Monday, August 4, 2008

Lollapalooza Weekend Pt 2 - Friday

Michele, Bella and I made the trek down to the city Friday morning for the official start to the Lollapalooza weekend. As I said, Michele and Bella were making their first and only appearance at Lolla on Friday, since one of Bella's favorite bands, Michele's favorite, and my favorite were all playing on the same day. The weather was somewhat cooperative, although it ended up being more brutal by midday than we hoped. But it was a pretty great start to the weekend after all.

We started off heading to the south end of the park to catch most of the set by Holy F-ck. They're a band that mainly plays instrumental and they have some odd instruments in their arsenal, but their twisted dance rock provided a great kickoff to the day. One of the band members, who was mainly doing keyboards and sampling, had some sort of strange machine that he had film running through, and when he pulled it, the audio varied with the speed he was pulling it, making for a pretty unique sound. The early crowd definitely ate up the pulsating rock, and I had to take off a bit early in their set to meet up with Michele and Bella for our next set.

We then headed to the north side of the grounds for what we were hoping was going to be one of the best sets of the weekend, Butch Walker. You've already read about the preview show he did the night before for the few lucky fans able to get in. Unfortunately, Butch decided to keep things low key and slow for the start of the set, playing some of the new acoustic songs by himself, and doing the Howie Day looping thing again. Not a good start, especially when he only had a limited time to capture the attention of the crowds streaming by. He finally brought out his band during Straightline, and then proceeded to thankfully rock a bit more. It was good to hear Uncomfortably Numb and a few others song, but he instead leaned on his last album with the Let's Go Out Tonights, which is not my favorite of his. I took Bella over to the Kids' stage while Michele watched the end of Butch's set, doesn't sound like I missed much else.

Bella and I got tot he Kids' stage in time for one of her favorite bands, the Terrible Twos. First off, the Kids' stage is a special one they've had at Lolla the past few years, where of course bands that specifically make kids music play, but also they have surprise bigger names play the stage as a special treat. This was the case on Friday, as Jeff Tweedy from Wilco was scheduled to play immediately after the Twos, so the place was jam packed with adults waiting to see him. It was good news for the Twos, since it was probably the biggest crowd they ever played to, thankfully the crowd was fairly receptive as well, so it wasn't so bad. But thankfully they have a special gated area right in front of the stage specifically for kids and their parents to sit and watch the show. So I hightailed it in there and got a good spot for us to watch the Twos.

The Twos played a great set as always, playing plenty of new songs from their album released the Tuesday before, but also playing songs from the album Bella loves, including Ladybug and Pizza and Chocolate Milk. They wrapped up after barely a half hour (without playing Isabella unfortunately), and things were almost already ready for Jeff's solo acoustic set. Michele made her way through the crowd to meet with us thankfully, as the place was jam packed with both adults and kids by the time Jeff was ready to play.

We got a very big surprise for Jeff's set, as instead of standing up on the stage in front of the kids area, he instead had them set up his mic and guitar directly on the ground right in the kids area in front of the stage. So I was basically 5 feet away from one of my favorite songwriters on the planet while he did the special set. He played requests that the kids had, such as Heavy Metal Drummer (which he had to had to slightly alter the lyrics to of course) and Hummingbird. He then had a mini-reunion of his previous band, Uncle Tupelo, when he brought out the drummer from the Terrible Twos, who actually was the drummer in UT. I didn't know that was the case, so that was a cool surprise.

We then killed some time, since it was impossible to find a water fountain without a giant line, and Bella was getting crabby from not having a nap. We eventually headed to the south end of the park, where we'd be spending the next 4 hours waiting for the headliner, Radiohead. We thankfully found a shady spot near the VIP area and laid down our blanket and stayed there the rest of the day.

Luckily Bella was in a much better mood from that point on. She had fun running around the field, and of course managed to find a big mud puddle to step in unfortunately. We sat and listened to Gogol Bordello, who were fine and crazy, but I still don't care much for the whole gypsy punk sound thing they do. They were followed by Mates of State, a husband and wife duo on drums and keyboards, who played some great poppy songs that gelled well with the warm midday weather.

Next up on the big stage were Bloc Party, a band I was pretty anxious to see, since I loved their two studio albums they have released. They did not disappoint, they cranked out their jittery angular rock perfectly, matching the tempo and accuracy of their recorded versions. They were followed on the other stage by Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks. I had seen them open for Radiohead about 4 years ago, and they put on a really great set then. Malkmus did a solo set at the Pitchfork fest in 2007, and that nearly bored me to tears. Their set on Friday unfortunately was closer to the later show, as I couldn't find anything interesting to hear in their thankfully short 45 minute set.

My friend Brian and I tried to go and watch a few minutes of CSS nearby while the Jicks were on, they seemed to be having a good time, but the sun was still just too brutally warm to stand and watch them, plus there was going to be a stampede of fans coming from the north end watching the Raconteurs towards the Radiohead stage, so we wanted to make sure we were out of the way of that.

Again, Radiohead is my favorite band in the world, they played my favorite concert ever at the Rosemont Theater in 1997 on the OK Computer tour, and a fantastic show in Grant Park after Kid A that is probably in my top 10 list of shows as well. My expectations were through the roof for them of course because of this, and because I loved their latest album, In Rainbows, which would be the majority of the material for the night. Unfortunately, the show ended up being a letdown, and not just because they decided not to play the song Letdown.

Part of the problem was not the band's fault, and part of it was. The biggest problem was that even though we were sitting 1/3 of the way up the field from the stage, the sound by us was terrible. The bass was almost inaudible, which was a crime during the song National Anthem, which should have had the intro bassline rattling the Sears and Hancock Towers. As we walked out later in the night, the sound was still not up to par through out the majority of the field, so it wasn't just where we were sitting.

The thing that I say may be the band's fault, although it may not be, was that they decided to show the view from 6 mini-cameras placed on the stage, instead of the usual variety of professionally handled camera views that every other band had. Now remember, the stage they played on was at the end of a field that was 2 or 3 city blocks long. If you were in the back, you had no hope of seeing anything on the stage, and yet you couldn't even see the band on the projection screens. Another problem with that is that last year for Pearl Jam, they showed the same video on the screens by the opposite stage, so even if you were in the back of the field, you could see everything. They shut off these screens Friday night, so that was not an option.

The setlist was a bit disappointing too, the band only seemed to really take off on a few songs for some reason. Also, since they were the only band playing, the 75,000 or so in attendance had no where else to go, so many people who had no interest in the band were on that field. I'm guessing this was the case for the really cool guys tossing a rugby ball by us through the majority of their set. The crowd just was not into it, whether it was the setlist or the volume problem, I don't know. I mentioned to Brian that the crowd for Muse last year (who I consider to be Radiohead 2.0) was much more into the show and feeding back the energy to the band.

It was a sad way to end an otherwise great day, but better times laid ahead. Bella was a trooper, she almost made it to the very end of Radiohead's set (she was calling out for them to play Pinky, a song she decided they had written for her favorite stuffed animal). She laid down on the ground and passed out just before the encores, and thankfully slept like a rock the entire ride home. She definitely had a great time, so our little concert goer has done well in her four shows so far this year.

I'm going to post more of my photos on another page, I should have the link to that in one of the following updates. (Photo 1: guess who, Photo 2: Holy F-ck, 3: Bella waiting for Butch, 4: Butch Walker, 5: the Terrible Twos, 6: Bella and Mommy at the Kids' stage, 7: Jeff Tweedy, 8: mini-Uncle Tupelo reunion), 9: best shot of Radiohead I could get, 10: Bella passed out cold on the train ride home

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