The Music or Space Shuttle? braintrust rolls out its top albums of 2014 this week! Today we start with our individual picks for #11-20, with playlists sampling each group of 10. We’ll reveal our top 10 throughout the week, culminating with our top pick on Friday, Dec. 19th.
Seems fitting that on the day when musical perfection headlined Lollapalooza, the weather would be perfect too.
Seriously, one of my greatest fears about going to Lollapalooza, something I hadn’t done since the traveling circus days (1994, to be exact), was being among thousands and thousands of people on a 100-degree, high-dew-point kind of day. But when the Cure was named as the headliner for Sunday, I knew that I needed to brave the masses and the potential mugginess to see Robert Smith and Co. one more time.
So it was in 75-degree sunshine (with a slight breeze to boot) that I took in Lolla 2013’s closing day, making the trek with my boy (and devoted MoSS? reader/commenter) Sam and his good friend Tony, whom I met back in my Marshalltown days. We met up with friends who were there all three days (two with ties to my hometown, Waukon, bringing the grand total of people with Waukon ties at Lollapalooza to, um, three, I’m guessing?) and had a hell of a time.
Before I get to the Cure, I should at least mention the other stuff I saw…
Palma Violets: Love the album. Love the energy they brought to the stage. They were having a blast and sounded great. Only thing: they seemed a bit dwarfed by the stage they were on, that being one of the two main stages (Bud Light, bro) in the park. Had they performed in The Grove or even the secondary stage not far from the Bud Light behemoth, I’m thinking it would have been a perfect fit. All the same, good way to start the day, even if I was by myself for this one (let’s just say the post-arrival Park and Ride experience was a stressful one and leave it at that).
Wild Nothing: By this point, I had met up with the friends who had been there for the entire festival, so I spent a good amount of time catching up with them while Wild Nothing played. Sounded great. Jack Tatum mentioned how cool it was to perform on a stage that would be graced by his favorite band of all time, the Cure. He’s worthy of sharing those planks.
MS MR: OK, so I thought I was heading to the stage where Baroness would be playing, but when the huge block letter “MS MR” appeared on the backdrop, um, well, I guess not. But it was the Grove, a smaller space lined with trees (hence the name), so I decided to stay put with my friend Denise and enjoy a little shade and synth. While it wasn’t the “rock your face off” show that Baroness put on (a point hammered home by Sam, Travis, Tony, and Annie a few times throughout the evening), it was a good showing from a band that put out a killer EP. (Not a big fan of the debut album consisting of the same four songs from the EP plus a few more new ones, but whatever.)
Two Door Cinema Club: Between MS MR and this point, a friend of Denise’s joined up with us and we tried to reconnect with the Baroness crew. Text messaging at this point was lagging; while we waited for messages to go through, we caught a couple of songs by TDCC. A lot of people were pretty excited about it; I was not one of them. Soon we decided it was time to head to the other end of the park where the Cure would be playing, a decision made partly to rescue Denise’s friend, who found herself on radar-lock by a drunk dude who made me look young and hip. We’re good people.
Alt-J: When we reached the south end of the park, we decided it was beer time. Sam and Tony magically appeared at the beer tent. It was a glorious reunion, and at least 18 times we heard about how great Baroness was. The girls left to go to 2 Chainz; the boys decided it was wise to go claim real estate near the Red Bull Stage for the Cure, even though Grizzly Bear still had to go on before them. While this was happening, Alt-J was playing in the background. Meh.
Grizzly Bear: So with the sole intention of making sure we had decent spots for the Cure, we headed over to the Red Bull stage. We were able to get a good spot on the left side of the crowd, probably 15-20 human rows back from the front gate. This would be closer than I was when I saw the Cure in 2000, and closer than the first time I saw them, in 1996.
So I’m looking at the following wait for the Cure:
5:30-6:00: Stand around and wait for Grizzly Bear
6:00-7:00: Grizzly Bear plays on Red Bull Stage
7:00-8:00: Stand around and wait for the Cure to go on
Here’s how long these portions felt:
5:30-6:00: 30 minutes (we were happy about our position, so time moved forward)
7:00-8:00: An hour (it helped that we could hear Beach House on the secondary stage behind us, and Cure fans, despite our reputation for being mopey, can make small talk amongst ourselves)
I don’t get the love for Grizzly Bear. At all. I’ve never liked their recordings. And hearing them live added nothing for me. I get the same vibe from them that I get from Wilco: “Dockers Rock.”
But again, remember the primary objective here: a good spot for the Cure. Mission accomplished. Just deal with this, just like you dealt with Red Red Meat opening for Smashing Pumpkins in 1994, and Elite Gymnastics opening for Sleigh Bells, and Oneohtrix Point Never for Sigur Ros, and that guy who exerted most of his talent trying to hang a tapestry at the Ducktails show in Iowa City. You’re a survivor, I told myself!
I will credit “Adrien Brody” for one thing: as Grizzly Bear’s set was wrapping up, he encouraged everyone to go over and check out Beach House. Yes, I thought, make room up front for me! Of course, hardly anyone took his advice. And almost everyone was thinking the same thing as me: “I hope all these people in front of me are huge Phoenix fans.” (Phoenix was headlining on the other side of the park.)
So while Beach House chilled out across the way, we all pressed forward until we became rather well acquainted with one another. And we waited. Thankfully I was surrounded by three cool dudes from Austin, Texas, and a woman presumably a little north of my age who was seeing the Cure for the first time. And a woman of Latin American descent who, although not the talkative sort, was drop-dead gorgeous. (shrug) And a dude in a Washington Nationals ballcap who was the leader of our platoon, fighting the good fight against people who tried to push past us when there was absolutely no room to be had. He handled all the talking, but he expected us all to stand our ground. And we did, despite the pleas of “but my friend/husband/little brother is up there!” And the ones who kept pushing got ushered the fuck out by the security along the gated central walkway…or they turned around.
While I waited, I caught myself bouncing. I was so excited to see this band, even if they weren’t my “white whale” as they were for everyone in my small circle (except for Sam, who accompanied me to the St. Louis show in 2000). The set list might not be filled with a vast selection of deep cuts, but it’s not like I don’t enjoy the Cure’s singles and poppy side, too. (“Friday I’m In Love” is a bit trying for me, I’ll admit.)
As the clock struck 8, the chimes started. After two concerts without it, I was going to get to experience “Plainsong,” the leadoff track from Disintegration, my favorite Cure song. It was as majestic as it had ever sounded.
How nice it was to hear four Disintegration songs within the first six titles. “Pictures of You” led into “Lullaby”; after “High” (the most underrated of their singles, I might argue) and “The End of the World,” we got “Lovesong.” At this point, Robert mentioned to the crowd that the evening’s proceedings had a bit of a poppy feel, and the band launched two staples of the live sets over the years, “In Between Days” and “Just Like Heaven.” After the final keyboard note of “JLH” ceased, I could hear someone behind me exclaim, “Holy shit! I’m fucking spent, only a half-hour in!”
We got a song from the post-Pornography pop set (“The Walk”), four more songs from Wish (“Friday,” “Doing the Unstuck,” “Trust,” and the powerhouse “From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea”), the fourth of the Disintegration singles (“Fascination Street”) and that album’s title track, and the song from 1997, “Wrong Number,” the studio recording of which featured Reeves Gabrels, the band’s new fifth member. There was even a song from 4:13 Dream, because, well, I don’t know. Seems like it would have been a perfect time to go with “Play for Today,” and let the rabid fans sing the keyboard line a la the version that appeared on the live album Paris. (I mention this as I wanted to prove to myself that I could find fault with the show.)
The band took a short break before coming out for the all-out pop hurricane encore. Robert mentioned that the “very precise” festival had 21 minutes left, so, augh! We better get crackin’! So out came “The Lovecats,” “The Caterpillar” (!), “Close to Me,” “Let’s Go to Bed,” “Why Can’t I Be You?,” and “Boys Don’t Cry” (“If they pull the plug on us, you’ll need to keep singing”). And then the music stopped, Robert walked to each side of the stage to nod and smile to the adoring fans, and that was that.
Specifics to note:
Simon Gallup is the coolest person in music, and plays a hell of a bass. And he appears to be ageless. What a stud.
Nice to see Roger O’Donnell once again in the fold. I love that “Trust” was part of the set, which gave him a true spotlight moment, and he was obviously enjoying the proceedings. I think he feeds off Simon’s unending energy, too; he was really getting into his playing at times.
Robert is known to alter the original lyric from “Let’s Go to Bed” (which goes “You think you’re tired now / well wait until 3”) to fit the occasion. Usually he refers to an hour even later; he used this line to comment on the “this ends at 10 p.m.” attitude of Lollapalooza. On this night it went: “You think you’re tired now / well, wait until [shrug] 11, I guess.”
After “The Walk” finished, someone tapped me and asked me what that song was called. I told him, and then I heard him relaying the answer to another dude. The original inquiring mind yelled, “The what?” So I turned around, yelled, “‘The Walk’!,” and did the old Yellow Pages “let your fingers do the walking” gesture. I got a smile and a thumbs-up in return. I love helping people!
I knew I was actually among real people and not in an Internet chat room because I didn’t hear a single person whine about Boris Williams not being the drummer anymore. (It’s been 20 years, and some fans online still won’t let it go.)
“From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea,” “One Hundred Years,” and “Disintegration” are played practically every single time the Cure performs a concert, and I think because of that, many diehard fans groan about their inclusion anymore. But for people like me who haven’t been able to see them very often, I absolutely love the fact that I know I’m going to get to hear these three intense numbers. “Deep Green Sea” in particular was searing on this particular night.
The set, both in song choice and performance, shows how multifaceted and multitalented the Cure really is. There are numerous kinds of Cure fans in my opinion (opposed to one person’s opinion that you’re either an “In Between Days” fan or a “Just Like Heaven” fan—what the hell does that even mean?), and I’m guessing that they all left the park very satisfied.
When I made that impulse buy, the Sunday ticket for Lollapalooza 2013, I was swayed by a couple of factors. One, my friend Travis Who Isn’t the Beast was going; the morning the one-day tickets went on sale, we were both waking in Chicago the day after the Sigur Ros show. He egged me on, and I was still riding the live-music high provided by the Icelandic trio. So without checking with the missus, I bought a ticket via smartphone. I’m a pushover. (As a result, I’m also probably taking the family to Chicago for the weekend, as it happens.)
Second, the killer roster, headlined by the Cure, my all-time favorites. I haven’t seen them in 13 years…it’s time. Vampire Weekend, Beach House, and Tegan & Sara also jumped off the poster. Looking at the artists and paying no mind to the logistics of stage placement and prominence, I envisioned a dream day as follows:
Lianne La Havas
Tegan & Sara
Now that the schedule is out and logistics come into play, here’s what I’m looking at:
Lianne La Havas
Tegan & Sara
VW is the huge omission, but there’s not a whole lot I can do about it unless I want to sacrifice Cure position. VW will play before Phoenix on the other side of the park; Grizzly Bear precedes the Cure. That’s a bit of a nut-punch (I don’t get the Grizzly Bear love), but I am seeing VW in October, so I can live with this.
(However, I am considering starting a Kickstarter campaign to see if I can bribe Grizzly Bear to switch stages with Vampire Weekend. I might even match every dollar pledged to the cause. Check MoSS? regularly for updates.)
DIIV also falls off the list, which is a bummer, but they are playing much later in the day than I would have anticipated, so I don’t want to move too much at this point. I might be able to sneak off to Palma Violets between Guards (whom I’ve seen up close and personal, opening for Cults back in 2011) and Wild Belle.
All in all, I’m happy. I must admit, my Vampire Weekend tickets for the Kansas City show make this a much easier pill to swallow. But I’ve been getting a kick out of all the people whining on social media about the various conflicts. Like how in the world could you put Nine Inch Nails against the Killers? Or why are Mumford and Sons going up against The Postal Service?
It should come as no surprise that the day’s two headliners would be pitted on opposite ends of the park. And really, is there much debate as to which band you should see, assuming you can maneuver around the park as you wish?
If you need help making a choice, you’re in luck: I’m here to help. I’ll address some of the conflicts I’ve seen discussed on Facebook…
First off, why is Jessie Ware playing so early? 1:00 is the best she could pull?
Band of Horses vs. Crystal Castles (4:15): A bunch of wusses who make decent tunes against the manic energy of Ethan Kath and Alice Glass. Even though I fear their sound doesn’t translate well live, I’m still going with Crystal Castles.
New Order vs. Queens of the Stone Age (6:15): “Blue Monday” and “Bizarre Love Triangle” and “Age of Consent” and on and on and on vs. the guy whose best work (to my ear) is the stuff he did with John Paul Jones. New Order
Nine Inch Nails vs. the Killers (vs. Lana Del Rey?) (headliners): The worst tracks on The Downward Spiral would easily make the cut against the Killers. And LOLa Del Rey…come on. Nine Inch Nails
SATURDAY (a.k.a. “Bro Day”)
Heartless Bastards (6:00)/Death Grips (7:15) vs. The National (6:00) vs. Kendrick Lamar (6:45) vs. the Lumineers (7:15): Duh. The National
Mumford and Sons vs. the Postal Service vs. Azealia Banks vs. Steve Aoki (headliners): Duh. Get some sleep at the hotel
Palma Violets (1:00) vs. the Orwells (1:00) vs. Wild Belle (1:30): I like what I’ve heard of Palma Violets, but not quite as much as Wild Belle. Orwells are third, but not meant as an insult. Wild Belle
Lianne La Havas (3:00) vs. MS MR (3:30) vs. Baroness (3:30): Baroness might provide some much-needed testosterone, and MS MR is cool as shit. I’m going with La Havas just to stay in one area, but if everything were equal…MS MR
Grizzly Bear (6:00) vs. Vampire Weekend (6:30): Overrated vs. Hypeworthy. Modern Vampires of the City came out today; I’ve listened to it at least six times all the way through since waking this morning. The tracks that came out early (“Unbelievers,” “Diane Young,” and “Step”) are fantastic (“Step” in particular), and songs on the second half of the album (“Worship You,” “Finger Back,” “Hudson,” and even the quirky “Ya Hey”) get better with each listen. Seriously need to consider that Kickstarter/stage swap idea. Vampire Weekend
The Cure vs. Phoenix (headliners): Of course I’m going to say the Cure. How Phoenix headlines over Vampire Weekend baffles me, so I’m not even going to consider recommending the former against Robert Smith & Co. The Cure is sounding fantastic live with former Bowie guitar man Reeves Gabrels in the fold, and Simon Gallup is still the coolest guy in music.
If you’re going to Lolla, or even if you’re not, I’d like to hear the tough choices you’d make.