The first weekend of August was gorgeous. The blue skies and comfortably warm temperatures along the lakefront of Chicago, Illinois; made the annual Lollapalooza experience on Sunday a tremendous pleasure for my sister and me.
What is Lollapalooza? Dating back to the 19th century, it has to do with an extraordinary or unusual event. Over the years, the word also was used to describe a large lollipop. It now basically means both. It’s a large, extraordinary lollipop with many flavors for everybody to have a lick. Thanks to the vision of Jane’s Addiction front man, Perry Farrell, we’ve been enjoying this tradition for almost a decade now.
Grant Park, Chicago is where this weekend “block party and getaway” takes place. Over 70 bands on five stages scattered throughout the beautiful landscape with rolling hills, tall tress, the famous Buckingham fountain and of course the amazing Chicago skyscrapers cascading in the backdrop.
Lollapalooza is HUGE. Over 200,000 folks attend this over the 3 day weekend. It’s pretty organized with an interactive website, maps, live video feeds, FAQ’s and much much more. I particularly like that there are water filling stations located in various spots to keep everyone hydrated. You just walk up to a “water bar” with your empty bottle and they top it off for free. A regular drinking fountain does not even match this genius idea to help more people with fewer lines to wait in and with fresh and clean beverages.
Sure there are plenty of food vendors in the “Chow Town” area selling pizzas burgers, tacos, etc. and there are beer tents and a wine drinking area too. There’s quite a lot to do here. A Farmer’s market that literally sells fruits and vegetables. Smoothies are abundantly provided as well. Don’t forget all of the merchandize. T-Shirts, posters and hats are available at a reasonable price. Port-A-John’s are all over the place. You gotta do what you gotta do.
But the main reason I am there, of course, is to check out the music! I planned ahead of time who I was going to see and where. The website lists the days’ performers and the stage and times to catch them at. Many choices are there. What has remained pretty consistent over the years are the kinds of choices. The music is LOUD! The styles are plentiful. And the entertainment value is truly there. Alternative rock, punk rock, hip hop, dance, and there’s even a little stage for the kids with good fun provided.
A music festival like this one, is something that’s right up my alley! First I have to thank my dad for buying my sister and I each a ticket of choice for our birthdays. I looked at the lineup and picked the day that would entertain me the most. I chose Sunday. I narrowed it down to five acts of music to enjoy (taste, lick from that lollipop).
After I drove my car into the city; cruising along Lake Shore Drive at 9 in the morning, I parked near my sister’s apartment. We met up and went out to breakfast at a nice little restaurant. I had pancakes and coffee. She had eggs and sausage, I believe. We both must have our coffee. It’s essential for being alert all day. Then we hopped on an L Train to make our way over to #Lolla (the new slang for it)!
We started taking pictures of signs, fountains, balloons and we definitely took a lot of “selfies.” We all want pictures of ourselves in front of something COOL. I swear the word “cool” is never gonna die. We had to go through the baggage check area after we get our wristbands (the tickets) scanned.
You see, we can carry a backpack with us. No food, no drugs and no alcohol is what they’re looking for. You just have to be in the right line and the right inspector. You can bring water bottles, cameras and blankets basically. That’s what I had….except for the 2 Graham Snackers I had shoved inside of my blanket. They never found them. It doesn’t hurt to try and save a few bucks.
Once we were in, then it was a lot of walking around and people watching. The most often seen “look” was the following description. Teenage girls with long hair, headbands (serving no function) with flowers, super cut off jeans (think daisy dukes) with a little cheek showing, tank tops and sandals. Although I saw people dressed up like superheroes too. Large groups carried around glow sticks and banners to help others identify them in case they get lost. The funniest was when I saw this one couple with a picture of a cat with glued on whiskers that was at the end of a stick that they kept carrying around with them.
Now let’s get to the bands. We made our way to the Lakeshore stage with our blanket spread out on the grass and listen to a group called Guards. They are good, energetic pop/rock. They remind me of 90’s grunge mixed with a little 60’s psychedelic jams. It was nice to just chill out on the lawn and listen and look while drinking some cold water and soaking up those sun rays.
We packed up to hike our way through the main strip of shops and heavy pedestrian traffic to get cozy up at the north end. Now we’re chilling out by 2 stages. One is the Petrillo and Bud Light sponsors the other stage. At the Bud Light stage, there is a really loud and animal noise-making group blasting the speakers while we lie on the blanket and try to talk. I can’t remember their names right now but it wasn’t really making me want to buy anything from them.
Meanwhile, a British kid named Jake Bugg was about to take the stage at Petrillo. He’s only 19 years old. I really dig his material. I tried to take a picture but it was hard to see him but we certainly got to listen clearly. His stuff is like Bob Dylan meets Neil Young with a Beatles kind of vibe. He had the folk thing going on for sure. It was pleasant hearing his music while chomping on a snack bar and lying on my back staring at the sky. No I didn’t choke on my food. I drank plenty of water to wash down my peanut butter and jelly.
So once he finished, it was time to take a bathroom break and fill up my water bottle at the “Oasis” area. Jess, my sister, got herself a smoothie and it made her happy. This is when things started to get real. We found a really awesome hill to spread out the blanket and prepare ourselves for the spectacular twin sister duo—-TEGAN & SARA!!! I recently blogged about these girls but let me just tell you, it was quite energetic, fun and mood elevating. They were great! I got my sister into them and she was really grooving to their alternative new wave 80’s pop love tunes! Check out my posting that describes them, as artists, more fully here:
They left me breathless while chilling out on our well-situated grassy null.
It’s time for a slice of pizza. Sausage. Go to the bathroom. Fill up the water bottle. We’re going to see Vampire Weekend at the Bud Light stage. These New Yorkers are incredible. We met up with some friends and joined are blankets together for this exhilarating performance we were about to witness. Although we had to stand on them at this point because thousands of people congregated here. I am reminded of The Talking Heads, Peter Gabriel, Paul Simon and tribal drums whenever I hear these talented fellows. They just released their third album and lyrically and guitar playing abilities are stellar here.
They really got the crowd going with their dancing melodies. At one point this stoned/drunk girl decided to join us on our blanket, slapped my sister in the ass and tried to dance with her. It was kinda creepy and we shooed her away. You never know what kind of weirdoes you’ll “bump” into. But anyway, we all danced in place and sang along to tunes like “Cousins,” “Horchata,” and ‘Holiday.” I was really grooving. I think I got a contact buzz from the entire weed being toked in the crowd (obviously those people made it through the surveillance check earlier.) It was all good fun.
We split up at this point because my sister wanted to see a band called Phoenix, a couple of the guys went to see Major Lazer, 3 girlfriends went to see The Cure and I wanted to see Cat Power. My sister eventually joined up with me during the Cat Power setlist because we each were flying it solo. After she heard a few Phoenix songs, she got her fix and found me in The Grove.
The Grove, ahhh. That’s a nice place to see a show. Especially a Cat Power show. Who is Cat Power? Charlyn Marie Marshall or Chan Marshall is CAT POWER. She is an American singer-songwriter and musician. She has opened for Liz Phair and Sonic Youth back in the 90’s. She has recorded a lot of records. She’s done cover songs. Chan has played with David Grohl of The Foo Fighters and Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam. Then, a year ago, she recorded a masterpiece of an album. It is self produced and opened at number 10 on the Billboard chart.
The record she was promoting last night is entitled, Sun. Her sound over the years has constantly been evolving. I hear the punk. I observe the blues. I am moved by the folk elements too. This material is full of soul. Last night she nailed it out of the park. I wish more people came to see her. My sister surprised me by tapping me on the shoulders, two songs into the performance. I was glad she joined me in this nice experience. The Grove is exactly that. Small field the size of a little league baseball diamond, surrounded by rich, full, tall trees. It’s cozy. Like a hobbit’s home. It’s dark too. I loved it in that place. I was basically standing right in front of the stage and captured a lot of film here. I truly saved the best for last.
I mention a lack of people because everyone was at the BIG shows. So I felt bad for her since it wasn’t really packed in there. Perhaps not everyone “gets” her stuff. But the true die hard fans showed up. She had maybe 4-500 dedicated fans that cheered her on. Cat Power is shy, quiet, reserved, cooky, and unusual. She’s fidgety and kind of ADD-ish. However, that does not take away from her guitar playing, her humor and remarkable voice. It’s stunning! What talent!
I love how she has transitioned into more of the electronica world too. It’s a nice change from her really slow guitar songs. They are less, “snoozy.” She was dressed in head-to-toe black and an interesting taped-up leather jacket. She played like she’s trying to change how we think of her. “Manhattan” is my favorite song. It’s blissful with stammering drums, making it real loose. Marshall howls like a wolf in a strange manner during that song, but its still wonderful.
She ended the show throwing roses into the crowd, one by one. She smelled each individual flower one at a time before she released them. Humble, is what she is but I can tell you that Chan is a really sweet person who must be doing something right to land her a top spot at Lollapalooza. She was imperfect and yet it was personal. She is human and her performance was not at all about living up to some hype, but rather to share with us something real….her heart.
I was drained emotionally and physically from the long day. It was exciting and well worth the one mile walk to the bus stop at the end of the night. It was worth being on the crowded bus on the way back to Jess’s apartment and my car. It was worth trying to stay awake on the drive home listening to Cat’s music and talking to my wife on the phone.
I made it home safe and sound.
Now I am sharing my fond experience with all of you.
Thank you for reading this.
p.s. here’s a nice sample from that song, “Manhattan”