Tuesday, August 07, 2007

It's Not Easy Being Cool!

A Lolla continuation from yesterday:

Oncemore, the schedule this year produced a lot of filler and nothing really juicy to listen to in the mornings. Bosco really wanted to see Pete Yorn and a folksie singer-songwriter sounded perfect to me, having had my fill of obnoxious frat boys the night before. His set was catchy and melodic, much like his more famous New Jersey brethren, but slow, as if Valium fairy dust had been brushed on the band before taking the stage.

Yet another large gap in interesting music led us to leave the festival and head to the Loop for some lunch; while the festival did have food and it wasn't too overpriced, it's hard to resist a cozy booth and a made to order sub and gooey chocolaty cookie at Potbelly!

We made it back in time to catch The Roots, who sounded pretty good when MC Black Thought wasn't blathering on about the state of rap today; true I am not a huge rap/hip-hop fan and the stage and viewscreen were out of eyeline as we were sitting on a blanket at the back due to the large crowd--perhaps had I been able to see it wouldn't have seemed so long-winded.

Viewing luck changed with the next set (Regina Spektor) which was amazingly located a mere 180° turn from where we were sitting! The sound for this performance was unfortunately quite spotty; though trying to mic a piano and woman's breathy mezzo-soprano voice in a huge festival arena must be a sound engineer's worst nightmare!! From what I could hear, she was very quirky, but in a fun and lighthearted way (let the Tori Amos comparisons stop at red hair and female piano player). Her songs are more like fantastical bedtime stories set to music with loads of clever vocal noises and sounds thrown in for effect. She also performed a cover of "Real Love" (a demo originally recorded by John Lennon) which was simply sweet and beautiful; if you dare to touch work by such a beloved and illustrious artist, this is how to do it!

[HUH? SIDENOTE: There was a very confused and sad fellow holding up a sign for most of the concert informing us that he had run out of weed and wanted to buy more...I was tempted to go inform him that just perhaps a low-key, mostly female attended gig was not his best option when both a reggae band and 60s troubadour with a known penchant for illegal substances were both playing at the same time....but, taking a page from Darwin, I decided to let him evolve to that on his own time.]

On the way to dinner, a stop at the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs was necessitated by a blurb in the program describing lead singer Karen O's habit of "humping" and "spitting" at everything in sight. Sadly, it was only an attempted spectacle and despite effort, I just don't quite understand the group's popularity or the critical raves appearing in the local papers and online. I saw Siouxsie and the Banshees several years ago at the House of Blues and that was a spectacle both in theatrics and vocal dexterity. The Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs felt like a lukewarm copy of them with a ladle of X-ray Spex/Poly Styrene thrown in for good measure. [Insert your best "Back in my day..." anecdote here]

After a hectic dinner (Mag Mile Tourists + Suburban Lolla Kidz= Mass Confusion Everywhere!), it was back to the grounds to hear a dollop of Spoon, which while rockin' to listen to online, quickly disintegrated into the most hated of Lolla animals: The 4-Headed Jam Band. As Patti Smith was also up, a quick dash was made over to her venue to catch the venerable anti-establishment poet laureate. We arrived in the middle of her cover of Hendrix's "Are Your Experienced" which takes on a whole other context when sung by a 60-year old known for doing "everyone and everything worthwhile". The set was very lively and her energy unflagging; there was a wide range of old favorites, some charged political refrains and another quite interesting cover of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit"---probably one of the first times all the lyrics were properly enunciated. It was a little sad that we were so close for this performance (not more than 40ft), I suppose everyone else was heading for the closing shows of the evening (Muse, Interpol) or out for the night due to the drizzle. It perhaps does reflect the "hipster" mentality of many attendees, just looking for the band of the moment versus a quality performance...although how you can pass on such a historical figure and Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame inductee is beyond me!

It is still a wonder that we attended the last day at all, the morning having brought torrential downpours. With live webcasts offered for many of the performers, the pull to go stand in the mud and rain was easy to resist. Nonetheless, as Chicago weather seems so apt to do, by 1pm it was sun and blue sky for as far as one could see. Amy Winehouse was first on our bill and running late (as we were), but did tardily take the stage in the end; a rare treat this summer, as conversations around me recollected her lack of will to perform more than two songs, if at all, for most of her previous shows this summer. The humidity had started to build and the afternoon sun was a blast of heat between brief clouds, so I was torn whether or not I cared if she did end up bailing. In the end, she sweatily did the twist beneath a huge black beehive for a solid full set. It's confusing how all the reviews could call it a "rote, lackluster attempt", it wasn't groundbreaking, but sometimes a performance doesn't need a bunch of bells and whistles (or a DJ Pyramid-take note Daft Punk!) and excess crowd banter; if it had been in a small venue with her as headliner then yes, it would have a little disappointing. For a multi-band event, it was a jazzy and satisfying turn and maybe even a big 'piss-off' to critics who thought she was just a tabloid news diva.

Now for the "illegal" activity I so wrongly built up the other day; as it was hot, we slunk off to a shady spot under a tree in the park and gorged on Trail Mix and water. The water was factory sealed when we entered, which was perfectly legal, but there was no outside food allowed...hence, the contraband healthy treat. It is a signaling of my place in life that lawless activities now feature fruits and nuts smuggled in the waistband of my shorts....so much for being a rebel!

Did I mention the heat yet? The impenetrable, all-encompassing veil of soul-drenching air soup that seems to hit Chicago in August? It had indeed become an insufferable day and Bosco was kind enough to procure me an ice cream from the Grant Park Bobtail Cafe; the festival vendors did have ice cream, but it was all vegan...some things should just not exist, and dairy-free chocolate ice cream tops that list!

After a few rounds of "The Water Game" in which the goal was to turn your opponent into a drippingly cool pile, a tromp back north to catch the end of Iggy and the Stooges was in order. This was somehow one of the critics most lauded reviews of the weekend (???), but we showed up as anarchy was unfurling in the form of a crowd being thrown off the stage after being invited up to dance with Iggy (how does this sound like a good idea????). It was loud and dissonant and exactly what the band supposed to be...unfortunately that was lost in fervent cajoling to get everyone back off the stage, Iggy then started to rambling about something--I couldn't tell what exactly as it was lost in the cacophony of the band who was still steadfastly playing on.

Yo La Tengo + major soundsystem issues + extended instrumental jam = early dinner break

I know I'm a snot for not seeing the above through, but sweltering en-masse with some very fragrant folks made my patience for waiting for them to find their groove wilt against the draw of air-conditioning, even if it was Day 2 at Bennigan's!

The finale of the weekend was to be Pearl Jam. I really could have cared less about this one, but Bosco is a huge fan and also a former Seattle occupant, so I sucked it up as I am sure there are shows I wanted to see that he patiently sat through with no complaint. Wisely, we scooped out a spot near what we thought the "back" of the crowd would be and with a view of the big screen for our blanket. Things would have been lovely, had a rotund fellow not decided to stand at the front of the "blanket section" right in front of the screen. It didn't really matter as once the show started everyone on the blankets stood up----I could try and figure out the logic here, but that could take awhile. Good karma struck as we headed even farther back from the swarm, as the promoters, probably fearing a crowd-crush, had put the show feed up on one of the other unoccupied stage screens. Blanket spread oncemore, we settled in to enjoy the show...until a long line of idiots paraded in front of us to tape, stand, make-out and even attempt a backflip in front of the screen. Much moving of our blanket and increasingly louder cursings ensued. Then, Mr. Veddar decided to get political and start launching into a chant about BP/Amoco's dumping of waste into Lake Michigan...which turned off many people who then left. My favorite comment was by a large, drunken, bare-chested lad wearing a bra on his head and dragging his completely blitzed girlfriend behind him: "We paid to hear you sing, I don't wanna hear no politics, it's not an election or nothing."

I think both Eddie and Bra-Man both make excellent points. It would be hard to be a celebrity that has passionate beliefs and state them in any way that doesn't come off as preachy. Also difficult is laying down hard-earned cash to be entertained and being told how bad and depressing the outside world is because you're not helping enough.

At 9:30, all evangelizing aside, it became obvious the best of the show was over and time to start heading home with all the other weary souls as it was a school night. Hearing about the even bigger soapboxes that were trotted out after we left, it became a very sensible decision indeed.

Looking back, in the end it was well worth what we paid (just under $4per band) and a very agreeable weekend diversion! I doubt I'd feel the need to go again unless the ticket prices were dropped or discount passes came my way again as for what most people coughed up, it was a fairly boilerplate sort of event with only a few anomalies to keep it from being ho-hum.


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