If you think Lollapalooza has lost its edge, if you think it’s nothing more than Bonnaroo’s drunk uncle in a three-piece suit, ask the folks who were at today’s opening show at the Grove Stage. That’s where New Orleans’ Ben Booker lost his guitar. In the crowd. Or at least the neck. The electric guitar phenom channeled Hendrix musically, then theatrically; breaking the neck from the body then sidearming the piece into the audience. Spiraling like a cricket bat through the air, a young woman took the wood in the head, drawing a swarm of medics and cops.
Not that one needs violence and mishap to keep a rock festival relevant, but if things go right it comes with the territory. At the 10-year mark, Lollapalooza has still got it. That said, today’s crowd under hazy, sunny skies, does show the fest is aging in an inevitable way, having mostly to do with two dynamics every major event aims for: stability and longevity. Seen among the tween-age hipsters walking behind their cell phones as though they are windshields, among the clean cut bro-sters in their giveaway sunglasses, and just behind the grizzled, tattooed 30-something groovesters, Lolla is now a family show. A summer destination for parents and kids, like a water park. Without water. But with the same beer choices.
Bud, Bud Lime, Bud Lite, Bud Lime Lite, Bud Summer Shade, Bud Summer Shade Lite, Bud Summer Partial Shade Light. I made a couple of those up. Tall Boys are $8.00, rock fans. Welcome to Chicago.
Travel costs for bands will definitely decline if Lolla switches to New York City next year. NYC reps hard today in Grant Park. Parquet Courts from Brooklyn had a volcanic mosh going during their set early afternoon. Framed by loudly pinging guitar harmonics, their music captures a lower-fi Green Day meets Ramones. Grumbling vocals fight, in a good way, with the timeless, rocked out drummer smashing his golden Gretsch shells.
Brooklyn’s grinding Hip Hip act Rat King picked up the pieces of the Grove Stage where Benjamin Booker left off. Rat King’s DJ makes slippery, tense work of the turntables. The trio performed in front of strange video images that were one part Game of Thrones and one part Werner Herzog.
Super freaky Lolla phenomenom: as soon as the band, any band, finishes its set, the second the last beat drops, the massive crowd turns and scrambles away in unison. There’s hardly any applause at the end of sets. The festival runs a tight ship and people know it. It’s like the set never happened. It almost goes silent. There’s other shit to see and fest goers are on the clock, people.
Other shit like a tight set by The Temper Trap whose music moves like the wind. They’re playing in the background right now. I’m going to catch the end of that set then glide over to Fitz and the Tantrums show. Really looking forward to Jenny Lewis playing from her new project in a few hours.