Rage of Against the Machine performs on Saturday. View more photos from this day >>
If day one of Lollapalooza was about Radiohead, day two was about Barack Obama, if in spirit only. Despite rampant rumors that the presidential candidate was going to show up to introduce Wilco, he never did. It almost didn’t matter: Enough bands, including Broken Social Scene and Rage Against the Machine, used their mics to take up his mantra of change. “Wake up!” howled Zach de la Rocha of Rage to a field full of people who, from the looks of it, were more interested in starting the next mosh pit than inspiring a political revolution. To be fair, I looked for any outwardly signs of McCain support and didn’t see any. I do think it would throw this entire event on its head if the Republican nominee showed up Sunday and introduced, say, Gnarls Barkley. Cee-Lo wearing a wedding dress copping a grip-and-grin with a suited-up John McCain? Sounds like a way better photo-op than a cheese fest.
On, then, to the best/worst of Saturday’s show:
1. The return of the 1990s. I’ve heard time and time again that the ’90s were a disappointing decade for music. I have to disagree, and so (it seems) would Perry Farrell. Early Saturday saw a performance by The Gutter Twins—the “twins” being two frontmen of bands that peaked in the 1990s: Greg Dulli of the Afghan Whigs and Mark Lenagan of the Screaming Trees. I’m not the biggest fan of their current collaboration, but it was mighty fine rock fueled by Dulli’s ever tragic vocals, which seemed almost out of place on a bright sunny afternoon. (Is he the saddest man on Earth?). More evidence for the 1990s resurgence: headliners Rage Against the Machine, who absolutely destroyed (and I mean that in a good way) an encore of “Killing in the Name.”
2. The Blackstone “water” bottle full of wine for $24. “The best deal in concert history,” one dude in my crew said tonight.
3. Chicago soul singer Syl Johnson jumping on stage with Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings to sing his 1967 hit, “Different Strokes.” Jones and the Dap Kings are a soul revival band from Brooklyn, and they can get a crowd shaking its parts by the third song in a set. See them if you get a chance.
4. Broken Social Scene. Other bands could take notes from this eclectic Canadian collective, which knows how to elaborate and how to improvise—every song has a twist, a longer riff, some sort of variation from the recorded version.
5. A relatively unknown (in the U.S., at least) German electronic duo called Booka Shade. They lucked out by playing against MGMT, which was having some sound issues on a nearby stage. Like a lot of folks, I wandered by and ended up staying for some sweaty dancing. With these massive fests, I always make it a goal to see something new and great, or at least, make an effort to. This band satisfied that need.
6. The Austin power rock group Explosions in the Sky. There aren’t any vocals. It’s just great instrumental rock. At first, they were a bit of an explosion in my eardrums, but I came around quickly. My crew did too, aided by the fact that they recognized the theme for Friday Night Lights.
1. Spank Rock. The folks next to me were in a heated debate about whether or not there was lip synching going on; I’m not sure a debate was even necessary.
2. MGMT. I’ve heard that they’re not the best band live, and I found that to be true. They weren’t helped by sound issues early in the set.
3. Okkervil River. This Austin group was one of the bands I HAD to see. But in the end, the jingly jangly pop sounded tinny and uninspired.
4. I’m still on the food hunt. The falafel I tried Saturday was fa-awful. And it was $6.
5. Having to choose between Wilco and Rage Against the Machine. For two-thirds of the fest, it was a no-brainer; the recently reunited Rage drew the much larger crowd. But what’s a 30-year-old, Tweedy-loving gal whose high school memories are riddled with “Killing in the Name” to do? The answer: Listen to half of Wilco, and book it over to Rage for the latter half of their set. Note: Both bands were worth the hike.
What’s your best/worst of the fest so far? Write in and let us know.
Photography: (Images 1 & 3) Megan Lovejoy; (Image 2) Esther Kang