One of the biggest festivals on the touring scene, Lollapalooza 2008 (August 1 to 3, 2008 in Chicago) featured more than 150 acts on eight stages—including headliners Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails, Rage Against the Machine, Wilco and Kayne West—with an estimated 75,000 festival-goers per day. Austin-based production company C3 Presents has been working on this festival since 2005 with originator Perry Farrell.
AT&T Blueroom was onsite, with help from Trio Video, streaming live Webcasts of many of the acts, as well as projecting video to all the giant screens. AT&T Blueroom was filming and broadcasting six of the eight stages, making it easy to still get in on the action at home if you couldn’t make it out to the festival.
Day One of the festival started early on Friday, but the heat and extensive lines to get in kept things from really getting going until well after noon. Bands that were on the early side of the bill like The Go! Team had a thin audience, but their exuberant high kicks and cheerleader-like costumes got the crowd fired up for the big weekend.
After the slow start to the morning, the race soon began to get from stage to stage. My favorites Friday afternoon included the hard-rockin’ blues from the Black Keys and the sultry and heartbreaking voice of Cat Power.
As the evening set in, Mix publisher Joanne Zola and I had the treat of watching The Raconteurs show from the soundboard. The Raconteurs played a fantastic set, including their Grammy-nominated hit “Steady as She Goes,” and some of my favorites from their more recent Consolers of the Lonely album.
As night fell, the excitement in the crowd was palpable as we all waited for Radiohead to close out Day One on the AT&T main stage. Radiohead gave a brilliant performance, thrilling the crowd as they made their way through an array of their material, playing something from almost every album. The light show and stage set for this beautiful set were incredible, but I was left wishing that they could have played a bit louder and a lot longer.
On Day Two, a nice breeze came from Lake Michigan, giving concert-goers a respite from the heat that was so pervasive on Day One. Mason Jennings started things nice and easy, while Philadelphia favorites Dr. Dog picked things up a bit with their Beatles-esque harmonies. Painfully, I had to tear myself away a little early from my new favorites, MGMT, to run over to see Perry Farrell and his special guests at Perry’s World compound, who ended up being none other than Samantha Ronson and Slash. I was psyched when I got there to see Farrell onstage with Slash, but unfortunately, this ended up being the biggest sound glitch of the weekend when they lost all of their amplification. They ended up doing a family-style sing-along, sans speakers to “Jane Says.”
As with the morning, the afternoon was again full of so many options for amazing music: You just had to decide weather you wanted to rock it with indie favorites like Broken Social Scene and Austin hipsters Okkervil River, or Nicole Ritchie’s ex, and my new favorite dance party, DJ AM, who seemed to play the soundtrack of my life, on the North side of the park. On the South end of the park, you had the option of getting down with the likes of Jamie Liddell, the soul-funk singer who also plays a mean beat box, or Chicago MC Lupe Fiasco, who had people in a dancing frenzy.
Before the night fell, I made sure to make my way over to hear the highly acclaimed and much adored soul-diva Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings. This was my first time seeing her in person, and I was not disappointed!
Wilco and Rage Against the Machine were head to head, closing out the two main stages. Wilco has long been one of my favorite bands, but their set left me sort of wanting more from them, but apparently I did not hang out long enough because I hear that their set picked up later but I had already hightailed it over to catch the Rage set.
Having not seen them for many years, I was very excited to see Rage AGainst the Machine. They stirred things up quickly; by the time I got over there, lead singer Zach de la Roche had to stop singing to warn the moshing fans to take it easy before too much blood was shed. It was definitely one of those moments when I was deeply aware of the power that a band has over their fans emotions.
While I cannot say that I was moving quite as quickly on Day Three, there were still lots to see and I packed in as much as I could. I started the morning with Brit rockers White Lies. The lead singer’s baritone reminded me a bit of the voice of The National’s lead singer, Matt Berninger. From there, I ran over to the main stage to catch the Brazilian Girls. I loved their set, but I wished I were in a small dark club to truly appreciate the sexy mood that they are so good at creating.
I chose to bypass the beginning of Chromeo’s set to catch Farrell and Slash playing with the School of Rock All-Stars at the Kidapalooza Stage, which was fully amplified Sunday and drew in a large crowd. It was well-worth missing some of Chromeo’s electro-funk to see the excited and nervous kids sharing a stage with Slash. I caught the end of the Chromeo set and enough of the vibe to know that I missed a good dance party. I then stopped in on indie poppers the Black Kids before heading over to take a nice sit on the lawn as another of my longtime loves, Iron & Wine, played a stunning set to a rapt crowd.
After melting into the sweetness of Iron & Wine, I was suddenly awake again when celtic punks Flogging Molly came out. They made way for alt-rock legends Love and Rockets, but I was forced to skip out after a song or two so I could get over to see Gnarls Barkley on the other side of the park. I was glad that I made it over in time to catch some grooves with Cee-Lo and Danger Mouse, sort of wishing that I had been there from the beginning.
Mark Ronson brought an all-star lineup with him, including a string section and cast of guest performers, to once again kick final night of Lollapalooza into high gear. Nearby, others were dancing to the beats of DJ Girl Talk at the Citi Stage.
The final dilemma of the weekend: stay around waiting for Kanye West, hoping that he might actually start this one on time, or make my way back to the north side of the park to try and get a spot near the soundboard for the beginning of Nine Inch Nails. Having wanted to see NIN for years, it was not really a tough choice. I got over there as quickly as I could, but try as I might I could not make my way through the crowd to the soundboard, and because the stage was on lock-down, I ended up opting to find a vantage point off to the side. he sound was a bit quiet from where I ended up, but that did not prevent me from being absolutely moved to tears by the beauty of Trent Reznor’s industrial angst. The band closed with the ever-so-painful songs “Hurt” and “In This Twilight.”
And then it was over. The three-day event was a wrap and suddenly it was quiet.
Looking back, I realize that as hard as I tried this weekend, I still missed out on a lot. I now feel the throbbing of my feet and notice the ache in my neck, and I remember that I sure tried, but you just can’t see it all at a festival like Lollapalooza. That truly would take a miracle, especially as the two main stages (Bud Light and AT&T) were nearly a mile apart.