08 August 2008

Lollapalooza 2008 (Kind of)

From its 1991 incarnation as a swan song tour for Jane's Addiction (including Austin freak rockers Butthole Surfers, Siouxsie & The Banshees, Living Colour, Nine Inch Nails and others), Perry Farrell's Lollapalooza festival has counted among its alumni some of the biggest names in "alternative" music. I'll never forget Lollapalooza '94 at the World Music Theater: Only a day before Kurt Cobain's suicide, grunge heroes Nirvana had pulled out as the festival's headliner and allowed Smashing Pumpkins to close the night. But the real highlight for me - besides locking the keys in my running car and flagging down security with embarrassingly bloodshot eyes - was the quality and variety of acts, a standard the festival has adhered to since its inception. Following a five year hiatus beginning in 1998, Lollapalooza's resurrection coincided once again with a Jane's Addiction tour in 2003; Two years later, it found a new home in Chicago's Grant Park.

With Radiohead, Gnarls Barkley, Wilco, Broken Social Scene, Explosions In The Sky, Cat Power, the Raconteurs, and so many more in 2008's lineup, I started wondering how I had - in actuality- heard so little music this year! I blame the open bars at the Hard Rock Hotel which had me drunkenly navigating between the EastSport Cafe and various lounges and gifting suites accumulating schwag, jeans (thank you Silver & Diesel!) and far too many vodka sodas. One also had the ability to have beautiful girls from Mac Cosmetics make you look more glamourous before that interview, or get a tattoo (!) while folks played Guitar Hero or Wii bowling nearby. Sadly, in the few hours I had at the actual grounds on Saturday, all I heard was Blues Traveler (huh?) and derivative "pop punk" courtesy of Brand New. I felt like an asshole for missing so many great artists, so I just threw back another Southern Comfort and Green Tea. But, with all regrets aside, we made the long, sunny walk amidst thousands of eager Lolla devotees to catch at least some of the action on Sunday.

Flosstradamus was holding it down on the wheels of steel (um, Serato, anyway), but the real party that afternoon was the frenetic, confetti covered antics of Pittsburgh's Girl Talk. Crowded on stage with 40 or so dancing admirers, this former biomedical engineer stared at his plastic-covered laptop bouncing under their weight, occasionally clicking his mouse as rolls of toilet paper were launched into the crowd. Software and technique aside, seeing tens of thousands of people go absolutely bananas for his John Oswald inspired mashups was a pleasure, as was his finale: riding a fucking inflatable boat out into the ecstatic sea of hands and smiles.

Mark Ronson was up next and, within minutes, I wished I was still listening to his sister Samantha (from the previous night's Rock The Vote after-party) blending A Tribe Called Quest into Brand Nubian and Vampire Weekend before stealing kisses with her homegirl Lindsay Lohan. I am sorry, but I felt I was listening to a wedding band run through lackluster renditions of rehashed pop music, the worst of all being the supreme butchery of my favorite Smiths song of all time, "Stop Me If You Think That You've Heard This One Before." Actually, I have heard [that] one before, but I couldn't stop you because you weren't letting Paper Magazine backstage.

A $5 slice of pizza later, it was time for the triumphant conclusion of Lollapalooza 2008. With rumors of a cameo appearance by our presidential hopeful Barack Obama during Kanye West's set, Nine Inch Nails suffered some considerable competition from the other side of the park. Nevertheless, under an illuminated skyline, Chicago's own West blew the crowd away with impressive interpretations of his material. As the lightshow faded along with his hometown fans' clamorous applause, we returned to the Hard Rock for a final Rock The Vote party with Chromeo and Phantom Planet... And enough Red Bull to keep me unintentionally awake 'til noon the next day.