Lollapalooza ended with some kind of a bang, after the comparatively slowest morning and blurry weather to boot. If you caught the news at all by now, yes, Pearl Jam brought the fest to a close by pulling folks onstage, including Dennis Rodman, Ben Harper, Iraq war veteran Thomas Young and a slew of diehard funs, all for a giant jam of “Rockin’ in the Free World”. It was kinda cool.
Don’t be fooled—Pearl Jam was far from the pride of that day. Rodrigo y Gabriela, Iggy and the Stooges, Café Tacuba and !!! all put on equally energetic (if not frankly better) performances throughout the day.
Juliette Lewis was one of the first performers at 11:30, with her backing band The Licks. For anyone who didn’t know Juliette Lewis could sing, well, she can’t, so don’t worry about it. She was also wearing an Indian headdress and flailing on the ground… well, at least she tries.
The real kick-off to the day were Rodrigo y Gabriela, a Spanish guitar duo who are beautiful musicians with one of the most soulful sounds of our time. Listening to them, you honestly wonder how there aren’t more than two of them playing; Gabriela’s smooth strumming technique is something that must be witnessed, not just heard, and Rodrigo’s nod of approval after each song became a signature move, as if he was agreeing with the audience: “Yeah… that sounded good.”
The highlight of the set—and one of Lollapalooza’s best moments—was when Rodrigo began to playfully strum “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd and the audience’s tremendous roar pushed him to continue with it. Neither he nor Gabriela spoke any words during the song, allowing the audience to sing the first two verses and chorus as they watched in pleasant awe.
Next up were the not-as-Spanish Los Campesinos!, a Whales indie pop rock band with a ton of fun dance tunes and not much power beyond that. Technical difficulties delayed their set by 15 or 20 minutes, but once they kicked in, a crowd quickly formed in front of the stage to see their frontman prancing around happily, clapping and jumping and interacting with his bandmates. Their sound gets a bit repetitive, but for their 45-minute set it worked perfectly.
I pushed my way through a grooving Amy Whinehouse crowd to get a good spot for Iggy Pop, who’d be playing in just over an hour’s time. Once the leathery punk legend emerged, we dedicated souls would be glad we got good spots, because the crowd got ridiculous as soon as “I Wanna Be Your Dog” began to blare. All the mud from the previous day’s rain wound up all over people’s feet and legs, and once Iggy called everyone up onto the stage, mud was on people’s necks, too. The scene became complete anarchy—security guards helpless—as dozens of fans rushed onstage and crowded Iggy and the Stooges. As he ended his set and ran offstage, I turned to the person next to me, both of us panting, and asked—“Now why the fuck didn’t he headline?”
My plan was to visit Yo La Tengo right after, but as I walked to their stage I found I couldn’t pay attention to them at all. Iggy Pop was too freakin’ extreme, and Tengo was boring the hell out of me. So I left to visit the Wailers instead, where I found the only crowd who was so nice that even after I pushed past a few people to get to a reasonable spot, fans turned to me, said “Go up further! You want a photo, right?” To which I replied, “Well, yeah, but here is fine…” And they said, “No, no, go further up, man!” And so I did. Nice guys, those Wailers fans. A very enjoyable set—I’d have stayed for longer but I already had a third commitment for that hour, that being the dance party of !!!.
The crowd for !!! was disappointingly light, as most Lolla-ers were ether waiting for My Morning Jacket or Modest Mouse, with the remainder split three ways between Tengo, the Wailers, and themselves. Nevertheless, they put on one of the best shows of the day, with lead singer Nic Offer dancing his heart out and touching himself all over. Just the way live music should be.
Modest Mouse were a little lackluster from my spot near the back—they played some of their most renowned songs, like “Spitting Venom”, “Dashboard” and “Float On”, but their whole set felt a bit obvious. They didn’t do anything special or interesting, and by that point in the festival, if an act doesn’t stand out, it falls wayside. Modest Mouse didn’t sound bad by any means; they just played their music. And that’s it.
Now, if you wanted something out of the ordinary, you should see Café Tacuba, the heavier Mexican version of They Might Be Giants. Their crowd was at least 85% Hispanic, mostly chanting “Mexico! Mexico!” and waving around the country’s flag. Tacuba spoke maybe two words in English their entire set, and one of them was “Lollapalooza”, which is hardly even English to begin with. But considering they went on immediately before Pearl Jam, their crowd was guaranteed to be among the most die hard of the festival, and this turned out to be true. It was a funky Mexican time had by all… If only I understood any of it.
And then there was Vedder. Pearl Jam closed the night—and the festival—with a set over two hours long, rife with drunken sing-alongs and self-righteous rants from Vedder about pollution in Lake Michigan. Now, anti-corporation rants are important, but who exactly was he preaching to? The only sober ones in the crowd were the security guards and underage kids who can’t even vote. It just seemed a little forced, and his whole stance wasn’t helped by the time they began to play “Another Brick in the Wall” and he replaced the words with an anti-Bush charge. But whatever. Somebody has to speak out at concerts, after all. Plus, the grand finale of “Rockin’ in the Free World” was a pretty epic finale, and really put a seal on the festival for everyone.
Check back this coming week for retrospective looks at the best, worst and most downright wacky moments that Lollapalooza had to offer, as well as an exclusive interview with High Class Elite.