I love Lollapalooza in Grant Park. While Lolla has a way to go to really be the music festival it has the potential to be, it’s certainly off to a great start. You have a number of new bands along with a couple good old ones, playing one after another against the backdrop of the Chicago skyline. While I mainly came to Lollapalooza to see Rage and Nine Inch Nails, I probably enjoyed myself the most when wandering around and discovering new acts, drinking beer with friends and taking in the beautiful view.
My utter unfamiliarity with the majority of the bands playing at Lollapalooza this year almost made me title this post, “Lollapalooza ’08: Making You Feel Old and Out of Touch, One Indie Rock Band at a Time.” However, I felt that would be too negative a title, since I ultimately found a lot of new music that I enjoyed and had fun reading up on bios and planning our schedule accordingly.
My biggest complaint is that the beer hall, “Lederhosen,” only demonstrates the utter unfamiliarity that the American party promoters have with German beer and beer halls. First of all, the only “craft” beers they have there are Stella, Beck’s and 312. Summerfest has got this beat big time. If you want to go with the German beer hall thing, longer wooden tables would be more authentic along with a better variety of beer.
My girlfriend and I bought 3-day passes. Here’s a log of my experience at the fest:
Arrived at 2:15 PM. Stood in an enormous line trying to get in. Showed up for Louis XIV at 3:15 PM. I like their sound. They have a kind of over the top glam-rock thing going, yet was intrigued. “Finding out true love is blind,” was the song that stuck out to me in their set. After that, we wandered over to see Gogol Bordello perform at 4:15. They are a ton of fun to watch and gave a great performance! They’re a type of gypsy punk band and I’d heard of them before. Their energy and stage presence was fantastic and I found myself drinking, jumping and singing along where I could alongside a group of other people doing the same. After they were done, my girlfriend and I met up with some friends and drank beer by the aforementioned, Lederhosen “authentic” German beer tent. At 7:15 we went over to check out The Raconteurs who were ultimately forgettable to me, although to be fair I was already a little drunk by this point and unable to focus in depth. We then went to go see Radiohead and I realized something while watching them. I really don’t care about Radiohead. At all. I know a lot of other people swear up and down that they are the best band on Earth, but while I appreciate their sound I didn’t get excited watching them in concert. There I said it. Anyway, while searching for the bathroom I happened upon the “Artists Only” area which is reserved for the industry people. I had to exit on the opposite side to use the bathrooms, but managed to intentionally sneak back in a second time when the guard was occupied. Pretty cool stuff. They have free drinks and a path to get a view from the stage. Feeling guilty that I was now separated from my girlfriend who might never forgive me, I left in order to go find her. Turns out she left to go find me, and wandered into the same Artists Area I had twice assailed. Oops. Goodbye Radiohead, I’m going to leave before you finish your set, because I honestly don’t care, I’m drunk, and I don’t think that guy at the VIP entrance is going to suspend his vigil yet again to provide me another chance to get inside.
Woke up with a killer hangover at 9:30 AM. Time to move. Got over to watch a Swedish metal band called Witchcraft play a thoroughly unimpressive variety of 1971 era metal. Grabbed a couple of beers at 12:30 and was applauded by the group of beer sellers for doing so. Apparently not many of these fest goers haven’t been hardened and tested with years of Summerfest drinking, like me. Moved on down to watch,”Does it offend you, Yeah?” Apparently it does not offend me. It was a fun interesting show performed by a group of artists who were truly enjoying themselves, making some interesting electro-punk music that had me pleasantly surprised that there was something worth listening to at that hour of the day. After this, we wandered to the opposite end of grant park to watch The Gutter Twins. This band was also a real find. They were self described in the bio as “the satanic Everly Brothers,” which initially piqued my interest. The music they made was moody, brooding, and caught my ear instantly. We found a good spot to watch the show and really enjoyed the performance. After that much music in a row, I needed a break to hang out and reset my ear. After sitting and drinking for a bit, we caught the end of the Booka Shade set. They are a techno/synth group from Berlin who played some solid electrohouse. It actually made me regret I didn’t catch more of their set. Time to head on over for Brand New at the bigger stage on the south end of Lolla. Listening…listening…. No, they suck. Decided to move on down to the opposite end of the park to see the other band in the same time-slot, Explosions in the Sky, and meet up with some friends. I gotta say, I liked the sound. My ear was a little too tired at this point to soak it all in, but they were a thoroughly enjoyable instrumental rock band. Started listening to Okkervil River before realizing that we were not into them at all. Then, took time for relaxing and drinking beer while we waited to go see Battles. Turns out we had some trouble marshaling the forces to get there in time for the show so we heard a bit of it from the tables while we all grabbed some food and waited for our friends. Next, it was time to make our way to get early seats for the Rage Against The Machine show and listen to the Toadies from afar. Rage was great. The crowd got into it a lot. The only bizarre part was the frequent stops the band had to take to instruct the crowd to back up, so as to not hurt each other. I guess that’s the responsible thing to do and good for them, but it’s still a little weird hearing Zach La Rocha instructing the audience on proper crowd safety before launching into “Bullet in the Head.” Regardless, damn good performance and everyone was pumped.
Barely woke up on time in order to get out the door. Started off the day at 12:30 with Wild Sweet Orange. My girlfriend wasn’t terribly impressed with this band, but I liked them. They’re a fairly new band and aren’t typically what I listen to but I found myself really enjoying their music. Several of their songs have a tinge of longing to them, and the multiple guitars give their music a nice layered quality. I particularly liked the song, “Ten Dead Dogs.” Then it was off to see The Weakerthans. Oops, they’re not there. And whoever is playing instead of them sucks. Weak. However, we caught John Butler Trio at 2:15. I must say, very impressive instrumental guitar work. The song “Ocean” in particular made the whole show worth watching. We weren’t in love with any of the bands in the 3:15 time slot, so it was occupied with beer drinking and avoiding the sun. At 4:15 Iron and Wine was playing. I felt deceived by the Bio. What was billed as a dark, intense brooding sound turns out to be more like Folk Music. Maybe slightly sad folk music. Boo. And boohoo. So we met up with some friends by the other main stage where they were watching G Love and Special Sauce(not really my thing either). We then walked across the park again to see Flogging Molly, a fun Irish Celtic/punk band. Love and Rockets played next. Around this time I found my ear dying. While I think I enjoyed listening to Love and Rockets, I find myself not able to really recall much of their set or that of the Nationals who played next. I vaguely remember being pleasantly surprised by The Nationals. Anyway, onto NIN. Trent played even though he was sick, which I appreciated, but honestly NIN was a bit of a letdown this time through. At least in comparison to other shows of theirs I’ve seen. It probably didn’t help that I had to completely sober up by this point in the evening to be ready to drive home later. Anyway, they added in some pretty long ambient stuff that didn’t seem to go anywhere or have a big payoff. In addition, some of the remixes of the old stuff didn’t grab me (with the exception of “Closer”), and maybe I’m just not crazy about their newer songs. Anyway, a lot of other people seemed to enjoy it so maybe it’s just me.
All in all, Lollapalooza was totally worth it. Heard a lot of great music, had a lot of fun. Lollapalooza ’09: here I come.