Saturday, August 04, 2007

Lollapalooza Day 1: Via Chicago

In all honesty, for a while after my favorite touring bands veered off the road and into that never ending Shakedown Street in the sky, I was pretty apathetic about traveling around the country. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t like visiting new places and, at some point, I still plan on conquering those six elusive states like kernels at the bottom of a bag of popcorn. It’s just that I didn’t have a reason to impulsively put up my ‘Out of Office’ auto-response, drop a weekend feeder in my fish tank and travel to some far off land in the hopes that I’d figure out where exactly on the Oregon trail soda became pop.

For, even though I may at times come off as a forgotten character from a bad teen movie, I genuinely believe there is something strangely cinematic about experiencing a foreign city through the eyes of a band like Phish, the Dead or Counting Crows (yes I just said that, I grew up in the suburbs during the 1990s, sue me). It gives a city context and a road trip a structure, if only because Live Nation parking lots tend to look the same across the country.

So, as the traveling festival faded away like Rod Stewart's credibility from his time in the Faces and my favorite mega bands slowed to a Coventry crawl, I began to fear that one day I’d begin to consider my weekly Saturday walk to New York’s west side highway some sort of cross-country road trip. That is, of course, until I learned to stop worrying and love the festival.

In an era where even the country’s biggest bands are favoring intimacy over long tours, single city mega-festivals, or destination events as us soft-tongued journalists like to call them, have taken the place of traveling summer caravans. And, thankfully, I now have a new reason to keep my suitcase by my bed and try my hardest to score a variety letter in festival hopping.

Now, for those of you who haven’t met me while bouncing around New York City, where I store my laptop during the Relix work week, or read my blog, where I store my typos after office hours, here’s a little background on my somewhat, err, muddy relationship with the summer rock music festival. I started attending Phish festivals shortly after scoring my senior drivers license and, over the past decade, have adjusted my musical taste in post-hippie-rock-snob accordance with the day’s blogs and message boards. In that time I’ve been lucky enough to attend both traveling and stationary festivals organized by everyone from moe. to Blink-182 to B.B. King to the Disco Biscuits and, of course, Bell Atlantic, Nantucket Nectar and Jeep Grand Cherokee. I’ve seen hipsters invade Langerado, hippies stake claim to Siren and the younger siblings of both groups converge at Dave Matthews Band’s Randall’s Island Summer Getaway, while somehow managing to explain to my mom, and later my boss, why I need to attend High Sierra, Vegoose, 10,000 Lakes and Wakarusa, even though Keller Williams played all three (ah, the beauty of the podcast).

I’ve visited the Acoustic Planet, seen indie-rock’s Unlimited Sunshine, Voted for Change, tasted the Green Apple, found my Citysol, counted to Live 8, spelled CMJ, been Snowcore and “jammed” on a River, Mountain, Cruise and Ski slope. Then again, I’ve also seen rock bands play the Montreal Jazz Fest, country groups at Jazz Aspen Snowmass and hip-hop collectives at the New Orleans Jazz Fest (but, oddly enough, jazz musicians at Rocks Off’s School of Rock festival). I’ve been hit by a bus at Berkfest, robbed at Bonnaroo and almost totaled my car at All Good. Unfortunately, I’ve also watched someone get struck by lighting at Gathering of the Vibes, fled from a tornado at Summer Camp and lost my shoes in Coventry’s mud. and, each and every summer, gone back for more (though, apparently, still haven’t figured out the importance of using suntan lotion). So, with that in mind, Lollapalooza seemed as good a reason as any to venture to Chicago this weekend and if only so I can spend three days listening to my college friend’s try and relate every site to see to one of New York’s hamlets (I hear they call “Scarsdale” “Highland Park” in these parts).

Ever since I first visited my girlfriend in Chicago during college I’ve always loved the Windy City because, for all intensive purposes, it is a more manageable version of my two favorite urban areas, New York or Los Angeles. It’s got everything that makes a city both charming and cool, from good pizza to clean subways and cursed baseball teams and, if my girlfriend’s parents didn’t make me sleep on the pullout coach, I’d probably have stayed there forever (or at least until the winter) And, while Chicago might at first seem like an odd place to throw a multi-band, multi-stage, multi-million dollar music festival like Lollapalooza, it is actually a note perfect location: big enough to absorb the festival’s shadow, but small enough for a sun baked visitor to feel at home.

Lollapalooza is also perfectly positioned to geographically balance out the country’s other three major rock-music festivals; Bonnaroo (which represents the east), Coachella (which represents the west) and Austin City Limits (which represents the gulf coast). Plus, I hear the locals needed something to talk about besides the Bears. Though a good chunk bands overlap at all four events, each gathering has founds its own niche: hippie, indie-rock, singer/songwriter and alt-rock.With the exception of the later category I’ll let you decide which category matches which festival, but I’ll end this post by saying it feels fitting that Pearl Jam, Daft Punk and, of course, Perry Farell himself are playing Lollapalooza this summer.

So, for the next three days Benjy and I will be onsite, podcasting some of our favorite bands, reporting on Eddie Vedder’s whereabouts and trying to find the original Pizza UNO. Now if only someone would teach me to put on sunscreen.

1 comment:

BonnarooSpaceman said...

I've always been partial to the scientific notation/nickname for the Greenhaus Effect: G20

As a scientist, I can ensure that this has been officially added to the Periodic Table of Elements with an atomic weight of 420.