The Electric Commentary

Monday, August 07, 2006


Let's get a few things out of the way right off the bat. eels. They suck. They were the suckiest bunch of sucks who've ever sucked. Mr. E's musical turd. And I like the eels, which made things all the worse. I think we need a new rule:

If you normally sing your songs, screaming them will not make them better.

I like birds too but you don't have to be so loud about it.

Friday was the day that I saw bands fronted by crazies, assholes, and crazy assholes. Ryan Adams, for instance, is a crazy asshole. I've been burned by Mr. Adams before, and this was no exception. The guy plays great, sings good, writes a mean pop song, but on this occasion he decided only to play songs that no one knows. Not a one. He kept the deranged ranting to a minimum, which was nice, and he was proficient at his weird songs, but man, he's just a huge douchebag.

Aqualung was OK, not great. It's hard to listen to a mellow band during lunch time. It's just a tough assignment They were non-offensive.

The day picked up with Iron and Wine. I always had them pegged as extremely mellow, but they're mellow in an intense kind of way. Plus the lead singer deserves all kinds of credit for braving the heat with an enormous beard. The day had been a bit rough to this point. The sun was blistering, (Literally. I'm not used to putting sun block on the receding portion of my hairline, and I've got a mean baldness burn.) and the bands had been fronted by insane jerks. But Iron and Wine really picked us up.

Next we made the long trek across Grant Park to catch the Raconteurs, Jack White's little side project. This is a good, solid, rock band. They play a fun, loud show, and they play like they mean it. They even played a little Gnarls Barkley Crazy cover. That Jack is a talented fellow.

The reliable Violent Femmes know what people want; Blister in the Sun, Kiss Off, Country Death Song, etc. I'm sure they played Add It Up as well, but we had to vamoose to catch Death Cab for Cutie. If you have an opportunity to see the Femmes, you should. That's my motto.

The much maligned DCFC, unfairly tarnished as pop sellouts for their OC fame, play a very good show. They write interesting instrumentals in interesting time signatures. Instruments go in an out, and it all makes sense. I like it when you can tell that a lot of work went into something, and that it wasn't in vain. Ben Gibbard's voice is not the fullest, but his distinctiveness more than makes up for it. They sounded great, except on The Sound of Settling where someone's guitar was out of tune, which was apt, I suppose.

The following day we got going a bit late. While we were waiting for the Flaming Lips we heard the Dresden Dolls. This band is based on the juxtaposition of weird, gothy clown makeup combined with Jack-in-the-box music, plus disturbing lyrics. They were quite horrible, but, since we didn't feel bad about leaving early we were able to get close to the Lips (pictures to follow). We also saw Matt Pinfield (yep, still alive) interviewing Wolfmother. For the record, they do powder his noggin before going on camera.

Wayne Coyne's toxic super freak-out was a good time for all. He rolled in the the giant hamster ball, they had dancing aliens, Santas, and their stage-hands were dressed like super heroes. They also played a mean set of fantastic songs, and pelted us with blue balloons. And I'm a still a bit high from the second hand smoke.

It is also worth noting that Wayne made a bit on an anti-Israeli speech, which is fine. Musicians make political speeches. However, I couldn't help wondering if this led them to leave Fight Test off of the set list.

We then hiked on over to The New Pornographers, who had been scheduled to play in between Common and Kanye West, which was strange. I'm a big fan, and they didn't disappoint me, although the crowd didn't seem that revved up. They're a little B-52s, and a little Pixies, and I'm a sucker for male/female harmonization for some reason. Good energy.

We kicked off before Kanye. Not a big fan.

As a side note, on our train ride to the park we encountered a guy doing the "3-cups and a hidden ball" gambling game, and people were actually playing. How can people do this? How can you wager actual money on a game that you know for certain is rigged. I'm not sure of the explanation, but I'll bet it explains some breakdown in economic theory. On the way home I rode the train with Chicago street performer icon "The Tin Man." This guy stands on a little pedestal, painted all in silver with futuristic tin man accessories and a funnel hat, and he will only move, robot style, if you toss a buck in his bucket. He stayed in character on the train, which was both impressive and annoying.

Sunday started with The Shins. Nope, it didn't change my life. They were fine, but The Shins lead singer does a lot of self harmonization on their albums, which is tough to recreate live. They were also plagued by tech problems and seemed to be a bit pissed about it. Not a bad show, but also not up to expectations.

From left to right, Katie, Mike, Ben, and Me at the shins show.

Chicago darlings Wilco played a set that would have been nice for a group of insomniacs looking for a fun night sleep inducement. Jeff Tweedy, who is really starting to look like a Muppet, walked through a dull set of dull Wilco songs with little flair. Their one bright spot, the up-beat Heavy Metal Drummer, briefly revved up the audience, but they quickly faded back into their boring ways. Where's Son Volt when you need them?

Blues Traveler played after Wilco to wake everyone up. They sound exactly like you think they should sound. I will say this, John Popper would make a pretty good Jake Blues. Better than Jim Belushi, anyway.

Before the RHCP we caught a few tunes from Broken Social Scene. They were pleasant, and may be worth further investigation.

Finally we have the Red Hot Chili Peppers. They were fine. I'll be honest. We left a bit early to beat traffic. There is only so much crowded L traffic that one person can take. The Chili Peppers were exactly what you would expect, with their funky beats and wild shenanigans. They sounded good, as you would expect, but I was suffering from some show burnout and I was still a bit sleepy from Wilco. Rumors were circulating that some big surprise would take place, so hopefully I didn't miss anything too cool, but I suspect not.

I'm not sure how much I dig the big music festival. Some bands were great, but many did not seem to break out their best stuff. Bad playlists plagued many bands, and I think this may have been the result of having a somewhat captive audience. Still, it was fun, and the bands that I really enjoy did, by and large, play good sets.


  • My text must have not gone through, stupid Cingular. The "stick around you might see some cool surprises" trick broadcasted before the Shins, was alas, a trick. Unless 30 minutes after the Chili Peppers the Smashing Pumpkins showed up and I missed out on the greatest thing ever. But I doubt it.

    By Anonymous Mike, at 10:56 AM  

  • we wear the same hat.

    By Blogger ahren, at 12:50 PM  

  • I've got the old-timey BM logo too, but I save that for special occasions, formals and whatnot.

    By Blogger PaulNoonan, at 2:26 PM  

  • nice. i still need to get one of those. but i'm loathe too now that they're "in".

    life as a contrarian can be so difficult.

    By Blogger ahren, at 3:21 PM  

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