Saturday, August 5th, 2006
Lollapalooza Day One
No preamble. Let’s just get right into it.
I chose Brit kiddies The Subways to open up Lollapalooza for me – their stage was the closest to where I was physically located and having seen them in Amsterdam earlier this year, I knew that their high-energy pop-punk would be a good way to kick things off. Their “Hello Lollapalooza!” would the first of many I would be hearing throughout the day. It was pretty amazing to see the size and enthusiasm of the crowd that had shown up so early in the day – definitely an auspicious beginning. Lead singer Billy Lunn seems to have gotten over the throat ailments that had them cancelling shows left, right and centre because he was in fine screaming form. Still not a band whose record I’d bother with, but definitely fun to see live.
I had planned on seeing Finland’s Husky Rescue in Toronto tomorrow night but Instead I was seeing them here in Chicago. Their cool, Nordic sounds were a nice counterpoint to the Subways and considering how electronic their recorded output is, their live show was very tight and organic. Understated but with an undeniable sass. I mentioned yesterday that Lolla is mostly about the big, established acts but it was nice to see someone new step up and deliver as well. Grab an MP3 for “New Light Of Tomorrow” in the Stimuli section of the Minty Fresh website and check out their session for Minnesota Public Radio.
Eels, I had just seen a couple months ago but they’re definitely an entertaining live band so they got the nod for their timeslot (and there wasn’t a lot of competition, either). Their wacky-ass live schtick isn’t as bewlidering the second time around but perhaps because of that, they were more enjoyable musically. Alas the photo pit’s 3-song limit was up just before Crazy Al went into his karate man routine.
There was a pretty strong Torontonian Arts & Crafts contingent at the festival this year – first up was Stars. While it was good to see them again, it’s been a while, I can’t decide if the big festival stage really suits them. In that sort of environment (and in the blazing daylight), their songs lose some of their intimacy. The still sound great, don’t get me wrong, and I don’t think Torq would ever say there’s a stage too big for him, but I think I prefer to see them somewhere cozier.
I only stuck around for a few songs of Ryan Adams’ set – too much else to see and if he wasn’t going to bring Elton John out as a special guest, then it wouldn’t be as good a show as the last time I saw him. Not surprisingly, I didn’t recognize most of what he played – I think he’s released like 14 albums since I last really paid attention to him – but he sounded good and his band is tight and the one song I did know, “Dear Chicago”, was well-received (naturally) and well played. I was only there for about 10 minutes but I think he released a couple of EPs in that span. There’s a new song streaming on his web page.
I made a pit stop between stages to see Mates Of State and in the blazing sunshine, it was kind of painful to watch Kori Gardner’s sunburn grow before our eyes. Withing two songs she was turning scarlet red. Ouch. But for those of us with pigment and sporting sunscreen, they were great fun – interesting how they’re both able to be fully animated and engaging performers even though they can’t move from their instruments at all.
The Secret Machines have a reputation for a superb live show including light show, etc so I was wondering how they’d pull that off in the bright daylight – well it turns out their time slot was well-chosen as the setting sun not only bathed the band in gorgeous, golden light but was low enough that the synchronized stage lights were effectively dramatic. And their thunderous, epic-style rock was tailor-made for the festival stage. The three-song rule in the pit was changed to two songs on account of the fact that their songs are about 20 minutes long each.
My Morning Jacket were the first band I stayed and watched for more than 4 or 5 songs. Hey, the go-go-go pace of these things encourages a short attention span. But I’m glad I slowed down for their set because it was really just what I needed right then. Even though they opened with “At Dawn”, thing started a little bit slow but quickly revved up to awesome as they went on. Jim James shared his own memories of going to Lollapalooza as a teen, making me realize that a) this was now a generational event, and b) I’m old.
Sleater-Kinney were by far the top draw of the day, what with this being the band’s final performance (save for two farewell hometown shows in Portland). As expected, they were fierce and fearless and rocktacular – maybe knowing the finish line is in sight helps you with an extra bit of adrenaline? It’s truly a shame they’re calling it quits but there is something to be said for going out on your own terms and at the top of your game. They drew a huge, adoring crowd and rightfully so.
I had intended on seeing Death Cab For Cutie to close things out, but it occured to me that I really wasn’t much of a fan anymore and local heroes Ween, also given a closing slot, might well provide a more entertaining finale for the night. As I swam upstream through the sea of indie kids heading to the Death Cab set, I was pretty sure I made the right choice. Or not. I understand the appeal of Ween, but it just doesn’t click for me. After snapping my three songs worth of pics (in terrible light), I high-tailed it out of there. But I did hear “Voodoo Lady” though not the Pizza Hut jingle, which is easily my favourite Ween tune.
And that was day one. It was hot but not too too hot. Bearable, anyways. I have to say, I am really impressed with the festival thus far. More than just the great music, there’s a real positive vibe about the whole park (which is massive, by the way) and everyone seems to be having a really good time. Things are also running surprisingly well. I just tend to expect disaster at things of this scale but my hat’s off to the organizers. Clockwork.
I’m also loving the access to the photo pit. I never would have thought I’d get the chance to shoot some of these acts from so up close. It’s going to take me some time to get everything processed but in the meantime, I’ve got a gallery up at Flickr with a single image from everyone I’ve seen so far. I’ll continue updating it through the weekend and try to have the full galleries up by the end of next week. But seriously, there’s hundreds and hundreds of photos to go through.
Now. Day two? Bring it on.