Memories of some Chicago heat in Grant Park one weekend

Lollapalooza Weekend o’ Doom

Personally, it was an amazing weekend. I hung out with three good friends (plus one new guy – also awesome) and we saw a ton of bands. There were some excellent performances and we managed to get up close for the bands we really wanted to see. Of course, the burritos were plentiful as well.

To lead off the festivities, on Thursday night, we went out for a drink and that oh so important burrito. On Friday, we had a lunch of some quality, and I mean quality, Ethiopian food that took almost two hours. I thought I was full after that but I managed to make room a few hours later for some all-you-can-eat fish’n’chips at the Duke of Perth. That’s another favorite haunt. We got a motley assortment there, with everyone from my parents to the always dangerous Carlo. It worked out alright and we tried a number of Scotches during the course of the evening. I could really get used to drinking 18 year old malts. The only sad occasion was the lack of the Belhaven Wee Heavy, my standby beer. I hope that it is just a temporary glitch and not a discontinuation. After that we went to Small Bar and had a few more drinks and met some other folks and talked and then, to one of the newest of the A-list late night burrito joints, El Famous Burrito. There, I was introduced to a wonderful new burrito option – milanesa. It is breaded steak and if you can’t fry your burrito, well then, hey, fried steak in the burrito is a pretty close second. It was quite tasty and I agreed that it was an acceptable late night addition.

Onto Saturday, we prepared to attend the event known to mere mortals as Lollapalooza. We had an excellent, but far slower than we anticipated, breakfast at Sweet Thing. We got to Grant Park and headed in for the festivities just before noon. I’ll provide my reviews chronologically and then fill in any narrative details I miss.

The Redwalls: The first band of the day. Recommended by Matt based off of a three song NPR spot. They are good musicians and are a cross of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. They featured a little distortion, some vocal harmonies, and oversized aviator glasses. They seemed fine and I wouldn’t mind seeing them at Café du Nord but they don’t inspire huge feelings of awe. Of course, I did only stay for two and a half songs so this is not a definitive statement.

Hard-Fi: Let us all sing the praises of the internet and music blogs. I was turned on to this band only a few days ago by the newly returned Teaching Indie Kids to Dance Again. I downloaded the mp3 and it seemed ok but based on the description of the overall sound I knew I wanted to see the show. I pestered the rest of the group into seeing this set. Hard-Fi came through in spades. They put on an excellent show, managing to inspire sporadic dancing from the crowd, and definitely came to play. They covered The White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army and it was a winner. He sang the vocals pretty dead on and they completely rearranged the rhythms. I don’t really know how to describe it but I can say it was an unquestionable success. Our whole group came away from that set with the feeling that Lollapalooza was now underway.

And You Will Know Us by the Trail of the Dead: A disappointment. I don’t think they really liked the crowd (it seemed a little frat boy-ish), or maybe I just still really want to like them, but they did perform up to expectations. The band didn’t really seem to be pleased and so, despite smashing a guitar and destroying a drum set, they didn’t prove to be that great. I would give them one more chance but this definitely was not a great set. However, they do get consolation points because they provided those mandatory acts of destruction for a quality rock festival.

Kaiser Chiefs: The lead singer was hoarse and yet they were at Lollapalooza. He sang what he could, he jumped as much as he could, and provided the other necessary event of any multi-day rock fest by climbing up the supports on the side of the stage to sing. They were a lot of fun. I don’t feel like, at present, they’re out to revolutionize music but they do provide a fun atmosphere and quality 80’s-style brit-pop.

Brian Jonestown Massacre: This would have been a let down if I thought I liked them to start with. Unfortunately, the choice was between this and Dashboard Confessional so I really didn’t know what to do. Mostly, we ended up getting food. Extra disappointing since Perry Ferrell introduced them. We listened to the first third of the set and the songs were alright but he kept losing it and swearing at Dashboard because they were on the main stage and were louder. Overall: meh.

Cake: It’s just not the same anymore. I have a sneaking suspicion they changed their trumpet/keyboard player (again?) and I thought he flubbed at least three different entrances. The trumpet lines are not very challenging but he just wasn’t getting good sound out of the trumpet. Regardless, they did play Rock’n’roll Lifestyle, The Distance, Short Skirt Long Jacket, Mexico, and The Carpenter (?). Plus, how can you really hate a band that complains because there are no ¾ time songs on the radio. Not as good of a set as when I saw them a few years ago.

Blonde Redhead: Well, the girl wears a slinky, leopard-print dress and has an excellent voice. Their music may be alright late at night in a club where there is a little more trance and dance but we were outside in the summertime and I was falling asleep. Others, however, kept telling me they put on a good set so I have to accept the fact that it just might not be my kind of music. I do love that X-O song though.

Primus: We didn’t really hear much of this set as we went to get in the infield for The Pixies. They were one of only two bands to decorate the set (two giant inflatable bathtub duckies) and the man can still play the bass guitar. I wish I had given them more of a listen but we all have to make sacrifices, heh.

The Pixies: They are The Pixies. They bring the music. The crowd goes crazy for them and they generally play a good set. At this point, my biggest complaint would be that they seem to play within the same set of songs every time. There were a few songs I hadn’t heard live (Subbacultha) but it was all the hits: Debaser, Where is My Mind, Here Comes Your Man, etc. They do it so well, however, that it is hard to be upset with them. I was jumping like mad and yelling along with everybody else.

Digable Planets: I don’t like hip-hop as much as I should. These guys (and gal) were great. I could tell that during the show. Quality rap, solid organ music, DJ Jedi did some good turntable work and yet I couldn’t quite get into it because the music is just a little too foreign to me. I am glad I went to see them because they reinforced the fact that there is some quality hip-hop out there and I need to be listening to more of it. The lyrics were good and political and intelligent without being trite which is always a hard line to walk. Definitely a good set.

Weezer: We caught the last four songs and they were good. It was hard to pass them up to see Digable Planets but what can you do? I enjoyed the songs but we were too far back to really get into it. Still, it was good to hear some of their songs and they closed the show down with Surf Wax America.

Ambulance, Ltd. (Schuba’s): This was the Lollapalooza after-party at Schuba’s. Ambulance played a good set including a few new songs. This was one of those sets where I felt like they did a good job but it just wasn’t my favorite music.

The Walkmen (Schuba’s): Wow, what a way to end the day. We were seven or eight rows back for most of the show and Schuba’s is so small they’re right there with you. They were intense. They played for over an hour and then there were two two-song encores. They covered The Monkees’ “I’m Not a Stepping Stone.” It was a blast. We moved up to the front for the encore and jumped around like crazy. I doubt I’ll ever get to see them up close and personal like that again and I am so glad I did. I got a poster off the wall and got to shake the bands hand outside afterwards. If only I’d brought a Sharpie!

So, what narrative moments did I miss? Well, we took cell phones to try and keep in touch when we separated (didn’t do that much) and they were pretty worthless. You could never hear anything over the glorious music. Seriously, they had the timing down to where there was rarely more than two or three minutes between bands. We managed to find each other, although we learned Matt would never make it as a FBI agent because he would stare right at one of us and not recognize him. I almost tackled him three times. The food was no more expensive than usual festival prices ($5 for most sandwiches and beer). There weren’t many sideshows or alternative causes featured. However, I will give Perry and the Lollapalooza crew the benefit of the doubt and say that when you only have one festival and get the tremendous lineup that he did, you have a little less reason to do that; not that I can really remember a Lollapalooza (’91-’94) that wasn’t full of good music and as a result I never really would have spent any time at those sideshows when they were available.

After Schuba’s we walked over to Picante for a burrito and we got in just as they closed. I was finally hungry after all the food from Friday. We ate and rehashed the day and then hopped a cab back to Pedro’s. Matt headed off to his girlfriend’s place and the rest of us showered and then passed out on whatever objects would support our weight. Mine was the loveseat/footstool combination at an angle which normally makes it impossible to sleep but I passed out in seconds.


Well, how else can you start the day off than with a ridiculously enormous burrito. Seriously, I ate the thing and couldn’t eat again for 10 hours. La Pasadita’s honor was restored.

We got off to a slower start and the temperature broke 100 so we were a little more cautious on Sunday. But it was still excellent. Onto to the music…

The Ponys: We arrived a few minutes into their set. They were completely rocking out on the stage and made us feel guilty for missing any of their set. Very much straight ahead rock but done well and they managed to get their sound to fill up the area. Score one for the Chicago kids (I think that’s where they’re from).

Kasabian: I had heard some talk about an Oasis attitude and was tired of their single. But Pedro was excited. So I went. They rocked. Very British, not quite as 80’s sounding live. It was really hot though so we wandered off to get some water and position ourselves for Dinosaur Jr.

Dinosaur, Jr.: I can never badmouth the Rolling Stones again. J. Mascis looks so old but he plays so good. So good. Actually, both Dinosaur, Jr. and The Pixies caused me to want to jump around like mad but then watching the band calmly standing there playing their songs I wasn’t sure how appropriate it was. This was my favorite set of Lollapalooza. It was an hour of pure rock’n’roll and it was amazing. They’re loud and fast but very little feedback. Tight, three piece power punk. The forerunners of grunge music.

Satellite Party: This is Perry Farrell’s new gig. It is a supergroup of sorts with some other quasi-famous members but it is pretty clearly Perry’s deal. And their album is supposed to tell the story of how Perry gets beamed up by some aliens and they have a super party in space. And he made a joke about space having no laws – but the laws of physics! It was not funny. And then, it hit me, Perry Farrell is the next Wayne Newton. You heard it here first. Sorry, the music didn’t leave much of an impression. A little bit of a groove, Perry did some crooning, and the scantily clad dancers did some dancing.

Ben Kweller: An average set. He sounded exactly like he did on the album. It was fine but not terribly inspiring. There have to be some bands that don’t do it for you.

The Arcade Fire: I’ve managed to miss these guys three times since the day after Thanksgiving last year. This show was like salt in the wound. They were awesome. Seriously amazingly cool. A couple of them would run around like maniacs during the set. They played drumsticks on motorcycle helmets and each other’s head. They have a French Horn. They’re songs are catchy but interesting. They have some of the best choruses around of any group out their. I can’t say enough good things about them. The songs aren’t too heavy but they are very enthusiastic.

Spoon: Kind of a disappointment. Of course, they followed The Arcade Fire so they had a tough act to follow. Plus, we were kind of beat. Listened to it, liked it, but didn’t get to appreciate it the way I should have. They suffered a little bit from being on the 2nd stage because I could always sort-of hear Widespread Panic in the background. Nevertheless, nice Austin indie music provided a chance to sit down and take a breather.

The Dandy Warhols: They started out well, playing some later 90’s rock stuff and then got sidetracked by teaming up with some people from Brian Jonestown massacre. I just was not into it. I would have gone to see The Killers but that was a mob scene and nobody else wanted to go. We ended up moving over to be in position for Death Cab.

Death Cab for Cutie: They played a solid set including three songs off their forthcoming album, which was neat. They still sound like DCfC. We weren’t that close to the stage but I had an excellent view because I was looking over a sea of teenage girls. I realized there weren’t many tall people up front which I found amusing. Again, they played well, they sounded pretty standard, and it was nice. It was a long weekend and this was the end and I’m sure that played a part in my take on this as well.

One final burrito wrapped up the weekend. Good shows, good times. Feel free to add your comments. I know I didn’t end up providing a ton of musical detail on any band so I’ll provide any additional particulars. Plus, you can weigh in on the Dinosaur Jr. vs. The Pixies debate.

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2 thoughts on “Memories of some Chicago heat in Grant Park one weekend”

  1. I showed Dig! at my movie theater. That Antone Newcomb is one crazy bastard. His music soudns cool when it works, but he apparently can’t handle a live performance.

  2. Did not even know about that film. Now I feel compelled (extra-compelled since they’re from SF) to try some more stuff and like them. Luckily, I can download all of their albums from the website. Now if I can find the movie I’ll be all set.

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