A Louisvillian’s 3 days at Lollapalooza 2010

I got back from my first music festival yesterday. The Lady (not Gaga) and I left Thursday afternoon from Louisville for Chicago and spent the next three days and nights enjoying our first Lollapalooza experience. There were apparently more than 130 bands on 8 stages spread all across Grant Park. What follows in this post is my usual event review with photos, videos, and itinerary. For a more professional roundup, I recommend the official Lollapalooza website. It’s one of the best event sites I’ve ever used – their blog has a great review of each day with (mostly) better photos and videos than the ones we were able to capture. (August 15th photo and video update @ end of post.)

Us at Millenium Park

For the sake of time, I’ve only uploaded 7 photos to Flickr and 1 video on YouTube so far (video at the end of this post). We had some digital storage issues and didn’t get to take all the high def videos we had wanted. I’ll include more Lolla commentary for each photo as I upload them. You may notice in the sidebar that I sent several tweets (and twitpics) throughout the weekend.

General observations: Lollapalooza has been around since 1991, so they know how to run a festival. Each band plays for about an hour; headliners get 90 to 120 minutes.  I was particularly impressed that every band adhered strictly to their allotted time and set changes were quick. I wonder how the event organizers convince each band to do this as just about any other event I’ve ever been to starts late and ends late. Along these lines of event planning, I’d also love to know the range of payments each band receives – anyone wanna look that up for me?

I was particularly pleased to see recycling bins everywhere – they even had a farmers’ market within the grounds! The $3 I spent on a container of blueberries was well worth it.

As a preface to my quick rundown of bands that we saw, I came to the conclusion several years ago that you can’t judge a live band unless you’ve been within 20 yards of the stage during their performance. I’ve made note of the bands we didn’t get to see up close.

Friday

  • The Ettes – Our introduction to the festival. The BMI stage had a lot of shade which made the shows there much more enjoyable than the ones in the hot sun. We didn’t get close enough to really appreciate everything this band had to offer.
  • Los Amigos Invisibles – Quite a fun “cute Latin band” (as I dubbed them). I’ve got a video of their gyrating keyboardist that I hope to upload.
  • American Bang – The name sounded familiar, and sure enough, they’re a Nashville band. Sadly, I’d never seen them before. They sounded just like their name suggests and the guitarist looked like a cross between Angus Young & Sam Rockwell; we happened to run into him on the street later that evening and I got to share a few words. They have a new album coming out August 31. By the way, they played on the “Sony bloggie” stage – another venue in a grove of trees that made for a pleasant listening environment.
  • The New Pornographers – The first big crowd we faced and we didn’t get very close to the stage. For some reason, “dragon flies” are the only thing I jotted down in my notes about this show. It wasn’t a bad show, but for some reason, I was fascinated by all the mating dragon flies in the air throughout the entire weekend.
  • Fuck Buttons – You could hear them from a mile away, so I wouldn’t recommend going to one of their shows without ear plugs (we came prepared). If you’ve heard of Mogwai, you’d love this similar ambient/electronic DJ duo. FB & their 1 drum + bottle of White Zin = my most intense sonic experience of the weekend. Pretty funny that their name is censored all over the place – even the official Lolla program has it as F**k Buttons; their response.
  • Chromeo  – Whoa! They know how to bring the funk, Parliament style. We seriously enjoyed these guys and the Addicted to Love-styled “Chromettes” backup dancers.
  • Lady Gaga, The Strokes – The headliners at the two main stages that evening. We were torn between seeing them so we half-assed it and saw them both from a distance. Oh well.

Saturday

  • Dragonette – We followed Friday’s pattern of beginning at the relaxing BMI stage. Listened to them (didn’t watch much of it) from a distance. Again, I was fascinated by the mating dragon flies. I’m a child.
  • Warpaint – Sony bloggie stage. Kickass drummer and all-girl band.
  • The xx – One of the big acts we really wanted to see that weekend. Made the mistake of getting to the stage too late and also had to endure the scorching sunshine. Fortunately, others in the crowd weren’t as tolerant of the heat so we slowly inched forward throughout the whole show. One of our favorite experiences that weekend – after thousands of years of musical variety, it’s hard to believe bands like this can create such a unique sound and really own it.
  • Metric – Watched from a distance as we wanted to make sure we had time to get to Green Day on the other side of the park. Would have been nice to see them up close as frontwoman Emily Haines really knew how to play the crowd.
  • Green Day – I had heard that they put on quite a good show and it was definitely one of the highlights of the weekend. They add a lot of variety to their act and get the audience involved – for example: take this kid they got to dive off of their 15-foot high stage (video). P.S. 50-year-olds today were my age when Green Day first came out.

Sunday

We didn’t get to the park until 4pm as we knew it was going to be the hottest day. Plus, it was totally worth it to spend the morning at the Art Institute, particularly to catch the special Cartier-Bresson photography exhibit.

Paul Meany of Mute Math

  • MUTEMATH – This is the fourth time I’ve seen them. I have yet to be disappointed. Got several good photos that I’ll upload (Above: My capture of Paul Meany doing his trademark flip over his keyboard). Set list: The Nerve, Backfire, Chaos, Clipping, Control, Armistice, Noticed, Typical, Spotlight, Reset/Break the Same
  • MGMT – Quite a distracting stoner crowd. Would have been nice to be closer to the stage with other more attentive fans of this young and talented band.
  • Cypress Hill – As with Metric and Dragonette, we didn’t really get to see this band, but we did hear them from the other side of the field. I would have liked to have seen them up close, but I didn’t want to risk getting a lousy spot for Soundgarden. I specifically remember hearing, “Hits from the bong, 20 years strong.”
  • Soundgarden – Can’t say this was my favorite, but I’m glad I got to see them. “Outshined” was particularly memorable – for some reason, that song sounded ten times better than any other one that night.

Things I wish we had time for: Autograph tent, X Japan, DEVO, Yeasayer, Hot Chip, the hammock haven, These United States, The Black Keys, Perry’s stage, and much more. I had initially planned on seeing the bands in bold on this lineup PDF made from the Lolla website.

My video of Mute Math’s traditional closing instrumental, “Reset”, at the Playstation stage, Lollapalooza 2010, Sunday August 8th:

If you’ve already read the post, here are the updates, one week later: All Flickr pictures uploaded, plus four more YouTube videos:

  • Kormanmatthew

    Nice work. I went to my first Lolla (which was also my first music festival) in 2008. I was a bit younger than you and went with a larger group of people, so my experience was a bit different, but I've been back every year since.

    Reading your work I noticed that while you tried to see as much as you could, you didn't feel enough pressure to get into the front, or near front, of the crowds. It may be a bit more packed but it's always worth it. When you stand in the back you rarely get the full feel of the shows.

  • wow…that mute math video is amazing. what camera did you use? not your ipod.

    • I’m amazed at these new hi-def point-and-shoot cameras that have been out for a couple years now. This is a new Canon PowerShot SD4000 IS. The sound is ten times better when shooting in hi-def, too (didn’t have enough memory on the card to do a full song). I’ll try to upload the two videos we have soon.

  • Great review! You seriously missed out on not seeing The Black Keys; I was at the barrier, and it was mind-blowing (and vertigo-inducing, as was evident in the 50+ people I watched get dragged over the barrier or personally helped to drag over!). Another thing: I was up close for MGMT, and it was a nightmare; there were drugged-up high schoolers everywhere, and kids were dropping like flies (nearly myself included!)
    I saw your link on the Lollapalooza Facebook page, by the way.

    • What’s even sadder is that they’re playing Louisville tonight, too, but I’m broke after the weekend trip.

  • Very nice, brotha!

  • Canon PowerShot SD4000 IS. I'll try to upload the 2 hi-def ones we took, too. I'm quite impressed with these point-and-shoot camera's they've come out in the past couple years.

  • What's even sadder is that they played here in Louisville tonight – but I'm broke as a joke after the weekend in Chicago. Thanks for the feedback and recs – you win some, you lose some.

  • Canon PowerShot SD4000 IS. I'll try to upload the 2 hi-def ones we took, too. I'm quite impressed with these point-and-shoot camera's they've come out in the past couple years.

  • What's even sadder is that they played here in Louisville tonight – but I'm broke as a joke after the weekend in Chicago. Thanks for the feedback and recs – you win some, you lose some.