|« The Arrivals @ Ronny's, 8/12||Album Review/CD Release Show: Dreamend - So I Ate Myself, Bite By Bite »|
Lollapalooza Mon Aug 09 2010
Now that the sun has set on another Lollapalooza weekend in Chicago, we can take a look at the fest's successes and failures. I was concerned about the expansion of the fest across Columbus Drive and the addition of 60,000 more tickets, but it ended up being a wonderful thing. I didn't take the width of the street into account in the space that would be created, which is substantial and made it so easy to get from one end to the other and eased the bottleneck around Buckingham Fountain. And the stages that were moved into the grass and trees on the west side of the street provided so much more room for fans to gather rather than straight back into a narrow street.
As for failures, that's probably too strong of a word because they were relatively minor. Lollapalooza is an incredibly well run festival. Things that could become an issue for fest-goers never even enter the mind because they've already been accounted for. You never have to wait long in line for food or a bathroom, and prices for food and drink are relatively reasonable. Plus, while the food at the refurbished Chow Town may not be quite as good as the real thing at each actual restaurant, it's nice to have a better variety of high quality food offerings than you would get at a typical street fest. One thing I saw many times and heard about many more were bum rush break-ins into the fest. Large groups of people rushing the gate or jumping a fence all at once, and then running like mad once overlooked like zombie attacks. Some would make it in, some would be taken down, and some would retreat on their own.
Let's jump into the biggest positive, and the reason that we were all there in the first place: the music. Sunday was a bit of a late start for me, partly waiting for the morning showers to subside before venturing outside. Luckily though, the rain didn't leave the ground a soggy, muddy mess for the rest of the day.
My first stop of the day was one of the added stages on the west side, the Sony Bloggie stage (which my friends and I dubbed the hippie stage since it was shrouded in trees) for Hockey (which are anything but folk or hippie). The fresh dance pop band sounds almost exactly like The Virgins who had a hit last year with the song and video for "Rich Girls." This
California Portland group brings back '80s synth in a young, fun way. After playing a new song about marriage, lead singer/guitarist Ben Grubin told the crowd that he doesn't usually write about that kind of stuff, but that it is what's been falling out of him lately as he followed up with another song about relationships. He also commended the crowd on having so much "energy in the heat" as the sun beat down on the grass in front of the stage with a glare that almost made it difficult to see the band.
X Japan was a sight I had to see. Not knowing much from the outset other than that they are crazy popular in Japan and around the world and they looked like a Japanese glam band, I expected a spectacle. What I got was screamo emo, metal, and orchestral power rock. A mixed bag to say the least, but there is something to this group that has been an influence since 1988, selling over 20 million records across the globe. The group called it quits in 1997 and this rare American appearance was part of their reunion tour.
Erykah Badu (photo by Kate Gardiner/PBS NewsHour)
Erykah Badu followed across the field and finally took the stage after 15 minutes of DJ and another 5 minutes of her backing band jamming. Lots of people were happy to wait but many, like myself, left after her first couple of songs. The diva wore a green dress, face-framing gold earrings and a standout blond mohawk, and after starting late, the "analog girl in a digital world" decided to continue over her allotted time slot, which Wolfmother was happy to play over on the main stage beginning at 6:05pm.
Wolfmother tore it up in classic Lollapalooza rock band style beginning with "Dimension." Leader Andrew Stockdale, now with a new lineup, just released the follow up to his self-titled debut album last year called Cosmic Egg. The Australian group plowed through their hour-long set and closed out with a guitar shredding, keyboard standing version of "Joker and the Thief."
Playing in the same exact slot as the last time they played Lollapalooza, it would appear that The National have not progressed much since then. But their 75-minute set on Sunday showed how far they've come. A trimmed setlist compared to Saturday at House of Blues was highlighted by past singles like "Mistaken for Strangers" and "Abel" while new High Violet songs were received enthusiastically. But even with brilliant musicianship and an occasionally erratic frontman, the audience lost bodies to Arcade Fire across the way. Their loss, though.
Where the National once lost my attention was with anticlimactic snoozers. (See: Schubas, Double Door, Pitchfork 2006, etc.) But that's no longer the case. The "Fake Empire"/"Mr November"/"Terrible Love" finish was up there with some of the finest live performing of the festival. Clearly, the apex was "Mr November" where singer Matt Berninger's crawl through the photo pit, into the VIP area and then onto the pavement ignited the remaining crowd to surge toward him. Along his walk on the railing, he even stopped to change its ubiquitous lyric to "I won't mess us over" when holding hands with a 4-year old girl before getting mobbed on his way back to the stage. (There was a similar scene during their Brooklyn Academy of Music show in May.) A heavy "Terrible Love" didn't top it, but it wasn't far off. Afterward, numerous people were overheard saying they thought it wasn't just a great show but an important show. They felt something more than just watching a rock band at work. I can't think of a higher compliment than that.
Arcade Fire (photo by Jim Kopeny)
I chose to end my night with Winn Butler and crew on the north main stage. Arcade Fire were as epic and outstanding as you would expect from this exceptional Canadian band. They exploded onto the stage with "Ready To Start" from their new, critically acclaimed album The Suburbs and continued with a lot of the new material making up their set. They ended the night though with crowd favorites like "Neighborhood #3" and "Keep the Car Running," and encored with their most spectacular anthem, "Wake Up." There is a reason this masterpiece was chosen by Spike Jonze to represent his film Where The Wild Things Are. The crowd's arms waving in the air and the subsequent sing along actually gave me goosebumps.