Friday marked day one the 2012 edition of Lollapalooza, known to about 250,000 people as a sweaty, musical good time, and to the rest of Chicago as “damn it, I knew there was a reason I had to avoid the Loop this weekend.” This being my seventh time attending–yes, I’ve attended Lolla once for every three years I’ve been alive–I consider myself a decorated veteran. I imagine myself as a wrinkly old sultan on a throne who has her people come kiss her ring and humbly plead for her advice on the best way to sneak in food past security or how to get a good spot at a show. I take a heavy breath, close my eyes and say, “Meal bars, my child. They have lots of protein and are rather easy to hide in a backpack. Now, away with you.”
The first day was fortunately not too hot, but all the skinny and fit people still managed to show off their abs to the world, and I have probably a million people’s sweat on me right now. But once one gets over the heat and sun, there is only fun. Below are a few little notes on some of the bands I caught on Lollapalooza, parte uno.
I am not what one might call a Die Antwoord “fan”. Usually not even their cool rapping in Afrikaans can lure me in, but I was dragged over to the Playstation Stage by some peeps in the mood to dance. I must say I was rather impressed; the stage was filled with a delightfully self-centered energy that was sort of offensive in a delightful way. Seeing those three Zef weirdos (Ninja, Yo-Landi Vi$$er, featuring DJ Hi-Tek, I believe it was) rap-rave around the stage in tacky outfits and flipping the audience off gives their take on Zef music more context. It was like South African-American outdoor party rock. Perhaps they are not so-called “listening music” for snobbish lovers of subtlety like me, but there is is nothing wrong with jumping around to loud, repetitive, sorta-dance, sorta-hip hop music. Maybe ’ll give “Wat Kyk Jy” another chance.
After a much-needed, delicious blackberry-lime sorbet, my posse and I headed south across Lollaville to watch the Shins, an old favorite of mine. Yeah ok I’ll admit it, I only started really appreciating them after Garden State. So sue me. Lead singer James Mercer’s vocals were exactly as they sound on the record, the guitar tones were perfectly crunchy, and the band was all-around lovely, even from afar (I was closer to the adjacent stage). Not to mention they had a surprisingly great spread of songs. Some goodies were “Saint Simon”, an oldie “So Says I,” and surely “Phantom Limb.” And I’m going to assume they played “Sleeping Lessons” before I got there, or else I would be angry because that song is superb.
I’m sad to say my happy Lolladay (like “holiday” but “Lolla”, get it?) came to a lull when we went uptown to see Black Sabbath, whom I was rather excited for. I didn’t exactly grow up on the band, but I’ve been known to rock out to Paranoid. The band’s bass was deep and the guitars sounded clear and energetic, but it just wasn’t loud enough for me. I wanted face-melting and they gave me eye liner-running. Ozzy Osbourne’s voice was rather raspy and shaky, and there were moments that it just gave out entirely. The clearest moments of his singing were on low notes and yells. I stayed until “War Pigs” because, well, it’s “War Pigs”, and then we scooted on down for some dancing.
I had seen Bassnectar several times before at Wicker Park Fest and such in more of a EDM context, but he’s really come to embrace dubstep as his road to glory. Before, Perry’s Stage (named, of course for Perry Farrell of Jane’s Addiction/founder of Lollapalooza) was one of those stages you go to dance or chill out before seeing the “real” bands. However, as of late, DJ’s are getting more respect. Perry’s Stage (a.k.a. the DJ Stage) got a super upgrade and now has not only a crazily lit stage, but two additional screens. Anywhere you are feels like the front row, which is an important illusion to create for a DJ who might be doing cool stuff musically, but visually is just turning knobs. And who isn’t all about an awesome light show? Bassnectar did have more presence than that though, occasionally appearing on screen, giving thanks, or saying something semi-political like about how magazines lie about what real beauty is (supported by images from that one Dove commercial). Downside: 90% of people just cannot dance to dubstep. It’s not really a dancing music to begin with, but they don’t get that the bass is the melody and you have to find the pace and rhythm, like with most music. Duh. The upside to the is that (drunk) people (drunkenly) dancing to dubstep is hilarious. Truly. Another upside: the fireworks from Soldier Field went off during the Lollapalooza’s closing sets and Chicago was all lit up and pretty.
Couldn’t snag a ticket in time? Don’t want to be anywhere near downtown even if just to hear the sound of muffled music from afar? Stream Lolla live here.