5 Best Things
1. The War on Drugs – Not the actual war on drugs, but the Philadelphia band named after it. They played the small and shady Google Play stage (my favorite stage each year) at 2:15. Kurt Vile helped start the band with lead singer Adam Granduciel in 2005. Now he's touring and recording on his own, but his imprint can still be felt in the War on Drugs' free-spirited but melodically focused, guitar driven songs. Distorted harmonica, trumpet, piano and guitar combined to create beautiful, massive soundscapes. And each time I thought the crowd might lose its patience for this, another freewheeling stomp or soaring anthem would cut right through the fuzz. Best show of the day.
2. Kidzapalooza – I'm about thirteen years older than the target audience for this section of the park, but that didn't stop me from seeing local singer Laura Doherty play Lolla's very first show at 11:30, filled with songs about hula hooping and naptime. At one point she asked the fifty or so people assembled there, “WHO LIKES POPCORN?” and we all cheered. That did not happen anywhere else. Crowd participation was mandatory, and those leading the way were clearly friends of the band. Accusations of Lollapalooza becoming corporate and soulless are annoying, but they do have a grain of truth, so starting the day with something that felt so genuine, happy, small and awkward because of its smallness was refreshing and fun.
3. Japadog – I got something called a Japadog from the Chizakaya food tent. It was a bacon wrapped hot dog with teriyaki sauce, some kind of mayo and a sweet relish referred to as “Godzilla toppings.” It was delicious.
4. Dr. Dog – What can I say, I just love Pennsylvania based rock bands that played at 2:15 on Friday at Lollapalooza (we'll come back to that in a second). Dr. Dog has been rising steadily in popularity over the past five years, and even though it was early in the day, their performance at the main stage felt like a realization and an affirmation that they are deserving of and ready for genuine rock stardom. They sounded clean and crisp, and were wildly energetic. The highlight was a beautiful, roots-rock cover of Architecture in Helsinki's electro-pop summer classic, “Heart It Races.” If they continue on like this, I can see them headlining Lolla in 2014.
5. Proposal – A guy named Nate proposed to his girlfriend Steph on stage during Yellow Ostrich's 1:30 show. Lead singer Alex Schaaf invited them out in the midst of an engaging set of unpolished but catchy pop-rock. Nate took the mic, explained how they met three years ago at Lollapalooza, then things got a little mushy until he got around to saying, “I have a question to ask, and please don't say no, you'll embarrass me. You can change your mind later.” She said yes, and it was very sweet. When Yellow Ostrich came back out, Schaaf joked, “Maybe it would have been good if she said no. It could've been like a viral video.”
Other good stuff: Haley Reinhart, of American Idol fame, played an early show on a small side stage, full of breezy and fun pop songs. Her charm was easy and natural. And no matter what you think of the show that spawned her career, girl can saaang. Toward the end of the day, Passion Pit and M83 both put on fantastic shows full of dramatic, synth bathed electronic pop. And Rahm Emanuel popped in to introduce the Black Keys, which was a fun surprise.
5 worst things
1. The 2:15 overlap – The War on Drugs, Dr. Dog and the Black Angels all played at 2:15. Each is an excellent, mid-level band that modernizes traditional rock sound and structure to make something unique and grand. More importantly, each band attracts the same kind of audience. Why not space them out? I never could have caught all three, and only saw two because I left one great show early so I could jog to another, and even then only catch the end. Greg Kot wrote that Passion Pit vs. The Shins was the cruel overlap of the day, but I beg to differ.
2. Meeting up with people – In the park, cell phone reception is spotty at best, and there are also a lot of people there (did you know?), so making plans to meet up with a friend later is kind of like making plans stress out for an hour and get really mad at a friend for no reason. Best to stick with the people you want to be with, or let them roam free. See you when I see you.
3. Crowd patience – Sharon Van Etten played a slow but gorgeous set of her emotional folk rock ballads and dirges at 3 p.m. But despite her good time slot and large stage, the crowd was incredibly thin. When the music slows, the people leave, no matter how good the slow music is. It's a shame.
4. The Shins – Okay they weren't actually bad. I was just disappointed that the Shins' 6:15 show at the Red Bull Soundstage felt a little bland and toothless, even as they worked through their fantastic catalogue of songs. I expect more oomph from a main stage show that late in the day.
5. Smell on North Side of the festival – It always smells bad over there. Every year. You get used to it after a while, but still. It smells bad.
The Saturday lineup is stacked and I'm very excited. Come back tomorrow for the recap of that.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun