Lollapalooza 2012: Jack White, The Walkmen, Dum Dum Girls, & More
In contrast to Saturday’s torrential downpours, emergency weather evacuation, and general air of hecticness, Sunday floated by, with cooler temperatures and even occasional breeziness, to ease out of three long festival days.
1:30 p.m. @ The Sony Stage: Poliça Swaying in the sun to Poliça’s dreamy experimental pop was a nice start to the day, as they played through a set mostly made of songs from their debut album, Give You The Ghost: “Dark Star,” “Happy Be Fine,” “Lay Your Cards Out,” “Wandering Star.” The Minneapolis group — a mix of R&B, psychedelica, and electronic pop — has been around for less than a year. But front-woman Channy Leaneagh is an interesting, confident performer — singing and twitching in a way that’s subdued but bold. Her lyrics are mostly inaudible, layered and delayed, pushed forward by two drummers. Even so, on the last song the band performed Sunday afternoon, “Leading To Death,” Leaneagh’s head snaps and punches carried her experimental pop jam like it was a protest song. If it’s hard to tell what she’s talking about, you know she means it.
Overheard: “This is the first time I’ve ever gotten my favorite band’s set list!” a high school-aged girl said to her crew of friends, after quickly diving for the setlist. “I can die happy! This is never coming off my wall! Ever!”
3 p.m. @ The Sony Stage: The Walkmen “As Lady Gaga said when we saw her last time we played Lollapalooza, it’s hot as fuck here!” said Walkmen singer-guitarist Hamilton Leithauser, near the beginning of their set. The Walkmen did in fact play during the hottest hours of the day, on a field that sort of smelled weird and bad in the aftermath of the previous day’s storm. It wasn’t too distracting though, as the 12-year-old East Coast indie rock 5-piece — who I’m told basically play Lollapalooza every single year — played through songs from their new record, Heaven, out last month.
Overheard: “It’s not like I have to do drugs to enjoy a concert, it’s just fun” — shirtless teen guy in cargos to teen girl covered in neon paint, who then proceed to spends a solid two minutes impersonating Avicii’s set on the previous night.
3:30 p.m. @ The Google Play Stage: Dum Dum Girls With Lollapalooza’s very male-centric line-up, it was refreshing to finally see one band with an all-lady line-up. (This was, in fact, the first 100% female band I’d seen all weekend.) The West Coast shoegazey noise-pop 4-piece played from its last couple of releases: “Mine Tonight,” “He Gets Me High,” “Catholicked,” “I Will Be,” to start. “Please sing along if you know this one,” Dee Dee said before their big single, “Jai La La.”
The best part of the Dum Dum Girls’ set is a new song, one with less reverb and crisp surfy drums, where their front-lady’s pipes really shine. “I got nothing / I got nothing left to say from this day on,” she sang, more defiant and emotive than any other song of their set. The band is mostly quiet and, as usual, doesn’t speak much between songs, until the end. “It’s surreal to be playing this festival, as an American teenager of the ‘90s,” Dee Dee tells the crowd. “I’m sure some of you can relate.” The energy of their new song trickles into their last, a super-emotive rendition of “Coming Down.”
Random notebook scribble: I’m sure I sound like a broken record, continuously talking about the terrible EDM-ers, but this wasted dude covered in orange paint really needs to stop screaming to his friend about how they should go rage in the dubstep tent. Just go rage in the dubstep tent! And let me listen to Dee Dee. Ugh.
Random notebook observation: After careful tallying all weekend, my estimate is that the ratio of sports jerseys to band t-shirts at Lollapalooza is about 5:1. The ratio of Black Sabbath and Red Hot Chili Peppers t-shirts to all other band t-shirts is about 10:1.
4:15 p.m. @ The Bud Light Stage: J Cole “First of all, I know some of you are new here, scoutin,” said J Cole to a growing crowd of thousands at the big Bud Light stage yesterday. “Allow me to introduce myself. I go by the name J Cole.” As he raps through a jam singing “put your diamonds in the air / put your diamonds in the air / say ‘hell yeah’,” the crowd is growing and growing. I watch him on the big screens from the back; festival-goers are speeding past me, dancing and running across the field and squawking the lyrics to every song. “I see some people here who been fuckin’ with me since day one,” Cole says after a couple of songs. “I appreciate all of you who are here, but I’m doin’ this right here now for those of you who been fuckin’ with me since day one. This is for you.”
5 p.m. @ The Sony Stage: Toro Y Moi “We’re playing some new stuff,” said Toro y Moi’s Chaz Bundick, about halfway through his set at the Sony stage yesterday evening — one of the best sets of the day. “Hope you like it.” The new songs were serious highlights of his excellent set — “Rose Quartz,” “Grown Up Calls,” “Say That,” “So Many,” plus one more. They’re all a bit more stripped down than his previous work; slow jams, mostly love songs, with ultra smooth R&B vibes. Many of the songs sound particularly bass-heavy, but it’s hard to tell if that’s Chaz’s new songwriting, or just bad festival sound. With his 3-piece backing band, he also plays through festival-goer favorites from his recent few releases: “All Alone,” “New Beat,” “Studies.” “I know I could always turn to you,” he sings on “I Can Get Love,” bouncing his head along in double time.
Overheard: “I listen to you all the time on WUSC!” — teen guy from South Carolina, where Toro y Moi also reside. I meet a handful of other SC super-fans in the front row, too.
8:15 p.m. @ The Red Bull Stage: Jack White All weekend, copies of Time Out Chicago were floating around the festival, featuring a cover story on Jack White. “Rock’s quirky guitar god on why it’s better to work with women,” the cover reads. In the story, White talks about the differences between playing with men versus playing with women. “What if tomorrow I had only women play with me, and the day after that do the exact same songs with only men playing the songs? What would the energy be like?” he asks, in the story. “I think it’s funny how the perception is still backdated,” he says, about women in rock bands. “It’s still considered a novelty if a girl goes onstage and has a guitar in her hands. It’s considered nifty or it’s a oh-isn’t-that-sweet kind of ridiculous prejudice that should have went away 40, 50 years ago.”
With that context in mind, it was interesting to see White’s two-hour-long set — during which he covered music from his entire discography, playing White Stripes, Raconteurs, and solo material. He divided his set into two sections, the first half with his male backing band, Los Buzzardos, and the second half with his female backing band, The Peacocks. Both brought the same sort of hard, rock-and-roll energy White’s songs call for; in fact, from way back in the field, tens of thousands of heads back, it was hard to tell that he even switched up his band.
With Los Buzzardos, he played nine songs; a couple were White Stripes numbers (“Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground,” “Wasting My Time,” “The Same Boy You’ve Always Known,” “John The Revelator”) and the rest were his own. With the Peacocks, he played through six songs as well, including the Stripes’ “Hotel Yorba” and “Ball And Biscuit” and the Raconteurs’ “Top Yourself.” The three song encore started with “Steady As She Goes” (the Raconteurs) and ended, of course, with “Seven Nation Army.”
Later in the night, after festival goers were filling the street, a chorus of them continued to shout and hum out the song as loud as they could, as if coming from a sports game or something, filling the streets surrounding Grant Park with that well-known White Stripes riff.
[Photos by Wilson Lee]