Best & Worst of Lollapalooza: Day 3

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Jane's Addiction / Photo by Ian Witlen
WRITTEN BY
SPIN Staff

THE BEST:

BEST SURPRISE GUESTS: JOE PERRY WITH JANE'S ADDICTION
Closing out the festival on the Budweiser stage, Jane's Addiction did what they've been doing all summer: put on a sensual, bombastic, raging, funky, moody display of widescreen hard rock. Bathed in flashing yellow, blue, and red lights, festival founder Perry Farrell strutted about in a gold tuxedo jacket and pants, Dave Navarro gave his abs their required amount of air, and the less flamboyant rhythm section of drummer Stephen Perkins and bassist Eric Avery laid down their utterly unique tribal rhythms. It's the fantastic, galvanizing stuff we've come to expect. The surprise came during the encore, when Farrell introduced someone to the stage to propose to his girlfriend (she said yes), and then called out Aerosmith lead guitarist Joe Perry to play with the band during the closing "Jane Says." He didn't say anything. The audience roared its approval. I think that's a 'yes.' -- DAVID MARCHESE

BEST NONSENSICAL STAGE BANTER: DEERHUNTER
"The cool thing about me is that my onstage breakdowns have nothing to do with drugs," said Deerhunter's rail-thin, gawky frontman Bradford Cox, in one his many rambling moments at the Citi Stage. As the bumping bass bled over from Snoop Dogg's show at the main stage, he babbled about viruses infiltrating his brain, a Holiday Inn with a Mayan water park, and measuring your age against that of the solar system. At one point he even gave fans a warning: "This is going to sound like shit," he confessed before jumping into "Agoraphobia," the poppiest track off Deerhunter's 2008 release Microcastle. He was wrong -- the performance was one of the day's best. -- WILLIAM GOODMAN

BEST TONIC FOR A SCORCHING SUMMER DAY: VAMPIRE WEEKEND
Nothing, other than a cold drink, hit the spot on the final, scorching day of Lollapalooza quite like the Caribbean and sub-Saharan mélange of musical globetrotters Vampire Weekend. The quartet played most of their best-known material during their hour-long set, but maybe most ebullient was "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa," which they dedicated to Chicago filmmaker John Hughes, who died on the eve of this year's festival. From The Breakfast Club to Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Hughes' movies share much the same quirky and endearing spirit as the Vamps' music. -- BILL FRISKICS-WARREN

BEST TOTALLY ODD-BALL FAN: BOYZ NOIZE
Shocker: Rave music usually gets people dancing, squirming, and spinning, and, sometimes, touching each other and professing their love for the music's ebbs and flows. But one fan in Velcro-strapped shoes and a flannel shirt at Perry's Dance Tent during German drum and bass and techno DJ Boyz Noize, a.k.a. Alex Rihda, opted to stand completely still and hold a long stick with a plastic owl tied to the top -- you know, the type you can attach to your porch to scare away pigeons. The guy didn't budge, and was complacent with the chaotic swarm of bodies gyrating around him. Apparently the drugs are good in Chicago. -- W.G.

BEST SUPERNATURAL MOMENT: BAT FOR LASHES
Natasha Khan is like something from a fairytale -- and she knows how to silence the nonbelievers. In moccasins, spandex leggings, a glittery tank top, and fluorescent eye shadow, the songstress put on one of the day's best shows, gliding through the autoharp and piano-led tunes off her stark, mystifying, and ethereal album Two Suns, and her 2006 debut, Fur and Gold. And when the rockabilly guitars of Davy Knowles and Back Door Slam bled through from the Citi Stage during her performance of "Sad Eyes," Khan amped up the swells of keyboards and ghostly vocals as a big gust of wind pushed south -- and jostled the overhead speakers so much that the roadies were forced to evacuate everyone onstage. -- W.G.

BEST CASE OF MUSICAL ADD: PORTUGAL. THE MAN
Portugal. The Man's songs always seem distracted. During Sunday's set, pulverizing psychedelic hard rock morphed into a lush soul balladry. A whimsical Beatles-y pop tune segued into abstract prog lurching. A dark folkie ballad dissolved into a bed of quivering, echoed guitar lines. Though the band members barely moved, the music never sat still. The brainy Alaskans can sometimes sound like they're trying to stuff more into a song than the music can hold, but at a festival, where the possibility of hearing another, better band is always present, Portugal's zany, unpredictable mash-ups had the wonderfully counter-intuitive effect of keeping the listener rapt. -- DAVID MARCHESE

BEST BAND TO BLISS OUT TO: GANG GANG DANCE
Whether they're taking the audience through lush sonic journeys or digging into ecstatic, tribal dance beats, the five members of Gang Gang Dance have an unerring knack for making audiences lose their minds. On the slow numbers, the New York City band's arcs of synthesizer and shimmering cymbals had the crowd swayed in unison. On the faster songs, the torrent of pounding polyrhythms and crescendoing keyboard patterns compelled Lollapaloozans to move their bodies. If you'd seen how much sunburned skin was on display, you'd realize how impressive that feat was to pull off. -- D.M.

BEST DANCER: FRIENDLY FIRES

Wearing a pink short-sleeved button down shirt, jeans that reached only to the top of his ankles, and brown loafers without socks, Friendly Fires' Ed Macfarlane looked more like an ad man on holiday than the lead singer for a rock band. But as soon he started to move, he looked like a star. The man danced like a maniac. He shook his booty. He gleefully punched the air in time with the drums and hopped around like a bunny on ecstasy. At one point, he climbed down from the stage to shake his hips surrounded by screaming fans. His band's disco-era Rolling Stones meets-Madchester sound makes Macfarlane's moves easy to understand -- it's hard not to dance to this stuff -- but rarely do skinny white Englishmen move so funky. -- D.M.

BEST IMPRESSION OF THE UPS GUY (MINUS THE UNIFORM): SAM ROBERTS
Sam Roberts is one of those heartland rockers who, like Bruce Springsteen and John Mellencamp, make music with such a lack of attitude and irony that you'd think punk, grunge, and whatever came next never happened. Pouring it all out during his noontime set on the Playstation Stage, the Canadian singer-songwriter and his road-tested band had fans bobbing their heads and singing along from the first downbeat, putting on what amounted to an arena-worthy show for a club-sized crowd. Dressed in plain jeans, T-shirt and tennis shoes, Roberts made it look easy, delivering his well-built songs as unassumingly -- and reliably -- as the UPS guy leaving a package at your door. -- B.F-W.

READ THE WORST FROM LOLLAPALOOZA ON PAGE 2 >>

THE WORST:

WORST CROWD TEASER: LOU REED
For a festival known for running such a tight clock, Lou Reed pulled what amounted to a diva move when he took the Budweiser Stage at least 15 minutes late for his one-hour slot in front of headliners Jane's Addiction. Sure, Reed's band, especially the bleating, squalling playing of his saxophonist, sounded great once they got going, but making the overheated, sardine-tight crowd wait like that ran counter to Lolla's pervasive spirit of goodwill. At least Reed catered to the faithful with his setlist, opening with a slightly rote "Sweet Jane" before segueing, in what time he had left, to latter-day anthems like "Dirty Boulevard" and "Waves of Fear." -- B. F-W.

WORST CASE OF THE BLUES: DAN AUERBACH
Dan Auerbach has the blues. The guitar-playing half of Black Keys (here playing with a full band) filled his set with gritty blues stomps about mean women, bad vibes, and devilish voices in his head. And at the times when the PlayStation stage's iffy sound kept you from making out the words to the songs -- mostly from his solo effort Keep It Hid -- the Akron native's rumbling guitar riffs and moaning solos carried the tortured message. During one song Auerbach, rocking a blue-and-white floral pattern rodeo shirt, ventured into less haunted territory on the relatively poppy, organ-led "My Last Mistake." But rest assured, it too was about a woman who done Dan wrong. May he never be happy. -- D.M.

WORST PREDICTION: KAISER CHIEFS
No riot broke out, per their 2005 hit's prediction, during the Kaiser Chiefs brilliant set on the Budweiser Stage, but the thousands that thronged to the show still had a riotous good time, especially when lead singer Ricky Wilson almost eluded festival security in a vain attempt to surf the crowd. Undaunted, Wilson and the Chiefs proceeded to keep spirits and hands aloft by tearing their way through one surging, neo-Mod rave-up after another. "The kids on the street," Wilson sang, just before he dove off the stage, "never miss a beat." -- B. F-W.

WORST RADIOHEAD IMPRESSION: CARNEY
In-between songs, L.A. quartet Carney was easy to like, as lead singer Reeves Carney repeatedly thanked the sparse early afternoon crowd for coming out to see the band on a brutally hot day. During songs was a different matter. This band irritated the heck out of me. Carney's vocals ranged from an insolent version of Thom Yorke's wail to an ungainly sub-Robert Plant shriek. His brother, lead guitarist Zane Carney, played wanky solos that advanced the songs in no appreciable way. The jeans-and-suspenders-wearing duo preened constantly throughout their meandering, predictable Radiohead-lite material, throwing their heads back in mock-ecstasy and shooting hollow male model stares into the crowd. At least they were polite. -- D.M.

WORST WELCOME FOR AN OVERSEAS VISITOR: ESSER
"This is a warning: I'm only gonna let you down," crooned the immaculately coiffed Ben Esser as he hit the BMI Stage, but if anything, it was the paltry crowd that turned out for his show -- only 100 or so by the time things revved up in earnest -- that let Esser down. Disappointment, though, seems to be the forlorn Brit's great subject. Few singers this side of Morrissey -- few singers, at any rate, with such prodigious pompadours -- have as soulful a knack for making misery sound sweet. -- B. F-W.

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