Three days of being outside in the heat is a long time. When I woke up Sunday morning, I was still tired and vaguely hungover, and the weatherman was telling me it was going to rain. Fun! Thoughts drifted back to Lollapalooza 2005 and how everything was squashed together in half the real estate over two days. Less walking, fewer skippable timeslots. But hey, America thrives on Growth at all costs, so stop your whining, you little commie!
Expect Lollapalooza 2012 to stretch from Soldier Field to Foster Beach and last from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The Redwalls, Ben Kweller, and Death Cab will be the only three bands to have played all eight years!
So anyway, all week I’d been getting these spammish invitations to the “ck one music lounge” at the Hard Rock Hotel. There were promises of free booze, air conditioning, and a “gift suite.” I saw the episode of the Sopranos where Chrissy hangs out with Ben Kingsley, so I wanted to at least try to score a free PSP. Right?
As you might have guessed, no such luck. After waiting behind some blatantly Hot Topic-styled “Rock Stars” we got to the front of the line where the hostess took one look at me and asked, “Media?” Obviously not “Artist.” I got my pass and went to the lounge and got hassled by the bartender for my I.D. He was such a dick I initially thought he was just joking around with me. After conferring with another bartender (no shit!), he finally relented and gave me a bottle of Italian beer. Thanks a lot, jackass.
There were some hot dogs and pinball machines and video games and beanbag chairs, and an absolute lack of any schwag worth carrying. I chugged my beer, grabbed a tiny sample bottle of CK Be and a pack of Ask the Kabala oracle cards (I’m not kidding) to prove to my non-VIP pals what they were missing, and we got the hell out of there before the “Kill Hannah DJ Set” started. Oy.
• 2:00 – The Hold Steady – We made it in with enough time to catch the end of the Hold Steady. I’d seen them last year at Intonation and I never really got the fuss. It’s starting to sink in now, so I think I’m going to have to give their record a listen. In this age of MP3s, sometimes it’s hard to take the time to sit down and really listen to an album. But I think they’ve won me over. MP3: Your Little Hoodrat Friend (from Separation Sunday).
Fetal reaction: Three oddly Catholic kicks.
• 2:30 – Ben Kweller – I’m a big fan of Ben Kweller and I still listen to Sha Sha once a month. His follow-up wasn’t great, but I’m still looking forward to his next album. He played several new songs at this show and they sounded good. “I’m still not done with my childhood,” went the chorus of one, and it’s clear just by looking at the kid that this is the truth. I’m still excited to see where he ends up. I’m hoping the new album sees a return to the harmonies and layering that made Sha Sha such a pleasure. Don’t fear the pretty, Ben! MP3: Penny On The Train Track (from the new album).
Fetal reaction: Three adolescent kicks.
• 3:30 – Andrew Bird – He’s an expert whistler. There’s no denying that fact. It’s pretty amazing. And his whole live layered loop thing is pretty cool. At least once. But once you’ve seen it, you kind of wish he’d do something different. The album is good, but it’s a bit of a snoozer. A real live band might have raised the energy level a little. MP3: A Nervous Tic Motion Of The Head To The Left (from The Mysterious Production of Eggs).
Fetal reaction: Two sleepy kicks.
• 4:30 – The Shins – Dang, that Garden State is a popular movie! It would’ve been nice be able to get even sort of close to the stage, but it wasn’t meant to be. That’s a bit of a cop-out. I was lazy and didn’t really feel like navigating the crowd. My blanket and my Cheez-its were treating me too nice to just up and ditch them. Sorry, Shins, I’ll catch you next time. In a dinner club, preferably. Do they even have dinner clubs anymore? I bet the Shins would be perfect dinner club music. MP3: Kissing The Lipless (from Chutes Too Narrow).
Fetal reaction: No kicks. Sleeping.
• 5:00 – Of Montreal – Quirky, dancey, indie pop. Great hooks, solid songs. The thing I hadn’t expected was the costumes. Fantastic. They somehow got a bunch of sweaty, jaded festival attendees to shake some ass. Well done! MP3: Disconnect the Dots (from Satanic Panic in the Attic)
Fetal reaction: Five kicks that seemed a little gay, but were definitely happy.
• 5:30 – She Wants Revenge – I didn’t see this, but AMP took some photos. Dude looks like Jeremy Piven.
• 6:30 – Wilco – I’ve got to admit that I hadn’t been caring for Wilco lately. I figured it was just a normal trough in my cycle of obsession. I’d been a bit of a fanatic, really. But ever since A Ghost is Bored I’ve had a hard time giving a shit. I mean, really. How many shows can I be expected to go see in support of an album I didn’t even really like. That’s a bit harsh. There are songs I liked on it. But jeez, guys, release another record already, so I can figure out if I still like you or not. Because when you play a show as great as you did at Lollapalooza, I get all confused. I thought you had become all grumpy and arty and serious and annoying, and then you come out in a straw hat like an American tourist, and smile and joke throughout your whole set, all humble and gracious! What am I supposed to do with that? How can I feel betrayed by you when you say things like, “I haven’t had zits since my early 30s”? So I guess I like Wilco again. But just so I don’t sound like a raving fanboy, I would like to point out that one of the new songs (“What Light”) sounded like a Dead song; at least Nels Cline’s guitar part sounded exactly like a Jerry solo. MP3: Handshake Drugs (from the More Like the Moon EP).
Fetal reaction: Four pleasantly surprised kicks.
So yeah, overall Lollapalooza was a good time. It’s a blast to be able to catch that many bands in such a short amount of time. Not sure if I’m going to be able to make it next year (with a new baby and all), but hopefully they’ll finally figure out the fucking sound bleeding by then. And maybe concentrate all the good bands onto either the north or the south side of the park. Perry, if you need any help separating the wheat from the chaff, let me know; I’d be happy to help.
Jolie Brown contributed reporting for this article. Photos by Alan Paterson.