GOOD: Due to the insanely high temperatures over the weekend, Pitchfork decided to cut the price of bottled water in half from $2 to $1, and they handed out free bottles periodically. I thought it was ridiculous of them to charge $2 in the first place, especially since in years past they only charged $1 for a huge bottle of Smartwater. I have a sneaking suspicion that they planned the price cut before the festival even began in order to make themselves look good, but at least they changed it.
BAD: Goose Island was no longer the beer of choice. This year’s options: Heineken, Heineken Light, and Newcastle (although that was sold out by Friday evening). I understand their reasoning ($$$$), but couldn’t they have chosen something better? At least Lollapalooza has a micro-brew section for those who don’t want the usual Bud/Bud Light.
GOOD: Big Boi’s set was probably my favorite from the festival. I have been a huge fan of Outkast for years now, and to see one half of the group was truly amazing. Big Boi played a LOT of old OutKast jams, everything from “ATLiens” and “Elevators” to “Rosa Parks” and “B.O.B.” He played a handful of songs from his incredible new album as well, all of which sounded just as good live.
BAD: The only lowlight from Big Boi’s set was his failed attempt to start a “show your racks” chant. That didn’t really go over well with the hipster crowd.
GOOD: Hip-hop reigned supreme this year. Besides Big Boi’s stellar set, Freddie Gibbs and Raekwon also put on great shows. Raekwon busted out a bunch of old Wu-Tang cuts, and brought out the kids from Chi-Town’s Finest Breakers to breakdance on stage. Freddie Gibbs headlined the B-stage on Saturday night, and was quite good despite the fact that most of the festival-goers were on the other side of the park trying to get a good spot for LCD Soundsystem at the main stage.
BAD: Unfortunately, El-P’s Friday set was unsatisfactory. I like his studio work, but for whatever reason his live show was lacking. I don’t know if it was the heat, early start time, or what, but I just wasn’t feeling his performance.
MEH: This year’s headliners were somewhat disappointing. I was ecstatic that I FINALLY got to see Modest Mouse, but I just couldn’t get into their performance like I was hoping. They opened with an extended version of my favorite song, Tiny Cities Made of Ashes, which was amazing, but things slowly tapered off from there. I hate to be one of those guys that only wants to hear a band’s old material, but with Modest Mouse that was what made me a fan of theirs. Namely The Moon & Antarctica, This Is A Long Drive.., and The Lonesome Crowded West. For the most part, the band stuck to new material. I like what I have heard from their last full-length album and new EP, but it seemed to drag a bit live. Their encore was also a bit schizophrenic since they played “Gravity Rides Everything” (awesome) and then followed it up with “Black Cadillacs.” Totally different vibes there. I thought that it was pretty amusing that they didn’t play “Float On,” and I think that pissed off a lot of people. Don’t get me wrong – Modest Mouse were good – they just weren’t as great as I was hoping they would be.
Saturday’s headliners, LCD Soundsystem, are one of those bands that are hit-and-miss for me. I really don’t understand all of the love for them. Sometimes they are truly great, but for every good song they have at least one downright terrible song. “Drunk Girls” is one of the worst songs I have heard recently, and “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House” still annoys me for some reason. Having said that, LCD’s live show was a non-stop dance party. When they were playing “All My Friends” and “Tribulations”, for example, they were on fire. It was still an entertaining show, but I wasn’t as impressed as most.
The festival was closed out by Pavementon Sunday. Pavement is one of those bands that I think you had to grow up listening to really enjoy. I like them, and own a couple of their albums, but they are hardly one of my favorite bands. Regardless, I felt like I was seeing something special since this is allegedly going to be their last tour, and I was surrounded by 20,000 fans (many who have been waiting 10+ years for that moment). They put on a good show, but without me truly “getting it” I didn’t appreciate them as much as those a bit older than me did. They were still an appropriate way to close out the weekend.
GOOD: This year Pitchfork tried out a comedy stage on Friday as an alternative to the main area. I only got to see one performance, which was from Hannibal Buress, an SNL writer from Chicago. He was hilarious, and a definite highlight on Friday for me. I loved his bit about the hipsters in NYC: "You can have a handlebar mustache, but don't talk to me like you don't have a handlebar mustache."
BAD: The balance stage was terribly crowded on Saturday. We had found a good area in the shade to camp out and catch the afternoon’s bands, but beginning with Local Natives’ set the area began filling up rapidly. By the time Surfer Blood came on, it was well beyond capacity and we had no choice but to head out and find a spot to breathe. I think there was a mass influx due to people not being interested in Lightning Bolt’s LOUD noise rock. Definite poor scheduling on Sunday.
GOOD: The artist that I enjoyed more than I thought was Robyn. She has changed A LOT since her 90’s teeny-bopper days. Now she is all about the electro pop, and her new material is actually quite good.
GOOD: I really, really enjoyed Major Lazer’s set. Diplo, Skerrit Bwoy and the girl dancers made for an interesting spectacle, to say the least. A lot of people didn’t know what to make of their show, which included daggering and more daggering. At one point, Skerrit Bwoy jumped from a 10 foot ladder onto one of the dancers waiting on the ground. He also jumped from the ladder onto the crowd and surfed his way back to the stage. Dude is crazy. My favorite quote from Skerrit Bwoy: “People gonna get drunk... people gonna get high... Somebody's gonna have sex and get pregnant.”
GOOD: Wolf Parade put on the best performance on Saturday. I was truly surprised at how great they sounded at a festival setting. They played a few of my favorite songs by them, and closed with a blistering rendition of “Kissing The Beehive.”
GOOD: Broken Social Scene were just as good as when I saw them at Lollapalooza two years ago, and it was a real treat to hear their new material live. The epic closer of “Meet Me In The Basement” was particularly good. It was cool to see John McEntire play drums that evening as well.
GOOD: Dâm-Funk was so different than anything else at the festival, and I loved the retro-funk music he brought on Saturday. His show was a lot of fun, especially when he brought out his keytar and started rocking out on stage.
BAD: Dâm-Funk started 15-20 minutes late, so his set was cut short. It felt like his show ended just when he was really starting to hit his stride.
Overall, the festival was a lot of fun despite some a handful of problems. I would consider this to be the weakest year so far, but that is more of a testament to how good previous years were than anything else. It was definitely still worth braving the 90+ degree weather on all three days. It will be interesting to see what Pitchfork comes up with next year. My main wish is to bring back Goose Island!