[Above: LCD Soundsystem]
With 130 bands spread across nine stages, Lollapalooza 2007 transformed Chicago’s Grant Park into a musical playground
. Amid the sounds, there were also the sights of odd traveling performers and inescapable corporate branding seemingly at every turn. But despite the commercialization, it was an idyllic setting, with the Chicago skyline as a backdrop and Lake Michigan flanking the fest to the east. The three-day festival offered a wide range of music, from jam bands to hip-hop and unsigned to well-established, assuring that the reported 160,000 concertgoers could see familiar and favorite bands, along with the possibility of discovering something new while wandering the sprawling festival. Along with the heat, rain and humidity, there were a few mishaps, a handful of intriguing collaborations, and choice performances, the best of which centered on booty-shaking dance music and good ol' fashioned rock 'n' roll.
Day one began with an unsigned act. Chicagoan Tom Schraeder performed folk-tinged tunes backed by a seven-piece band, which included a saw player. Afterwards, on the main stage, another unsigned act, Austin, Texas’ Ghostland Observatory – a duo comprising a cape-wearing synth/drum player and a tall, braided singer and danceaholic – was getting its groove on. Frontman Aaron Behrens danced about the stage in a tribal fashion as if he was hoping to conjure rain, and the crowd bounced right along with him.
Dancing gave way to pure songwriting craft when Ted Leo and the Pharmacists took the stage. Leo, whose passionate performances often lead to unintentional self-inflicted wounds, tripped and fell his way onto the stage. Turns out it was no matter though, as he managed to pogo through a rousing set that included the urgently punked-up “Bomb.Repeat.Bomb,” and the reggae-tinged “The Unwanted Things,” both from one of the best albums this year, Living with the Living.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the park, the Polyphonic Spree was conducting a symphonic party. Swaying, bouncing, dancing and harmonizing, the group performed a bubbly set peppered with majestic horns and swelling strings that brought smiles field-wide. Only the Spree could so convincingly turn Nirvana’s “Lithium” into a piano-driven, irony-devoid celebration of life.
Not long after Silversun Pickups' shoegazing side stage antics and Blonde Redhead's discordant, sprawling washes of sound on the main stage, Perry Farrell, the founder of Lollapalooza, presented his latest group, Satellite Party. Bringing a certain reminiscent familiarity to the festival, the band's set was peppered with Jane’s Addiction classics, including “Mountain Song,” “Been Caught Stealing” and “Jane Says.”
For the hip shaking set, LCD Soundsystem took the dance vibes that would prevail the entire weekend to a fantastic level. Singer/producer/DFA Records co-owner/disco-punk master James Murphy got things bumping with the infectiously grooving “Daft Punk is Playing at My House” from his band's eponymous debut. The staccato vocals, synths and percussive rhythms, including generous helpings of cowbell, turned the large crowd into a massive dance party. Sound of Silver, another one of 2007's best, was well represented as well, as the band’s playful delivery of “North American Scum” and the building and epic “All My Friends” were highlights and a great way to precede the final performance of the night.
As the final strains of LCD Soundsystem dissipated, the theme to Close Encounters of the Third Kind rose across the field signifying Daft Punk was ready to launch its sequence. With an awe-inspiring light show, the space-helmeted French duo was framed by a lit pyramid, which changed colors with every blip and beep. Words flashed across the stage and streams of light shot out across the field as the set embodied the intensity of an intimate club appearance, which was an impressive feat for an outdoor show to say the least. Gigantic guitar riffs and earth-shaking techno melded electronica and rock 'n' roll seamlessly, as Daft Punk concluded day one with a visual and aural ferocity.
Check out Paste's photos from Day One, and stay tuned for tomorrow's Day Two coverage...