Eric Henney went to Lollapalooza and all we got was this blog post.
Day 1 (8.6.10):
Lollapalooza stretches out before me, about a mile wide and easily a quarter-mile deep. Food vendors, brought in from various Chicago restaurants, are selling everything from burritos to truffle oil fries. Beer (sponsored by Budweiser) is expensive, but water is only $2 and Adidas, AOL, Sony, Toyota and Playstation are all giving away logo-stamped knick-knacks
. Frizzy-haired hipsters, middle-aged couples, frat bros everyone you could imagine ambles around me. Some are shirtless and shouldn't be; some ought to remain shirtless forever.
A victim of poor sound. The instruments wash together, losing the twangy, jangly texture that makes their music so good. Nevertheless, the band are into it, and Patterson Hood
's poetically grimy lyrics come through okay. During "Women Without Whiskey
," two middle-aged men in front of me think up ways to sexually assault the topless girl in front of them. It seems disturbingly appropriate.
The New Pornographers
They open with "Sing Me a Spanish Techno
," and it pops like it should. A little less than half of Twin Cinema
is covered, plus songs from Challenger
and Mass Romantic
. The set is fun, but they play as if they're doing us a favor
. And while that may have worked for the Sex Pistols
, here it feels lazy.
The Dirty Projectors
Turns out to be the second-best show of the day. They perform with profound technical adroitness
, but a surprising amount of soul makes it worthwhile. The band consistently sound as if they're falling apart without ever letting you think that it's actually happening. Highlights: a distended, trippy "No Intentions
," "Knotty Pine
," a super groovy "Cannibal Resource
" and an epic "Stillness is the Move
." Sharp harmonies and absurd meters out the woz
. Do yourself a favor and catch them live next time you can.
The Black Keys
Played a good mix of older stuff like "Strange Times
" along new material like "Everlasting Light
," "Ten Cent Pistol
" and "Next Girl
." Lots o' blues, lots o' rock, lots o' sweat.
The best band by far, they take the stage for their first U.S. show in years late and proceed to tear it all apart
for the next hour. I'm jammed up against a girl in a spring green dress named Sam, who, after speed-smoking a pipeful, gets kind of pushy, but her outbursts are absorbed by the crowd's rhythmic tremors. The band open with "New York City Cops
," and follow it up with relentless performances of "Juicebox
," "Is This It?
," "Last Nite
," "You Only Live Once
" and pretty much every other song you'd want to hear. Their bottled-lightning shtick is deceivingly nuanced.
It's clear as The Strokes perform that they aren't like us, but that's okay. Since they play as if they could explode at any minute, their set isn't supported by empathy as much as it is the ability to induce la petit morte, which I can certainly use. You too, probably.
Day 2 (8.7.10):
Tan lines deepen, dirt jams itself under fingernails, mud puddles widen, Lollapalooza grows dirtier
. But that's part of the point, right? To break everyone down to grimy equals.
The early afternoon is a slow one. I hang out at the beirgarten. It consists mainly of a sausage stand, a bar, a live-feed of the main stage and a statue of a particularly buxom beer maid. Equally tired concertgoers are sprawled under trees and sitting on benches throughout. We drink beer and watch the last-half of Blues Traveler
on the feed before catching the tail end of Stars
' set. I hear the three songs I'm most familiar with: "Elevator Love Letter
," "Take Me to the Riot
" and "Your Ex-Lover is Dead
." The band was into it, perhaps a little more than most of the fans, but they were fun and tight enough, so I count it as a win.
They signify their edgy ennui
by wearing all black clothes in 90-degree weather and bobbing aimlessly about the stage. I leave early for a good spot at...
For a band I usually relegate to study-music, Grizzly Bear's combination of musicality with vacant heretofore enthusiasm
is both surprising and welcome. I also appreciate their seemingly genuine connection with the audience. Singer/instrumentalist Ed Droste
chit-chats with us and talks about seeing The Strokes the night before, which manages to make both the band and the festival seem more intimate. They stick to a lot off of Veckatimest
, including "Two Weeks
," "Southern Point
" and an incredibly epic version of "While You Wait for Others
," though they also played "Knife
" and a few others.
The Sony Bloggie stage, with its tight space and wooded areas, was perfectly intimate. They play with equal parts casualty and ferocity, and show us what it really looks like to lose your shit
with a slow-burning performance of "Christ Jesus
." The final song, a cover of "Taking Care of Business
" runs on forever, while John McCauley
beats the hell out of his Fender. All in good fun.
Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros
Because "Janglin'" was used in a Ford Fiesta
commercial, the small venue is quickly overrun. People climb up in trees for better looks, and, on one occasion, fall out. I'm pushed past and shoved forward, real groovy-like. It's a fun set, though, during the two songs people knew.
The French pop wunderkinds draw a smaller crowd than The Strokes, likely because Green Day
is playing on the main stage. Their start is tight, though mechanical, and they're visibly nervous. Thomas Mars
admits this is, by far, the biggest audience they've ever played. After an appropriate amount of love from the crowd, though, they loosen up, start beaming at us, and each other, and begin to move around. They play through all of Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
, out of order, before attempting to stretch the concert as long as possible on the fly. They cover Air
's "Playground Love
" and do "1901
" as an encore. They do the chorus again after everyone starts leaving.
It's a big moment for them, and for us, too. Having fun makes me feel happy for them, because it means that they were overcoming this challenge. It's rare that a concert can generate that degree of reciprocity between the musicians and the audience.
Day 3 (8.8.10):
Every multi-day concertgoer has his or her breaking point, and mine is fast approaching. My abused flatfeet scream up at me. I am unshaven and a little burned.
Mumford & Sons
They must've thought they were giving a raw performance, but to me their gyrations looked awkward and their audience interaction felt forced, on top of music I've always felt was thin to begin with. Very preen. I think I'm alone in this assessment, however.
Their performance manages to be even catchier and more infectious than their albums. I particularly enjoyed "Sunrise
" and "Madder Red
" but my favorite is "ONE
," which really showcased their musical enthusiasm.
After that I head over to Perry's, where various dance acts perform back-to-back. I sit up against a tree and listen to the second-half of Mexican Institute of Sound
and the beginning of Dirty South
. Neither is my cup of tea, but sitting on the green with friends and people watching justifies the experience.
, playing on the opposing Budweiser stage, haven't finished yet, though, so I wait and listen. Their set is what you'd expect namely, average
. Of course, people still pack the amphitheater. Their fragile, yet steady-handed rendition of "The Youth
," however, is remarkable. After they finish, I watch about two-thirds of The National's set. A lot off of High Violet
, including "Bloodbuzz Ohio
" and a dangerously dramatic "Afraid of Everyone
." They also play "Squalor Victoria
" and "Fake Empire
" off Boxer
Even with Soundgarden
on the main stage, the area fills up quickly. This is starting to feel like work. Fortunately for my mood, the band come out promptly and wail through a pretty even mix of Neon Bible
and this month's The Suburbs
. The set is both ridiculously refreshing and creative
, maintaining complexity without resorting to campy theatrics. The visuals alone (including an electronic billboard with moving images) verge on performance art.
And even though there is a drunk girl screaming all the wrong notes in my ear, and slapping the wrong beats on my back
, I still enjoy the show. Hell, I even enjoy the people. Go ahead, drunk girl, scream
. As with The Strokes and Phoenix, I experience a performance in which culmination of effects is scores greater than the set list. By the time the encore "Wake Up" comes on, I even feel refreshed.
Of course, all that evaporates on the way out, when my feet pipe up and fleeing crowds get greedy and temperamental. But that's Lolla for you. So ephemeral
, so removed from the pedestrian that its existence is barely explicable. Which is exactly why it was so amazing.