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In Review: Lollapalooza 2010 | Music Reviews | Nerdy Nothings

In Review: Lollapalooza 2010

Lollapalooza 2010

Lollapalooza has come and gone, many things were improved this year (the festival’s sixth year as a Chicago-only “destination” festival) and a few things still need some work, but it is definitely nice to see that the organizers (C3 Presents) do take the time to reassess the quality of the festival every year and make those improvements.

This will by no means be a comprehensive review, but Spaceman Spiff did see a good share of bands over the weekend and he wants to tell you about them. First off though, the experience of the festival grounds this year was vastly improved, with Columbus Drive closed down and offering a much-needed additional walkway for the crowd to move North and south, the festival area expanded West and a definite increase in the quality of food vendors thanks to Graham Elliot’s supervision. One thing that will never be reined in is the weather, Friday and Saturday were pretty mild for a Chicago summer but the typical August heat came back en force on Sunday.


I started off the day with the Walkmen on the South field. The band delivered a solid selection of songs and overcame early sound problems—there was none—to deliver a career spanning set as well as a few new tracks from their upcoming album.

Next up was Raphael Saadiq who came onstage with a sharp-dressed ensemble and didn’t waste any time getting down to business. And that business was some no-nonesense old-school soul music. As well as delivering the highlights of  his fantastic album, The Way I See It, he also delved into his work with Tony! Toni! Toné!

Also on the South field the Big Pink were a nice surprise delivering a fuzzy set that brought a smile to the faces of all shoegazer afficiandos. From there I witnessed the New Pornographers work through the hits on the North field with Neko Case along for the ride. A quick stop to sit in the shade and check out Jamie Lidell ended pretty quickly when Lidell delivered a lackluster performance and provided a good excuse to refresh on water and food.

Then it was time for the Friday night headliners. While Lady Gaga lured all the 14 year-old girls to the South field I found my spot on the North field to watch the Strokes while the great Jimmy Cliff wrapped up his evening performance.

The Strokes tore into their set drawn entirely from their three albums—no glimpses of new material on this night—sounding as good, if not better, as they ever have. There seems to be some tension between the band members and singer Julian Casablancas but that didn’t stop them from delivering a strong concert as they played in Chicago for the first time in four years and closing out Friday night in style.


Saturday saw me heading straight to Harlem’s early-afternoon slot on one of the side stages. Harlem was a trainwreck… an awesome trainwreck. A shambles in the best sense of the word, and they were a pleasure to watch. Tossing caution to the wind (along with guitar tuning and setlists) they powered through a ramshackle set that had everyone at the side stage smiling.

I followed up by watching Stars take to the main stage on the North field and delivering a majestic, crowd-pleasing grab-bag of alterna-anthems complete with a flower-laden stage and confetti raining down on the crowd. Singer Amy Milan was clearly having a great time on stage and, from where I stood, the crowd shared her enthusiasm.

Saturday also included a trip to the Kid’s stage to see JP, Chrissie and the Fairground Boys… the new side-project from Chrissie Hynde of Pretenders fame. The stripped down trio (two acoustic guitars and an electric) performed for about 20 minutes and Hynde’s voice sounded as amazing as always.

Over on the South field, punk rock veterans Social Distortion took the stage and launched into a powerful, career-spanning set. The sound on the main stage at the South field was loud and it served Social D well. Also serving them well was the hammond organ they featured on several of their classic songs, they would’ve sounded great without the organ but it really enhanced the music and gave their already timeless songs an additional flourish.

I was excited to then see Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros over on one of the side stages—and to take some cover in the shade—but I was definitely not alone in that sentiment. The area surrounding that stage was wall-to-wall with people eager to listen to the neo-hippy music from Mr. Sharpe. Rather than wedging myself into the crowd I opted to get an ice cream sundae and sit on the sidewalk while listening to their wonderfully breezy tunes waft out of the trees. It was just about perfect.


The Cribs got me started off in a rocking way on Sunday as they took the main stage on the South field with guitar-slinger Johnny Marr along for the ride. It was certainly a touch strange to see Johnny Marr rocking out on stage with a much younger band, but everything sounded good so who am I to question anything?

London’s Mumford & Sons drew a sizeable crowd to their stage as they played their folk-influenced tunes to a rapt audience. From there it was off to see X Japan perform their first-ever show on American shores. Though not one of the largest crowds of the day they were certainly enthusiastic to see this Japanese glam-metal ensemble. Pyrotechnics, guitar solos, some double-bass drum heroics and a scream to make a banshee proud all followed. It was certainly a spectacle worth seeing in Sunday’s sweltering heat.

I ended the day, and the festival, by watching Scottish band Frightened Rabbit perform some more folk-music tinged tunes on a side stage. Sitting in the shade listening to their acoustic jams seemed a nice way to round out the evening and prepare myself for what is sure to be another memorable festival in 2011.

tags: chrissie hynde, edward sharpe & the magnetic zeros, frightened rabbit, harlem, lollapalooza, mumford & sons, raphael saadiq, social distortion, stars, the big pink, the cribs, the new pornographers, the strokes, the walkmen, x japan

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