Armchair Field Trip: Lollapalooza

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Last year was my first Lollapalooza ever. It's been around since 1991, but let's just say there's no way my parents would have let me go back then. At the time, it was created by Perry Farrell as a farewell tour for Jane's Addiction. So much for farewell - it ran for the next six years. Then it took a little hiatus, but came back in 2003. The results were not that great, and in 2004, ticket sales were so dismal that the shows had to be canceled altogether. In 2005, though, Farrell tried again, this time turning the tour into a three-day show that stayed in one spot - namely, Grant Park in Chicago. It was a big hit and a deal was inked just last year to keep the festival in Chicago through 2018.

mud
But back to 2009. The Friday that marked the start of the weekend felt more like Woodstock '94 than Lolla '09 - it was a rainy, muddy, PR nightmare. Despite the rain, my Friday band highlight was definitely Heartless Bastards. I couldn't see much over the sea of umbrellas, so I headed for the Hammock Haven to listen while relaxing in the luxurious comfort of a sodden tangle of ropes. Would you believe I didn't have to fight anyone for a spot? At any rate, Heartless Bastards were very good - part blues, part rock, with a female lead singer who has a kind hoarse voice like she has spent a lot of time trying to entertain the patrons of smoky bars. And she probably has. One review I read compared her to Melissa Etheridge, and I'd say that's accurate, except Erika Wennerstrom is grittier.
My favorite: "All This Time" from the album of the same name (it's a couple years old).

The non-music highlight of Friday was getting into a media pre-party at the Hard Rock Hotel. I've never been privy to this sort of thing before, so I was very impressed with the swag and the free food and drinks. Swag? Yes. Very unexpected swag. Apparently Dickies isn't just for farmers and mechanics any more. I guess I sort of knew this, but I always figured you see famous people wearing Dickies more for the irony of it than anything else. But they have some pretty cool clothes; I was delighted by the pair of skinny jeans I got. And my husband picked up one of those plaid snap-on shirts even though he already has a whole closet full of them. We're calling it his Sam Merlotte shirt.

Lolla performers got even cooler perks, including free tattoos. I guess it's kind of good that the gratis ink was only for the artists... who knows what I would have walked out with when presented with the prospect of a free, spontaneous tattoo.

goodicebunnySaturday afternoon was the Playboy party. I suspected that I wasn't cool enough to be there, and I was sort of right and sort of wrong. I definitely didn't fit in with the hipster reporters who were sitting in overstuffed chairs wearing sunglasses, skinny jeans and flannel shirts while writing notes about a possible Vanessa Hudgens expose (really); I also didn't stick out as badly as an older couple dressed like they were attending an afternoon wedding in the Hamptons. I also suspect it wasn't the type of party Hef has at Playboy West - there weren't any bunnies and no real shenanigans occurred. Mostly it was just media and artists who were pretty excited to get some free booze. The view was to die for, though, and the ice sculpture Bunny logo was pretty sweet. They were pouring shots of SoCo down the side of the bunny but I shudder just thinking about Southern Comfort. Various DJs were there throughout the day, but everyone crowded into the room when DJ MomJeans showed up AKA Danny Masterson from That '70s Show.

arctic monkeysMy Saturday music highlight were the Arctic Monkeys, for sure. I'm not sure if they would be flattered or appalled to know that I consider their music to be ideal for runs, but they were pretty good even though my feet weren't pounding the pavement. And they stunned me with they started with a sort of gothic-sounding, organ-heavy song called "Pretty Visitors," which is apparently off of the new album that conveniently was just recently released. If you remember how much I love the Haunted Mansion, you might understand my glee. I will definitely be downloading the new disc.

My husband would tell you that the Saturday music highlight was Tool. Tool isn't really my genre of music, but the show was pretty interesting and the lead singer (Maynard) did most of it wearing nothing but his boxers. Also, at one point, the girl behind me said, quite seriously, "I'm so excited I could just bite something right now." That made me a little nervous.

The Field Museum and its awesome pirate wares beckoned us Sunday morning, but we managed to pull ourselves from the Whydah in time to see Vampire Weekend Sunday afternoon. I fully expected VW to be my favorite of the day - yes, my favorite band headlined the night shows, but I have seen The Killers several times so I was really looking forward to hearing another one of my favorites for the first time. And they were good - they only have the one album out so they pretty much played all of their songs, with a sneak peek or two of some new stuff they're working on. But the unexpected, amazing and all-around badass performance of the day has to go to Snoop. Sunday was so hot and humid, and despite being on the lake, Grant Park was just stifling. The air movement was pretty minimal, and three days of being out in rain and humidity and heat was definitely taking its toll on people. Everyone around us was just beat. People were napping on the ground and others just looked weary and ready to get back to their 9-to-5s. But then Snoop hit the stage, and the place just lit up. Figuratively and literally. People were dancing (badly, but with abandon), people were singing, people were frolicking, people were doing handstands. It was impressive how fast Snoop turned the entire crowd around, and you couldn't look at the crowd and determine any sort of stereotypical Snoop fan. He had 'em all in the palm of his hand. And I'll be damned if the entire crowd didn't know a vast majority of the words to "Gin and Juice."

So, that's a short summary of my Lolla experience. It was rainy and muddy; it was hot and humid. I didn't get to see all of the bands I wanted to see, but I did get to see some I didn't intend to and ended up loving them (Santigold would be one of these).

Anyone else go? Or have you been before? Share your Lollapalooza experience in the comments!

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September 10, 2009 - 5:46am
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