Friday, August 8, 2008

Lollapalooza--Grant Park, Chicago, Illinois

I suspect coming down the birth canal had to be easier and less time consuming than trying to squeeze through the crowds to get to the entrance gate at this year's Lollapalooza at Grant Park. Well, I knew that wasn’t true, but it did feel like it, nonetheless. There was one, piddly entrance for this sold out affair, which amassed 75,000 people per day. I missed Rogue Wave waiting an hour to get into the park. Sober and with sweat trickling uncomfortably down my back I strained my ears to hear “Publish My Love” from the line. I almost imploded from being so close and yet still so far. Coming out of the gates I sprinted onto the dusty park grounds at top speed ready to get this party started. Lolla-land. Lolladay. Pitchforkpalooza. So many irritating plays on the name smattered all over the media. Let’s just call it what it really was, Hotstickyoverpricedmusicloversbinge…palooza and here’s my personal take on it.

Line from Hell

(To try and make this efficient, I’m going to sum up the bands I saw with a few words followed by a short description)

FRIDAY – Just Getting My Feet Wet.

Go! Team – Not OK Go.
I mistakenly thought this was OK Go and was expecting treadmills and choreographed dancing. Throw in some rap, some garage-band, and some go-go dancing and you get the Go! Team. Lead singer Ninja (yes, that’s what it says on their site)was a ball of energy, dressed in rainbow knee high socks and teased hair. She bopped around, performing flying leaps across the stage. What a fun way to start the day. It’s officially on.

Lollapalooza Crowd

Mates of State
– Sunny and Share.
This cute mommy-daddy team from Lawrence, Kansas exchanged flirtatious glances during their peppy set. Their harmonizing lyrics drenched in organs and piano are so unabashedly optimistic. My friend and I staked out a spot in the front. I’m glad we did because this was my favorite set of the day and the feel-good act of the weekend.

Mates of State

The Raconteurs – Rock the Sunblock.
I hope Jack White lathered on some high-powered Banana Boat so that we have many years down the road to enjoy his talents. He’s just so pastey and so frickin’ amazing. I enjoyed this one from afar not wishing to rub up against sweaty appendages and I still managed to have a great time.

Radiohead – Teenage Stargazing.
Again, I enjoyed this from the back. But the sound carried well from the AT&T Stage. The day’s hot, unremitting sun turned us into little beer-soaked raisins. We were exhausted so we parked ourselves on the grass and breathed in Radiohead while staring at the night sky. I'd tell you they were amazing but you already know that.
Dude taking in Radiohead

Mates of State/MGMT – Aftershow at the Double Door.
It was midnight by the time we rolled up to the Double Door but I was ready to rally. In an effort to keep the morale high, my friend force-fed me a vodka and Red Bull. Well, it was not necessary because music is all I need. We managed to get in the front and could not help but scream along to the songs. We really couldn’t help it. The speakers were so loud everything shook, vocal chords included. Mates almost duplicated their Lolla set with a few extra goodies. MGMT played most of their debut album, Oracular Spectacular, culminating in a rousing rendition of my personal favorite, “Kids.”
MGMT, aftershow at Double Door

SATURDAY – A Musical Arms Race. One act toppling over the next…

Festivals always provide good people watching. This year’s look featured braided headbands across the forehead, Risky Business sunglasses and flowing, billowing, waistless sundresses. (These sundresses unfortunately revealed to me that underwear was apparently optional at the festival). Hippies meet the eighties. Eighties meet the hippies. I loved the “old” basketball jerseys- Shawn Kemp, Reggie Miller and my personal favorite, the Dan Majerle team USA jersey! I suddenly flashed back to my awkward teen years spent on my couch watching Majerle’s brazen body raining down threes. (And somewhere in the background “Age of Aquarius” was playing). Music festivals seem to have become the perfect place to resurrect these goodies. Obama paraphernalia also seeped into the festival wear, further launching him into celebrity and pop culture status.

Dr Dog – Too early to be clever.
A nice Saturday afternoon pleasantry before the whirlwind of sets to come.

The Foals – Still too early.
This is a completely new band to me. I liked them and I will check them out. That’s all I’m going to say.

MGMT – Peter Bjorn and John.
Not because they sound like them, but...are they this year’s hot summer band possibly destined to be merely a flash in the pan? If so, who cares. I don’t. They are one trippy, mind-expanding act. They were too big for the MySpace stage, and crowd-surfing was well underway.

Okkervil River

Okkervil River – Kill Me Will.
But not until after Wilco. They got to play from the only real outdoor music venue, the Petrillo Music Shell, and so they sounded great. Lead singer Will Sheff opened with an extended version of “The President’s Dead.” The wild-eyed Travis Nelsen segued “Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Maybe” into “For Real” with a wicked drum solo. My friend who is not a big fan declared that this set was the highlight of the day. A convert, perhaps? I saw them for the first time in April and thought their live show was mediocre at best. They nailed it this time.

Audrey hugging Will Sheff. Will marking Audrey's arm.

Broken Social Scene – Mickey Mouse Club.
Are there really nineteen members? This cute little Canadian army is a breeding ground for successful individual acts. I’ll spare any attempt to make Britney analogous to Feist. I especially enjoyed hits from You Forgot It In People which for me is still their best album.
Wilco (so Audrey claims; we'll have to take her word for it.)

Wilco – No Sombrero.
Or they might have been crucified for being culturally offensive. Wilco traded their usual nondescript look for tailored, glittering, colored Nudie-suits and were a wide-brimmed hat shy of becoming a mariachi band. They opened with Back in the old neighborhood…Cigarettes tastes so good from “Misunderstood”. This invoked shrieks of delight from me, um, er, I mean the audience. The well-versed Chicago crowd turned this performance into one enormous sing-along of hits from all their albums. They have always sounded great to me whether outdoors, indoors, big places or small. It was no different this time. Rumors abuzzed that Obama would make an appearance. He did not, but I’m not sure even he could upstage Wilco in their festive get-up.

Octopus Project/Okkervil River – Aftershow at Schubas
As he was setting up the drum kit, Travis Nelsen mouthed under his breath “God, I love this stage” and just before bringing in opening song “The War Criminal Rises and Speaks” whispered “I love Chicago.” Will said they were tired after their Lolla set, but as soon as they walked onto the Schubas' stage he knew this was the “real show” of the day. Oh my, lucky me. It was a crisp performance. They took the liberty to embellish songs with what seemed like improvised lyrics and ridiculous drum solos by Nelsen. The band treated fans to “the Okkervil River Song”, “Lost Coastlines” from their upcoming release, the Stand-Ins, and an extended encore. Tired but loving it they dug deep and gave it their all to honor a loyal Chicago fan base in a classic Chicago venue. I enjoyed this show immensely.

Okkervil River, aftershow at Schubas

SUNDAY – On Auxillary Power. Looking for alternative sources of fuel. Three days of $5 Bud Lights were draining my wallet and I’m just plain knackered.

Tally Hall – Blah Blah Blah.
That literally was the chorus to one of their songs, or maybe it was “Bob Loblaw” and I missed out on something really clever. I didn’t look into the story behind it. Deciding what music is good can be a fickle business especially for the casual fan. I gave them about three minutes and decided to move on. I stayed two minutes longer than I should have only because I wanted to sit in the shade.

Brazilian Girls – Pooh Richardson.
This was a quartet led by a foxy stick-like lady who pranced about in a white pillowy dress. Their electronica and world music sound is apparently taking over the club scene these days.

Miriam & Amadou – Almost Sick of Music By This Point.
A married couple from Mali, both of whom are blind. They spoke a completely incomprehensible version of English, but it didn’t matter because the crowd loved them. Their afro-world beat started up a congo line and many little impromptu dance circles.

Girl Talk – 100% Pure Magic .
Best act of the day, hands down. There was so much energy on stage and it extended across the whole crowd that spilled as far south as the MySpace stage and as far west as Columbus Avenue. This is the second time I’ve seen festival organizers underestimate Girl Talk’s popularity. Last year at Pitchfork, Girl Talk played on the Balance stage and nearly caused a melee. His mixes on Sunday were infectious. Everyone strolling by started suddenly started dancing and singing along with devilish grins - their behavior altered as if thrust into some electromagnetic field. In his usual fashion, Girl Talk (Gregg Gillis) invited audience members to dance on stage and he passed around fun props including enormous see-thru blow up anchors, oversized Hamburger Helper gloves, a contraption that launched toilet paper into the air, and confetti.

The National – Wrapping Things Up.
I was fading big time and the National’s minimalist drone did not help. So I did the lame mature thing and ducked out early to beat the crowd. I'm not a big enough Kanye or NIN fan to stick around, anyway. So my apologies to all you Nine Inch Nailers and Kanye fans.

Lollapalooza 2008

Thinking back to Friday’s lineup now seems ages ago. This was a music lover’s delight, with a spin towards indie music (whatever that means these days) for sure, but Perry Farrell continues to find a way to appeal to everyone, so much so that people felt it was worthwhile to spend anywhere up to $200 for this event. Even acts that I thought might not get much attention seemed packed and energetic, which speaks to the great variety and selection of bands. Also, I have no voice, I’m molting, and I’ve had enough beer to supply even the world’s worst alcoholic’s eye opener. I haven’t partied this hard in years.

--Audrey Wen


Anonymous said...

RE: Tally Hall ---

One time I tried to sing about spring and a storm. But you know how it goes: "blah, blah, blah, blah... all along." Won't you please stop complaining? I'm playing a song.

Ya shoulda stuck around longer! They seem to have a lot more going on if you scratch the surface a little.

dave said...

great write up audrey. as your partner in crime for most of friday, I can attest to what a great day it was...topped off with mates of state sing-alongs and mgmt psychadelic rocking till the early AM.

would personally recommend catching the go team in person if given the chance. my neck still hurts from bobbing at go team and rocking at MGMT.

and radiohead shows up with a light show and doesn't pay homage to their beginning days by omitting 'creep'? glad my night didn't end with that show.

lastly, bloc party rocked well on friday. great energy emitted...warmed the crowd nicely that had gathered in anticipation of radiohead.

Tankboy said...

Hm, looks like we had similar schedules for the weekend. I'm REALLY surprised you didn't see me at the MGMT/MoS Double Door show. I was the tall blonde dude who was up front and on the side of the stage snapping photos during part of both sets.

Oh, and the one at the bar drinking gallons of bourbon.

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