Saturday, August 6, 2011

And there was much dancing: A Lollapalooza Recap, Part 1

This is a joint blogging experiment with The Grind. I'll be covering Day 1, we'll do joint coverage of Day 2 (and post in both places), and he'll cover Day 3.

First off, let me just say that Lolla exceeded my expectations. Sure, there are lots and lots and lots of people. But it helps a lot that Grant Park is big and beautiful, the perfect calming setting for such an affair. I didn't have my hopes high for the festival's layout, crowds, or audience after having been to Pitchfork Music Festival so many years, but Lolla is actually quite well-run, and the audience was more than just bros and trixies.

Day 1
We got there around 3ish, and had to wait in a really, really long line to get in and exchange our 3 day passes for wristbands. After that, though we entered into a vastness that was somehow welcoming instead of intimidating. Kudos to them for however they pulled that off. We missed Delta Spirit and Grace Potter & the Nocturnals because I was running late, but we saw most of Smith Westerns. They put on a great show, and were markedly more mature than in their appearance on AV Undercover. The impression that they'd been so young and affected had been somewhat of a turn off to me at first, but this time that youth manifested itself in humility and just a joy at being at the festival. For their penultimate song, "Weekend," (the video linked to above), we made sure to give JK a call; I hope he heard everything alright.

After that, we took a break to explore the grounds. Unlike at Union Park, the site of P4K, there are plenty of beautiful places to sit away from it all. There's just a lot more space in general, and I felt like I could breathe easier and relax without fear of elbowing my neighbor. We went back to the Playstation stage (is this supposed to be the mellow stage) to see a great set by The Mountain Goats. I was a bit worried that SM would be annoyed by his voice, but he really rocked out, and we had a good time. Frontman John Darnielle is extremely energetic, and he really had the crowd going as he skipped around onstage. I think the highlight of the set for me was "Going to Georgia."

The food options at Lolla are really great. For dinner we split a pulled pork sandwich ($7) and chicken tikka ($6) on flatbread along with a "sport bottle" of Pinot Grigio. I don't think I'd pay for the wine again, but it is a great idea to sell by the bottle, and it was quite tasty.

Best show of the night, hands down, was OK Go at the Google+ stage. I love OK Go. You may know them as the treadmill video guys, but I gotta pull out some pretension here and say that I've been loving them since 2002's breakout hit, "Get Over It" hit the airwaves in some minor way. I've kept track of them since, and loved every minute of their perfect pop/rock. I knew he was going to have fun, but SM was definitely blown away by their awesomeness. The show was just amazing, and we were dancing and singing the entire time. They closed with "This Too Shall Pass," complete with audience participation (LET IT GO, THIS TOO SHALL PASS). Wow. If this turns out to be my favorite show of the festival, I would not be disappointed.

After OK Go, our plan was to catch a half hour of Coldplay (just 'cause), watch some of Ratatat, and then meander over to Girl Talk. Our friend MT gave us the advice to go with the flow instead of rushing around driving yourself crazy trying to get to everything that sounds good. Good advice. Coldplay was great. I'd seen them in 2002, but SM hadn't, so it was with a fear that they'd just play all their craptastic, bombastic, U2-ego stuff that I agreed to join him. Well, a fear of that and never finding each other again if we separated, since AT&T fails on all accounts at such events. Anyway, the show was just as good as it was back then. They played a lot of old songs, such as "Everything's Not Lost," "Trouble," and (a couple's favorite of ours) "Shiver." Chris Martin was a lot more energetic onstage than I remember him being at the Target Center; maybe all this fame and Gwen-marriage has validated his sense of self-worth, and he's come out of his shell or something. Good for him.

We wanted to catch Ratatat, so we ducked out early and headed back to Google+ just in time for "Wildcat." We'd seen them together in 2009, and they were no less awesome. Their sound is so clean, I don't think it's possible for them to be anything less. I guess they didn't have the holograms onstage with them at The Metro...or did they? We danced mightily. And it was good. They closed with an extended version of "Seventeen Years," or maybe they just segued from that to another great song that closed off the whole evening. Girl Talk's just a bunch of mash-ups anyway, right?

The brown line back was crowded and loud, but I'm glad we got some peace and quiet between Belmont and Irving Park. All in all, I am definitely glad to have the opportunity to attend the festival. The tickets are expensive, and there are so many people, I didn't think I'd ever want to go, let alone get the chance. Thanks to EM for such a spectacular birthday present! More tomorrow.

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