Friday, August 6, 2010

Live Review - Lollapalooza Day 1

After a year of planning, preparation and expectations, the weekend of the summer has finally arrived - LOLLAPALOOZA! Perry Farrell pulled out all the stops by booking some top notch acts for this years festivities. After a two hour flight this morning, my correspondents and I touched down, checked in and headed over to beautiful Grant Park for day 1. At 75 degrees it was the most comfortable weather day in the three years I have been covering this amazing weekend.

We started off the day with the smoking grooves of Raphael Saadiq, the neo-soul singer was a nice way to enter and ease into the day. His backing band, part jazz and part funk were getting the audience at their feet instead of just laying on their blankets. As his set ended, I just had to turn right on over to England's Big Pink. A band that has been getting much buzz since last fall after the success of the hit "Domino's." The Big Pink started off fantastic, very hard and intense beats and sonic waves of music hitting the audience and people had fists pumping for the first half of their set, I wish I could say the second half was just as entertaning. The industrial-pop act started loosing audience members and were droning in the hot sun, as I was about to leave, they scored and drove their set home with "Domino's" and saved themselves from total failure.

As I covered Big Pink, corresponding Yuppie writer and premiere New York City DJ Rich D Smoov headed on over to Perry's tent for Peanut Butter Wolf. The legendary DJ was video mixing and sampling while doing some insane mash-ups such as Hanson and dipped into NWA's "Straight Outta Compton." As D Smoov puts it "It was a very funny part of the set and set up some obscure comedy skits in between and had such a fresh set, playing different genres and mixing and mashing." The highlight of Wolf's set would come when he would bring out special surprise guests and Lolla vets, The Cool Kids for four songs.

As the day went on, we all congregated over to Devo. The electro legends did not show their age one bit and are as weird and fantastic as ever. One of the best bands of the day, their non-stop energy and costume changes rivaled headliner Lady Gaga. And yes, they did break out their signature topple hats and now emerging in their forth decade, Devo shows no sign of stopping and I hope some of the younger acts paid attention to see how it was done. Once Devo ended, Brooklyn duo Matt & Kim took the stage. It was great to see this energetic band again, as it was just a few weeks ago we covered them at Siren Fest in Coney Island. Staying just a bit for their set, with all things considered it was the same setlist, they were a great jolt after the great Devo.

Heading over to catch Dirty Projectors, I was not surprised by anything they did. This Brooklyn act sounded just as they do on disc. As they moved around on stage, they did not do as much as I would have hoped as far as stage presence goes, but it was worthwhile to hear they do not loose their sound in concert. As Dirty Projectors ended, we dipped on into the final 20 minutes of Fuck Buttons and this was something we all agreed was worth catching. A surprise gem in the middle of the day, the electronic duo was loud and hard with their beat making skills and it struck you right in your chest, no matter how far or close from the stage you may have been.

From the barnstorming of three acts in a row, it was time for Black Keys. A band I have never seen and have been very curious to catch, this was the best act of the day and what a fantastic live act. The Ohio duo packed more people at the main stage than Kings of Leon did last year and they were headliners! It was amazing to see the turnout Black Keys had, in fact, I do believe they had more people than The Strokes, who would headline a few hours later. The rock duo was tight and had backing bass and keyboard players on stage while they did work. It is amazing to hear how many styles of rock this band does with a simple formula. The Black Keys were so good, I could not leave and run on over to Hot Chip. I sacrificed seeing one of my favorite live acts because the Keys were so on point.

Once The Black Keys finished, it was on to another great surprise set from reggae legend Big Bad Jimmy Cliff. The 70-something rhasta had so much bombastic energy that he would not let up one song after another. Cliff, who is probably the oldest performer at the festival would share his wisdom to the Grant Park crowd weighing in on issues from the BP oil spill to the war in Afghanistan. His message of peace, love and racial harmony would echo through his crowd and as some would leave as they would be annoyed with his speaking, he would just play three times harder for the remaining members watching him. What a legend and treat to have at the festival, I am sure his good old friend Joe Strummer was smiling down.

As Cliff played his final note, The Strokes were set to play their first. The New York City legends played the US for the first time in four years and Lollapalooza for the first time in their career. The Strokes made their audience wait for nearly 15 minutes and in festival time, that is a lot, but they made up for it in performance. Opening with "New York City Cops," the Lower East Side five piece would make up their set list as the gig went on. Looking like Joey Ramone with bleach blond streaks in his hair, Julian Casablacas would try and talk to the crowd as his band mates would figure out what they wanted to play next. It was very unorganized, very punk but very good. I will point out, by the looks of the guys faces, they really do not want to be playing in this band anymore, there seemed to be no chemistry nor camaraderie between the members. As distant and cold as they seemed to each other, they warmed the crowd with fuzzy riffs and a joyous sensation that they are back....we hope.

Staying for half their set, we split in various directions. Rich D Smoov headed on over to UK's DJ's 2ManyDJ's. The DJ ensemble hardly tours the US and this was something that electro heads have been begging for. Headlining Perry's tent, the mash up kings would bring about electronica, grunge, reggae and very obscure beats mixed with a video DJ set (VDJ) and just kept the crowds blood pumping.

As Smoov caught 2ManyDJ's I headed on over to Lady Gaga. It was the battle of New York, the battle of Lower East Side as she would rival The Strokes for the co-headlinging Friday night slot. As I arrived she was already drenched in fake blood, rolling on the floor and screaming, it was exactly what I wanted to walk into. Her spectacle is something to be admired, just three years ago she made her Lolla debut on a small day stage and barely anyone saw her, now she had 80,000 pairs of eyes screaming for her. From a nearly 15 minute version of "Teeth" to "Alejandro" to "Paparazzi" to "Poker Face," it was just hit after hit and show stopping dance numbers. Her backup dancers look like Grace Jones, she performers as a Madonna / Michael Jackson hybrid and it would come full circle as she closed her first set with a giant Godzilla like creature on stage, a fountain of blood and sparks flying off her breasts and vagina. Yes, sparks shooting from her nipples and lower lips, though it is something you know she is going to do, yet witnessing it is something on a whole other level. Closing with "Bad Romance," Gaga would scream for sexual and racial equality, thank God at least a 100 times, thank her fans and dancers 100 more and proved that alternative pop music has a place at Lolla and staring at her freakishly fabulous Little Monsters, it was the spirit of the festival rolled into one act. Keep it weird Perry, stay odd Gaga.

Here are some photos of the Day 1:

The Big Pink
Dirty Projectors
Jimmy Cliff
The Strokes

Lady Gaga

With This I Think I'm Officially A Yuppie

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