Thursday, July 28, 2005

Best Summer Rock Festival

So, finally. The Lollapalooza post. I've been working on this thing like a term paper, I hope it's enjoyable, and if not enjoyable, then at least thorough.

Saturday morning Mom drove Greg and I down to Grant Park for Lollapalooza. As you can see from the look in my face, I had my doubts about what the day might bring. I'd never been to an all-day rock festival and feared a day of crowds and heat and not being able to get close enough to my favorite bands.

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When we got there the gates hadn't been opened yet and there was quite the healthy line of people waiting to get in.

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But it turns out there was a shorter line for people who already had their wristbands . . . the other line was for people waiting to get wristbands so that they could get into the wristband line. Since Greg and I picked up our wristbands the day before, we got to stand in the "shorter" line.

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I don't remember Greg wearing this hat very much during the day. Maybe it got stole?

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As some of the first (relatively speaking, of course) people to enter the show, we found the field before us nearly empty and ready for action.

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We headed over to one of the side stages for our first band, the Redwalls. As this was Greg's first concert ever, I got to teach him that one of the main things you do at concerts is stand and wait for bands. While standing and waiting, I took the time to gaze into the future and think of the rock acts I'd be seeing that day.

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Prior to the Redwalls, this big guy came out and read a poem about the Redwalls. I think he's someone famous in a Chicago way, maybe like a white Weslie Willis, or something?

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Band One: The Redwalls

Ahem. The first band that we saw was the Redwalls, a 60's-ish group from good old Deerfield, Illinois.

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They were tight, lively, and good.

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And somewhat important because, look, "famous" Chicago rock critic Jim DeRogatis was on hand taking notes for the Sun Times.

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Band Two: The (International) Noise Conspiracy

After watching the Redwalls for a good bit we walked over to catch the end of the (International) Noise Conspiracy's set. Back in 2001-2002 I was really into this band and even had tickets to one of their shows in Salt Lake, but they canceled it at the last minute. So I was looking forward to seeing them live and seeing if I still liked them.

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It turns out that they weren't very exciting, or good, and all their between-song socialist banter was really tiring. But, then again, it's not every band that announces that their newest record is coming out in October but recommends that the audience stick it to their record company and download it now from a P2P network.

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Band Three: M83

M83? Shoeless French prog rock. Maybe the record is good? Early afternoon outdoor rock festival certainly wasn't the proper environment to appreciate the band.

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But during M83 Greg and I did make our first (and perhaps only?) Lollapalooza buddy, the kid dressed as a hot dog!

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Band Four: Ambulance Ltd.

If you've heard me talk about Ambulance Ltd. then you've certainly heard me say that they're so much better than they have to be. I believe that they will be remembered in the future as one of the fine acts of the mid-00's that never got the attention they deserved.

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As a former employee of TVT Records, I'm proud that this band was on the label that I worked for.

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Band Five: Kaiser Chiefs

As I have mentioned before elsewhere, I gave up a ticket to see the Kaiser Chiefs and Redwalls in New York to fly to Chicago to see them at Lollapalooza. Now, prior to Lollapalooza I would have said that seeing the Kaiser Chiefs twice in a week sounded a little excessive, but after seeing the Chiefs in action (again) I sort of feel that Kaiser Chiefs 7 nights a week wouldn't be so bad.

Maybe you know, maybe you don't, but I saw the Kaiser Chiefs back on one wintery spring night in March. Maybe one of the very best nights of 2005? When I think of all the fun that was had that night, it boggles. Anyway, you can investigate it (or re-investigate it) here.

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Deservedly, the Kaiser Chiefs drew one of the first significant crowds that I encountered at Lollapalooza. Luckily, Greg and I had pretty great spots.

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Watching the Kaiser Chiefs, I realized they were the first band of the day to be doing anything energetic, and I appreciated it greatly. As good as Ambulance Ltd. were, the Kaiser Chiefs pretty much made fools of everything I had seen up to that point that day.

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But there was a little problem. Head Chief Ricky Wilson was a little hoarse from his performance the night before in DC. He seemed to be rockin' great, but he apologized for his voice between each song.

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Still, look at him go at it on the cowbell! I've seen this guy jumping and kicking on stage with his foot in a cast, nothing stops him.

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And to rock star things up a bit, he climbed the side of the stage. Also, he yelled at Liz Phair (playing across the park from them) to "Shut up!" because "We're trying to work here!" That was really funny of him.

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On one song keyboardist Peanut came forward and stood at the front of the stage. It must have been that one song without any keyboard in it.

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Eventually Ricky just couldn't go on singing and brought two people up from the audience to sing a song while he posed and sucked on a cough drop. His helpers did an excellent job...

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And Ricky managed to keep the crowd pretty excited, as is his style.

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Also, there was this guy hanging out at the small stages all day with this crazy haircut and suit that was always doing this pacing-back-and-forth-playing-an-air-keyboard dance. I'm sure he was someone that a real Chicago rocker would have identified. Were I not concerned with getting this post online before my memories of Lollapalooza turn a week old, I'd post a video of him doing his dance.

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After the Kaiser Chiefs, Greg and I got a lunch of surprisingly reasonable price. I totally forgot to take pictures of us eating it, but I did photograph our trash (don't worry, we disposed of it properly)

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By lunch, Grant Park had grown quite crowded, so I had Greg take this picture of me to show the size of the crowd . . . but you can't really see anything thronglike in this photo. Oh well.

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While Greg checked out the Lollapalooza merch (Hey! It was his first concert, he had to get something!) the bittersweet strains of Dashboard Confessional brought me to tears. As usual.

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Not everything silly in Grant Park that day was because of Perry Farrell. These statues are there all the time.

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We swung by the Kidzapalooza area to see what the kid entertainment was like. They were starting a drum circle. That's all I needed to know. But by visiting Kidzapalooza I learned that Perry Farrell had played songs for kids there earlier in the day, making that his only musical appearance at Lollapalooza that day.

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You gotta have a picture of the Lollapalooza balloon.

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We crossed the street and checked out the extremely unpopular "Planet Stage" area. There was this silly drum orb there.

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Definitely for hippies.

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At the Planet Stage DJ Mugs was trying to singlehandedly create a Cypress Hill comeback by playing pretty much only Cypress Hill songs during his DJ set (that's not fair of me to say . . . he also played "Jump Around", by House of Pain, which he produced. )

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As you can see here, he didn't have the biggest bunch of people to reach out and touch with his mid-90's stoner rap.

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Is this sort of ironic criticism of hipster criticism itself worthy of a bit of ironic criticism?

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After the Planet Stage Greg and I put our major plan for the rest of the day in effect. We went over and stood in front of the main east stage before Billy Idol's set in order to have great spots for the Pixies an hour after Mr. Idol. While standing amongst the other Pixies fans waiting for Billy Idol Cake played across the field.

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Band Six: Billy Idol. BILLY IDOL!!

When I first saw that Billy Idol was playing Lollapalooza he struck me as a very curious selection. You can play up his Generation X (the band, silly) punk roots as much as you like, but his career in the 80's and 90's totally eradicates whatever punk cred you could imagine him having and there is no doubt in my mind that Mr. Billy Idol is a completely mainstream act. STILL the crowd got pretty excited as they showed him on the big screen backstage prior to his set . . .

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. . . and Perry came out and really hyped the dude up . . .

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And it turns out that you only have to watch Billy Idol perform for about a minute before you discover that you've always been the biggest Billy Idol fan but just didn't know it.

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By the time he played "Dancing With Myself" the whole place had gone completely bananas.

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Will there EVER be a better photo of anyone or anything on Steady Mobbin'? Probably not.

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You know you want to see it bigger.

And in a moment of absolute meteorological brilliance, a hot Chicago afternoon was suddenly interrupted by a decent rain when Billy began "White Wedding." I kid you not. Goosebumps. Insanity.

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And now the bragging begins. Throughout Billy's set he threw stacks of paper plates that he had written and drawn on into the crowd. People were fighting for these things like Billy was throwing out babies or rice or something. For an hour, the most valuable commodity in the world became paper plates scrawled on by an old rocker. Well, fortunately for me I've always been really good at getting hit by objects (dodgeballs, soccerballs, frisbees, waterpolo balls, you name it, it has hit me and it has hit me hard) so, after one frenzy-inducing toss of plates everyone around me is jumping over each other to get one of these plates and low and behold one flies right at me, hits me in the face, and falls into my hands. Also, this would be one of the few times I was able to catch something well. Anyway, so, yeah, now I've got a Billy Idol paper plate in my apartment and it's almost my favorite thing in the world.

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When Mr. Idol ended (without playing "Cradle of Love", bummer) pretty much no one cleared out at all. Everyone was there for the Pixies, and it only got a lot more crowded. Across the way, Primus played. What a mess.

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Band Seven: The Pixies

Was I excited to see the Pixies even though I had seen them back in December? Of course. But before they played, Perry came out and talked about global warming a bit, and then gave them a total rockstar welcome.

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It's sort of too bad that you can't really take an exciting looking photo of Black Francis and Kim Deal.

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Brigham's Best Concert Moment of 2005? Probably the Pixies playing "Head On" right near the beginning of their set. (Read what I said about the December show, I was ticked that they didn't play it back then.) I absolutely lost my mind to a total rock out when I realized what I was hearing. I started sending text messages and making phonecalls like a lunatic. One of the best sub-three minute experiences of my entire life, I think.

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Kim Deal, the Awesome Idaho Aunt I never had.

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. . . and if the devil is six / then God is seven . . .

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During the set I tried to get an idea of how many people were behind us and this dude stared my camera down (I just held it backwards above my head and clicked and this is what happened)

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Since one of the main reasons that I got to take this trip from New York to Chicago to see a concert was because Greg mostly wanted to see Weezer more than anything else I only thought it fair to duck out of the Pixies a little early to go get a Weezer spot. During our trip from the East Stage to the West I just could NOT believe how many people were there or that SO many people would be all right with standing so far away from a stage. Whatever.

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While the Pixies kept at it, Perry came out on the west stage and directed our attention to the Chicago skyline and said something like "I'd like everyone to direct their attention to the beautiful Chicago skyline. It's a real work of art. It took many many years to build, and it could be there forever!"

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And, in honor of the beauty of the Chicago skyline, Mr. Farrell invited out the "Lolla-Girls" to do a burlesque dance in honor of the fair city to some song from "Chicago" the musical. Surely the city was touched.

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I was a little unnerved by how little Lollapalooza security seemed to be doing about possible terrorist infiltration of the festival.

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Prior to Weezer's set I had Greg show me how to make the official Weezer "W."

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I didn't exactly get it.

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As you can see.

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And I thought, maybe I should get a picture of one of the big Lollapalooza signs?

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Band Eight: Weezer

And then, finally, it was time for Weezer!

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While maybe it doesn't make you the coolest guy in the room (especially if you're over, say, 22) to be braggin' that you just went to a Weezer show or bought the new Weezer album, if you don't have a good time while you're at a Weezer show, then you love to hate life.

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Along with the music, we got Weezer in all sorts of colors.

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My original plan was to try to take a picture of the Weezer stage in every color of the rainbow, but you know how plans can go sometimes.

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Lots of Weezer photos. Not all that different.

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The stage was green during the new song "We Are All On Drugs." I guess each of the last three albums just had to have a drug-titled song.

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Weezer got to play one of the longest sets of the night and one nice thing about it was that Rivers vocally acknowledged that an album called Pinkerton existed. Another cool thing was when he said something like: "Our first album came out 11 years ago, and during it's first week it sold about 100 copies. And this song is the first song that those 100 people heard when they played their record" before going into "My Name is Jonas."

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On the whole, I'd say Rivers seemed a lot happier and personable (in the rockstar on a stage way, of course) then he's usually given credit for.

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And of course they ended their encore with a scorching rendition of Surf Wax America. People jumped around and went nuts, as they should have.

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And then the crowd slowly dispersed into the night. Greg and I, we headed over to the you know where . . .

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And then walked over to the L. Mom picked us up in Oak Park and Greg and I went and got Arby's while a Franz Ferdinand concert played on the radio. It was a pretty great day. Much, much better than I had expected. Or feared.

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Also, I finished this post as David Letterman was interviewing Bill Murray. An interview for the ages, I tell you.

5 comments:

ian said...

I envy you for having seen Billy Idol in concert. Serious envy. He's the only one I'd really have been excited about, but then I've always been a sucker for the 80's and for Billy (in that order). Did he play "The Dead Next Door" or "Blue Highway"?

Also: the Kaiser Chiefs rock thoroughly, and I envy you for seeing them too. 'Though it's a shame their songs sound better live than on the album--if I'd heard their album on its own without seeing them perform I wouldn't have given it any further consideration.

JayMoo and Stephoin said...

I am confused by this post and previous posts of 2005. Though very thorough, extremely engaging, and full of great suprises (Bill Idol photo now as my wallpaper)...I just can't grasp what your favorite moments in rock are this year so far? There has been soooo many comments of bests (maybe everything can be best?). Maybe you could do a synopsis: Best concert (name 3), best rock moment (name 3), and best band pictures (name 3). That would be awesome and really help me out. I'm scared that I might tell someone your favorite rock moment was a moment that wasn't even memorable.

JayMoo and Stephoin said...

Upon reading my own comment, I think I sounded negative. Your post was great and worth the wait, effort. Thanks for sharing the moments!

Brig said...

I've received a variety of requests for definitive Best lists, and so I think I will make some. But the problem is, where do I make my year-cut off mark? If I do it by blog years, we'll have to wait until June of next year. If I do it by year years, we'll have to wait until January. Considering that when I ask myself: "What are the best concerts I've seen this year?" A Faint show from last November immediately comes to mind, I think we can expect a "So Best" Round-Up around the end of October, just in time for me to have seen the White Stripes, Arcade Fire, and Franz Ferdinand.

Oh, and Ian is right. A live Kaiser set absolutely destroys their album. The Album = 3 stars, maybe. Them Live = A clear night on top of a mountain in the middle of the dessert.

Cory & Kristen said...

Blake saw that picture of Billy Idol and said, "look, it is Napoleon Dynamite."