No Depression at Lollapalooza Day 1
Two hours of bumper to bumper from O’Hare to Grant Park deprives us of The Knux set on day one of Lollapalooza. The only thing worse that being stuck in Friday afternoon Chicago traffic is paying tolls for the privlege. Fat ropes of people stream into the grounds under a steady down pour late Friday afernoon. All the rain in the world can’t quench the crowd’s thirst, though.
There are festival drinkers and then there are midwesterners. People like the blonde woman in the gladiator sandals over there. Two other women are doing everything they can to keep their friend on her feet. It’s a losing battle in the poiuring rain. Gladiator lady and gravity are a mighty team but despite the best efforts of her pals, she loses the fight, falls backward, and splashes flat on her back into the black mud.
There may be better festivals for drinking than Lollapalooza. There may be better fests for hearing music. There’s no better place for both at once, though. To excess. Milwaukee’s Summerfest ranks right up there though it’s not fair to bring Milwaukeeans into the party picture since they’re pros.
None of this is to say I’m not enjoying my $8.oo silo can of Budweiser as I make my way to Ben Folds’ show on the, you guessed it, Budweiser stage. From the huge Grant Park fountain I cam make out Folds’ image on the video monitor above the stage. Select piano notes somehow penetrate through the half-mile of electronca that separates me from his performance. Alas, by the time I muck through the drenched crowd he’s pulling the show up to the curb.
The good news is Fleet Foxes take up immediately next door at the Playstation stage. The Seattle quintet has been compared to My Morning Jacket and I get that. But this band has several Jim James for vocalists. The harmonies are hair raising, beautiful, pure. The band constructs each song like a puzzle right before your eyes, defying the old notion that a song must have three ideas. There are often three ideas in a single measure here. What a cool surprise.
Across the gorunds I make Washington D.C.’s Theivery Corporation, a polyglottal dimension of world beat drums meets Memphis horns. Politics can be a dangerous preoccupation with performing artists. Theivery Corporation chooses to be persuasive rather than preachy. I notice a few people forgetting all abut the beer in their hand.
Meanwhile, back at the Bud stage, The Decemberists continue to struggle under the awkward weight of new product that doesn’t connect as well as the older stuff. Of course it’s all about performance–drama and color and emotion–with Colin Meloy and on this front he doesn’t disappoint his hugely partisan crowd. I can’t help but think that the Northwest U.S. is more brightly represented today by Fleet Foxes.
Andrew Bird’s whistle is as pure as a theramin. His show is a carnival for the eyes and ears. Guitar on his back, fiddle under his chin, he turns the Playstation stage into his personal play room. Even better, his audience is here to listen and he rewards them with a show that’s as mystical as an old European circus. By far my favorite set of the day.
Kings of Leon or Depeche mode? How would you end the night? For better or worse we took the Kings. My 18-year-old daughter Maggie was crestfallen last week when they appeared on The Today Show. “They hopped over the shark, Dad,” she said. “You mean they jumped the shark,” I told her. Either way, here they are in a less televised but no less commercial setting, nestled at the foot of the extremely phallic Trump Tower. “Sex on Fire” is cleverly placed mid-way through the show and the crowd explodes.
Equipment trouble keeps me from posting photos right now. We’re working on it. Look for a slide show of yesterday up by late this afternoon. A great day ahead. I hope to make Atmosphere, TV on the Radio, Animal Collective, among others. Also looking forward to seeing Chicago’s gifted singer/songwriter Joe Pug who won a tough crowd over in Madison earlier this year when he opened for the solo Rhett Miller show.