It's a great thing to see a young band before the music industry has ruined it, and Be Your Own Pet continues to resist ruination.
It's been more than a year since I last saw the band, at SXSW in '05, where the Nashville garage-rock quartet was one of the rawest, most visceral things I had ever seen on stage. They retained much of that charm Saturday, playing an early set on a big stage. Singer Jemina Pearl (pictured here with bassist Nathan Vasquez, left, and drummer Jamin Orrall) is still a pistol, flailing along and shrieking out the lyrics as the whole band seemed to teeter gleefully on the edge of total chaos.
Pearl actually threw up on stage during one song, and as the tune ended, the drummer asked, "You OK?" She nodded, and said to the crowd, "So, I just puked. Should we do one more, or is that heat exhaustion?" They did one more, and at the end, Pearl jumped on Vasquez's back, wrestled him to the ground and skipped innocently off stage.
Cold War Kids was good, too -- the Los Angeles band had a certain Modest Mouse quality live, and the songs on the group's EPs have some of the rhythmic eccentricities of, say, Wolf Parade. Later, A.C. Newman of the New Pornographers praised the Cold War Kids and encouraged the crowd to buy the band's album when it comes out. "Who gets to play [expletive] Lollapalooza when they don't have an album out?" Newman marveled.
The day's other highlight was the Flaming Lips. The performance itself wasn't that different from others I've seen, but the crowd was huge -- maybe the biggest crowd of the day, which is saying something, given that Gnarls Barkley and Kanye West were among the other featured acts. There was confetti, huge balloons, a group of women dressed as aliens on stage right and a group of men dressed as Santa Claus on stage left, and singer Wayne Coyne exhorting the crowd to sing loud enough to "stop traffic on Lakeshore Drive!"
Gnarls Barkley was its own spectacle. The entire band, including a string section, came out wearing tennis whites. Singer Cee-lo Green declared at one point, "Gnarls Barkley is freedom" (I heard later he was encouraging women in the crowd to go topless if the spirit moved them). The single, "Crazy," brought the entire field to its feet, but the Raconteurs version Friday was actually more interesting -- it had the element of surprise, for one thing, and Jack White sang it with that manic fervor he does so well.
The New Pornographers were sans Neko Case, but Kathryn Calder is a fine replacement. The set was a good mix of songs from last year's "Twin Cinema" and earlier material, and the crowd sang along to "My Slow Descent into Alcoholism" and "Miss Teen Word Power."
"We are, for some reason that is beyond us, playing between Common and Kanye West," Newman said early on in the set. "We can only assume that it's because we are somehow like them."