You can put –palooza on the end of just about any word and instantly incite ridiculousness. Pre-parties, After-parties, after-concerts - the party really just didn’t stop for 3 straight days (4 for some of us). My how you’ve grown. Is it possible that it’s grown too big? 75 thousand people each day? Sold out every day? That’s a lot of people descending on a relatively small area of Grant Park for 3 days straight. Friday we waited in line for 45 minutes to trade in our tickets for wristbands. The anticipation was killing me, and it was hot as hell. Saturday, organizers closed the crosswalk at Congress, so festival goers were forced to enter on the north or south side and walk back around to get to the entrance at Buckingham Fountain. I know I spent a lot of the time complaining that it’s too crowded, it’s not about the music anymore, there’s too many people, oh I’m not coming next year, I’m only going to the after shows. But that’s because I am a music snob, and I’ll admit it. But understand Lollapalooza has become about the experience as a whole, including the music.
It is also a weekend to plan your outfit accordingly, a weekend to express yourself through your clothes, especially with what is written on your t-shirt. I saw a larger man wearing a t-shirt that said “I’m too fat to be a hipster.” Made me laugh. Wish I had taken his picture. I also saw the all important “I listen to bands that don’t even exist yet” t-shirt. Hipsters, Hippies, Yuppies, White Trash, Lolla has turned into the festival for everyone.
And then there were the Rage Against the Machine fans… all I can say is I’m glad they were all wearing Rage t-shirts so I could identify them and stay the hell out of their way. I swear, everyone I saw in one of those t-shirts was being a total asshole. I really wanted to see RATM, sort of fulfilling a teenage dream, but after seeing how their fans acted all weekend, I decided I wasn’t going anywhere near that stage because things were going to get violent, and I’m not much for getting crushed to death at a concert (but what a way to go!). I did hear they had to stop the concert several times to tell everyone to calm down and take ten steps back. Crews were pulling people out from the front because they were getting crushed from the crowd surging forward.
Instead I went over to Wilco for Saturday’s headliner, which for my music taste now, is a band I love so much more than RATM. They were incredible. Mixing the new and the old, playing the best of their enormous catalog. A lot of people say they don't get Wilco. It did take me a couple years to get into their somewhat experimental, sometimes noise sound, but once you're there, it's a great place to be. They sounded great, but maybe that was because I was dancing 3 feet away from a large speaker. Tweedy kept talking about how much sewing they had been doing in their off time, all decked out in their new multicolored suits that looked patched and bedazzled.
On Friday Jeff Tweedy also did an acoustic solo at the kid's stage, where he played down in front of the stage, in the crowd with the kids. He asked the kids if they had ever heard of the band Wilco, and if they knew any Wilco songs they would like him to play. He was so cute, their first couple suggestions he refused – too sad for a kids show, too adult for a kids show. “Parents – you need to tell your kids some of these Wilco songs deal with adult themes.” But then he played Heavy Metal Drummer, so cute, so upbeat (changing a couple of words, bringing it kid friendly). A happy little set with Wilco’s sweetest sounding songs.
Also on Friday, The Black Keys. Can I get some bass drum? These guys rock so hard. I hear Patrick Carney puts a cinder block in front of his bass drum to keep it from falling over. He hits the drums so fucking hard! I heard somewhere that rock drummers are equally conditioned physically to professional athletes... They were both soaked sweaty at the end, singer/guitarist Dan Auerbach looked like a wet rat. For only two guys, they put a hell of a lot of energy into a show. One question though - Why weren’t there more people with their hands in the air?
The Ting Tings set was a bright start to my Saturday morning. Katie White is the cutest rocking girl I’ve ever seen with her fluffy blonde hair, bright green and red outfit and her cute little British accent. Does anyone remember Jem and the Holograms? I would love to have a little Katie doll if I were a little girl. She danced and bounced all over the stage, rocking out their songs like That’s Not My Name. They’re another duo that makes it hard to believe that just two people can produce that much energy on stage. They ended the set with their hands in the air - waiting, waiting - and then Jules started wailing on this huge bass drum on the other side of the stage (I had wondered why that drum was just sitting over there!) Oh, I almost forgot the cowbell.
The afternoon crowd at MGMT surprised the hell out of me. Have they really grown that popular? I mean, I think they're great, I just didn’t think they had caught on that much. Their set kicked a lot more ass than I expected it to. I’ve seen them a few times at smaller venues, and I agreed with warnings from other writers that their live show isn’t as energetic as you would expect it to be. So, they proved me wrong. They started off slower and moved into more dancy songs like Electric Feel, Time to Pretend and ended with Kids.
I was getting a little worried at the beginning of Jamie Lidell’s set. I had talked his live show up so much since seeing him at Pitchfork last year. Last year he was solo, this year he is touring with a band, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. They played about 4 songs of new stuff full band, and while the music was good, and Jamie was entertaining, it felt a little like a lounge act. But then, the band left the stage one by one, actually walking out into the crowd back towards the festival entrance, leaving Jamie solo on stage. Here. We. Go. He walked over to his keyboard/computer becoming the man behind the umbrella and the show really got going. He started beat boxing, looping, singing and beat boxing and singing over his own vocal loops. It was fantastic. He can make some incredible sounds with his voice, and turning it into music is something special. The band came back for the last few songs, and the endless finale, which was like something out of The Blues Brothers.
Battles = Math rock? Whatever, these guys just rock. John Stainer, former drummer for the band Helmet, has made his high hat cymbal his symbol. He just beats the crap out of his drum set. Is this the year for heavy percussion or what? The set hit its climax in the middle when they played Atlas. Incredible. A little disclaimer… I may be a little biased since I saw them at their Double Door after show that night. Right up front, couldn’t get much closer to Tyondai without being on stage myself. Danced my face off.
So this is where all the really fucked up people are… I popped into Perry’s, which was his incarnation for an outdoor nightclub during the day, for DJ AM’s set. I stayed for about 5 minutes when I was already getting hit on by some Australian dude and decided I’d had enough clubbing.
Sunday was a fairly tame day for me, I spent most of the day on our sheet laid out on a hill by the bar (drinking beer of course). I did get up for Girl Talk though, and I’m glad I did. It was packed. Tens of people dancing on stage, toilet paper guns, a guy crowd surfing in an inflatable raft, a guy dressed as Spiderman, somebody in a gorilla costume climbing a tree… Insanity. Dance-party-insanity.
I closed out the evening, and the fest with headliner Nine Inch Nails. I felt transported back in time to my high school days locked up in my room blaring The Downward Spiral. It was amazing. So much anger, but so much passion. I love it. I left the set before it was over, so I didn’t see the end, but I had to get to a party at the Hard Rock… And we all know how that ended up…(put -palooza on the end of that one.)
All the other bands from the fest I either didn’t see, didn’t care enough to write about or didn’t dislike enough to write about either. All in all, another great Lollapalooza. I didn’t buy any t-shirts this year, but I did get a tattoo, so I guess that will have to do as my souvenir for 2008.