It was a much muddier scene at Lollapalooza 2011’s second day in Grant Park. It felt more crowded, with some serious audience bottlenecks on the South side of Grant Park during the latter half of the day. Joined once again by Sound Opinions production assistant Annie Minoff and photographer/writer Aaron Pylinski, we navigated the puddles and tackled day two.
2:01 p.m. Chico Trujillo’s Latin rhythms were a festive way to wander into day two at Lollapalooza, with some hip-swaying Cumbia music. Come 2:20 p.m. Friendly Fires’ singer Ed McFarlane furthered the fiesta vibe, sporting a Hawaiian shirt. The English lads teased us with “Jump in the Pool,” a rhythmic, cowbell-tipped song that sounded refreshing, and also what we all wished we could do in the growing humidity.
2:30 p.m. Maps and Atlases played to an enthusiastic hometown crowd across the street from alma mater Columbia College (“I saw you five years ago!” somebody yells). Yeah, they went to art school, but I’m not convinced this band deserves the dubious “math rock” label. This stuff’s way too danceable. – AM
2:33 p.m. At the first of two appearances (the second was onstage with Eminem during “I Need a Doctor”), Skylar Grey’s set was pretty packed for a relatively new artist. Of course, having written Em and Rihanna’s “Love the Way You Lie,” which earned her two Grammy noms as well as songs for Lupe Fiasco and Rihanna, among others, certainly helped the draw. The dark “Beautiful Nightmare” with its military rhythms suggested she has an affinity for the gothier side, despite some of her less-intriguing poppier songs.
3:15 p.m. Atlanta’s Black Lips played against a deceptively innocent banner of spray painted flowers. But no one who’d read about the band’s much-publicized stage antics was fooled. Not to be outdone by Le Butcherettes’ drummer yesterday, Joe Bradley projectile vomits halfway through the band’s second blues-rock number. The two halves of a smashed guitar are hurled into the audience. Ian Saint Pé and Cole Alexander make out. -AM
3:35 p.m. No puking at Mayor Hawthorne, but there were a couple cover songs, including Snoop Dogg and Pharrell William’s “Beautiful” and Hall & Oates’ “You Make My Dreams” blended into his own “Dreams.” In fact, even his own soulful, Motown-tinged tunes sounded like covers, albeit solid, technically-proficient ones, but they could use a new take on the style.
4:35 p.m. Toronto’s Death From Above 1979 played ear-pounding synths and drums to an ever-widening mosh pit. Drummer and vocalist Sebastien Grainger jumped off the stage to jam with the band’s ASL interpreter: “You looked so lonely over there. I wanted to hang with you.”-AM
5:01 p.m. Though they may have been the legacy act for this year’s Lolla bill, Big Audio Dynamite’s funk, dance-punked, sample-laden stew sounded far from dated. Here’s to “The Bottom Line,” “Rush” and “C’mon Every Beatbox” forever remaining dance club staples, and Mick Jones keeping his political dedications.
5:10 p.m. North Suburbs native Patrick Stump appeared before Lolla crowds in a white suit with impressive shoulder pads – just one of many visual cues that this was not going to be another Fall Out Boy gig. Stump was playing material from his R&B-inflected pop record, Soul Punk. The genre-bending left at least one fan confused: “So, is this supposed to be R&B or like a punk boy band or what?”–AM
5:45 p.m. Deftones frontman Chino Moreno is a master of dynamics. One moment his voice was a haunting whisper - then he’s screaming into the mic. Frank Delgado’s atmospheric keyboards hold it all together.–AM
5:56 p.m. Local Natives harmonies + Graham Elliott lobster corndog + Gage/Henri’s shrimp sandwich = Sheer. Bliss.
6:36 p.m. In 2006 Cee-Lo and Gnarls Barkley wore tennis outfits. In 2008 they looked preppy-clean. In 2011 Cee-Lo and his female backing band looked like something of the future, if it were dipped in a little S&M (the ladies were scantily clad) and guys all wore black shoulder pads adorned with chains and gigantic spikes. While the future was the look, the sounds looked back, from a Violent Femmes’ “Gone Daddy Gone” cover, to turntable spins spanning Guns N’ Roses, Nirvana, and Depeche Mode. But his freaky take on Billy Idol’s “Flesh for Fantasy” (“This song turns me on,” he said) indicated he’s better off sticking with the stuff he does best, call me “Crazy.”
7:16 p.m. Sweden’s Lykke Li purveyed her songs of crushing out, heartbreak, and lust to a dance-crazy crowd, but most of her ballads, such as “I Know Places,” fair better in an intimate setting. Still, she and her band added more fire to songs like “I’m Good, I’m Gone” and “Dance Dance Dance,” which both featured extended outros. Her material may not all translate as well in the festival setting yet, but it came close.
7:30 p.m. Atmosphere MC Slug (Sean Daley) has ideas about audience orchestration. He instructs us to wave our arms, clap our hands and pump our fists. “I want to see some asses wiggling!” he yelled. Raps like “Sunshine,” about riding your bike on a sunny day, will prove an interesting counterpoint to the Eminem show set to unfold across the field–AM
8:19 p.m. MC Slug’s got the crowd pumped during the revved-up stage-wide sing-along “Trying to Find a Balance” to the point that at 8:27 the crowd was chanting “One more song” to no avail.
8:30 p.m. No fireworks or Coldplay-style laser display for Louisville’s My Morning Jacket. The band kept it simple, eschewing their more experimental material for arena-ready roots rock. Discrete songs give way to long jams as Jim James and Carl Broemel play dueling guitars. “I’m Amazed” lends the set a country flavor.-AM
8:30 p.m. The bar was set low for me before Eminem’s performance, given several respected, musically-inclined friends told me he was terrible live. Perhaps having such low expectations contributed to the fact that I was pleasantly surprised, or perhaps they all caught him while he was still strung out. Regardless, as a Detroit-area native, I was excited to see him for the first time. It wasn’t perfect, but I wasn’t disappointed. A parade of guests joined Eminem throughout his set, among them Royce Da 5’9”, Bruno Mars and Skylar Grey. He joked about relapsing, swigging from a bottle of clear liquid – and while there were some vocal issues where they needed more volume, such as during “Stan,” where the vocal tracks were less evident – he remained sober and on point. He performed recent hits, including “Love The Way You Lie” and “Not Afraid,” but it was his early material (“The Way I Am,” “Kill You” and medleys of “My Name Is,” “The Real Slim Shady” and “Without Me”) that made a case for the greatest rapper alive title he’s elicited from some listeners.