Recapped: Lollapalooza Day 1Continue reading.
Recapped: Lollapalooza Day 3
Unlike Saturday, the third and final day of Lollapalooza was heavy on rock. Not electro-rock, not industrial rock, and not synth-rock. Rock bands with guitars and volume knobs to turn them up, dominated Sunday, closing out a festival that otherwise was dominated by keyboards, banjos, and/or aerobic dance music.
The Vaccines, from England, did not push any new boundaries, but the band resurrected the fine tradition of minimalist song structures, and razor-sharp guitars. The Strokes carried this torch years ago, but in this band’s hands, it sounds renewed. In their set, songs were submerged in noise that reflected the adrenaline rush of the players, but the heavy reverb and gang choruses of “Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra)” and “If You Wanna” reflects the urgency of 1960’s girl groups.
Savannah alt-metal band Baroness sounded out of place in the early afternoon sunlight, primarily because their psychedelic heaviness is more of a late night thing. Maybe that’s why the band waited until very near the end of their set to lower the boom in both volume and energy. Baroness made headlines a year ago after suffering a severe bus crash in England, critically injuring every band member; however, there wasn’t a sense the incident slowed down the music; these complex songs carried a certain weight the band used to scale highs and plumb deep lows for full dynamics.
Maybe it’s because they’re from San Diego, but Wavves brought the surf rock, which subsequently launched the crowd surfers into the air. Catchy songs like “So Bored” don’t leave much for sonic exploration; instead, the minimal time window of these songs was nicely filled with grimy guitars, and sheets of distortion. There was enough energy and melody to suggest this band is capable of making a future stop at the arenas.
Vampire Weekend headlined in the early evening. They were highly anticipated for a crowd that was clearly geared up to dance. The band ably delivered, playing busy, Afro-pop songs with buzzing guitars that were so heavily influenced by Paul Simon’s classic “Graceland” album, at least three of them started off with the lead riff of “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes.” Did it matter to an audience that likely had to reach into their parent’s record collection to hear the original? Nah
Before veterans The Cure took the stage, Baltimore’s Beach House played just across the field. This trio, headed by vocalist-keyboardist Victoria Legrand, played dreamy, slow-motion pop that would have sounded perfect in a small club, or maybe as background in a New Wave film. Legrand’s melting vocals on songs like “Wishes” were entrancing, which were nicely matched by fog entering late into the set, cloaking the band.
By the time The Cure appeared onstage, the Lollapalooza crowd stretched as far back as the field’s back steps. No other band this weekend commanded such a large audience, and it was obviously due to their deep catalog of hits. “Just Like Heaven,” “Lovesong,” “In Between Days” and more — They all shared simply melody lines and singer Robert Smith’s clever, romantic lyrics.
As for Smith — well, his big hair was a mess and he can’t really wear the stage makeup as well as the glory years. But the swoon in his voice and shy demeanor were revelations following a weekend of demanding, aggressive frontmen. The band often veered from its signature sound with newer songs that rambled with no definable hook, but if there was any concluding message of this set it was that there remains a hunger to hear this band, not just from the old fans, but also among newer ones.
One of the continuing aggravations of Lollapalooza is in programming decisions that slot major headliners and veterans against one another, which not just dilutes audience numbers, but forces fans to make tough choices at the very end of the night. Case in point: Cat Power’s Chan Marshall faced only about 300 people during her set, a size disproportionate to the scope and influence of her music. Although featuring a four-member band, the set’s most impressive instrument was Marshall’s voice, which she didn’t use to climb octaves, but just projected deep blues.
Except for a cover of the INXS hit “Never Tear Us Apart” — indistinguishable from the original — most of the set was dedicated to “Sun,” her latest album from last year. The direction of her most recent music — groove-oriented, psychedelic dance beats on songs like “3,6,9” and “Nothin’ But Time” — was seductive and hypnotic. At the end, she threw white roses into the crowd, ending an evening that could have sent the flowers in the other direction.