Day two of Lollapalooza is now in the books and it was an altogether hotter, muddier, more crowded and less consistently enthralling musical affair than the previous day -- but perhaps there was a bit of a collective hangover, for bands and fans alike, that was hindering folks who turned out to the festival's Grant Park grounds on Saturday?
Nonetheless, there were still many standout performances that highlighted the day, one of which took place after the festival grounds closed. Though we must be brief in order to make New Jersey historical punk outfit Titus Andronicus's early Sunday afternoon set, we again wanted to offer up some impressions from the day of action, including another packed gallery filled with great shots from several talented contributing photographers.
Arrival, take two: After getting a bit of a later start than expected (and missing a few acts I'd really been hoping to see, including Phantogram and Chico Trujillo), I swung past Fitz & The Tantrums' set on the Music Unlimited stage on the festival's south end. This outfit makes some really entertaining, straightforward throwback music and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. It just didn't make for the most exhilarating thing to watch while standing in a field muddied from the morning rain under the day's already hot sun.
Giving lip: Hightailing it to the north side for the Black Lips' set while reviewing my tentative lineup for the day, I made a decision to, for the most part, set up camp on the festival's north end instead of attempting to travel back and forth throughout the day. While this would later mean that I'd miss Local Natives and a decidedly bizarre set from Cee Lo Green. Given most of what followed, however, I'm standing by that decision. The Atlanta, Ga. "flower punk" band Black Lips delivered a phenomenal, if sludgy set that surely won over some new fans. While their sound is definitely better suited to a small club, they held their own just fine, particularly when it came to their hit "Bad Kids" near the end of the set.
From above, under and all around: After briefly swinging over by the Google+ stage to take in a few minutes of standard-issue pop rock band DOM's set, I returned to stake out a good spot from which to watch Death From Above 1979 -- and I'm so thrilled that I did. The Canadian noise-disco-dance-punk duo make a lot of beautiful, beautiful noise for just the two of them and in all its cacophony, the sum is so much more than its surprisingly minimal parts -- drums, guitar, some sampled sounds and, most importantly, Sebastien Grainger's incredible vocals. The only down side to the set was a moment of awkward pretension when Grainger asked who in the audience had been at the band's first Chicago show at the Empty Bottle some years back, when he added, "Do any of you even know what that is?" At any rate, their decision to reunite as a band this year arguably stands as the best such decisions of 2011.
Brooklyn by way of Bowie: Brooklyn band The Drums have certainly received their fair share of buzz since they released their self-titled debut last year, but blog buzz is hardly (if rarely) an indicator of being able to put on a good live show. I was happy to see that The Drums proved to be excellent performers, stringing together a set of familiar songs, as well as newer ones, including "Money," the first single off their forthcoming sophomore release. I detected a bit of early Bowie in singer Jonathan Pierce's sauntering stage presence, something which I'd say bodes well for the band's future.
Nostalgia, day two: Deftones were my favorite band circa 2001 or so, at the height of both the "nu-metal" fad (remember Limp Bizkit?), but I have to admit not being grabbed by any of the Southern California band's newer material that they've released in recent years. But the incredible thing about music is how it finds such a unique home in your memory -- when Chino Moreno and his band launched into some of their older gems -- particularly "Change (In The House of Flies)" -- they were riveting. It appears that, based on the massive crowding around the Playstation stage for their set, many other fans stood in agreement. A powerful set from musical survivors of a long-dead sub-genre.
From across the pond: After the raw energy of DFA1979 and Deftones, it was nice to get something a bit softer from Brit pop superstar Ellie Goulding. I recall first listening to Goulding's music two or three years back and was struck by its fairly straightforward, mostly acoustic simplicity. In her apparent quest to appeal to a Top 40 audience stateside, layers of production were slathered over the top of beautiful songs and, in this writer's opinion, her debut album "Lights" lost sight along the way. In performance Saturday, some of the extraneous production effects were not present, which was refreshing.. but sometimes I wish she'd reel it all back to a simpler set up to allow her incredible voice to take center stage once more.
A lull: After Goulding's set, I was hoping to stick around on the north side of the grounds to catch Swede songstress Lykke Li's Google+ set, which left a surprisingly disappointing half-hour stretch of music in its wake. First, there was Ween, who sort of have a Queen-for-kids vibe. According to Wikipedia, they have a "large cult underground fanbase," but above ground I didn't exactly get the sense that the set was resonating with many. Hopping over to the BMI stage, I watched the first two songs of The Pretty Reckless, who are apparently headed by Taylor Momsen (of "Gossip Girl" fame). Their songs had a certain retro glam, Jet-on-Zoloft feel to them. Finally, I grabbed some delicious samosas from the food vendor and watched a couple of songs from Beats Antique, who appear to sort of be the Trans Siberian Orchestra of the world music scene.
When the music is great, but the set is terrible: Let me start this by saying I'm a huge Lykke Li fan and that the first time I saw her live, at the Empty Bottle circa 2008, it was a magical experience. Let me continue by saying that her set at Lollapalooza's Google+ stage was a complete misfire and a bit of a letdown, though it was filled with perfectly performed music. The problem wasn't the content but it was the packaging. Though she'd attracted a pretty large crowd (who didn't have much of note to see on the festival's north end over the previous hour or so) at the start of her set, by the time she'd finished her first song (a slow but beautiful one, "Jerome"), many were already heading in the opposite direction of closer to the stage. This distracting trend continued throughout the set, as songs would vary abruptly from a slow ballad to something more uptempo, from something bass-intensive to something sparse and lyrics-centric. And she noticed, pleading to the audience several times (perhaps jokingly?) to "please stay for one more song, just one more, please." Though Li picked up the pace by the set's end, at that point maybe only 20 percent of the original crowd still remained. Those 20 percent had a wonderful time, no doubt, but I have to wonder how the set would have gone had she simply front-loaded a few more uptempo songs and reeled in the ballad onslaught.
The headliners: By this point in the day, I was feeling pretty beat, but I caught snippets of three of the day's final headliners. My Morning Jacket sounded nice and had a decent-sized crowd amassed to watch their Southern psychedelic rock. Eminem sounded like Eminem and the crowd on the festival's south side felt markedly more subdued than during Muse's set the previous day. Finally, I found a picnic table among some trees offering a view of Beirut as they ended the day with a glorious set on the Google+ stage. Some of their songs were unfamiliar (likely off their just released new album) but sounded just as great as their hits -- "Postcards to Italy," "A Sunday Smile" and the heavenly "Scenic World."
Celebrity sightings? The only one you can quote me on today is Elijah Wood, who kicked off Filter Magazine's after party at the Hard Rock Hotel with an hour-long DJ set which varied from some old-school soul to some more contemporary offerings, including Ratatat. Wood seemed (intentionally?) oblivious to the intoxicated partygoers snapping photos on their iPhones of him as he gazed down toward his music-making gadgetry. Following Wood's set, shoegaze-y electronic rockers Phantogram took to the stage for an hour-long, euphoric set which held the room enraptured. Expect big things from this duo in the years to come.
Day two highlights: Death From Above 1979, Deftones, Phantogram at the Hard Rock.
HuffPo will be concluding our Lollapalooza coverage with our review of day three, to be posted Monday. Meanwhile, much of the festival will be live streaming via YouTube Sunday, including sets from Foo Fighters, Explosions In The Sky, Flogging Molly, Noah And The Whale and The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart.