Lollapalooza 2003 - live in Camden (Cover Artwork)

Lollapalooza 2003

live in Camden (2003)

live show

Lollapalooza hit the Tweeter Center in Camden on July 27th, reaffirming its status as the only festival that matters. And don't make an argument for Warped Tour, Ozzfest or even Rock the Mic (hahaha). They're weak this year at best.

No, Lollapalooza started everything and it's only fitting that it's making a comeback when rock is quite dead. Or is it?

The day started with a half hour walk from our parking spot in downtown Camden. The city really is a lovely place – I think I'll go back and visit soon. Anyway, after picking up our $7 tickets (I love eBay), we wandered inside to the sounds of Arms of Orion on the second stage. They sounded like a JV version of Thursday with a few things to work on – like stage presence. However, the music was surprisingly good (and reaffirmed by their CD that I picked up). Check them out and see what you think.

Next on the agenda were the Distillers on the main stage. After about 30 seconds I came to the conclusion that they should never be allowed anywhere near an amphitheater ever again. The crowd hated them and the sound was terrible. I left about ten minutes into their set to check out Billy Talent on the side stage. They weren't terribly interesting in that the vocals were horrible – but the music was otherwise pretty good. Checking my watch and finding that the Distillers were just about over, I jetted back to the main stage for the remainder of the day. (In doing so I missed Boy Sets Fire, Cave In, CKY and the crew of Jackass on the side stage – but oh well).

The Donnas were next on the main stage. The crowd response was only slightly more appreciative than that for the Distillers. They played for about 35 minutes in their distinctive "we think we're the girly version of the Ramones". Despite the band's lack of originality, both the drummer and guitarist are much better than average and made for an almost enjoyable experience.

Thankfully, the end of their set also meant the end of crappy bands for the day. Jurassic 5 was up next and I'll be damned if this is not the best rap group in the business today (only Outkast and the Roots are possibly better or equals). They were quite simply, a blast, somehow making the majority of the crowd forget that they had never heard their music before. The highlights were predictably "Quality Control", "Acetate Prophets" and "What's Golden" but the entire 40 minute set was terrific. Their four-part harmonizing and return to old-school rapping was greatly appreciated in a time where decent MC's are hard to find. (On a somewhat related note, I heard from many people that MC Supernatural on the second stage was also very good but unfortunately did not get to see him.)

Following Jurassic 5 was a band that I had never quite been able to grasp, Queens of the Stone Age. Regardless, I looked forward to their set. I don't have any idea of what they played but the crowd's enthusiasm was contagious, especially during the radio singles "Go With the Flow", "No One Knows" and fan favorite "Regular John". They brought out a guest vocalist at one point for quite a few songs though no one could figure out who the hell he was. Overall, the band are exceptional musicians and though I feel their work at times is quite insular, their set was enjoyable.

Incubus was the first of the headlining bands to play their 55-minute set. They are still a cool band to like, even though they routinely appear on TRL and are a fixture on mainstream radio. They are truly an alternative band, even with the departure from formula that was the majority of "Morning View". Their setlist (for the most part) consisted of these songs: "Warning", "Nice to Know You", "Megalomaniac", "Make Yourself", "Stellar", "The Warmth", "Circles", "Vitamin", "Pistola", "Nowhere Fast", "Are You In?" and "Wish You Were Here". In addition, they played a cover of Lionel Ritchie's "Hello" – perfectly done with Brandon nailing the vocals. The obvious highlights of the set were the sing-a-long that was the set opener "Warning", crowd-favorite "The Warmth", lone S.C.I.E.N.C.E. representative "Vitamin" and the funky "Are You In?". It was a safe, enjoyable set provided by one of the foremost bands in mainstream music today.

Audioslave was next on the main stage. The first major supergroup of the new millennium, they were easily the band that most people were looking forward to performing. The stage setup was a bit bizarre with Brad Wilk, the drummer, with his back to the audience. Behind him (and the rest of the band) were mirrors, showing the audience from the stage. Kind of hard to explain – but it worked as a twist on the usual performance. I had seen Audioslave once before and this was definitely the worse of the two performances. For one, Chris Cornell was sick and took away from the performance in that he seemed a bit more cautious in his vocals. (However, this did lead to the entertaining game of "What the Hell is Chris Cornell Saying?" during his between song comments). The main asset that assists the band is the presence of Tom Morello and his guitar solos. Quite simply, there is no one in mainstream rock today who can even come close to his skills. He blazed through about 10 lengthy solos on the night, each one more skilled than the last. The highlights of their set were "Set it Off", another sing-a-long for "Like a Stone", the best song of the set in "Seven Nation Army" – an oddly perfect cover of the White Stripes song, and "Cochise", the set closer. All in all, Audioslave rocked hard, though a serious lag in the middle of their set prevented them from being truly perfect. These guys will be great in a few years. The combination of Cornell's vocals and the rest of the band's musicianship will be a welcome change from the political tirades of Rage and somewhat softer Soundgarden. Audioslave, quite simply, has a big stadium rock sound that neither of those bands can duplicate.

However, the sum of every band that had played on the day could not equal what was still to come. The last we heard from Jane's Addiction was the revolutionary "Ritual de lo Habitual" in 1990. When that came out, I was only seven years old. Despite releasing only two major albums in that time, they are still possibly the most important band of the past two decades. They cleared the path for the popularity alternative music and their lead singer Perry Farrell co-founded Lollapalooza. Every other alternative band – including Beck, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden and countless others has them to thank. My question was whether their set would be a show of the band in their forties or a successful recollection of the past.

Well, it turns out that today's lineup of Jane's Addiction (replacing Eric Avery with Chris Chaney on bass) is stronger than ever. "Stop" kicked off the show and never before had Perry's words "turn off that goddamned radio" been more affecting. They played all of their hits from the terrific "Mountain Song" to the novelty "Been Caught Stealing" to the slow, epic "Summertime Rolls" to the sweeping, 10 minute "Three Days". Dave Navarro reaffirmed his status as one of the greatest guitarists on the planet with plenty of his signature big rock solos while Stephen Perkins was simply a monster on the drums. And Perry Farrell – was well, Perry Farrell – agile and entertaining as ever, even at 44 years old. In addition, the theatrics of the performance – and it was a performance, a spectacle, a show – were simply mind-boggling and cannot be explained adequately. And to top the entire evening off – "Jane Says" closed the set – as rain only then began to pour with brilliant flashes of lighting and the rumbles of thunder.

It capped a great day of no frills rock and roll (despite the dancers during Jane's set). See Jane's Addiction's crazy show while you can before they do something stupid and end their careers – again.