Ah, Lollapalooza 2006. Full of heat, beer, short skirts, corporate sponsors, Perry Farrell, and well...music. It was three days of constant moving around, text messaging, and strategic planning. It was an event that I'll never forget and that I'm still trying to recover from.
When I first arrived at Chicago's Grant Park, I was greeted by one of the city's most amazing sites, made famous by Al Bundy and company. The Buckingham fountain was, to me, the symbol of the festival, a common ground for people to find each other, and the center of the massive crowds going back and forth from one side of the park to the other. As I got out of my cab on Michigan Avenue, I heard the trail end of Midlake's best song, "Roscoe." The sun was hot, the breeze from the lake was nice and cold, and the music was loud. I walked in, met friends from High School and started to explore. I first stopped at the BMI Stage to see a local Chicago artist that I had never heard of before, Cameron McGill and What Army. It was nice and upbeat and full of cello and pretty voices. It was an energetic way to start off the day - A small stage away from the building massive crowds.
My next stop was Panic! At the Disco. I know, I know, Panic! At The Disco. But that band has sold so many freakin albums and have such a strong following that I had to see what the whole thing was about. They went through a bunch of songs I had never heard and a few that I had - Radiohead's "Karma Police" and Smashing Pumpkins "Tonight, Tonight." The band had dancers and all sorts of crap on stage. I still don't get that band and why anyone would buy one of their CDs, but hey, it was my first "big" act at Lollapalooza. I had to write something.
Editors were next and were in top form on the Q101 stage, blasting through much of their album, The Back Room. The highlight of any Editors show for me is "Bullets," and they proved to the large audience that the hype is well deserved.
Across the park at 4:30, Ryan Adams came out to a large crowd at the Bud Light stage. Adams played a great version of "Dear Chicago" to a roaring crowd. Ryan Adams has managed to do something that I am completely in awe of. He has brought back The Grateful Dead. I am a HUGE Grateful Dead fan and I still don't understand why people give them a bad name. They're a great band that wrote amazing folk songs. Just because they had a few dreadlocked fans, the indie kids of today give them the cold shoulder. It's stupid and needs to be stopped. Adams' band sounds and plays like the Dead and even covered three of their songs. He has improved tremendously on guitar and his band was one of the tightest bands I saw at the show. It didn't help that Adams was completely fucked up, going off on long quiet tangents throughout the show. Nonetheless, he was the first real highlight of Lollapalooza and that's worth something.
My next big decision (and there were many) was whether to see The Raconteurs or My Morning Jacket. I've seen both bands before and decided that Jim James is too cool of a dude to pass up. Sorry Brendan and Jack. Let me just say that Jim James and company are full blown rock stars. Those guys play their freakin hearts out and Jim James' voice fucking soars. That guy's pipes could end wars, impregnate women, and solve crimes. It's absolutely perfect. They jam better than any band around and by the end of the three days, My Morning Jacket would become one of my top three performances of Lollapalooza. The hour long set ended with "One Big Holiday," which is one of the best live songs you can possibly hear. If you can find it on Youtube, look for My Morning Jacket's performance of that song on Conan. After the performance, Conan looks like he's been hit by a truck. He's sincerely blown away and it's a very cool feeling for the audience to see someone on television that genuinely impressed with some Cousin-It look alikes from Kentucky.
The first day ended with my favorite act of Lollapalooza, a band that I've loved since college and never had the extreme pleasure of ever seeing. Ween. Ween ripped up the AT&T stage for an hour and a half. They played all the hits; "Voodoo Lady," "Piss Up A Rope," "Buckingham Green," "Baby Bitch," and many many more. They were hilarious, tight, and Gener's stage presence was somewhere between Frank Sinatra and John Wayne Gacy. Dean Ween is a great guitar player and the rest of the band was just as good. People forget that Ween isn't just a dirty, perverted band. They're great songwriters and can kill as musicians. They didn't play "Push th' Little Daisies," but hey...who cares, right? Day one down, two to go.
The second day started with Cold War Kids. I hope you've heard/seen Cold War Kids before. I think they're the next big thing. The LA band writes amazing tunes that are simple and catchy and edgy and wild. Their live act is even better. The guys run all over the stage kicking each other, tapping each other on the back and banging on keyboards and cymbals. Check them out, I promise they won't dissapoint.
I've never seen the Go! Team before, so I headed over to the Q101 stage to check them out after CWK. It seems as though if you have an exclamation point in the middle of your band's name, that you aren't very good live. The Go! Team is too cute for me and that lead singer, Ninja, sort of pissed me off. Hey, I like Jenny Lewis and Stars, so I'm no stranger to cuteness. Something about the band makes me cringe. I really enjoy them on record, but their live act is very different. It wasn't my thing, so I left after a few songs to go catch the tail end of Ms. Leslie Feist. Feist's voice is not unlike Jim James' in the sense that they could probably both end the melting of the Polar Ice Caps. She's beautiful and writes great songs and seeing "Mushaboom" live is undeniably entertaining.
The next few hours consisted of Built To Spill, Wolfmother, and Gnarls Barkley. I've never seen the amazing guitar work of Doug Martsch before and it was far from dissapointing. Martsch kept reminding me of a bald version of Jeff Daniels in Noah Baumbach's The Squid And The Whale. His voice doesn't fit him, but it comes out so well that I could really give a fuck. I got to hear "Big Dipper," so I was a happy dude. By the time I got to Wolfmother, the crowd was too massive to enjoy it up close, so I sat down on a hill and watched it from afar. I love that band's album and I'm glad they got such a good response from the Lollapalooza crowd. Perry Farrel introduced Gnarls Barkley, and they were awesome for the first five minutes, but then the fatigue of the last two 6am nights started hitting me, so I ran for free water and Red Bull. Sorry Cee-Lo. I did end up seeing Cee-Lo an hour or so later behind the stage at Flaming Lips, which I thought was awesome. What a cool dude.
On the way from Red Bull to The Flaming Lips, I stopped at one of Chicago's best, The Smoking Popes. It was great to see the Popes perform at Lollapalooza on the Q101 Stage. They played some old favorites off of one of my favorite albums of all time, Destination Failure. I couldn't stay for that long as I wanted to get a good spot for one of the best live acts in the world, The Flaming Lips.
Before I went to go watch the Lips, I saw Coyne backstage doing a photoshoot with two beautiful woman. That was a great sight.
Ah yes, The Flaming Lips. Wayne Coyne is one of the most energetic front men around and he proved it on Saturday. Coyne came out and got into his big clear bubble and rolled around the audience. The massive blue balls, the confetti, the Santa and Martian dancers all helped in making the Lips one of the best times of the festival. Coyne kept wanting to make the traffic stop, but I'm not sure it worked out. "Do You Realize" is another incredibly powerful live song that gives you goosebumps even in the 85 degree heat.
I've seen A.C. Newman and company a few times before, so I decided to smoke a few cigarettes and drink a few Budweiser Selects until Kanye West came on. Kanye was by far the biggest crowd with which I've ever been in attendance (That might not be true, but it sure as hell seems like it when it's just one great big General Admission section). Kanye had sound difficulties and was geniunely angry. It was his first epic show in his hometown and of all things to go wrong, it was the sound. It's amazing how many hits that guy has and how incredibly engaging he is. He got the crowd pumping, had a few special guests like Twista, Lupe, and Common, and really made Chicago proud to call him one of their own.
The third day of Lollapalooza got a little rough. I was getting tired and arrived without a shower or breakfast. Luckily, it was much cooler on Sunday than any other day, so that made it more manageable to walk around. A 1:00pm beer and a long walk to the Q101 and AT&T stages to see The Hold Steady and Ben Kweller were first on my list. I'm going to skip over The Hold Steady as I have yet to understand that band. My friend Jim from St. Paul seemed pleased as the band kept talking about the Minnesota Twins creeping up on the White Sox.
On to BK...
Ben Kweller seems to have ditched the starry eyed naive boy rock. I mean, he's not talking about very complicated things in his new songs, but he seems to have grown up a little bit and become a very legitimate songwriter. Kweller came on stage and did nothing but sing for his first few songs, which included his new single, "Penny On The Train Track." He sounded confident and the kids in the crowd were going apeshit. Kweller has something about his voice that seems like he's not trying hard at all to sing, yet he's hitting every note with a relaxed confidence. He played a few songs off his new self-titled album, a few old ones, and finished with "Wasted And Ready."
Alright, holy shit. Jared Leto's band 30 Seconds to Mars played right after BK on the Q101 Stage. Holy Shit. Holy Shit. Holy Shit. Holy Shit. 3STM was the most entertaining show I saw at Lollapalooza. The band came out with all white outfits, masks, and flags. Leto threw roses, popsicles, and said the word "fuck" every other second. I'm not going to say much more as I'm sure Jared Leto is a nice guy and means well. Ha.
James Mercer and The Shins were on next across the park. The boys came out with matching army green shirts. A camera man knocked over Marty's keyboard and soon after they erupted into "Know Your Onion." The Shins are one of the most enjoyable and likeable bands I've ever listened to and they proved it in Chicago. Whenever I see them it's like they're playing their first show. They seem nervous, humble, and genuinely happy to be there. They played a few new songs that sounded nothing short of amazing, made a few jokes, and finished a great set around 5:30.
I decided to take the next hour to enjoy some conversation with friends while we waited for hometown heroes, Wilco. Jeff Tweedy came out at 6:30 looking like a Leprachaun. He wore a hat, green jacket, and thick beard. Until Sunday I thought that everyone from Chicago, like myself, was as obsessed with Wilco as I am. I met a few girls from Chicago before the show that "despised" Wilco and were going to see Josh Homme and QOTSA at the other end of the park. Jeff Tweedy is to the Chicago music scene as Michael Jordan was to the Bulls. You HAVE to love Jeff Tweedy if you're from Chicago. What the fuck is not to love?
Wilco started with "A Shot In The Arm" which is always a joy to see live. Any song that gets Tweedy real angry looking makes the crowd go nuts (see: live version of "Misunderstood"). The band played a few new songs and the crowd went nuts when they played "Via Chicago." The new tunes sounded unsurprisingly great. They didn't sound very far from the typical new Wilco sound, but I hadn't heard them before, and it didn't seem as though the crowd had either. In my mind, anything Jeff Tweedy does is going to be good. He's Jeff Tweedy.
As I hustled over to Broken Social Scene, I listened to a friend of a friend tell me about her boyfriend's quest to stop smoking cigarettes. It involved mood swings and "Fuck Yous" and "I Love Yous" and "Let's Break Up" and "Baby, Baby, Baby." I think that it was a pretty good metaphor for the weekend. Everybody got pissed at Chicago a few times during the weekend and loved it just the same. At times I was mad at Chicago for the blisters on my feet, the lack of cabs, the impossible crowds. The heat was expected, but the sunburn was fucking painful. I hated Lollapalooza at a few times during the weekend, but how could I be mad at her? It wasn't all her fault. She did so much for me. She had already let me see My Morning Jacket, Flaming Lips, Ween, and she was about to give to me the whole entire Broken Social Scene band playing a live show together. It was a great weekend full of great bands, lots of walking, and meeting at Buckingham Fountain. But most of all, it was nice to go home for a few days. Thanks Chicago.