Sunday: How long has this been goin' on...
2:15: Amy Winehouse, Bud Light stage (pics #1-2, right)
Bullz-Eye reviews: Back to Black (2007)
David: So many questions swirled in my head before Winehouse took the stage. Would she be drunk? Would she beat up a member of her backing band? (By Winehouse’s own admission, she beats her husband frequently.) Most importantly, will there be anyone in Grant Park that won’t be watching Winehouse perform? When she was nearly ten minutes late to the stage, I thought I had the answer to my first question – I could visualize her throwing empty bottles at the door to her trailer whenever anyone tried to drag her onstage – but when she finally took the stage, she was a model citizen and dynamite singer.
Huh, a well behaved Winehouse. Pity.
Don’t get me wrong, she put on a very good show, playing nearly every song from Back to Black. But with the sun at its peak, it was very easy to get sleepy vibes from her mid-tempo reggae soul. Indeed, about 40 minutes in, James and I left to grab some water and sit in the shade, where we found 200 tree people doing the same thing. James and I talked about previous Lollas – we both agree that the Kaiser Chiefs’ performance in 2005 was the best Lolla performance we’ve ever seen – and while we were a good 300 yards away from the stage, we could quite plainly hear her perform an awkward version of “Rehab,” following it with a cover of the Zutons’ “Valerie,” which she sang on Mark Ronson’s album Version. Ronson turned the song into a “Town Called Malice”-type rocker. Winehouse’s take, however, was, yep, mid-tempo reggae soul. I need a nap.
2:15: Los Campesinos!, PlayStation stage (#3)
Jason: I was beat by the third and final day of this year’s Lollapalooza. It was hot and sweaty once again, despite forecasts for clouds and isolated thunderstorms. Neither of these ever appeared. I felt like I was already bedraggled by the time I made it to Los Campesinos’ show. Once I did make it there, and the show began, I felt like I would have just been better off relaxing under one of the many trees and trying to catch a nap or three. This was another band that I had checked out on the Lolla site, and while they sounded good (or at least interesting) there, I just couldn’t get into their live set. I wasn’t the only one, though; it looked like a good chunk of the gathered crowd wasn’t feeling it much, either. Maybe everyone was just exhausted as well.
3:30: Apostle of Hustle, PlayStation stage
Jason: Much to my mild delight, I didn’t have to drag my weary bones anywhere to see the next act on my schedule. Of course, that also meant being stuck in the godforsaken sun for a while longer. Would it pay off? No. No, my friends, it would not. Maybe I had accidentally marked the wrong band to see on my schedule, but Apostle of Hustle was pretty damn bad. I mean, if you’re into this sort of granola funk, I guess it could be okay, but my sweat pooling under my shirt, the blisters on my feet, and my aching calves and shins were telling me that no rock and roll is worth this torture. So I went and sat down, finally beaten by the festival and that mean old sun. I found a place close enough to listen to my next choice but far enough to make a break if need be.
4:15: Iggy and the Stooges, Bud Light stage (#4-6)
Bullz-Eye reviews: The Stooges/Fun House (2005)
Jason: Sure enough, when Iggy took the stage it was plenty loud enough to hear anywhere. Jesus, is this guy ever going to lose one ounce of his crazed energy? It certainly didn’t look like it on this day. He screamed some crazy obscenities and then he and the Stooges tore into some prime cuts from Funhouse. You know, stuff like “Loose” and “T.V. Eye.” There was a huge crowd, there was madness ensuing on the stage, and like Patti Smith the night before, Iggy came to lay claim to this whole thing and leave a mark. And he did. It was a big, greasy, stinky mark that all the right people understood and all the wannabes tried to get in vain but were only left to ponder what real punk rock had been all those years ago. It was thunderous and vicious, just like anyone would have hoped. However, I didn’t make it all the way through, sadly, thanks to just this feeling of near total exhaustion and slight nausea from the heat. I ambled back to the subway as slowly and lightly as possible, in search of a shower and a nap.
4:15: Kings of Leon, AT&T stage (#7)
Bullz-Eye reviews: Because of the Times (2007)
David: In what can only be considered horrendously bad timing, I walked past the MySpace stage to the media area smack dab in the middle of Blue October’s performance of “Hate Me.” Hate you, you say? Way ahead of you, guys.
I get to the media area, and they’ve run out of water. At 4:15. Ugh. So I snag a chair, sit in the shade and close my eyes as Kings of Leon rock the house a hundred or so yards away. I can’t see anything, but I can hear it perfectly, and they sound fantastic. This is as close to heaven as the weekend has offered so far. I’m sitting down – and in a chair, no less – I’m in the shade, and I’m reasonably close to the band without getting my eardrums blasted out. Does it get any better than this? Oh, and did I mention that Ben Harper is five feet away doing interview after interview, and Juliette Lewis (her band, Juliette and the Licks, performed earlier this morning) just walked in? After being somewhat of a wasteland all weekend, the media area is suddenly the place to be. Oh, and the people in the “Spin” tent are offering SoCo and Cokes to the press. They were originally for the musicians, but for ease of cleanup, they’re trying to get rid of as many bottles as possible. It’s not wise to get between a writer and a free drink. You might lose a limb.
5:15: !!!, MySpace stage
David: I was in the media area, which is not at all far from the MySpace stage, the entire time !!! (make a percussive sound three times in a row, and you’ve just pronounced the band’s name) played, and I couldn’t tell you a thing about them. Maybe I was distracted by the spectacle of a very popular blogger getting stalked by a very enthusiastic admirer that just weaseled their way into the media area without credentials.
Stalker: What hotel are you staying in?
Blogger: (laughing) I’m staying at one of the many fine hotels in the Chicago area.
I’d divulge more, but I’ve been sworn to secrecy. I know the blogger in question tolerates me more than he/she actually likes me, but I like them anyway, and I promised that I would not reveal their name. This despite the fact that the blogger in question posted a picture of the stalker on their blog. Huh.
6:15: My Morning Jacket, AT&T stage
David: Here is where we call shenanigans on the whole ‘see over 120 bands’ aspect to the marketing of Lollapalooza. Here is a small list of some of the larger acts on the bill: Iggy and the Stooges, Kings of Leon, Modest Mouse, My Morning Jacket, Muse and Interpol. Pretty sweet list, right?
At best, you’ll only be able to see half of them, because the other half is playing at the same time on the opposite end of the grounds. Sunday had the most egregious examples, with Iggy playing opposite the Kings, and now Modest Mouse does battle against the Jacket. I planned on seeing Modest Mouse, if only to catch a glance of longtime hero Johnny Marr, but when My Morning Jacket started playing, I knew that Modest Mouse would be halfway through their set by the time I got up there. So I stayed on the south side…
…for about three songs. At the end of the third day, I’m tired, dehydrated, and there’s an inch-thick film of grime all over me. The Cubs game starts in 20 minutes. I’m heading to the hotel and taking a shower. God love James and his youthful exuberance, though. Mr. Eldred, the stage is yours.
7:15: TV on the Radio, Bud Light Stage
Bullz-Eye reviews: Return to Cookie Mountain (2006)
James: Poor TV on the Radio got screwed. While every other major band playing the main stages on Sunday got to play a full hour (or more), TV on the Radio were stuck with a measly 45 minutes so Pearl Jam could go on at 8:00. Because of this, many fan favorites had to be skipped. No “Ambulance,” “A Method,” and most depressingly, no “Dry Drunk Emperor.” In fact, the band only got to perform eight songs before being forced off stage, much to the dismay of the diehard fans who booed the band’s departure. The end result was depressingly underwhelming and a huge letdown, but it’s not the band’s fault, they can only do so much with 45 minutes.
8:00: Pearl Jam, AT&T Stage (#8-10)
Bullz-Eye reviews: Pearl Jam (2006)
James: There was no way that Pearl Jam was going to rival the beautifully overblown production by Muse the night before or the mindfuck that was Daft Punk’s performance on Friday, so thankfully they didn’t even try. Instead Pearl Jam focused on what they do best, which was play the shit out of great songs. Jumping right into things with “Why Go,” the band kept up the fast pace early on, following up the Ten classic with “Corduroy,” “Save You” and “Do The Evolution” before slowing things down for a moment with “Elderly Woman….” Fan favorites “Alive” and “Evenflow” were played, to the crowd’s delight. The latter was accompanied by a seemingly unrelated fireworks display which, in a moment of pure serendipity, began right when Matt Cameron started his drum solo.
It wouldn’t be a Pearl Jam show without some political rambling by Eddie, which he did early on by ranting against BP Amoco’s dumping of mercury in Lake Michigan, following it up on with a quick boycott song called “Don’t Go BP Amoco.”
After that quick social-cause rant, the headliners of the night continued to tear through classics throughout their set, only throwing in the occasional rarity or B-side, such as “Crazy Mary” or “State of Love and Trust” as to not lose the focus of the more casual fans. Their encore brought a touching moment when they were joined on stage by a now-paralyzed Iraq War veteran who made a short speech to the crowd before Ben Harper joined Eddie and the gang on stage for the new protest song, “No More.” It was a surprisingly emotional and powerful moment that seemed to affect many in the audience. Eddie then took a cue from Iggy and invited the fans on stage to help the band end the night with a riotous version of “Rocking in the Free World,” which Eddie finished while on the shoulders of a very tall man that looked suspiciously like Dennis Rodman. (Editor’s Note: it was Dennis Rodman.)
Having been to about a half-dozen Pearl Jam shows over the years, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little disappointed by their performance Sunday night. However, it wasn’t for the die-hard fans like me who would rather hear rarities like “Breath” and deep album cuts like “Off He Goes,” it was for a festival crowd, the majority of which probably hadn’t bought a Pearl Jam album since 1996. For these people it was most likely a rousing set and served as a fitting end to a great weekend.
Final thoughts (or, an expansion of our opening thoughts)
David: This is the second year that Lolla has been a three-day affair, and while the 2005 setup may have had some issues with bands playing on top of each other, I’ll take 2005’s two-day, all-four-stages-in-the-same-place event noise bleed and all over the current setup any day of the week and twice on Sunday. As we mentioned in the My Morning Jacket bit, there is no way that you can see half, and realistically a third, of the bands on the bill in Lolla’s current incarnation, with nearly a dozen stages spread over a half mile. And yet, the ticket price reflects every one of the bands on the bill, which means that even if you are there from start to finish on each day (which is a massive undertaking), you’re only really getting a third of your money’s worth.
Of course, they will never go back to a two-day event, because there is too much money at stake now. Why use a smaller space and sell fewer tickets for less money when the public has clearly shown that the promoters can book more bands, charge more money, and stretch the space to fit more customers and merchandise tents? Still, we urge them to reconsider. The expression ‘less is more’ exists for a reason.
Another thought that gnawed at me as I was watching Slightly Stoopid or Blue October is the number of top-tier modern rock bands that released albums this year that did not participate in the festivities. Billy Corgan said that Smashing Pumpkins would play Lolla this year, yet there he is in Baltimore, rocking the Virgin Fest instead. Why? Also, how did the recently reunited Crowded House, who’s currently in the Midwest, escape their notice, not to mention the Kaiser Chiefs, Lily Allen, Arcade Fire, the Feeling, Kenna, Mark Ronson, Fountains of Wayne, Ryan Adams, the Bravery, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Rufus Wainwright, Dinosaur Jr., Klaxons, Bloc Party or the Chemical Brothers? This year’s Lolla sported the festival’s largest lineup to date, yet it was also the most underwhelming lineup I’ve seen to date, which made me wonder if the reason for so many no-shows was for reasons as innocent as scheduling conflicts, or if it was because of something worse, i.e. a lack of interest on part of the promoters or the bands. Neither answer is very encouraging.
I am fully expecting the promoters to report that this year’s Lollapalooza was their most successful by far, but that does not mean it was their best. Indeed, I’m not sure there was one signature moment that people will be talking about years from now, though that may be because I missed Iggy and the Stooges. And that’s sort of my point: there were times when performers on seven different stages were playing at the same time, which reduces the likelihood of the typical attendee seeing something truly special to something in the neighborhood of 15%. You’d have better odds on a roulette wheel. At least you can hedge your bets playing roulette.
Please, guys. Two days, fewer bands, lower ticket prices. Oh, and maybe move it to a time other than what is typically the hottest weekend in Chicago.