“My God they’re hardly wearing clothes at Perry’s!” My cousin Michelle observes the lack of clothing dressing Lollapalooza’s teenage patrons at the EDM (Electronic Dance Music) stage.
“What’s Perry’s?” I ask.
“It’s the stage where all the teenie-boppers take copious amounts of ‘Molly’ and dance their heads off to EDM.” she says.
Looking around, I see 14-19-year old boys and girls with Margaret Keane’s “Big Eyes” wearing bra’s belying advanced puberty and shorts revealing half crescents; their parents must be so proud.
The curb outside Perry’s is lined with exhausted youth. Some have weary eyes yearning for a much-needed respite. Some have the “Big Eyes” filled with black crescents beaming to the rhythm of ostentatious bass noises. Some snack on Chicago-style pizza. Others sit staring into reveries of infinite bliss. None absorb fully the sanctity of succeeding sobriety. A sobriety that turns their bliss finite as the body begins to fail. Some went too far; they’re resting under white canvas with IVs poking into their arms. Most under the medical tent are no longer ambulatory. Ambulances beam blue and red cherries warning, “Hey, stop doing so many drugs and take a drink of water!”
But we’re headed to the Petrillo stage for the first of many shows to come. It’s only Thursday afternoon, and my train back home to St. Louis, MO, doesn’t leave till Sunday afternoon. This means my cousin, our friends, myself, and thousands of strangers will roam Chicago’s Grand Park for a three-day adventure culminating in Saturday’s performance by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Right now, it’s about dusk. The sun peaks through clouds, skyscrapers, and shines its orange rays ahead as Kurt Vile and the Violators take the stage.
“Wait Kurt Vile… like the Kurt Weill, the German, classical musician and composer of the Three Penny Opera, only, spelled differently?” I ask.
“Wow, wouldn’t it be cool if they just started playing a rock opera right now?” cousin Michelle jests.
“That would be epic!” her fiancé Joseph confirms.
“Guess we’ll find out shortly.” I conclude as Kurt and his Violators begin their hour-long set.
I can always tell how little a band has to offer by the lack of remembrances I have to recollect their show. All I really remember about Kurt Vile and the Violators were monotonous drum sounds, accompanied by, a lesser resemblance of a similar (yet much better) band called Cage the Elephant.
They’re young and still have a long way to go. I guess I can’t expect too much on the first night of a four-day festival. I think to myself. At least the weather is gorgeous.
“Hey let’s hit up the Lakeshore stage to see The Arcs,” our friend Swank suggests.
“Dude totally. I love that band!” Joseph exclaims.
“Who are The Arcs?” I state my ignorance.
“So… You know who the lead singer of The Black Keys is right?” Joseph asks.
“Yea.” I reply.
“Well it’s that same guy but The Arcs is his solo project. It sounds a lot like the Black Keys.” Joseph says.
“Hmm… Let’s check em’ out then.” I say.
So we traverse the distance of Grand Park from north to south, passing by the fountain colored in a multitude of pinks, blues, purples, and reds; we then travel down some steps, and make our way to a baseball field being stepped on by thousands of fans waiting to see the next act performing at the Lakeshore stage.
As I look around, the outfits dressing the fans here are a little more genteel. This band attracts older men and women dressed in more than a bra and too short of shorts. The atmosphere of the crowd at the Lakeshore stage aligns itself with the genteel attires. Thank God!
“Wow! This is way better than what we saw over at Perry’s,” Michelle observes.
“No kidding,” Greg, his girlfriend Xena, Joseph, and I respond in a chorus of pleasure.
“Here they come!” Greg interjects as guitarist and singer Dan Auerbach leads his band on stage.
This is where Lollapalooza began for me. I feel I could erase from my mind everything leading up to the evening performance of The Arcs and not feel cheated for missing the first half of my Thursday in Lolla Land. The guy can write material! From the piercing guitar solos, to the tastefully place organ harmonies, to the bombastic, doubly covered drummed parts, to the dissonant back-up harmonies, to the perfectly placed shifts in musical forms; this performance by The Arcs is shaping up to be among the favorites in the vault containing my memories of concerts.
“Wholly shit they are good!” I exalt what I here to Joseph.
“No kidding.” He replies.
Everyone in our friend group, in fact, everyone in attendance at this show has is witnessing something majestic. I myself have never heard so polished a genre of music as I am hearing. It’s as if Dan Auerbach is stating peremptory commands with every lyric he sings.
“Out of my mind,” Dan belts into the microphone, accompanied by a chorus of thick, mellifluous harmonies both on and off stage.
The guy must be out of his mind to have written such complex music. How the hell does he remember every chord, lyric, and musical shift, let alone the guitar solos and choruses. I can’t believe what I’m hearing. My mind runs in awe of what The Arcs are pulling off on stage. I can tell they have rehearsed and perfected their craft to a degree extending beyond what any other contemporary, Bluesy-Rock group has ever achieved.
The Arcs could easily have headlined Lollapalooza this year. Yea… they’re no more illustrious than The Red Hot Chili Peppers or Radiohead; however, put Anthony Kiedis and Thom Yorke shoulder to shoulder in the crowd to witness the majestic concert I’ve just seen, and they’d tell you, “Wow, these guys are fantastic.”
Coming to the conclusion that no other musical act will top what The Arcs have just poured over the baseball fields in front of the Lakeshore stage, my group of acquaintances and I resolve that our first night in the land of Lolla has come to a close. It was brief, but we’re just getting started here.
Once again, we traverse steps, pass the colorful fountain, and cross streets filled with people adorned in Lollapalooza wristbands and strange attires till we reach the Blue Line train at Monroe street. On our way back to my cousin Michelle’s place in Wicker Park, I breath in the stenches of subway fumes, grab on to the steal bar in front of me, and make intimate relations with strangers as we stand shoulder to shoulder; But I’m comforted and consumed by thoughts providing ruminations of the nights events, and look forward to succeeding concerts tomorrow, and the day after. I supplicate that the strength needed to endure the next two days may pass through me with ease. Day one is in the books. The first third of our adventure has proven joyful. Let this be the case for the upcoming, lengthier two thirds ahead!