Kevin Mueller

Lollapalooza Hangover

By - Aug 12th, 2010 10:55 am
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The nice thing about Lollapalooza is that the experience can be enjoyable without knowing many bands. While the three-day fest can be a real treat for avid music listeners, it caters more to casual fans searching for a primer on the current soundscape (with an assortment of  those groups that are no longer relevant, as well. Looking at you, Green Day).

Artists are known to win over entire audiences during just a one-hour set. Sure, the crowds are frustrating to get through – this year xx listeners clogged all available pathways and sightlines – but with at least one good show per hour, it’s worth all the sweat-rubbing, the hours standing, the miles walked and the poor sound. Everyone must’ve found a new group they’d been weary about listening to or gave a band another chance to impress them.

Here’s a look back on 2010’s Lollapalooza and the bands that deserve a second look (when they come back to town and play a proper set in a better environment):

Navigating through crowds is tough. That’s Grizzly Bear up there. Photos by Colleen Moore



Mavis Staples
I was only able to catch the end of the set, but what an ending it was. The R&B legend closed with a searing rendition of “I’ll Take You There” that almost made up for missing Jeff Tweedy play two songs with her earlier in the day from her forthcoming album the Wilco frontman produced.

Lolla Grade: B+

See a Proper Gig?: Probably.

Next Date: August 27 @ Park West, Chicago

Dirty Projectors
After The New Pornographers’ bombastic set, Dirty Projectors chilled everyone out with Dave Longstreth’s extensive guitar noodling and the group’s soaring four-part harmonies. Both of those traits are things detractors intensely despise, and while those characteristics are certainly cringe-inducing at times, it was never too much this time around. A stripped down version of “Stillness of the Move” sounded a little too bare and difficult to recognize at first, but ultimately found its groove.

Lolla Grade: A-

See a Proper Gig?: Definitely

Next Date: September 18 @ Pabst Theater, Milwaukee

The Black Keys
A two person blues-rock band has never sounded this full — if only they would’ve cranked up the volume. Dan Auerbach’s amp was only turned up to 8 when it should’ve been smashing ear drums at 12. That problem was miniscule compared to the performance they put on. All muscle and no filler, The Black Keys swanked their way through 16 songs. While receiving help from a guest bassist and keyboardist added more of a punch to the band’s latest album, Brothers, Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney ruled this show, although an indoor venue would better suit them.

Lolla Grade: A

See a Proper Gig?: Without a doubt

Next Date: Nothing nearby

Lady Gaga
Too much downtime. That was the main downfall of Lady Gaga’s headlining performance. She’d sing a couple songs then leave the stage for a costume change or preach to the crowd about her life before stardom. The show had no momentum, and in a pop show, that’s what it’s all about. It’s hard to get excited when every 10 minutes there’s a major letdown. Blame it on the haggard production or Gaga’s lack of songs, but when is it ever necessary to dance with a former DJ to Metallica — a former ritual — at a pop concert?

Not surprisingly, that was better than Gaga talking, which was either mind-numbingly boring or offensive for it’s own sake. All in all, the show — though, more like musical theater — was great when Gaga stopped emitting sounds from her mouth and just lip synched. That I could take.

Lolla Grade: C-

See a Proper Gig?: Nope

Next Date: Who cares?

Whether it was nerves or wanting to play a transcendent show, Amy Millan’s voice sounded awful during the band’s opening songs. The entire group seemed like they were trying too hard. Once they got over their jitters, they settled down to play a more controlled set. Torquil Campbell crooned like Morrissey; Millan swooned the crowd. This was the show I came to see.

Lolla Grade: B-

See a Proper Gig?: Probably not

Next Date: October 8 @ Barrymore Theater, Madison





Grizzly Bear
I camped out far away from the stage for Grizzly Bear’s relaxing set, which couldn’t have been more pleasant. Sure, “Two Weeks” was the show’s highlight, but “While We Wait for the Others” and “Fine For Now” sounded better. Actually, every song sounded great. For a festival that’s consistently hampered with muddy sound, Lollapalooza wasn’t a bad place to see Grizzly Bear.

Lolla Grade: A-

See a Proper Gig?: Definitely

Next Date: Nothing nearby

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros
The Sony Bloggie side stage was packed for Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, all waiting to hear the 12-piece ensemble’s single, “Home.” It went off well — a little dragged out, a major problem with the band’s entire performance — and predictably, the crowd headed away from the stage en masse once the song concluded. Those headed for Cut Copy, Green Day or just more beer missed out on a genial rendition of “Brother,” in which lead singer Alex Ebert asked everyone to take a seat. Not everyone did, but it was nonetheless a charming moment.

Lolla Grade: B-

See a Proper Gig?: Not necessary

Next Date: Played Pabst Theater in June

Cut Copy
Cut Copy unassumingly put on the best show of the festival. The back-to-back closers “Hearts on Fire” and “Out There on the Ice” fueled an already exhausted crowd. The Australian synth-pop duo played two new ones from their upcoming record. Look out for that one.

Lolla Grade: A

See a Proper Gig?: Definitely

Next Date: Do you live in Australia?

It’s awe-inspiring to see the ascent Phoenix has had over the past year and a half. They released one of 2009’s best records, won a Grammy for it and their single “1901” went No. 1. Still, to see them play in front of tens of thousands of people still feels kind of weird. They were up to the challenge, though, if only a little short on material that the audience knew. “Love Like A Sunset Part I,” the band’s instrumental jam, looked and sounded great.

Lolla Grade: B

See a Proper Gig?: Sure, why not?

Next Date: August 12 @ The State Theater, Minneapolis


Mumford & Sons
Part Tallest Man of Earth, part Avett Brothers, Mumford & Sons are a folk band you want to drink to. I came only to hear Sigh No More‘s hit song, “Little Lion Man” — a tune heavily played on 88.9 RadioMilwaukee — but was impressed by the rest of the band’s output.

Lolla Grade: B

See a Proper Gig?: Don’t break any plans to see them

Next Date: October 30 @ Pabst Theater, Milwaukee

It was all about the spacing of those three hits. First came “Electric Feel” early in the set, then “Time To Pretend” halfway through, and penultimately “Kids.” Droves of fans left after each song. The filler wasn’t terrible; The Beach Boys-redux album, Congratulations played well live. It’s just too bad that no one really cared.

Lolla Grade: B

See a Proper Gig?: Listen to Congratulations and decide.

Next Date: Played Riverside Theater in June

Arcade Fire
It’s a little disappointing when a highly anticipated festival-closer plays a majority of songs of its six day old album. Yet that’s exactly what Arcade Fire did Sunday night. Casual fans be damned. Win Butler — sporting a hideous haircut — thanked those who knew all the words, even though they were those who downloaded the leaked version of the album a month before. Anyway, those songs from The Suburbs sounded incredibly elegant, and were a real treat to see played live. If Arcade Fire had more than an hour and a half, I’d have been all for them. Their gig concluded amicably with “Wake Up” as everyone sang and harmonized together.

Lolla Grade: B+

See a Proper Gig?: Definitely

Next Date: Not in America

Categories: Fan-belt, Review

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