Lollapalooza 2009 is my first ever true music festival. Needless to say, I had been pretty excited about going this year's version of the annual festival held in Chicago every first week of August. The line-up this year (like year's past) did not disappoint. The biggest problems were choosing which bands to see when there were conflicts in set times, my bitch-ass sore feet, Peter's (Pistol Pete) diabetes (just because he has it), and Kyle's (K-MART) bizarre heat rash thing. Besides these things, it was a fantastic trip and I can't wait till my next festival experience. Bear with us as we are a little late on recapping the weekend's events.
Even though it was all of our's first festival, we were pretty prepared for the most part. On Friday, all afternoon it was on and off rain. It really just made things a soggy mess, but didn't really affect the actual festival experience. Peter and I were knowledgeable enough to bring some sort of rain jacket, while Kyle stood in front of sets wearing nothing but a tye-dye t-shirt that put him in well with the Of Montreal crowd and the infamous, yet slightly grotesque Maccaroni Grill hat. He didn't seem to be too affected by it though (at least not on Friday). The main set back I noticed was at the end of Friday when I realized that some shows were going to have to be cut out from our optimistic list due to the massive venue that is Grant Park and also conflicting times.
11:44 AM - We got into Grant Park around noon on Friday afternoon. We wanted to catch the 11:00 set of a portland band named Hockey that we had heard good things about, but unfortunately we underestimated the amount of time it would take to get to Grant Park from our estate of the previous night. We did hear a bit of their set while waiting in line and I liked what I heard. As we walked in, the beginning of the Manchester Orchestra set had just begun at the Budweiser (main stage) at the North end of Grant Park and the crowd was pretty small at the time. Manchester Orchestra is not really my favorable type of music (very hard alt rock, with bearded men strangling each other on stage....not really) but they had an excellent stage presence and the dedicated crowd that watched their set as the rain began to come down, really seemed to enjoy it. The next band we wanted to see was White Lies and their set didn't start till 2:00 PM so we used this time to familiarize ourselves with the rest of the venue. Grant Park is esentially 4 blocks long and absolutely all of it is utilized for Lollapalooza. As you might imagine, the festival is very hard on the park as by the end of the night, the place is trashed. Three days of this in a row and you can only imagine. It looked like a bomb of white trash (pun intended) had exploded there. As we walked around Grant Park and found all of the different stages, bars, and areas for merch and what not, I couldn't help but start to notice the vast array of different types of people at this festival. As you might imagine, there were your stereotypical hipters there for many of the bands that I wanted to see, but there was also a lot of white trash there for a few of the headliners like Tool and Jane's Addiction. Talk about one end of the spectrum and then the other. Just by looking at the line-up for this year's festival, you could probably stereotype nearly each fan type that was in attendance. If you like to 'people watch', Lollapalooza is one of the best places I've been for it.
2:15 PM - A few songs into White Lies' set, I am liking most of what I hear from them. The lead singer has a very distinct voice that carried quite nicely from the Budweiser Stage. We left a bit early to catch a good spot for Bon Iver, but we did get to hear the tune that I had been waiting to from them, "Unfinished Business" and it sounded great live. The line and rift "You've got blood on your hands and I know it's mine" sounded absolutely chilling in the rainy overcast afternoon.
3:00 PM - We stay over near the North end at the PlayStation Stage to catch a Bon Iver's set. We got a pretty good spot near the center of the stage and were lucky as the area filled up very quickly for Justin's delicate falsetto tunes. This was pretty ideal weather for Bon Iver to accel at, considering his type of music. Though his set was really good, a festival just isn't an ideal setting to hear his music. I look forward to seeing his show at the Slowdown in Omaha, NE for a more intimate/appropriate setting. Don't take this the wrong way though, Justin Vernon owned his set and definitely pleased the crowd. A couple of the standouts for me were an uptempo rocked out version of "Blood Bank", a crowd sing-a-long to "Skinny Love", and a beatiful rendition of "Flume" just as the rain really started to come down hard. There was also a very intricate acoustic solo in the middle of "Re: Stacks" that was most impressive. A great start to the festival.
4:15 PM - We got over to Ben Folds' set back at the Budweiser a bit late as we stopped at the beatiful porter potty area of Grant Park. Due to our stop and Peter's reliability to always choose the slowest route to a shitter/anything, we got to Ben Folds set a bit late. If you have ever been to a Ben Folds show then you already know he kicks a sincere amount of ass live. If you haven't, do it. Completely worth it. We met up with some of my friends from back home in South Dakota (one of whom goes to design school in Chicago) and had a blast dancing and singing along to every song on Ben's setlist. Didn't have a great spot for this show as it filled up quickly, as you might imagine for Mr. Folds, but it was my third time seeing him live and all I really wanted to do at that point was sing along "in my white boy pain and shake my booty" with my friends. As always with Ben Folds, great set.
5:05 PM - We stayed for most of Ben Folds set, but cut out early for a Fleet Foxes spot back over at the PlayStation stage. I have no idea how we got the spot we did for this show, but it was a great spot. I have seen Fleet Foxes before in late March of 2008 with my girlfriend. It was a rainy day and I believe there were about 25 people there for the $12 show until Blitzen Trapper came on afterward. Robin Pecknold commented about feeling under the weather earlier in the morning, but as soon as the show started, you couldn't have guessed it. This was a fantastic set, one of my favorites from the weekend. The harmonies sounded beautiful and were as tight as ever as the quintet strummed and howled through most of their self-titled debut as well as the Sun Giant EP. They had great stage presence as they interacted with the crowd in between songs. The drummer commented on how he looked up at the video screen and realized that big furry animal was in fact his own beard and he even let a few fans know that there is actually a waiting list to live in his beard. Everything about this show was great. They opened strong with "Sun It Rises" and closed even stronger with one of my personal favs, "Blue Ridge Mountains". I looked back about halfway through the set and noticed the large crowd that they had attracted. A warm moment on a cold, wet day.
6:05 PM - After a fantastic set from Fleet Foxes we had to hurry and return back to the Budweiser stage for The Decemberists. Colin Meloy and company had revealed earlier in the week that even though they were going to be playing at Lollapalooza, they were still going to play through their rock opera that is The Hazards of Love. I have listened through this album only a couple of times, so I wasn't real familiar with it. The first thing I noticed about the set was the costumes that they all came out in. The men came out clad in tuxes and Becky Stark came out clad in a wedding dress while Shara Worden came out wearing black leotard-like thing. My favorite part about this show was easily the female vocalists, especially Shara Worden. She really stole the show. Her voice was very powerful, especially for the role she was playing as the antagonist for the rock opera. I appreciated the skill and talent of The Decemberists, but I'm afraid I was with the majority of the audience there and wasn't familiar enough with The Hazards of Love to fully appreciate their set. I would have preferred a normal set list consisting of songs off various records. Nevertheless, it was a good performance but once again we were forced to leave a bit early to catch our next show.
6:55 PM - Having to run nearly all the way across Grant Park for this show, it had better be worth it, and it was. Our next show was Of Montreal at the Vitamin Water stage at the South end of Grant Park. Words cannot describe the spectacle that was Of Montreal's set at Lollapalooza. I had heard about Of Montreal's crazy antics at shows and have even seen pictures of Kevin Barnes riding a horse on stage, but you really just have to see it live to fully appreciate it. Before the show started, I could see the members of Of Montreal all dressed up in their ridiculous costumes. I couldn't even begin to fathom what was to come next. Kevin Barnes and company took the stage and all the crazy shenanigans began. Barnes came out wearing a cape and what I believed to be pantyhose and riding the shoulders of two huge clowns. The costumes for the rest of the group were just as crazy as one of the guitarists had some sort of headdress that connected to his shoulders and the dance troupe had costumes consisting of feathery shoulder pads, Snow White sparkles, at least four different Greedo gas masks. At one point, someone in a snake mask and titanic papier-mâché arms hypes the crowd from behind the drums. At another, a black-bodysuited interpretive dancer does some sort of magic trick and ends up on the shoulders of a guy in a tiger mask. There was some sort of storyline panning out during all of this, but needless to say I couldn't really make it out. It had something to do with the Greedo gas-masked fellas trying to kid-nap the pig-masked people and eventually things didn't work out, they crucified them. Yeah man, it was crazy weird, but so cool. While all these antics were happening, there was actually an amazing set being performed by Of Montreal. The music really didn't going till the third song when they broke into "Id Engager" and things really got bumping. The crowd was fantastic and really into it as people were dancing and jamming the entire time. There was also a very cool moment when Janelle Monae took the stage to duet with Barnes on David Bowie's "Moonage Daydream". The set ended with Barnes destroying his guitar and giving it to a person in the audience while members of the dance group crowd surfed on an inflatable dolphin and raft. The whole Of Montreal experience really proved to be one of my favorite highlights from the whole weekend. Check out a behind the scenes video of their performance here at Rolling Stone.
8:15 PM - We race back over across Grant Park past Buckingham Fountain back to the Budweiser stage to watch Kings of Leon cap off the night. Little did we know that it wouldn't be the final show we saw that night, to say the least. When we got over toward the north end of the park, the place was absolutely packed. I had no idea that there would be nearly as many people there turned out to be. And people there were hammered, I mean sloppy drunk. They were either drunk, getting drunk, stoned, getting stoned, or getting drunk and stoned. The place was mess by means of both the mud from the weather that day and the people that showed up to watch Kings of Leon. About 15 minutes into KoL's set, there were three guys in front of us lighting up. The piece and green belonged to a creepy old hippie that was a total drug addict (or at least came off that way). Anyway he was smoking these other two guys out and whatever he had that pipe was some dank shit. About 10 minutes after they lit up the old bastard starts tilting a bit. We just laughed it off at first figuring the guy was just really messed up, but we had no idea. Soon he started running into people and eventually hit the ground. We tried to help him up but he was complete dead weight and we eventually were able to drag him a bit, but there was no way we were going get him anywhere quick enough. Pistol Pete ran over to get security while K-MART was checking vitals. The old shit started convulsing and that's when I thought to myself, 'wow I may see this guy die right here.' Right when security got over to where we were with the guy, he seemed to snap out of it and started breathing again. We got him up on his feet and as soon as he saw security he reached into his pocket, threw out his pipe and all his goods and was hauled away by security. This spooked my shit out. I couldn't believe what just happened. Crazy. As for the KoL set, there really isn't much to say about it, good or bad. They really shouldn't have been headlining. They sounded fine, but there was absolutely no stage presence and the set list was very questionable. It turned out to be one of my least favorite shows of the weekend. Needless to say we got kind of bored, especially with our spots so we headed out early to check out Kid Cudi at the DJ stage.
9:15 PM - We get over to Perry's where all the DJ's played their sets throughout the weekend and caught the last 10 minutes of the Crookers set. Right when Kid Cudi came on, I knew he was going to be a lot of fun. The place was bumpin and somehow we managed to worm our way up pretty close. The set pretty much consisted of Cudi's mixtape jams and freestyle raps to familiar beats (like "Flashing Lights" of Kanye West's) most of which I was pretty unfamiliar with, but definitely good stuff. Then "Day N' Nite" came on and the whole place went nuts. My comrades found a couple of 15 year olds to get their grind on with while I stood behind them with a (as HRO's Carles would put it) stereotypical altbro. The Cudi set was a lot of fun and it was definitely a good call to cut out of the KoL set early to check it out.
10:15 PM - The night's affairs for Lollapalooza are over and we walk out of Grant Park with the rest of the night's 75K+ for quite a spectacle. I have never before seen 75K people flood the streets and basically take downtown of Chicago over for the next 45 minutes. It was an awesome thing to see. We were all pretty beat after conquering the first day as we were still kind of soggy and shoes muddy, but we had a blast and saw some great shows and still had two days of great music left! Look for Pistol Pete's coverage of day 2 within the next couple of days! Enjoy the MP3s. Peace.
Lollapalooza 2009 Friday Mix:
Too Fake - Hockey
Unfinished Business - White Lies
Blood Bank - Bon Iver
Mykonos - Fleet Foxes
You Don't Know Me - Ben Folds
Rake's Song - The Decemberists
Gronlandic Edit - of Montreal
My Third House - Kings of Leon
Day 'N' Nite (Crookers Remix) - Kid Cudi