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Lollapalooza ’08 Editors’ Blog: Five (Maybe More) Observations from Day Two

1. I once read a news story about a biker-dude lottery winner who lived at home with his mom on Long Island and admitted to enjoying a “sponge shot”-after wiping down the bar at the end of the night, his favorite bartender would squeeze the funky liquid into a glass for our hero to down.That’s what the Gutter Twins (led by grizzled and gristly alt-rock vets Mark Lanegan and Greg Dulli, who also played SPIN’s Friday night Lolla afterparty) sound like. And look like. They might not be the first thing you’d want to hear at 2:30 on a sunny afternoon, but their dive-bar goth went down much easier than you’d expect.

2. One of the thrills of festivals is the unannounced special guest. When word came that Slash would be appearing with Lollapalooza major domo Perry Farrell in the itsy-bitsy dance tent, I changed plans and raced over to where hundreds of wet, stinky bodies pressed tight to get a glimpse. I made it through two Satellite Party songs (I think) performed by Farrell, his wife, and a guitarist-not-named-Slash before my sweating knees (who knew knees could sweat?) begged for relief.

More after the jump

3. One of the other thrills of festivals is seeing a band that would otherwise fill a 1,500-capacity club in a major metro area play before tens of thousands. I walked near the MySpace stage where MGMT had amassed a huge crowd, but I missed their gig (thanks, guitarist-not-named-Slash). But I didn’t miss Austin, Texas-based instrumentalists Explosions in the Sky. From a perch high above the stage I watched as their effects-heavy, melodramatic guitar rock transfixed the swarming mass. It was music you could do household chores to, sure, but calling it Hipster Windham Hill would be unfair. By the end of their star-making set, the guitarists were literally pummeling their axes into submission. The audience, too.

4. Must be something in the Shiner Bock down in Texas because next up on the facing stage were fellow Austinites Okkervil River, who played the set of the weekend (so far). Will Sheff and crew’s hyperverbose Americana, which sounds to these ears like the Decemberists jamming with the Arcade Fire at a particularly rowdy wake, transformed the crowd into what can only be labeled a “happy party.”

5. Back-to-back sets by ’90s stalwarts the Toadies and Rage Against the Machine capped my evening. Dallas’ Toadies, who recently reunited for a new album due in a couple of weeks, were essentially one-hit wonders (but what a hit) who became a classic cult act. In fact, frontman Todd Lewis alluded to this in his introduction to the band’s only hit, the grungy stalker anthem “Possum Kingdom”(you know, the “Give it up to me / Do you want to be my angel?” song). From what I could see from my vantage point on the side of the stage, Lewis seemed genuinely touched to see such an enormous turnout. Mixing favorites from their two albums with some new songs, like the rifftastic (or is that rifferrific?) “Man of Stone,” they played with a renewed vigor that hinted they probably wouldn’t be going away anytime soon. As for Rage, the frantic foursome battled muddled sound and a dangerously aggressive crowd, to put on a show that pleased fans but likely didn’t win them any new converts.