Lollapalooza, Day 1 – The ReviewAugust 15, 2007
Well, here it is, almost a week and a half after the fact: my review of Day 1 of the 2007 Lollapalooza Music Festival, held in beautiful Chicago, Illinois, USA.
My flight arrived in Chicago from St. Louis around 10:15 a.m. on Friday morning. I hopped on the Orange line and headed up to the Loop to meet a friend of mine that works downtown for lunch, where I was to hand off my traveling bag, which he was to then take back to his place where I was staying so I could head on to the Festival. First, though, we made our way to the Billy Goat Tavern where I promptly ordered a triple cheeseburger and fries, without fully considering the implications of making such an order before heading out to an all-day music festival in the sun and 95-degree heat…
After lunch and (somehow) stops at three different Walgreen’s, I made my way into the festival. I didn’t make it to Lollapalooza in 2006, but I was there during the record-setting-hottness of 2005. In 2006, they more than doubled the size of the festival grounds to alleviate many of the over-crowding and sound-bleeding problems of 2005. The trade-off, of course, ended up being that it took a good 15 minutes to get from one end of the park to the other and, if your personal schedule of bands to see for the day didn’t work out just right, you could find yourself walking back and forth all day, missing a chunk of each set in transit, since they didn’t really buffer any time between the sets.
The first band I caught was Chin Up Chin Up. They are a great band and one I have been a fan of for a while, but have never had a chance to see live. Unfortunately, I was only able to catch the last two songs of their set, which were both quite good. They had a small but very enthusiastic crowd at their stage.
After CUCU, I headed over to catch the rest of the Ted Leo & The Pharmacists set, which overlapped with CUCU by about 15 minutes. They were playing “Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone?” to a good size crowd (especially for 1:30 pm on Friday) when I walked up. The band was, as usual, full of energy and worked through some of my favorites songs of theirs, including “Timorous Me” and “A Bottle of Buckie”.
After Ted Leo, I made my first park-length trek to the north side of the festival grounds to get a good spot for and catch The Polyphonic Spree and meet up with a friend. While waiting for PS to set up, I could hear the end of the Son Volt set from across the field, including set closer, “Drown.” As I’m sure you’ve read, The Polyphonic Spree have shifted away from wearing their trademark flowing robes to wearing militant black jump suits. No worries though; the band’s music is as happy and uplifting as ever. Surprisingly, they only played two or three songs from their latest album, The Fragile Army, including a great version of “Mental Cabaret” that featured the dance stylings of the Chicago Tap Theater. The Fragile Army song that benefited most from a live treatment, though, was “The Championship,” a highlight of their set. There was also an appearance during their set by Beatle Bob. For the encore, the band switched into the their traditional white robes and made their way through the crowd before playing a three-song encore. The crowd’s reaction to the band’s take on Nirvana’s “Lithium” was one of the biggest reactions of the weekend for a non-headliner.
We thought we’d catch a bit of Electric Six next, and while I enjoyed their first album quite a bit, their set wasn’t quite right for the bright sunlight and heat of a Friday afternoon in August in Chicago when you are more concerned with chugging water so you don’t pass out. They are more of a 1:30 in the morning, chugging beer in order to pass out sort of band. In the middle of the set, we headed over to check out the Improv stage, but the environment wasn’t quite right for that either, especially since they were being drowned out by some screamo band from across the way.
Because I felt it was my duty as a self-respecting music blogger, we headed over to see M.I.A. Bad idea. She was outrageously obnoxious. The bass was so loud you could hear her voice at all and when you could, she just sounded like she was wounded whale. I’m sure it would have been much, much more enjoyable in a small club.
After abusing our eardrums at M.I.A., we made our way over to see The Rapture, who put on a great show. It was a shame they were relegated to one of the smaller stages, as it diminished the size of a lot of their new songs and suffered from a lot of sound bleeding from M.I.A.’s set.
On our way over to catch Blonde Redhead, we caught two songs from Silversun Pickups, including the ubiquitous “Lazy Eye.” Meh. Blonde Redhead, on the other hand, was one of the best surprises of the weekend for me. Their latest album, 23, is one of my favorites of this year, but I was really surprised at how well the droning, haunting melodies were translated into a live setting. They sounded great. Kazu Makino was an engaging front woman… and she used a stuffed horse for her piano bench – you gotta give her some credit for that.
It was at this point that my Festival Friend had to leave, since he had a show that night, so I headed over in the general direction of The Black Keys (on the complete other side of the park), where I planned on getting some food as well. I never made it much closer to the stage on which The Black Keys were playing than a few hundred yards; I was being overly ambitious in my walking plans and decided to park it near the food stand. I grabbed a bite to eat and enjoyed the sweet sounds of the Black Keys (mental note: do NOT pass up a chance to see them in a small club setting) from a distance. I didn’t stick around for more than a handful of songs, as I was determined to get a good spot for the next band…
LCD Soundsystem. I was obsessed with their latest album, Sound of Silver, for pretty much all of May and June and I had heard only good things about their live performances. But before they took the stage, we had to wait for Satellite Party to finish on the big stage. How people like this band, I guess I’ll never know. They did play “Been Caught Stealing,” though.
Finally, the band, minus James Murphy, took the stage. The band quickly locked into the deep groove of “Us v. Them”. Soon, Mr. Murphy emerged from the back of the stage, making a pit stop on his way to the front and center to turn up bassist Phil Skarich’s bass amp. This would mark the first of many moments throughout the set in which Murphy – a known perfectionist – would micromanage his band, peering over the shoulders of his bandmates’, adjusting and tweaking their instruments and settings. This performance proved to be the true revelation of the weekend for me.
They next tore into “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House,” which everyone, of course, was waiting for since Daft Punk was actually playing after them, across the field, on the big stage; Murphy noted that this was “kind of funny, I guess”. The crowd went absolutely nuts during “All My Friends,” a performance that was a definite highlight of the weekend for me. Other standout performances included “North American Scum” and the awesomeness that is “Yeah” performed live.
Daft Punk finished out Day 1 of Lollapalooza 2007. It was incredible. What I would have given to be seeing them for the first time again… I will never be able to top seeing them at Coachella in 2006, though, when nobody in the crowd had any idea of what to expect (read my review of that performance here). Their stage show is now well-documented and near-legendary. Nonetheless, there is no denying the power and intensity and pure awesomeness of Daft Punk live. You could have only heard Daft Punk songs in your life via going out to bars, hanging out in dorm rooms, and watching TV commercials, and you still would have sworn you had a religious experience after seeing them live. They’re THAT good live.
All in all, it was a good first day – hot, dirty, and tired.
I swear my reviews of Day 2 and 3 will be shorter, though.