Jane’s Addiction, Audioslave, Incubus, The Donnas: Lollapalooza, Jones Beach, NY

GOING TO a show at Jones Beach is always a mixed thing for me. It’s great because it’s out of the city and at the beach, but I know it’s gonna cost me an arm and a leg…still, I was pretty psyched to get out and see a lot of bands in one place.

For those of you who don’t know, it’s located right on the water and is really gorgeous. The main stage is practically in the water…but for this gig, being as there were two stages and vendors, they had to set up the 2nd stage and stuff like that in the parking lot.

Ahhh, there’s nothing like hard, blacktop under your feet all day. There was no respite from the heat bouncing off the hot asphalt, and definitely nowhere to sit unless you wanted the skin charred off your body by same said asphalt.

So the choices at that point were the air-conditioned, but extremely annoying to me, but god-like to my 10 yr. old son, Game Riot X-Box game tent (which had seats only if you ventured to try your hand at the Army sniper computer game www.americasarmy.com (downloadable free), or the main stage area where you could sit in your assigned seat and bake in the sun.

As with most festivals, there were vendors, vendors, and more vendors. You could let off a little steam in the pitching and batting cages. You could get your hair dyed by Manic Panic. You could pose to be a potential model for American Rags. You could test your endurance with the Marines and their recruiters. There were parlor games and hip hop dancing. And there was the Axis of Justice tent (would it be anywhere else seeing that Tom Morello was playing?)

There were so many interesting and/or great bands there really was little time to relax. Of the 2nd stage bands I’d say that the politically charged music of Boy Sets Fire made for a pleasant set of commercial punk/rock (isn’t that supposed to be an oxymoron?) And although no one song really stood out, at least the activist banter between songs kept things lively.

Of what I got to see, the Bellydance Superstars really caught the crowds’ attention — beautiful half-naked girls gyrating seductively — that works for at least half of the species. Newcomer Billy Talent sounded pretty good, although the crowd seemed to have no clue. And the Jackass boys were, well, jackasses. What else?

But the group I just had to see was The Music. This is what Jane’s Addiction would be if they were more of a free-form jam type of band and less song structure oriented. Even the tone and timbre of Robert Harvey’s voice is an echo of Perry Farrell. It was easy to just close my eyes and bliss out on the arrangements, which sounded more improvisational than set in stone, in that grand tradition of Zeppelin and the Allmans.

Unfortunately I missed the main stage acts The Distillers (who I just love) and Queens of the Stone Age due to scheduled interviews with other bands. But, I ran back to the main stage to see the last of The Donnas set. It was high-energy fun and the crowd really seemed excited to see the girls. Still, the only thing that I could think of during the time they played was a quote from Sean Kilkenny of All Boro Kings: “They’re AC/DC with vaginas.” Seeing as most AC/DC songs are about sex and so are The Donnas’, I’d have to agree with him on that one. Still, these rauckus babes played to a majority of empty seats.

Here we were in beautiful Jones Beach. It seemed that most of the younger crowd were there specifically to see Incubus. And I’m not just speaking of the giggly teen girls who think that Brandon is cute. I actually had guys telling me that it was Incubus that they came to see. As the 2nd stage bands were now all finished, the seats started to really fill up during their set. Of course they did their radio hits, ‘Wish You Were Here’ and all that. And they did have a big full sound, but I found them to be a bit soothing — lulling me off to sleep — especially right there on the water with the wind blowing in the late afternoon. My lethargy had absolutely no bearing on the rabid excitement of the crowd. They were on their feet and passionately singing every word.

Just as the sun was beginning to make it’s way down to the water, Audioslave took the stage and proceeded to beat the crowd into submission with the bombastic bottom end. Brad Wilk seriously bashed the skins, but I found it extremely disconcerting that he played the entire set with his back to the crowd and with a huge mirror in front of him to reflect his image to the audience. As I watched, I remembered that someone once told me he has terrible stage fright, and I couldn’t help but wonder whether it was paralyzing stage fright or absolute arrogance and narcissism — or maybe a little of both. I guess I’ll never know. Morello did his bit with the guitars, as would be expected. Cornell came out and strutted and preened belting out their well-known radio hits as well as others from the debut album. Still, I couldn’t help noticing that live, just as on the album, it sounds as if he hasn’t truly warmed up his voice — like he’s been smoking 2 packs a day, all gravely and restricted. Where is that clear paint-peeling caustic scream from the gilded pipes circa 1990 Soundgarden? Don’t get me wrong. I love the guy, but there’s an older, weathered sound there now. Of note was the wowing rendition that they did of The White Stripes ‘Seven Nation Army’. It sounded awesome with the full bottom end of the band behind it, and caught the crowd completely off guard.

Finally becoming dark, the huge video screens started showing some awesome spacey/psychedelic graphics, prepping the crowd for the appearance of the night’s headliners. Jane’s Addiction burst onto the stage and into our subconsciousness with a meteoric flash of sound. Navarro was a vision in his white stretch crushed velvet bell bottoms and white feather boa with his low-slung white guitar. But as dazzling as Navarro is, it was Perry who eclipsed him with his dynamic presence and powerful voice. Farrell was sporting a six-pack that put Navarro’s to shame….a far cry from the frail figure of the past, hidden beneath garments, artifice, and affectation. He was robust and unrepentant. They may only have three albums to their credit, but those three are iconic with tunes like ‘Mountain Song’ and ‘Ted Just Admit It’, ‘Been Caught Stealing’ and the new ‘Just Because’. Besides having the required video screens, Jane’s had the Lolla Girls — three beautiful Asian interpretive dancers — to add a bit of Broadway dynamic to the usual concert show. Jane’s has always been a multi-media experience, and this was no exception. During ‘Ted Just Admit It’ the Lolla Girls had some hand-held cameras with feeds directly to the large video screens on either side of the stage, adding an extremely fetishistic and voyeuristic element. By the time they got to the finale with ‘Jane Says’, the crowd was spent. As Perry once stated in an interview with me back in ’88, a Jane’s Addiction show should make you feel ‘like you’ve had subliminal sex in a public place’. Well, I think that once again, they have succeeded. Welcome back, boys.

© Christine Natanael, 30 July 2003

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