures had swelled to the highest heights yet this weekend. I don’t know how they kept straight faces (or their lyrics straight) with the sun unforgivingly beating down on them. Through it all, Yeasayer came out looking like champs. Wanting to distance themselves from the jam band and hippie signifiers that were attached to them after the success of All Hour Cymbals, the synthesizer sheen and added effects on older songs like “Sunrise” and “Wait for Summer” were a welcome update to the band’s more electronic turn for Odd Blood. And noting that it songs from the quintet’s latest were what many were anticipating, Keating and crew wasted no time in stringing together standouts like “Madder Red,” “I Remember” and, of course, the front runner favorite “O.N.E.,” before closing with “Ambling Alp,” a clear second place winner in terms of crowd pleasing appeal.
Erykah Badu Figuring the rain from the morning would have turned the south side of Grant Park into a giant mud pit—sans the monster trucks—I was hesitant to make the trek for Badu. If I hadn’t, I would have returned to the office this week and been made jealous with all the reports of what a talented, bad-ass chick she is. Thankfully, I made the move that way. Descending onto the field, I was able to weasel my way up front and center. Sporting a bleach blond mohawk, oversize Icarus wing earrings and a flowered dress, Badu owned the stage. Her bulging band of singers, drummers and more ran through funked up stand-bys like “On and On,” but she also surfed through newer hits like the mystical, Madlib-produced “The Healer.” Clearly in her own world up there, she thanked the crowd and said good night about half way through her set. It confused many and sent them off to other stages, but those that stuck around got another twenty minutes of music, including the hilariously hip funk number “Annie,” about a girl that don’t wear no panties. You dig?
Temper Trap Much has been said of this Australian band and its rise to popularity on the back of “Sweet Disposition” and its endless licensing. Whatever. I still think they’re dope. I was only able to catch the last part of their set after booking it from Badu, and by that point they were full tilt into the booming toms of “Drum Song.” One of the more intense moments on the band’s debut album, Conditions, they kept the intensity up with another of their bigger singles, “Science of Fear” before giving the crowd what they were all there to hear. Zooey may not have been around in all of her (500) Days of Summer adorability, but “Sweet Disposition” had every last person at the Sony stage jumping up and down and singing along.
Felix Da Housecat Speaking of jumping up and down and singing, as I passed over the hill and down into the dance pit of Perry’s Stage, hometown electroclash superhero Felix Da Housecat had the whole place going apeshit with a well timed “We Are Your Friends” from Simian Mobile Disco and Justice. Flexing his versatility, he proceeded to hit the crowd over the head with heaters of every variety: electro gave way to minimal tech, that gave way to remixes of Nina Simone and all the while the humidity hovering over the crowd had me likening the scene to some tribal dance ritual.
Arcade Fire I don’t want to bad mouth Soundgarden, but personally my excitement for the band doesn’t extend past “Black Hole Sun”—and that’s more middle school nostalgia than it is genuine enthusiasm. So to close out the weekend, it was Arcade Fire all the way. Looking like a rock n’ roll orchestra up on stage Win Butler, his captivatingly talented wife Régine Chassagne and the rest of the crew greeted thousands with the fitting “Ready to Start.” The background visuals, which began projecting serene postcard-worthy tropical images, seemed strangely appropriate as they performed material from their new record, a decidedly more subdued turn from the grandiosity of Neon Bible. The newer songs may not come off as epically as previous efforts, but that didn’t stop cuts like the album’s title track “The Suburbs” and the Blondie-esque gem “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” from captivating in a live setting. Half way through the set, Butler thanked the boys from the National, mentioning that on a past tour together they’d ask why Arcade Fire never performed “Crown of Love.” Dedicating the song to the pair of brothers, the cut was met with phenomenal enthusiasm. Surely it’s now a staple of their sets. Rounding out the show, the Fire hit home—but not too far into the suburbs—with the anthems “Rebellion (Lies)” and “Keep the Car Running” and topped it off with a park-wide sing-a-long to “Wake Up.” A perfect closer, it did briefly have my energy going stronger than ever, but once the buzz from the amps clicked off, I was relieved to know that I could make my way back to the ‘hood and lay down after an exhausting and thoroughly fulfilling weekend.