My festival has a first name its L-o-l-l-a-p-a-l-o-o-z-a. My festival has a second name it's R-O-C-K!
The heat was on. The collective funk lingered with samples of B.O, sun screen, da chronic, grilled rib sandwiches and farts. Each whiff reminded you that you were part of one of the most historical music festivals in the US - Lollapalooza. Set against the awe inspiring backdrop of the Chicago Sky line, the world of music brought their best to the stage over this three day event. Sandwiched in between Ryan Adams and The Raconteurs on Friday and Sunday's run in with The Shins and Hot Chip was a day of some kick ass bands. Saturday, friends... in the park. I think it was the 5th of August.
Saturday started out with preemptive sunscreen lathering and hydration before the onslaught of sun and Bud Lights. Never underestimate a slightly overcast day, the sun still peaks through to bronze any piece of exposed flesh.... or burn your thin, hairy chest in Brian's case. Saturday was filled with a birthday celebration with Nada Surf, a Peeping Tom in a hair net, The Go! Team go, a Mocky rocky Feist, a tennis pro Gnarls Barkley, a set of blue balls on Flaming Lips, some now now Manu Chou, and a rock show that left us hungry like the Wolfmother. Lets get it on!
Our day of rock, booze and dance started off with Nada Surf. My plan was to catch the first few songs of Nada Surf and then haul my ass over to Cold War Kids at the other end of the park to meet Brian at Wolfmother, you know after he filled his head with enough wet dream images of Feist to last him 'till next Lolla. However, a few songs into Nada Surf's set I knew I wasn't going anywhere. They are so consistently great and leave you always wanting more. They were happy and genuinely excited to be there. It made me just want to go up there and give them all super sweaty sunscreen filled hugs. A few songs in, drummer Ira Elliot left his drum kit, grabbed a mic and said to the crowd "You don't know me, I'm the drummer" and proceeded to inform the crowd that it was singer Matt Craws' birthday. He then laid at Matt's feet and sang the happiest rendition of happy birthday to Matt. They ended the set with "Blankest Year," you know the one where they say "Aw fuck it, I'm gonna have a party," and party we did. Hard. Beer anyone? Yes, I'll have plenty.
On the way over to meet Amanda at Wolfmother, I strolled over to the Playstation Stage to take a glimpse, or a peep if you will, of Mike Patton, the former lead singer of Faith No More who now heads up Peeping Tom (and 100 other side projects). Nothing says rock star, or lunch lady, like a hair net, and believe you me, Patton wasn't serving up sloppy joes. Instead, he was dishing up some ghetto rap rock, a la Lincoln Park meets Kid Rock style... only cool. As soon as Patton took the stage, he took over the crowd with "Desperate Times." He really nailed it home with "Mojo," his first single off of Peeping Tom's self-titled record. They were rocking, but that hair net got me thinking of a little rib sandwich down the way. I moved on.
After being left wanting way more from Nada Surf I headed over to catch the second half of the Go! Team's set. I have never seen them live but all I have heard is great things. As I walked up to the crowed I almost fell over as I was slapped in the face by dancetastic beats and BO from all the sweaty, dancing fans. Singer, Ninja, has more energy then one of those super hyper yippy dogs on crack. I mean, I've never actually seen one, but I think it would be comparable. She owned the stage with her catalogue of uber hip dance moves. Not only did her dancing capture the audience, but so did her words. The crowd hung on them like the ladies on a rock star. She said raise your hands, they raised their hands. She said repeat after me, they repeated after her. She said DANCE! Damn did they DANCE! While I danced my Latin ass off, Brian was grooving (or drooling) to Feist's crooning vocals.
When you hype up a singer to your friends that you convinced to see over The Go! Team, then a Canadian in a dress comes out to sing ballads, you might have some explaining to do. But I let Leslie Feist do the explaining as she wowed the crowd with powerful vocals on "When I Was A Young Girl" and "Sacred Heart." She covered a couple songs that she contributed to the Kings Of Convenience, "The Build Up," and Mocky's "Fighting Away The Tears". Feist also teased us with a couple snippets from a new album coming out at her leisure. After that wonderfully chill set it was time to meet Amanda and get assaulted by sound at Wolfmother.
When Perry Farrell comes out on stage and introduces a band as "what rock used to be" you know you are going to be rocked, hard. The cheers were deafening when Wolfmother took the stage. From the first cord they struck they killed me with sound. Looking like a trio straight out of '70s psychedelic rock (or a porn, I can't really decide) Wolfmother ran through their set with crazy energy, exuding sex, drugs and rock & roll. Some say they are overrated, but I couldn't disagree more. I heard more than one person say that one set was worth the price of their ticket. I'm not sure about that, but I do know they rocked me so hard I felt like I need a post coitus cig.
Cover songs weaved their way through multiple set lists. From the The Dresden Dolls covering "War Pigs" to Nickel Creek covering "Toxic," Gnarls Barkley had a couple nods of appreciation from the likes of The Raconteurs and Kanye West (a string instrumental).
Uh oh! The boys of Gnarls are all up in our grill! They donned tennis pro get ups as they marched into their set with "We Are The Champions" blaring, which quickly faded into "Who Cares?," followed by "The Boogie Monster." Cee-Lo really summed up the atmosphere of Lollapalooza when he said: "Its all about the freedom. So, if it comes over you ladies and you want to pull those titties out, then just do it." Amen.
Hot alien dancers, drunk dancing Santas, giant inflatable aliens, astronauts, 50+ oversized blue balloons, confetti, confetti guns, smoke machines, stage hands dressed as super heroes and Wayne Coyne (possibly the happiest man on the planet) in a giant, clear sphere walking across the crowd. Amazing. There isn't too much more to say then that. The Flaming Lips put on a musical spectacle that left me feeling like I had just come down from the happiest drug induced trip... ever. I especially liked it when Wayne Coyne asked the crowd to sing along as loud at they could so that maybe we could not only stop traffic on Lake Shore Drive, but maybe, just maybe we could stop the bombs being dropped in Lebanon, and "wouldn't that be amazing?"
From there Brian and I caught the end of the New Pornographers' set to then head back to the other side of the park to catch Manu Chou. We fought our way though hordes of sweaty bodies who were all headed to see Kanye West. Boy did they make the wrong choice.
As Brian will tell you in a second, though we knew nothing about Manu Chou we decided to see what the deal was. It was as if those Latin beats reached right inside of me a pulled out the Salsa dancer that had been sleeping inside me for all these years. Either that, or the load of beers I drank throughout the day made me think I could shake my Latin hips better then Shakira.
Here are a couple of my thoughts leading in to probably the best highlight of the weekend. "Who the hell is this Manu Chou??? Where the hell do these guys come from??? Apparently, I have led a sheltered life. Another beer...sure! Be damned any band that dares to stomp into a headlining time slot and I hear not of you. You think you are good....you think you are special...well, impress me." Well, they did. I couldn't pronounce their name, I didn't know one song, and I never understood one word during their whole set. But I enjoyed every second of their mix of ska, reggaeton, and Latin beats. By the end, I was fully fluent in Spanish and could dance like Ricky Martin, or at least that's what the beer told me.
Sweaty, dirty, sore, drunk, a little deaf and happy. Thank you Lollapalooza for rocking us so hard on that very special, magical Saturday Night in Chicago.
By Brian Balok & Amanda DePalma