After waking up, taking the train into the city and walking for 30 minutes to reach only the tip of Grant Park, I realized that there was a stain on my soft, flowy perfect-for-dancing-in seafoam green skirt. The stain was also slightly green, and white, and black and brown, and matched the stain I soon noticed on my flip-flopped right foot. Yep, it was bird shit.
It’s probably good that I don’t believe in signs, karma, or any of those ridiculous over-analyzations, otherwise I would have considered this to be an omen for the weekend to be, well … shitty. Sure, I can complain about the animal feces on my clothing, the $3 bottles of water, or the fact that it took 15 minutes to walk from one side of the festival to the other, but in the end, it was all worth it. Hey, a brisk stroll through a lovely park to hear your new favorite indie band isn’t so bad in the end. So, for all of you who were stuck in CU over the past weekend, here’s a glimpse into the lovely world of Lollapalooza:
The first band I caught was The Subways, who had a generic rock band sound that was easy to lose sight of, with most songs not living up to the catchiness of “Rock and Roll Queen.”
Charlotte Cooper, their bassist, was quite visually irritating; jumping around the stage and going a little too extreme-crazy, reminiscent of a girl who takes two shots of Skol and thinks she’s shit-faced. Next up was Aqualung, whose dream-like music I usually enjoy, though the venue was all wrong for his style – he’s way more fitting for a bedtime mix than a concrete pavilion on a blazingly hot summer day.
Panic! At the Disco surprised the hell out of me – I’m not an emo-punk-pop fan in any shape or form, but I found their vaudeville-themed shtick and high energy performance infectious, even with a slight voice falter here and there from the lead singer. They covered “Tonight, Tonight” with ease, and adding a cello into the live performance truly provided a whole new layer to the genre they grasp so well.
At the Panic! show, I just so happened to be standing next to another college writer who was also scribbling down notes onto a pad of paper. After a short conversation about how familiar we looked to one another and a quick dabble into my favorite game, Jewish Geography, I was informed that on a temple field trip to a matzo factory when I was 11, he threw a raw handful of the ethnic flat bread my way, resulting in tears from me and a phone call to his home from my own mother. (I swear, this shit only happens to me.)
Stars came next, and I was disappointed that I had gotten excited to hear them. The quiet, airy vocals that sound enthralling on the album seemed weak and expressionless when sung live. Thankfully, Umphrey’s McGee was after them, who played a solid show (as always), though the set list was full of new songs, giving off a slight “here’s a sampler of what we sound like; please buy our album” vibe. After sneaking backstage with my matzo-throwing pal and his editor to chat with Joel and Kris about Umph’s recent trip to Japan, the festival, and the strawberry frozen fruit bar that was melting quite childishly all over my face and hands, we decided to catch the next act on that stage.
The Raconteurs drew a gigantic crowd (the “oh, that’s Jack White’s band, isn’t it?” factor could have helped a little), and played a solid set of rock music that sounded much better live than on their disc, “Broken Boy Soldiers.” I left the grounds for a little while, returning in time to pick Death Cab for Cutie over Ween. In reflection, I think it may have been a mistake since I later found out Ween’s show was phenomenal, but since I missed their CU show last fall, I felt slightly indebted to catch Death Cab live. They played a nice variety of their newer music from the two latest discs, including one of my favorite songs, the incredibly depressing “What Sarah Said.” After a god-awful allergy, coughing, and sneezing attack on the train ride home, I conquered the pathetic trifecta with sleep, and woke up for day two.
I’m not quite sure if it was from the intense walking or not, but on Saturday morning, I had the spasming back of a 90-year-old woman, making the journeys of the day that much harder. I slipped on gym shoes for the first time in a year, and waddled my way across the city to see Built to Spill. The set was enjoyable, yet the sound levels were off, meshing the sound with a band on a nearby stage.
Wolfmother was next, and even though I don’t particularly enjoy hard rock, I loved these guys. Their tight group dynamic let them play totally in sync, while all the time channeling the sounds and style of Led Zeppelin. I left early to catch Particle, one of the three other bands scheduled at the same time as Wolfmother. Though they fit the jam band stereotype,
I found their music to be a lot more focused than other instrumental groups I’ve heard lately, and with a piano-centric sound, there was no clichÇ guitar-fronting of every melody.
It was at this point in the festival that I realized how big of an issue scheduling was – there were a lot of bands over the three days that I had to miss, just because they were at the same time as others and on opposite ends of the grounds. I skipped Sonic Youth to catch Gnarls Barkley, who had everyone – including the orchestral quartet and backup singers – dressed in tennis outfits. How precious.
A rundown of the rest of the night goes like this – Disco Biscuits weren’t as polished or interesting as I thought they would be, and Common put on a good show, even though the audience was full of, as both Dave Chappelle and my boyfriend have put it, “white people who can’t dance.” The Flaming Lips had the lead singer arrive inside a gigantic bubble, and with the crazy alien-people, costumes and whatever the fuck else was happening on that stage, it was shocking and a little too odd for my taste, even as a Phish fan. Kanye West wrapped up the night with a high energy set that began with botched sound (to which he had a small hissy fit), mixed a decent amount of other people’s music, and ended with guest appearances by Lupe Fiasco and Twista.
By the third day I was beginning to burn out, but I pulled through and started the day with The Hold Steady, whose narrative lyrics were actually quite irritating. I saw the Benevento-Russo Duo next, who I ended up having a wonderful interview with later that afternoon. (Keep your eye out for next week’s buzz to catch the interview.) Their music – with Joe Russo on drums and Marco Benevento on organ – sounds so incredibly full, it’s almost unbelievable that what you’re hearing is coming from only two musicians. I jetted a bit early to catch Nickel Creek, who, in my opinion, put on the best show of the weekend. Their bluegrass combination of mandolin, guitar and violin in addition to goosebump-inducing vocals sounded more than perfect in Grant Park’s outdoor setting, and their covers of Radiohead’s “Nice Dream” and Brit-Brit’s “Toxic” had the whole crowd going.
I heard a bit of 30 Seconds To Mars who seemed shocked that they gathered a crowd, yet couldn’t see beyond the fact that, no matter how hard-rock they are or want to be, it was still Jordan Catalano Live, with Jared Leto as the eyeliner-loving frontman. The Shins were next, and even though the sound levels were terrible from far away, they were extremely personable, and had the whole audience dancing happily while they played in green shirts, jokingly calling themselves “an army for today’s youth.” I had to miss Matisyahu, and in what wound up being one of the more difficult overlaps of the weekend, had to leave early to catch Of Montreal. They played on a side stage and gathered a crowd way too large for it, most likely because their performance of indie rock was extremely impressive with a goofy, fun feel to it.
I know that I’ll probably be lynched for this one, but … I just didn’t enjoy Wilco. I didn’t, I don’t, and I’m pretty sure that I won’t. Their music seems so unoriginal and bland, leaving me to wonder how they obtained such a large following for only decently enjoyable songs. However, the real break-out of the night was Broken Social Scene, whose wide array of instruments and people brought on stage produced a massive sound that was extremely interesting and enthralling. Then, of course, to close the entire festival were the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I found their show to be pretty good – not earth-shattering, not horrendous, but just … good. They played some
classics which pleased the massively large audience, along with some new tracks – including “Dani California,” the pathetic rip-off of Tom Petty’s “Mary Jane’s Last Dance.”
The festival overall was great, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t pass-out tired, even as I write this a day after. The three days took a toll on me, but in the end, it was undeniably worth it, and I’m already counting down the days to Lolla ’07.