Lollapalooza 2008 Day 2: DIOYY?, Foals, DeVotchka, DJ Momjeans
Noon thirty on Saturday at Lolla feels sleepy and deliciously spacious—I want to roll in the grass. So much so that I can walk right up the stage barrier for Does It Offend You, Yeah? Singer/bassist James Rushent of the British electro-rock band was once inspired by seeing The Prodigy at a festival—which might not have been where the band got the bright idea to play the unmiked cowbell while dancing on the barrier where no one can hear it.
DIOYY are a frustrating act in some ways, because they don’t seem to know what they are all about except being trendy as hell—which figures, since they were founded as a Myspace gag. Electro backed by crispy crunchy Flying V guitars churn out crunk rock, often with bass synth not bass guitar. At certain moments, they’re startlingly original—at others, they’re just annoying. Sometimes they're blog house, sometimes they're nu rave, sometimes they're almost Britpop. “Being Bad Feels Pretty Good” hits home today—it's perfectly executed dance pop. And by the time the band does “Attack of the Sixty Foot Lesbian Octopus” (a title it's almost embarrassed to announce) people are dancing in the blazing sun. Guess who else is dancing? Guitarist Morgan Quaintance—whose bare feet have met an extremely hot stage.
The Citi Stage has hosted break-out performances from the likes of Of Montreal in past years—despite being slightly claustrophobic, just a narrow strip of pavement between rows of trees. Today, Sub Pop’s post-punk, wound-up quintet from Oxford England, the Foals break out, or at least make a very nice impression. Wisely testing the soundcheck waters with a dynamic instrumental, they switch into punky afro rhythms—approximating the Rapture if they relocated to Senegal and added a guitarist. The band’s spritely guitar melodies and stripped down, revved up Talking Heads funk-beats are flawlessly delivered but feel somewhat modular—as if any unit could be shifted to a different tune. But the band works a very narrow strip of musical territory with precision—and I wouldn’t question their interest in minimal modern music—you can hear subtle shifts in dynamics. Singer/guitarist Yannis Philippakis might sound a bit like Robert Smith at times, but the drummer is the real hero today with his stop-start combinations. The crowd is loving it, but I’m not sure the sunburnt boys from Radiohead’s hometown are. “This is probably the last time we’ll play outside,” Phillippakis says. Englishman, please!
My significant other brainwashed me into loving DeVotchka by playing the band’s cover collection Curse Your Little Heart all the time for months. I didn’t know whether they were actual gypsies who liked rock or what, exactly. Today, though I know the band is from Denver—I forget everything else about them, even the Little Miss Sunshine Grammy nomination. I’m charmed. Again. Only four people on stage? Huh? Who’s going to play the distorted bouzuki? It turns out Nick Urata, who lived in Chicago in the ’90s, that’s who—the guy in the ruffled shirt and tuxedo. He also teases the theremin like a champ and does his own version of a gypsy dance when he can—while upright bassist Jeanie Schroder switches to tuba now and then and even drummer Shawn King changes up—playing trumpet into the cymbal microphones. The band has modes of its own: gypsy-greek-Hungarian wedding music stompers, slow, smoldering rockers and Edith Piaf-like cabaret—even a reggae breakdown. Of any non-main stage act I take in this weekend, DeVotchka connect the most with the crowd—which loves the whole clapping thing.
Who is the mysterious DJ Momjeans? It’s that Danny Masterson from That ’70s Show, in case you didn’t know. He can crack us up and deejay from a Serato-laptop set-up. Rad! As Wilco flaunts its Nudie suits and Rage causes mayhem down south, Momjeans spins at the Perry’s dance tent—and somehow makes it sound better than I’ve heard it all weekend. The bass throbs and the light towers fry my retinas as Masterson, I mean Momjeans, slings (not all that seamlessly) remixes of Norwegian dance-rock band Datarock and CSS’s “Let’s Make Love to Death from Above.” Someone throws a big three-colored Irish flag on his laptop and he responds by dancing around with it for a bit. A bunch of folks start singing the “oh way oh way oh way” song you hear at soccer games. Momjeans saves a bit of his party juice for later—he’s slated to play Perry’s invite-only after-party tonight somewhere near the Home Depot on North Avenue, which starts any minute now.