I finally cut my wristbands off yesterday when I realized there wouldn’t be a fourth day. Not that I would have survived it. My beloved camera didn’t make it past the first day, the display window got cracked somewhere along the way and while I still had three cards worth of pix from Friday, it was useless for the rest of the weekend. My sad camera, rest in peace, you served me well.
Someone in the Sun-Times complained way too much about this year’s Lollapalooza, unable to get past the fact that there were corporate names written at the top of each stage. For the record, all of that rampant commercialization did not lead me to drink Bud Light, listen to Q101, wear Adidas-Champs shoes/clothing, or play Playstation. I was too busy listening to music to notice. Funny what a paid rock critic focuses on. I’m as against corporate takeover as anyone but I fail to see how the wristband that I wore declaring my over-21-ness comprised my independence in any way. I still came home and drank Old Style.
Anyway, the Music. We started out with Jeremy Enigk on Friday, my old Sunny Day Real Estate obsession long since past, but still curious to see what he was up to and whether God’s eternal light still shone upon him. He looked like a born-again man up there in the heat and sun, and while we caught only the last half it was still nice to hear some of those Return of the Frog Queen tunes.
We headed to Secret Machines after watching the very quiet Iron and Wine for a while (rapper Lady Sovereign drowned out the first half), and we were glad we did, SM was an early highlight.
The Raconteurs were next and kicked ass, I had no idea what they would be like besides “Steady As She Goes,” but as a White Stripes fan I thought this was its equal, maybe even better (no good pix of this one). We moved quickly to the other end before they finished to catch the start of Sleater-Kinney’s farewell and as it began I was feeling all sentimental and sad about it, but as it went on I kept thinking “this isn’t the set I would have picked.” They barely acknowledged their history, playing almost all songs from the last album and failing to kick my ass, as they have at every other show I’ve ever seen. The biggest disappointment of Lolla for me. But this blurry picture still looks awesome with Carrie’s guitar in the air and Corin wailing away, Janet on drums:
We caught some of Death Cab and it was alright, better than I’ve seen them before, not as sleep-inducing. We headed off for some post-show shenanigans at the Congress Hotel across the street where drkfiber had secured a room. We stumbled into the lobby and it was buzzing, rocking like Super Bowl weekend, people everywhere, the freaks had taken over, it was beautiful. We walked down hotel corridor mazes unable to recognize the even and odd-numbered separation of rooms. It was an old hotel and at one point we stepped into the bathroom for this inexplicable shot, which I call “Tale of Two Dwelshes:”
We wrapped it up with El Cid on Kedzie and woke up Saturday on a mission to see our friends in Sybris at 1pm. Racing from the L into the fest, we heard their first notes as walked/ran towards the stage, but a few songs in I began to feel light-headed and not so good. A great heatwave fell over my body and I sat on the side for a while, trying to get it together and not faint. I had terrible pictures of being carted out and missing the best day of the fest, and so I quickly downed some vitamin water and sat in shade. Sybris, former owners of the ill-fated MaM Van, put on a good show (my camera was gone at this point and so these pix are courtesy of Denver Jim):
I got myself together and was starting to feel normal again for Built to Spill, who kind of bored us all, and so we headed over for some Wolfmother on the other side. This year’s Lolla was a lot bigger than last year’s, and that walk was a killer when you really wanted to see a band, but we got there for the start of WM’s set. At the time, this was easily the best show so far. Wolfmother took us to another dimension!
After being rocked so thoroughly, we had to slip out as they played their last song to get over to the B** L**** stage, where Sonic Youth was up next. Another long walk, but we made it in time and of course, Sonic Youth was great (no pix). This would be the first time we saw them today, but not the last. After a break we hung around the same stage for The Flaming Lips, who came out and managed to top everything before them. There were Santa Clauses and Aliens and robots and Wayne was eloquent and funny and we all did our best to sing away George Bush and create world peace (picture this giant crowd shouting out “Fanatical Fuck!”). I don’t think it worked, but it was a noble effort. Here’s Wayne in his bubble:
Some of us closed out the night with Kanye West, who I thought was great despite having sound troubles. We danced around in the gravel of the softball field to “Jesus Walks” and “Gold Digger” like caucasion nutjobs. Next up was a train ride (the Flapjack Express**) to the Double Door, where I had won 2 tickets to see Sonic Youth in a post-Lolla rock explosion. We got right up to Lee Ranaldo’s side and stayed there, just to the left corner of the stage, and were slathered with an ear-crunching display of noise and beauty. As the show came to an end we were transported somehow to the L platform, where we sprawled out and waited for some distant train to come and take us home.
**The Flapjack Express** We had outsmarted the crowds by jumping on a train going the opposite direction and getting off at the next stop, only to catch the returning ride back, but with an empty car so we could all sit down. As we pulled up to our previous station the masses climbed in around as we basked in the glory of our wisdom. But the train had a strangely familiar smell, for unknown reasons: it was maple syrup. Henceforth, the title was bequeathed upon thee as “The Flapjack Express,” and our harmonica-bearing friend Pat would blow a quick tune and greet each stop with the announcement: “Welcome to the Flapjack Express!” Arguments ensued over the term “flapjack” over “pancake,” and I brought “Belgian waffles” into the mix, but it was a happy ride home all around.
We took our time on Sunday, getting there before Andrew Bird, who we would see again later that night. The Shins didn’t translate so well and I made the choice to see Queens of the Stone Age over Wilco, which I later regretted, but had a revelation with Broken Social Scene. Great and inspiring set of music. It was almost a relief that this day didn’t have the back and forth of the other two days, and we played it loose and easy throughout. By the time the Chili Peppers came on we were done and so we sat at Buckingham Fountain and listened from afar and then got out before it was over. On the train we turned a new trick, taking turns at stand-up comedy. Most everyone was a terrible joke-teller, myself included, but it got us home. Or, to Wicker Park, where we got some food at the Northside and then cabbed down to the Charleston in the old hood for a few. Andrew Bird was there and not many others, and we drank $2 Mooseheads as a guy played guitar. Denver Jim somehow managed to get me up there and play a tune, and so I played the first thing that came into my head, The Who’s “I’m One,” off Quadrophenia. At some point we drifted home, but not after taking a walk past the old house on good old Hoyne Street.
Maybe more pix later, but this summary has me feeling exhausted all over again. Overall rating of this year’s Lollapalooza: Pretty Good (last year’s rating was: Surprisingly Good).