Friday, August 6, 2010

Lollapalooza, August 6 to 8 in Chicago

They say that if something happens three times then it establishes a pattern so I reckon that my going to Lollapalooza is a pattern. What started as a one-time summer trip became a second time because it worked with other plans then Jones suggested going again and I had no reason not to. Jones had also lined up a place for us to stay, crashing with his best friend’s brother’s best friend (or something like that). It was a nice pad, within walking distance of the subway, and in a little neighborhood near Wrigley Field with some bars and places to get after-show dinner. The whole trip went well, as it usually does, and I don’t even remember much more than what we did so that’s probably a good sign.

The festival itself was the same as it had been before. There were some minor adjustments, changing the location of one of the smaller stages, stretching the field out so there was more room, and opening one of the streets so there was a direct walkway from one end of the park to the other (though it still took a while). I liked the line-up but I wasn’t particularly excited about it and I couldn’t figure out why until I got into the show the first day: I realized it was because I had seen most of the acts before, most of them even recently. I was still a fan of the bands but for most of them it was just another show. The New Pornographers touring with Neko and Dan would have been a huge deal but this was just another stop for them, though still a solid performance. Neko was wearing a jaunty hat and joked about the heat (which wasn’t really all that bad). I was actually excited to see Friday’s headliner Lady Gaga, which perplexed my friends when I told them that I wanted to see her, but I explained that she was the only big name there that I hadn’t seen before. Even still, we went over to check her out just see what it was about, but it seemed like an elaborate stage-show and the music wasn’t at all engaging and there were actually a mess of people that showed so there wasn’t much point in watching idly from as far away as we were. (That said, we couldn't get away from her all weekend: Her music on jukeboxes in bars we went to, on the TV as we were in the apartment in the morning before heading out, in cars as they drove by us on the street. She was the thing that summer, apparently.) Instead that night we saw the Strokes, who I’ve seen numerous times before, and they turned in a good set, though no new stuff (always a double-edged sword), but there wasn’t much reason for us to stay for the whole thing so we bailed and beat the crowd out. Another notable act from the day were the Black Keys, which I didn’t really know but Jones really wanted to see. It wasn’t until after that weekend that I became a fan of theirs so this set went through me, though it was well-constructed, just not much for a first-time listener. They certainly didn’t jump around the stage or make a spectacle of themselves. We also checked out Matt & Kim while having a beer on hill nearby and wandered by Chromeo at some point and they sounded better to me than they have before. The first act we saw of the day was American Bang, which we saw just to see a band, and they weren't more notable beyond that.

We wandered in on a beautiful Saturday afternoon for the second day. It was a lot of going back and forth between stages and grazing the bands: the tail-end of Rogue Wave (who we’d seen there before), the beginning of Blues Traveler while we got our first beer of the day, and I have in my notes that we heard Slightly Stoopid but I don’t remember it so we must have wandered by at some point. The first big band of the day for us was Stars, who I’ve been a fan of for years but Jones didn’t know them. They did a bright, energetic afternoon show, as they’re always expected to. I’ve seen them so often in the light, it would be weird to see them in the evening or indoors now. I’d like to think that their performance converted Jones into a fan. Next we went to see Gogol Bordello on the main stage. As much as I’ve thoroughly enjoyed their live show in the past and as much as I would recommend them to anyone who enjoys live performances, I was actually a bit reluctant to see them, since I’ve seen it before and I knew it would just wear me out, but I couldn’t find anyone playing opposite them that I was interested in and this was only Jones’ second time (though in the same place). I knew it wouldn’t be my last time seeing them. The next band up, across the field, was my revelation for the festival. I was headed to see Metric but Jones suggested seeing AFI. I knew of the band, had had one of their albums at one point, but they didn't do anything for me before and I was happy with my plan to skip them. But I went over to hang out with Jones and they were amazing. Of course it was helped that I was largely unfamiliar with them and that they were meant for a bigger venue since the stage could barely contain their volume and the energy of Davey Havok, one of the best frontmen in rock right now, to my utter shock. That band played like this was the last show they would ever do and they tore it down. Absolutely amazing. It might be that they've built their reputation on their live performances rather than on their music so much. I didn’t rush out to get any of their music but if they played a festival I was at again I’d want to check them out. Then we made our way over to the other end of the park, heard Metric’s last song (“Stadium Love,” which I had had in my head for the most of the weekend), then saw Spoon. Their performance was mostly inert, though that’s usually their speed so this isn’t an insult, but the material from their newest album dragged the usual show down a bit, and they didn’t seem interested in playing above just slightly interested. I have no idea how Phoenix got to headline a festival like Lollapalooza but it didn’t matter because we had nothing to do with them. So that left Green Day for us. I remember when Green Day was still playing clubs so it’s strange to me to see them headlining a festival and playing to potentially 75,000 people. But they’re also a band that’s been around for a while, racking up a whole lot of music over a whole lot of albums, and they’re had a massive change in musical styles in the last few years. How to appease fans of all sides of their music? Cleanly divide it up. It was a clever move. They played the new stuff first, as bands often will, and didn’t stray from their last two albums for the first half of their almost-two-hour set. This way they could get their new stuff out of the way and the newer generation of fans that claim that stuff as their own could have their own show. Then Billy Joe pulled out his old, beat-up, turquoise guitar and it was a klaxon for the old-school party that would be the rest of the show. It was all terribly familiar, and surely they’ve played those songs a thousand times or more, but they tore into the songs like they were having the same party that the crowd was having. It could have been an act, and they probably do the same every night, but at taht moment on that evening it was convincing. It might have been obvious that they were sick of playing “Longview” by pulling someone from the crowd onto the stage to sing the song (which apparently they do at every show now). The guy they picked really brought it. He had the song down cold and he jumped around the stage like he’d always been in the band. Billy Joe even presented him the guitar he was playing. Strangely enough, it was a highlight. Green Day even made it seem like they were making it up as they went along, breaking into spontaneous medleys of classic guitar-rock tracks (too many to note here) and if it was fun for them, it was fun for the crowd. If you’re a band that came from where Green Day is and you’re at where they are now, that was the way to do a show. Playing “Hitchin’ a Ride” did it for me and I could go home happy at any point after that. And we did leave early, again to beat the crowd, knowing we’d probably only hear more of a bunch of songs we already knew anyway.

Sunday we changed it up: Jones suggested skipping the first half of the day at the festival and go to a Cubs game instead. My first instinct was to bristle at the idea -- we were there for the festival, after all -- but then I realized I could live without yet another day at the festival and that a baseball game could be a lot of fun. The stadium was actually within walking distance of where we were staying and it was easy to get some scalped tickets for some good seats. I couldn’t tell you what actually happened during the game, I don’t even remember the name of the lady sitting next to me that was chatting me up, and I don’t even think I was drinking (I might even have been hung over that day), but I was glad we did it. From there it was easy enough to get back on the train and ride to the festival and we got enough music for the day as we needed. We wandered around and saw bits of Yeasayer and Mutemeath but not enough of them to really move a needle. We went back to stake out a place for the main attraction of the day and ended up seeing Wolfmother, which was more of a deal for Jones than for me, but they certainly rocked out, enough that it seemed like a short set. From there we sat on the hill and drank beer and heard Cypress Hill from across the field, luckily far enough that we didn’t have to hear them clearly or get a contact high. The main attraction for the day, if not the whole festival, was Soundgarden. Jones is a considerably bigger fan than I am but I knew the significance of seeing them there: a newly resurrected, near-legendary band from the early-’90s golden era of “alternative” music and the heyday of grunge, if not being one of its godfathers, playing one of their only shows for the year. I might have picked to see opposing headliner Arcade Fire instead but I knew that that band were at the beginning of their cycle and seeing Soundgarden again might not come soon. I was absolutely confident that we made the right choice. We got close enough to get a good position and the crowd never got rough or rowdy (surprisingly, maybe owing to the aging state of the audience). I only knew their most popular stuff and songs from their last album (as unpopular of being a fan of that is) but their other, earlier, more obscure stuff rocked out so hard that it didn’t matter. The band seemed older but happier and more comfortable being together than they used to be. Cornell might even have been in his own world and doing this reunion because everything else he’s done since they broke up hasn’t worked out (spectacularly in some cases) but he kept it together and hit all high notes. They didn’t even take the route of having extra musicians to help them out on the difficult parts. No stage banter or much acknowledgment to the crowd but they spoke with pure, loud rock music and that was enough. If they only played one show before disappearing again for forever, this one would be enough. If you’re going to get a headliner to rock a crowd, this is how to do it. We didn’t even leave early to beat the crowd; we left with the rest of the crowd after having our heads blown off and we were completely okay with that.

Bands I missed: the Constellations, the Walkmen (played before we got there on Friday); Wavves (wasn’t into them at the time); Devo (playing against the New Pornographers); the Dirty Projectors (because there were 30 other bands at that minute that I would have preferred); Warpaint (playing against Stars); the XX, Grizzly Bear (playing against Against Me!, Gogol Bordello, and AFI); Social Distortion (playing against Spoon -- that was a tough choice, one I might have redone if I could); Empire of the Sun (who I wanted to see because of the Sleepy Jackson, but I couldn’t convince Seth and Green Day won out); the Cribs (played before we got there on Sunday); Mumford & Sons (who I didn’t discover until later, and I still probably would have seen Hockey instead); X Japan (who I didn’t know, and still don’t, but I think I saw a member or two of their band the next day at the airport); MGMT (playing against Wolfmother, and even though I’m not a big Wolfmother fan, I still would have preferred the latter band); the National (to say I saw Cypress Hill instead of them would go against everything I’ve ever done or been as a concert-goer but in all honesty we were in position to see Soundgarden).

Soundgarden's set-list:
"Searching With My Good Eye Closed"
"Rusty Cage"
"Blow Up The Outside World"
"Let Me Drown"
"Jesus Christ Pose"
"Fell On Black Days"
"Ugly Truth"
"Get On The Snake"
"Burden In My Hand"
"Black Hole Sun"
"4th Of July"

"Face Pollution"
"Like Suicide"
"Slaves & Bulldozers"

Green Day's set-list:
"Song of the Century"
"21st Century Breakdown"
"Know Your Enemy"
"East Jesus Nowhere"
"Give Me Novacaine"
"Are We the Waiting"
"St. Jimmy"
"Boulevard of Broken Dreams"
"Nice Guys Finish Last"
"Paper Lanterns"
"2000 Light Years Away"
"Hitchin' a Ride"
"When I Come Around"
"Iron Man"/"Ain't Talkin' Bout Love"/"Sweet Child O' Mine"/"Highway to Hell"
"Brain Stew"
"Basket Case"
"King for a Day"
"Shout"/"Chicago"/"Satisfaction"/"Hey Jude"
"21 Guns"

"American Idiot"
"Jesus of Suburbia"

"She's a Rebel"
"Wake Me Up When September Ends"
"Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)"

The Strokes' set-list:
"New York City Cops"
"The Modern Age"
"Hard to Explain"
"What Ever Happened?"
"You Only Live Once"
"Is This It"
"Vision of Division"
"I Can't Win"
"Last Nite"
"Under Control"
"Heart in a Cage"
"Take It or Leave It"

Wolfmother's set-list:
"Cosmic Egg"
"New Moon Rising"
"White Unicorn"
"California Queen"
"Mind's Eye"
"Joker & The Thief"

The Black Keys' set-list:
"Girl Is On My Mind"
"Strange Times"
"The Breaks"
"Stack Shot Billy"
"Same Old Thing"
"Everlasting Light"
"Next Girl"
"Chop and Change"
"Tighten Up"
"She's Long Gone"
"Ten Cent Pistol"
"Your Touch"
"I'll Be Your Man"
"I Got Mine"

Spoon's set-list:
"Me and the Bean"
"Nobody Gets Me But You"
"The Underdog"
"Stay Don't Go"
"Don't You Evah"
"Written in Reverse"
"Got Nuffin"
"The Ghost of You Lingers"
"Modern World" (Wolf Parade cover)
"I Turn My Camera On"
"Trouble Comes Running"
"My Mathematical Mind"
"I Summon You"
"Don't Make Me a Target"
"You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb"
"Jonathon Fisk"
"Black Like Me"

Gogol Bordello's set-list:
"Not A Crime"
"Wonderlust King"
"My Companjera"
"Tribal Connection"
"Trans-Continental Hustle"
"Immigraniada (We Comin' Rougher)"
"Break the Spell"
"Immigrant Punk"
"Pala Tute"
"Start Wearing Purple"
"Sacred Darling"

Stars' set-list:
"How Much More"
"Set Yourself on Fire"
"The Passenger"
"One More Night"
"We Don't Want Your Body"
"Ageless Beauty"
"Going, Going, Gone"
"I Died So I Could Haunt You"
"Elevator Love Letter"
"Wasted Daylight"
"Take Me to the Riot"
"Your Ex-Lover is Dead"

AFI's set-list:
"Girl's Not Grey"
"The Leaving Song Pt. II"
"I Am Trying Very Hard to Be Here"
"Kill Caustic"
"End Transmission"
"Love Is a Many Splendored Thing"
"Beautiful Thieves"
"Dancing Through Sunday"
"The Days of the Phoenix"
"Veronica Sawyer Smokes"
"Silver and Cold"
"Miss Murder"
"Love Like Winter"

Matt & Kim's set-list:
"I Wanna"
"Better Off Alone" (Alice DeeJay cover)
"Lessons Learned"
"Yea Yeah"
"Good Ol' Fashion Nightmare"