CHICAGO, IL (RMR) Itís been hot in Chicago this summer. The drought has been the worst it has been in a century, or so they say anyway. Mid-July saw a break in the drought, the Chicago rock drought anyway, and when it rains, it pours.
Intonation Music Fest was put on by pretentious Pitchforkmedia. The concert took place July 16-17 at Union Park in Chicago. The festival had two stages that alternated acts, a record fair and bazaar, a decent selection of food that was not too obscenely priced and surprisingly, CHEAP water (only one buck for a bottle). The feel of Intonation was very live and let live. The sound of the stages was pretty good as well (with exception of the Go! Teamís set which seemed washed out and very bassy).
For me the line up was a dream come true. Two days of my favorite bands playing back to back (and the bands that werenít at Intonation were at Lollapalooza, but Iíll get there in a second). Magnolia Electric Company relaxed country rock was perfect music for the hot July day. Broken Social Scene was the best act of Saturday creating lush sound-scapes that didnít seem possible live. The band also entertained the crowd with a story about the apparent beating of BSSís manager by New York City cops for marijuana possession. Despite the poor sound The Go! Team had an energizing set which featured kids from the pool next to Union park. Death From Above 1979 had the crowd whipped into a frenzy creating a dust storm in the park.
Sunday was kicked off by an amazing performance by Out Hud which had the crowd dancing like mad despite the 90 degree heat. Andrew Bird put on a great show for his hometown. On a side note, Bird has to be one of the best whistlers in the world, it is unbelievable. Deerhoofís set put a smile on my face. The confused look of much of the crowd was very entertaining. The Wrens had a very emotional charged set. Apparently they had never played to such a large crowd before and you could tell the band went all out. I did not see Les Savy Fav from up close, but from all accounts it was an insane show. The Decemberists capped Intonation and they owned the crowd. At one point, Colin had the whole crowd lying down pretending to be asleep. It was a truly amazing end to an outstanding festival.
Lollapalooza was the following weekend (July 23-24) in Grant Park. This was the first concert held in Grant Park since Radiohead in 2001. Day One was cloudy and actually rained a bit. The food and drink was ridiculously priced at Lollapalooza, but that was really to be expected (but címon, Five dollars for a beer! Thatís just nuts).
Lollapalooza featured 4 stages; 2 main and two side. There was a stage per corner in the park. Two stages played at once; one main and one side. The sound was a bit of a problem if you were at the smaller stage. The main stages were so loud that they blew away the other stage. Artists at the small stage often made comments about the sound issue. Not at issue was the quality of the acts. On to the recap!
M83 is a great band, but live they were just plain boring. Ambulance Ltd was also incredibly boring live especially compared to And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead who played at the same time. I am not that familiar with Trail of Dead but there live show was so energy packed that it has to be experienced. I took a pass at Liz Phair and the Kaiser Chiefs. Next was Brian Jonestown Massacre who were fucking amazing. Anton was in fine form; hollering at a camera guy and another person before the set started and then throwing insults at Dashboard Confessional on the main stage (I donít need to worry about contraception, Iíll just put a picture of your band above my bed). The set disintegrated into a very loud noise set which Anton seemingly got bored with and just walked off. Next was Cake. They put on a good show, but nothing all that special. Did not see Billy Idol or Blonde Redhead, but from what I could hear of Blonde Redhead they sounded pretty good. The Black Keys were next and were easily one of the best acts of both weekends. The guitar work of Dan Auerbach is phenomenal. Next was the Pixies and I have to say that I was very disappointed. They played one song after another without saying anything to the crowd. I could have listened to Death to the Pixies and not had to bother with the crowd or the heat and gotten the same thing. I missed out on the Walkmen who played at the same time. Day one ended with Weezer who played the predictable Blue album and Pinkerton laden set list and Digable Planets who featured some outstanding break dancers before their set started to hype up the crowd.
Day Two say the temperature spike to 115 degrees. The city brought in buses just for concert goers to sit in and cool off. It was hot outside, but the rock was even hotter. I did not arrive until Louis XIV played. Louis XIV is just a fun psuedo-glam band; nothing too serious but fun to dance to. Tegan and Sara had a decent set going until Sara had to leave due to illness and the set was cut short. Drive-By-Truckers brought a little country flavor to the fest. Arcade Fire was the best act of the weekend. The theatrics of the 9 piece band blew away the crowd. An encore was being demanded but they turned on the music to let the fans know they were out of luck. Spoon put on a decent show as well, but like Cake, it was nothing special. The Dandy Warhols put on a very good show which featured an appearance by Anton Newcombe (of the Brian Jonestown Massacre) and Matt Hollywood (former BJM guitarist) who contributed to extended psych-jams. A boring set by Death Cab for Cutie and a second set from Widespread Panic ended the Lollapalooza rebirth.
The city of Chicago is somewhat touchy about its parks and having music festivals, but after the success of these two successive and successful music festivals and the revenue they generated Chicago will most likely reconsider its unwillingness to allow rock fests in the cityís park. Mid-July 2005 may be the beginning a new festival tradition for Chicago.
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