Sunday, August 03, 2008

Lollapalooza | Day One

You can't keep up with TK. You can only hope to live vicariously through him.


Fri., Aug. 1
Grant Park

It's my first crack at Lollapalooza and it comes two weeks after Pitchfork. This time, the setting is Grant Park, where my sidekick Rich and I caught Radiohead in 2001 for one of their most famous shows. The lines turns out to be massive to enter and sure enough, we get stuck in line behind the dickheads that don't read the website and bring in their own water jugs rather than two sealed bottles as per the rules. As a result, we miss the Black Lips. Later we would find out that this event sold out for the first time in its history with over 75,000 in attendance.

We did get to catch Rogue Wave, which was kind of like easing into the pool rather than just diving in head first (see Boris at Pitchfork). They had to compete with a nearby stage but were well received.

I cut short on them to catch The Go!Team while Rich stayed to catch Yeasayer. Rich's quick-capsule guest review: They sounded pretty good.

I've really enjoyed the last two Go!Team albums but I was also mindful of Flatlander hitting the gong on them after seeing them live. It seems like lead vocalist Ninja is the weak link here. Her mic was too low on sound early in the set but I swear she was freestyling different lyrics. I suppose it's her right with her music and I'm usually not that particular with lyrics being sung in the exact same manner as on the CD. It just alienates the audience is all. It'd be like going to see Steven Wright with the same mannerisms, only to have him start telling George Carlin's jokes. But Ninja doesn't totally suck either and she got better towards the end of set. She and the band just need a bit more polish. The music was spot-on. During The Power Is On, they unleashed a pure sonic avalanche. If you listent to The Go!Team's CDs, you figure their show should be bumper cars with all the asses shaking but it wasn't. Some of that may be the eclectic, mash-up nature of the music,some of that may be the heat and people not wanting to pass out in mid-afternoon. The infectious energy was there but if the Go!Team could get the lightning to match its thunder, they'd surely have a massive strike.

Then it was break time for a couple of brews before The Black Keys and goddamn if they didn't kill. I wondered what kind of reception they'd get after singer/guitarist Dan Auerbach pissed all over the Chicago white boy blues scene in an interview with The Onion (it had it coming, by the way).There's something about the Keys that just leads to a sweaty show, be it small club or huge venue. They didn't completely win the audience over but maybe it was full of Chicago white boy wannabes, as evidenced by the huge roar when cloud cover provided some welcome respite from the sun. Otherwise, they were fantastic with Auerbach's chainsaw riffs and drummer Patrick Carney playing like a gun was pointed at his head. From 10 A.M. Automatic to the new stuff, the Keys are 3-for-3 in times I've seen them.

A fair number of musicians can't get one group to sound good but Jack White's doing well for himself as a White Stripe and a Raconteur. He seems relieved to not have to carry the load like he does with the Stripes, but it doesn't hurt to have a guy like Brendan Benson to turn the wheel over to, either. The Stripes put on a terrific show and the Raconteurs played to a very high standard as well. Flushed out versions of Level and Top Yourself were highlights. Like the Keys before them, when the Raconteurs jam, I'm actually curious as to where they're going with it. The only regret was to have to bail early to catch some Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks on the way to Radiohead.

We only caught a passing bit of Malkmus and the Jicks,which was a shame because I like Sleater-Kinney and they've added S-K drummer Janet Weiss. It's a good thing we started getting into position when we did for Radiohead because....holy freaking sea of humanity. No other act played opposite them so everyone sardined into that side of the festival. Over 75,000 people crammed in as far as the eye can see. I'm just glad I didn't have to pee. I was there when Radiohead sold out Coachella in 2003 and this was much bigger. Radiohead have a reputation for delivering big-time performances in huge venues and once again, they didn't disappoint. This time, the groundbreaking light show was almost worth the cost by itself. It looked like they were playing under a set of huge wind chimes but they were manipulated to simulate candlelight, rain and many other dazzling visual effects. The sound quality was a bit low at first but it was either us not being right by the speakers (as usual) or the crowd finally learned the deal and joined the compliant Radiohead faithful. Few things are cooler than tens of thousands singing as one and it was goose-bump inducing to hear The Bends' final line of "Where are you now, when I need you?" sung in complete harmony. Radiohead, for me anyhow, has an ability to entrance an audience be it with a lullaby like No Surprises or singing about cracking your little skulls (Dollars And Cents). When fireworks went off behind the stage as they played Fake Plastic Trees, an interesting contrast, the fireworks reflected off one of the nearby skyscrapers to look like Christmas tinsel. By the time they played their sultry House Of Cards, the place was either dead quiet or singing along, and careful not to spoil the music. I've never seen so many cellphones taking pictures. Normally I'd be distracted and/or agitated but I can't blame people for wanting to make a moment like that last forever.

One day in the books and I already feel like I got my money's worth.

photo courtesy of swth

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