Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Lollapalooza 2007

A bit late, but here's my review of the bands we saw and heard at Lollapalooza this year. There were over 40 bands a day, of which we saw almost a third. (We only went Sunday, not all three days.) I want to give each band their due justice, so this may be a long post. Take your time and come back if you have to. I'll do a separate post on the venue and city itself, because it definitely deserves it.

The Graduate
This new band from Springfield, Illinois was the opening band for Sunday. They were a five piece consisting of a frontman, drummer, bass, lead guitar, and rhythm guitarist who also played a small keyboard. By the time we got in the gates and made it to their stage they had already played over half their set. There was only about 50 people there, but they still rocked hard. The first thing I noticed was the old-school chrome box microphone the singer used. Very classy look. The second song we heard, he went back by the drummer and played a cymbal when he wasn't singing. It was a pretty cool effect, but nothing like their last song. (We only heard four songs.) As the rhythm guitar wailed out a solo to start the last song, the singer grabbed a cymbal on a stand and another snare drum. The lead guitarist sat a floor tom (a tall freestanding drum that has the lowest tone on a drumset besides the bass drum) in front of him. As the drummer joined the guitarist, the song took on a decidedly percussive feel. The lead singer poured a bottle of water on the cymbal and snare he had and began to play. What a great visual with the water flying up with every beat. This is a totally awesome band I would highly recommend. Besides Pearl Jam, easily the best show of the entire day.

Juliette & The Licks
Very hard rocking band. They were playing on a stage to the left of us as we sat in the shade. (It was high noon and 90 degrees.) We only heard them; didn't see them. The lead singer is the actress Juliette Lewis, which we didn't know until later that day. Unlike some actor/actresses turned musician, she was actually really good. And I guess she put on a crazy show, crowd walking, water throwing, etc. Nothing unique or new about their sound, but they were really tight and the music was really well played.

Heartless Bastards
Our artist friend Jason told us to check this group out. They are a 3-piece band from his hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio. This was their first big show, their debut, so-to-speak. First of all, female lead singer: L-O-V-E, love that. She sang with the same kind of tone as Regina Spektor, and really left herself on the stage. The band was very, very tight and played off each other like they'd been together for 20 years. I hope they make it big, because this band had a lot going for them, talent wise. Weird visual... the drummer looked like a 40-year old logger. Beard and flannel included. But he was good.

Rodrigo Y Gabriela
A little of the introduction from the program: "...Mexican-born, Ireland-based, heavy-metal-obsessed instrumental acoustic guitar duo...fleet-fingered originals that dance all over the genre divides between Metallica, gypsy style flamenco and Mexican boleros." This brother and sister combo were two of the best guitarists I've ever heard in my life. They put on a show that rocked the socks off everyone within earshot. Amazing. Absolutely amazing. If you truly profess to be a fan of good guitar, your collection is lacking if it doesn't include one of their CD's. That's all I can say.

Amy Winehouse
The biggest disappointment of the show for me. She has been hyped for so long and reviewed as this great new R&B singer, but she fell way short. Her voice wasn't all that good, her band sucked, and her stage presence was awful. Even though she looked really good in her vintage, short poodle skirt with all her tattoos showing, she just stood there. Some black guy danced all around the stage which did nothing besides distract. All in all, she was a flop. (Last week I heard she was hospitalized with exhaustion, which may explain some of her performance issues, but not all.)

Apostle of Hustle
Not sure what happened to this band. In the program there are five guys in the picture, but there were only three that made it to the stage. They made up for it by using some loop effects amongst other interesting things. They had a very percussive, Cuban feel to their show. They sang only about half the time and just jammed the rest. The show can be best described as a big party. Lots of people dancing, band having fun, a very happy show. Again, nothing new or unique musically, but they did their thing and they did it really good.

Kings of Leon
Was looking forward to hearing these guys because Pearl Jam chose them to be their opening band for half a tour, but not concerts we went to. So if our favorite band liked them, we wanted to check them out. They were good. A little bit of Southern-style rock reminiscent of Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman brothers, mixed with some post-punk heavy-hitting hard rock. They've been together for a long time, and it shows. They were very musically together, so much so that it sounded like they were recorded instead of playing in person. They put on a great live show, which is probably why the guys from Pearl Jam liked them. And speaking of, Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder joined the Kings on stage for their last song. The crowd was already about 50,000 strong waiting for PJ anyway, so this was a huge deal. Not sure I'll buy a King of Leon CD, but I know some friends who would really like them.

Any three repetitive sounds will work, but this band usually goes by "chk chk chk." They played on the stage at the other end of the field from the main stage, and three hours before Pearl Jam, but the crowd was already huge. So they had before them their biggest audience ever and they played a show that was worthy of it. A dance-rock band, they were very rhythmatic. Comprised of a six or seven member band (we couldn't tell,) their sound was just as crowded as the stage. They were really good at getting people toes tapping, hips shaking, and arms flailing, but that was about it. Each song sounded the same as the previous one. But like I said, their energy more than made up for their lack of musical variety. The last song or two, they kept pulling people from the crowd, until the stage had 50 or 60 people all dancing around. It was fun, if nothing else.

My Morning Jacket
Picture this: almost 75,000 people, many standing in the same space for seven hours, every one of them sun-burnt and brain-fried, more coming each minute, and every one of them there to hear the band that comes on after you. How do you make them listen to you and forget about that other band? Only one way: Play the best show you've ever played. That's what My Morning Jacket did. They even brought out the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra to make it a touch more special. What a show. I'd never even heard of this band until my friend Grant lent me their CD. They are just as good live as recorded. Their style flowed from one thing to another, acoustic ballad then heavy metal, Southern rock then Pop, Neil Young then Grateful Dead. In retrospect, I probably won't be buying up their entire catalog, but they were definitely worth seeing. A very good band with a bright future.

Pearl Jam
Alright. The entire population of Grant Park has left the other side where they were listening to Iggy and the Stooges and then Modest Mouse. They have funneled into an area the size of two or three football fields long and at least as wide. The best head counters have estimated a figure well over 120,000. Then every person waits about twenty minutes. And then it happens. These five guys stroll onto the stage and all 120,000 plus people erupt.

Being the only show they did in the United States this year, they did it right. They were scheduled to play an hour and a half and played a hour longer. They brought great musicians like Ben Harper onto the stage to play with them. They rocked songs from all eight of their studio albums. They played obscure B-sides and covered timeless rock greats. They stopped singing and let the crowd take over a song or two, and let their own musicians shine in true rock-and-roll form. I could make this review forty pages long because I truly think Pearl Jam is the best band on the planet. Past and Present. But I won't. I will share with you the energy of their last song. Since they weren't on tour, all the band and crew brought their families with them. During the last song, where they covered "Rockin' In The Free World", all of those family members and a whole bunch of friends came on the huge stage with the band. One of Eddie's best friends, Dennis Rodman, was there and Eddie got up on his shoulders. Previous bands were on stage, some fans, it was crazy fun. The band passed wine bottles through the crowd, as well as tambourines. The guitars were wailing, the drums were beating, and the crowd was cheering and singing. So awesome. So absolutely awesome.

And that was how Lollapalooza 2007 ended.


Blogger Adrienne said...

You could feel the energy of the day in each review! Sounds like a well-created memory!!

12:50 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

Thanks Adrienne. I wanted to get my thoughts down as soon as possible. I was even writing some of them in my head as I was there in front of the stages. But vacation, and then party, and then back to work, and time just slipped away from me. I wanted it to be as real as possible, so thanks for your kind words.

12:54 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Great review Sam! I would love to see Pearl Jam live. This post has just made that desire worse. Thanks

5:51 PM  
Blogger 3rd string's finest said...

Wow,Sam! I wish i could have been there. You really have a talent for depicting things. Later, brother.

6:52 AM  
Blogger Sweet Peripety said...

I listened to A.W. on Amazon just now. If you click on the link right above your name in the Favorite Links of my name, those girls are listening to that album (it's listed right there up top by their title LOL)

Great reviews!!

2:23 PM  
Blogger Zoooma said...

great reviews indeed! I often find myself writing while listening... then whether or not it gets repeated through my fingers is another story but it's good to imprint ideas in your head and then see if you can work on 'em the same way or differently later on.

anyway, thanks to you I have a few more bands to check out... someday. Could take me years but I'm gonna check out The Graduate and Kings of Leon and Heartless Bastards, each of which I've never even heard of until a moment ago (I'm way late on catching up with people's blogs!)

And this band Pearl Jam's good? Haha, yeah, i listened, displeased, as you read, with the politics, but great music!!! I saw them a lonngggg time ago at Lollapalooza and also out in Missoula, Montana -- once in U of MT's small arena and once in their football stadium... not quite Soldier Field or Cleveland Browns Stadium, but decent sized and great shows!!!!!!!!

Anyway, a good read and glad you enjoyed your day in Grant Park!

11:03 AM  

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