1. "Wow, what's with all those people onstage?" my companion asked as we stopped by the MySpace stage where a dirtbag choir was working hard (and in unison) to keep the butt-rock flame alive. With five musicians and 22 singers -- many of them pickups from local Chicago bands -- Boston's Bang Camaro come on like Kiss meets the Polyphonic Spree, proffering punchy anthems with memorable choruses about leather and lightning that might as well be the soundtrack to your next 7 Eleven parking-lot hang. A perfectly pleasant way to start a very hot day of music.
2. Introducing "Warwick Avenue" as a song that hasn't yet made it over here (meaning the U.S. or downtown Chicago?), current SPIN cover girl Duffy offered the afternoon's first head-scratcher. That it's on the domestic release of her debut album Rockferry (more than a half-million sold) didn't seem to matter. Her vocals were typically gorgeous, and in her high heels and cute sailor-inspired dress, she was playful and chatty between songs. Yet there's something perverse about hearing such stirring, intimate stuff in the sunshiney swelter of nearly oppressive 90-degree heat. When she offered to lighten the mood by performing the loping, barely midtempo "Serious," this audience member was begging for "Mercy," which, when it arrived at the end of the set, was sweet relief indeed.
More after the jump.
3. If you ask me (and no, you didn't), the Black Keys could use a bass player. They've got killer, pounding, inventive songs, and Dan Auerbach's weary and soulful vocals are brutally effective. But it's not just that their dirty blues could benefit from some fleshed-out bottom, they just look incomplete on stage. I also think the Jam would have been that much better with another guitarist, so, no, I'm never satisfied.
4. More bizarre (and subversive) than even their King Diamond cover done in full demon-clown makeup was the half-pint-size longhair from Paul Green's School of Rock All-Stars screaming (and I mean really screaming) Suicidal Tendencies' tantrum anthem "Institutionalized" on the Kidzapalooza stage as infants colored in Paul Frank monkeys 50 feet away.
5. Ah, Radiohead. By now, it's easy to make a "how to disappear up your navel completely" joke so I won't (even though I just did). But has there ever been a more popular less scrutable rock band...ever? For the first In Rainbows- and Hail to the Thief-heavy 45 minutes or so of their generous 24-song, two-hour set, the Brit art-rockers came across as a studied jazz-rock combo with a nearly pathological aversion to choruses. But the sleepiness (that others might call "emotional intensity") was replaced by delicate space-age lullabyes right around the time "No Surprises" got a gorgeous airing. No flying pigs for the new Pink Floyd, but the percussive fireworks display that threatened to explode some of the softer tracks (of a set full of soft tracks) was an elegant capper to a cool (in at least two senses of the word) headline gig.
Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys / Photo by Karen Chan
Radiohead / Photo by Karen Chan