Tag Archives: fests

Riot Fest 2017: No Dicks on the Dancefloor

Riot Fest once again proved itself to be the music fest for grownups. Grownups in black t-shirts.

While all the other big festivals rotate the same dozen headliners, it’s great that Riot Fest has retained its punk rock focus. Maybe not as strictly as during its first several years as a multi-venue festival, but most of the performers still fall somewhere along the punk rock spectrum. And even the ones who don’t play distorted guitars could be said to have a punk rock attitude. Gotta respect that.

Riot Fest sometimes gets accused of cashing in on nostalgia. Sure, a lot of the bands peaked 20 or 30 years ago (or more). But the fact that they’re still around and kicking ass is a testament not only to their survival but to our own. We should all hope we age as gracefully as the most of these artists (Al Jourgensen excepted).

Headliners this year were Nine Inch Nails, Queens of the Stone Age, and a reunited Jawbreaker, playing their first full show in 21 years (other than a couple warm up gigs around San Francisco last month). The headliners get the big font on the poster, but fest diehards know that the undercard is always where the action is.

It was hot and sunny when we got to the park on Friday. You never know what you’re going to get in September in Chicago, but you can usually count on at least some rain. The line to get in was down the block and security was being thorough. I heard one guy complaining that they had opened his cardboard cigarette case the wrong way and wrecked it. A woman behind me was worried she was going to miss X, who she had last seen in 1983 with the Replacements opening up for them! Don’t worry, she made it in with time to spare.

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Lollapalooza 2017 lineup: Look familiar?

When you look at the 2017 Lollapalooza lineup released yesterday, a lot of those names might look familiar. Of the nine BIG FONT headliners only one (Blink-182) has never played Lolla before. Extending that to the 22 artists comprising the top five rows adds three more newbies: Wiz Khalifa, Big Sean, and Liam Gallagher.

If you’ve gone to Lolla over the past several years, you’ve probably already seen 18 of the top 22 acts. That’s 82%. Adding in the next three rows brings us to a total of 39 artists; 28 of them (72%) are Lolla veterans. This year will mark the Killers’ fourth Lollapalooza and it’ll be the fifth time for Cage the Elephant, Kaskade, and our beloved Spoon.

The undercard consists of an additional 21 groups that have played Lolla before and 108 that haven’t. So if you’re looking for new experiences, get there early!

I realize people don’t necessarily go to Lollapalooza every year and there’s certainly nothing wrong with seeing the same band a bunch of times. And you can’t blame the artists for cashing in on the festival circuit gravy train. But if you’re starting to feel a little deja vu when these lineup announcements come out, it’s not just your imagination. We have all been here before.

Big font headliners

CHANCE THE RAPPER: 2013
THE KILLERS: 2015, 2009, 2015
MUSE: 2007, 2011
ARCADE FIRE: 2005, 2010
THE XX: 2010
LORDE: 2014
BLINK-182: n00b!!!
DJ SNAKE: 2015
JUSTICE: 2012

Medium font rows 3-5

ALT-J: 2013, 2015
RUN THE JEWELS: 2014
CAGE THE ELEPHANT: 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014
WIZ KHALIFA: n00b!
BIG SEAN: n00b!
THE HEAD AND THE HEART: 2012, 2014
FOSTER THE PEOPLE: 2011, 2014
THE SHINS: 2006, 2012
RYAN ADAMS: 2006
KASKADE: 2009, 2010, 2012, 2015
PORTER ROBINSON: 2012
ZEDS DEAD: 2012
LIAM GALLAGHER: n00b!

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Riot Fest 2016: I Remember Halloween

I was never a punk. In high school I was a trendy little femme who liked the Smiths and sixties music. Duckie was my fashion icon. The only punk rock I listened to was the Dead Milkmen.

The king of the punks at my school was a senior named Alex who came to class one morning with perfectly spiked hair. Multiple four-inch spikes of Ziggy-red hair held up with egg whites or Elmer’s or some other gravity defying concoction. While he was walking down the hall some big dumb jock took a donut and placed it on one of those epic spikes.

Alex left the donut on his head for the rest of the day.

To me, that epitomizes punk rock. You make a personal statement that goes against the grain, you get hassled for it, but ultimately you subvert that mockery by reclaiming it and making it your own.

I didn’t see any donuts at Riot Fest this year but there was no shortage of that same punk rock attitude.

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Lollapalooza 2015: I Don’t Care, I Love It

Remember when Lollapalooza was alternative?

You’re forgiven if you don’t. They gave up on that idea by 1996 when they first booked Metallica as a headliner.

Remember when fests had their own identities? Bonnaroo was a rootsy jam band festival, etc. These days bands just rotate through the major summer music festivals, year by year. Cocahella last year, Bonnaroo this year, Lollapalooza next year. Repeat ad infinitum.

Just in Chicago if you attended Lolla, Pitchfork, and Riot Fest, you’d have the opportunity to see pretty much every band who’s currently touring. Sad you missed missed Run the Jewels and Courtney Barnett at Lolla last year? They both played P4k this year. Chances are they’ll both have a nice big font on the Riot Fest 2016 poster.

It’s quite a time to be a music fan. Then again you might ask yourself whether an outdoor music fest is the best way to experience live music. There are certainly a lot of hassles at these kinds of fests (comfort, sound, food, toilets, and on and on). But if you’re the type of person who likes to make a notch in your belt for every band you see, festivals can help you out with that.

I’ve always enjoyed Lollapalooza. It’s fun to enter into the mayhem for one weekend per year. For me, the fun has always outweighed the hassles. Then again I also don’t mind going to IKEA once in a while. Your mileage may vary.

Highlights this year were Paul McCartney, First Aid Kit, Charli XCX, and Gogol Bordello.

Surprises were Alabama Shakes (way more fun than I expected), Metallica (ditto), and Twin Peaks (I had avoided them because of their dumb name but they’re exactly the kind of band I love).

Disappointments were Father John Misty (grumpy), Lame Impala (I think I stole that joke from Twitter), Albert Hammond, Jr (sang like the guy from Midnight Oil), and the disappearance of the falafel vendor who kept me alive for the past seven or eight Lollas.

Scheduling conflicts made me miss Tove Lo, War on Drugs, Bully, and Shakey Graves.

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Lollapalooza 2005 Map and Schedule

While I was researching my Lolla 2014 piece I was surprised and disappointed that I could not find the original 2005 Lollapalooza map online anywhere. I stumbled across Jim DeRogatis’ 2006 news item about the fest’s expansion for its second year, which reminded me that in 2005 everything had been crammed south of Buckingham Fountain. I had completely forgotten that.

So I dug through my personal archives and discovered my original program and scanned it. You’re welcome. It’s a little wrinkly and messed up because it lived in my pocket for a couple days as I stumbled around getting loaded and eating smuggled KFC.

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Lollapalooza 2014: Drives You Crazy Getting Old

Ten years. Ten Lollas in Grant Park. I had a cutting edge mobile phone in 2005 — the Motorola RAZR — but I didn’t know how to text properly. There were no iPhones, no Twitter, YouTube hadn’t officially launched yet, and Facebook was still exclusive to college students.

Lollapalooza 2005 seems quaint in retrospect. It was only two days long, there were less than 60 bands, the whole thing took place south of Buckingham Fountain, all four main stages were crammed onto Hutchinson Field… And yet this year’s event would hardly seem unrecognizable to a time traveler from 2005. It’s still, as I said back at the time, “an event as corporate and branded and manipulative as anything any marketing genius could ever devise.” And despite that, with the right attitude, it can still be a lot of fun.

Over the years I have seen so many memorable performances at Lollapalooza. Would most of these have been better suited to a dark club as opposed to a big, sweaty field in the middle of the day? Absolutely. But let’s be honest. I cram more bands into three days at Lolla than I go out and see for the rest of the year combined. Is that pathetic? Maybe so, but I’m busy. I’m a grown up. And a big festival provides me with the opportunity to stumble across something unexpectedly great that I never would have sought out on my own. So I return to Lolla every year in spite of the weak lineups that — looking back — I’ve publicly bitched about almost every year.

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Lollapalooza 2013: Fun Times in Babylon

Lollapalooza

Friday

There’s something thrilling — maybe even masochistic — about entering a big music festival on the first day. So many people at the gates, squeezing in, getting hassled by security goons, all intent on making it inside. Once you’re finally in, you can take a deep breath and get your bearings. Bar, porta-potties, stages. Check, check, check.

I showed up on Friday at Lollapalooza excited to see Father John Misty, and Josh Tillman’s band did not disappoint. Tillman is a charismatic front man, poking fun at both the VIPs in the platinum section as well as the “idiots in the back.” The band was tight and since they only have one album, they played all my favorite songs. It was such a great show that I was afraid nobody would be able to top it for the rest of the weekend.

Father John Misty
Father John Misty
Crystal Castles had me thinking how the electronic stuff that used to be relegated to Perry’s tent/stage has spilled over on to the main stages. I was coming up with a theory about EDM’s recent influence on indie rock…when New Order came on and reminded me that this has actually been going on for at least 30 years. Beer can make you a little slow.

Continue reading Lollapalooza 2013: Fun Times in Babylon

In Defense Of #fests

Belle and Sebastian at Pitchfork 2013

I’ve seen a lot of criticism of big music festivals lately. Some of it is valid: the radius clauses imposed by organizers can clearly hurt local venues and the local music scene. And I can’t think of a single band I’ve seen outside that wouldn’t have been better inside a dark club or theater. That said, fests offer a lot of things that you’re just not going to get when you go to a regular show.

I went to the Pitchfork Music Festival on Saturday and had a great time. There were three bands that I really wanted to see and several others that I was curious about. That’s enough for a solid day of music. You don’t need to love every single band. It’s good to have holes in your schedule so you can get some food, reapply sunscreen, and sit on a blanket in the shade. Downtime is essential if you don’t want to burn yourself out.

If you don’t have to travel too far, there’s no shame in getting a single day ticket. It’s important to realize that you don’t need to see everything. Don’t stress out about getting inside much before the start time of the first band you care about. On Saturday Phosphorescent was one of my three must-see bands and they started at 2:30. Sure, it might have been cool to see White Lung and Pissed Jeans, but you know what’s even cooler? A leisurely brunch at Wishbone.

We rolled in and found a good spot just in time to see Matthew Houck and his crew take the stage. The sun was beating down on us pretty hard, which made me happy we hadn’t arrived any earlier. Union Park is small enough that I could slip away for beer and be back before the end of the song.

After that, we threw down the blanket in a shady spot close enough to Trail of Dead’s stage so my pals could move up close for a while. During this chill time we met up with some other folks and spent some time critiquing the fashion choices of our fellow attendees. Happy to see nobody’s wearing corduroys in the summer anymore, but man, what’s up with all the half shirts?

We left the shade to check out Savages for a bit but got hungry after a few songs and left to eat some felafel under a tree.

At this point you might be wondering why I would spend $50 to sit on a blanket with my friends. And I would answer that sitting on a blanket with my friends is one of my favorite things to do at music festivals and something I never do anywhere other than at music festivals. I like drinking beer and eating felafels and watching people and listening to music. When something piques my interest I can get up and walk over and check it out.

I haven’t attended the Forkfest since 2010 but in past years I remember feeling old. Maybe it’s the fact that all the guys have geezer beards now, or maybe the Breeders and Belle and Sebastian appeal more to my demographic, but the crowd didn’t seem that young to me this year. But it’s still fun to see a bunch of weirdos baking in the sun while Swans pummel everyone.

I was excited to see the Breeders play Last Splash. It’s a meticulously produced album that is stranger sounding than almost any other alt-pop from the 90s. Live, though, they were perfectly shambolic. As my man JTL put it, they “brought the slacker cool epically.” I’ve seen the Pixies a few times since they reunited and I’ve never seen Kim Deal smile as much as she did on Saturday. They were scrappy and the mix wasn’t great, but whatever. The band was having fun and it was infectious.

After their set we jockeyed for a good position where we could still see Solange but be up close for Belle and Sebastian an hour later. B&S was the reason I bought tickets the day they went on sale. I saw them once before way back in 2006, and it was a great concert. If you think of them as wimpy and twee you really need to see them live. They rock harder than you’d think, and they put on a super entertaining show. There aren’t a ton of bands that I’d stand around in the rain to see, but Belle and Sebastian is one of them.

Once the rain got heavier, our densely packed spot opened up a little and we had enough room to put on ponchos and dance (gently). I kept looking up at the sky, nervous that the show would be stopped early as Bjork’s set had been the previous night. We were lucky and got a full set.

As we left the park my wet shoes squished through the grass and mud. Sure, there are things about fests that you can complain about, things that are less comfortable than they could be, things that are goofy or annoying, but like most things in life it’s about your attitude. If you go in with a good attitude you can have a good time. Realistic expectations and a flexible plan will help too.

A friend’s dad ran for state government back in the day with the slogan: Aim high, hang loose, keep moving. I’m not sure if he won or lost the election, but that’s my motto when I head into a fest. See you at Lollapalooza!

Pitchfork crowd, photo by Alan M. Paterson
Photo by Alan M. Paterson

Lollapalooza 2013 Lineup (with mp3s)

Lollapalooza

Lollapalooza has announced its 2013 lineup and has already sold out of three-day passes, individual day passes, and VIP passes. I’ve gone every year since it settled in Chicago and have consistently had a good time. Some years have been more fun than other, but there are always bands I’m excited to see and there are always a few surprises.

It will be fun to see the Cure headline a big fest like this. I haven’t seen them since the Curiosa Festival came to Tinley Park. I’m also super excited about seeing Father John Misty, but — as always — it would probably be way better to see him in a smaller, darker venue. He’ll probably play at 2 o’clock as the sun beats us all into submission. But hey, that’s when the good stuff happens at Lollapalooza. Nobody goes to these things just to see the headliners, do they?

FRIDAY

The Killers
Nine Inch Nails
New Order (soundcloud)
Queens of the Stone Age (soundcloud)
Steve Aoki (soundcloud)
Thievery Corporation (mp3)
Lana Del Rey (mp3)
Flux Pavilion (soundcloud)
Band of Horses (mp3)
Hot Chip (mp3)
Crystal Castles (mp3)
Imagine Dragons
Frightened Rabbit (mp3)
Dillon Francis
Smith Westerns (mp3)
Disclosure (soundcloud)
Father John Misty (mp3)
Ghost B.C.
Modestep
Emeli Sande (soundcloud)
Jessie Ware (soundcloud)
Atlas Genius (soundcloud)
Timeflies (soundcloud)
Theophilus London (mp3)
Monsta (soundcloud)
IO Echo (soundcloud)
Icona Pop (soundcloud)
Chance the Rapper (mp3)
Lance Herbstrong
Robert DeLong (soundcloud)
Deap Vally (soundcloud)
Twenty One Pilots (soundcloud)
San Cisco (soundcloud)
Hey Marseilles (mp3)
Keys N Krates (soundcloud)
The Neighborhood (soundcloud)
Pacific Air (mp3)
American Authors (soundcloud)
Houndmouth (soundcloud)
Brick and Mortar (mp3)
D-Pryde
Brite Lite Brite (soundcloud)

SATURDAY

Mumford & Sons (soundcloud)
The Postal Service (mp3)
The National (mp3)
The Lumineers (soundcloud)
Kendrick Lamar (mp3)
Eric Church (soundcloud)
Steve Angello (soundcloud)
Ellie Goulding (mp3)
Azealia Banks (mp3)
Local Natives (mp3)
Dada Life (soundcloud)
Matt & Kim (mp3)
Foals (mp3)
Death Grips (mp3)
Court Yard Hounds (soundclouds)
Adventure Club
Ben Howard (mp3)
Griz (soundcloud)
Charles Bradley (mp3)
Heartless Bastards (mp3)
Baauer (soundcloud)
Haim (soundcloud)
Unknown Mortal Orchestra (mp3)
St. Lucia (mp3)
Shovels & Rope (soundcloud)
Little Green Cars (soundcloud)
Family of the Year (mp3)
360
The Bright Light Social Hour (soundcloud)
Reignwolf
Pujol (mp3)
Planet Hemp
Cole Plante (soundcloud)
Lukas Nelson & P.O.T.R. (soundcloud)
Blondfire (soundcloud)
Frontier Ruckus (soundcloud)
Wheeler Brothers (soundcloud)
The Dunwells (soundcloud)
Supreme Cuts (mp3)
Cherub
Wild Cub (mp3)
Brooke Waggoner (soundcloud)
Beast Patrol (soundcloud)

SUNDAY

The Cure
Phoenix (mp3)
Vampire Weekend (mp3)
Knife Party (soundcloud)
Grizzly Bear (mp3)
Major Lazer (mp3)
Dog Blood
Two Door Cinema Club (mp3)
Tegan and Sara (mp3)
Beach House (mp3)
Cat Power (mp3)
2 Chainz (soundcloud)
Alt-J (mp3)
The Vaccines (mp3)
DIIV (soundcloud)
Alex Clare (mp3)
Baroness (soundcloud)
Lianne La Havas (mp3)
Wild Nothing (mp3)
Angel Haze (mp3)
Wavves (mp3)
Alvin Risk (soundcloud)
Jake Bugg (soundcloud)
Wild Belle (mp3)
Art Department (soundcloud)
MS MR (soundcloud)
Guards (mp3)
Kill the Noise (mp3)
Skaters (soundcloud)
The Orwells (mp3)
Palma Violets
Astro (soundcloud)
Machines Are People Too (soundcloud)
Yawn (mp3)
Half Moon Run (soundcloud)
The Mowgli’s (mp3)
Wake Owl (mp3)
Bear Mountain (mp3)
O’ Brother (soundcloud)
Makeshift Prodigy (soundcloud)

Photo by Alan M. Paterson.

Looking back at Lollapalooza 2012

Lollapalooza: the great granddaddy of music festivals. Or would that be Woodstock? Or Monterrey? Or Newport? Maybe Lolla is just the weird uncle of music fests. Who’s not even that weird anymore. Lolla is your uncle whose basement used to smell funny, but now he’s just a regular old guy who wears golf shirts.

Or something.

I went to the first two Lollas back in its original incarnation as a touring freak show, and I’ve been to all of them since it settled down in Chicago as a dest-fest in 2005. So I’m a seasoned expert at this shit. An OG (old grump).

People always complain about the headliners. It’s what we do. But this year it was particularly bad. Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Black Keys, Black Sabbath, and Jack White are the only bands on the lineup to get the “extra big” font size. Avicii and Justice headlined the other two “main stage” slots but they don’t warrant the extra big font because apparently nobody cares about them. There were eight other bands with the “not quite as big” font size and six of those were scheduled to play before 6:30. Sigur Ros played at 4:00.

But usually it’s the undercard bands with the tiny font size that make Lollapalooza worth the hassle of sweaty bros and sweltering heat. For me this year there wasn’t even much of that, but I went in full of optimism because every year I always stumble across something unexpectedly great. In the past, I’ve been turned on to Saul Williams, Deerhunter, Matt & Kim, and lots of other interesting stuff. That’s what makes a big fest potentially exciting.

Friday

If I still lived in Chicago I would’ve totally showed up on time to see First Aid Kid, but they were playing at noon on Friday and I had to drive from Michigan, so I missed them. I got there in time to see Sharon Van Etten who was charming and gracious. It seems that Lolla has finally solved its stage bleed issue that has plagued most fests where more than one band is playing at a time. Except for the quiet moments where you could hear the bass from Perry’s stage from just about anywhere in the Loop.

Once again, Perry’s stage with its DJs and EDM artists made all the white dudes with guitars seem irrelevant. This was most pronounced when walking from Porter Robinson to the Head and the Heart. You go from Robinson’s audience who are all young and dancing and half naked and glittery to the Head and the Heart where everybody’s sitting on blankets or standing with their arms crossed as some beardo plucks the strings of his acoustic guitar and warbles a little folk ditty. It’s pretty clear who’s having more fun.

But there comes a point when you need to chill out on a blanket in the afternoon sun, and the Shins are a fine soundtrack for that. I had completely forgotten that I had seen the Shins the last time they played Lollapalooza in 2006 with their original lineup. This set was more rock and less Garden State, but Mercer cannot even come close to hitting the high notes in a live setting. I enjoyed it, but I wonder if in six years I’ll remember it at all.

I’ve seen Dawes a couple of times in the past couple of years (including at 2010’s Lolla), and although I love their albums, they hadn’t won me over in concert. This was going to be their third strike for me. But we ended up right up front and they played enthusiastically and engaged the crowd and put on a great show. Taylor Goldsmith still makes ridiculous “L.A. guitar guy” faces when he plays his solos, but he’s self-effacing enough to get away with it. Plus his lyrics are just so damn good.

I wasn’t expecting much from Black Sabbath. I assumed Ozzy would be propped up like a marionette and forced to lip-sync to a pre-recorded vocal track. And I was grouchy about Sharon fucking over original drummer Bill Ward, who was replaced by some kid. But I’ll be damned if they didn’t pummel me into submission. They sounded way better than anybody had any right to expect.

Whenever I started to get tired or bored or grumpy a stroll past Perry’s stage would recharge my festival batteries. I certainly wasn’t going to spend all day there, but five or ten minutes of standing on the edge and looking in at the mayhem and debauchery does your soul a lot of good. Bassnectar blew my mind for a couple minutes when I need it most.

I know that the Black Keys play every festival and that lots of annoying people really love them, but I’d never seen them before (that I can remember) and I like several of the songs I’ve heard from their recent albums. So I ventured down into the sea of bros to experience it first hand. We ended up standing next to shirtless Canadian boy who kept shouting, “WOOOOOO! THE BLOOOOOOOOZE!” every 15 seconds. Normally this would drive me nuts, but something about him made me chuckle instead. When a huge orange moon rose over Lake Michigan, my wonderful wife thought she should tell the bro to check it out. “OH MY GOD, I THOUGHT IT WAS THE LIGHTS. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR POINTING IT OUT TO ME. SERIOUSLY: THANK YOU!” It was a moment. And I’m happy we got to share with that guy.

We walked back to catch the end of Black Sabbath, and I was shocked that Ozzy was still upright after an hour and a half. They played “Paranoid” for an encore and everybody went home happy.

Saturday

I made it down in time for JEFF the Brotherhood because I’ve heard a couple of their songs and they remind me of early Weezer. Had no idea they were a two piece until I got there. Spent a good amount of time trying to figure out whether the main guy was playing a guitar or a bass before I realized that — either way — they were terrible. They earned that 1:30 slot, I guess. Yikes. Just a shambles. And when there’s only two of you, at least one of you has to keep it together. Oh well.

Got some food and listened to a little Aloe Blacc who was soulful and nice. Met up with pals who wanted to watch Neon Indian, so we did. They played pleasant synth-pop for a half hour until an announcer came on and told us there was a big storm coming and we’d all have to leave. Everyone had to evacuate the park. That’s it.

So we startled shuffling out with no idea whether that was it for Lollapalooza or what. It wasn’t even raining at that point but the skies looked ominous. We passed Perry’s stage on the way out where we heard a similar announcement. Everybody had to leave the park. For our own safety. We asked some of the security guys what’s up but they couldn’t give us any additional info. All they knew was that we all had to leave the park.

I couldn’t get an internet connection until I ended up at an Anthropologie that had wi-fi. That’s when I saw Lolla’s claim on their website that “Festival-goers are being directed by staff and the Chicago Police Department to pre-established underground evacuation and shelter sites.” That was 100% bullshit. Nobody mentioned anything about underground evacuation and shelter sites. Nobody. And we asked. Later, I even talked to some kids who tried to stick it out inside the park for as long as they could. When they finally got hustled out, nobody mentioned underground evacuation and shelter sites to them either.

I was annoyed by the clusterfuck of the evacuation, but I wasn’t angry about it until I read the lies. I got even grouchier when I couldn’t find my friends and had to go without beer for an additional two hours. The little grill we ended up at had two waitresses on staff, which is more than enough for the typical Saturday afternoon in the Loop. But when you’ve got 100,000 Lollapalooza refugees demanding beer and french fries, it gets a little overwhelming.

Eventually we saw a tweet that they were letting people back in. The schedule was all fucked up and it was hard to figure out what was going on, but we found out FUN was playing right now. We made it over there in time to hear them do the summer song of 2012 and they seemed to be effectively washing away the bad vibes from the past couple of hours. It’s hard to be cynical when a whole field of wet kids are shouting, “WE ARE YOUNG. SO LET’S SET THE NIGHT ON FIRE!”

Next up in the newly compressed schedule was Franz Ferdinand. We got pretty close and ended up having a great time. As far as I’m aware, those Scots haven’t done anything since 2005, but seeing them gave me the same feeling I got from the Strokes a couple years ago after my Lady Gaga disappointment. It’s only rock and roll but they do it well and I like it. By the end of their set I was in a great mood.

A stroll past Perry’s stage made it even better. Calvin Harris was playing (or whatever he does) and there were thousands of muddy kids going crazy. Not just kind of muddy, but like mud-bath-at-the-spa muddy. Head to toe, covered in mud. I was nervous they were going to touch me but we got up pretty close for Santigold. Young couples were making out and grinding all around us. Glad to see the kids are doing ecstasy again.

Probably should have gone over to see a bit of Frank Ocean, but we got lazy and ended up splitting. We had an aftershow to go to.

Saturday Night at the Aragon

I already told you I’m a Lollapalooza OG. I get super nostalgic about Jane’s Addiction. So when I heard that Jane’s was doing an aftershow on Saturday, I had to go. The last time they played Lolla I had a horrible experience. The band was great, everything I could’ve hoped for, especially with original bassist Eric Avery, but there was a guy standing next to us at that show who had brought his six-year-old son along with him and got way up front where it was very loud. The kid didn’t have earplugs and was getting upset. I gave the dad some earplugs for his kid, but the kid didn’t like them in his ears. He was starting to cry, and we told his dad to get his kid out of there. Then we found out the guy we were talking to wasn’t the kid’s dad; the dad was laying on the ground, tripping his balls off, leaving his kid to be taken care of by strangers. Long story short: we got the dad up off the ground, dragged him to the medical tent, while my social worker wife tried to explain to security what to do with the little boy. Needless to say, that ruined our night and we went home disturbed and depressed. Which sucked because Jane’s Addiction was playing a hell of a show.

I love loud concerts. And I love drugs. And I love kids. But you’ve got to be a real asshole to mix all three together at once.

At the Aragon this year, there were no abandoned children to distract me. And Perry Farrell is the consummate entertainer. Dude understands show business. Strippers on swings, monsters on stilts, stag flicks on screens, I mean come on. They put on a show!

And the music sounds like it did twenty years ago, which is all we could ask for. Right? “Mountain Song” and “Ted, Just Admit It” are massive songs. They will always bring me back to my sophomore year of college, getting wasted with pals, and expanding my mind. The fact that this band represents everything I loath about Los Angeles isn’t really their fault. You can’t blame Dave Navarro for the fact that he’s become the “model” for every Hollywood casting call of “edgy rocker.” Just look at every backing band that plays behind a “rock chick” pop princess on Saturday Night Live or American Idol. It’s embarrassing and everybody involved should be ashamed of themselves. But that’s what happens when you pass off the alternative to the mainstream. They co-opt the weird shit and make it silly. So maybe we can blame Jane’s Addiction after all. Oh well. Whatever…

Sunday

The Dum Dum Girls were fun. They’d be better in a club, of course, but instead they played in the bright light of the afternoon. The weather was perfect on Sunday. Sunny with a cool breeze. Not hot enough to dry up all the mud. But that’s okay. Just watch your step.

I spent most of the Gaslight Anthem’s set standing by the medical tent watching various kids get wheeled in and out on gurneys. Nothing gruesome. Just a bunch of exhausted party people who don’t understand the value of sunscreen and an occasional sip of water. The music veered back and forth between sounding like rootsy punk and awful current alt-rock a la Nickleback. Do these guys have two songwriters in the band, one cool and one terrible? Or is that just what it takes to cross over these days? Should’ve gone to see Sigur Ros; I heard it was cool.

My wife likes Florence + the Machine so we got up close for that. People around us seemed to think Florence is weird and freaky, apparently because she makes cosmic hand gestures. Other than that she seemed like a normal singer in the vein of Sinead O’Connor or Sarah McLachlan. She channeled a little Yoko when she told everybody to turn to the person standing next to them and hug them. (Now that I think about it, maybe she is weird.) And then she encouraged everybody to put a girl up on their shoulders, which a lot of wimpy dudes actually attempted. “More dancing! More girls on shoulders!” That’s actually a pretty good rule for concerts in general. But the corollary to that rule is that if you’re going to sit on someone’s shoulders, you have to take your shirt off. That’s the way it worked in the 70s and I don’t see why, in this liberated era, we should take a step backwards toward Puritanism. Or is that just me?

In general, there wasn’t enough genuine weirdness this year. Maybe it’s time to bring back the Jim Rose Circus. Or better yet, the Emergency Broadcast Network.

We tromped across the park to get in place for Jack White. While we were waiting we watched a wasted teenager stumble around and get ditched by his friends. He ended up passing out in on his back in front of us. Medics and security eventually dragged him away. Jack came out with his male band and then brought out his female band. They both sounded great, and it was cool to hear the oldies performed by a full-band lineup. The countrified “Hotel Yorba” worked particularly well with its new arrangement. I miss Meg though.

Overall, it was a weird year for Lollapalooza. The fact that most of the excitement was centered around Perry’s stage leaves old guys like me feeling a little out of touch. That’s okay, of course. That’s the way it should be. Kids deserve to have their own scenes without a bunch of hairy old weirdos falling all over themselves trying to prove how cool and “with it” they still are.

As the music I personally connect with gets further relegated to the side stages and crappy time slots, I’ll just have to adjust my schedule to get down there at noon and leave early. Which is fine. I get tired. Or maybe I’ll skip the fest entirely and just start going to aftershows. Not anytime soon though. I’m still optimistic for the unexpected. You never know.

More Photos

First Aid Kit
Sharon Van Etten
Metric

Bassnectar

Neon Indian

Franz Ferdinand

Santigold
Jane's Addiction
Jane's Addiction
Jane's Addiction
Jane's Addiction
Jane's Addiction
The Walkmen
Sigur Ros

Florence and the Machine
Jack White

Photos by Alan M. Paterson.