Monday, August 6, 2012

Lollapalooza 2012 recap: Part one

By Frank Krolicki

My body aches and I feel hungover without having drunk any alcohol, which of course means one thing: another year's installment of the music, heat and craziness cocktail known as Lollapalooza has just passed.

Three days in a row of a music festival is incredibly taxing, and yet ever since I've been going to Lollapalooza I've missed it once it's over. It's sort of like the day after Christmas; there's a feeling of relief that you finally get a break from the madness, but also of disappointment that you'll have to wait another year for it to come around again.

The feeling is no different this year, although I have to say, nothing really blew me away musically this time around. There always seems to be one or two acts that really takes me by surprise, but as much as I kept waiting for that to happen this year, it never did. The most memorable part of Lolla '12 was probably the fact that it got evacuated and shut down for a couple hours on Saturday thanks to the threat of an intense storm (on Twitter, many were referring to this as "Lollapocalypse"). I've been going to the fest since it started in Chicago in 2005, and I can't remember anything like that ever happening before.

Regardless of the lack of amazing performance moments, there were still highlights. And fun was had (by many, many, many people if you use the amount of fest-goers staggering around drunkenly as a gauge). Here's a recap of my first day at the fest, including the highs, the lows and the in-betweens. A recap of Friday and Saturday will follow in a separate post.


Upon getting to the fest, the first sounds I was greeted with were those from Wax, who just happened to be performing within earshot of where I entered. I won't claim to know much (OK, anything) about Wax, but what I heard sounded like pretty bad rap, including a song about "not giving a fuck about a D.U.I." (always a great message to send to the kiddies, eh?). Things could only go up from there.

They did, at least somewhat, with California's the Growlers. This was one of those bands I couldn't really figure out how to describe, causing me to write down a slew of seemingly unrelated descriptors in my notes. I see now they're described as "beach goth," which I'll buy, even though I don't really know what that means. Imagine Bob Dylan fronting a psych-pop band providing the soundtrack to a carnival sideshow. Or something like that. It was at least an interesting sound, and I especially dug the reggae-tinged track "One Million Lovers."

I like to live by the "no guilt" philosophy, so I'll admit that I checked out some of Wheeling native and one-time American Idol contestant Haley Reinhart's set. I'll also admit that it was actually pretty enjoyable. Reinhart has an undeniable power and a cool rasp to her voice, and her back-to-basics rock-pop songs sounded respectable--definitely a cut above most of her contemporaries. She also seemed really appreciative and happy to be there. Her performance reminded me that I shouldn't be so quick to judge, Idol ties or not.

Next I caught a bit of Sharon Van Etten. Her reflective tunes had a persisting moroseness, but she also emanated a lot of warmth from the stage, frequently speaking to the audience in a way that made her seem incredibly good-natured. I only caught a few songs before I headed to Dry the River, who do that folky, extra-serious thing so many bands have been doing over the past few years. I'm sure they deserve a proper listen, but what I heard at Lolla had my mind drifting pretty quickly to what I was going to eat next.

The Shins from afar
Bringing in the later part of the day were Metric and The Shins, whose sets I really enjoyed. I've always sort of glossed over Metric, but during their performance Friday their music grabbed me more than it has in passing before, with catchy tracks such as "Lost Kitten" and "Youth Without Youth" making my ears perk up. As for the Shins, I don't think they'll ever been the most dynamic or unpredictable live act, but with song quality so consistently high, that doesn't really matter. James Mercer and pals opened with "Caring is Creepy" and "Australia," and proceeded to cover pretty much all their essential songs, which were strong enough to make up for any element of surprise that the performance itself was lacking.

As the night went into its final couple hours, I caught a bit from M83, which sounded really muted from where I was standing, as the area already having become a mob scene of people waiting for The Black Keys. It didn't take long for me to get that feeling--you know, the one that screams "Get the hell away from here, fast!" So I took off for Black Sabbath, wondering how Ozzy and co. would make out. I don't claim to be a fan, but what I heard made it clear they weren't disappointing those who were. All that needed to be said was said in the reaction of a guy thrashing around near where I was standing, who would totally lose his shit, in sheer elation, every time the band would start another song. It was cool to see and an ideal way to end Lolla '12's first night.

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