Day one of Lollapalooza 2012 featured the high temperatures that concertgoers have come to expect over the years alongside performances by Black Sabbath, Black Angels, The Afghan Whigs, Sharon Van Etten and more…
Eight stages across a sprawling area in downtown Chicago, Lollapalooza remains nevertheless an extremely well run festival. Camelbak filling stations offer fans the ability to stay hydrated without being gouged. And obviously, hydration is key (as the girl next to me who passed out during Sharon Van Etten’s can certainly attest to).
One of my favorite aspects of the festival is Chow Town. Through a wide variety of outstanding, local food choices from vendors like Kuma’s Corner, Gibson’s, Lou Malnati’s and more, food is made available to festivalgoers at an extremely affordable price. It would be easy to gouge fans on something like this but at only $3, slices of Lou Malnati’s pizza were a bargain.
Most of my first day was concentrated on the festival’s northern side catching multiple acts on the BMI and Bud Light stages. I did however take a quick jaunt down to Perry’s stage for a look at some electronic dance music by Zedd where I was impressed to see a huge amount of people raging on quite early in the afternoon.
As always, the peoplewatching was top notch though I was kind of surprised not to see large numbers of people at least trying to jump the gate. Having to pass through three checkpoints at the main entrance before actually entering festival grounds may have been a deterrent… though I doubt it.
I saw several festival patrons (all male) adorned in full Native American headdress (I don’t get it) not to mention a wide variety of concertgoers (especially during Passion Pit) carrying stuffed animals impaled ten or fifteen feet in the air on a stick (again, I don’t’ get it).
On my way to see the Afghan Whigs, I saw a man wet himself, seemingly oblivious to the fact that we were ten feet from a row of about fifty port-a-johns.
And following the show, I saw a man sit down on the curb at Michigan and Monroe, vomit, stand up, sway and proceed to walk down the Mag Mile with his hand down his pants before drunkenly hailing a rickshaw.
There was of course the now ubiquitous hipster uniform of plastic framed, brightly colored sunglasses and old NBA jerseys that don’t fit… though this year’s prime fashion choice for the apparently ironic teens seemed to be simply wearing a sailor hat (insert your own joke here). And while I don’t get that either, Chuck Berry is no doubt nodding in approval somewhere in St. Louis.
Onto the music…
Haley Reinhart– The first American Idol alum to perform at the festival had without doubt the best vocal prowess of the day. “American Idol” are words that no doubt carry an eye rolling and negative connotation for many in attendance. But performing with a four piece band (keyboards, drums, guitar and bass), Lollapalooza was actually a homecoming of sorts for the Wheeling native now located in Los Angeles. And to borrow from Sly Stone, Friday’s set was also a bit of a family affair as Reinhart’s backing band also featured her father on guitar for a few songs and her mother and sister on backing vocals for the duration of the set. “Spiderwebs” from her recently released debut Listen Up! was one of the set’s more rocking moments while the Idol’s rock influences were on full display again during a soulful cover of “House of the Rising Sun” to close out the set. Reinhart impressed in the live setting and with her variety of vocal influences should be one of the more interesting post-Idol careers to watch unfold.
The Black Angels – Black was definitely a theme on day one of Lollapalooza. Black Sabbath, Black Keys, Black Angels, etc. The Black Angels, from Texas, provided their own southern fried take on psychedelic rock on the Bud Light stage on Friday. It may have been early in the afternoon but the crowd was immense for this set on one of the festival’s main stages. Frontman, Alex Maas resembled Zach Galifinakis and band members showed a high level of musical acumen swapping instruments in what became a fairly routine manner Friday. My favorite moment saw one of the guitarists opt for extra drumming early in the set. Feedbackladen solos were scorching in the Friday afternoon heat and sitar closed out the set.
Sharon Van Etten – I have a new crush. Van Etten’s stage banter was surprisingly sweet just southwest of the Bud Light stage at Petrillo Bandshell in Grant Park. Starting the set on acoustic guitar, Van Etten rolled through tracks like “Save Yourself.” The set pace picked up about three quarters of the way through when she strapped on the electric guitar for the duration of the set. “Serpents” (a song she claims is the first she ever wrote on electric guitar) was downright haunting. She referenced Sinead O’Connor and eventually “Tramp” highlighted her set.
The Afghan Whigs – The nineties, Seattle alt-rockers didn’t sound dated at all on Friday in the south end of Hutchinson Field on the RedBull Soundstage. Greg Dulli has kept himself quite busy with a myriad side projects so it’s always great to see him back with Afghan Whigs. Weaving a bit of Prince’s “Little Red Corvette” into “66” was cool on Friday. The buzzsaw guitar on both “Debonair” and “Gentlemen” was excellent and the band never skipped a beat.
Thenewnwo2 – Son of Beatle George, Dhani Harrison is no stranger to Lollapalooza, a festival he called one of the best and most fun in the country. Steeped in an impressive array of guitars and electronic elements, Harrison fired off samples quickly as he brushed his hair out of his eyes.
Passion Pit – Opening the set about ten minutes late, the band launched straight into “Take a Walk,” the first single from their new album Gossamer. Tearing through an hour of their keyboard drenched, guitar based, pyschadelic dance-pop, the band’s set saw the crowd in an absolute frenzy. Losing his voice a bit by the end of the set, frontman Michael Angelakos rallied the crowd for some vocal support, finishing with a pair of hits from 2009’s Manners, ultimately closing with “Little Secrets.”
Black Sabbath – Fleshed out live by drummer Tommy Clufetos in place of Bill Ward and Adam Wakeman on keyboards and additional guitar, Black Sabbath rocked out for about an hour and forty minutes Friday night at the festival’s north end on the Bud Light stage as the Black Keys played at the same time opposite them on the south end (clearly a tough choice for concertgoers).
This was as sharp as I’ve seen Ozzy in quite a while. He was lucid, engaged and, as always, constantly stirring up the crowd. The Sabbath shows seem to force him to focus, toning down the shtick (buckets of water and what not) that often permeate his solo shows.
One of only a handful of festival dates that the band is performing, they opened with “Black Sabbath,” going on a metal fueled romp that saw Ozzy seem to blow out his voice several times. Tony Iommi, recovering from cancer, was again outstanding (though Wakeman was clearly adding additional guitar despite the fact that you couldn’t actually see him on the stage). The guitarist seemed to truly relish the opportunity to be back in front of a crowd, smiling all the while during “Paranoid.”
A mosh pit finally broke out up front during “Iron Man” (a performance that also saw Ozzy plant a playful kiss on the woman at the foot of the stage doing sign language).
“Sweet Leaf” sounded particularly bad. It was slowed down and just didn’t work. Where the band really shined was on the instrumental portions of the show where they were fast, crisp and loud (The stretched out version of “Children of the Grave” was particularly good).
Ozzy broke out the harmonica for “The Wizard” and Iommi was spellbinding on “Snowblind.”
Ward Butler took his solo turn on bass as the intro for “Nativity in Black.” And it’s hard to beat the cool factor of the siren at the beginning of “War Pigs” in the live setting.
All in all, it was great to see the godfathers of metal take their victory lap in front of a new generation of younger fans on the festival stage Friday night, closing out day one of Lollapalooza 2012.
Tags: Adam Wakeman, Alex Maas, American Idol, Black Sabbath, Dhani Harrison, Geezer Butler, Greg Dulli, Haley Reinhart, Lollapalooza, Michael Angelakos, Ozzy Osbourne, Passion Pit, Sharon Van Etten, The Afghan Whigs, The Black Angels, thenewno2, Tommy Clufetos, Tony Iommi, Zedd