Fear, loathing, heat prostration at Lollapalooza Day Three
Bud Light Stage
2:02 PM 8/5/07
I'd wanted this. Lord, I'd dreamt of this moment. One of the few artists I'd actually pay to see this very moment of her career. Brunch-time, sure, but she couldn't be happy about that neither. And, I swear to you dear reader, had Chicago a single cab bothered to troll close-in neighborhoods, I'd have a proper review. The night before didn't help, of course.
Whether because of the continuing Britt Daniel confusion (I'd spend much of my time during Muse distractedly-agreeing to cell photos arm in arm with drunken louts; next month, at mixers across the Midwest, girls shall wonder why Britt had such bad teeth) or Friday's happy accident, security whisked me through the line to force an actual VIP stamp from designated stamper with shouted 'do you know who he is?'—not, troublingly, rhetorical.
The evening before, I hadn't dared venture through the actual celebrity enclave, and…well, once again, I rather wished I knew what more celebrities looked like. Ashlee Simpson had to be pointed out. Fairly sure Pete Wentz played video games, that's what they said, but so many in the crowd looked like Pete Wentz—and simply everyone clustered around the PS2 consoles; few things more delicious than genuine guitar heroes playing Guitar Hero, madly, for hours on end. The buffet consisted of corn dogs, and the wearied tattooists seemed baffled by the growing numbers of drunken girls queueing for never-to-be-regretted ink.
After Marky Ramone's DJ set—seemingly the Dirty Dancing soundtrack—Motion City Soundtrack played to a near empty room. Most everyone had decamped to the bathrooms for a united defiance of smoking and snorting that left the big men in suits and headsets throwing up their hands, pleading for order. For a moment, anarchy reigned. A silly, entitled, no-Menthols sort of anarchy, but dimly rawk, nonetheless. I felt like an underclassmen at a well-directed 80's prom—a sensation carried along through searching out after-after-parties with the adorable kids from Cage The Lion and Satin Peaches before our de facto moms called us home.
An excellent night buoying me through morning achiness, and I truly thought I'd catch at least the end of Miss Winehouse. After twenty minutes failing to find a cab, I retreated to nearby bar and asked them to call whichever dispatch. And paid for my first drink that weekend. And noticed that Kerry Woods, who I hadn't thought of since referencing the first part of this epic, once again pitched for The Cubs. And struck someone out. Had to be a sign of something. Was Pearl Jam worth the crowds?
Turns out, not such a good perfume. Missing Wino, I couldn't be arsed to check out the filler bands and had some small interest in the daytime media area. This, I was on a list for. CKIN2U men's and women's cologne bags, Skullcandy headphones, Café Bustelo beans, never-ending drinks, buffet absent protein. They were out of my size of Calvin Klein underwear, making me feel un-VIP and fat, but the good folks at PF Flyers (with signature, literally, Johnny Marr model and Menomena connection, they've a love of Portland) promised to send a pair of shoes.
Chatty seniors exchanged lights with vibrantly-coiffed Kill Hannah members. Folks continued to obsessively play Guitar Hero. A mellower element prevailed—because, perhaps, this part of the hotel allowed smoking on the deck; I asked my new Blender buddy why they hadn't hosted the VIP lounge on this floor and, amused, he gestured to encased artifacts: 'dude, too much shit to break'—pleasant and unpretentious; suppose free shit given 'midst lovely environs calms the mood. Anna, returning from the bathroom, mentioned that last year's patrons were given gallons of vodka and a year's supply of Advil. And the resentment returned.
Anna further talked about how useful these bathrooms were—how, this morning, she'd unknowingly exchanged pleasantries with Amy Winehouse after they left adjacent stalls the same moment but didn't realize until a lingering stylist screamed uncontrollably once she'd left. And, that moment, upon the elevator, I didn't quite scream uncontrollably, but launched into a vicious mutter. You don't notice Wino? You don't alert me? I find this out now? YOU DON'T NOTICE WINO?
And, seething, midway through rant, the door opens and I nearly topple over Amy Winehouse. Who, very carefully, politely, from five feet nothing, stares me down. She looks lovely. Impeccable. Casually regal, should there be such a thing. Carved from porcelain, clutching roses and an unwavering grace.
Iggy And The Stooges
Bud Light Stage
I could hear him! I could see the male manifestation of punk reflected upon the eyes of…well, no, couldn't directly see the crowds, either. There were any number of gates around the end of that part, but they'd chosen only the most observant/diffident security to guard. I wasn't trying to get backstage, I had my pass, entrance from all sides had never been an issue before, but, after Wino, I hadn't the stomach to argue.
After Winehouse, I apologize. So much easier to make fun of tabloid photos.
Trudging through the main gates, as I should, I wandered through the festival mid-point—an area I'll only ever know as the fountain from Married With Children—crowded with booths chartered upon the none-trickier premise of selling anti-consumerism. A decent article could be written simply from those (successfully, it appeared) selling carpets this unlikeliest of venues, but, again, I hadn't the stomach.
Never did explore Kidzapalooza. Nor the BMI stage. MOTO Mindfield seemed to consist of a largely unused dance-floor where audiences clapped for familiar beats and self-consciously trippy visuals; suppose my verdict depended upon whether or not the breakdancers were paid.
Though do we still credit my opinion? Anna's review of Peter, Bjorn and John—sweet; a little dorky but sweet; kept giggling, sheepishly; ton of people; exuded nice guys; unassuming; didn't wanna stop—surely had more truth than mine own meta musings. Why write these things? Why read these things? Do you really want consumer reportage on Lollapalooza 2007? I mean, you should go, I guess, as long as you can get backstage. Be nice to Amy Winehouse. Don't miss the Kidz Stage mid-Saturday.
But, dude, really, check out Lollapalooza 2005. That was the shit.
Bud Light Stage
The crowd was attractive. Is that superficial? I mean, yes, but isn't that important? That they'd attracted hotter-by-far crowds than Daft Punk or Spoon? Seemed unlikely My Morning Jacket (on competing stage) would've taken all festival ugs, but a sea of loveliness—whispy alterna-lads chock-a-block with Trixies straining through Cubs-blue hot pants—cascaded about the sorta valley. And Modest Mouse could care less.
The first part of their set, shambling tracks from their latest album memorable only for the sneer-and-response between Isaac Brock and stand-up bassist (expertly captured by the videographer; Jumbotrons have their uses), actively ignored audience involvement for an audience too comfortable to notice. Only as "Tiny Cities Made Of Ashes" began, as Brock began changing the lyrics, as he and Johnny Marr* settled into a love of musicianship overpowering any disinterest, did things tighten. And the crowds could care less. Adoring hordes less danced than leaned into Float On, the proggier elements of their set subsumed by unalloyed wonderment at the powers unleashed; subtle powers best nodded at while sunning oneself.
[*Johnny Marr has a signature PF Flyer model. Jay Horton - 2724 N Albany Chicago IL 60647 Size 12 – wishes to remind]
They ended. Even within festival constraints, encores impossible, there was an undeniable finality from band and audience. Magic and rapturous acceptance both drained, neither side wished more, and the crowd moved on. Hesher Yosemite Sam made lip-smacking noises to me or Anna—we'd argue about which—and, in the distance, Café Tacuba unfurled a workmanlike fiesta. Twas almost an hour til Pearl Jam. There'd be legions beyond imagining. Virtually no chance of sneaking towards a lounge. Still, y'know, sort of the point, I told Anna. Headliners of the festival. You never know who'd show up on stage.
"Who do you think would show up on stage?"
"… well, Ben Harper, maybe."
A security guard lolled about the park stairs, and, flashing media pass, I asked if he'd let us out. Pausing a moment, he suddenly gripped the railing and twirled himself 360 to land on the lowest edge just as the tune ended. Goggling, we asked if he liked Café Tacuba.
"Nah, just figured they'd do something like that. C'mon, I'll let you out."
I gave him the cologne, obviously.
Plain White Tees
Hard Rock Hotel
12:25 AM 8/6/07
If this morning seemed like prom, this was more like the last night of summer camp. My Blender buddy ushered me through the lines. My security buddy was prepared to force the VIP stamp before noticing my bracelet—lingering from earlier shwag boutique—and, sadly, shook his head: Now you get credentials? My bartender buddy, who knew everything and everyone, said Dennis Rodman joined Pearl Jam on stage. I rambled something about Kerry Woods and he pretended the story poignant. I tipped well.
Through the crowd, there was dispirited talk of next tours, cell numbers exchanged, pointlessly. Security had planted a man not to be trifled with at the end of the bathroom stalls, and, upon opening the doors, noticing, a continuous stream of revelers turned on their heels, bindles and cigarettes returning to pocket. The circus hadn't left town, but lions and tigers were well stowed away by the time Plain White T's appeared on stage for an acoustic set.
They held the top single on American charts, and you could feel the crowd try and convince themselves to be impressed. These were not indie snobs. Musical integrity held no sway. Success and sensation and stories to be told were the coin of the realm, and, this very moment, they were number one. Plain White T's surely felt so. They expected the few dozen on-lookers to sing the chorus of "Delilah." And, realizing that wouldn't happen, realizing almost nobody was even listening, they about pleaded for folks to sing along. And nobody, absolutely nobody, even the contest winners from a local mag circulating the floor, did more than scoff. Perhaps for the first time, the tune ended with genuine sadness. And snickering cell-shots. And badly-toasted vodka spilled down shirt-fronts.
We are social creatures. We are easily led. But, no, NO, sir! We'll make poor pets.
Images: Viva Voce setlist front and back, scanned by Jay. VV is mentioned briefly in Jay's print story, located here. The J-Marr shoe courtesy of our good friend Johnny Marr.