This was not the Lollapalooza of my youth. Granted, the Red Hot Chili Peppers headlined, just like in '92. But. The new, Chicago-only Lollapalooza is a corporate-sponsored and produced music festival. It's pretty much like ACL. Almost exactly. Same production company and lots of overlap in lineups. The difference, though, is in the setting. Lollapalooza is held in Grant Park, which is Chicago's version of Central Park. It's amazing - you are right downtown, in the middle of all the skyscrapers (in the city that invented the skyscraper), and on the shore of Lake Michigan. This makes things better in a lot of ways - it's super-easy to get there, you've got the breeze off the lake, and there's lots of shade. If you're as lucky as some of my friends, you also get to hear Kanye West sing "Gold Digger" from the deck of a boat on the lake.
The big disadvantage of having your festival in a park that's more like a park and less like a field (Oh, come on. We all love Zilker, but we also all know that it's a field with a pile of rocks in the middle.) is that the pathways are kindof narrow. And it's a huge park - more than a mile from one main stage to the other. This is an advantage in that, even though there were 70,000 people at the festival, it didn't feel that way at all. But if, say (hypothetically speaking, of course), several thousand fans wanted to get from Wilco to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, they had to all go down two little sidewalks like this. It took half an hour. Which meant if you also wanted to see Broken Social Scene, you were pretty much out of luck. You could, however, relive high school by listening to Blues Traveler while waiting to fight your way out of this mess. Yippee.
But other than that, I have no complaints. I had a great time, even though I was only able to go to one day of the festival. Basically, I tried to see acts that aren't playing at ACL, then figured out who is playing at ACL against other ACL acts I want to see and worked out a pretty good schedule. First up was The Hold Steady, a Brooklyn band whose cd I listened to once, but haven't bought. They were high-energy and lots of fun. Then I hopped over to the AMD stage (told you it was just like ACL) to see the Benevento-Russo Duo and meet up with Actually an Actuary and his wife A. To be honest, I didn't pay that much attention to the BRD set because we were catching up. Their show started out really cool - reminded me of EITS - but quickly devolved into something that was a little too jam-bandy for my tastes, so we left to find AaA's friends, who were watching the end of a set by Hot Chip. (Very energetic and fun.)
So we all go to grab a quick lunch while AaA's friends point out to me the skyscrapers in which they work (apparently that's a Chicago thing) and I hear a band playing a cover of "The Weight" and we realize it's Nickel Creek. Oh. My. Yeah. I had no strong feelings about the bands playing at that point, and AaA's wife A wanted to see Andrew Bird. I had never heard of Bird, but apparently he's a big thing at the festivals this summer. He is, to put it mildly, a man of many talents, who reminded me a lot of Joseph Arthur, in that one-man-freak-show kind of way. Bird played guitar, violin, and I don't know what else, as well as whistling and singing over his bandmate's percussion and keyboards. It was okay. All the songs sounded the same. Eh.
After that, I went over to see The Shins. I have to say, I'm not a huge fan, but I thought their set would be good. Wow, was I wrong. It was so bad. Unbelievably bad. Worse than The Newsboys-circa-1994 bad. Like, "how do they have a career if they're just a studio act?" bad. Part of the problem was the sound system, which for some reason was not turned up loud enough for anyone outside the first thirty rows to hear. But even after they turned it up, it was still awful. The only good thing that came out of it was that I won't have any problem skipping their ACL set to see Los Lobos. It was seriously one of the worst shows I've ever seen.
So after that became completely intolerable, I decided to go see the Reverend Horton Heat, which was a blast. Everyone was dancing, the band was having a ball, and the Reverend declared that since he was tired of internet complaints that his setlists weren't good, the audience could pick the songs. So they chose "Bales of Cocaine." Natch. Classy, that Lollapalooza crowd. Someone else picked "Folsom Prison Blues," though, so it wasn't completely criminal activity-oriented. And it was such a fun show.
Then it was time for Wilco, which was so good that I'll have to do a separate post on it later. We had so much fun. Heard some of Poi Dog Pondering while waiting for the set to start - it wasn't too bad.
Broken Social Scene, however, was a disappointment. I was really looking forward to seeing their set, but they didn't even come close to living up to the hype. Long and painful would be the words I'd choose to describe it. I'm sure there's somewhere in this universe that you can repeat the same 13 words over the same three-cord progression for half an hour, but that's not anywhere I want to live.Those words would actually probably be about accurate for the Chili Peppers, too. I'm getting to the point where I feel like I should just leave festivals before the headliner-unless-it's-R.E.M., because they always disappoint. Put it this way, there were a lot of things that were more entertaining:
All in all, though, it was a fun day, and I'd love to come back another year for the whole thing. What a great weekend.