Saturday, July 26, 2008
I talked to a few friends yesterday who are attending Lollapalooza next weekend. While mentioning the probability of meeting up with them at some point during the festival, I was reminded why I don't particularly enjoy group outings at events like Lolla. This is an event that thrives due to the eclectic mix of artists. The appeal to the concert-goer is the ability to map out your own path through the weekend, so inevitably, there will be debates within a group on who to see at any given time. This was not an issue at the Pitchfork Festival, as our group was small and largely uniform in our preferred agenda. Not to mention the choices were much easier (i.e. Do we want to watch The Hold Steady rock our collective asses, or watch the guy in !!! imitate Terry from Reno 911?) Plus with only three stages (as opposed to eight at Lolla) and the giant video screen, the number of choices were smaller and it was pretty easy to navigate the terrain quickly. But Grant Park is a sprawling beast, so there is more of a commitment to be made when choosing once band over another. In a situation like this, a group mentality cannot thrive. The more likely scenario should be that I touch base with friends from time to time while executing my own plan. Does this make me selfish or unnecessarily pessimistic of the possibilities that I can work in harmony with my friends over a common itinerary? Perhaps. But to maximize personal enjoyment at an even that, by it's nature is this over the top, sometimes one must be a loner, Dottie. A rebel.
And yet, even when venturing solo, there is an still internal struggle on who to see when. With that in mind, these are some of the tough decisions to be made over the weekend:
FRIDAY: Mates of State vs Grizzly Bear
There are several downsides to massive festivals like Lollapalooza, but bands like these are ultimately what make them worthwhile, because while I like both, I would would probably be on the fence about seeing either a standalone show. They both are masters at the art of pop harmonies.
EXPECTED CHOICE: Grizzly Bear. I'm always skeptical about bands whose albums feature harmonies that dynamic, and their subsequent ability to translate that delivery to the live setting. Fleet Foxes did this with stunning ease at Pitchfork, so I'm hoping Grizzly Bear can bring the goods as well.
FRIDAY: The Raconteurs vs Bloc Party
A classic confrontation here - 2 bands with outstanding debut albums and not as great but still quite good follow-ups. This may be the toughest call of the weekend for me, as I would easily pay to see either band at their own show. Based on live performances that I've seen on TV or online, The Raconteurs seems to have a more energetic stage show, whereas Bloc Party always kinda seems like they're going through the motions - although those motions still move.
EXPECTED CHOICE: This will be a game-time decision, but I'm slightly leaning toward Bloc Party, if for no other reason than to be closer when Radiohead follows them on the same stage afterward.
SATURDAY: Broken Social Scene vs Lupe Fiasco
Lupe Fiasco's catalogue would seem to translate well to the summer setting, but hip-hop shows all too often result in guys with mics in front of a turntable, and the presentation rarely adds more than the recorded versions. For whatever reason, I've always had a really tough time getting into Broken Social Scene. I find them interesting more than I actually find them enjoyable; there's just something about them I can't explain that leaves me a bit cold. That said, I've heard raves about their live show, and that chick from the Apple ads is in their band!
EXPECTED CHOICE: Broken Social Scene, to see if they finally make me a believer. Their set at Lolla '06 supposedly stole the weekend, so maybe the stars are aligned for a repeat performance.
SATURDAY: Wilco vs Rage Against the Machine
Oh, Rage...who played the game in the early 90's better than these guys? Their first album was the driving soundtrack to every soccer game I played my sophomore year in high school. I didn't know any 14-year-old boy (myself included) who didn't get a visceral thrill from screaming "Fuck you! I won't do what you tell me!" ad nauseum. Somehow they cloaked their empty lyrics in social consiousness, while never acknowledging that the fans they preaching to were comprised almost entirely of kids who had absolutely no idea who Che Guevara was, and really just liked screaming over and over while Tom Morello ripped shit up. Needless to say, their catalog has not aged well, and they paved the way for Korn and Limp Bizkit, so thanks for that guys! But hey - they've reunited, so I suppose we're expected to give a shit or something.
EXPECTED CHOICE: Wilco, I suppose. I really wish someone else was playing opposite Wilco, because although I love them, I've seen them multiple times in far better settings and would like to see someone new. That said, I can't get into Rage's novelty reunion charade. Somebody take notes and tell me if Zach De La Rocha does anything bold and revolutionary, like criticize the President.
SUNDAY: Black Kids vs School of Rock All-Stars
I really liked the Black Kids first EP, but haven't listened to their new album yet (though the Pitchfork review of said album seemingly made the blogosphere implode.) Those kids do battle with the youngsters from Paul Green's School of Rock who make me insanely jealous. They get to spend their youth learning how to shred through the history of rock from from Radiohead to Journey in front of thousands, while my formative years were spent cranking out the damn theme from "Newhart" at CYO contests. You win, kids.
EXPECTED CHOICE: School of Rock. False advertising alert: everyone in the Black Kids is over the age of 22!
SUNDAY: Nine Inch Nails vs Kanye West
The final slot of the weekend features a heavyweight matchup. The man who begs for every album sale he gets taking on the man who asks people to steal his CDs. Kanye's "Glow in the Dark" tour set-up displays an ambition never before seen from a hip-hop act. He's taking a page from the U2 book of calculated theatrics, and I'm a total sucker because I've fallen into the trap and my curiosity is piqued.
In 1992, I looked at Nine Inch Nails the same way I looked at Rage Against the Machine - interesting soundscapes and heavy lyrics that included swearing. Of course I thought The Offspring had staying power back in those days as well, so perhaps I wasn't the best judge of talent. Reznor's stuff still holds up today though - he's survived the flurry of imitators that flourished in the 1990's, and his current DIY ethic of working without a record label and releasing music through unconventional means has given his music a much needed shot of energy. Based on their tour rehearsal footage, NIN looks ready to slay.
EXPECTED CHOICE: Nine Inch Nails. In a perfect world, I could watch NIN perform, Kanye would pull a Bonnaroo and run late, and I could see both acts. But I don't live in a perfect world. I live in Chicago, where they threaten to open fire if open-air concerts in the city run past 10pm.