Lollapalooza's second day was long and hot and full of variety. More importantly, it was capped off by a headlining set from Rage Against the Machine that delivered in all the ways Radiohead's show failed to on Friday, even as it threatened to explode into a riot had the band not wisely calmed the storm from time to time. But first: Reviews/reports on Broken Social Scene, Jamie Lidell, Brand New, Booka Shade, MGMT, The Gutter Twins, Dr. Dog, The Ting Tings and Margot & the Nuclear So & So's. Let's get to it!

Lollapalooza's second day was long and hot and full of variety. More importantly, it was capped off by a headlining set from Rage Against the Machine that delivered in all the ways Radiohead's show failed to on Friday, even as it threatened to explode into a riot had the band not wisely calmed the storm from time to time. But first: Reviews/reports on Broken Social Scene, Jamie Lidell, Brand New, Booka Shade, MGMT, The Gutter Twins, Dr. Dog, The Ting Tings and Margot & the Nuclear So & So's. Let's get to it!

Margot & the Nuclear So & So's

Columbus' Erik Kang performs with Margot

I rushed to Grant Park by 12:15, just in time to catch recently Epic-signed Margot & the Nuclear So & So's, an Indianapolis act featuring the talents of Columbus multi-instrumentalist Erik Kang on violin, pedal steel and guitar. The band's blend of alt-country and melodic indie rock works well. The seven-person lineup gives Margot an edge over other similar acts, allowing them to bust out extra percussion, brass, strings and more without subtracting something more basic like a guitar or keyboard from the equation. They've managed to develop a nice variety of sounds within the context of one consistent identity, which was exhibited nicely on their pentultimate song when they switched from a lazy Wilco stroll to an epic Arcade Fire bombast without missing a beat.

Look for an interview with Kang on this blog within the next couple days.

The Ting Tings

Across the field, I figured The Ting Tings would be a bust, just another guy-girl duo playing cutesy dance-pop with a sample-heavy live show. All those descriptors fit, but the set was a great success anyway. These two Britons are simply a lot of fun. While their music ain't breaking any molds, they know how to write a song and rock a stage.

Dr. Dog

Speaking of music that doesn’t break molds, Dr. Dog played next. This Philly fivesome has been banging out Beatlesesque pop-rock for years now, and while I found their show at Little Brother’s 18 months ago to be magnificent, what seemed vital back then came off lifeless now. Much of it was the same: the bouncing bassist, the harmonized “ahs,” the snappy guitar parts. But the new material from Fate falls short of the old stuff, and even the splendid “My Old Ways” suffered from a transformation from an easygoing sway to a blunt, soulless rock. Part of the problem was muddy sound that blurred the nuances of the music, but part of it was me growing tired of Dr. Dog’s shtick.

The Gutter Twins

I tried to check out a few songs from new Sub Pop signees Foals next, but I clunked my head against a pole in the photo pit and decided to sit that one out. So I moved on to The Gutter Twins, the collaboration between Greg Dulli (Afghan Whigs, Twilight Singers) and Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees, Queens of the Stone Age). It sounded, quite frankly, like every other Dulli project — like inspirational tales for slithering creatures of the night. Lanegan, standing there with no instrument, didn’t have a lot to do for a good part of the set, but that’s alright because from where I stand Dulli brings a lot more songwriting strength to the table.

MGMT

Later I decided to give MGMT another shot after bailing on a lackluster SXSW showcase five months ago. The group’s debut Oracular Spectacular has grown on me a lot since then, particularly singles “Weekend Wars” and “Time to Pretend,” but the boys from Brooklyn still don’t seem like very seasoned performers. There was no visceral impact to their show.

Booka Shade

Luckily, around the corner Booka Shade was providing all the primal power I was looking for in the form of block-rocking beats. I’m no electronica expert, but however you classify this duo’s music, it had the crowd pumping their fists and jumping for joy. I mentioned in my Radiohead review that live music is foremost about connecting with the audience, and Booka Shade succeeded in that respect where the limp-wristed pop-rock of MGMT could not.

Brand New

Next I tried something brand new for me — namely, Brand New. I knew this band was beloved by the Hot Topic crowd, but I had little idea what they’d sound like. Most of the ongs went a little something like this: One guitar strumming minor chords and one voice emoting pensively, then KABLAM! LOTS OF GUITARS AND EVEN MORE EMOTION! Other times they hovered in a middle ground that I found to be positively mundane. I wanted to like these guys, but I just can't lie to myself like that.

Jamie Lidell

Liking Jamie Lidell took no convincing. The British soul machine came out dressed in what looked like Michael Scott's women's suit from The Office (OK it was way more effeminate than that) and strutted his stuff backed by a strange, sage group of players. Then he transformed some righteous scat (never thought I'd say that) into a frenzy of looped samples and transitioned into the electronic portion of his show. The guy was a dynamo, a thrill, a true performer — everything most of these bands were not. Therefore, he gets an extra photo:

After the Lidell experience I headed across the park for Broken Social Scene, the Toronto indie rock collective known for performing with membership in the double digits. Saturday's show was no different — Kevin Drew, Brendan Canning and company started out with a seven-strong, all-dude lineup that eventually bloomed to at least a dozen. Last year's BSS set at Lolla, which featured everybody who's ever played on one of their records (including the now muy famous Leslie Feist) was reportedly legendary. (Word is this year Lupe Fiasco was putting on just such a set across the park at the same time; drat!) This go-round could never live up to such expectations, but BSS did a respectable job of balancing tracks from their proper LPs and Drew and Canning's solo albums. They'll likely be a staple of the festival scene for years.

The night concluded with the festival's greatest set. Check back here soon for more on Rage Against the Machine's violence-inducing, rabble-rousing clinic on how to headline a music festival.