Monday, August 25, 2008

Concept: Some Weird, Cool, Perplexing, and Beautiful Things About Lollapalooza.



Almost a month tardy, but whatever:

* FRENCH TOAST WITH COFFEE FOR BREAKFAST EACH MORNING BEFORE HEADING OUT.

* THE EVERPRESENT SCENT OF... UP... INCENSE.

* THE PROFOUND LACK OF AT&T PHONE RECEPTION DESPITE AT&T WAS THE FESTIVAL'S GREATEST SPONSOR.

* GETTING CAUGHT IN A RIOT.
The most dramatic and newsworthy item of the day was the intrapunk warfare at Rage Against the Machine. I met up with friends for this event about an hour ahead of time and at least three hundred feet from the stage but it was still shoulder to shoulder and knees to knees, and it only got more and more crowded. Forty minutes before the show started I left to grab a bite and almost didn't make it back in. Twenty minutes before the show I started to feel like I was near the front of the line for a particularly scary roller coaster. The show itself was, for our vantage, dizzying but not overwhelming. There were scattered crowd-surfers and extemporaneous mosh pits. At one point a youngish twenties boy plowed into our group and a friend of mine plowed him futher into the crowd, only to be set upon by the boys much larger and scowlier friend. We narrowly avoided a fight there. And then there was the refrain of Zach de la Rocha to "move ten steps back," only occasionally and grudgingly obeyed when he threatened to cut the set short. Just out of out line of vision, and undiscovered until later, a group of several hundred fans listening outside on Columbus Drive had stormed an access point that opened for the CTA, and managed to get past the police. So nobody really knows how many people were there, but it was more than eighty thousand.

* HIPPIES.

* STOPPING IN STREETERVILLE ON THE WAY TO THE FESTIVAL ON DAY 1 AND GETTING MY SUCCESSFUL DRUG TEST FOR MY NEW JOB: NOTHING'S GONNA STOP ME NOW, 'CAUSE I JUST DON'T CARE ANY MORE. AND THEN:

* READING THE MYSTERIES OF UDOLPHO WHILE WAITING FORTY-FIVE MINUTES IN LINE TO GET IN ON THE FIRST DAY.

* HIPSTERS.

* DUST.

* KIDZAPALOOZA.

* KIDZ.

* YES: MYSPACE STILL SUCKS.

* MISTING TENTS.

* THE OCTOPUS PROJECT AGAINST THE BAR.
I decided that, at least once during the weekend I wanted to be front-and-center for a cool band. The targeted performance was The Octopus Project, which performed on the midsized Myspace Stage at 11:30, just a half hour after the gates would open. I arrived at Grant Park before opening that weekend, and when admission started, they blasted the theme to Star Wars followed by Chariots of Fire. I basically ran through the park until I came to the stage, just in time to nab one of the very last spots against the barrier. It was a great choice... the crowd probably topped out at about 1,000, but the band still gave an all-out performance. They gave everyone up front tube balloons which we inflated and let go at one moment during the first song. The band chronically traded instruments, of which there were many, both of the guitar- and antique-electronic-variety, and I got to bop my head with some truly devoted fans of the Austin music scene. And the best part was when the girl started playing the theramin. As she prepared it a hush fell over the crowd, and it had this beautiful, haunting sound, though it looked like an air harp performance more than anything else. It was definitely worth it, and was such a positive experience that I attempted a repeat later that morning. This resulted in:

* DANCING ON THE BIG SCREEN FOR THE BRAZILIAN GIRLS.
Brazilian Girls came out as a sort of vaudeville-tinged Eurodance with tons of bass, and they were great. I showed up a half-hour early and applied the strategy of "move up to the stage and in from the side." This was a necessary approach because the show drew probably 7-8,000 people, but I managed to make the third row and hold a spot down for Jessica. We danced (as did everyone else) and there I was for about six or seven seconds, ten feet high and moving above the teeming masses on the largest plasma screen you've ever seen.

* SWEAT.

* PEOPLE WEARING LITTLE CLOTHING WHO, BY AND LARGE, COULD GET AWAY WITH IT.

* THE FACT THAT THE FOOD WAS ACTUALLY NOT THAT EXPENSIVE, AND SURPRISINGLY GOOD.

* BEING WITH TRUELOVE!

* THE LAKE BREEZE.

* THE INGENUITY OF CAPITALISM, WHICH OF COURSE, WILL WEAR OUT HERE EARLY ON.

* SHOCKING SKYLINE VIEWS (INCLUDING ONE OF THE PLACE WHERE I NO LONGER WORKED) INSPIRING THROUGH SLEEP DEPRIVATION AND SENSORY OVERLOAD.

* AVOIDING DEHYDRATION THROUGH THE CONSUMPTION OF GALLONS OF WATER, FOLLOWED BY A PREDICTED NUMBER OF TRIPS TO THE BATHROOM.

* SEEING FRIENDS, EXPECTED AND UN-
We saw Amber and Hallie and Rocco and Sam and Joe Bolte and Emily and Will and even others. Sometimes, finding people was back-breakingly hard, even when you'd set a time and a place in advance. Sometimes, you'd see someone you knew, even if you thought they were out on the East Coast.

* HOW MANY OF THE PERFORMERS WERE NON-WHITE.

* HOW FEW OF THE CONCERT GOERS WERE NON-WHITE.

* NEW DISCOVERIES.
I actually bought music for Gogol Bordello, the Ting Tings, the Go! Team, and the Octopus Project. I will probably be making an investment in Brazilian Girls and Saul Williams sometime in the near future. My favorite thing about Lollapalooza was probably the opportunity for discovery. Most of the bands here were amazing, none of them sucked, and we saw about thirty over the course of the weekend: Holy Fuck, Lupe Fiasco, Gnarls Barkley, Mates of State, Margot and the Nuclear So-and-So's, Dr. Dog, MGMT, Toadies, Chromeo, Blues Traveler, K'Naan, The National, Grizzly Bear, Booka Shade, Cansei de Ser Sexy, Spank Rock, Girl Talk, Magic Wands, and DJ Bald Eagle. I never would have known them if they hadn't all been in the same place at the same time, all doing their truly unique thing.

* THE REBELLIOUS VIBE THAT PERMEATED THE CITI STAGE.

* BESTING SUNBURN WITH A TON OF SUNSCREEN AND A WELL-ADVISED JUNGLE GETUP.

* K'NAAN GETING PISSED OFF WHEN THEY CUT HIS MIC AND FLICKING OFF THE CROWD BEFORE KNOCKING OVER HIS EQUIPMENT IN A TANTRUM.

* OLD FAVORITES.
The Radiohead set had a bit of serendipity to it, as fireworks scheduled to launch off Northerly Island perfectly coincided with the performance of "Fake Plastic Trees," and cut off at the perfect moment. I heard everything I wanted to, with "House of Cards" as gripping as I expected, and I never would have guessed "Everything In Its Right Place" to be a foot-stomping hand-clapping crowdpleaser, but it was, and of course there were crazy lights throughout. But my favorite moment was the showstopper: an accelerated and schizophrenic version of "Idioteque" which the band bleached in orange and green all across the screens. Thom dissolved into guttaral slam-sounds and then all of the sound stopped, and we all went home. It was sweet.
I personally thought that the Nine Inch Nails set got off to a kind of slow start. He definitely dropped bombs with early renditions of "March of the Pigs" and "Closer," but the pace slakened with same (not unpleasant) instrumental takes off Ghosts which all faded in and out, wordlessly, and had the feel of a slow moving jazz jam session. However, the spread and heaviness built again later on, leading into and through the encore. "Head Like a Hole" was jaw dropping and the whole crowd basically sang the entire song. But the highest point (and one of the quietist) was the two minutes Reznor spoke with gratitude to the crowd, about how he had participated at hte First Lollapalooza in 1991, he was surprised to still be alive, and playing at the same festival after all that time. Th set was gently manipulative, as we all thought that the exciting part of the show was over early (disappointingly so) and the crowd didn't seemed that inclined to rock out, having outgrown this about six years ago. But... he worked from behind and under us, sneaking back in when we didn't expect it, and when her croaked in those crazy, caging, deceptive lights onto a dark stage for a penultimate rendition of "Hurt," ack. It was amazing and heart breaking.

*SHOWING UP LATE TO THE GO! TEAM, BUT HAVING NINJA'S FACE SUDDENLY APPEAR ON A MASSIVE SCREEN WITH BOOMING BASS AS I WALKED ACROSS THE PARK.

*EPHEMERA.
Turning thirty during while the Brazilian Girls was strutting across the stage was more mind-blowing than any other birthday conceit I could have worked up on such short notice.
I talked Sam into finagling a ticket for the ultimate performance.
I bought a bunch of hippie shit.
I registered to vote in Illinois.

*THE EL RIDE HOME.
Two hundred hipsters riding the red line.
At Fullerton I said, "Hey, Zach de la Rocha's signing autographs down on Fullerton."
They laughed, as much as hipsters do.
We got home well after midnight.
The next day, I got up early, and went in to start my new job.

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