Lollapalooza 2003—the Festival of the Year
J. Gordon
7/14/2003 2:20:34 PM

At $50 for a lawn seat and another fifty just to keep you from getting dehydrated throughout the day, plus the heat, the sunburn, the parking…it gets hard to justify all these summer festivals. But Lollapalooza 2003 was (and is, if it’s coming to your town) worth it. Here’s the review from St. Louis—we unfortunately didn’t get Burning Brides, Mooney Suzuki, The Music and Perfect Circle on our bill, but the rest of the bands more than compensated for this loss.

Besides, where else can you have the fun of people-watching such a group of freaks, mixing every mood and mode of music, and observing the deaf interpreters sign expletive lyrics to the audience? Check out our reviews, below and be sure to click here for many more great live photos.

Second Stage Acts:
Well everyone knows that the second stage acts are the bands to watch. The main stage has happened and the second stage is happening. So sit down, take note, and get your butt to the CD store for these choice artists…

Fingertight--unquestionably, these guys ruled the second stage. They easily lured the harder crowd away from Rooney with their driving, melodic punk metal. It doesn’t hurt that they guys have tons of presence and energy, and the lead singer and guitarist are both major cuties. Lead singer Scott flails around, flips and throws his body around the stage like he’s made of silly putty, showing his bloody knuckles with pride as he calls out to the crowd, “Look! It’s about to gush! I did this for you!” He went on to eat the microphone before tossing himself into the crowd to fire up the mosh pit.

Their debut album, In the Name of Progress [Columbia Records] comes out September 2nd, with the first single being “Guilt.” It’s rumored that some advance copies escaped and are for sale at Border’s. These guys are going to be huge, mark my words. Look for an interview posted soon!

Dream Circus and Golden Buddha-- we missed Golden Buddha’s live gig opening the second stage, but they also provided the background music for the Dream Circus, a druggy, sexy, ultra-silly collective of weirdoes who enjoy doing skits of super-hero types saving the day with reefer. It was amusing to watch for a moment or two, but one soon got bored. Golden Buddha’s tunes were cool techno, however, and used often on the sound between sets on the main stage, too.

Cave In-- Cave In lives up to its name. This is pop with ferocity—like setting Rooney on fire and watching the damage with glee. This is blistering pop, made even hotter as they performed in the agony of the afternoon sun. Cave In’s vocalist, Stephen Brodsky, is a singer with range, tone and pitch—traits that are hard to find in a hard rock band. He doesn’t need to scream to get the point across, but he can if he wants to, and sometimes he wants to.

A little bit like Dookie-era Greenday with better vocals, Cave In do them one better with complex guitar flourishes, intelligent lyrics and can’t stand still percussion in the funky vibe of Rage Against the Machine. Words like “atmospheric” and “progressive” are used to define them, so it’s no wonder Lollapalooza wanted them on the roster. Pick up their CD, Antenna [RCA Records] to get a clue.

Campfire Girls--Here is a perfect example of what great alternative rock used to be—before rap/rock and dark industrial took root. Campfire girls are guitar-crunching, fuzzy, hooky pop that’s taken the Top 40 happy stuff, doused it with gasoline and then lit a match.

The crowd was seriously into them, as they performed to possibly the largest audience of the day at the second stage.

The Distillers--This female-fronted punk thrash band has so much attitude and enthusiasm-- they act like they just discovered music and want all the kudos. Lead singer/screecher Brody growls and hollers like a wildcat, and yet these guys manage to snag these painful little melodies into your flesh, hooky little riffs that stick in your head like military bootcamp chants. If punk is your thing, they are worth checking out. If you like it loud and angry, an ugly mass of wretchedness like a loogie in your face, the Distillers are a must.

Steve-O--Admittedly, the guy is not music, not the classiest guy in the world, and a complete moron. But like a train wreck, there’s something fascinating about watching a guy torture himself onstage. Did I see the show? No. I was too busy grooving to Queens of the Stone Age and got there just in time to see him saying goodbye alongside an obese man in tidy whities. But we did catch up with Steve-O afterwards for this mini-interview:

To set the scene, Steve-O is signing autographs while smoking a joint openly. There is blood all over his chest and face, in war-paint fashion, from God-knows-what he just did on stage. He signs “Luke, Thanks for the Drugs” on the Jackass DVD belonging to the person in front of me

NT: Hey Steve-O, got any deep dark secrets you can share with
Steve-O: “I don’t know man, I don’t really hide anything too much. I would normally say it burns when I pee but I’m always kidding, you know? Uh…Hey, I gave up cocaine--nobody knows that!” He gives a dirty chortle, feeling proud of himself.

Main Stage Acts:
Rooney—Heavy applause greeted the first main stage act of the day, Rooney, primarily because the bass player in this Canadian pop outfit is, from a distance, a dead-ringer for Beatle Bob. When the hubbub quieted down the harmonies began. Unfortunately, the sound was muddied in the noisy, open amphitheater and Rooney had the added disadvantage of being stuck in one of the hardest slots--during the hottest, brightest part of the day.

Large screens zoomed in, in case you forgot how cute these boys are from a distance, the pixilated shots like the living billboards in Las Vegas. Ripples of curtains hanging on the stage reminded us that there is air somewhere, but a cool breeze was sorely lacking. The band played all the songs off their new EP, appropriately entitled Rooney [Interscope/Geffen], and closed with a fun cover of the Ramones’ “Here Today, Gone Tomorrow” --reminding me of when I saw the Ramones themselves on Lolla in 1996. Unfortunately, then they had to go ruin it with a song (It may be called “You Got Me Paralyzed”—that was the chorus) that sounds like something cheesy by KISS. Anyway, Rooney may not have blown everyone away with the force of their tunes, but they will always have this Lollapalooza as a benchmark of their rise. They pulled off this major show with grace and energy, and we expect great things to come.

The Donnas--the crowd seemed up for the Donnas set of solid, tough-girl rock, but, like their recent show at the Galaxy, once you’ve heard the first two songs you’ve heard it all. An unspectacular set in the blazing heat and sun kept the crowd only mildly awake, more people milling around than actually watching. They thanked the crowd over and over throughout the show, and called out to those who have been with them for the long haul, singling out Beatle Bob (the real one) who was dancing by the sound board. Living for these moments, Bob grinned and shot his arm in the air before doing another flashy spin to lift the tails of his jacket.

Queens of the Stone Age--This is when the party started. The curtain opened to reveal a strange set, featuring giant cut outs of sperm, cactus, scissors, a radio tower and a high heel boot—all little (or in this case, big) symbols of their best and best-known songs. Their beginning bad sound and muddy vocals didn’t stop this mini-super group from activating the first movements in the mosh pit and getting everyone to their feet. With a power more forceful than nature, they somehow even conjured up a breeze to blow our way.

QOTSA take the unlikely mix of members of Screaming Trees, KYUSS, and a handful of other bands (see the “family tree” on their website at They don’t look like they belong together, which is one of the things that seems to make them work. Their sound is kind of like Reverend Horton Heat on ecstasy, trying his hand at heavy metal. Their soul is in the percussion—it’s truly impossible to sit still for the Queens—and no one did.

Incubus-- It didn’t matter a bit that Incubus performed with the still-blazing sun setting right in their eyes. In fact, with their solar backdrop, they had a hot sun behind them, too. Incubus had the best sound of the day, with clear, strong vocals and wake up the world guitar and percussion.

“This is a cultural divide here, an event,” said singer Brandon Boyd, before breaking into the amazing song, “Drive.” The audience went nuts. They closed with “I Wish You Were Here,” and all anyone could do was hope they’d come back for an encore. Unfortunately, time didn’t permit such a luxury. This band does it as well or better live, with unflagging energy, undeniable rhythm and a heart few bands have today.

Audioslave-- the stage set was simple: a black silk screen with the Audioslave symbol emblazoned across it. Chris Cornell walked out in jeans and a wife beater t-shirt and he was, as my sister would say, “not afraid to be hot!”

“Give it up for my favorite band in the universe!” was how Cornell introduced his team. In a slam of percussion the curtain dropped, and the band began their show amidst a set of curious rectangular mirrors which made it hard to tell sometimes whether we were witnessing a reflection or the real thing. He held a tape recorder to the crowd and asked them to scream so that “in 2075 he could check in” before lunging into songs like “Set It Off”--which got arms flailing and lots of fists pumping in the air from the mosh pit. Tom Morello, who was signing autographs in the political activism tents, had the words “Soul Power” across the front of his guitar and the guy speaks with soul with or without a musical instrument.

Cornell said “Light My Way” that it was the first song they wrote as a band, before blasting into it. The perfect frontman, Cornell clearly delights in getting the crowd rowdy, and encouraged the kids on the hill to compete against those in the pavilion. With such throat-ravaging intensity day after day, it’s hard to imagine how his voice can hold as strong and steadily as it does—but it does.

A trippy light show segued into smooth, slower tracks like “Shadow of the Sun.” Cornell himself took out an acoustic guitar while the band took a break, performing under a solo white light while he played “I Am The Highway” to galaxies of Bic lighters lighting the evening. The band crept on subtly and joined him bathed in violet light, filling out the song with percussion and rhythm.

Cornell praised the audience, “You guys are the fucking shit! You guys kick ass!” and when he heard the praise back he smiled and said, “All right!” simply acknowledging his and guitarist Tom Morello’s own coolness. “Like A Stone” was the highlight of the show, with everyone in the house and on the lawn on their feet and swaying to its beautiful chorus, “I’ll wait for you there…” Soulful fans lip-synched and tough, baseball capped frat boys tugged at their hearts. Drummer Brad Wilk played the entire set with his back to the audience—I’m not sure why—and the whole stage looked like a house of mirrors as the stage darkened in the sunset with double and triple images of the band members looking dizzying and cool. A final surprise was a cover of the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” (suddenly, Morello’s red shirt and white slacks made sense!) that sounded a bit too polished for the tune but was amusing nonetheless. Before Cornell left the stage he said, “Thanks a lot for coming out to hear us play nothing but new music. The support feels great.”

As the band faded off the stage, the last hint of daylight cast a weird, yellow glow over everything that seemed so wonderfully appropriate to Cornell and Morello’s distortion. Cornell let out a scream and Morello shouted “Gimme some peace” as a giant peace sign dropped behind the stage. Flat-out awesome.

Bikini Chicks-- I have no idea who these girls were—at first I thought they were the Bellydance Superstars, also on the bill. Three bikinied girls presented that Lolla’s Video Game Awards in Frankie and Annette Beach Party style—shaking and breaking it with attitude. After, they broke into a dance to the atuneful “I Was A Jiggy Girl” before introducing the headlining act, Jane’s Addiction. The girls came back out in matching black bikinis, doing some erotically-tinged bumps and grinds behind Jane’s later, too.

Jane’s Addiction-- Perry Farrell burst onto the stage in snappy red gloves, a red mylar suit with a wide silver belt, looking like Santa’s Jewish elf. Starting with the lively hit, “Stop,” the crowd went insane. Dave Navarro held up the right side of the stage, a thing of beauty in a woman’s black see-through negligee with feathery trim. A huge tambourine-like design hung overhead, rotating, reflecting and lighting the amphitheater. Odd, steel fence-like shapes curved across the stage.

The band fought off some initial sound problems and expressed frustration over an echo. “How’d the rest of the festival go?” Perry asked the crowd, stalling for time. He continued his charming nonsensical babbling, “Wouldn’t you know, it’s like leaving the house, paying the babysitter and going out without your coat on!”

Once they got going again, Navarro took over the show, knowing how to work the crowd with his freakishly dark, devilish good looks and mesmerizing solos while Farrell took a break.

After more sound troubles, the band ultimately opted to just go with partial sound. “We rehearse with no delay and it’s just tight. That’s what you’re getting tonight, okay?” Perry said. Then the band charged into “Been Caught Stealing” bringing all twenty thousand attendees to their feet to dance and “Mountain Song” continuing to blast this second wind into everyone’s tired bodies.

Dave Navarro stood on top of the steel arch, waving dreamily, a cigarette perpetually dangling off his lip, while new bass player Chris Chaney took the opposite smaller hump of steel on the left. “This is Perry Farrell…my friend!” said Navarro, introducing the man who needs no introduction. At this point in the show, Navarro dropped the negligee and played bare-chested while Perry pranced around as the delightful fruitcake, plowing into “Three Days.” An illuminated purple silk curtain waved riotously behind the band and the bikinied girls danced and dangled suggestively under the arches on the stage while Dave stood above. “Just Because” continued the vibe, the girls now stretching their lithe and flexible bodies across the drum set while Perry got off on the maracas.

The band closed with the beautiful, soul-filled “Jane Says”—a mellow close-out and the perfect end to a perfect festival.


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