We first introduced our Tag Along Concert Review series back in May, when True Endeavors founder and owner Tag Evers hit the road with True Crew member Robin Anderson to catch Quasi at The Windy City’s Lincoln Hall. Chicago is the destination of our second installment as well, where the boss man braved the festival beast of Lollapalooza on Friday, August 6th with True Endeavors’ Newsletter wizard, Justin Kibbel. Read on for their impressions.
The last time I attended Lollapalooza was in 2005. The touring festival had been brought back two years prior and then subsequently canceled again. In 2005, Lollapalooza creator and Jane’s Addiction frontman, Perry Farrell settled on Chicago’s Grant Park as a single solid foothold for the giant festival.
Heading into the park five years later I was amazed and slightly horrified by the monster that the festival had become. What had once just been confined to the grassy field on the south side of the park had now been let loose and completely engulfed Buckingham Fountain(which is one of the large outdoor fountains), spreading 3 blocks north. In 2005, the two headlining stages were directly next to each other requiring one to just turn their body slightly to view the next upcoming act. The only decisions that had to be made were if you wanted to see a side-stage act. If you did, you needed to only walk 100 yards to the opposite side of the field. Those 4 stages had now grown to 8 (or more?).
Coming through the gates and looking at the schedule contained within the 130 page official program I knew that there were decisions to be made. In fact, the “Lolla 101” section in the back of that very program pretty much sums up my disdain for what has come of this festival.
“How far must you walk and how much time do you have? Is that sprint worth two songs? Are you sacrificing a great spot at one stage to be on your tiptoes at the back of a crowd after missing half their set, especially if you’re heading right back to where you just left? Grant Park is almost a mile long…”
Tag and I were immediately faced with the following dilemma: Should we see The New Pornographers who we had just seen two days prior in Madison or make the first trek of many across the grounds to see Devo? We decided that we’ve each seen The New Pornos multiple times and the new-wave punk sounds of Devo couldn’t be missed.
Making our way to the main stage I kept on commenting on the sheer amount of people contained in this one park. I don’t think I’ve seen so many people crammed into one space before—a fact that made that mile long hike even more gruesome as we were forced to follow the person ahead of us like a line of cattle.
After standing “on our tiptoes at the back of a crowd” all afternoon we decided to settle onto a spot on the side of a hill to wait out the upcoming Lady Gaga performance. This decision of just bunkering down is probably something we should have decided to do earlier as it afforded us a great view of Hot Chip and a slight view of Chromeo across the way.
As the masses started to fill in for the Lady Gaga performance, Tag and I were sort of curious as to how this was all going to unfold. I’m not oblivious to the Lady Gaga exploits that have occurred in the last 2 years and I expected performance to be something like a car crash. I knew I shouldn’t be gawking wide-eyed, but I also couldn’t turn away. What I was oblivious to was the amount of pre-teen fans she has garnered and how the parents of those fans had not been made aware of the image that Lady Gaga personifies.
As we followed Ms. Gaga on her quest to the Monster’s Ball we were treated to images that would have made Madonna blush and a constant stream of vulgarity. Parents, if you do not want your children to know that Lady Gaga “has a gigantic cock” and hear her requests for all of “Chicago to pull out their gigantic cocks and party, motherfuckers!” then don’t bring them to a Lady Gaga show. Me on the other hand? Texas Chainsaw Massacre is one of my favorite movies, and I don’t really have a problem with Duchamp’s Fountain being called art. I say bring on the car crash.
I had good intentions of leaving Madison early on Friday, but we didn’t hit the road until right around noon. Predictably, we hit heavy traffic around O’Hare. Stopping at the Cumberland Park-N-Ride, Justin Kibbel, the brains behind TE’s beautiful newsletter, and I took the Blue Line into the city. By the time we entered the festival grounds, it was already past 4:00pm.
I last went to Lolla back in the early 90’s, in Milwaukee at the Summerfest grounds. All of two stages. Let me say it’s now different. A lot different. I guess I’m not a huge fan of the big corporate festival model. First, it’s now such a big deal—too big, in my mind. To get from the Budweiser Stage at one end of the festival grounds to the main Parkways Foundation Stage at the other meant trekking a mile. Try doing that back and forth a couple of times in the sun and by the end of the day your dogs are going to be barking loud. Even with the late start, both Justin and I were beat by the end of the day. I’m not sure how one does three days of this.
We got to see parts of Devo, Matt & Kim, The Dirty Projectors, The Black Keys, Hot Chip, Chromeo, a few brief seconds of The Strokes, and, of course, Lady Gaga. Most of the time we were way in the back, but for Lady Gaga we parked ourselves on the side of hill where we could see and sit as needed.
Lady Gaga was truly underwhelming, but, as a friend pointed out, I’m not gay. Her set was geared to gay men, with lots of shirtless male dancers writhing around her. That’s nothing new, very Madonna-like, and her set was epic and grandiose in a Madge sort of way. Her problem is when she opens her mouth in between songs. She has absolutely nothing to say. Oh, well, she did say some memorable stuff like: “It’s true, Chicago, that I have a really big dick. Now I want all you motherfuckers to pull out your dicks and party!”
Now there were a lot of young girls in the audience for whom this might have been a bit confusing. A hipster mom next to me frantically covered her 7 and 1/2 year-old daughter’s ears during these frequent outbursts. Her daughter looked unsure of herself holding her hand-made “I love Lady Gaga” sign. Despite the fact these young girls, Top 40’s biggest demographic, comprise a significant portion of Lady Gaga’s fan base, this show wasn’t for them. During one of the several costume changes, there were bloody and violent images broadcast on the big screen. The mom next to me, who confessed to loving rock and wanting to be at The Strokes —who were performing at the same time on the Budweiser stage a mile away — this time covered her daughter’s eyes.
Trouble is there were lots of little girls at this show. And lots of moms who probably decided then and there that they were going to pay closer attention to what their kids are listening to.
When Lady Pottymouth wasn’t dropping F-bombs, she was offering up laughable, warmed-over, solipsistic, self-empowerment bullshit about how we can all be whoever we want to be. Yet, for some reason, she’s the most influential artist in the world today, which, I’m not sure, but I think might actually not be a good thing. I think it just might be the 5th Horseman of the Apocalypse and a sign that we’re all incredibly fucked, but that’s just me.
Internally, I had to ask myself if my negative reaction to Ms. Gaga was due to the fact that I’m not a kid anymore. I mean, my legs were tired from all that walking and I wasn’t getting drunk or high like nearly everyone else. I must be a hopeless old fart, but to my relief, Justin felt the same way. She’s just not very good, and she has nothing to say. Lady Gaga will have more than 15 minutes of fame, but she will not have 15 years. She will not have a career. Those little girls in the audience will grow up and move on to something else, and soon, I hope.
Justin and I were glad to have witnessed the spectacle, the train wreck of consumer values portrayed with all the polish that a huge corporate-subsidized budget allows. It wasn’t art, it was artifice, with nothing below the surface. On the other hand, if I were a gay male I probably would have been in heaven, and I would have regarded straight dudes like myself who obviously weren’t getting into it as hopelessly uptight.
We left before the “Bad Romance” finale and the fireworks, and on our way out, we stopped by for a few seconds of The Strokes, enough to confirm my love for real rock ‘n roll.