Alt360º’s Staff Blogger Series: J Goes to Lollapalooza
This past weekend was Lollapalooza (a.k.a. “the best weekend of every year”). Here is how I spent it:
Friday, July 31st:
Entered through the main entrance and b-lined it over to Palladia for Father John Misty. We only saw one song, sadly, but that one song was rad! I also could not knock his giant beard/full suit in 90 degree weather hustle.
Alabama Shakes was next. My wife, my best buddy Matt and I cleverly posted up just east of the soundstage to avoid the sweltering sun setting gloriously over the Chicago skyline in the west. This was my 11th Lollapalooza and my wife’s 10th (I win) so, needless to say, not our first rodeo. The Shakes, as I call them, were amazing. They had a 9 piece band (3 backup singers, 2 keys/auxiliary players) and the Lolla cameramen were sure to catch Mayor Rahm Emanuel hanging out in the wings. It was startling to say the least. Someone in the crowd had a huge cutout of Nicholas Cage’s head, which lead singer Brittany Howard referenced quite hilariously. The Shakes’ P.A. went out with about 15 minutess left in their set, although they had no idea at first. The crowd eventually signaled the band. They ended up playing two or three more tunes after a ten minute delay or so. One of the best shows of the weekend despite the hiccup.
Gary Clark Jr. and his band played well as always, but their sound was pretty quiet. He opened with a great rendition of “Bright Lights” during which his solo was outstanding. “Numb”, “Grinder” and “Next Door Neighbor Blues” were all favorites of mine. I enjoyed that his drummer was wearing a Cubs shirt as well. Gary looked incredibly cool as always and put out a great vibe to set up the evening. Sadly, with about 15 minutes left in his set, the crowd started to wander away from the stage south to get spots for Paul McCartney. Gary and Co. finished incredibly strong regardless of the crowd, marking this as my favorite performance of theirs. Still, I’d love to see them at a smaller club show sonic-wise.
The third in my “Holy Trinity” of shows this weekend (Shakes-Gary-Macca were the top 3 I wanted to see), Paul McCartney was great beyond expectations. Unlike Alabama Shakes and Gary Clark Jr., I had never seen Paul McCartney before this. Before he took the stage, techno remixes of Beatles songs played on the P.A. Since the show had yet to start, Matt and I had a great frisbee toss in front of the north end of the field. Macca kicked off his set with a great rendition of “Magical Mystery Tour.” We grabbed some food quickly and came back to hear “Blackbird”. Paul McCartney noticed, as the crowd already had, that Perry’s techno shit-show of a stage was so ridiculously loud that you could hear it between and even during softer songs. “Oh, I did that on purpose” he said pointing toward the Perry’s stage “This next one is a mash-up of my song and whatever SHIT they’re playing over there”. It was hilarious. “Lady Madonna” “Elanor Rigby” and “Something” (with Ukulele intro) were highlights. “Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da” was a personal favorite, prompting me to laugh and dance around like a muppet (listen to the song, after all). The fireworks during “Live and Let Die” were a nice surprise. Paul brought Brittany Howard onstage for an incredible duet of “Get Back”. In the end, Paul McCartney lived up to the hype of being Paul McCartney, which really says it all.
Saturday, August 1st:
With my 3 most anticipated shows out of the way, Saturday was my day to explore. My wife, Renee, and I caught Death From Above 1979 for the second time in two weeks as we walked in (they opened for Incubus in Tinley Park). They were solid, for a freaky Canadian two piece.
Walk the Moon was uninteresting so we left to check out Delta Spirit next. I enjoyed their set, although a cowboy-hatted Matt Vazquez had trouble getting the crowd engaged. He brought a guest singer on (whom I forget) to help him cover “Don’t Let me Down”. It seemed as though McCartney had provided some inspiration. Although they sounded pretty good, we split to catch a bit of Elle King.
Elle King had a Wanda Jackson-ish rasp and grit to her voice that Renee and I really liked. She dropped F-bombs left and right. She played guitar. She covered “Oh! Darling”, making that the second Beatles cover in about 20 minutes. Good show from Rob Schneider’s daughter (yeah, I know, weird).
Tame Impala was next on our list so we continued our long walk back south across the fest. We walked past 6 foot 10, former major league superstar Randy Johnson on the way over to the stage (he’s a concert photographer now) which made me think someone had put something in my Bud Light. (I realized later that the weird taste was just the terrible beer itself). I would have to say Tame Impala were the surprise favorite of the weekend. I had heard a bit of their music before and enjoyed what I heard, but seeing their live show cemented them as a new band to watch. Their chops and groove were outstanding. I spotted Ben Thatcher, the drummer of Royal Blood, walking through the field during the set. I, cowardly, sent my wife to say hello to him before following about 7 seconds later to meet one of my favorite drummers (always lead with the pretty girl). We watched the rest of Tame Impala in the glorious mid-day Chicago sun excited to have met a guy we saw destroy the Metro about a month earlier.
One of Gram Elliot’s lobster corndogs and an entertaining set from Brand New later, it was time for Metallica. I grew up listening to Metallica, although they’re about the only metal band I like and I don’t throw them on very often these days. Given this information, I was proud that my memory served me correctly as I rocked out and sang just about every lyric of their set. Kirk Hammet was absolutely perfect, delivering each classic solo with equal balance of new licks and bits from the albums. Robert Trujillo was great, crouching and spider-walking all over the stage. Lars was sloppy as fuck from a technical standpoint (I told my wife I should be playing several times) but his energy was great and didn’t slow the band down a bit. James’ vocals have gotten weaker, understandably, but he still puts on a hell of a performance. “Weaker” for him is still pretty ballsy, by the way.
Although I could have stayed at the Samsung stage all night, we opted to catch G-Eazy and Sam Smith on the way out to a not-completely-packed blue line train to avoid the same shit-storm we experienced Friday.
Sunday, August 2nd:
Sunday was an odd one. Due to my pal, Jeff Mcclusky at JMA, hooking it up with a backstage wristband, we started our day watching Circa Waves from ON THE STAGE! It was a nice milestone in a storied Lollapalooza career and the band was great. I was a bit frightened, though, since the scaffolding we were standing on was swaying in the wind quite aggressively and I have a fear of heights to boot. Nevertheless, it was a cool experience. Ben Thatcher from Royal Blood was standing a few feet away from us again but, as it was a Sunday morning, we felt it best to let him nurse his (assumed) hangover in peace.
Renee and I, now feeling like Very Important People (aka VIP), decide to take one of the golf carts we hear so much about. We were told that, with our fancy-shmancy wristbands, we could hitch a rid all the way to the north side of the park. After 10 minutes of searching, however, we decided that the golf carts were a myth and took off walking, feeling only moderately important.
Shakey Graves was our next stop and it was a good one. Renee and I cleverly hid in the shade of one of the P.A. columns and enjoyed the Americana-y goodness. I only knew one of Shakey’s songs but I had heard a lot of good reviews and, much like the majority of bands I saw over the weekend, he more than lived up to the hype.
“Alright folks, we gotta go, storms a-brewin’” Shakey commented just before the final song. I assumed this was folksy banter but I soon realized, as the band exited the stage, there was an actual storm coming. A man came over the P.A. instructing us to evacuate Lolla, saying that they would re-open soon. As this was not our first Lolla rain delay, we b-lined it for the Cultural Center.
We waited for about 15 minutes in the cool a/c before deciding that we should head home for the intermission. There was a slight drizzle when we boarded the blue line but nothing but blue skies 10 minutes later when we exited. “Lolla’s back open, BRO!” a few excited dudes commented as I neared my apartment. I explained that we were taking a break before heading back in a bit, which confused them. I’ve been in the mad dash to re-enter the festival before and it is not enjoyable.
After a relaxing chill session on the couch, it was time to get back to the fest. There was one more act that I needed to cross off my list for the weekend…Gogol Bordello. I had listened to these dudes a lot when I lived in Europe and, based on the youtube videos I had seen, this seemed like a band I didn’t want to miss. Sure enough, they were awesome!
Lead singer Eugene Hutz is an absolute madman. Its a wonder he didn’t break several guitars as he ran and lept about the stage during the bands set, spilling red wine everywhere and generally freaking out. If you haven’t heard Gogol before, they sound like eastern european gypsy jazz with banging dance beats. They sing in several languages, they curse, there is a crazy old fiddle player….the shit is crazy, to be honest. My best description is that the band sounds like a giant Borat impression, but in a really good way.
We watched Hutz stay onstage after their set to high-five people and soak up the applause for a bit (dude is a character) before heading toward TV on the Radio. With two bands left (TV and Florence+The Machine) that we had seen several times before, we decided to kneel-on-the-ball-apalooza and simply head home instead. Although to some of you youngsters out there this may seem like defeat, as 30 year olds, the weekend was a complete success.
Lolla 2015 was a great one. I finally got to go backstage, I met one of my favorite drummers, saw a sports legend and a rocked out to what felt like a bazillion good bands too.
Now the hard part: waiting for next year!
Written by Alt360º Blogger: Jason Polakowski