The odyssey continues...
Saturday - Day 2
Let me backtrack briefly and give you the lay of the land where Grant Park is concerned. Columbus Drive in front of the park is closed off and shut down for emergency vehicles. There's only one main entrance in front of Buckingham Fountain, which dissects the venue. Fortunately, with three-day passes like we had, you only had to sit in a huge line Friday and getting in Satuday was a piece of cake because they give you a wristband.
The two biggest stages sit at opposite ends of the park about a mile apart. Two other stages sit adjacent and two smaller stages sit behind those toward the middle on intersecting, blocked-off streets, Jackson and Balbo. The ground rises toward the fountain so you don't have sound from one end messing with sound from the other.
We started off with the Gutter Twins playing the stage Radiohead played on the previous night. Instantly,we noticed the sound quality was much better, something I hoped we were past from Pitchfork but evidently not. We were real close for the Black Keys but I guess the sound was awful in the back. The Gutter Twins, comprised of former Screaming Tree Mark Lanegan and Greg Dulli of the Afghan Whigs, describe themselves as "the Satanic Everly Brothers". Even though Lanegan just stood there to sing and couldn't get off the stage fast enough, they put on a quality set to start the day.
Having eaten early and skipped breakfast and lunch, it was 3:30 by this time so we pigged out. It was much cooler with a nice breeze and we froze the four 1-liter bottles of water we brought in (two each), so we had cold water all day as they melted.
Explosions in the Sky played the other big stage and I was familiar with their early albums and saw them at a tiny club in Madison. Still tired and short on sleep, we found a spot of grass and laid down while listening to them. I think I fell asleep for a bit. Normally, that wouldn't be a compliment but it was great music to relax and unwind to, even if there were no lyrics.
From the same spot, we were able to just turn and catch the first half of Okkervil River's set. I'm not very familiar with them but they continued the great vibe of a pleasant afternoon, even though they opened with a song that talked constantly about the president getting shot.
Because of the distance involved, we cut early and grabbed a vegan ice cream (Pitchfork had it too, it's quite tasty) on our way to Battles, who we saw at Pitchfork last year. I don't even know where to begin as far as describing these guys but they got the crowd energized and were a good pick-me-up for the evening sets.
Staying on that same side, we caught the Toadies, who sounded like a bunch of pissed-off Texans. This was a good thing. There was an underlying agitation throughout their set which I guess is just the way they play. And I enjoyed it. Lead singer Vaden Todd Lewis wore a sly grin before leading the crowd in Possum Kingdom's signature line, "Do you want to die?" Their first new album in eight years is out in September and if their set was any indication, it's good to have them back.
Finally, the early evening crescendo of anger built to the headliner, Rage Against The Machine. We picked Rage over Wilco, the other headliner, because my buddy Rich never saw Rage live and we both saw Wilco put on an impressive set at Sasquatch in 2004. Perhaps we made the wrong choice. We lingered at the back so we could bolt early to catch our trains. While this compromises the headliner, it got us in and out in a clean and cheap manner (we heard one tale of a two-hour traffic jam downtown). The sound was too low early and Rage had to stop twice for extended periods because of fan mayhem and they threatened to cut their set short the second time they stopped. On one hand, I commend Zack de la Rocha for looking out for the safety and well-being of his fans. On the other hand, he plays in a band called Rage Against The Machine that plays some of the most angry, inciting music ever recorded. How do you expect nearly 40,000 people to respond? By sipping tea? It entirely killed any momentum of their set and gave us that last little push out the door. I'm not sure that it dawned on de la Rocha that he followed his two look-out-for-each-other sermons with Bombtrack (chorus: Burn! Burn!) and Bullet In The Head. Yeah, that'll chill everyone out, Zack. Like Public Enemy two weekends before them, it's not if they remain relevant but rather if anyone is still listening or going to do anything about it. When he told people to save their anger and energy for the streets, it came off as a punch line. If they do new material, perhaps they should rage against apathy and indifference.
photo courtesy of brokenbat
Sunday, August 03, 2008
The odyssey continues...