“It’s a three-day.”
That was the text my friend Chet sent me on Sunday of this year’s edition of everyone’s favorite Chicago-based music festival.
Chet was encouraging me to quit bellyaching about my hangover and pop a 16 oz. Budweiser, but he could have been talking about the music at Lollapalooza, too.
As we festival-goers get older, we begin to lose sight of the reason the festivals exist in the first place: the music. At some point, Lollapalooza becomes a baseball game at Yankee Stadium; you go to see the place itself and get caught up in the everything else that comes with it, forgetting that some dudes wearing pinstripes are, you know, playing baseball.
For me all this Everything Else usually means lots of coordinating—trying to get Person A to Stage B to see Band C so that we can all stand around and shout at one another, missing most of the set in the process. I did a lot of just that on Days One and Two—so much so that by Sunday, I was starting to wonder why I’d even paid to come to Lollapalooza. Why not just fly to Chicago, see my friends at night, and miss out on the minus-230 dollars and the plus 90-degree heat?
Then Day Three hit, and it was all OK.
Two days of music isn’t enough – there are too many misses, too many bands who look good on paper but sound bad in the sun. But three days: three days is sufficient to sate my Lolla hunger – for bands I’ve known about forever but never got to see, for bands I wasn’t expecting to see but did anyway because it’s too far to the PlayStation stage right now and my feet feel like they’ve spent 48 hours in close contact with a belt sander.
For new music, in whichever way “new” can mean.
Here are five of my favorites. Music that was new because I’d never heard it, new because I’d never seen it, or new because it was unlike anything I’d experienced before.
1. Friday – 3:00 p.m. – Die Antwoord
There were two prevailing opinions hanging in the Lollapalooza air after Die Antwoord’s show:
A) That’s the best thing I’ve ever seen.
B) That’s the worst thing I’ve ever seen.
Most of those who believed A) might have said that Die Antwoord is a South African rap duo that is (probably) a commentary on the profane, obscene, and trivial nature of pop culture. Those who believed B) would already have moved on to the next act, sure that Die Antwoord is made up of two terrible humans being who, at the very least, represent the index case for the psychological virus that will kill off our species.
I veered to A), which was something of a turnaround for me. You see, I own Die Antwoord’s debut, $0$. My first two listens were disappointing; I couldn’t figure out why people were talking about the group. But then came Friday afternoon, when I saw them live and figured out that in the flesh is the only way Die Antwoord can be consumed. Without the – oh shit I’m going to say it – context of the live performance, the B)s are right.
2. Friday – 11 p.m. (Schuba’s) – The War On Drugs
One thing I’ve learned about Lollapalooza: the show doesn’t stop at the city’s 10 p.m. curfew for Grant Park. Often, the best reasons to be in Chicago around Lollatime are the aftershows, which give a person the chance to settle into an hour and a half of a band at its best, something that never happens in the August sun at 2 p.m., after no sound check and in front of 10,000 impatient 18-year-old girls in neon bikinis.
No exception here.
I’ve known of the War On Drugs for only as long as I’ve known about ex-member Kurt Vile, whose stamp remains on the band. Like Vile’s solo work, the War On Drugs is built for working-class men in the ‘70s: goddammit, I gotta get up and go to the job I hate again today, but at least there’s a cigarette at lunch, a shot of whiskey on the way home, and a ’71 Chevelle to get me to both.
3. Saturday – 12:30 p.m. – Purple Apple
So I have this friend named Scott, right? And Scott has this girlfriend named Alexis, right? And Alexis has a sister named Devin, right? And Devin, well, Devin is the drummer in a band that features a girl she used to babysit and two of that girl’s friends.
I can write “girl” in the above without fear of concern over current lexicographic rules defining when one should use “girl” or “woman” because the girls I’m referencing are 14.
That’s right: three fourteen year-olds and their former babysitter. Add that storyline to the fact that they’re fantastic live (think: the Go-Gos, obviously), and the result was me standing at the Kidzapalooza stage, feeling conflicted because I was hearing pop near-perfection, delivered by girls I wasn’t sure I was supposed to be looking at.
4. Sunday – 3:15 p.m. – Gary Clark Jr.
I was happy to have no real itinerary on Sunday; I knew I wanted to see the Sheepdogs (about whom I wrote at length for ChicagoSideSports.com) at 4:30. Otherwise, I was a vagabond, ready to be told that I should stop by for Gary Clark, Jr. who, prior to Lollapalooza, I assumed to be the son of some 1980s baseball player whose card I would have launched into the commons box that sat under my bed collecting dust.
I was happy I did. I don’t want to get too hyperbolic, so I won’t throw around “young Muddy Waters” or “Eric Clapton in his prime.” But suffice to say that I now own a lot more Gary Clark Jr. than I did before Lollapalooza.
5. Sunday – 6 p.m. – At The Drive-In
Like approximately 20,000 other musically-semiliterate assholes, I like to consider myself an expert on At The Drive-In because I own their one mainstream album (Relationship Of Command), know that when the band broke up its members coalesced as two other bands: Sparta and The Mars Volta, and am aware that the band is from Texas.
What I’m saying is that I’m an At The Drive-In poseur. That didn’t stop me from being ecstatic that I was finally going to see, in the flesh, the Mexi-punk/post-punk/hardcore act whose last album I’ve been listening to for a decade.
They did not disappoint.
It was sunny and muddy and thrashy and their hair was still amazing and I was a little drunk because I’d finally gotten off my ass and taken Chet’s advice and had that beer and it was perfect because it was Sunday night at Lollapalooza and Kaskade and dancing and girls on our shoulders was still to come, but for now all was well because Lollapalooza:
It’s a three-day.
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