After last year’s slightly underwhelming debut of Lollapalooza Chile, the Perry Farrell-founded festival doubled over to a Brazilian edition in 2012, and came closer to realizing the full potential of large-scale festivals in South America. With a very similar line-up to its Chilean counterpart, the first edition of Lollapalooza Brazil, taking place at São Paulo’s Jockey Club, on the weekend of April 7-8, featured a wide variety of artists, and some pretty spectacular sets. Here’s how it went.
The first of the festival’s two days had its proper start with Cage The Elephant. Playing under a bright, sunny sky, they met a crowd of fans and curious listeners alike, and managed to maintain a steady level of excitement throughout the set. While the band’s weird mix of indie and grunge music still has a good deal of fleshing out to be done, frontman Matthew Schultz knew a short route to pleasing the audience: crowd-surfing. Barely two songs in, he dived right into the crowd, and allowed himself to go through the usual level of molestation such an act requires. After hinting at another dive halfway through the show, he finally jumped again, during Sabertooth Tiger, their last song, this time traveling much further into the audience. Dave Grohl, who famously played drums for Cage The Elephant when drummer Jared Champion got sick, was seen cheerfully watching the entire concert from the side of the stage – incidentally, their set set at Lollapalooza got cut short because Champion was feeling ill. Watch the crowd-surfing below:
Later into the day, a bit of a scheduling conflict took place. Peaches and TV on The Radio had overlapping sets. Thanks to the huge distance between stages (perhaps the one true downside of the gigantic Jockey Club), we only checked out the first half of Band of Horses, who played a solid, albeit slightly melancholic gig. Moving on to Peaches, curious to see whether or not her stage antics were worthy of her reputation, instead we found the singer struggling to get her DJ equipment working, in a quite frustrating performance. Those who stuck around reported that she later managed to make everything function properly, but seeing her hit the mixing table with a microphone was enough reason to leave for TV On The Radio – and it sure as hell was worth it. The group managed to impress everyone with a nearly flawless performance, and even won over several skeptical listeners who merely wanted to save a spot for Foo Fighters later on. Focusing mostly on their landmark album Dear Science, and on their latest, Nine Types of Light, the set was beautiful all around. On Repetition, the band was joined by Dave Navarro for a guitar solo that was, unfortunately, quite buried in the mix. A shame, really, but one that would be soon forgotten, thanks to the fantastic closer Wolf Like Me. TV On The Radio’s cover of Fugazi’s Waiting Room can be seen below:
To close out the first night, Foo Fighters finally returned for their second-ever gig in Brazil, 11 years after the first one. Considering the amount of breathless anticipation in the 70.000-people crowd, it was impossible to imagine just how this show could not be fully satisfying. And, surely enough, they delivered a fantastic, two-and-a-half hours long marathon set, with songs spanning across their entire career, and went beyond their duty to please the audience – Dave Grohl, especially, acting as the ultimate frontman, running across the stage and onto the walkway set in front of it, getting roars of approval for every look he gave to the crowd. One can’t help but being captivated by their music in a setting like this, as it seems custom-made for a gigantic audience, especially one as wild as the Brazilian one. While the set didn’t differ much from the usually expected, the band showed some great spontaneity in spots, such as Dave playing drums on Cold Day In The Sun, or the extended blues jam during Stacked Actors, featuring Danny Clinch on harmonica (fun fact: he’s the guy who directed Pearl Jam’s Imagine In Cornice). For the encore, a few nice surprises: the rarely played Enough Space and For All The Cows, as well as clear Wasting Light standout track Dear Rosemary. Closing with Everlong, perhaps their finest song to date, was the perfect way to end on a high mark.
Given how overwhelming the Foos’ set was, the second day of Lollapalooza Brazil had a very hard match ahead of it, but it did well by starting with Gogol Bordello. Known for their party-like shows, the “gypsy punk” group was as adequate a beginning for another sunny afternoon as there could be. The crowd, while not particularly big so early in the day, was fully engaged all throughout.
After a huge gap of not-so-impressive acts, we were taken aback by how good Manchester Orchestra sounded live, and by how little we knew about them. Their brand of indie rock (if it can even be called that) was among the festival’s heaviest, and it’s only advisable to check them out soon. Unfortunately, the surprise with Manchester Orchestra served to further diminish what would later become the festival’s low point: MGMT. Infamous for their often boring, monochromatic live performances, the band came onstage to a lightning storm that had began just a few minutes before. The first few songs worked just fine, and, as the mood was starting to dip, Electric Feel picked the crowd back up for what seemed like a promising second half. Unfortunately, that didn’t come to be, as MGMT appeared to be completely devoid of any will to play the rest of the set, perhaps fueled by the quickly evading crowd. Ending with Time To Pretend would’ve been suitable enough, and a way to avoid a complete disaster, but instead they had to slow things down one final time for Congratulations, closing out the disappointment. What the hell, here’s footage of Manchester Orchestra:
For those unwilling to endure Skrillex, the next noteworthy performance would be Jane’s Addiction. Having first played with original bassist Eric Avery in 2009, the band didn’t seem all that different this time around, even playing the same amount of songs. The main modifications to the set came in the form of the overlong pre-show Pink Floyd music (about 7 minutes of Shine On You Crazy Diamond, and 4 minutes of Welcome to the Machine), the insertion of new tracks Underground and Twisted Tales, and some unnecessary onstage theatricality – none of which seemed to make much of an impact on anyone. But everything besides that, all the hits, the jaw-dropping solos by Dave Navarro, the drum fills by Stephen Perkins, and Perry Farrell’s surprisingly in-shape vocals, came across very well.
Matching up against the Foo Fighters is a tough job for any headlining act on the next day; for one as young as Arctic Monkeys, it seems downright impossible. But somehow, it feels as if they managed it. The Sheffield group played a tight, concise set that, by cherry-picking their best songs to date, hit heavy on all the right spots, gave breathing room whenever necessary, and made the audience dance cheerfully the entire time. Most importantly, lead singer Alex Turner has become a far cry from the barely-in-his-twenties guy who barely moved around when he first visited the country five years ago. He’s taken on an Elvis/greaser stage persona of sorts, embracing it not just with his appearance, but through several displays of attitude during the show. The way Mr. Turner smooth-talked the audience in-between songs, how he delayed the final “People like… you” on Teddy Picker just to get a reaction, the frequent gesticulation to people in the crowd, his leap from the drum riser on Still Take You Home, and his guitar-less stride across the Foos’ walkway on Pretty Visitors, all felt like watching a proper frontman unfold right in front of our eyes. Arctic Monkeys may not have as much of an avid fanbase as the Foo Fighters’, and not nearly as many rock anthems accumulated, but their set contained every bit as much passion and precision in its execution, and lasted only half as long.
While Lollapalooza Brazil relayed a bit too heavily on one huge act to draw its crowd, and could’ve shown a bit more consistency in its lineup, it was, overall, a well-rounded experience, made worthwhile by some exceptionally good gigs. Considering that this year’s American Lollapalooza might feature Black Sabbath, Jack White and The Black Keys, next year’s South American iterations already have something to look up to.
Pictures by Fabricio Vianna.