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Depeche Mode

If you weren’t talking about the weather in Grant Park this weekend, you weren’t in Grant Park this weekend. And really that would’ve been a shame. It was oppressive at times, but despite — or as these things go, perhaps because of — the inclement weather conditions (APW-styled rain Friday, sweltering heat and humidity the rest of the time), there was a buzz about Lollapalooza that made it yet again one of the year’s most memorable festivals. Impressive, because the lineup seemed anything but. Like they say, though, a successful fest is 10 percent inspiration, 80 percent perspiration, and 10 percent carrying an offensive, rainy sweat stink with you on the plane that just won’t get out. So this Lolla was super successful.

There were some notable covers, like of Montreal’s “Moonage Daydream” with an assist from Janelle Monae, and Santigold’s take on the Cure’s “Killing An Arab.” There were some notable dedications, like Los Campesinos! offering a tune in honor of the Smashing Pumpkins, and Vampire Weekend sending out “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” to John Hughes here in the late, great, musical filmmaker’s home city. (As you know, Vampire Weekend are admirers.) But as befitting a festival its magnitude, the most notable moments came via each night’s headliners.

No matter which end of the park you settled in to last night, you were being served up some ham: the Killers brought their blue collared new wave synth-glitz to the Chicago 2016 stage, while the reunited Jane’s Addiction settled into the opposite end’s Budweiser structure. While most had evidently chosen spending their night with Brandon Flowers, those that came to Jane’s found themselves under a spotlight from a circling helicopter overhead at the open. Just a little reminder that the kids may want the Killers but this is Perry’s house. The set was heavy on the hits, Farrell single-handedly making up for the weekend’s lack of stage banter with one ridiculous and amusing digression after another. Navarro rips, Perkins held it down despite being advised by two specialists not to perform, and yeah they’re caricatures, but they’re incredibly tight ones with boundless energy and a better catalog than most any band that played this festival.

Well OK, let’s not forget Depeche Mode. The rain miraculously stopped Friday night in time for their headliner, and their memorable set was somewhat akin to Jane’s: for 90 minutes we were on a (post-Music For The Masses) nostalgia trip and in the hands of bona fide rock stars who knew how to address a crowd that size almost too well. But even as Dave Gahan has his stage persona perfectly calibrated like he’s a charismatic scientist, the dude can wrap you in moments of sheer emotion and goosebumps. And while it was, again, unfortunate to be at a festival Beastie Boys were forced to cancel, giving Karen O and Yeah Yeah Yeahs a chance to occupy the anchor slot next to titans like Perry and Gahan seemed perfectly fitting, and right on time: Karen’s one of our generation’s few true rock stars — a relic of the past, in a way — and her compelling mix of vulnerable pathos and new wave banshee were perfectly framed by the Chicago skyline and the mainstage’s sweep. She’s not quite there yet — she did forget the words to “Maps,” after all — but as the adoring crowd that pick up the lyrical slack showed, she’ll pack ’em tight and close even as she sands down the edges.

A lot of factors need to conspire to create in the perfectly memorable festival set. Sometimes it’s the weather — last weekend Fleet Foxes fed off the rain for a transportive set, but on Friday they and Bon Iver seemed tamed by it. Sometimes it’s the time of day — at Bonnaroo, Animal Collective shriveled in the sun at 2PM, but their evening set this weekend was one of the festival’s most magical. (They opened with “What Would I Want Sky,” inspiring majestic crowd-surfing to their blissy ambient tripouts. Definitely track down that set’s unending “Fireworks.”) It could just be up to the festival planners and what stage they give you — see Passion Pit, whose slot at the tiny Citi stage demonstrated a gross underestimation of that band’s appeal, but also created the circumstances for a crazy packed dance party that might have been the festival’s most bonkers crowd. Or it could just be the right “time” for you as a band — and for this one I’m talking about Arctic Monkeys. Their set at APW was fine, but something shifted for this Lolla set: Yes they stormed NYC on a wave of hype after their MySpace demos, and yes they keep playing bigger rooms when they come through, but their performance at the Budweiser mainstage had the feel of a true American coming out party. Alex is all muscles and hair and effortless charisma, the Sabbath-spiked Humbug songs don’t always hit but when they do, like on “Crying Lightning,” they are massive, and really to get a sense for the magnitude of this set, just take a look at the pictures of the crowd. After that set, it seemed like they’ve finally arrived on these shores.

Last year Lollapalooza set an attendance record with 225,000 over three days, but I’d never actually experienced the crush until this year when I got caught in a poorly planned bottleneck — a human traffic jam comprising folks watching Santigold, folks buying beer, folks leaving Arctic Monkeys, and folks nearly passing out from the heat. Lolla lost some points there. And yet, even on an apparently off-year lineup wise, it was unforgettable. And so I’d do it again.

Oh, and after Jane’s on Sunday I went to see Them Crooked Vultures at the Metro because I don’t believe in sleep or preserving my hearing for old age. It was fun! Thanks for following along on Twitter. See you next year, Chicago. Now if you need me I’ll be showering for the next week.

sounds of buzz
Comments (30)
  1. yourmom  |   Posted on Aug 10th, 2009 0

    how could you write a review of lollapalooza and leave out kings of leon? they killed it…judging by the size of the crowd in front of their stage, i’m surprised there was even anyone around to watch gahan’s old ass vamping…way to miss the boat, rook…

  2. “The crush” occurred pretty much 100% of the time – especially Friday and Saturday (so hot and crowded!). I enjoyed myself, the sets were great (loved Friendly Fires, Passion Pit, Crookers, Animal Collective… I could go on here), but most of the time standing in the crowd was like being at a frat party full of eighteen year olds. The crowd surfing may have looked “majestic” from the sidestage, but your perspective might change a little when you get a knee to the face during “Daily Routine.”

  3. Great review. There was also a weird time-conflict that I haven’t heard explained yet. Lou Reed went a solid twenty minutes over his set (which was great) and then Band of Horses, who had to wait for him to finish, went another 20-minutes long and pushed Jane’s Addiction. They were actually playing at the same time for a little bit. Band of Horses even said, “We’ve gotta turn it up on this one and blow that sh*t out” towards the end of their set. So I’d be amazed if they get invited back.

    Other than that, Kings of Leon were definitely locked-in, Yeah Yeah Yeah’s may have put on the show of the fest, at seeing Joakim Noah from the Bulls on his way to Snoop’s set was a personal highlight for me.

  4. I’d like to hear more about the Animal Collective set. I’ve heard some describe it as epic, the best set ever, etc. but I’ve also heard it described as a massive flop. Probably it was somewhere in between. Or maybe it was both things and just depended on people’s expectations going in.

    More thoughts from people who were actually there?

    • It depends on what you wanted to get out of it. I think a lot of people went in expecting a normal concert with distinct songs and the biggest hits from each album. AC didn’t give that. They rarely stopped playing, most songs bled into each other, overlapping for minutes at a time, and songs that usually run 6 or 7 minutes were 10, 12, maybe 15 minutes. Fireworks was about three times as long as it is normally.

    • Chris  |   Posted on Aug 10th, 2009 0

      I don’t mind that they didnt play all hits. What annoyed me was that they only played 3 songs in the 45 minutes I was there. The jamming in between was kinda hard to enjoy, and seemed directed more towards people who were baked.

      It was the kind of thing I wouldnt mind listening to while relaxing at home on a nice day, but after watching TV on the Radio utterly destroy from about 20 feet away, this just wasn’t what I was in the mood for.

    • Absolute flop –
      They extended the jamming too far, didn’t even get into the meat and potatoes of what makes their jams jam.

      Not enough definition and too much just sorta… noodling.

      • DS3M  |   Posted on Oct 5th, 2009 0

        Of all the retarded fucking comments in this thread, Hos did I end up with -4. Fuck you, internets.

  5. I got caught in that crush after the Artic Monkeys set, too! It got a bit scary at points when the people from behind starting pushing because they thought it was the beer line causing the log jam.

    I was pleasantly surprised by Dan Deacon’s set. I didn’t think there was any way he was going to get the group interpretive dance together at a festival setting but he did!

    Silversun Pickups were really great. Rise Against were hometown favorites.

    But the best bang/band for the buck, IMO, was Depeche Mode.

  6. dorothy mantooth  |   Posted on Aug 10th, 2009 0

    What Band of Horses did was maybe the most rock and roll thing that happened in a weekend that’s become far too corporate and homogenized for my taste. What’s wrong with an old-fashioned battle of the bands? If I was a Jane’s Addiction fan, I wouldn’t be mad because someone had the audacity to play while Saint Perry was playing. I’d be mad because they got their asses handed to them by an alt-country band playing a much smaller stage (with much smaller speakers).

    • Apexa  |   Posted on Aug 10th, 2009 0

      No, Lou Reed playing the shit out of the 20 minute-long feedback was the most rock and roll thing that happened this weekend.

      • iwishwecouldstopcallingit"Lolla"  |   Posted on Aug 11th, 2009 0

        Lou Reed’s set SUCKED!!! He couldn’t have looked less impressed or less happy to play to thousands of adoring fans. His new(er) stuff sounded like bad Springsteen… Also, he was reading off two lyrics screens! That’s about the LEAST rock n roll thing a legend like him could do. I’m glad II got to see him perform once, but definitely wouldn’t do it again.

  7. dorothy mantooth  |   Posted on Aug 10th, 2009 0

    yes, but he only did that because he’s senile and forgot what he was supposed to be playing.

  8. That other website was dogging the Arctic Monkeys and Fleet Foxes sets, but i really thought that both acts killed it, highlights of the weekend…. also Bradford Cox was all sorts of fucked up during the very small showing at their set, however they sounded fantastic

  9. The Hungry i or Van Halen II  |   Posted on Aug 10th, 2009 0

    It’s frustrating AnCo are so winning right now…it’s like secretly it’s the 50′s again…

  10. wiscod  |   Posted on Aug 10th, 2009 0

    where’s the Tool coverage, Amrit?!

  11. These festivals have been getting worse by the year. Coachella was pretty good but that was due in part to Paul McCartney along with some other notable music figure heads. With exception to like 4 groups at Lolla, these are all bands I could probably catch on the weekend at some venue.

  12. Nodnarb  |   Posted on Aug 11th, 2009 0

    yeah I got caught in that JAM UP MYSELF! ! ! Was the worst part about the entire experience. At one point a girl i didnt know was freaking out and grabbing onto me in desperation saying “oh my god I can’t breathe”. and many others were freaking out as well. I thought a bunch of those people were going to pass out right there. The Park only having the main entrance open didnt help either.

  13. The Killers and Yeah Yeah Yeahs were my favorite sets of the weekend. Crowds were awesome at both, and they played the hits. I also really enjoyed YYY’s starting with Runaway for their set, which was the best, if not the only way, to truly integrate that song into the performance.

    Other miscellaneous thoughts:

    Kings of Leon sounded good, but that’s about it. I was surrounded by too many drunk ass-holes, and KOL sounded better at Lolla 2 years ago.
    No Age was awesome despite Randy’s broken arm.
    Bradford was pretty funny/on something during Deerhunter’s set, but Josh Fauver was the Best thing about their performance.
    Los Campesinos! kicked ass, especially when Gareth dove into the crowd during Sweet Dreams Sweet Cheeks and then the drummer crowd surfed way back into the crowd, and I think got lost.

  14. Calder  |   Posted on Aug 11th, 2009 0

    So, were just going to completely ignore the awesomeness that was Perry’s, huh?

  15. mackerman  |   Posted on Aug 11th, 2009 0

    Deadmau5 killed it! :)

  16. Jon  |   Posted on Aug 11th, 2009 0

    Loved Decemberists, Passion Pit, Dan Deacon, Animal Collective, Bat for Lashes and Depeche Mode. Disappointed with Ben Folds, Glasvegas and all the stupid jerks who spend sets talking to their friends with their backs to the stage.

  17. Got a little crazy...  |   Posted on Aug 12th, 2009 0

    Everyone is dead on about a lot of the performances, but to ignore Perry’s is a mistake. I went to Lolla not even expecting to spend a second at that stage, but on Friday ther was some down time for me and me and buddies trudged in there.

    We saw two grown men in Spiderman masks and laughed and became more intrigued. Ultimately, jumping and having a blast. It probably was the best energy boost we got for the rest of the day.

    Also, I was super stoked to see DIPLO. The set was retarded, don’t remember much of it, but he was in complete control and following LA Riots, a new one for me. It was terrific. And single handedly help to get the grumpiness out of a girlfriend of mine that was not in the mood…

    One set that was not worth the hype, AC’s DJ set. Glad I was at Los Campensinos.

    Also, the kids were definitely in full effect. 27, and felt kinda old…

  18. baxatax  |   Posted on Aug 12th, 2009 0

    Lou Reed sucks and needs to pack it up. He was being a total ass by playing stupid sh*t and eating up Band of Horses slot, and I don’t even like Band of Horses that much. Best shows: Friendly Fires, TV on the Radio, Arctic Monkeys, Ben Harper (absolutely killed it!).

    C3 needs to make the stages higher and stop the speakers from swaying, so you don’t get “waves” of music.

  19. R to the V  |   Posted on Aug 12th, 2009 0

    Excuse me? A weak lineup? I hate to be the naysayer in the comments section, but seriously. The headliners were mostly weak, yes, but the unmentioned middle of the pack bands are what made Lollapalooza a great weekend.

    The best performances were by Cold War Kids, Animal Collective, Of Montreal, Band of Horses, Dan Deacon, etc. It’s OK if you stopped listening to music in the early 90s, and haven’t heard of bands after Depeche Mode and Jane’s Addiction, but next time show up to the festival before 8 PM and you will be in for a treat.

  20. GA  |   Posted on Aug 13th, 2009 0

    My take on Animal Collective: AWFUL. Now, I am not a fan, but festivals are for impressing the uninitiated. A great (or even a good) group should be able to reach out a little farther than just their own worshippers. I’ve heard fans who were up front who loved it, but the majority consensus from those in the vicinity was that it was not good. They did not belong on the South Field. They belong on a side stage (like CMI) and are not qualified to play to a larger cross-section of fans outside of their core base, I’m sorry to say.

    I hope the organizers figure out that North field logjam situation, no one wants a disaster.

    Otherwise, great festival and I’ll be back next year.

  21. Kyle  |   Posted on Aug 13th, 2009 0

    All i know is i was ready to attack anyone with an umbrella toward the end of the day on friday. Who brings a giant thing to hold up and block everyones view at a show.

    Anyway, like the last three years i went, I absolutely loved Lolla. Band of Horses playing into Jane’s set was amazing

  22. Jon  |   Posted on Aug 14th, 2009 0

    Well said Kyle, since when are umbrellas allowed at festivals? That was ridiculous on Friday, and even when it was only slightly drizzling later in the day idiots still had umbrellas up and I was about to deck someone.

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