Wednesday, November 11, 2009

And Finally--the Long-Awaited Conclusion to Lolla-freaking-palooza 2009!

Is it November already? Must be time for another post! As I've said countless times, I just want to keep the promises I made to you guys months and months ago, and then hopefully we can all move on and maintain a more regular publishing schedule, etc. Oh my God, when I get through this last Lolla review, I will feel SO relieved! At least I've gotten this written before Lollapalooza 2010!

My husband was eager to get to Grant Park somewhat early that last day to see Cage the Elephant, who have since become much more ubiquitous on the radio and in commercials than they were earlier this summer. They do happen to have the most interesting backstory of any act at Lollapalooza last summer (paraphrased from Lolla marketing). Apparently, the band was founded by two brothers--Matt and Brad Schultz--from Kentucky whose parents were former hippies turned Jesus freaks and lived on a Christian commune. Rock music was forbidden, until their parents were divorced, and then they immersed themselves in all kinds of good stuff like classic rock and grunge. Just like all those kids whose minds were blown by the first Velvet Underground record and had to create their own band, the Brothers Schultz grabbed some friends and made their own record in like 10 days and became a big success in the UK before anyone had ever heard of them here. By now you've probably heard the infectious "Ain't No Rest for the Wicked" and perhaps even "Back Against the Wall." They were brand-new to me that day, but I noticed that Cage the Elephant brought good old-fashioned blues-inspired rock to an enthusiastic crowd on a very hot day indeed. The first band I think of when I hear them is the Rolling Stones; they have a classic sound with something raw, sexy, and a little dangerous lurking in the lead singer's voice. After all, we all know what happens to the kids with super-religious, strict parents once those kids get a taste of freedom...unbridled, awesome hedonism! There's also a purity in their garage band sound, reminiscent of the White Stripes before they got all pretentious and discordant with the godawful "Icky Thump." As I recall, their live show was energetic, but it was hard to dance and "whoo" at 100 percent when we all just felt like passing out from the heat. (Paramedics with stretchers passed us at one point to rescue an overheated floozy in a sundress.) I'd definitely recommend catching one of their live shows if you get the chance. I think they were back in Chicago this past weekend, but I was too busy paying tribute to the Angelcat in Los Angeles at the time.

We managed to catch the latter half of the The Airborne Toxic Event's set, as they overlapped with Cage the Elephant, and Mr. Maise was definitely more interested in seeing CTE. We did manage to see TATE's big hit "Somewhere Around Midnight," which always makes me feel melancholy when I hear it because I never have anyone drunkenly chasing me around after glimpsing me at a bar because he's THAT in love with me. I mean, my husband loves me, but he's home and we eat dinner and fall asleep on the couch it's just not the same! "Somewhere Around Midnight" was probably the big highlight of this abbreviated set for us, as I'm otherwise not terribly familiar with this band. I was also a little distracted because it was at this point that my husband disappeared for 15 minutes to get a beer and Ro and Iris disappeared for 20 minutes to re-fill their water bottles. It's sometimes hard to wrangle a whole group at these large outdoor festivals.

Okay, so I admit that I don't know the first thing about Neko Case other than the fact that she is a fellow admirer of greyhounds. She was also playing on the side of the park where we eventually wanted to end up at the end of the night, so we decided to establish a "base camp" of blankets and Neat Sheets on the west side of the park by the Budweiser stage in a shady area that was near (but not *too* near) the port-a-potties and a bar. It was really the perfect location for our group. Those who were tired and hot could lie back on the blankets and absorb the music. If someone wanted to get some food or drinks or take a closer look at the band, the rest of us were easy to locate. Iris and I did leave for a while to get a better look at Neko Case and her lovely fiery red hair. She kind of reminded me of Tori Amos, with a gentler sound that seemed more inspired by country and folk music (although I guess she's also a member of the New Pornographers, so she can do indie rock as well). She genuinely seemed to be having a good time on stage with her bandmates and interacted warmly with the audience. She's just a little too mellow for me, but I appreciated her as an artist, and I can see why her fans are so devoted to her. And any friend of retired racing greyhounds is a friend of mine!

We sort of half-listened to the next act, Dan Auerbach, and I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised. After all, if you see a guy who looks like this onstage in 2009, you might suspect that you'll be hearing something like Bon Iver...slow, acoustic, ballads about isolation and heartbreak. Dan Auerbach. But as I recall, his music was uptempo and blues-influenced. I really can't tell you anything substantial about Dan Auerbach unless I plagiarized Wikipedia or some such, so I'll just tell you about the human drama that we witnessed at this time. Ro noticed that a large number of people were jumping the fence to get into Grant Park. If they weren't jumping the fence, they were leaping over the row of port-a-potties. Which, frankly, was alarming to me. No one loves hanging out in those little blue outhouses, but could you imagine if you were in there, and someone came crashing down on top of you because he/she misjudged how far he/she had to jump? Horrifying! My favorite port-a-potty leaper was a guy who made the jump, then starting running immediately as he hit the ground, but simultaneously attempted to disguise himself by ripping off his shirt and his glasses. You know, like Clark Kent. Sort of. He assumed that no one could possibly recognize him as an unticketed individual, as we all laughed loudly and pointed.

Anyway, once these people crashed Lolla, as it were, they would then all take off running towards the field in front of the Budweiser stage. But Ro noticed that a couple of guys who were working at the bar would stop these individuals, lead them back to the port-a-potties, and then the gate-crashers would go inside and calmly walk out and be on their way. Then the guys working at the bar would go inside the port-a-potties, presumably to collect the bribes that had been left for them there. They probably made quite a bit of money! We noticed that occasionally they would have discussions with these gate-crashers and then lead said jumpers to an ATM so that they could procure the cash needed for the bribe. These two enterprising men did have a little competition as police were also on the lookout for fence-jumpers, and if the police caught them, they would wind up in handcuffs and (if they were lucky) merely escorted out of the park or perhaps arrested. So my recommendation to you, dear readers, is to a) just pay for the ticket to avoid looking like a chump and b) if you do want to crash, then have some extra cash on you for bribery or bail-posting purposes.

After Dan Auerbach, Lou Reed was scheduled to play. This particular slot of time was the most agonizing decision for me of Lollapalooza 2009. It was Snoop Dogg vs. Lou Reed, and they were at opposite ends of Grant Park, so it was impossible to see both. On the one hand, you have a rap icon who has pretty much become a pop culture punchline and who isn't terribly relevant in the world of hip-hop but who would be a hell of a lot of fun to see. On the other hand, you have a rock icon who is apt to be temperamental and who would probably avoid playing all your favorite songs just to be spiteful. We decided to go with Lou Reed, to see a legend in the flesh and in the hopes that he would play "A Perfect Day" Looking back, I feel that this was probably a mistake. First of all, he came onstage probably about 15-20 minutes late, which caused all kinds of chaos later in the night, as I shall explain. His setlist was all right, I suppose...I'm only the most casual Lou Reed fan, so I wasn't expecting to know every song by heart. We did get "Sweet Jane," "Waiting for the Man," and "Walk on the Wild Side." Lou seemed to be having a good time on stage but didn't really interact with the audience. That may be par for the course with him. So it wasn't a bad show, but I probably would have had much more fun singing along to "Gin and Juice" with all the other white hipsters in the crowd.

Lou Reed's tardiness meant that the next band, indie darlings Band of Horses, wound up starting about 15-20 minutes late. I don't have a ton to say about them except that, like Animal Collective, they chose to continue their set well after Jane's Addiction began. I realize that it wasn't their fault that they had to start late, but they knew they were going on right before the final headlining act of the festival--and not just any ol' headliner, like Kings of Leon, but the original lineup of Jane's Addiction. Now, while Jane's Addiction isn't exactly tapping into the rock zeitgeist as they once did, I feel that they deserve a modicum of respect for inventing the very concept of Lollapalooza. When Jane's Addiction came on, starting with "Up the Beach" and leading to my favorite "Mountain Song," I couldn't even hear it from all the sound being generated by Band of Horses on the other side of the field. And I want to say that they continued until 10-15 minutes into Jane's Addiction's set, even though Jane's Addiction delayed their entrance about 10-15 minutes. What a clusterfuck! Therefore, I propose again that no matter what the circumstances, festival organizers pull the plug on bands at their scheduled ending times. Because I don't care how great the end of someone's set is, it's usually not worth ruining the beginning of someone else's act.

And FINALLY, we come to Jane's Addiction. When Jane's Addiction were at the forefront of the alternative music scene, I was a mere impoverished teenager and had no pocket money to attend any of their shows. When Jane's Addiction was touring with NIN last spring, they did not appear at the Chicago show, probably because they had signed on to headline Lollapalooza. So this was my first (and possibly last) opportunity to see the original lineup of Jane's Addiction. Although it was ever so slightly anticlimactic, as I had seen Perry Farrell and various backing bands several times in the past, and he was always eager to play all the old Jane's Addiction hits. So there wasn't really a sense of "omg omg omg, I've finally heard 'Stop' live!!!"

When their set opened (annoyingly drowned out by Band of Horses, of course), they played "Up the Beach" as a helicopter flew low overhead and shined a spotlight on the crowd. Very dramatic and over the top, but also kind of awesome. I noticed people aiming their laser pointers at the helicopter. Smart move, assholes! I thought as I waited for the pilot to be blinded and crash into the crowd below.

Here is the setlist, courtesy of

1. Up the Beach (w/ helicopter entrance)
2. Mountain Song
3. Ain't No Right
4. Three Days
5. Whores
6. Been Caught Stealing
7. Then She Did
8. Ocean Size
9. Ted, Just Admit It
10. Summertime Rolls
11. Stop!
12. Jane Says (w/ Joe Perry)

Hmm...let's see, what do I remember about the show? Good production value, Perry's weird, yet strangely literal segues into songs...I'm pretty sure at one point he called us all "sluts" before beginning "Whores," for example. At one point the first few rows of the audience were given huge lengths of fabric to wave over their heads in order to simulate an ocean--presumably for "Ocean Size" because like I said, Perry can be awfully literal in his interpretation of song titles--and Perry ran in front of the crowd like the happiest dork, pretending to swim and dive. At one point Perry pointed out that their drummer, Stephen Perkins, was performing for us against doctor's orders, and thank God too, as it would have been a real bummer to lose both Jane's and the Beasties as Lolla headliners. As you can see in the setlist above, Joe Perry showed up for a special guest appearance. At the time, Steven Tyler had just fallen off a stage in South Dakota, so Aerosmith didn't have much to do with themselves. So Joe Perry helped out with "Jane Says." Perry asked the crowd if they wanted to see Aerosmith at Lollapalooza next year. Well, of course not, but no one wants to be rude to Joe Perry, so everyone cheered in the affirmative. Anyway, it might not be much of an issue if rumors of Aerosmith's inner turmoil are true. And then a very lucky Jane's Addiction fan was allowed to propose to his girlfriend onstage, and she said yes! (Not that there was any pressure on her or anything). And that's about all I have to say about that. Like I said, it felt a little redundant after all the other times I've seen Perry perform at Lollapalooza, but it was nice to see the original lineup of Jane's Addiction play together again, and they were in fine form, as you can see here.

And so that is FINALLY that. Once again, my apologies for all the long delays; real life occasionally gets in the way of my ghost life, but there is more to come!

Oh, and in all your comments, even the mean ones, I think you should include the sentence "Iris, come back!!!!" She's not dead or anything, but it sure isn't the same without her around here...


Isabel said...

Iris, come back! I don't really know much about any of the bands you mention - but I have suddenly rekindled my love for Sting after some comments he made in a British newspaper. He reiterates what my husband has always said about the X-Factor which always bring out Happy Shopper Whitney Houstons

"Hard slog, a golden voice and finding his own luck made Sting successful, which is why he deplores the instant, fame-obsessed public spectacle of the X Factor. “I am sorry but none of those kids are going to go anywhere, and I say that sadly. They are humiliated when they get sent off. How appalling for a young person to feel that rejection. It is a soap opera which has nothing to do with music. In fact, it has put music back decades. Television is very cynical.”

Sting says he really tried to give the talent show a chance when he watched it. “I tried to keep an open mind, but basically I was looking at televised karaoke where they conform to stereo-types. They are either Mariah Carey or Whitney Houston or Boyzone and are not encouraged to create any real unique signature or fingerprint. That cannot come from TV. The X Factor is a preposterous show and you have judges who have no recognisable talent apart from self-promotion, advising them what to wear and how to look. It is appalling.

Usually people, even those who know better, try to kiss up to Simon Cowell and co because they don't want to be seen as 'losing the common touch' so its nice to see someone judging it harshly!

maise said...

Oh Isabel, download Cage the Elephant's debut album immediately. It's soooooo good! Plus, I think I'm falling in love with the lead singer.

There will always be corporate, manufactured pop, and it has its time and place, but I've never had much time for the American Idols or anyone that Simon Cowell is denigrating on television. All that melisma!

JR said...

First of all - yeah, where IS Iris?

Second of all - you may recall that *I* saw Mr. Lou Reed (with Thurston Moore as an opener) about a year and a half ago AND. IT. WAS. SPEC. TACULAR. Choosing between him and Snoop? Nucca, please. Snoop is fun if you don't have anything else to do, but this is LOU REED we're talking about here.

Third - speaking from a venue/performance management thing here, you can't just stop the band. There are all kinds of really detailed contracts that would prevent it (or risk a lawsuit) when you're talking about a performance on the scale of Lolla (or even a smaller scale). Having JA start would, in theory, encourage BOH to end, since there would (likely) be attrition from that stage to the main stage. But if not, the best you can do is have JA stall - which it sounds like they did - and maybe they were under some kind of time restriction for local curfew or load out schedules or whatever and JA couldn't wait any longer. I understand that it sucks from the audience's perspective, but that's show biz.

maise said...

Maybe Lolla wasn't Lou's best venue...he was probably hot and cranky.

As always, thanks for the behind-the-scenes perspective. Yeah, it *really* sucked that there were attrition issues at Lolla before the headlining acts this year. I don't remember that happening as much in previous years. When NIN played, I remember that there was a much bigger problem with noise from other stages. For example, NIN was being drowned out by Kanye, who was literally a mile away. Or maybe that's because Kanye's a jerk. ;) I didn't notice that as much this year, but bands on the stages immediately adjacent to the headliner just kept going over their running time.

Maybe they should schedule like 10-15 of downtime before the headliner. That would give extra time to wrap up any late sets and also to give people more time to cross the park. It takes a LONG time to get from one side to the other when there are hundreds of thousands of drunken floozies in sundresses there. As it is, they are normally scheduled to have one show end at 8:00, say, and then the headliner will immedidately start right up at 8:00.

Isabel said...

Kanye turned up at one of NIN's last shows - someone posted a picture of it, so I don't think he hates NIN or would deliberately try to drown them out. I seem to recall him saying something like how unfair it was that people had to choose between him and NIN and how great both shows were