Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

Lolla Day One: All About Paul

Festivals, Live Reviews, Rock No Comments »
Photo: Brian Hieggelke

Photo: Brian Hieggelke

By Craig Bechtel

Paul McCartney’s singing voice may not be as strong as it once was, but he hasn’t faltered in terms of one of his key talents, showmanship, and that was in evidence Friday night at Lollapalooza. That, backed with his songwriting partnership with John Lennon in a little band from back in the day called The Beatles, has cemented Sir Paul as that hoariest of rock and roll clichés, “living legend.” Given his position in The Beatles, his role as the leader of Wings and his substantial output as a solo artist, McCartney has a considerable song library from which to borrow and he did so tonight, including a few choice surprises.

He began the evening by inviting the large, enthusiastic crowd along with him on a “Magical Mystery Tour” and included other predictable Beatles numbers like “Lady Madonna” (accompanied by a slide show of inspirational female figures), “Let It Be,” “Hey Jude” and during his encore, the early classic, “Can’t Buy Me Love.” As the dragonflies danced through the air and the full moon appeared on the horizon, it was also no surprise to hear a rousing, sing-a-long rendition of “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” and a convulsive performance of “Back In The U.S.S.R.,” accompanied by a few quick stories of meeting Soviet military bigwigs, since he and his band were the first rock ‘n’ roll act allowed to play Red Square. Read the rest of this entry »

My Lollapalooza: A Variety of Guides to Navigating the Festival

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aerials_NS-2775

This summer, as we did last, we asked a handful of Chicago music writers to sketch out their own personal Lollas: who they’re seeing, where, when and why. A few of them begged off, with the explanation that they were skipping the festival this year; some others, similarly minded, still volunteered (rather wistfully) their theoretical itineraries. Overall there was a noticeable lessening of enthusiasm for the event, for which there are some fairly self-evident explanations. First, Lollapalooza debuted in 1991, which makes it older than many, if not most, of its attendees—rendering it less a happening than an institution. Second, it’s become a victim of its own success; the Chicago lakefront is now choked with summer music festivals, all of them inspired at least in part by Lolla, with more cropping up each year (Mamby On the Beach being 2015’s new arrival). And finally, the newer festivals have the advantage of edginess, rawness and a more street-level commercialism than Lolla, which has become a corporate behemoth—capable of swallowing unsuspecting day-trippers whole, and spitting them out hours later, shaken and slack-jawed and wondering what the bloody hell just hit them. But that very enormity is what makes a tastemaker’s guide—like those below—all the more essential. Read the rest of this entry »

My Lolla: Craig Bechtel

Alt-Rock, Chicago Artists, Festivals, Garage Rock, Indie Rock, Live Reviews, Metal, Prog-rock, Rock No Comments »
1_DFA1979_Rough-Trade

Death from Above 1979

Lollapalooza started as a traveling “alternative” rock carnival, but today it’s a stationary event showcasing music that ranges from rock to hip-hop to pop to electronic. If that doesn’t seem like a tremendously wide range, it’s not just you. As Lollapalooza has evolved toward the mainstream, Riot Fest (based in Chicago, but now held around the country) has pulled away most of the possible punk edges, brought back some “legacy acts” with underground roots like No Doubt and Billy Idol and introduced actual carnival rides. Conversely, having recently completed its tenth rendition in Chicago’s Union Park, the Pitchfork Music Festival can’t be rivaled in terms of their indie cred, and they supplement their bread-and-butter indie rock with a fair amount of rap, electronic and even some retro-folk explorations too. Chicago is either blessed or cursed to host 300,000 Lollapalooza-goers the first weekend in August each year, depending on who you ask, but it’s still the granddaddy of all of these festival options, in terms of longevity, attendance and scope.

Compared to Pitchfork’s three color-named stages and fifty-odd acts, Lollapalooza boasts approximately 150 performances on six corporate-named stages, plus one for Kidzapalooza presented by Lifeway, and Perry’s—named for the founder, Perry Farrell (hopefully he didn’t have to pay himself anything for naming rights)—for DJs and dancing only. So how can you choose who to see and who to hear? Research and listen, and if it’s a tie, try to split the difference. Just try not to pass out when running between the stages in the hot, hot August heat.

FRIDAY

2:30pm-3:30pm
St. Paul & The Broken Bones
Bud Light

2:50pm-3:30pm
BadBadNotGood
Pepsi
Friday holds off on tough choices until the 2pm hour, when St. Paul & The Broken Bones has to compete with BadBadNotGood. If the latter had rapper Ghostface Killah in tow to perform numbers from their excellent collaboration, they would get the nod, but I’m afraid I’d rather hear some authentically-done soul singing as opposed to seventies-set experimental explorations. Since there’s bound to be an abundance of treacly, fake-soul offerings this weekend (I’m looking at you, Sam Smith), I’m going to have to give Paul Janeway and his Birmingham-bred brethren the edge here. Read the rest of this entry »

My Lolla: Dylan Peterson

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saint-pepsi

Skylar Spence

I won’t be at Lolla this year; the following is a fictionalized daily schedule.

FRIDAY

2:00pm
You lock up your bike outside of the festival, wipe the sweat from your forehead, drink the rest of your water and start walking.

2:15pm-3:00pm
Glass Animals
Samsung Galaxy
Sex is the first thing on everyone’s mind at Lollapalooza, so it only makes sense to start off the festival experience with Glass Animals. This slinky, slow-rock band from the UK will set the mood for the rest of the weekend, whether it’s a gray, rainy day or a hot and humid 100 degrees. You’ll feel a groove either way.

3:00pm-3:45pm
Tove Lo
Sprint
Keep the sexy theme going here, with added pop hooks via Sweden. You’ve made some major eye contact with someone during Glass Animals, and now you’re a quick stroll away from getting to know that someone even better during “Talking Body.” (There’s no time to waste—when Tove Lo’s at the chorus you can’t be dancing by yourself.) Read the rest of this entry »

My Lolla: John Wilmes

Alt-Rock, Chicago Artists, Festivals, Hip-Hop, Indie Rock, Metal, Rock No Comments »
twin-peaks-band-cereal-killer-cafe-london-2015-750x422

Twin Peaks

Do you like it big? Big crowds, big sounds, big sensations? Lollapalooza, as it is wont to do, brings on every kind of big this summer. The annual festival is an excuse to indulge everything oversized, everything bloated (in the best sense) about the music world of now. Dive nose-first into the communal affair, and hold my hand if all the noisy fun and sweat start to scare you.

FRIDAY

4:30pm-5:30pm
Hot Chip
Bud Light
There is something ridiculously urgent about this band. The British synth-poppers make dancing seem like the most important thing in the world, with their slow-burn beats and the haunting lilt of singer Alexis Taylor. And who’s to say dancing isn’t so essential?

5:30pm- 6:30pm 
The War on Drugs
Palladia
It’s hard to find more finely-tuned rock schmaltz than what TWOD is churning out these days. Their chug of Americana and pretty tones was built to chain-smoke in front of when done live—if you’re into that sort of thing. Read the rest of this entry »

My Lolla: Reilly Gill

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tyler-0

Tyler, The Creator

Sifting through this year’s Lollapalooza lineup was pretty arduous. Like every year, there are some names that stand out and are an obvious “Yes, I have to see that,” but man, who are some of these other people? Luckily, Lolla has a great website where you can preview most of the bands without leaving the main artist page. Discovering new music is a wonderful thing; there are some diamonds in the shallow pop-synth rough here.

Also, the food options at Lollapalooza this year are excellent, and as someone who is very into eating and relaxing, I recommend stopping over at Chow Town (their name, not mine) and grabbing an iced coffee from Dark Matter and a jalapeño cheddar bratwurst from Publican Quality Meats. Bring a solid blanket and some solid friends and start off your big Lollapalooza weekend with this fancy second lunch and Father John Misty.

FRIDAY

3:30pm-4:30pm
Father John Misty
Palladia
I have seen Misty play twice now, and can seriously vouch for this one. His live performances are timeless, and his tongue-in-cheek, glassy-eyed attitude is made for the stage. He has been openly annoyed by fans documenting the majority of his sets on their smartphones recently, which I can also get behind.

5:30pm-6:30pm
The War on Drugs
Palladia
TWOD’s airy, full sound is perfect for a large festival setting. Add a cold beer to cool down that jalapeño brat belly, and I’m in. Read the rest of this entry »

My Lolla: Jake Krzeczowski

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FKA Twigs

FKA Twigs

Ah, Lollapalooza! Like an old friend you’ve grown apart from, the Lolla of today hardly resembles the festival I spent all my summer cash on as a teenager, to drink cheap vodka out of a water bottle and watch Kid Cudi. The Lollapalooza of 2015 is an aggressive beast that appears poised to burst its Grant Park confines and spill into the city at large—as indeed it does every night at 10pm during its three-day stretch.

If you can’t tell by now, I’m no longer the biggest fan of the fest. In a city where Pitchfork, North Coast, Riot Fest and Spring Awakening are realities, there honestly is little reason to attend Lolla unless you like long lines, sweating on the person next to you and catching the same headliner from two years ago. It’s the vanilla of the Chicago summer festival season, the Iggy Azalea if you will; it’s a great reason for teenagers to wear ill-fitting, high-waisted shorts and Crocs.

The only thing that has brought me to Grant Park the past few years has been the allure of local talent seeping into the festival giant’s lineup. Last year I showed up for Vic Mensa’s set on the BMI stage and hung around until Sunday to see Chance shut the place down with an epic headlining performance that won’t soon be forgotten. This year? It’s a mix, but I’ve got some tips to get you through.

FRIDAY

12:45pm-1:30pm 
SZA
Samsung Galaxy

2:15pm-3:00pm
Glass Animals
Samsung Galaxy
Read the rest of this entry »

My Lolla: Keidra Chaney

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Charli XCX

Charli XCX

To be perfectly honest, Lollapalooza didn’t even register for me this year as an option, because between Pitchfork, Riot Fest and North Coast Fest there’s so much fest action this summer and fall I have to be selective about my commitments, and those other festivals feature more of the music I adore. But there are still acts that I’d personally check out at Lolla.

My schedule would be pretty predictable and not terribly adventurous. I’m getting too old for Lolla’s size and excessive amount of flower crowns.

FRIDAY

12:45pm-1:30pm
SZA
Samsung Galaxy
She does the kind of low-fi R&B so beloved by the indie bloggers these days, and she was pretty, fun and lively at Pitchfork last year.

1:30pm-2:15pm
Misterwives
Sprint
The perpetual teenager in me discovered this band through MTV’s “Finding Carter.” Check them out if sensitive (but not twee) indie pop is your thing. Read the rest of this entry »

My Lolla: Robert Loerzel

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Father John Misty/Photo: Taylor Hill

I’ll be taking photos at Lollapalooza, which entails running around Grant Park, catching a few songs here, a few songs there. I’ll be keeping my ears open for interesting sounds by some of the bands that I don’t know. But these are the shows I plan to stick around for. (Can you tell that my tastes lean toward old-fashioned guitar music?)

FRIDAY

3:30pm-4:30pm
Father John Misty
Palladia
In his guise as Father John Misty, singer-songwriter Josh Tillman oozes charisma, and he has a tendency to do some crazy things onstage—more than you’d expect from listening to his catchy, 1970s California-style folk-rock songs. I’m hoping he ups the crazy quotient for Lolla.

5:45pm-6:45pm
Alabama Shakes
Samsung Galaxy
Singer-guitarist Brittany Howard’s voice and passion are astonishing, and her bandmates have developed a remarkable chemistry. These Southern rockers’ second album, “Sound & Color,” is outstanding, but the music is even more exciting live. Read the rest of this entry »

Offbeat: “Halo” Composers Collaborate with Paul McCartney

Ambient, Blues, Chicago Artists, Festivals, Folk, Interviews, New Music, News and Dish, Orchestral, Pop, Rock, Singer-Songwriter, Vocal Music No Comments »
Paul McCartney, Martin O'Donnell, Michael Salvatori

Paul McCartney, Martin O’Donnell, Michael Salvatori

By Dennis Polkow

Martin O’Donnell and Michael Salvatori have been friends back to their college days in the 1970s when they were in rival bands in the western suburbs. “We’ve always been very competitive with one another,” Salvatori recalls. “Marty came in to record five songs with his band, so of course, I had to write better songs and record those as well.”

While Salvatori was working for his father’s printing company, O’Donnell was painting houses to put himself through music school. “They were shooting a television commercial and Marty was painting the set. The director found out that he was a composer and offered him five hundred dollars if he would write some music for it. I had just taken out a loan for a basement recording studio setup and Marty called up and said, ‘If you let me record there, I’ll split everything with you fifty-fifty.’ We put ourselves out there on a handshake and collaborated on the commercial as O’Donnell-Salvatori, like Lennon-McCartney. It has been that way ever since.” Read the rest of this entry »