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The Arcade Fire
Story by Phil BonyataThe fate of Perry Farrell's beloved Lollapalooza festival fell first in the hands of Chicago Park offiicals and then in the heart and minds of the attendees of the two-day music extravaganza. The last concert to appear at Hutchinson Field was that magical night back in 2001 when Radiohead played arguably one of their finest performances to date (at least that's the claim of none other than Thom Yorke).
The grounds contained four main stages and one smaller stage across Michigan Avenue. There were always two stages churning out white noise sound on opposite ends of the grounds to minimize any audio conflictions while the other two remained dormant until their turn came. Saturday featured an eclectic array of artists. From the immutable whines of Dashboard Confessional to Weezer's nerdy, yet fashionably cool and sarcastic pop musings. Highlights included "Say It Ain't So," "El Scorcho," and "We Are All On Drugs." The Bravery's retro 80s new wave suited their audience well while the bands' animated hijinks, while clearly not original, did produce many a smile in the audience. Billy Idol's set was fist clenching fun as the skies opened up to relieve the crowd with some light showers. Classics "Rebel Yell" and "White Wedding" played fresh to a lot of the younger fans in the audience. Cake also got into a groove with a strong selection from their catalog while pulling off a spirited performance. Primus built a sonic ship of sound with Les Claypool alternately grounding and then lifting up the funked-up jams. The highlight of the day was the Pixies (the once groundbreaking band whose day in the sun has long gone, but still have the seminal goods to be a great nostalgia act). Frank Black and company were much more animated and electric then in recent performances in Chicago and Milwaukee. The caustic strains of "Wave of Mutilation" and "Monkey's Gone to Heaven" reminded many where Nirvana (and the whole Seattle grunge scene) found their sound.
Perry Farrell introduced many of the main acts with a flair for the dramatic. Calling The Arcade Fire "the hottest band on the planet," or Billy Idol "the father of punk" might be a bit on the suspicious side. He is the greatest salesman for Lollapalooza, however constantly reminding us all of the great virtues and causes that this single event has addresed. Seemed to be way too much flag waving and a lot of transparent hyperbole. Pass the music please.
Sunday's forecast was ominous with tempertures reaching 104 degrees by midafternoon. The staff and mangement have to be commended by trying to keep the crowd cooled off with hose downs, filling empty water bottles for free as well as offering a few misters and a large air-conditioned bus for the very hot. The Drive-By Truckers, keeping the Southern-fried rock spirit alive, let the heat index rise with the guilt-free, backwood jams of "Putting People on the Moon" and the subtly lyrical "Decoration Day." The Killers surely felt the heat of the sun as well - as their rising star will be fading very soon. Lead singer Brandon Flowers was so detached and pensive throughout his performance that a front row seat in Mick Jagger's school of rock stardom might be in order. The band also went through the motions and played rote versions of "Somebody Told Me" and "Smile Like You Mean It." Spoon on the other hand let it's subdued mid tempo songs flower live. Lead singer's Britt Daniel voice never warbled so beautifully. Farrell's new pet project, Satellite Party, stepped right into a time warp to the late 80s. Spotlighting Tony Kanal of No Doubt and former Extreme guitarist Nuno Bettencourt, the band offered up no new ground or nothing remotely exciting. Let's hope that this debut performance will be their last. Glamsters Louis XIV let it's exciting new pop speak volumes. Brandishing enough energy and dynamic stage appeal the band tore through a short set that left you begging for more. Clearly the highpoint of the two-day fest was the maddeningly original nine-piece band - The Arcade Fire. "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)" let the band's sometimes breaking and sometimes connected reliance on each other put one more piece in the puzzle while taking yet another piece out. Sonic, dissonant, disjointed and beautiful - The Arcade Fire is a band that comes along ever so rarely.
Was Lollapalooza a success? On the surface it appears to be. The event probably pulled a small profit, there were no majors incidents and the whole affair was very user friendly. Should there be another Lollapalooza in Grant Park? Definately. While there were some misteps (I mean who really needs the noodling of Widespread Panic to play on two different stages keeping a promising young act to shine. Or featuring very little rap or any world music). The event was a value at $60.00 a day to get a chance to see some of the talent of yesterday, but more importantly showcasing the talent of tomorrow.
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