Exclusive Features
Anniversaries, Cover Stories, Editorials,
Interviews, Lists, and Comprehensive Rankings

Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2012

on August 06, 2012, 4:14pm
view all

Thursday, August 2nd

 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2012

Photo by Sergio Soltero

Band of Horses – Metro Chicago – 8:00 p.m.

After newcomer Michael Kiwanuka’s soulful half-hour set (with two drummers, no less), Band of Horses hit the stage. “We’re here to play songs for you, so we’ll just do that,” Ben Bridwell promised the Metro’s capacity crowd. Blazing through crowd favorites like set opener “The Great Salt Lake”, the rapturous “Is There a Ghost”, and cigarette-infused “Laredo”, the band also managed to sneak in a few songs from their upcoming Mirage Rock LP. Traces of southern rock icons are found in “How to Live” (think Tom Petty’s “Don’t Do Me Like That”), but “Knock Knock” is its own horse, with a chorus and rhythm section that don’t let up, even though the band had to after “The Funeral”. They’ll be missed at Lolla this year, but Band of Horses were no doubt a rousing opening act. -Justin Gerber

Friday, August 3rd

michael kiwaunuka lollapalooza 2012 larson 2 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2012

Photo by Jeremy D. Larson

Michael Kiwanuka – PlayStation – 1:30 p.m.

This was a surprising and great way to start off the fest. Michael Kiwanuka‘s studio records didn’t really do much for me, but live he was this slow-burning soul folk jam thing where he covered Jimi Hendrix’s “Waterfall” in the best way. His single “Home Again” also came alive with some extended bars thrown in for breathing room. Kiwaunka went from background to foreground with his live show. –Jeremy D. Larson

totally enormous extinct dinosaurs lollapalooza 2012 ritt 1 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2012

Photo by Megan Ritt

Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs – Perry’s – 2:00 p.m.

Dinosaurs were not totally extinct at Perry’s Stage Friday afternoon, as Orlando Higginbottom took the stage wearing an austere expression and a blue, finned dinosaur costume. He started his electronic set in his usual quietly glitch-y style, but kicked up the bass drops to keep the crowd interested. Higginbottom sang while he mixed on “Trouble” and played with a female vocal loop on “Stronger” during a sun-baked set that, while entertaining, would’ve been better for dancing after dark. -Megan Ritt

warondrugs lolla 2012 kaplan 2 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2012

Photo by Heather Kaplan

The War on Drugs - Google Play - 2:15 p.m.

The War on Drugs have always driven their chugging heartland rock through an ambient fog, painting a surreal, yet relatable, soundscape of rural America. Live, they expanded both their hooks and white noise into loose jams made all the more hypnotic by the midday heat. The crowd watched in a daze as frontman Adam Granduciel took his Dylan-esque yelp to new improvisational heights during longer versions of “Baby Missiles” and “Needle in Your Eye”. The only downside to the looseness and extended run time was that it made for fewer songs. -Dan Caffrey

black angels lollapalooza 2012 larson 3 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2012

Photo by Jeremy D. Larson

The Black Angels - Bud Light - 2:15 p.m.

I was concerned that The Black Angels’ grungy neo-psychedelia wouldn’t resonate in the open air as well as in a liquor-soaked dungeon; but when the tribal drums thundered through the sticky guitars panning in and out of “Bad Vibrations”, I actually got chills up my spine. Not even the girl next to me, who was so intoxicated that she fell over, or Captain Obvious on the other side pointing out that “they have a girl drummer” could distract from my psych-rock reverie. -Harley Brown

sharon lolla 2012 kaplan 8 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2012

Photo by Heather Kaplan

Sharon Van Etten - PlayStation - 3:00 p.m.

“My ’90s dreams are coming true today,” Sharon Van Etten joked before peeling open her set with “All I Can”. The melancholy ballad is one of many emotional facets explored in this year’s Tramp, and, similar to the LP, the New Jersey alt-folkster slid on many masks–from the wear and tear of “Warsaw” to the bluesy reflections on “Magic Chords” to the guitar-heavy “Serpents”. Before sliding back to the lush country crooner “Save Yourself” (from 2010’s Epic), she explained how “this song is about someone talking shit about Chicago.” Locals weren’t the only ones cheering. -Michael Roffman

tame impala lollapalooza 2012 larson 2 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2012

Photo by Jeremy D. Larson

Tame Impala - Sony - 3:15 p.m.

For a stage named after and sponsored by a media conglomerate, Sony Stage’s sound engineering should be pitch-perfect. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case for Tame Impala: Nick Allbrook’s muddy bass sat so low in the mix it was high, drowning out drummer Julien Barbagallo’s tight fills and the guitars’ expansive meanderings. By the second song, the sound cleaned up noticeably, just in time for frontman Kevin Parker to say, “You guys are fuckin’ soldiers” in his delightful, high-pitched Aussie accent. -Harley Brown

metric lollapalooza 2012 ritt 1 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2012

Photo by Megan Ritt

Metric - Bud Light - 4:00 p.m.

What the Bud Light Stage lacked in sound quality, Metric’s Emily Haines made up for in stage presence. She breezily ran around and danced amidst the poor acoustics of Lolla’s largest platform, never ceasing to move her hips and endless legs as Joshua Winstead’s bass and Joules Scott-Key’s drums melted into a numbing drone. The band’s rawer, earlier material fared best sonically, the mosquito-truck guitars of “Empty” far more effective and clear than any of the more New Wave-focused tracks off this year’s Synthetica. -Dan Caffrey

afghan lolla 2012 kaplan 6 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2012

Photo by Heather Kaplan

The Afghan Whigs - Red Bull Soundstage - 4:15 p.m.

The boiling sun toppling over Chicago’s skyscrapers didn’t add much atmosphere to The Afghan Whigs’ morose and bleak lyricism, but the Cincinnati alt. rockers hardly needed it. Slimmer and sounding better than ever, frontman Greg Dulli powered through a 13-song set that properly resurrected the band’s celebrated discography to precision. Lyrically, he’s gritting through tales of alleyway romanticism with that bitter rasp of his, especially on dusty tracks like “I’m Her Slave”, “Somethin’ Hot”, and “Gentlemen”, but onstage, he’s an outgoing showman. “How ya doin’, Grant Hart? Is he here,” he joked, referencing the Hüsker Dü bassist. That sort of chummy enthusiasm seeped through the band’s later material (“Crazy”, “66”), but staved off during more serious flare like “What Jail Is Like” or “My Enemy”. When Dulli cuts deep, he annihilates the jugular, which is why he’s able to sell a cover of Frank Ocean’s “Lovecrimes”. The surrounding seven members–including two backup singers–helped push him along, but only guys like Ocean or Dulli can handle a line like: “Murder murder murder she wrote.” -Michael Roffman

die antwoord lollapalooza 2012 ritt 3 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2012

Photo by Megan Ritt

Die Antwoord - PlayStation - 5:00 p.m.

Die Antwoord pretty much embodies weird-yet-sexy music. Backed by DJ Hi-Tek, Ninja and Yo-Landi Vi$$er owned the Playstation Stage for an hour as the setting sun finally gave the crowd some relief. Ninja rapped so fast that it was hard to tell what language he was in, and Vi$$er’s otherworldly coos echoed off “Enter the Ninja” and “Baby’s on Fire”. Other cuts from 2012 release Ten$ion included “Hey Sexy”, “Fatty Boom Boom”, and an enthusiastic “I Fink U Freeky”, which ended on Vi$$er’s haunting whisper. -Megan Ritt

thenewno2 lollapalooza 2012 larson 4 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2012

Photo by Jeremy D. Larson

thenewno2 - BMI - 5:40 p.m.

“This is the best festival ever,” shouted an excited Dhani Harrison halfway through thenewno2′s set. Harrison both resembles and sings like his father, George, but that’s where the similarities end. thenewno2 takes after Yeasayer more than the Fab Four. Opener “Station” (taken from the band’s new LP, thefearofmissingout) set the tone for the rest of their 40-minute set: blips and beeps augmented by the occasional dialogue sample from Time Bandits. And ukulele! -Justin Gerber

passion pit lollapalooza 2012 larson 9 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2012

Photo by Jeremy D. Larson

Passion Pit - Bud Light - 6:00 p.m.

It was a tad suspenseful when five minutes passed by without any sign of Passion Pit. After all, they’d cancelled a number of dates, and over the past two weeks, Lollapalooza had essentially become their return, of sorts. But, ten past six, Michael Angelakos emerged, and the band brushed through Gossamer‘s opening track, “Take a Walk”. While the newer track rang flat around the edges, the following two-hit slam of “Moth’s Wings” and “The Reeling” conjured enough pop magic to get the rhythm and energy flowing. Now, if there’s anything to take away from the set’s hour and change, it’s that Angelakos may be this era’s most iconic vocalist. On playful soon-to-be-favorites like “Carried Away” or “I’ll Be Alright”, his four-octave yelp was just awe-inspiring, and he’s so controlled these days, it’s hard to differentiate between what’s on record and what’s being performed to thousands of sweaty fans.

Here’s the thing, though: While he’s an agreeable frontman cracking open his heart on “Constant Conversations” or bludgeoning his feet into the floor on “Sleepyhead”, he’s far too removed to ever sell himself with the music. He’s spearheading some of the best pop of today, yet when he’s not in it, he looks like he’d rather be anywhere else. That’s not a mark on his character, not at all, and in fact, it adds a certain severity to his material, but it might also jeopardize the band’s chances in ever parading through arenas. -Michael Roffman

shins lolla 2012 kaplan 2 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2012

Photo by Heather Kaplan

The Shins - Red Bull Soundstage - 6:15 p.m.

With an actual band under his direction once more, The Shins‘ mastermind and only constant member, James Mercer, was able to blow open the ornate songs from this year’s somewhat underwhelming Port of Morrow and transform them into something big and compelling. Lead guitarist Jessica Dobson (nowhere to be seen on the record) gave the psychedelic title track some much-needed teeth with her jagged soloing, while lending staggered harmonies to Mercer’s back catalog. The sylvan majesty of “Kissing the Lipless” was contrasted by more volume and distortion than ever during its crescendo, the finale of “Sleeping Lessons” almost felt like punk rock, and “Caring Is Creepy” was extra creepy.

“Thanks for helping out,” Mercer told the crowd after their contributed “whoo-oohs” and arm sways on “Phantom Limb”, before casually smiling and remarking how the moon would soon replace the sun. He was at genuine ease behind his craggy beard, seeming grateful to play with his most famous project once more after five years of turmoil and, most frightfully, silence. -Dan Caffrey

nero lollapalooza 2012 ritt 1 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2012

Photo by Megan Ritt

Ner0 – Perry’s - 7:00 p.m.

The party continued at Perry’s with Nero, the duo of Daniel Stephens and Joseph Ray, remixing dance favorites into a cheerful slurry of dubstep. Songs mixed into the madness included Daft Punk’s “Technologic”, Drake’s “Forever” (which elicited a wild whoop from the crowd), and a nod to earlier performers Die Antwoord with a remix of their “Fok Julle Naaiers”. Nero didn’t seem particularly invested in the performance, mixing with stoic faces and standing mostly still, but the EDM crowd was just happy that it was cool enough to dance, the lack of enthusiasm luckily failing to transfer to the crowd. -Megan Ritt

m83 lolla 2012 kaplan 2 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2012

Photo by Heather Kaplan

M83 - Sony - 7:30 p.m.

Sunset is the perfect time to see M83, a magical band born in the twilight memories of our youth. My neighbor, however, seemed to think they were there only to play “Midnight City”, requesting it loudly and often when he wasn’t trying–and failing–to harmonize with the falsettos on Saturdays=Youth’s “We Own the Sky”. When M83 finally acquiesced, they swept pinpricked light across the audience and boomed, “Chicago!” to a crowd who exploded like they just experienced the drop over at Perry’s. No one seemed to be having as much fun as Anthony Gonzalez and Co., who headbanged and danced across the stage as their frontman’s saxophone riffs tore through the ecstatic audience. -Harley Brown

black sabbath lollapalooza 2012 larson 9 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2012

Photo by Jeremy D. Larson

Black Sabbath - Bud Light - 8:05 p.m.

The energy was at an all-time high before the reunited Black Sabbath appeared. Ozzy Osbourne’s famous, maniacal laughter echoed across the crowd as archival footage of the band appeared on the monitors (even shots of erstwhile drummer Bill Ward, who opted out of this reunion over contractual issues). The curtain fell as guitarist Tony Iommi played the death march of the song that provided the band’s name, the crowd’s devil horns ablaze. Geezer Butler played the bass with such youthful exuberance that it seemed as though he was touring behind 1970’s Paranoid, with Iommi matching him. It was only Ozzy who appeared to be very much in his 60s.

“Come on, you fuckers!” screamed Osbourne after “Behind the Wall of Sleep”, though he didn’t need to; the audience was receptive throughout (there was laughter aplenty after he described “Snowblind” as a “pastime we used to do”). Osbourne, however, struggled as a vocalist. He too often relied upon a teleprompter, which would have been fine if he kept up during the chorus of “Under the Sun” and the speed section of “Electric Funeral”. While his bandmates played as strong as ever, the “Prince of Darkness” struggled in his attempts to hit the high notes in the otherwise terrific “War Pigs”. Despite all the critiquing, it’s the image of kids and young adults jumping around to every song that reminds that this particular performance was more about legacy than Sabbath’s relevance today. It seemed enough for the thousands watching. -Justin Gerber

blackkeys lolla 2012 kaplan 12 Festival Review: CoS at Lollapalooza 2012

Photo by Heather Kaplan

The Black Keys - Red Bull Soundstage - 8:30 p.m.

A festival headliner should know how to make an entrance, and The Black Keys proved themselves worthy of the spot when no less than the mayor of Chicago, Mr. Rahm Emanuel himself, introduced the band. A mountain of fog rolled over the stage, and it looked like the Keys had planned a pompous entrance indeed when Dan Auerbach’s voice came through: “Chicago! I can’t see you—I’m lost up here!” As the cloud broke, he teased warmly, “There you are! The guy doing the fog machine is new,” before he and Patrick Carney ripped into “Howlin’ for You”.

The Keys started their set backed by a bassist and a keys player, who left partway through so Carney and Auerbach could play some songs “just the two of us now.” The more intimate (but no less dirty-blues) portion of the program included “Girl Is on My Mind” and “Little Black Submarine”, Auerbach holding the guitar close to his face and nodding when the notes hit right—and just about all of them did. For a deeply funky rock band, the Keys are deliberate with each individual chord. Fireworks broke over the lake as the duo wailed on “Money Maker” and continued through “Strange Times”, and it was hard to say whether it was the Keys or the coincidental pyrotechnics that inspired more oohs and ahhs. -Megan Ritt

view all
21 comments