August 5th to 7th, 2010
I’m back from an eventful trip to Chicago and, as much as I’m sure all of you would love to hear all about it, the main focus was the annual Lollapalooza festival. I’ve been going to Lollapalooza since I was a kid, attending my first one back in 1993 when it was a one-day touring festival. Last year I had the opportunity to attend for the first time since it had transformed into the massive music festival that takes over Chicago’s Grant Park and surrounding streets for three days, and made the trek from Toronto to Chicago again this year. The festival has a wide variety of music to choose from, but certainly focuses on the indie and alternative crowds. Lollapalooza has never given substantial stage time to hip-hop acts, but I tend to be forgiving as it was where I first saw A Tribe Called Quest, Beastie Boys and Cypress Hill. Judging by the amount of “Free Weezy” t-shirts my wife suggested Lil Wayne would be a perfect headliner next year and I think the organizers would be wise to listen. The festival has made gestures in recent years creating the Perry’s stage for electronic and hip-hop performers, an area that has grown in size in the years since it was first introduced, but there’s always room for improvement. Anyway, enough about what wasn’t there and onto what was.
A Thursday night out at Chicago’s famous Green Mill, followed by a trips to Kingston Mines and The Wieners Circle, took its toll on our plans for the Friday Lolla line-up and I missed out on seeing Javelin, the Brooklyn-by-way-of-Providence duo, whose Jamz n Jems record has really grown on me in recent months. I did get to see a lively Wavves set that included the bickering that they’ve become known for, including debates about song order and a warning from singer/guitarist Nathan Williams to bassist Stephen Pope that he’d “cut his fucking throat” if he talked over him again, and then followed that up with a solid performance by The Walkmen. Next came former Tony! Toni! Toné! and Lucy Pearl member Raphael Saadiq who has recently fully embraced the old-school r&b vibe. Both the band and Saadiq came out in full suits despite the blazing heat (a suit that he would rip off by the end of his set) and Saadiq has taken to doing a more classic style stage show. He puts a lot of energy into his performances and connects well with the crowd. However, having seen some great veteran performers the night before at the Kingston Mines, it struck me that there was still something missing in Saadiq. While connecting with his audience through his boundless energy and soul, he still lacks that seasoned showman quality necessary to take him to the next level. Not speaking much to the crowd in between songs, he lets the energy of the show dip slightly when he could be bringing them along throughout.
Heading over to Perry’s, Stones Throw Records’ founder Peanut Butter Wolf put together a solid and entertaining set that played like a who’s who. Spinning records by artists like Gang Starr, Pharoahe Monch, Rick James, ODB, MIA as well as the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Hanson (yes, that Hanson) and a classical guitar performance of the Super Mario Bros. theme, PBW really hit the mark with a performance that was capped by a surprise appearance from The Cool Kids who tore things up for a few tracks since, as Chuck Inglish stated, they were “right across the street”. Opting to skip Kidz In The Hall having seen them at Rock The Bells for a chance to see Devo at least once in my life, I returned to see J. Cole take the Perry’s stage. Jay-Z’s golden boy, who’s Roc Nation debut isn’t expected until October, drew a decent crowd to see him in action. Cole, being a pretty charismatic guy on top of being a dope MC, had no trouble getting the crowd into the show which peaked with an energetic performance of “Who Dat” before wrapping up with a quick version of “A Star Is Born”.
Heading off to grab something to eat I was able to hear Matt & Kim off in the distance. Coming out to Terror Squad’s “Lean Back”, the Brooklyn dance punk duo later did a cover of Biz Markie’s “Just A Friend”, a song that would appear again later that night as the crowd would break into a rendition of it while waiting for The Strokes to take the stage (something that was more entertaining than the band itself). Before that, however, came a performance by The Black Keys, the band behind the underappreciated Blackroc collaboration project that was overseen by Roc-A-Fella co-founder Damon Dash. While sadly not including surprise appearances by RZA or Mos Def, The Black Keys put on a blues-rock clinic for a growing crowd. The performance didn’t have the intensity of a recent show I had seen in a club venue, but they still know how to drive the audience and provide a great experience.