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Lollapalooza, It's a Hit

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Aug 7, 2006 6:31PM

2007_08_lolla_treepeople.JPGAfter this weekend the city would be absolutely nuts to ever let Lollapalooza slip from its grasp. Before even entering the festival grounds, we witnessed throngs of attendees (marked by their omnipresent blue wristbands) eating at restaurants all throughout the Loop, buying countless trinkets and souvenirs, and really giving the city’s hospitality industry a refreshing shot in the arm. As a destination concert intent on drawing people to Chicago from all around the globe, this festival was an unreserved success.

Some folks were heard muttering backstage last night that Lollapalooza doesn’t accurately reflect Chicago’s music. However we’re not sure it’s supposed to. How does Austin City Limits or Bonnaroo or Coachella or Siren or any other number of festivals reflect the towns they are set within? Last time we checked the whole point of this festival thing was to book as wide a number of interesting bands that would appeal as broad a swathe of people as possible. Granted, there were a few booking missteps that had us shaking our head in wonder, but for the most part the bill was far more adventurous and exciting than last year’s.

The organizers also definitely deserve high marks for organization and attention to the well-being of the attendees. Water was plentiful, if a bit expensive (but then, we’ve been spoiled by Pitchfork), and there were plenty of volunteers to help out and answer questions. Quirky art installations were installed, creating pleasant and surprising encounters during those long walks between stages. And yes, there was a lot of distance to cover, but how else are you going to fit in so many bands without having their sound bleeding all over the place? Personally, we felt less guilty about missing the gym this weekend since we got a pretty darn good workout running from stage to stage.

And what about those stages? What about those bands? Instead of hitting every group’s performance point by point, allow us to share a couple of our own personal highlights (and a few lowlights) from the festival.

2006_08_lolla_ladysov.JPGMusically we appreciated the moments that caught us off guard. For instance we stopped by Lady Sovereign’s set intending to snap a few photos and then run off since we’ve never been particularly impressed with her. Due to technical difficulties her start time got pushed back, and we were on the verge of leaving when her DJ finally got his turntables working. And then out came this little sneering fireball that walked the line between thug and vixen. And we finally got what she was all about and what made her music so great. And then we turned around and saw an audience of 10,000 people (about 9,000 more than were meant to be at the smaller side stage she was performing at) that were a step ahead of us and had already been clued in to the puzzle.

The Secret Machines created an inspiring and awe-inducing wall of sound that exceeded our expectations of their live performance. And speaking of exceeding expectations, can we just say that The Raconteurs’ set provided the biggest surprise for us all weekend long. We’ve enjoyed the Jack White / Brendan Benson / Greenhornes disc for a while now, but were in no way expecting the vicious stomping gutter-rock the band kicks out in a live setting.

The Frames, a band we hadn’t intended on seeing and caught just because they were on the way to the Hot Chip performance, put on a riveting show punctuated by cheering fans waving Irish flags in the audience. (Oh, and about Hot Chip, they were fun but we still don’t get what all the fuss is about.)

Next to The Raconteurs, the most surprisingly inspirational performance came courtesy of Broken Social Scene. Appearing seconds after Queens Of The Stone Age’s blistering mosh-heavy set finished a few hundred feet away, this Canadian supergroup washed the field over with a soothing horn intro before launching into a set that calmed everyone’s aggression down while amping up the heart-and-soul strings. We had seen them the year before at Pitchfork Intonation but this set was a hundred times better. Was it because they brought along the ENTIRE Broken Social Scene family, including Feist? Or was it merely the huge crowd giving the band more to draw upon? We don’t know, but we loved it.

2006_08_lolla_bss.JPGWe also loved all the kids sitting in the trees during The Shins’ set … something about that just seemed so right.

As far as lowlights go, there were a few. The double-whammy of 30 Seconds To Mars and She Wants Revenge had us shoving the paddles of the ubiquitous and complimentary Q101 fans into our eardrums. Jared Leto? You are not Eddie Vedder. Justin Warfield? You are definitely not Ian Curtis. Ick.

It pains us to say, but we found Sleater-Kinney’s performance a bit disappointing as well. Aside from Janet Weiss’ drumming, we found little of the fire that originally made the band so inspiring in the first place. Maybe some of their vim and vigor was sapped waiting for the end of My Morning Jacket’s overly long set across the field.

And finally, the Red Hot Chili Peppers. We have a soft spot for them and loved ‘em when we were younger. The last time we saw them was, well, the last time they played Lollapalooza. So we were, indie-rock cred be damned, looking forward to their set. We ended up in the photo pit between the crowd and the band, and about thirty seconds in, all hell broke loose. Kids were flying over our heads and pandemonium ensued. About another song later we had to leave because things had gone so completely crazy, crowd-wise. Through it all, though, we have to give the security team props. No matter how insane it got, all they wanted to do was pull kids out of the pits and get them safely out of danger. Years ago, in that situation, things probably would have gotten ugly, but the promoters obviously knew what they were doing when they staffed this event.

Oh, and how was the Peppers’ set? Pretty meh, actually. John Frusciante’s solo rendition of “Girl” was the definite highlight. They may well be the tightest band on the planet, but lockstep cohesion can breed a certain sense of monotony after a while.

So there you have it. Gripe all you want, but at the core you have to admit that Lollapalooza succeeded in their mission to bring a weekend of memorable music, along with fistfuls of dollars, to the city of Chicago. We’re looking forward to next year’s line-up already.