The event that has been a year in the making for my friends and I. After going to Lollapalooza last year and making every effort to do it again, here we are! If you remember we took a 15 hour car ride from Jersey City to Chicago, this year we opted to fly out and proved to be a very smart thing.
Day 1 of the festival looked doom and gloom from the get go, with clouds and overcast above us, we knew it would be a sloppy day. We arrived as the doors opened to catch the new buzz band, Hockey. The dance infused garage rock band ala Strokes meets LCD Soundsystem were amazing. As the band's set got hotter and heavier, their sound was mysteriously cut. The band had no idea what to do but break out into an impromptu drum solo and toss beers into the crowd. As the rain began to poor, we turned our attention to Georgia hard rockers Manchester Orchestra. Manchester Orchestra were easily the break out band of the day and festival right from the get go. A very hard, aggressive sound that led to humble speeches as they were grateful to be playing to their biggest crowd to date.
We kept up the intensity by seeing of the few hip-hop acts on the festival bill, The Knux. The New Orleans via L.A. duo were hilarious, outgoing and pure fun to witness. Each song from The Knux could easily be a single and hits kept coming. From hip-hop we went punk and caught New Jersey's finest Gaslight Anthem. One of my favorite new bands to emerge, Gaslight's set created a roadblock in scheduling as they went against White Lies. We decided to stick with the Jersey punks and it was well worth it, easily one of the best acts of the whole weekend. Singer Brian Fallon maybe the nicest front man around praising Lolla organizers and saying how his first concert was a Depeche Mode show and how it was an honor to be playing the same festival and day as the legendary band. Gaslight Anthem may have been the rookies at Lollapalooza, but I expect to see them on more of Lolla's bills in the future.
After four great bands we took a break and bounced around from Heartless Bastards and Bon Iver. The former Gaslight Anthem tour buddies, Heartless Bastards female fronted southern rock was fun to catch. Slipping into different sounds, catching Bon Iver may have been a mistake. The lo-fi band may sound great on disc and in the studio, but live they are very boring. As the weather got worse, catching their set made the day seem longer. As soon as Bon Iver finished, Ben Folds took one of the main stages as the rain came rushing in buckets. The quirky, cunning and cleaver master of the ivory's was a solid act to catch. Playing a majority off his new album Way to Normal, Folds even tossed in some favorites like "Army Song," and his cover of "Bitches Ain't Shit." As Folds hip-hop cover classic was a highlight, one of hip hops new acts was starting off. The over hyped and obnoxious Asher Roth came on one of the side stages and was another waste of time. Roth is a novelty act and nothing to write home about, I doubt we will ever hear from him after 2009. From Roth we caught the electronic act Crystal Castles. Castles were interesting to say the least, if their set was at night it may have been better with the amount of lighting and antics they had on stage.
From electronica we went to bookworm rock and roll with The Decemberists. Playing their new album Hazards of Love in its entirety, the Oregon art rockers showed what they can do on stage. They can go from aggressive to gentile in just a few bars, a good set that makes me want to re listen to the album, I just wish for this festival they mixed it up a bit and threw more of their classic jams into their set. After seeing how good Peter Bjorn and John were opening for Depeche Mode just a few days before Lollapalooza, I decided to see them again for a longer set. Not only were they great in New York City, they rocked Chi - Town better than before. The Swedish trio are an act not to be missed!
After a very long day in the rain, it finally came down to the two final acts....Kings of Leon Vs Depeche Mode, young Vs old, Electronica Vs Rock, experience Vs perseverance. After seeing a brilliant set by Depeche Mode just a few days before in front of a sold out crowd at Madison Square Garden, I decided to go with Kings of Leon. It was very interesting to see what a year makes for a band, seeing them play last year at All Points West in front of a few hundred people, to seeing them in front a few thousand now at Lolla was an experience all in its own. Singer Caleb Followill discussed how when the band were at Lollapalooza in 2003 (back in its final year as a touring festival), that no one went to see them and now headlining the main stage. It has been a tremendous year for the Followill clan and making their headlining US festival debut, in years to come they will be the hottest ticket in the festival circuit. A great American band to close a great American festival, solid first day, the next are bigger and better to come....
Brian Fallon of Gaslight Anthem (Above) / The Decemberists (Below)