Walking into a festival is like a boy going into an arcade with money for the first time. Lights are flashing, sounds are blaring, and he is so excited he doesn’t know what to do first. Then he plays some race car games, some fighting games, some crazy sports games, and a few hours later you’re out of change, it’s time to either a) beg for more money from your mom or b) go home and recover from the exhaustion. Yet, if you keep playing, you might be worn out from too much video gaming. That’s a long way of saying that day one of three day music festival is when you decide to pace yourself smartly or blow your wad early and try to see every band, disregarding your health or your earlobes.
The Main Centralpoint of Lollapalooza - The Fountain with a Skyline View in Grant Park, Chicago
So after going through the front gate search teams, which were pretty laid back, the first land mark in Grant Park is a fountain. Take another look at it if you’re a real early 90’s TV fan. Don’t worry if you don’t see it. It took my girlfriend’s post trip immediate reaction to the picture to receive the “a-hah” moment. It’s the fountain form the opening credits of “Married with Children. “ It must have been a subconscious thing that made me take at least twenty pictures of it. The surprising thing is that one of two young men that attended Lollapalooza with me claims to be “a huge ‘Married with Children’ fan”.
The second thing you get is the full schedule. You look at the schedule and is seems like a mall filled with bands. Stages are sponsored and named after recognizable things which you constantly heard around the grounds. I’m heading over the Myspace stage to see band x. Stages like Adidas, Bud Light, Playstation and the main stage AT&T.
So after that long introduction that you didn’t need, here’s some short thoughts on the bands that I actually did see.
On the Citi Stage, Chicago’s own Chin Up Chin Up put on quite a show. Usually the early bands of the day are the bands that no one has really heard and people that go are mostly dedicated music fans or ones who feel the need to get the most for the money. I guess I fall into the first category and highly enjoy Chin Up’s latest album This Harness Can't Ride Anything. Lead Singer Jeremy Bolen looks kind of like Beck with a fro. Here’s some pics along with a video I shot.
While walking to the adjacent stage AT&T to see first main stage type crowd for Ted Leo as I tried familiarize with the grounds somewhat. I listened to a few songs of Ted Leo, then I checked out the big A/C and Internet tent to experience the comfort that would by the end of the day be impossible to get into if the awful humidity kept up. Ted Leo was good but I’ve seen him before and this specific performance wasn’t too impressive. It was more enjoyable to watch him in HD in the air conditioning tent. 2 hours into Lollapalooza and I already took my first break.
I passed by the Playstation stage and saw a few minutes of Bang Bang Bang who were decent. But it was time for me to arrive a few minutes early in eager anticipation for one of the performances I was coming to Chicago for, Polyphonic Spree.
For those unfamiliar, Polyphonic Spree is a 20 plus member rock orchestra known for their enthusiastic, all out performances as well as leading the world in singing songs directed at the Sun in one album. Led by ex-Tripping Daisy frontman Tim Delaughter, this band of merry men in women dance, sing and play instruments ranging from the guitar and drums to a harp. The Spree came out in their newish Black Military outfits and made the sun shine all over the crowd even more than it already was. The crowd was excited and ready to start enjoying the benefits of a festival where artists pull out all the stops to impress in front of megacrowds in a shortened set.
40 minutes of pure enjoyment later, the Spree walked off stage but Tim let the crowd know that the show wasn't over they just needed to change costumes. Soon enough the band was running through the crowd in their trademark colorful robes lead by the sight of one the band's brass holding up a trombone player. Their encore upped the enrgy to another level as Tim really incited the crowd for the first time by imploring them to sing along to a cover of Nirvana's "Lithium." (Sidenote: Patti Smith also covered Nirvana later on at the fest, playing her version of "Smells Like Teen Spirit.")
I just so happen to have a video of the Spree featuring 98% video of the band and 2 percent of one of the guys who took the trip with me, Andy Candy. He gave the Polyphonic Spree set a big thumbs up.
Polyphonic Spree covers "Lithium"
After Polyphonic Spree, almost anything would be a letdown but we went over to see Sparklehorse (led by a former Flaming Lip Mark Linkus) for a few songs and they were average. Sparklehorse has some excellent songs but I didn't seem to catch many of them in half the set and if a band doesn't grab your attention quick enough, their are seven other stages that you can try out. I flowed from Electric Six to a quick bite to eat as MIA blared from an adjacent stage. Then I saw THe Rapture play 3-4 songs, primarily off Pieces of the People We Love which had a decent crowd for a side street stage. I'd seen MIA about two weeks before and was not really thirsting for more. The Rapture are a fun band but being from NYC-area, I can see them like 4 times a year.
So I ran off mid-set to catch one of the most intriguing bands at Lollapalooza, Blonde Redhead. I'd been meaning to cross them off my list of concerts to go to but it never quite happened until this point. Musically, they have a very Air-like sound with dueling vocals of a more high pitched male/ lead guitarist Amedeo Pace with the primary vocalist, the enchanting Asian woman Kazu Makino. Amedeo's twin brother Simone excels in atmospheric drumming of an excellence.
Blonde Redhead’s set was heavy on their latest, as with most artists on the festival circuit, but unlike most artists that didn’t bother me a bit. 23 is an early contender for album of the year and even more majestic in live performance. They also threw in my favorite song in their catalog "In Particular" off another great album of theirs named Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons Every piece of the show mesmerized me and for the hour long set I was squarely focused on the essence of this show that pervaded. It was one of the most awe inspiring and consistent one hour sets I'd seen in a long time. The shy band didn't take time to make jokes are played around, they just conquered the crowd with music. When Kazu is not dancing or playing guitar, she sits on her black do/horseseat and plays a lovely melodic piano.
Here's a video of "In Particular."
Hope you enjoyed my overly verbose rundown. Let me know what you think in the comments.