Chicago Fun Times

When the Distillers’ lead singer Brody Armstrong sang “City ofAngels,” it almost seemed like a joke. “They say this is the city,the city of Angels,” she sang, most likely not referring to TinleyPark, Ill. “All I see is dead wings.” This suburban boomtown, 30miles away from any big city, was home to the “Chicago” stop ofthis summer’s Lollapalooza festival, a nine-hour county fair/rockshow featuring tents, booths, kiosks, and $9 beers. It alsofeatured music, of course, from grrl punk to underground hip-hop torock’n’roll both mainstream and experimental. After a five-yearhiatus, the bands and the crowd were more than ready to rock.

When the Distillers’ lead singer Brody Armstrong sang “City of Angels,” it almost seemed like a joke. “They say this is the city, the city of Angels,” she sang, most likely not referring to Tinley Park, Ill. “All I see is dead wings.” This suburban boomtown, 30 miles away from any big city, was home to the “Chicago” stop of this summer’s Lollapalooza festival, a nine-hour county fair/rock show featuring tents, booths, kiosks, and $9 beers. It also featured music, of course, from grrl punk to underground hip-hop to rock’n’roll both mainstream and experimental. After a five-year hiatus, the bands and the crowd were more than ready to rock.

When the Distillers’ lead singer Brody Armstrong sang “City of Angels,” it almost seemed like a joke. “They say this is the city, the city of Angels,” she sang, most likely not referring to Tinley Park, Ill. “All I see is dead wings.” This suburban boomtown, 30 miles away from any big city, was home to the “Chicago” stop of this summer’s Lollapalooza festival, a nine-hour county fair/rock show featuring tents, booths, kiosks, and $9 beers. It also featured music, of course, from grrl punk to underground hip-hop to rock’n’roll both mainstream and experimental. After a five-year hiatus, the bands and the crowd were more than ready to rock.

California foxy ladies the Donnas propelled their power-pop with guitar squeals that sounded like funny-car peel-outs. Lead singer Donna A., looking like Belinda Carlisle’s little sister, caught the crowd’s attention with her whip-smart sass on Donnas’ originals “Too Bad About Your Girl” and “Take Me to the Backseat.” Although these girls have almost a decade’s worth of catchy material, it was their cover of Kiss’ “Strutter” that drew the biggest response.

Jurassic 5 might be the best live hip-hop act today. Their 45-minute set showcased their four MC and two DJ set-up, and drew some serious crowd participation. Spinning beneath a huge turntable backdrop, Cut Chemist and DJ Nu-Mark showed how the intertwined beats/scratches/noise of a good DJ can excite the masses. Chicago-raised MC Chali 2na led the vocal charge on “Quality Control,” although soon the whole crew had the crowd opening and closing their hands in time with the beats. In addition to their intricate four-part vocals, J5 scored points with their unlikely four-kazoo attack (instead of today’s hip-hop instrument of choice, the sitar).

The daylight set from the nightlife-loving Queens of the Stone Age brought their robot-rock juggernaut to the half-full pavilion. For a succinct 50 minutes they pounded out their best tunes, from the desert-fried “Go With the Flow” to the melodic crunch of “Do It Again,” but they really hit a groove when former Screaming Tree Mark Lanegan lent his vocals to the middle of the set. Lanegan’s haunting, smoky vocals, framed by the lead guitar of Josh Homme, the lap-slide guitar of Troy Van Leeuwen, and the bass of resident madman Nick Oliveri on “Hangin’ Tree” and “Into the Fade,” warmed up their fans for the furious speed metal riffs of “A Song for the Dead.” They ended their set ended with a triple threat, playing one song from each of their three albums. First it was the sing-along “Avon,” then the crazy-insane Nick vocal “Tension Head,” and then the crowd was treated to the unlikely radio hit “No One Knows”–which has kept their latest album, Songs for the Deaf, on the Billboard charts for 45 weeks.

Audioslave crammed as much rock’n’roll bombast (and one cool cover song) as they could into their 60-minute set, although they slightly misjudged the crowd. They opened with the powerful “Gasoline,” getting the crowd into it even though drummer Brad Wilk played with his back to the crowd while staring into multiple mirrors. The souped-up flying saucer guitar attack of Tom Morello on “Like a Stone,” “Save It for Another Day,” and “Light My Way” complemented Chris Cornell’s barking vocals nicely. The only band’s only misstep was when they retreated from the stage to leave Cornell alone with his acoustic guitar, which may have been the first instance of a shirtless singer/songwriter. Audioslave showed some good taste by choosing to cover the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army,” much to the surprise of the crowd, as Morello did his best to replicate Jack White’s guitar sounds. Bassist Tim Commerford sang backing vocals on the set-ending “Cochise,” helping to whip the crowd into a frenzy.

Second-stage headliners the Distillers shoved their half-hour punk power down the throats of anyone near. Armstrong’s lived-in voice moved the small crowd as bassist Ryan and guitarist Casper added backing vocals to their ruff rawk stylings. Their poignant set drew the likes of Donna A., Homme, and Audioslave’s Brad Wilk. Back on the main stage, Incubus stuck to their metallic-pop-with-soaring-vocals formula, basically playing chick-friendly, radio-ready pseudo-hard rock. But the focal point of their set seemed to be lead singer Brandon Boyd’s washboard tummy.

Main-stage headliners Jane’s Addiction attempted to recapture their 1991 glory days. The founders and headliners of the original Lollapalooza opened their hour-long set with “Stop” and the fervent “Ain’t No Right.” To add even more guitar to their 1988 classic “Mountain Song,” lead singer Perry Farrell (dressed fashionably in a skintight black leather/vinyl jumper with red dragon inlays) invited Incubus guitarist/hair farmer Michael Einziger to join Jane’s guitarist/Carmen Electra-boytoy Dave Navarro, not that he needed the help. The tribal beats of drummer Stephen Perkins provided the perfect backdrop for Navarro on “Ocean Size” as he climbed atop a ten foot metallic bridge to crank out his signature stinging guitar sound. After the playing of their new single “Just Because” barely made any impact on the crowd, Farrell chimed in, “We have aged gracefully”–or not, because, as he said this, the 36-year-old Navarro was sucking on the high heel of one of the three female dancers who crawled and pranced around the stage. The band launched into the stunning “Three Days” and finally pulled out an acoustic encore sing-along of their early hit “Jane Says,” so the crowd could leave happy and on a high note.

The idea of Lollapalooza may have been revolutionary once, but a lot has changed in the dozen years since the first festival. The one thing that hasn’t changed is the festival’s commitment to bringing quality modern rock bands together. Perhaps all the other bells and whistles are there for the attention deficit disorder generation, or those who were twelve in 1991.

Dan O’Conor

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