I thought surely one day this would all start to get old to me.
I thought there’s no way I can last 3 days at a music festival- are you kidding me?! Lollapalooza used to be one day, that was enough! But for many, many reasons, I keep coming back for more of this secret that I share with 225,000 other people. What can I say? I love it too much.
For three days in this gorgeous city of Chicago, I get to run around Grant Park and be a kid again. This year was even more special because there were several bands from my youth that I was finally getting to see perform songs that held a lot of meaning for me.
It all started out Friday when we got there in time for the Black Keys set, around 4:30 and saw them until they finished at 5:15. Cat Power then played at the adjoining Playstation stage, but we didn’t stay long for her set. I just feel that some artists lend themselves better to the outdoor, heat-laden summer festival type of events and some are better in the air-conditioned venue with plush seating. Cat Power I’m afraid is one of those people (for me). So, we chose to make our way over to Grizzly Bear on the side Citi stage, and I was pleased with our decision.
We stayed there for about 30 minutes until it was time for Raconteurs. The first time Raconteurs played here 2 years ago, I was up at the front of the stage, having just seen one of my favorite bands, Umphrey’s McGee play on that very same stage. The show was no less rockin', but I was so far back it was more difficult to see this time. As my friend put it, who was with me up front two years ago…”All I can see is Jack White’s pale. That’s enough.” They played all the songs I expected to hear from Broken Boy Soldiers, and some of the new tunes that are great as well. Jack White is a rock star, and I love him.
After a short restroom break and walk over to the south end of the field, we took in some aural Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks (could not see them from our vantage point unfortunately) and it wasn’t until a few days later I learned that part of the Jicks consists of the old Sleater-Kinney drummer, Janet Weiss. Pretty awesome, I did not know that. Soon after, we made our way to Radiohead and found a spot to set up camp. With the help of my friend Joel’s umbrella, we were able to guide some other friends to our spot and had a nice sized group in which to enjoy the show. The opening notes to '15 Step' began and we were off! This show was simply amazing, it’s so hard for me to put into words. I saw them just two months earlier in Paris on this tour, and while it was a very similar show, it was a completely different experience. Radiohead is my favorite band, and no one comes close to making me feel they way they do when I listen to their music. The rest of their setlist is as follows:
1. 15 Step
3. There There
4. All I Need
6. Weird Fishes/Arpeggi
7. The Gloaming
8. The National Anthem
9. Faust Arp
10. No Suprises
11. Jigsaw Falling Into Place
14. The Bends
15. Everything In It's Right Place (fireworks began right about here!)
16. Fake Plastic Trees
19. Paranoid Android
20. Dollars & Cents
21. House Of Cards
Saturday took us to Lolla around 2:00 due to some slacking off in the AM and sleeping in…We caught the entire Foals set, and were very impressed. They reminded me of a cross between Battles and the Disco Biscuits with the singer from the Cure. Very interesting, and someone I think I would go see again in a smaller venue. After that we caught a little MGMT and they didn’t blow us away immediately, so the choice was made to head over and grab some lawn for Explosions in the Sky. This is instrumental, Mogwai-type music and perfect for lying down in the grass with your shoes off, just taking it all in. I loved it. After Explosions, we caught the rest of DJ Bald Eagle and waited for (a late) Uffie who has sang on Justice’s CD and is a cutie little 20-year-old MC who lives in Paris. I was really looking forward to Uffie but she didn’t show up until close to 6:15-6:20 so there wasn’t much time to waste before Battles on the Citi stage. We caught maybe 2 Uffie songs before we had to scoot. I’ll see her again, I’m sure. DJ Bald Eagle had this rapper with him that totally cracked my shit up more than anyone this weekend with this line “I’m too fat to be a hipster…those skinny jeans don’t come in my size…” so funny. I can relate, I mean the skinny jeans are only meant for the tiny, tiny birds really.
After Uffie was Battles. John Stanier of Tomahawk and Helmet on drums is the main attraction here, and while Battles is pretty good on disc and makes for good driving music, I wasn’t completely 100% into their set. There is a lot of repetition and while good musicianship, it wasn’t something I can say I’d go see again.
After Battles we grabbed a bite to eat and walked back to Toadies before their set ended with 'Tyler', a personal favorite song of mine and my “Cougar” friends back home. (You know who you are). SO many nights ended with this song, all of us just gathered around drinking and singing this song at the top of our lungs. It’s moments like those I will never ever forget! I felt as I looked around me that no one really knew that song, even though they ended with it. But I was in my own little world, so who cares. Up next, Rage Against the Machine!! Another group from my youth that I had never seen before and whose songs really just grab you and don’t let go. While I’m sure by now everyone has heard the reports of the chaos and fury that went down, in my area waaaaay in the back, we were dancing around and singing all these songs with joy. The set was interrupted several times due to audience crushing and too many people squeezed into the front but it was still amazing to finally get to see Zack and co. unleash these songs for me live on stage!
Sunday was more relaxed, and we didn’t make it to the fest until later on, almost early evening due to previous obligations. We still managed to see a little bit of music, starting with Girl Talk at 6:30 on the Citi Stage. Talk about a dance party. Girl Talk (AKA Greg Gillis) is someone you want to be friends with, someone you want at your party. I mean I didn’t see one person (well maybe one guy on the lawn passed out) dancing and getting down to these mashed-up songs, everything from Hall and Oates to Justin Timberlake, to Van Halen, it was all one big mashed up ball of funk and I loved it. I want to see Girl Talk with 50 of my closest friends and THAT will be a good time indeed.
After Girl Talk we walked over to get a good spot for Nine Inch Nails and caught the end of the National, which sounded pretty nice from where I was, and I know we have their CD on the I-Pod but I cannot remember the name of the song I like. After National, pretty much right at 8:15 on the dot, was the other big highlight for me, Nine Inch Nails. Wow. What can I say except pure, utter adrenaline and pure genius. I had never seen NIN before and I was really looking forward to it, especially after their last couple of albums sounded so unique from the earlier stuff and really more glitchy and dancey than before. Their setlist for your reading pleasure:
March of the Pigs
The Greater Good
The Big Come Down
The Hand That Feeds
Head Like a Hole
In This Twilight
The highlight for me had to be “Terrible Lie”. I have been listening to this band on and off since I was about 14 or 15 years old. My brother had the cassette tape Pretty Hate Machine (among others) and I would go in my room and listen to this music coming out of the stereo that was unlike anything I had ever heard before. It wasn’t like all the metal stuff he liked, it was different. I remember it definitely had an impression on me, and this album especially.
Trent Reznor also deserves mentioning-he looked so much different to me than the Trent I remember from my youth-he looked very muscular and HOT (sorry had to say it) and just healthy-I was glad to see it. No one wants a wimpy rock star. The stage set up was simply gorgeous, all the lights and the set, just made for a really amazing show and last show of the weekend. Overall, while I’m sad I didn’t score the cheapy $60 tickets this time around, I’d say for my first time paying the full price to attend this 3-day Lolla extravaganza, it was well worth it. And while I’ve heard some people say the reason they don’t go is because they can’t stand the crowds, I’d say give it a try, you’d be surprised. It doesn’t feel that crowded when the stages are so spread apart. Sure it’s crowded for the more popular acts, but really, there is so much to see and do, that you never really feel like the crowds are unbearable. And really that is no excuse--if you love music, you’ll do anything and withstand anything for it. I know I will keep coming back for more as long as Perry Ferrell keeps spoiling Chicago with this best event of the summer.
Lollapalooza, see you next year.