Today was mixed bag. Some good new acts and a REALLY bad established one. Also, lightning struck twice for me with another…I will explain below.
The larger than usual crowds have been explained a bit as it was reported on the news today that a whopping 270,000 tickets were sold. I am not sure how many fit in the grounds at one time but it sure seems like they are all there. Sound is another issue. At times the things that are sonically cool about a band were all but inaudible due to inadequate sound systems (see Crystal Castles Day 1).
But there was some good and great music and I will give you the highlights (and one lowlight).
A reminder to follow me on the Twitter @clemmusic for updates as they happen and watch my Facebook page for pics.
FITZ AND THE TANTRUMS– these guys have been all over commercials in the past year but for once an act lives up to that kind of hype. This is blue-eyed soul at it’s finest. Channeling early 70s R and B/Soul and even the best parts of Hall and Oats (don’t forget Darryl Hall was a great singer), Fitz and Co. got the crowd moving early. While I am not sure that this group is going to be particularly unique given the neo-soul movement that is on, they play/sing great and are just a lot of fun and a big crowd pleaser…definitely worth your listening time live or on recording.
CEE LO– Now I ain’t hatin’ on CEE LO but it was the biggest disappointment of the festival season for me. I think it was so disappointing as I really do like him and think he is talented…a very good singer in fact but everything just seemed off during this set. I have to say I think it started with his backing band. I have written before about the trend of really good female musicians in hot bands these days and CEE LO is obviously trying to follow suit but a backing band for a huge star like CEE LO should be good… male or female and these girls (albeit hot and in sexy outfits) just did not play well and unfortunately I COULD hear everything. There was no groove, no energy and no passion on stage or in the crowd. At least twice CEE LO stopped a song because something was wrong and had to start over. Towards the end of his set, he acknowledged “technical difficulties” and certainly those can happen but this seemed far beyond something being wrong with the monitor mix. Even his big hit of F bomb fame was lifeless and grooveless. C’mon Brotha…you have wowed us in Gnarls-Barkley and had a huge solo album but this is the big stage at Lollapalooza…you are a 2nd tier headliner…get this worked out. Maybe he needed the puppets?
MY MORNING JACKET– Yes, lightning can strike twice…well at least it has me. My experience with MMJ was so powerful at Bonnaroo this year that I felt there was no way it could be equaled. But even with just 2 months of aging since I saw them last, they have gotten better. It really is hard to describe what is so amazing about their live performance. I guess the best I can come up with is that they are ALL amazing musicians and singers and I have never seen a band so passionate about playing music. Also, their musical style is truly unlike anything else…I really can’t describe it other than to say it’s the good rock music taking in many genres and coming up with a totally unique and original whole. MMJ is constantly forging new sonic ground but never sacrificing accessibility. Each song also is filled with such joy that it becomes mesmerizing. It was the most fired up group of fans I have seen at Lolla this year. People who come to see them are rabid for them…count me in that group. I have now run out of superlatives.
As far as a new band to watch out for I give you THE CHAIN GANG OF 1974. This is a really solid new act that will give you a good dose of 80s new wave a la Tears for Fears and The Thompson Twins and even some of the sounds of LCD Soundsystem. It is a nice mix of jangly guitar and synth based grooves with a unique vocal sound…very danceable. It will be the first thing I download from this festival. Check it out.
As far as other acts of the day…
THE BLACK LIPS served up their brand of raucous punk influenced rock and seemed to manage to keep from tearing up the stage too much (they have been known to tear up stages and dressing rooms in a literal sense). Not that I take it as gospel but I tend to agree with the opinions of Spin Magazine. They published the 20 acts not to miss and I was happy that most were already on my list. I am glad I checked out one that wasn’t. PHANTOGRAM had a good set of synth based, danceable alt/pop. I definitely want to hear more of them. I now understand why
THE DRUMS became one of the hottest house bands in New York and have now burst onto the national scene. Their brand of fun danceable indie/pop had their crowd going. I wish I had heard more of LYKKE LI, as I really liked what I did hear. This is far above your normal “international hot chic makes mediocre record and becomes star” fare. A solid but not amazing singer, I found her strength to be in her songwriting and uniquely orchestrated arrangements. But she did no doubt have a cool and unique voice. I definitely want to hear more. I was psyched to see THE DEFTONES on the schedule as I have been a fan for a while and it was the only act that would be playing the good hard rock. I would love to be able to say I heard them but the sound was dreadful…the guitar and bass were barely audible and there was no way to experience what I love about them. I did make the choice to see MY MORNING JACKET over EMINEM but I do love me some Slim Shady. He wowed me at Bonnaroo with an awesome show and by the accounts I heard from people who did see him here, he was just as good.
The last day will bring some great acts I know and some I am excited to experience for the first time. I am most psyched to see the international sensation that is THE ARCTIC MONKEYS having loved their music for some time but never having seen them. The evening caps with the band that gives us what we go to rock concerts for…THE FOO FIGHTERS!
Watch for the last day report tomorrow (or Monday).