At the Drive-In
Outside of the weather (it was sunny and pleasant all day Sunday, thanks for asking!), the main narrative of Lollapalooza 2012 seemed to be the same argument everybody was having in 1997: Is this the year that samplers and turntables replace guitars as the new rock and roll?
There were arguments on both sides all weekend. Perry’s Stage, the space devoted to the non-stop thump of EDM from dawn until way past dusk, was constantly overrun with dance-happy revelers, making it the most consistently populated performance space of the festival.
Huge names in dance had major moments, including Avicii’s Saturday night headlining set, and Sunday’s docket of acts like Justice and Kaskade.
What did the rock gods do to counter the perpetual threat of being overtaken by the untz-untz-untz crowd? They turned up their amps and let themselves sprawl.
It was somewhat poetic that Jack White closed out Lollapalooza weekend, as he has slowly built himself up into the kind of poly-tentacled hybrid that Lolla founder Perry Farrell adores, though White certainly goes about it in more analog fashion. During his headlining set on the south end of Grant Park, White attempted to turn a giant field into his own juke joint, a place where smoking blues rubbed elbows with country twang and garage-metal bluster.
In giving time to both his all-male and all-female backing bands (the latter tagged in about halfway through the set), White tapped into the dynamism that fueled his recent solo effort Blunderbuss and also reinvented some of his old classics as entirely new species (see the finger-pluckin’ hoedown version of the White Stripes standard “Hotel Yorba” for just one example).
Though the men, Los Buzzardos, do possess an undeniable technical mastery, White was best served by the ladies, dubbed the Peacocks, on Sunday night, especially when singer Ruby Amanfu traded barbs with White on “Ball and Biscuit.” “Love Interruption” has also evolved from the quiet-storm version on Blunderbuss into a more visceral, dangerous-feeling grind. As he tends to do, White closed out his show with the White Stripes’ signature tune “Seven Nation Army,” which allowed all those left in still-swampy Grant Park to sing along with that notorious descending bassline.
The only dancing one can truly do to post-hardcore aggro legends At the Drive-In, though, is of the slamming variety, and there was in fact a full-scale mosh pit—one of the few of the weekend—during the group’s early evening set. They haven’t played all that many dates since getting back together earlier this year, and they’ve decided not to record anything new (in that way, they are a lot like Rage Against the Machine, a band they vaguely resemble in sonic approach and make-up).
That made their Lollapalooza appearance feel like a true event, a rare occurrence this weekend (at least for performances not involving Frank Ocean). The group more than rose to the occasion, mostly due to their high-intensity set list that stuck mainly to the group’s breakthrough album Relationship of Command and to singer Cedric Bixler-Zavala’s manic frontman swagger. Like a multicultural David Lee Roth, Bixler-Zavala twists, leaps, stutter-steps, and casually tosses around his microphone stand with the nonchalance of a true rock star.
He was a fountain of calm in between songs, taking quiet sips from a mug on stage while his bandmates adjusted their pedals, but when the bass drum kicked in, he drove rage and ache through the jittery walls of sound “Pattern Against User” and “One Armed Scissor.” His performance even drew the attention of Breaking Bad star Aaron Paul, who stared in awe at the Bixler-Zavala’s moves from the side of the stage.
At the other end of the spectrum sat the Dum Dum Girls, who take the “throb” part of heartthrob very seriously. Their goth-kissed girl group fuzz could have easily gotten lost in the afternoon sun, but they were handily propped up by the propulsive backbeats laid down by drummer Sandy.
The Girls made a solid case for having transcended their admittedly gimmicky approach, and they did it with chugging melody delivery systems like “Coming Down” and “Bedroom Eyes.”
Readers, were you there? Tell us your own Lolla highlights in the comments below.
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At the Drive-In