When the Maises and the Irises were busy fixing the electric, my friend JC and I headed out to Lolla early in the hope of catching Rogue Wave at 1 P.M. Now you’d think because we arrived at Grant Park by 12:20 that we’d have PLENTY of time to collect our bracelets, be strip searched, and make it across the park in time to catch Rogue. You'd think. However, I at least thought wrong. The massive swarm of hot, sweaty Lolla-goers had us in line until about 2 P.M. We couldn’t even drink our water lest they confiscate it at the gate. Ugh ugh UGH. Dear Lolla organizers, can we please forgo the pointless searches that do nothing to keep contraband out but only create a sweaty, crabby mass people? Is that really too much to ask??? Grrr....
JC and I did made it across the park in time to hear Rogue Wave’s last song, “Harmonium.” The crowd seemed energetic and appreciative. I was bummed to have missed their set, but in any event, I’d highly recommend their latest CD, Asleep at Heaven’s Gate, one of my favorites from last year.
Following Rogue, JC and I headed to the wonderfully shady BMI stage to catch Electric Touch at the suggestion of one of JC’s friends. Their first CD is due out later this month. They were pretty amusing to watch prior to the show as they were ready to play a full 15 minutes before their scheduled time, and they just kind of milled around on stage not quite sure what to do with themselves, plucking at their guitars, their natty clothes, even their hair. Their music is along the lines of Franz Ferdinand or the Strokes, but perhaps a bit more pop than either. I don’t know that I’d recommend running out and buying their CD, but they were a fun live band and definitely gave far more energy to the performance than the crowd returned.
Next up, we headed across the park (again) to catch Duffy’s set. A cleaned up version of Amy Winehouse (and not quite as good either), after about two songs, she left me feeling really blah. I’m not sure if it’s her music or the fact that her style of music doesn’t fit well with an outdoor festival. For me, acts at an outdoor festival require a lot of energy and vibrancy to grab one’s attention and hold it, especially when they’re competing against not only other bands but a number of other factors, including the heat, the concessions, the amusing frat boys who are already too drunk to stand by 3 P.M. Plus, acts that rely heavily on dramatic lighting or pyrotechnics are at a disadvantage, particularly when they have to play in the glaring afternoon sun. But I digress. Duffy had both JC and me bored to tears, so halfway through, we trekked across the park (again) to catch the end of the Kills set, which we only caught a very brief snippet of but seemed to be far more fun than Duffy.
At this point, JC and I decided to camp out in a shady area near the main stage and grab a good spot for the rest of the evening. That’s when Gogol Bordello, the gypsy punks, took the stage. Goddamn, they are a manic bunch, and any lethargy I was feeling at the time quickly dispersed. Their set was a frenzied mix of ethnic punk music that’s difficult to describe but a lot of fun to listen to. Their performance is exactly what Duffy’s wasn’t: interesting, fun, energetic, and charismatic. They didn’t slow down for a single song and quickly attracted the wandering attentions of Free Sol listeners. I would definitely recommend seeing them live even if their music isn’t your thing.
Following Gogol, Mates of State had no chance of topping that performance, and they delivered a rather bland performance that really isn’t worth talking about. I was excited, however, when Bloc Party, a favorite of mine, finally took the stage. Their set was heavy on songs from their first (and by far superior) album, Silent Alarm, and touched on all of my personal favorites. I’m hoping they return to Chicago soon as I think they too suffered from the outdoor festival-itis, but I enjoy their music enough to forgive them.
Though we were sitting across from Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks stage, we didn’t really pay much attention to their drowsy music. Their set felt generally uninspired and did little to peak my interest. But thankfully, from where JC and I were sitting, we were able to hear (though sadly not see) the performance of CSS, the Brazilian quintet who fuses pop, reggae, and dance music. JC liked them enough to buy their latest self-titled CD, which is a great listen. And they offered a far more interesting performance that Stephen Malkmus, even if we could only listen to their show.
Next up was Radiohead. Unlike Maise, I have no love for the band. I find their instrumentals to be interesting and enjoyable, but as soon as Thom opens his mouth, I want to stick ice picks in my ears. It’s like fucking nails on a chalkboard and grates on me like nothing else. And believe me, I’ve tried to like this band. I had a coworker who would listen to Radiohead at least once a day, and he convinced me to give them a whirl. When I went out and bought Amnesiac, I forced myself to listen to it any number of times and wound up giving it to him instead. He made me a copy of The Bends, promising me that I would most certainly LOVE this one. I listened to a few times as well and promptly lost (and not on purpose either). If Thom just shut his mouth, I’d be all up in that shit, but seriously? Why do people like him? Beats the hell out of me….
Anyhoo, even if I were inclined to like Radiohead’s music, as with any number of the other bands this year, they did not translate well to the outdoor arena. Even with a quite gorgeous light show, I was half asleep by the midway point. Every song sounded exactly the same, and Thom's singing was largely unintelligible. So JC and I packed it in after about an hour and decided to beat the crowds home. And apparently we weren’t the only ones bored stiff because there was a large stream of people doing the same. Thankfully, Rage and NIN nicely made up for the ennui Radiohead inspired in me. But that’s a story for another day….