“What? They’re not letting people in the gate?” My cousin Michelle asks why we’re not being permitted to enter Lollapalooza.
“Doesn’t look like it,” I reply, gravely.
“Let’s try the North entrance,” Joseph suggests.
“Think it’ll be any better over there?” Swank asks.
“Can’t be any worse!” Joseph exclaims.
So our sextet (Michelle, Joseph, Swank, Brandon, Xena, and myself) circle around to the other end of Chicago’s Grand Park in a feeble attempt to enter the Land of Lolla. I say feebly, because, there must be four-thousand people, all sweaty from the humidity, further moistened now by the pouring rain, irritated by the hold up, and turning restless as the second hour of waiting quickly approaches.
Dammit, I’m gonna miss Lettuce. I think to myself. The funk/rock group based out of Boston, Massachusetts, is scheduled to go on at 3:45. Our sextet arrived at Grand Park at 2:30; it’s now 3:45…
“What the hell is the hold up?” Brandon asks.
“They’ve got ten imbeciles checking ten-thousand people into the festival!” My cousin Michelle berates the gates ahead.
Although the number was slightly more than ten, the gatekeepers certainly weren’t in a rush to let people in. Why? Like my cousin said, they’re imbeciles. At $335 a ticket, I should be permitted to take in a pharmacy of drugs inside my backpack if it allows my entrance to be punctual! After two hours of waiting, soaking in the rain, soaking in the body odor of thousands of strangers, soaking in indignation after missing the first number of set 1, soaking in wasted time none will ever regain, our sextet is finally permitted to enter the King and Queen’s chamber. Us mere peasants would haves started a revolution against Lolla’s royal authority if forced to wait any longer!
“We’re heading over to the Samsung stage to see Foals,” Swank informs me.
“I have to see lettuce at the Petrillo stage,” I reply.
“Cool. Meet us at Foals when Lettuce is done playing then.”
So I part from my sextet in the pouring rain. My shirt is heavy with rain, feet are soaked, cell phone dripping wet—luckily, my life-proof case is keeping the technology dry; but I could care less about all of these inconveniences as I approach the Petrillo stage. Lettuce is performing!
I love these guys. They have a pocket of groove that proves their edification in the art of jazz music. Their Berklee education benefits them well. Sadly apparent, the sound guy has never listened to a jazz or funk recording in his life. How do I know this? Because, as the saxophonist approaches the microphone to, all I hear fucking bass guitar! This isn’t Perry’s Mr. Soundman. Open your fucking ears, lay your fingers on the faders, and actually run sound like someone who gives a shit!
The soundman at the Petrillo stage seems to have taken too much peyote this afternoon. His dismal performance at the counsel is unforgivable. Regardless, Lettuce still performs tunes from their latest album Rage with flawless content. I hope they can at least hear themselves on stage… After listening to a set ruined by another imbecile employed by some fledgling-of-a-sound-crew, I travel the radius of Grand Park once again to meet up with my friends.
After passing the colorful fountain, traversing down the steps, and crossing the dance floor of baseball fields, I meet up with the sextet and take in the sonorities of English Indie Rock band Foals.
“How was Lettuce?” My cousin Michelle asks.
“Couldn’t tell, the sound guy didn’t know what the hell he was doing,” I reply.
“That’s a shame.”
“It really is. I dig the sound hear though. It seems Foals has their own sound crew amplifying the Samsung stage!”
“Yea, they sound great,” Michelle observes.
The English rock group does sound good. To be honest, I’ve never heard of Foals. After taking in a couple of musical numbers, I like what I’m hearing. Their music, like a large variety of music pouring out of Europe’s Indie conduit, has an air of despondence. The dark clouds above heighten the despondency on stage as the lead singer, with his jet-black hair waving whimsically to the drones of an open jam, puts the crowd into a dark trance. The crowd is less active than the bare-skinned Molly heads over at Perry’s.
“I like the crowd here today,” I observe.
“Yea. It’s like the music is calming everyone,” Michelle suggests.
I have no doubt that is the case. Unlike the forty-five seconds of exhilaration waiting at the end of a long line at an amusement park, a music festival provides long lasting exhilarations. Foals music produces a soporific affect. Not that I’m falling asleep, I mean soporific, in that, my nerves of frustration have dissipated, and my anger at the chimpanzee-of-a-soundman at the other end of the park has reached dissolution. Although, if said soundman were to make his presence known in front of me right now, I worry I might get arrested for tripping him, smearing his face into muddy dance floor while exclaiming, “Whose on first? Your face! Your Face! Your Face!” But that soundman is off somewhere else consuming copious amounts of peyote, and I’m standing at the edge of a soaking wet baseball field enjoying the music of Foals for the first time.
“God I can’t wait for Radiohead tonight!” I reveal to the sextet.
“Oh I know. It’s going to be amazing,” Xena, the only other Radiohead junkie in the group, opens up a discourse of love and appreciation for the band closing out tonight’s festivities at Lollapalooza!
Fast-forward two hours.
After eating a questionable magpie filled with vegetable sludge, washing it down with a nine-dollar beer, and ordering another beverage exorbitantly priced, a trio of our sextet (Michelle, Joseph and myself) pass the colorful fountain, traverse down the steps, cross the diamond-shaped dance floor, and get as close as we can to the Samsung stage an hour ahead of Radiohead’s 8pm concert.
In finding a spot of propitious proximity for a headliner show at Lolla, concertgoers challenge the variances in concert decorum. Polite people find a spot among the sea of strangers and stay there. Assholes cause waves as they push their way through the crowd twenty minutes before show time at the discomfort of gentility.
“Hey man there’s no more room. Turnaround and go back!” Michelle berates a young teenager for stepping all over our toes.
“But my friends are just up ahead,” the repugnant teen feebly attempts to excuse his transgressions against concert decorum.
“At this point, you either make friends or enemies guy,” I inform the teenager.
“Man fuck this,” the teenage repugnance wisely gives up his quest and turns around in shame; everyone claps sounds of raillery.
After getting our toes stepped on, ribs elbowed, and shoulders brushed by more idiots attempting to, “meet up with friends,” the concert finally begins! My mind is set at ease as Radiohead takes the stage and begins playing the first track off of their new album A Moon Shaped Pool.
“Stay in the shadows. Cheer at the gallows,” Thom Yorke sings the first lyrics of the tune “Burn the Witch.”
The live rendition of “Burn the Witch” is altered from the recorded version. I suppose Radiohead couldn’t afford to hire an entire string orchestra to play the string parts written by Johnny Greenwood. Regardless, the music is excellent. The talent on stage subsumes the crowd into trance. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. It’s unlike any concert proceeding my experience at Lolla, or ever. Without a doubt, it’s the most pleasingly esoteric musical adventure I’ve ever been a part of.
The crowd is shoulder-to-shoulder in a battalion of ballet dancers tippy-toeing their feet to try and hear the music. It passes through the baseball fields and dances its way all the way up to the colorful fountain of Buckingham. For two and a half hours, a large percentage of Grand Park’s three-hundred and nineteen acres are filled to capacity with an elite fandom of concert goers: their eyes have become weary; their ballet feet have become cramped; their arms and legs, stressed to physical anomalies; but they’re still vertical with attendance for England’s penultimate rock group; their hearts are still beating with pulses of praise as the evening comes to an end. A duo of encores stretch the 10pm cut-off time in pleasing fashion: “Karma Police;” “Fade Out.”