Wednesday, August 09, 2006

LollaLand Through The Looking Glass pt.1

OK…I’m gonna try and chronicle the events of the last 4 days in order, but take in mind I had difficulty recalling events as told to me by my traveling companions just a day after they happened. So, bear with me if I jump around a bit. It was one crazy weekend (to say the least) chock full of music and mayhem. Naturally, some moments are bound to slip through the cracks of my recovering brain. And away we GO…


With a taxi waiting in the driveway, I scrambled to gather my belongings and forgot my iPod in the process. Was this perhaps foreshadowing things to come? No way! I was determined to have fun, even if it killed us (it nearly did).
I hooked up with my partners at the hotel on the south side of Chicago the afternoon before the festival was to begin. We “suited up” as soon as we set foot in the hotel room and quickly set out for some of that famous Chicago food. It wasn’t long before we settled on Italian and were stuffing our bellies with as much food as we could stand.
As we walked through the streets, I was pleasantly surprised to see the transformation the south side had undergone over the years. In that time, it’s morphed in to a quiet neighborhood littered with trees and classic architecture with the University of Chicago and its students as the primary occupants. It seems light years away from the hussle and bustle of the north side.
A little behind schedule, we arrived at Grant Park on Friday afternoon with the heat of the day bearing down on us. Chicago was in the latter stages of a heat wave and the first two days of the festival would put our skin and sanity to the test. At the framed entrance, inflated letters spelling out “Lollapalooza” towered above our heads and welcomed us with open arms. This was to be our home for the next few days and it wasn’t long before that “Safe As Milk” feeling poured over us. I was stoked to see that the security “shakedown” was virtually nonexistent. I easily made it through the gate check with 3 bottles of water and several pieces of fruit.
Not being married to any of the groups playing during the time at which we arrived, we let the fickle finger of fate decide for us. Mute Math won. We weren’t overly impressed with them so we set off for a patch of grass in the shade to work out our plan of attack. It wasn’t long when a sound unlike any other caught our ears. A warbling female voice was singing “She Don’t Use Jelly” from a stage just beyond a bank of shrubs behind us. As we walked closer, the band sounded pretty rough and under rehearsed. Imagine our surprised when we realized it was a group comprised of four pre-teens called The Blissters. They were fucking great! We sat and watched the rest of there set which had such classics as “Rockin’ In The Free World”, “Sweet Home Alabama”, and two original tunes (one was an instrumental, while the other had lyrics that simply read “Fie-De-Do”). Someone later told us that one of the kids in the band was Jeff Tweety’s son. This would also mark our first of several sightings of a guy dancing in a rather peculiar way on the side of the stage named “Beatle Bob”. Two people in the audience were dressed in costumes, too. One was a giant hotdog, the other an enormous pickle. We’d only been inside the festival gates for an hour and things were already getting very interesting…
At the conclusion of The Blissters set, we set off across the park to catch a few songs by The Stars. I don’t really recall specifics about the sound, but I think we collectively gave them a thumbs up. What I do remember, though, is that because of the positioning of the stage we, in the crowd, were caught directly in the path of the sun, which had us searching for more comfortable surroundings.
Just across the field was a larger stage and the next person on our musical menu, Ryan Adams. I was really pumped to finally catch him live. He had been scheduled to appear at the Vegoose Music Festival in 2005, which I attended, as part of the Phil Lesh band. To my dismay, he was forced to cancel at the last moment after a rumored stay in rehab. His set started off a bit shaky, but once he caught fire the band was shooting on all pistons. Of course, by that time, my companions had set off to secure a choice spot for the band Iron & Wine. Since his stage was just across the field from where they were sitting, they were able to witness (via the JumboTron) his mid-set rant about eggs and his inability to secure them after 11pm. For nearly five minutes he stood center stage and delivered a deadpan soliloquy filled to the brim with puns that drew both jeers and cheers from the crowd. The remainder of the set, following the “freak out”, was phenomenal. With Adams firmly in the drivers seat, the band effortlessly segued from one song to the next leaving a musical tapestry in their wake. Their renditions of “He’s Gone” and “Franklin’s Tower” were spot on. But when they slowly eased in to “Wharf Rat” (my favorite Grateful Dead song), my jaw hit the floor. And just to throw us off course he played the un-obvious choice of Sonic Youth’s, “Madonna, Sean and Me” in what was, perhaps, the most straight forward rendition the song has ever had. Without a doubt, this was one of the highlights of the festival, for me, and a terrific sign of things to come.
At the conclusion of his set, I quickly shuffled across the field to hook up with the girls as they watched Iron & Wine. I had no luck finding them in the crowd, so I hung around for a few songs then set off to the opposite side of the park to see the Secret Machines. Iron & Wine, fronted by Sam Beam, have a catalog of acoustic ballads told from a personal point of view. It was a mellow set that really impressed the girls. Mary said this set was one of her favorites of the festival.
The next three artists provided a 1,2,3 knock out punch which left our heads spinning by the end of the day. The first hit came from Jack White’s new group, The Raconteurs. Seeing as this was one of their first shows in America (they’d done a few warm-up gigs in Europe), expectations were high and the curious came out in droves. They did not disappoint. Released from his self-imposed shackles, White wore a plaid shirt and sunglasses. It should be noted that all three of Jack’s guitars were varying shades of red, though (his hollow body Gipson a magnificent blood red). As the downtown buildings obscured the sun’s glare, the band tore through nearly every song off their one and only album with an attack that would have made Led Zeppelin proud. However, the biggest reaction of the night came with their cover of Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy”. Their guitars crunched and wailed as a crowd of 40,000 sang along with every word.
Our next highlight was the final performance by the legendary punk trio, Sleater-Kinney. They were phenomenal. I feverishly proclaimed my love for Corin with each close up on the JumboTron. They were loud, sexy, and down right bitchy. It was great to see Corin have a moment of anger as she yelled at the monitor guy when one of her pedals refused to work. You could see the uncomfortable response Carrie had to the moment quite clearly from our position in the audience. It doesn’t get more rock ‘n’ roll than these gals. I ache at the thought that I’ll never get to see them live again. Whoa is me.

How could anything compete with that?

One word…. WEEN.

I tried my best to get the girls to come with me, but they insisted on seeing Death Cab For Cutie. Ugh! Geaner & Deaner were en fuego! Opening with “Exactly Where I’m At” and filling out their 90min. set with such gems as, “What Deaner Was Talking About”, “Touch My Tooter”, “Piss Up A Rope”, “Light Me Up”, “Voodoo Lady”, “The Mollusk”, “Spinal Meningitis”, and the sing-along anthem “The AIDS Song”. The stage was frequently obscured with help from a smoke machine, while Dean performed the majority of his solos hunched over with his guitar almost resting on the top of his bare feet. They incorporated nearly every style you can imagine, including garage-rock, space-rock, Southern rock, psychedelia, funk, with some country thrown in for good measure.
Heading north to get some late night food on the A Train, we encountered a fellow concertgoer who carried an empty bottle of Jagermeister preaching for the end of hate in the world (“Love yer BONES! Love yer carcass! Okay, yer BEAUTIFUL BODY!” Others on the train gave him more beer, insuring his wisdom would continue well in to the early hours of the morning. For the remainder of the trip we referred to him as JagerMan. And we spoke of him often.
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To think, this was just our first day! It was only going to get better.

2 Comments:

Blogger supergirl said...

ahem.

parts 2 and 3?

ahem?

11:20 AM  
Blogger groovehouse said...

I was first introduced to "Beatle Bob" while watching Gomez at ACL in 2004. Here's an article about him. Something in the Way He Moves

8:57 PM  

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