On August 1 lines of bodies surrounded the gates of Grant Park in downtown Chicago as travelers from all over the country stood outside the park in anticipation of a weekend of booze, friends and tunes, tunes, tunes.
Friday was the first day of my inaugural Lollapalooza, and I walked into that unchartered world with mixed expectations. Sure, my beloved Go! Team and Bloc Party would be gracing the stages today, but what about the rest of these bands? With some, I knew a few choice hits; others were completely foreign.
Let me just say right now, I wasn’t disappointed.
As Bang Camero, a joke of a metal band, took the stage, I realized just how little an idea I had of what I’d be seeing over the course of the weekend. The stage was crowded with 20ish greasy, grimy men who I’m convinced formed this novel band just for the free festival tickets, head banging in unison and throwing up devil horns, all before noon. At least ten of them had mics which, despite the ferociously metal music they were making, actually sounded pretty cool. Kids rocked out in the front, but most of us milled around with confused smiles before wandering off to see what else Lolla had to offer.
Sofia Talvik graced the Citi stage, one stage over from Bang Camero’s nonsense-metal. Here people sat under the trees along either side of the stage as the soft-spoken Swede and her pink acoustic guitar countered the metal with some light love songs. Her pretty, mellow voice and delicate demeanor were in stark contrast with Bang Camero, making me realize that this weekend was going to have something for everyone.
I took a shot in the dark and headed off to Parlor Mob (my accomplice for the weekend was checking out each band meticulously in the program to make sure they at least sounded promising). The Parlor Mob turned out to be a long-haired, guitar riffing rock n’ roll group out of New Jersey. And it was here, at 1:30 in the afternoon, that I got my first taste of the massive amount of weed that was going to be consumed in this park with minimum discretion. The men in front of us lit up a joint as Parlor Mob started in on their second. A security guard walked right between us, said nothing, and everyone continued to rock out.
By now it was almost two, which meant it was an acceptable time to start heading over for the Go! Team. I was surprised at the size of their crowd, which was full of everyone from highschoolers to a 30something man who turned to us before the set and beamed, “This is my favorite band!”
And then the dancing started.
Singer Ninja came out in her devilish grin and giant heart sunglasses, and the Bud Light stage erupted. The Go! Team hit all the right notes, playing “Panther Dash” and Ladyflash” and even kicked it down for drummer Chi Fukami to come out and win the crowd with “Hold YR Terror Close,” (This is consistently the most adorable thing in live music – ED) while everyone’s favorite front-woman took over the drum set. Despite the ravaging heat in Chicago that day, the Go! Team’s energy never wavered as they blasted through dance numbers, and the crowd carried on with them step for step.
A quick dash sent us back over to the Citi state for Louis XIV’s sexual soundtrack just in time to catch the end of “Pledge of Allegiance.” The southern alt-rock band cruised through “The Best Little Secrets Are Kept” with the unrestrained vigor. Jason Hill’s sensual rasp captivated their audience as he crooned, “Politics are so much better when there’s sex,” in "Paper Doll". Louis, with their racy lyrics and knee-weakening bass, are somewhat of an acquired taste, and I hung near the back with the less devout as the kids up front moved and shaked in time to Hill’s voice.
A food break put us briefly in listening range of goofy punks Gogol Bordello and their raucous fans before we settled in front of the MySpace stage.
Say what you want about lovely-dovey couple act Mates of State, they write some pretty solid numbers. Jason Hammell pounded away on the drums while wife Kori Gardner belted out that yell in the middle of “Get Better” with a power you wouldn’t have foreseen just from looking at her. Their cotton candy pep may seem hokey to some, but get in range of that keyboard and let’s see you not start tapping your feet. The set closed strongly with “ “ off May release Re-Arrange Us.
Though we didn’t see much of the Grizzly Bear set, the two numbers we did catch calmed my racing pulse with their soothing indie-rock. Hopefully I can check them out more thoroughly in the future.
And no, we didn’t go see the Raconteurs. Call me a heretic if you will. I’m a Bloc Party kid through and through.
The problem was that when we got to the AT&T stage it was already full of people. People who were neither singing nor dancing to Kele Okereke’s beautiful British voice. Our confusion was cleared when a man to our left muttered to his friend, “Man, these people lined up for Radiohead early.” Bloc Party fans were nowhere to be found, swallowed up in an enormous crowd of Radiohead fans who wanted no part of my beloved dance rock band from across the Atlantic. And I was furious.
“Excuse me, are you here for Radiohead? Yeah? Well we’re not. We want to see Bloc Party and then we’re leaving. We don’t give a fuck about Radiohead.”
That’s how we got to the middle of the AT&T crowd and discovered, to our joy, that there were Bloc Party fans hiding up near the stage. We joined in the dance as the band, minus normal bassist Gordon Moakes (he was busy playing with his new baby daughter), plowed through favorites “Banquet” “This Modern Love” off Silent Alarm. Despite the people around us who still didn’t see what all the fuss was about as they waited with bated breath for Thom Yorke, Bloc Party still drew shouts of, “So James Dean-so blue jeans!” from the crowd during “Helicopters.
Though I was not as fond of Weekend In The City, I still amped up when Okereke, sporting an Obama shirt, burst into “Hunting for Witches.” Even a new song or two managed to sneak its way into the set to good reception (from the people who were actually there to see them, anyway). Drummer Matt Tong gained a mustache since the last time I saw them, but his drumming was as tight as ever, and Russell Lissack was a one man powerhouse as he carried the band’s catchy guitar through the set without a letdown.
Dance-weary and frustrated by the fans around us, once Bloc Party finished we didn’t stick around for Radiohead.
And so ended Day One of Lollapalooza.
-by Liz Wagner