PHOTO BY LEILA BRILLSON
Lollapalooza is typically associated with Perry Farrell’s bizarre antics, for encapsulating the musical zeitgeist, and also for the incredible skyline views from Chicago’s Grant Park. What it is not known for is mosquitoes. “This place must be built on a swamp,” performer Jamie Lidell says. “I never thought of Chicago as being a home for mosquitos, but I guess it is.” Lidell played his brand of blue-eyed soul for a crowd on Saturday at dusk, on the Sony Bloggie stage (acts like Fuck Buttons and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes will also be passing through), which has a large puddle of standing water nearby. Fortunately the attendees danced the bugs away, listening to Lidell and his band mix big band funk with hip-hop and Stones-era rock and roll. “I love Chicago,” says Lidell, who actually played the fest in 2008, “I finally have friends here and I feel a bit at home when I visit.”
Jamie Lidell’s 2005 album Multiply was a critical success. Since then, he’s swung from genres, collaborating with electro act Simian Mobile Disco to covering Grizzly Bear’s “Little Brother” for a Warp Records compilation, he’s at home in many worlds—which may be why the Brit now resides in Chelsea, which makes him the international version of bi-coastal. His most recent album, however, expanded his repertoire from the beat-boxing, loop-heavy sound of his famous “A Little Bit More” to a full-scale band. “I’m no longer solo,” Lidell says. “On stage, it’s a bit more like driving in a caravan. Oh, we’re going to turn left now? Ok, lets signal. You ready to go? On my own, I could just slam on the breaks when I wanted.” Sure, he doesn’t have the screaming fans like MGMT (who played before him at the last Lolla—”That’s the ups and downs of the music business,” he admits), but Lidell is a well-known name to anyone who reads, say, Pitchfork or geeks out on immense production quality and his myriad of influences. “I’ve kind of realized that I will not have a massive blaze of glory, but instead be a career musician.” Career musicians are, of course, the artists that eventually gain collectors and fans who enjoy their entire trajectory, a trajectory that Lidell is surely creating for himself already.
Lollapalooza is a one-off for Lidell, who is set to hit the road officially again in September. Even though he is still gradually adjusting to a full stage and a backing band (in contrast to his earlier years, when it was just Lidell and producer Mocky, the man known for his interesting collaborations), he is becoming more and more at home behind the soundboard. “I see all this talent, and I just think want to lend a hand to a lot of the people I know who don’t have an in. You know, brothers of bigger bands or a friend of a friend.” At the suggestion that he’s becoming altruistic, he laughed and agreed. “Yeah, I guess I am. I figured why not help those less, you know, fortunate,” he joked. His recent record, May’s Compass, is hardly packed with the “less fortunate,” with appearances by Beck, Feist and Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor–not bad for someone who claims to be at the “ebb” of the cycle of musical popularity.
For a man, like most Saturday Lolla goers, tormented by mosquitoes and heat, the overly hip and under-dressed (“All I saw of Gaga was a bra,” Lidell reveals. “I hear she brought 71 buses. 71 buses surely can fit more than a bra, right?”), Lidell seemed perfectly at ease. “I guess it’s an evolution,” he says of the last few years. “And I’m finally at a point where I can reflect on where I’ve been and feel musically expansive.” The reflection was momentary, however, because Lidell and his friends were off: Grizzly Bear was started soon, and he didn’t want to miss it.