Live Concert Review

Lollapalooza 2012: Of Monsters & Men by Doyle Armbrust

The Icelandic quotient of my LP collection is often reserved primarily for the shortest, bleakest, dark-lord-take-me-now days of the Chicago winter. Often heavy on the string arrangements and disolate, atmospheric textures, the country has been steadily exporting arresting albums from artists like Ólafur Arnalds and Anna Thorvaldsdottir...and that other group performinging today. Cigar something? Bringing us the cheerier side of North Atlantic patchouli-pop for an early-evening set was Reykjavík's Of Monsters & Men.

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Lollapalooza 2012: Jack White by Doyle Armbrust

There was a time when the words "Fiji Mermaid" or "Lobster Boy" painted on the side of a canvas tent would send chills up the vertebrae, and entry would produce gasps and the need for smelling salts. It's a brand of wonderment that's time has come and gone. The often self-embellished narrative of Jack White, and the aesthetic scrupulousness with which he drapes himself, his shows and his albums, stems from this kind of augmented reality. The black and blue palette of his first solo record, Blunderbuss, and the tour's gear and constuming is a study in semiotics. If anything, it draws the listener in deeper, creating a kind of synaesthetic fort, and Sunday's headlining set was just one stop short of the Kentucky Fried Movie Feel-A-Round experience.

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Lollapalooza 2012: tUnE-yArDs by Doyle Armbrust

Ecstasy. No, not referring to the re-uptake-inhibited ragers over at Perry's stage. "Ecstasy" is the single best descriptor of a tUnE-yArDs set and the maniacal-yet-ordered ululations, yips, and caterwauls of aural mastermind Merrill Garbus. Scrambling to reset the stage after the festival-emptying lighting storm, Garbus rallied with tour mates Nate Brenner (bass), Matt Nelson (sax) and Noah Bernstein (sax) to dispatch one of the most creative displays of the festival, accomplishing this in a mere 30 minutes for the abbreviated set.

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Lollapalooza 2012: Black Sabbath by Doyle Armbrust

Chicago, all hail! The Prince of Darkness has arisen to reclaim his devilish throne!

Sort of...

Look, all of us Sabbath-worshipping, first four album-clinging fans knew what we were getting into. We've seen the black-clad figure shuffling and muddling around his estate before exploitive cameras, chipping away at our memories of this forerunner of the heaviest of metals. It didn't, though, dissuade us from posting up early at the Bud Light stage, hungry to see three of the original four—Osbourne, Iommi and Butler—on stage together, at long last, for a full concert.

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Lollapalooza 2012: Sharon Van Etten by Doyle Armbrust

For music best-suited to under-the-covers, blinds-drawn listening, a live 3pm set in sun-drenched Grant Park is a formidable artistic hurdle. Not so for Brooklyn's Sharon Van Etten. Following a glowing delivery from London-born singer-songwriter Michael Kiwanuka, and after somehow managing a sound check beneath the Black Angels psych-blowout across the way, Van Etten delivered one of Lollapalooza's most exquisite performances in recent history.

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Lollapalooza 2011: Cool Kids by Doyle Armbrust

Hey, Lolla: "Hands in the air even if your arms don't work!" In a lineup perennially short on metal and hip-hop, it's always refreshing to break up the ever-present post-this and electro-that with bona fide MCs whose crowd hyping doesn't come off like a cry of desperation (looking at you, Bloody Beetroots). Speaking of the Death Crew 77, gamers unfamiliar with Chicago's hometown rap duo may have come across the Cool Kids mashing it up with the Beetroots on Need for Speed: Nitro, or solo on any of a smattering of glossy, sport-themed cartridges…sorry, discs. For all the talk of Mikey Rocks and Chuck Inglish's facial-physical detachment in performance, there's no denying the pair's seamless verbal junctions, crimping together aw-HELL-no flows like: "She said I need me a baño / Cause you be sharp like the keys of a piano / She blowin' my candles like Feliz Cumpleaños."

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Lollapalooza 2011: Manchester Orchestra by Doyle Armbrust

One can only hope that proponents of philoso-comedian Marc Maron (who did a stint at Mayne Stage this weekend)'s intensely addictive podcast were at the Google+ stage tonight for a similarly autobiographical experience. Manchester Orchestra founder and singer Andy Hull makes no bones about taking personal self-divulgence well beyond the limited worlds of Facebook (and Google+ for that matter), tearing out his heart, Mola Ram style, and condemning it on stage for whomever will listen.

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Lollapalooza 2011: Ratatat by Doyle Armbrust

While threads of music tailor-made for network hospital dramas slipped between the branches enshrouding the Google+ stage from over at Budweiser, techs scrambled to disassemble the handbell, OK Go set to make way for the 8:45pm slot. NY riff-mongers Ratatat would not take the stage till 9pm, teasing the crowd with an occasional synth flourish to test the monitors, and leaving a beer-ed up crowd antsy for confirmation that its bypass of Muse would not be in vain.

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Lollapalooza 2010: Golgol Bordello + Edward Sharpe + AFI + Social Distortion + Cut Copy by Doyle Armbrust

Every three-day festival has at least one wonky day, and Saturday, you are it. Of course there are exceptions. Gogol Bordello, with its frenetic polka beats and can't-help-but-make-you-smile accordion, acts like a cochlear palette cleanser amidst the musics of the Western persuasion. If these New York gypsies are at all road-weary from what seems to be perennial touring, they are masking it well. If the Gogols are joy in a minor key, then Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros are the major key analogue. Hearing "Om Nashi Me" chanted on a record may conjure up thoughts of Father Yod and Yahowa 13, or at least breakfast at Victory's Banner, but live it makes not hugging the person next to you an impossibility. There were no arms crossed or feet planted here in the, Sony bloggie Stage.

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Lollapalooza 2010: Lady Gaga by Doyle Armbrust

When an unfathomable number of little digital camera screens transform the August night sky several shades lighter, held aloft both by young hands and those a bit more weathered, it's time to acknowledge that this is no ordinary Lolla headliner. There are those of a certain disposition who have managed to remain happily ignorant of the goings-on of Gaga, save the occasional strain of "Bad Romance" escaping a car window, and I am of that disposition. Heading south of Buckingham fountain with little more than a long-standing leeriness of anything referred to as a "phenomenon," this Gaga-Noob was about to learn a few things:

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Lollapalooza 2009: Tool by Doyle Armbrust

Chicago! Fall to your knees in supplication to the almighty Tool! Fear not the meatheaded-ness of the lurking, Tool-shirt adorned creatures and come hither...for this is hour of the massive, the epic, the illimitable.

Yeah, listening to Tool results in language like the above, and a distorted sense of one's own might. It's similar to the way people felt coming out of the theater after seeing Fight Club, already pitying the poor sap who tried to mess with them. The beer tent had started serving its suds in plastic cups according to one leery worker, "Becuase, you know...because of Tool fans," and no one who steered clear of the southern end of Grant Park can really be blamed. Musically speaking, though, they missed some boss metal.

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