Chicago — The plan for a weekend of Lollapalooza shuffle firmly established, Saturday’s musical Pu-Pu platter was a bit more focused on rock and its various offshoots, plus, frankly, bands I either love already or was just curious about.
First on the list was hip-hop’s current go-to hook queen, Skylar Grey. In her first major appearance since blowing up thanks to her vocals on Dr Dre’s “I Need a Doctor,” singer/songwriter Grey is clearly read to go out on her own. (She would join pal Eminem later in the night during his headlining set.)
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With a haunting, gothy vibe, Grey came out wearing a ragged white hoodie that hung in shreds like a ghost shawl down to her ankles, accented by combat boots, army pants and a white sports bra that showed off her impossibly thin belly. She was all aggression and angst, at one point neck-tackling her guitarist.
Her moody rock tunes, which balanced programmed beats with live playing, combined anxiety and empowerment (“Monster,” “Beautiful Nightmare”), showing off her crisp, high vocals and the plainspoken songwriting slated for her upcoming major-label debut. Part Alanis Morissette and part Dido, the songs struck a balance between vulnerability and no B.S. strength. The self-professed “f—ing weirdo” also played a snippet of Radiohead’s “Creep” before busting into her own tune about being a super freak, “Weirdo.”
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Just as they did two years ago, British dance popsters Friendly Fires drew an early, sweaty slot on the North main stage, but made the most of it with a high-energy set that ended with the falsetto boogie anthem “Kiss of Life.” It was a very different vibe just moments later on an adjacent stage when pale, puffy-eyed and sleepless-looking flower punkers the Black Lips stumbled out for one of their typically chaotic sets.
It had all the usual shenanigans: flying spit, cookie-tossing and beer-shotgunning … and that was just during the first two songs. Guitarist Cole Alexander threw up several times during the 1960s-swinging “Family Tree,” before executing a sloppy backward tumble and catching some of his spit off the back of his guitar. But it was songs like the Nuggets-worthy bopper “O Katrina,” which blew by in a blur of Hendrix-like fuzz solos, screaming vocals and runaway-train drums that got the crowd moving.
Sometimes you just wander by something and have to take a look, which is what happened with the band Dom. With songs like “Jesus Hail Satan” and “Brochicha” you might have expected something heavier and way more metal from the from the Worcester, Massachusetts, group, but instead they served up bopping, sunny pop/rock with a New Wave swing that was a nice antidote to the Lips’ more assaultive show.
Down at the South end of the park, retro soul man Mayer Hawthorne served up a number of blue-eyed soul nuggets from his upcoming debut (like “Just Ain’t Gonna Work Out”) mixed with a snippet of the Pharrell chorus on Snoop Dogg’s “Beautiful,” as well as Hall and Oates’ “You Make My Dreams Come True.”
Despite a nearly 21-year layoff of the original lineup of Big Audio Dynamite, the group led by former Clash member Mick Jones still felt fresh in its Lolla debut. The band’s once-ahead-of-its-time reggae/hip-hop sound may have sounded even more relevant than in its heyday. Songs like the classics “Medicine Show,” “A Party” and “B.A.D.” mixed pop hooks with reggae, thunking beats, guitar, rapping and snippets of cowboy movie classics into a thick, enticing musical gumbo.
A day after his former bandmate Pete Wentz made his major debut with his new band, the electro-dance Black Cards, ex-Fall Out Boy singer Patrick Stump had his turn. Looking dapper in a kind of futuristic tuxedo/Dickies combo, Stump played to a large crowd on one of the smaller side stages, impressing with his soulful take on modern R&B.
At one point, he jumped behind the drum kit for a super medley of classic New Jack Swing hits, including “This Is How We Do It,” “Every Little Step,” “Motownphilly” and “Poison.” When he was back out front, the sound was all nervy Soul Punk (not coincidentally, the perfectly titled name of his upcoming debut solo album). Tunes like “Explode” were the perfect mix of indie energy and Motown bounce, but Stump really endeared himself with the earnest ode to his beloved town, “My City,” in which he praised all that is good (and bad) in Chicago.
British pop chanteuse Ellie Goulding enticed the crowd with the sexy “Under the Sheets” and “This Love Will Be Your Downfall,” coming off like a more mainstream Bjork thanks to her high, reedy voice, but with way more disco/pop swing.
Wearing her standard raccoon-eye makeup and skin-baring, almost-not-there band-aid dress, Taylor Momsen and the Pretty Reckless got lots of love for their doomy set of grungy pop/metal on a small side stage. Songs like “Light Me Up,” “My Medicine” and “Zombie” felt a bit too dark for the bright dinnertime set, but Momsen’s banshee yelp and her all-male band’s Sunset Strip hair-metal attack cooked up the perfect amount of dark madness.
All in all, not a bad mix for a hazy, lazy Saturday.
MTV News is in Chicago for Lollapalooza 2011! Stick with us all weekend as we cover the bands you love and the bands you will love soon.
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