(Grant Park, Chicago) – A sea of humanity ripples and sways in the baking sun. You have arrived at Lollapalooza 2010. You are not alone. You weave between 80,000 strong moving, dancing, singing, sweating, gyrating, swilling beer, gulping water, seeking shade, eating, making plans, chatting excitedly and exhaustedly, sitting, standing, dosing in hammocks, or resting on the ground. You are all in for an eternity of music. Nonstop. Unwavering. Relentless. Three days. Eight stages. 152 bands.
It was clear upon entering the 2010 version of Lollapalooza, the hot sun would be a factor. Ridiculous. Just past the North gate I entered through, I noticed an epic bottleneck to access the Playstation stage area. Craziness. It was only later, after I’d walked around and got the lay of the land, that I saw just how well-organized and easy to navigate the grounds actually were. I had simply been caught with new people like me, unsure of where to go so were just following the crowd. Not a good strategy. Once I’d mingled with the crowd a bit, I noticed the wafting weed giving me a contact high and the dizzying number of sundresses. Oy.
Grant Park is ideal to host the event. There were two main stage areas on either end of the grounds. With a solid 10 minute walk between them, you had to plan ahead. Each area had two huge stages, where they would rotate the acts. This meant there was always a band playing. After one finished, you simply turned around and walked over to watch the next band start. This accounted for four of the eight stages. The other four smaller stages sat in between, but were far enough apart that the neighboring blasts of music didn’t interfere.
The whole point of my coming to this year’s event was to see Soundgarden. Back together after 14 years. But there was much music to hear before that. I was ready with my list of bands to see and a handy chart of who’s where. It’s on.
I arrived later on Saturday afternoon and the first act I wanted to see literally started as I walked in. Metric performed a strong set and got me energized for the evening. The only complaint, which happened elsewhere too, was that the sound would be one volume then get louder and back down at random intervals. I couldn’t tell if it was my ears adjusting after the flight to Chicago or something wonky with the sound system. I pick wonky. It wasn’t such a big deal except when they played ‘Sick Muse’ it got quieter and the lead singer’s (Emily Haines) voice cracked a bit so it was hard to hear. The volume and energy went right back up for their enthusiastic ‘Stadium Love’.
After Metric, I turned around and ambled to the opposite Budweiser stage to catch Spoon’s set. There are many songs I like from them, but overall the songs in between those didn’t grab me as much. And I was really hot and antsy. The cool thing about the Budweiser stage was that about 20 or so people could watch the show from platforms on either side of the stage. I don’t know how they got the tickets, but it would have been fun to be so close to some of the later bands.
The headliner for Saturday was Green Day. All the headliners played on the Foundation stage at the far end of the grounds. I’d seen them twice before, so there were no surprises, just a lot of energetic, loud music. After the first hour of their set, I was determined to see the last half of Phoenix’s set so I trekked all the way back to the Budweiser stage.
Phoenix is a band I’ve really enjoyed this year. There “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix’ album is among the best I’ve heard all year. They didn’t disappoint. They ended at the proper time of 10pm after an encore of the danceable ‘1901‘. Earlier, Billy Jo of Green Day had loudly proclaimed that ‘everyone could (insert word of choice here) themselves because they were not going to stop playing at 10pm even if they (use same or different word here) cut the power’. So I had to trek all the way back over to verify his claims, and indeed I was able to catch the last 15 minutes of their over 2-1/2 hour set. I loved his enthusiasm but exhaustion had kicked in after standing and walking for five hours. And I was planning an even longer day tomorrow.
My Saturday Day 2 lineup
I arrived a little earlier on Sunday to see Mumford and Sons on the Playstation stage. I’d heard a couple of their songs after a friend in the UK had said they were the best thing since sliced bread. I didn’t get that impression from the recorded tracks, but their live performance was brilliant. Now I need to re-listen and re-evaluate. Sliced bread still holds the edge, but it was a fun show and they would be worth seeing again when they come back to DC (I missed them the first time).
Next, I did an about-face and watched Yeasayer perform on the Budweiser stage. They played a few songs I liked and they seemed enjoy themselves. I cut out a bit early as I wanted to wander around and see everything. (http://www.lollapalooza.com/assets/images/in_the_park/map/2010_lolla_map_big.png) I didn’t have a band on my list for the next hour so I poked my head into a couple of the smaller stages and listened to a song or two of whatever was going on.
The food choices were remarkable. Quite a number of local restaurants had set up a line of booths on both sides of the grounds. There was no want for options. The first day I wanted to buy a burger at the booth called ‘Kuma’s Corner’ (my dog is Kuma!) but the cue was out of this world long. On Sunday the line was still long, but I sucked it up and got a mammoth Kuma burger just before Mumford and Sons started. Later I tried some pork belly sliders with kimchee…why? Disgusting.
Unplanned, I ventured to the Sony Bloggie stage, which had ample shade and a few places to sit – awesome!, where I listened to Frightened Rabbit, two Scottish brothers. I knew nothing about them but they put on a good show and there was the ever needed place in the shade so I lingered and enjoyed myself. This stage had the best location. I then wandered back over to the hot and crowded Playstation stage and saw the last half of MUTEMATH. They were okay. Right after their beats faded, MGMT started their set on the Budweiser stage. I listened for about 30 minutes, and enjoyed ‘Electric Feel’ but soon grew bored and began reminiscing about the shade so I made a beeline back to watch The Temper Trap, which I enjoyed much more.
Another band I was looking forward to seeing was The National. The lead singer has a very deep and hypnotic voice and while the music is somber at times, it grabs hold of you quickly and won’t let go. ‘Everyone’s Ghost’ and ‘Bloodbuzz Ohio’ (could be Johnny Cash singing) were especially amazing.
Finally, after two days of music, I began my final trek to the Foundation stage and Soundgarden. Tired, overheated and in a daze I wound my way eagerly through the throngs of happy but spent masses. I could hear the first song, ‘Searching With My Good Eye Closed’, pounding before I was halfway there. Soon the stage was only a gigantic field away and as I crept closer and closer they started playing ‘Spoonman’ and all the thirty-something white guys in my vicinity started dancing like they were smashed (they were). Even the thirty-something chicks and younger people got into it. Then it was all a blur for 30 minutes or more, as I stood entranced behind a group of rowdies waving beer cans in front of me. Finally, ‘Outshined’ throbbed in my ears, and it suddenly clicked, I am watching Soundgarden! Who I had last seen in their farewell concert back in 1996! I was suddenly alive and needed a beer. As soon as I had the Bud Light can in hand, I realized how easy it would be for me to weave my way to the front of the stage while avoiding the massive crowd. I cut in edge wise and found myself a mere 30 feet from center stage. I could see Chris Cornell’s long, early 90’s hair and the sweat beading down the band’s faces. And for the next hour, Soundgarden kicked our asses with music. And it was good.
There are certain things that happen without fail during the summer months. Sun, cold beer on a hot day, sundresses, dogs happily rolling in disgusting things, doing outside stuff, summer movies, and on.
Clearly what does not happen without fail is writing a blog. I’ve been a bit silent this summer. Did you notice? Sometimes silence has power. You have to be away before you can be missed. In theory.
Here is what I’ve learned about the will to write:
#1 – Do it. If you want to write, then do it. Don’t make excuses. Whether your style is to use pen to paper, fingertips to keyboard, jet smoke to sky, stick to sand, quill to parchment, thumb to smart phone, spray paint to wall, chisel to tablet, marker to whiteboard, or newspaper clippings to ransom note, just write already. If you don’t want to write, then complain about how you don’t have any time. We’ll believe you, but we sure won’t be reading your work.
#2 – Have a schedule. Give yourself a deadline (even if half-hearted and fungible) and create your blahblahblah regularly.
#3 – Know why you’re writing. Me, its to amuse myself. If someone happens to read it all the better (or worse in their case).
#4 – Let creativity come to you. Don’t force it, but be open to it. Sometimes there will be crap, but let it happen (while holding your nose) because eventually those creative droppings will lead to something great. In theory.
So what does this all mean? It means that I’m about to take my advice. You’ve been warned.