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Best Moments of Lollapalooza: Final Day


Best Ergonomic Solution for Killer Drum Fills: X Japan
Among all the big-ticket reunions that festivals bank on, one of the biggest featured a band most Lollapalooza attendees had likely never heard of before Sunday. Prog-metal giants X Japan — no relation to Exene Cervenka, John Doe et. al — sold millions of records at home before breaking up in 1997. (Their flamboyant guitarist hanged himself under mysterious circumstances in 1998.) But the band had never played America. A reconstituted version rectified that yesterday looking like anime characters dropped into a 1987 Manowar video. There was pyro, sure, but the most lasting impression was left by multi-tasking drummer Yoshiki, who pounded away at his kit — and, more lovingly, at a white baby grand for the ballads — all while wearing a thick neck brace, kinda like Joan Cusack in Sixteen Candles. The Japanese Tommy Lee quickly became the hero of the day and was last spotted driving a boat on Lake Michigan — with his dick. — STEVE KANDELL

Best Blazing Set: Yeasayer
Few indie bands have elevated their game in a shorter period of time than the Brooklyn-via-Baltimore trio. Or maybe it’s the fans who’ve elevated their game, attuning to Yeasayer’s manically labyrinthine art-pop. Whichever, the band’s blistering main-stage performance, delivered as afternoon heat waves turned Butler Field into a mirage, was a happy collision of synths and beats, with songs such as “O.N.E.” and “Ambling Alp” inducing fans to sweat away their sunscreen. Which was cause for concern not only among the increasingly busy medical staffers but for Yeasayer singer Chris Keating as well. “All you pasty Jewish people like me have got to be careful,” he said. — KEVIN BRONSON

Best Festival Vets: Cypress Hill
The weed-blazing Los Angeles rap troupe played Lollapalooza back in 1992, and it’s hard to imagine their set Sunday was much different. And that’s a good thing. Hard steppin’ and head-rockin’ rappers B-Real and Sen Dog spit their hits, including “How I Could Just Kill a Man,” the shotgun rap buckshot that launched their career in 1991. A heavy-lidded throng moshed, slam danced, and smoked weed by example. B-Real puffed a two-finger fatty, then invited percussionist Eric Bobo to hit a six-foot bong center stage, no more than 20 feet from four cops. When Bobo coughed, B-Real asked, “Is there a doctor in the house?” The beat dropped on “Dr. Green Thumb” and the crowd went apeshit. Cypress Hill’s roadie was put to good use — he ran around collecting each bag of weed thrown onstage. — WILLIAM GOODMAN

Most Industrious Aussies: Violent Soho
Who knows what Lollapalooza promoters pay first-album, mid-afternoon sidestage bands — but Brisbane-based neo-grungers Violent Soho took the opportunity to pass around their version of the tip jar, sending a ball cap into the crowd to solicit “cannibus” donations. Raucous, noisy, uncouth, and way catchier than they need to be, the band came to make an impression — and did they ever. If this were 1995, you’d be hearing “Jesus Stole My Girlfriend” coming from the main stage, where Violent Soho would be right under the headliners. Their final take? Five joints. Lord knows, they earned them. — DOUG BROD

Best Breezy Pop Delivered on the Breeze: Freelance Whales
The Brooklyn quintet’s orchestral pop can come off as exceedingly precious — winsome boy-girl vocals colored with synths, guitars, and the occasional xylophone, glockenspiel or banjo, played as if not to offend rather than to entertain. Not so in the shady nook in front of the BMI stage on Sunday, where the music from their album Weathervanes seemed to ride the lakefront breeze. If frontman Judah Dadone seemed especially upbeat, there was reason. “It’s the two-year anniversary of the first time we ever got together to practice,” he told the smiling fans, who, by then, had made an impression on the lead singer as well. “You guys are all intimidatingly attractive, by the way.”– KB

Best Case of Killing Them Loudly with Her Song: Erykah Badu
The beautifully blonde Erykah Badu preached her message of self-empowerment, talking about young girls she grew up with who wanted to “be a doctor” or “be mall security.” Badu said she dreamed only of being “funky,” and backed by a band so rhythmic it could rearrange your vertabrae, she was-and then some. But her brand of funk was blissfully cool, serene-on the verge of exploding, but always holding back. That is, until Wolfmother kicked off their set from the adjoining stage with guitars louder than jet engines. But Badu, who had started late at this otherwise perfectly-timed festival, wasn’t going to go quietly. She revved up her musicians, shook her fist, shouted “Come on!, and got some 15,000 fans to pump up the funk with cheers while she played out her last two songs as if that stray guitar noise had been part of her ultimate plan all along. -MARK BAUTZ

Best Blessing from a Rock God: Wolfmother
“I saw a dragon fly. It’s Jimi Hendrix,” singer-guitarist Andrew Stockdale said midway through the Australian quartet’s afternoon set. “Jimi came to bless the festival.” While Stockdale’s voice is indebted to Ozzy Osbourne, he plays with a similar pomp, style, and skill as the guitar legend. His band’s sound is essentially “Foxy Lady” or “Let Me Stand Next to Your Fire,” but cranked up to 11 and given a hard rock edge. On “New Moon Rising,” Stockdale high kicked and strutted while ripping riffs tailor-made for a joyride in a Trans Am circa 1972. On “Woman,” he addressed the ladies — “I’ve got the feeling of love!!!” — then dropped into an extended jam. And on “Sundial” he played a psychedelic wah-wah riff with keyboard accompaniment, and got all Jimi-esque philosophical: “And now it seems like no time at all / The sundial wonders / Sometime people like to take away all of your love and power.” Dude has the spirit, for sure. Maybe he picked it up when recording demos for their latest album Cosmic Egg at Hendrix’s Electric Lady studios in New York. – WG

Best Rescue: Perry Farrell & thenewno2
Late Beatle guitarist George Harrison’s son Dhani and his band thenewno2 got by with a little help from their friends during their Kids stage set. After sound problems plagued the quartet’s short acoustic set (each of their three songs, including a cover of Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer,” was interrupted by malfunctioning guitar or vocals) festival creator Perry Farrell joined them onstage. He posed for photos, then, when the sound was resolved, invited up a friend of his own: Peter DiStefano, guitarist for early ’90s Jane’s Addiction offshoot Porno for Pyros. Together they played “Pets,” the band’s hit 1993 single — which was a perfect choice for their target audience. The kids clapped at the song’s mention of dinosaurs, while their parents boozed and bobbed along. One dude who started to leave didn’t make it far; he ran back front and center when the all-star group kicked into their next tune, a cover of the Velvet Underground’s “Sweet Jane.”– WG

Best Barroom Poet Nobody Knows Outside the 312: The Ike Reilly Assassination
With a break or three, Ike Reilly could have been celebrated as one of the finest roots-punkers of the past decade. He was on a major label for a minute — the time it took for Universal to release and then forget it released 2001’s Salesmen & Racists — and has since put out five more albums brimming with tales of broken lives, bent mores, and whatever medication his protagonists use to forget them. Fodder for plenty a barroom rocker, sure, but as Reilly showed on the Sony Bloggie stage, few are as deft with the couplet or as cutting with the delivery. Playing to a largely hometown crowd — Reilly grew up with Tom Morello in nearby Libertyville — his five-piece Assassination led the crowd in myriad shout-alongs, with the frontman’s Dylan-on-Budweiser vocals at the fore. However, he may have asked too much when, with a wink, he invited fans to join him on the rapper-paced verse from “Valentine’s Day in Juarez.” The lyric? “They got cocaine, oxycontin, mushrooms, marijuana, vodka …” Geez, how about, “Yeah, yeah yeah?”– KB

Best Representative for Hip-Hop: Chiddy Bang
Lollapalooza’s lineup is light on hip-hop, but Chiddy Bang, a duo from Philadelphia, flew the flag high. Twenty minutes into their all-too-short set, drummer-producer Noah “Xaphoon Jones” Beresin stepped out from behind the kit, grabbed the mic, and asked the crowd to name topics for Chidera “Chiddy” Anamege to rap about. Summer Camp, Gatorade, the Color Green, Smokin Weed, Love, and a Giant Inflatable Penis (which one concertgoer was waving overhead) made the list, and Anamege didn’t disappoint. He managed to fit all six into a 90-second verse, which had the crowd hooting with its closing words: “You just a hater, hatin’ on that Haterade… don’t be a snoozer, we shuttin’ down Lollapaloozer.” He then did just that with “All Things Go,” the set’s best song, featuring a deep beats and a fluxing rave-style sample. — WG

Best Red-Faced Scotsmen: Frightened Rabbit
Singer-guitarist Scott Hutchison is blessed with an aching, arching falsetto, perfect for the outsized anthems on his quintet’s third album, The Winter of Mixed Drinks. The way he wielded it during a muscular midafternoon performance in front of an overflow crowd at the Sony Bloggie stage, you’d think he was proselytizing, or campaigning to be the Scottish Bono. Less than 24 hours removed from a grueling flight from Australia to Chicago, the quintet dispensed a sweat-drenched hour of good-natured catharsis, pausing only briefly for Hutchison to crack wise, or in once instance just crack. The latter moment came during his solo turn on the heart-rending acoustic song “Poke” — between the rigorous travel and muggy environment, the singer’s voice creaked as he reached for a high note. “Aw, fuck me,” he laughed, getting big cheers before finishing strong. By then, he and the band had delivered the roundhouse punches of “Nothing Like You,” “Swim Until You Can’t See Land,” and “The Twist” — as well as injected some humor into the proceedings. Explaining that he needed the crowd to clap during “The Loneliness and the Scream,” Hutchison paused a half-beat before smiling wryly: “I guess there are two types of clap at a festival.”– KB

Best Pat on the Back: Switchfoot
Feelin’ glum? Go to a Switchfoot concert. The San Diego quintet are pop-rock motivational speakers with hooks for days, and Jesus is on their side. They started as Christian rockers but hit the mainstream by the grace of feel-good anthems like “Meant to Live” and “Oh! Gravity.” Longhaired soul-surfer-dude Jon Foreman wants his songs to connect: During “This Is Your Life,” from 2003’s The Beautiful Letdown, he climbed the stage, instructed a sing-along from the speakers, then jumped into the crowd and reached out to touch as many fans as possible. This all while belting, “This is your life / You are who you want to be!”– WG

Best Place to Have a Friend Help with Your Rain Slicker: Miniature Tigers
The indie-pop quartet’s kitchen-sink approach has one common thread, thankfully, and that’s a slightly blissed-out exuberance. That sentiment came in handy during the foursome’s morning set on the Playstation stage. A steady rain fell, folks struggled to don their $5 slickers (which they would need for only another hour or so), and the band, chirpy and endearing and transferring a lot of that to its fans, built toward its most memorable song, “Cannibal Queen.” Enough to incite a rush on the merch tent for their sophomore album Fortess? Probably not. Enough to impress the early arrivals for the Switchfoot set? That’s more like it. — KB

Best Band to Accompany the Storm: The Antlers
“Plants are flying all over the place. It’s a tropical storm,” observed frontman Peter Silberman as his New York City trio opened the final day of Lollapalooza under sheets of rain and blustery winds. “God is pissed,” added keyboardist Darby Cicci. During their 40-minute Budweiser Stage set, the trio built a little storm themselves with tracks from their latest release, 2009’s Hospice, an openhearted concept album that spins the story of a terminally-ill child into meditations on love, mortality, and hope. “Thirteen” and “Kettering” were both shimmering gems of astral guitar that shot for the cheap seats. A Fender Rhodes electric keyboard and My Bloody Valentine-style shoegaze wash built to tidal wave of sound under Silberg’s fluttering falsetto, and drummer Michael Lerner’s cymbal crashes were so forceful and regular that they sounded like a glass building coming down. “We’re not a surf punk band, so this makes more sense, doesn’t it?” Yes, it does. — WG