Monday, August 9, 2010
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
Going gaga for Lolla
Chicago celebrates the
geeks and the greats
By MIKE KUNTZ
Daily Music Editor
With each year, the giant outdoor
music festival held in Chicago's scenic
Grant Park has continually outdone
itself, bringing together the Gagas and
the Green Days of yesterday and today.
Complete with two headlining stages
at the northernmost and southernmost
ends of the park, the festival also has
four lesser stages, aseparate kids' stage
and the perennial Perry's tent, where
DJs spin from the moment the festival
opens until the end of the night.
Surrounded on all sides by Chicago's
looming, picturesque skyline, T-shirt
vendors and religious crazies (whose
"Rock and roll will damn your soul"
placard almost made the weekend all
on its own), the festival boasts three
days of music from hundreds of per-
formers, local food vendors, non-profit
and political advocacy groups, quirky
sponsors and plenty of free water and
accessible restroom facilities through-
out the park.
It seems like the stages and the sto-
ries get bigger and better every year -
if the first two days of Lollapalooza are
any indication for the future of grand-
scale outdoor music festivals, I like
where we're headed.
Friday afternoons at Lolla are typi-
cally worse attended than the rest
" F0 Mention This AD
S /And Receives n biOff. Now is the
perfect time to prep with one of the
A notions leaders in et spreparation.
° Expert Instructors
SR-Free Extra Help
of the weekend, no thanks to the
demands of the working week and
the Man's efforts to keep us all down.
Unfortunate, then, that hip-hop heat-
seeker B.o.B. was doomed to one of the
earliest slots in the day - a brutal 11:30
a.m. post at one of the festival's larger
An early highlight was Mavis
Staples, the legendary soul singer of
Staples Singers fame who recently
teamed up with Jeff Tweedy (from
"The Wilco Band!" as Staples intro-
duced him) to write and record a new
album of gospel-tinged soul. Tweedy
appeared onstage twice, softly strum-
ming an acoustic guitar stage right as
the 71-year-old Mavis let loose on clas-
sics ranging from "I'll Take You There"
to The Band's "The Weight."
On the other side of the festival, The
Walkmen had just finished a set of raw,
garage-rocking Britpop led by Hamil-
ton Leithauser's signature throat-tear-
ing drawl. New tracks from the band's
upcoming album, Lisbon, were well
received, and older tracks like "In The
New Year" sounded almost like mod-
At Perry's, Stones Throw Records
founder and artist Peanut Butter Wolf
(aka Chris Manak) was spinning a
set of hip-hop classics, ranging from
Snoop and the Beastie Boys to Wu-
Tang and MF Doom. Deftly scratching
and mashing the records and accom-
panying video simultaneously, Manak
brought some ntasteful old-school fla-
vor to the rave-ready crowd.
Then there was Devo. Emerging in
silver space-age costumes, the band
played tracks from its new album
before breaking into the New Wave
classics and donning those signature
Energy Domes, now in turquoise.
Frontman Mark Mothersbaugh was as
undeniable as ever, his nerdy charisma
Back on the northern side of the fes-
tival, Dirty Projectors was creating its
own brand of musical geekery, rooted
instead in complex polyrhythms,
melodies, arrangements and lyrics
about Gatorade. One of the strongest
and most hypnotic performances of
the weekend, the Brooklyn six-piece
played a pitch-perfect set, with lead
singers Dave Longstreth and Amber
Coffman stretching their ranges with
Headliner Lady Gaga, who spared
no expense in creating the "Monster
Ball" of her current tour, emerged to
tens of thousands of screaming teenag-
ers and 20-somethings on a stage that
looked more like a Broadway produc-
See LOLLA, Page 10
So indie it burns.
Suburbs' on fire
By MIKE KUNTZ Like The National, Arcade Fire has a
Daily Music Editor knack for catharsis and is able to cre-
ate complete moods within its songs.
kid who grew up in the sub- Whether triumphant or terrifying,
in tell you what they're all emotions dictate the entire album.
upper-middle- "The Suburbs" is a slow-burner
omes, usually * ** driven by a piano and some dizzy-
with a pale ing strings, opening the album with
ence; the day- Arcade Fire a bounce but hinting at the darkness
cycle of sleep, ahead. Segueing into the radio-ready
repeat; the stomp "Ready to Start," it's immedi-
pleasures of Merge ately clear that the band is back in full
try club and force, with dense textures, blacklit
-in movie. All the darkness guitar lines and lucid synth textures.
inui associated with Arcade "City With No Children" is asteady
ides there - the longing for chime of ringing guitars and hand
the holding out for something claps that recalls the better tracks
ice you finally leave. And even of Funeral, recapturing the freedom
e who grew up in a city, Win of "Wake Up" and the possibility of
earnest take on suburban "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)" with
aent, fleeting youth and the ease. "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond
it steady Walmartization of Mountains)" is just as revelatory but
intryside tells all there is to with even more New Wave flair, pro-
pelled by a four-on-the-floor back-
band describes its new album, beat and Rdgine Chassagne's best
burbs, as a mix between Debbie Harry.
Depeche Mode and Neil Young, and
it's dead on: Taking cues evenhand-
edly from new-wave electronica and
classic folk troubador-ism, Butler and
company find a rare, agreeable middle
ground between a synthesizer and an
acoustic guitar. It's something other
acts could never pull off as tastefully
and inventively. Equal parts epic and
reflective, The Suburbs's 16 tracks
never falter or lose momentum, and
by the time the title track gets its
reprise at the album's close, it feels
like finishing a really satisfying book
or film - loose ends tied, characters
reunited and conflicts resolved.
As dark as this album gets, it never
loses its sunny feel - its melodic
ease and chiming guitars could com-
pete with Best Coast's sun-drenched
debut. The band uses its production to
full effect, but always with an expert
ear to let melody and feeling reign.
Even with its use of older tricks
and aesthetics, Arcade Fire never
sounds like a total throwback - it's as
2010 as it is 1981, and probably more.
The Suburbs is the sermon Neon Bible
tried to be, only never as preachy, and
it's all the more affecting for it. No
one can write songs about "the kids"
that sound as all-encompassing and
urgent as Win Butler and company
- their directness hits home regard-
less of your age or where you grew
up. Urban sprawl aside, if the suburbs
sound anything like this, here's your
reason to get out of the city.