Lollapalooza: The Cure and Phoenix close out the fest

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4:09 p.m.: "We're so excited to be wearing jackets up here!" exclaims Tegan Quin, referencing the enjoyable temperature as well as she and her twin sister Sara's appearance at Lollapalooza in 2005. Indeed, sweltering heat forced Sara offstage then, but today, she's in it for the long haul. Backed by auxiliary instrumentalists, the Canadian duo delivers like a veteran band should, with little fuss, cheerful banter and a string of energetic songs that journey through the past three decades of pop evolution. On the surface, Tegan and Sara deal in the debris of busted relationships and spurned love. They're now more punk in spirit than sound, with bubblegum refrains and synthesizer-spiked grooves bolstered by passionate vocals, muscular drums and strong-willed feminine determination. "Go, go, go if you want/I can't stop you," the pair cries, their voices cascading to symphonic effect. Underneath the tear-stained pain beats a bulletproof heart. Evidence arrives courtesy of hootenanny-igniting folk-pop and trampoline-ready dance beats that turn any hints of sadness into reasons for letting go of the past and starting anew. (BG)

4:47 p.m.: Machines are People Too cover Haddaway's 1993 hit "What is Love," a catchy 1993 hit that blends Eurodance pop with soul. The Nashville band never quite matches that peak during the rest of its performance, its tunes bubbling past agreeably but with little to distinguish them. One feature stands out: an over-reliance on wordless vocal harmonies. The quintet deserves an award for packing the most "Whoaahs" into a set. (GK)

4:48: p.m.: Wavves music has undoubtedly matured in recent years, even if frontman Nathan Williams still refuses to grow up. “Jesus loves you,” purrs the singer in the midst of the quartet's early evening performance. “No he doesn't!” Psyche! Even when Williams sings he does so with a noticeable sneer, delivering virtually every line as though it were a snotty aside. He must have been murder on his teachers growing up. Of course, Williams remains his own favorite target, and his songs tend to be so self-lacerating one almost wishes he'd adopt a Stuart Smalley-esque mantra to work through his self-esteem issues. “I still feel stupid,” he snarls on “Super Soaker.” “Stupid!” Musically, however, Williams and Co. display world-beating confidence, throwing themselves headlong into crashing surf-rock numbers (“King of the Beach”) and pop-punk rumblers that suggest Nirvana with a severe case of Peter Pan syndrome. (AD)

5:21 p.m.: Can you rock out to two tiny finger cymbals clicked together? Alt-J seems to believe so. Ditto the judges voting on the Mercury Prize, a prestigious British award recently bestowed on this English quartet. Of course, there's always the possibility voters gulped down sedatives before casting their ballot. Over-thought, over-convoluted and overly mechanical, Alt-J come across as an experimental art-rock project gone haywire. If the goal is to mimic the internal robotic processes of a mainframe computer (the band's name refers to a Macintosh command), the ensemble has succeeded beyond its wildest dreams. Drowsy, tortoise-paced songs such as "Ms" are constructed of piecemeal fragments; stops and starts yield to pretentious acapella harmonizing. The ensuing dullness makes the light, dub hiccups during "Breezeblocks" feel like black metal in comparison. Time for a nap. (BG)  

5:42 p.m.: In “Ocean's Eleven,” George Clooney instructs Matt Damon on the art of the con, saying something to the effect that it's important to make an impression without being memorable. Clooney might as well have been talking about Canadian quartet Bear Mountain. The electro-funk band's early evening set is certainly pretty, packed with danceable drum grooves, shimmering synths and singer Ian Bevis' weightless falsetto, which skips along the surface of the music like a water bug. Unfortunately, an absence of hooks and a limited sonic range relegates much of the group's music to background status, and even a cover of Tears for Fears' “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” fails to rouse much of a pulse. This band is roughly the sonic equivalent of beige paint: pleasant enough to take in but nothing that leaves any sort of real impression. (AD)

6:12 p.m.: Give the drummer some love. Christopher Bear, manning percussion for Grizzly Bear, is given a shout-out by way of band mates that introduce him as a born-and-bred Chicagoan. He's the secret weapon behind the indie group's enigmatic ebb and flow. Ed Droste and Daniel Rossen trade off airy vocal highs and lows, giving the impression that half of the ensemble wants to go forward while the other half yearns to stay behind. The back-and-forth push-pull is the engine that drives cerebral, pensive material such as "The Knife." Chamber-pop nuances, Moog accents and obtuse angles remain in play, but they're beefier and bigger than on record. Last fall at the Riviera Theatre, Grizzly Bear asked the crowd for silence. No need here. Vibrations even punch fans in the chest. Witness the ringing, wind-up keyboard riff to "Two Weeks," which guides the band down a curvy, rickety path not unlike that traveled by thrill-seekers riding a wooden roller coaster. (BG)  

6:31 p.m.: While there's still a preciousness to Vampire Weekend that suggests the bandmates fetishize Wes Anderson films like “Rushmore” and “The Life Aquatic,” these days the New York-based band is finally learning how to loosen up. Singer Ezra Koenig even takes the Lollapalooza stage for the group's headlining performance wearing jeans. Jeans! Of course, the quartet hasn't quite abandoned its posh past. The roman pillars decorating the stage suggest the style of architecture typically associated with on-campus buildings at prestigious universities, and the songs are still dotted with references tailored to those with sizable expense accounts (Louis Vuitton, etc.). But even if Koenig and Co. haven't let their hair down completely just yet, it's significantly more tussled on new tunes like “Step,” a spiked ditty where the frontman throws down the gauntlet, singing, “The gloves are off, the wisdom teeth are out.” A buzzing “Diane Young” explores similarly adult themes, Koenig singing about a girl “with the luck of a Kennedy” in a tale that plays like the inevitable flip-side to the Cape Cod good life. Even better are gorgeous new tunes like “Ya Hey,” “Unbelievers” and “Everlasting Arms,” a swooning, hymn-like song that momentarily turns the crowded park into a brilliant, blue-skied cathedral. (AD)

6:37 p.m.: Skrillex is the biggest name in EDM, so even one of his side projects draws a huge crowd to Perry's. The programmer's duo with fellow DJ Boys Noize is called Dog Blood, and it's designed to pummel. Even the video screens beneath the mixing board appear to wobble with each quaking bass line, as the two orchestrate burping beats, blaring car alarms, sing-song voices chirping in foreign languages, even sampled vocal snippets of rapper Kendrick Lamar. Everything is distorted and then bent, a symphony of noises toppling into each other and inducing a frenzy of dancing and pogoing in the audience. Skrillex and Boys Noize direct the crowd with waving arms as much as they hunch over the board. "Everybody set your asses down on the ground for us," Skrillex commands, and the fans dutifully comply. Then he builds them back up with a series of progammed voices: "Everybody get down low" and "Push 'em up, push 'em up, up." The sequence crashes into a series of rhythms that evoke a punk rock band busting through a static-riddled radio signal, a throwback to Skrillex's own days in California hardcore bands. It's an expertly sequenced set from a connoisseur of body music. (GK)

7:07 p.m.: Rather than duplicate the crushing assault of Dog Blood on the Perry's stage, Major Lazer aims for a more syncopated space, channeling Caribbean and South American street music. The project, led by Diplo -- wearing a tie and white shirt for the occasion -- suggests a street carnival more than a typical club performance, a vibe enhanced by a half-dozen waving flags. (GK)

7:15 p.m.: C'mon, man, get up on your feet. Act like you care even if you're faking it. Beach House's Alex Scally is evidently so taxed by having to hold a guitar that he sits on a stool for the bulk of the Baltimore dream-pop band's performance. Such detached cool and reserved indifference might play in small clubs but the move smacks of amateurism and laziness at a large festival. Vocalist Victoria Legrand doesn't seem inclined to move, either. She stands behind a bank of keyboards and sings largely indecipherable words that are filtered through mazes of gauzy reverb. Beach House's inert charisma parallels the numbing one-dimensionality of its fluffy, headphone-tailored songs. Scally finally stands for a brief period midway through the set, and Legrand whips her mane of hair around during "Wishes." Woo, what enthusiasm. Then again, given the paltry crowd, the joke's on them. "This is our first time," Legrand says about the group's Lollapalooza appearance. "It may be our last time." Promise? (BG)

7:28 p.m.: While Vampire Weekend briefly transformed Lollapalooza into a house of worship, College Park, Georgia, rapper 2 Chainz does his part to turn his corner of the park into a jam-packed nightclub. Make that an exceptionally wild club. Early in the performance a gentleman in a wheelchair surfs on top of the crowd, and this is likely the first time the rapper has ever asked the people “hanging out in the trees” to make some noise. The lanky MC, a longtime supporting player on the hip-hop scene, has earned his star turn largely through the sheer force of his outsize personality, which remains on full display here. He's alternately goofy, sincere, hedonistic, charming and outright hilarious. He's also, to my knowledge, the only artist who thinks to acknowledge the community that exists outside Lolla's gated walls. “A lot of Chicago men are dying for no reason,” he says in heartfelt tribute to the victims of the city's ongoing epidemic of gun violence. Of course, he follows this by offering up an R.I.P. to the stage itself, because, in his words, “I'm killing this [bleep].” It's funny, of course, but it's also not wrong. (AD)

8:32 p.m.: If the Cure, playing across the park, are the depressive half in that classic depiction of the drama masks, Phoenix, a six-piece band from Versailles, France, exist as its grinning counterpart. The group kicks off its fest-closing set by blasting through a steady stream of upbeat rockers, including impossibly catchy, guitar-driven numbers like “Entertainment,” “Lasso” and “Lisztomania.” Of course, with most people off watching Robert Smith emote, a comparatively small crowd is left behind to witness the performance. Even so, the band plows ahead undeterred, transforming “Run Run Run” from a jangly rocker into spirited rager alive with spiraling riffs and turning in a new wave-ish “Trying to Be Cool” that sounds wholly effortless in spite of its title. (AD)

8:47 p.m.: Even Goth-rockers love singalongs. After the opening synth chords, the Cure's Robert Smith begins to belt out "Just Like Heaven" and is instantly joined by a Grant Park choir numbering in the tens of thousands. Smith and his bandmates sprinkle Cure classics such as "Pictures of You" and "Friday I'm in Love" through a set that continues the weekend's '80s nostalgia theme, begun by New Order and Nine Inch Nails. Smith is in fine voice, and he even pulls off a few interpretive dance moves -- a rare bout of friskiness from a singer who still sports frazzled hair, eye shadow and lipstick. It's become his trademark, and it's turned Smith somewhat timeless -- an ageless figure still singing about a type of loss, heartache and yearning that never dissipates. (GK)

 9:10 p.m.: "Make some noise!" Knife Party isn't very verbose, but the Australian electronic duo's specialty is volume, not words. A battering ram of ear-shredding decibels, flashing lights, smoke-emitting machines, manipulated frequencies and banging beats give an overflow crowd one last chance to dance, jump and let loose before Lollapalooza 2013 culminates. The disorienting array of moombahton, dubstep, drum n' bass and European-style disco comes on fast and furious. Toilet paper, inflatables and homemade signs stream overhead. If a $5-per-head house party could afford such a booming sound system and high-watt lighting rigs, this is what it would resemble. It's exactly what the ravers want: Nothing less, and, by all means, nothing more. (BG)











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The Grammys 2011