Sunday, August 9, 2009

Lollapalooza Day Three

Day Three was just plain weird.

First of all, while there were a lot of people at Lollapalooza on Saturday, there were just too damn many people there on Sunday. Perhaps that's my impression, colored by exhaustion, but I felt suffocated all day. I remember arriving at noon, and looking through the gate at the earliest show of the day, and seeing hundreds upon hundreds of people already there.

Today also vaulted past 100 degrees, which didn't help. I spent something like $15 on water, in one day, and I brought in a one-liter bottle to boot. I used super-SPF sunscreen, and the back of my neck is still sunburned. The performers were commenting on the heat all day as well. I could try to tell you how hot it was, but I don't think I'd be able to adequately convey it. It was bloody hot.

Despite all that, the day started out rather well. Ra Ra Riot kicked things off with a driving set of indie pop fueled by violin and cello. I like their sound so much, I just wish they would write some compelling songs to go with it. But live, it worked just fine. Plus, on the way over to that show, I caught a few songs from Los Angeles band Carney, and they were swell - fine, fun pop. I'll be buying their album.

Bat for Lashes was magnificent. Part Siouxie, part Bjork, all Kate Bush, Natasha Khan danced through a set full of magical songs. She played piano and autoharp, and was backed by a three-piece band that brought the songs on Two Suns, her extraordinary new album, to life. She closed with "Daniel," and I've heard six versions of this song now, none of them the same. Great, great show.

I was going to avoid the Airborne Toxic Event, so unimpressed was I with the songs I've heard. I'm so glad I showed up for their set, though, because they rocked. They closed with a 10-minute version of "Innocence" that was simply superb. Like Bruce Springsteen, TATE plays simple, inspiring rock music that works much better on the stage. Still, I'll probably be buying this album now too.

All was well. And then, during Vampire Weekend's set, I had a panic attack.

I was looking forward to this band's show all (ahem) weekend. Their self-titled debut was one of my favorite records of last year, and their unique blend of Afro-pop and college rock works on many levels. Unfortunately, one of those levels is "drunken party music." My friends wanted to be closer to the action, and despite my hatred of crowds, I went along. Before I knew it, we were enclosed, and couldn't leave if we wanted to.

And then a group of drunken college kids pushed their way through to stand in front of us, and as the band launched into "A-Punk," they began shoving each other into the people around them. Including us. That, coupled with the heat and the crowd, proved too much, and I fled, taking refuge near the exit while my heart raced and I hyperventilated. It was not my finest moment.

Still, I enjoyed Vampire Weekend. They played a bunch of new songs, and while they sound superficially similar to the old stuff, I could tell they're stretching out, becoming more ambitious. I did listen to the last half of their set from the steps by the exit, my head in my hands, though, so you may not want to listen to me.

I recovered in time for the three sets at the end of the night, on the north stage.

I don't like Lou Reed. I can't believe it took sitting through half his ass-aching set Sunday night to remember that, but it's true. I know why the man's a legend, and I understand his importance, but he's an awful musician, and just a complete douchebag. He started his set 20 minutes late, but played a whole hour anyway, which would have been forgivable if he'd been playing songs, but his band spent most of their last 20 minutes spewing forth squalling feedback over a keyboard loop.

Meanwhile, Band of Horses stood by the side of the stage, waiting for Reed to finish torturing our ears. The crowd grew restless, and started chanting rude things at Reed, but he pressed on. So Band of Horses started 20 minutes late as well. I quite enjoyed their set, though, especially the grand "No One's Gonna Love You," an ethereally beautiful piece. Hearing it live was wonderful.

Then something strange happened. Band of Horses, quite rightly, decided to play their entire set as well, planning to conclude 20 minutes late. Unfortunately, noise ordinances keep Lollapalooza from continuing past 10 p.m. So the reunited Jane's Addiction decided to take the headlining stage on time, launching into "Up the Beach"... while Band of Horses continued to play on the stage directly facing them.

That's right, for 20 minutes, we got two bands playing at full volume atop one another, like two stereos blaring simultaneously. It was, to say the least, odd. Most people were just bewildered, but neither band backed down, so all we could do was wait for Band of Horses to finish their set. Now, here's the thing with me and Jane's Addiction - I've been waiting to see them live for 20 years. It's been 18 since all four original members shared the stage. I've been breathlessly awaiting this show for months.

And the first few songs were just ruined.

Now, my very favorite Jane's song is the mammoth "Three Days." I knew I'd have to leave early to catch my train, but I've been saying to myself, "As long as I see 'Three Days' live, I'll be okay." Well, they launched into it as their third song, while Band of Horses was still playing. And I shook my head in dismay.

But "Three Days" is 10 minutes long, and it simply outlasted its competition. I got to hear all the good parts, and then another hour of Jane's besides, including my other favorite, "Then She Did." Jane's was extraordinary, playing like they hadn't been away for even a day. It was a terrific capper.

Yes, I did have to leave early, during "Summertime Rolls." But I didn't care that much. I saw some fantastic music throughout my three-day adventure, and while I'm not sure I would do it again - I really am getting too old for this shit - it was a fine, fun time.

Quote of the day:

Band of Horses singer Ben Bridwell, upon taking the stage after waiting through Lou Reed's epic overrun: "So, what have you guys been up to?"

I will probably cannibalize a bunch of this for tm3am this week, so apologies in advance. Thanks very much to everyone who hung out with me this weekend. It was a blast.