No Depression at Lollapalooza more from Day 2
All photos: Margaret A. Moore/No Depression
Grant Park is a big sumbitch, 319 acres on the Lake Michigan shoreline. So you’d expect sound bleed from stage-to-stage at Lolla. There’s virtually none.
A D-J show happens right across the plaza from a solo acoustic act and the two environments keep to themselves. Still, when you walk along the main corridor the place is a sonic salad and late yesterday the boom thwack from a rock set co-mingled with the unmistakable growl of the electric guitar sitting on Ben Harper’s lap.
Harper is performing on the Playstation stage, the same venue where poor Robert Earl Keen attracted less than half a house earier in the day. Harper looks tight in a black and white checked shirt and jeans. The closeups on the video monitors show his upper body is sweat soaked. Harper works mostly without a pick and uses his thumb more than I would have guessed. “Dressed in Black” is a ferpcious boogie that careens up the face of one hill and down the other. “She wore high heels. The ones that can pierce your heart,” Harper sings, and his slide guitar work is a cock fight.
A word on video stage production at big festivals. This is as much a craft in its own way as the performance on stage. A lot of money and talent is now committed to video at the biggest music festivals in the country. Since so many people rely on the monitor, the stakes are high for the director to cut the action in ways that match the action on stage but in ways that are not arbitrary or, at the other end of the spectrum, intrusive to the event. The festival video director has to ask, “what would the stage look like if the audience member saw it with his or her own eyes?”
This is easy to blow. Too many cuts denies the audience the pleasure of focus. Too many moves creates the sensation of viewing the show from a ship in choppy seas. Like a technically brilliant guitarist, the director must practice some restraint or flash takes over and, as Bill Monroe use to say, “takes the flavor out of the gum.”
On all of these fronts I give the Lolla video folks high marks. Word to C-3 and to Fresh and Clean Media for guaranteeing the back row has the same good looks at the stage as the front.
I’m directly under one of those screens for the last show of the night at the Bud stage, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Standing there at sunset beneath the canopy of one of the world’s most impressive urban skylines, I couldn’t help but smile as the main board played Cash’s recording of “Sunday Morning Coming Down.” Very nice. Like a cool drink of water after the heavy Ben Harper workout.
The pre-Yeah Yeah Yeahs vibe is mellow but expectant under the red sky.
A mother hugs her bare chested boy at the front rail and waits for the fun to start.
The garage-punk door finally opens on the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Singer Karen O emerges to the first phrases of “Runaway.” Her costume is a shocking, brightly colored combination of feathers, tights and an giant Indian head dress. She looks like a crazy, gorgeous box of crayons.
This is one of the best back lines at a festival filled with strong rhythm sections. Brian Chase’s kick drum is a beat bazooka. One ride cymbal is freakishly large: the size of a skating rink. The audience is a sweaty mass. It looks like a giant game of shirts vs. skins.
“Heads Will Roll,” about a third of the way into the set, takes the audience over to the edge of the cliff and leaves them there for the rest of the show.
Sunday, the final day of Lolla, will cook in every sense of the word. Temp is expected to approach 100. Good line-up, especially the surreal bookends who are Neko Case and Snoop Dog.