The Vice-curated Intonation Festival is the first of three major outdoor indie/alternative rock & roll festivals to touch down in Chicago this summer (the Pitchfork Festival and Lollapalooza being the other two). Falling early in the summer, the festival promised better weather than last year's event (100+ temperatures) and luckily for everyone involved, that promise was realized. It's a beautiful day today (Saturday) and though I laid in bed 'till noon trying to recover from last night's venue hopping extravaganza, I feel appropriately energized and excited about today's events. I realize sadly that my friend's delay in arriving to my house will undoubtedly cause me to miss to the soft-spoken Jose Gonzalez's set (he blames the bus), but I have my lame little concert-going man bag all ready to go and I'm ready to get started. Notepad... check. Pen... check. Camera... check. Phone/pocket PC device... check. Tickets/VIP passes... check. Earplugs... check. One hitter + lighter... check! Let's do this!
A 15-dollar cab ride later with homies Phil and Philip (collectively known as "the Phils") and we're walking along Lake street towards the VIP entrance. Local men about town Curtis House and Mo B (both of The Movement) and DJ Major Taylor (with harem in tow) all pass by to a flurry of "hey dude, how you livin'?" and obligatory high fives before we roll up and walk in a little back entrance that is amazingly efficient and manned with friendly faces. We check out the VIP set up as Chromeo takes the stage. Free Goose Island beer (of the "312" and "Summertime" variety) are poured from four different taps. Cans of Sparks sit in shallow coolers, while bottles of water are stuffed into small white coolers at either end of the "bar" area.
There's some chips, some hummus, some veggies and some candy, but my growling stomach is upset that the delicious sandwiches provided at last year's event are sadly missing from the spread. The Phils and I soldier on. I decide a can of Sparks and a bag of chips will hit the spot and we step outside to watch Chromeo. The lawn area is about 1/3 of the way full as the sun beats down on our heads and makes us sweat like little piggys. Pee Thug and Dave 1 (a.k.a. Chromeo) are getting the fuck down! Their sound is tight and their grooves are funky. Pee, the shorter, fatter, darker one, rocks a million different vintage keyboards and a talk box while Dave 1 wails on a see-through flying V like a madman. "You're So Gangsta" is the gem I was waiting for and I start clapping as onstage banter turns into a back flip of dance-tastic excellence. Chromeo are awesome... and so are the BBC-sponsored Benny Hill Girls in '70s roller skating-like outfits with short shorts, high socks and tennies. Actually, only two of them are cute, but whatever...
I abandon The Phils and head out to explore. I want to become familiar with my surroundings and see what this place has to offer. Port-a-potties there. BBC tent (with flat screen TVs, leather chairs and sexy maids) there. Food vendors and corporate, "come play with my phone and I'll give you a shitty t-shirt," booths line the outside of the park, but I'm pulled toward the flea market. It's slightly sparse looking inside, but there's some good shit. Hippies selling tie-dyed crap. High Fi Records selling vinyl. A few zines have some booths set up. This Stopsmiling magazine looks awesome. There's some local designers and such selling their wares, but all in all I decide to leave and never come back. There's nothing for me here. High On Fire is playing off in the distance as I wander back to the VIP tent for another Sparks. They sound like they rock from far away.
Schmoozing ensues with various industry types and local artists chillin'. I see Metromix TV show correspondent and pal Pogo interviewing Scott Lucas from Local H/The Prairie Cartel. I hope they're talking about how bad ass the Prairie Cartel's set was last night. These Sparks aren't cold at all. The coolers are shallow and it seems as if every can was placed in here less than five seconds ago. I drink it anyway. I'm still tired from last night and I need a legal pick me up. The illegal kind makes you shady.
The Stills are up next and I don't want to miss them so I high tale it out into the crowd (still about 1/3 full) to catch them. "It Takes Time" from the new record, then "Lola Stars And Stripes" from the old one. They go back and forth between old and new tracks, playing "The Mountain" and "Changes Are No Good." "This one's from our new album, Without Feathers. It's called 'Helicopters,' co-frontman Tim says cheerily. "It's about animals," he says. I find this hilarious. I think this Sparks is eating a whole in the lining of my stomach.
Old guy Roky Erickson goes on as soon as The Stills wrap up. I don't really care. He hasn't played a show in 100 years or something and that's cool I guess, but I decide to venture to the food. A Texas burger sounds good. I'm not sure what it is, but they have steers and queers in Texas and I'm hoping that I'm not eating a ground up gay man. I don't think I am, but whatever it is, it's not that good. I camp out on the grass with my NYC-based co-worker Cara to chat about how she's liking the Windy City and about some boy she mentions. I immediately tell her she's in love with him. The twinkle in her eye tells me she is. Cute.
Boredoms and their four drummers are up next. I check out a little before heading back to the VIP tent for another Sparks and more schmoozig while the Boredoms do their thing. I take a load off with the Flosstradamus crew, Kid Sister, Tim from Schubas and other local men and women about town, as last night's partying begins to catch up with me. The Sparks to blood ratio of my body seems to be growing heavily in favor of the Sparks. I'm not drunk. I'm not all jazzed up and awake. I mostly just feel weird all over and kind of like my heart is two pumps away from exploding in my chest.
Oh shit ya'll. Ghostface. I book it over to see the Wu Tang master practice his craft. The crowd is pretty excited, singing along and such. A flow of people stream over as I try to figure out which of the five dudes running around on stage shouting shit is actually Ghostface. It's a challenge at this distance, but I finally pick him out. Overall, I'm feeling a little let down. I missed his performance at the FADER space in Austin and I heard he was "amazing." The 50 people he brings on stage to close out his set bump the energy level up a notch, but he never makes it to "amazing" status. Maybe it's all the white boys like me in the crowd...
My decision to lay off the Sparks has me crashing... hard. Am I dying? Maybe. Will Lady Sovereign save the day? YES! I'm not really a big fan of S-O-V, but damn, this little midget girl... this cartoon of a human being is killing it! Best set of the day so far. Her skills are tight. She's spitting hot verbal daggers at the crowd and gets them HYPED as the sun dips below the horizon. She chats with the crowed and has them eating out of her mini hands as she struts around the stage like a bad ass. Awesome. I just might be a Lady Sov fan now.
Feeling slightly refreshed, I decide to grab a beer and see if I can't get my shit hyped up to make the move to the next par-tay. It doesn't really work. The Streets take the stage. It's definitely night time and my bed is calling my name longingly. I start out pretty close to the front of the stage for The Streets but the gaggle of hot sweaty bodies pushing on me is not agreeing with me, so I head to chill out and watch the action from afar. Skinner's "hype guy" is fucking ripped. That dude must do nothing but lift weights all damn day. I guess someone needs to kick the ass of peeps who take snaps of Skinner doing blow with their camera phone, right?
Skinner catches fire with "Don't Mug Yourself" then turns it into a medley and covers the Artic Monkeys' "I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor." It's pretty damn awesome, but it's time to leave so that the Phils and I might actually have a shot a catching a cab. Five blocks later we do and Day 1 of Intonation is put to bed.
There's an after-party at Sonotheque. I go home to sleep so I'm not a zombie for Day 2.