Thursday, August 12, 2010

Lollapalooza

Sunday in Chicago meant heading down to Grant Park for the final day of Lollapalooza. Initially my friend and I talked about going Saturday and Sunday, but I told him that just Sunday was fine with me. I figured that otherwise we'd have no time to catch up and take it easy, particularly the last part. I wouldn't have minded attending the whole thing, but I figured one day would be plenty, especially since it would allow me to catch the band I wanted to see most out of all of the acts playing the festival. Let me say it now: that was the right call.

(If this fountain in the middle of the park looks familiar, I'm told it was in the opening credits to Married with Children. I've not fact checked this, but it seems true.)

On Monday the newspapers reported 240,000 attended the three days of the event. Assuming an even division among the days, that puts 80,000 there Sunday. Needless to say, that doesn't make for the easiest movement from stage to stage. We ended up alternating between the two facing each other and then just staying at the bigger stage in the hope of getting a decent vantage point for the last two acts to play on it.

This is what I mean by a decent vantage point. Oh my, was it a tight squeeze. I'm not claustrophobic, but I felt like I was on the verge of a panic attack or something during the first portion of MGMT's set. Granted, it had already been a long day and it was hot and more people than should have been were pushing their way toward the front. The feeling passed, perhaps due to some hydration, and I was good for the remaining three and a half hours. Seriously, though, there were a lot of people.

Lollapalooza was about music, but the organizers didn't mess around when it came to dining options. Noted Chicago chef Graham Elliot was the festival's culinary director. I ate at the stand for trendy hamburger spot Kuma's Corner. (Side note: I ate at more foodie-approved places in these two days than I probably have in a lifetime. This was not a bad thing.) I went with the Judas Priest burger, which was a massive 10 oz. burger with bacon, bleu cheese dressing, apple, walnuts, and dried cranberries. I did not need to eat the rest of the day.

Being in Grant Park for the festival afforded some nice views of the Chicago skyline, although since I stuck primarily to the Budweiser stage, pictures such as the one above had to be taken by turning around. There was another stage parallel to this one across the way, but negotiating one's way between the two just meant being smack dab in the middle of both. In the end it made more sense to pick a side.

With Blitzen Trapper, Yeasayer (pretty terrific in this setting), MGMT, distantly heard sets by The National and Mutemath, and a sampling of Mumford and Sons (and, accidentally, Switchfoot) out of the way, it was time for the band that had everyone hyped, including me. I wouldn't have minded seeing the reunited Soundgarden all the way at the other end of the park, but I came to see The Arcade Fire. This was just a little different situation than the one other time I've seen them.

Their 90-minute set was marvelous. Arcade Fire play big, majestic rock that is well-suited for a field of tens of thousands to sing along with, and did the crowd ever participate. The band played a lot more from their first LP Funeral than I expected, especially since The Suburbs was released the previous Tuesday, and the audience, myself included, ate it up. The crowd was completely into the performance, but at least where I was it was a much better behaved one than there had been for the previous group.

The night was finished off with "Wake Up", an anthem that would have blown the roof off the place if it had been indoors. Being amid that many people singing every word, especially the opening (and repeated) refrain, was the kind of hair-raising experience you hope to, but rarely get, at a concert. The enthusiasm even carried over as people sang it on the slow path out of the park and picked it up again on the blocked off downtown Chicago streets. My friend said something to the effect that Arcade Fire won the game. There was definitely a celebratory feeling spilling into the streets, as though our team had claimed the championship.

Catching a train back was a slow motion adventure that took about an hour and a half--metropolises!--but yeah, I was still humming with the energy of an exhausting but pretty terrific day of music.

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