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Feature Mon Aug 06 2007

Lollapalooza 2007, A Review

Looking for a storyline from this year's Lollapalooza festival? Here are a few possibilities to toss around:

1) This year's Lollapalooza was a celebration of bad behavior. I hate to contradict Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder's claim at Sunday's closing set that every artist he and his bandmates had spoken to over the weekend, "to a man," had praised the crowds for our behavior, but let's just say things may have looked rosier from the stages than from the thick of it. Time Out Chicago's Scott Smith noted over the weekend that "a festival band…is largely expected to support the drinking of beer, and the exclamations of 'WOOOOO!' whenever possible." I'll add only that all those Cub haters who like to call Wrigley Field "the world's largest beer garden" have clearly not been to Grant Park over a certain summer weekend in the past few years. Add in the constant wafting pot smoke and a barrage of sloppy PDA, and you get the reaction of a friend of a friend at Friday night's Daft Punk set, who saw a couple with a toddler in an umbrella stroller and told me, "I don't know if this is a place I would bring a kid." But there's a whole kids' area! I thought. The new Lolla is perfect for fans of the original Lollas, who have kids now and want to teach them how to rock! But then, listening to David Vandervelde early Sunday afternoon wailing on a cover of the Rolling Stones rarity "Cocksucker Blues" (with its refrain of "Where can I get my cock sucked / Where can I get my ass fucked"), I thought okay, maybe she has a point.

2) This year's Lollapalooza was not for Republicans. Or perhaps more specifically, it was not for George W. Bush. The protestors handing out World Can't Wait flyers outside the festival's entrance were the first assault, and Vedder's bit of Pink Floyd's Another Brick in the Wall in which he changed the refrain to "George Bush, leave this world alone" would have been the last. (Bush probably wouldn't have cared for the numerous calls for a a boycott of BP Amoco, capped by Pearl Jam's protest ditty "Don't Go BP Amoco.") The most extreme example that I heard, however, came from Andrew Whiteman of Apostle of Hustle, who told the crowd a story about a Pony Express rider powered by weed and ecstasy; the rider eventually presents "the bloody severed head of George Bush" (and in his other hand, the head of Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper).

3) Criminy, this year's Lollapalooza is big. The physical size, the number of stages and the overwhelming number of bands remained generally the same from last year, but this year felt more crowded all around. Were ticket sales ever cut off? I won't be surprised to hear that they weren't, nor that attendance was up significantly over last year. And it was agreed upon in my group that the size of Sunday night's Pearl Jam crowd totally eclipsed last year's closing Red Hot Chili Peppers. Then again, for all the crowds things seemed well managed. Lines for bathrooms and concessions were never out of control, and the sound issues that plagued several acts last year seemed to be much improved.


Crowd at the Roots' set. (photo by Robyn Nisi)

Besides, who needs a storyline when you've got all this music? My itinerary for Friday was my version of Dance Party USA: Electric Six, M.I.A., the Rapture, LCD Soundsystem, and Daft Punk. Electric Six was more muscular than I'd expected; M.I.A. was underwhelming enough that I had no qualms leaving early to catch the Rapture's full set, which was everything I'd hoped it would be. Pieces of the People We Love is one of my favorite albums of the past twelve months, and live their cowbell-heavy dance-rock is as infectious as can be. When Mattie Safer sang "people don't dance no more" in "W.A.Y.U.H." we were intent on proving him wrong. I stopped by the DJ set of Schubas' own Matt ROAN, where he was getting people moving with Kanye and R. Kelly, on my way to LCD Soundsystem, where James Murphy's rock orchestrations, transferring his electronic dance beats to live instruments, knocked me on my ass. I wish I could say the same for Daft Punk. I know this is the unpopular opinion, but seeing Daft Punk live was not like seeing live music at all (and I say this as a guy who's got Discovery on his all-time top albums list). LCD subverted my expectations by taking songs from albums that sound not unlike Daft Punk and turning them into a rock show, playing and singing them live. Daft Punk were DJs with a really good light show, and as one of my friends pointed out, we can't even tell if they're DJing live up on that giant pyramid: "For all we know they just put on a CD." Maybe I just wasn't stoned enough to enjoy the light show, but I left early that night.


Rhymefest. (photo by Shaz Rasul)

Saturday I had something come up in the afternoon and didn't make it to Grant Park until evening, so I only caught three acts, two of whom I'd seen play before. Snow Patrol delivered the polished, straightforward rock show I've come to expect and am not ashamed to enjoy; not everything has to be angular and impenetrable. Speaking of angular (but not impenetrable, next came my first live experience with Spoon. For some reason I've come to think of Spoon's music as introvert rock, and Britt Daniel seemed to support my theory, mostly avoiding between-song banter and keeping his body turned toward his bandmates and away from the crowd whenever possible (though he did slip in that the band would be returning to town in October). Shy or not, the band is tight as all get out, and they mixed a number of crowd-pleasing older tracks ("Small Stakes," "I Turn My Camera On") with new ones from Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga—though with the skyline glowing behind them and a light rain falling, I say they missed a golden opportunity to play "Chicago At Night." At least the rain didn't stop the fans from dancing—by themselves, naturally. The evening's headliners were Muse, who I last saw a couple of years ago at the Metro. To say this was a different show would be the understatement of the year. Matthew Bellamy and company brought their stadium show for this gig, the one they must use when they're filling Wembley Stadium at home in England. It's fitting, since I imagine this must be the largest U.S. crowd they've seen. Their animated robots on the giant LCD screens during "Supermassive Black Hole" would have fit right in at Daft Punk, though the shredding guitars might not.

Everyone's Got a Digital Camera Nowadays

Photogs at Pete Yorn. (photo by Shaz Rasul)

Sunday was a sampling day with pleasant surprises, always the best thing about festivals. After Vandervelde's "Cocksucker" (a song he recorded for Daytrotter) set me off on that tangent, I decided to check out Kidzapalooza. There I watched tots rocking out to the Candy Band's punked-out version of "Itsy-Bitsy Spider," when I started to notice a lot of childless teens and twenty-somethings filling in. Turns out the next act was an unscheduled but clearly rumored acoustic appearance by Ben Harper, who played gentle versions of "Steal My Kisses" and "With My Own Two Hands." I left there to get in place for an en fuego Lupe Fiasco, where there was one telling moment: Lupe gave a shout-out to the South Side—small cheer—West Side—practically nothing—North Side?—huge eruption. "Ah, so there's a lot of Cubs fans here," he said slyly. I bolted to the other end of the park in time to hear Amy Winehouse finish her set with "Rehab" and "Valerie" and apparently no trainwrecks, and stayed to hear tiny, drunk Scotsman Paolo Nutini bust through The Jungle Book's "I Wanna Be Like You" in addition to his own "New Shoes" and "These Streets." After a detour at Apostle of Hustle, I purposely avoided the Iggy Pop crowd in favor of charming Alabaman singer-songwriter John Paul White, who played to the smallest crowd I'd seen all weekend and told he hoped his album would be out at the beginning of the year. I stuck around to hear a couple of songs by our own Bound Stems, but when the sound guy couldn't seem to get the mix right I left to stake out a spot for My Morning Jacket. I missed MMJ last year in favor of paying respects to Sleater-Kinney, but this set—with the help of the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra—was astonishingly good. TV on the Radio, as great as they are, seemed to realize they were just killing time until the main event.

Iggy Pop

Iggy Pop. (photo by Shaz Rasul)

Now, for Pearl Jam—look, let's just say that I was a teenager in the early-to-mid '90s, and I never got to see PJ live until now. So obviously I can not be objective: this was the greatest concert ever in the history of the world. Fine, I kid, but in all seriousness, Vedder and company now how to work a stadium-sized crowd. My friends and I may have been reliving our youth screaming along to "Alive," but I was impressed at how well Vedder kept the attention of the numerous current teenagers who were newborns when Ten dropped and who don't have a Pearl Jam chart hit in their conscious memories. Evanston-born Vedder noted how happy it made him to say the words "Good evening, Chicago," and recalled riding the El with his Walkman listening to Lolla-mates Patti Smith and Iggy Pop. The band finished a two-hour set with a cathartic, if predictable, "Keep On Rockin' in the Free World." It's great advice, but after three days of this I am exhausted. I'll keep on rocking just as soon as I get some sleep.
-Kris Vire

[Got pictures from Lollapalooza (or any local music show)? Join our Transmission flickr group and post up to five photos a day from your favorite Chicago music experiences.]

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »


  Chicago Music Media

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Can You See The Sunset From The Southside
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Oh My Rockness
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Theft Liable to Prosecution
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