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Lollapalooza '09 scene report: Arctic Monkeys, Killers, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and more!

Another year, another Lolla – and this time, we’ve got our man on the scene, Burhan Hamid (EW tech wizard by day, alt-fest poo-bah by night! Or at least weekend!) with a full scene report. Read his recap of the long-running annual indie-culture band bonanza below, now narrowed to a one-0ff three-day event in Chicago. Says Burhan:

“The problem with festivals like Lollapalooza is that you have to make difficult decisions throughout the day. Important things like: do we go see Rise Against or TV on the Radio? Tool or the Yeah Yeah Yeahs? Santigold or Glasvegas? Use a Porta Potti or…I’ll let that one go. Here’s a recap of some of the bands that my buddies and I got to see on a scorching hot Saturday and even hotter Sunday at Lollapalooza in Chicago’s once beautiful Grant Park:

Saturday

The first few words we hear on the Arctic Monkeys’ smashing debut album Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not warn us that “anticipation has a habit to set you up for disappointment.” The young Brit-rockers lived true to those words on Saturday afternoon. This was the one band that I felt was worth the money to see (everyone has one, right?), and they were a little disappointing. Much of what they played (six songs out of a 14-song set, one a Nick Cave cover, “Red Right Hand”) was from their upcoming third album Humbug. Another six from their second album, Favorite Worst Nightmare, and you do the math  (6 + 6 + x = 14, what does x equal?) were from “that era,” as lead singer Alex Turner called it.

That era was only a couple of years ago (2006) when these English then-teenagers shot to the top of the U.K.’s charts with “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor.” They played that single as well as “The View From the Afternoon” only as a tease for those of us that were craving more from the era of dancing shoes and scummy men.

Prior to heading over to see the Arctic Monkeys on the Budweiser stage, we were hanging out at the smaller Citi stage listening to Brooklyn’s Chairlift get through some technical problems to start their set. They opened by covering Snoop Dogg’s “Sensual Seduction” (wtf?!) and experienced more problems while trying to get through “Evident Utensil.” Things finally got fixed up and lead singer Caroline Polachek sounded wonderful. They dedicated one of my favorite songs on their album Does You Inspire You, “Planet Health,” to the late writer-director John Hughes. I didn’t get to stick around to see them perform the made-famous-in-an-Apple-ad song “Bruises” (had to make sure I could jockey for position to see the Monkeys), but I hear it was well received.

The rest of Saturday was a sampling of artists that I’m not nearly as passionate about, but still enjoyed. We relaxed on the dusty lawn of Grant Park while being showered by Santigold’s beautiful vocals. Then moved across to the south end of the park to hear Rise Against “sing” to their hometown crowd. They seemed to struggle to fill the hour of time allotted to them, or maybe they were just ahead of schedule. For those that were there, how many other bands shouted out the sign-language interpreters?

The split headliners for Saturday were Tool and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I chose Tool, but my crew (hipsters!) wanted to see Karen O tear it up. So we checked out a few Tool songs, and once I was satisfied (or maybe I was frustrated that I couldn’t see the stage, and they weren’t showing it on the video screens because Tool needed to showcase their CGI videos), we headed over to the opposite end of Grant Park to see Karen O forget the lyrics to their classic “Maps” (come on, Karen, the song doesn’t really have that many words – “they don’t love you like I love you…” or something like that). She was entertaining, but we were exhausted, so we bailed.

If I could split myself into two or three people, I would have loved to have checked out TV on the Radio (yeah, I can be a hipster too), Coheed and Cambria and Glasvegas, but alas, there’s only one of me.

Sunday

This time, we planned the day before arriving! This really helped us get the most out of it. The highlight was a band that I’m not too familiar with: Kaiser Chiefs. Yes, another British Rock band has caught my attention (others include White Lies, who I missed on Friday, EW music-staff favorites Friendly Fires, who I missed on Sunday and, you know, those guys I rambled on forever about who played on Saturday). Lead singer Ricky Wilson had the crowd at the Budweiser stage dancing, jumping and pumping their fists to their singles “Angry Mob” and “Oh My God.” The band left everything on the stage, and meant to do it – as it was their last show before returning home to the U.K.

Sunday also featured the super-hyped-in-‘08 Vampire Weekend. Guess what? The kids at EW aren’t the only ones obsessed with vampires nowadays. The kids at Lolla were digging these Vampires from Columbia University. They put on a fun show, playing many of the tracks from their self-titled debut album. Lead singer Ezra Koenig also dedicated a song, “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa,” to John Hughes and cited how important the late Mr. Hughes was to the Chicago area. Absent were the violins (or maybe I just couldn’t see from where I was), but present were hits like “Mansard Roof” and “Oxford Comma.”

Snoop Dogg is still putting on shows. I’m not sure I understand why, but hey, people love this guy. I wasn’t expecting much, but was pleasantly surprised from a distance. Lady of Rage guest-starred alongside Snoop to perform a couple of old-skool hits. And really, that’s what it was all about. It was fun to reminisce while listening to ’90s hits like “Gin and Juice” and “Murder Was the Case.” It was also nice to hear Tupac’s (or, more appropriately, Makaveli’s) “Hail Mary” as part of a Snoop dedication. Eventually, the sound got drowned out by the noise from the crowd gathering for the Silversun Pickups, who were up next on the Vitaminwater stage.

Are you ready for more disappointment? There’s no nice way of putting it, the Silversun Pickups sounded awful. I couldn’t make it through two songs before leaving to get a good position for the Killers. Lead singer Brian Aubert just didn’t sound as good as he does on Carnavas and it’s unfortunate, because I was hoping for a really good show.

Speaking of a really good show, the Killers did not disappoint. They played all of their hits (you name it, they played it), and they played them all well. Yes, it was a little annoying to sit through “Storytime With Brandon Flowers,” but the crowd left completely satisfied, encore and all. We got to hear “Mr. Brightside,” “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine,” “Smile Like You Mean It,”  “Spaceman,” and “Somebody Told Me,” to name a few. All in all, it was a fantastic headliner performance, and for once during this weekend, the choice was easy for me.

Now it’s your turn, peeps. Were you at Lollapalooza? If so, what were your favorite moments? What were your most disappointing moments? Who would you have liked to see that you missed out on? What did I miss out on on Friday? If you weren’t there, check out lollapalooza.com for photos, set lists, and all kinds of other stuff.”

Originally posted August 10 2009 — 12:56 PM EDT

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