Monday, August 04, 2008

My Lollapalooza:1

I attended nearly all of the 3-day mother of all festivals, and over the next few posts I'll share some thoughts. I must say I was pleasantly surprised, in fact amazed, at the smooth organization and lack of major hassles for such a large scale event. Any major gripes you might read from attendees is just whining. The bottom line is this: The performers started within five minutes of the scheduled time (Bonnaroo take note). I never waited in line to buy a beer, food, or use the toilets, concessions were very reasonably priced, and the crowd control was effective yet an unseen presence. The festival grounds are huge, so sound bleed from one stage to the next was not a problem. It's really two huge outdoor festivals separated by a carnival. At Wilco, I had absolutely no sense of what was happening at the other end of the field at the Rage performance. At the little stages in the middle, you could simply wander around and sample, like a musical smorgasboard. All in all, it was a major thumbs-up.

A few small gripes, in case any of the organizers might be reading: On the first day, it was not clear that you didn't have to wait in the huge line to enter if you already had a wristband. I didn't figure this out quickly enough. The Friday schedule contained a little too much overlap. I know choices must be made, but on Friday, if you wanted to see the entire Raconteurs set, you were destined to be a half mile away from Radiohead, the main headliner, which started 15 minutes later at the other end. Also, the south field was enormous. Is there a way to add a few more screens for those in the way back? But these are minor issues. A few words on my Friday lineup:
I started the afternoon with Yeasayer, who did not disappoint. I've gushed about their debut All Hour Cymbals, and as I imagined, their tribal, multi-textured music sounded great on stage. Next was The Kills, a duo from London that has drawn some comparisons to the White Stripes, but heavier on the synth, drum machines and dance groove. They spent too much time between tunes fidling with the electronics, so I moved on to the north field for the Black Keys, and the Akron duo absolutely rocked. Two guys, a basic drum set, one guitar and some impassioned bluesy vocals. The Keys impressed the hell out of me. Akron, O indeed.

I stuck around for the Raconteurs on the same stage, listening to Cat Power on the Playstation Stage while we waited. I slowly pushed my way forward with the mass of people. The Raconteurs were by far the loudest act I saw all weekend, louder even than Nine Inch Nails, but they were fantastic. Jack White tried hard to simply be a band member and not the front man, but right now he's like King Midas, and clearly the focus is on him. Probably my favorite set of the weekend. I caught the end of Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks on the way to Radiohead. After the Raconteurs, Radiohead was like a lullaby. Their performance was impeccable, a beautiful spectacle of sight and sound. The general feeling was that we were all seeing a once in a lifetime performance. Those that camped out all day for the prime spots missed out on a lot of great music elsewhere, but it was probably worth it.

More on day 2 soon.



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