Saturday, August 11, 2012

Lollapalooza 2012
Grant Park Chicago IL
August 3,4,5,2012

Brought my son along for this one. We haven't had extended time together since we went to Amsterdam for his 19th birthday. While we stayed a safe distance from the SEX part, there was the DRUGS and this weekend closes the trinity by bringing us the ROCK N ROLL. Hope to get the kid out shopping for his girlfriend on the Million Dollar Mile. Scored tickets for the Childish Gambino after-show. Now I'm looking to unload them as Perry Farrell announced a Janes Addiction  aftershow that conflicted. Since that band isn't playing Lolla proper, it took precedence. Mike's taking in a Friday night aftershow with Anamaguchi and we may try to find scalper tickets for Alabama Shakes on Thursday night if we get there soon enough.  Did a little research on Chicago's Summer of the Gun and think we'll try to stay focussed while making our way to and from these shows.

Thursday August 2, 2012

On the road at 7 am and we're only 847 kms away from our destination.  Lunch near Ann Arbor MI then no stopping until we park the car in Chicago.

Found the Hotel 71 on East Wacker and only got lost once. Mike and I cover a few miles, checking out the venue entrance and making our way across the Chicago River to stroll up the Magnificent Mile.

Here's the view from our room:

Friday August 3, 2012

I'm up early on the street, a few photos and breakfast under my belt before the boy even wakes up. It's hot in Chicago, humidex makes it almost 105 degrees. The park has lots of shade though and the Chicago Transit Authority has "cooling buses" they are watching out for the fans.

At the Google Play stage we have Animal Kingdom opening the festival. Brit rockers. Songs of social conscience.We're waiting on Anamanaguchi , what can only be described as 'skateboard guitar'...kind of like 'surf guitar' but for a new age. No words. Both bands well-received by large enough crowds for first thing in the day. My son is seeing a reprise of this set at the Congress Theater after-show around midnight.

This festival is much larger than Coachella, spread over more space, with 4 stages that can hold around 40,000 and a half dozen smaller stages. It's work making your way around.

We head over to the main stage for a Dr Dog show. It is a long way, in the blistering sun...did I mention the 105 degree humidex? I saw this band open for The Raconteurs in Montreal back in...ummm, 2006. I was underwhelmed but in fairness to them, the sound was muddy. Enjoyed this set much more. Problem with this band is they don't let the lead guitarist sing ALL the songs. If they did, they'd be terrific. As it is, they are half-terrific, vocals being shared with the bass player.

We're expecting The Verve Pipe to play a small set at the Kidzapaloozo stage so we find ourselves in the shade, on bleacher seats, getting some respite from the brutal sunshine. Turns out the printed schedule is wrong. It'll be tomorrow. Lovely little side-stage set up they have for the kids. A festival within a festival complete with hip-hop workshops, face painting, and musical instruments for the kids to play. We did hear an announcement that Sundays "special guest" will be Perry Farrell of Janes Addiction.

At the other end of the venue playing the Bud Light stage is Canadian band, Metric...and more shade as the quarter mile walk from the Kidz area was enough to melt another layer of skin. Most of what I've seen today has just made me go, "Meh". The sun is beating me down, I need a shower and a massage, not to mention food. Resting up at the hotel proved to be my downfall and my salvation. The lure of Black Sabbath was not enough to get me off the couch. Time to recharge.

Saturday August 4, 2012

On the streets early as the boy is sleeping off his 2 am evening. Some photo's but once again the heat is oppressive. We're supposed to get a smattering of rain around 2:30 pm this afternoon. That'll be welcome respite.

Argggh, I left our hotel without the spare Childish Gambino after show tickets we had. I did find someone wandering the grounds with a Club Gambino t-shirt and he and his buddy wanted to go to the show. We arranged to meet at 8pm when the Red Hot Chili Peppers would be taking the stage. Or so we thought.

Third Man Records artist Jeff the Brotherhood opens the day. Meh. Sometimes I think I'm getting too old for this stuff.

Sitting in the cool shade amongst the kidz, watching tumblers and yoga teachers keep them occupied when some 13 year old comes onstage and makes this whole weekend worthwhile. I've got my taping rig on, waiting for Alabama Shakes and The Tallest Man on Earth to take to the grown up stages, but I'm not recording. Yet. Two songs into this set and I figure I can't let this sound get away.  From the blues mecca New Bedford, Massachusetts, Quinn Sullivan was coaxing some magical sounds out of his Stratocaster. He is playing the break-through set of this festival. Check this kid out, either at his website or on youtube. He's toured with Buddy Guy, played with B B King and he gives no ground to either.

Take in a few minutes of some nondescript band at the Playstation Stage before making my way over to the Bud Light Stage to set up for the Alabama Shakes. This set was my most anticipated set of the weekend. I mean Jack White's here but I've seen him over 30 times, I know what's coming. Passing the speaker banks at the midway point I think it interesting the roadie is taking them down. Repairs? Perhaps they had some static or distortion. No matter, time for a quick beer and some shade before taking position on the right side of the soundboard.

As the roadies cover up the drum set I look to the skies. Seems just fine, very little cloud. I ask the couple next to me if perhaps the roadies know something we don't know.  A few minutes later this splashes on the side-stage screens.

Thing is, nobody moved. I'm telling people it would be a cruel joke to post that picture on a screen where you have 80,000 people milling about...but nobody moved. I wasn't moving either, the Alabama Shakes were coming on in five minutes.

Alas, it was not to be. There was a huge storm bearing down on Chicago, already causing wind damage to the west. With the summer of falling stages we had in 2011 caution was the prudent course. Extremely well organized evacuation. There were three emergency shelters just outside the venue, underground parking garages. Fortunately our hotel was within walking distance of the venue so we didn't have to risk being underground when the rains came in. A quick text to the Gambino twins and they were on their way to our hotel to pick up their tickets.

The storm came in and went out. Within 3 hours we were back in the venue. Missed the Alabama Shakes as they lost their stage position. Passed on the Red Hot Chili Peppers because the schedule was pushed back and we didn't want to be late for Jane's Addiction at the after show. Managed to get back in time to see half of The Tallest Man On Earth . And he was good. Kind of like a Jeff Mangum with energy.

Missed these songs;     
Love Is All
I Won't Be Found
The Gardener
Got part of this song;
There's No Leaving Now
And all of these;
It Will Follow The Rain
Leading Me Now
Wind and Walls
Like the Wheel
King of Spain
The Dreamer (piano version)
Where Do My Bluebirds Fly

We catch about three or four songs from Bloc Party before we're thinking it's time to make our way to The Aragon for Franz Ferdinand and Jane's Addiction. The Red Line takes us to Lawrence station where you step off the train to look right at the  R GO  marquee. It's an historic venue, you'd think someone would replace the bulbs in the A  A  N letters. I love Perry Farrel. Sometimes. Tonight it's a muddy mix and sonic noise. Franz was unremarkable so I have nothing to say about them. All in all a good attempt at something special that just became a late night out.

Sunday August 5 ,2012

My favourite building in Chicago was the Tribune Tower . Amazing architecture made even more interesting by the inclusion of commemorative stones from many historical structures...from Edinburgh Castle to the White House and many even more exotic locations. Here's a detail of a piece from the Pyramid at Giza.

Enough with the walking though, gotta conserve energy.

It's Jack White Day!!! Mike and I go and scope out the condition of the main stage. Happy to see there is a 50 square foot mud pit to the left of the soundboard. I brought my Wellies with me and I suspect not too many people are going to want to be standing in that lake. But that's for later.

We start at the Kidz stage, The Verve Pipe is putting on their half hour set. The mini-venue is packed as a bunch of 20-somethings are in place waiting to hear The Freshman.

That ain't gonna happen. The band has put together a half dozen 'kindie rock' songs. Indie rock for kids. Real music with child friendly lyrics that aren't talking down to them. Think Fraggle Rock.

Wake Up
Complimentary Love
Be a Part of A Band
You Can Write A Song
Hot Soup (Freshman chant from audience)
All You Need Is Love

This time I'm ready for Quinn Sullivan. He doesn't disappoint. My list of favourite guitarists I've seen, which includes Charlie Sexton, Junior Brown, Chris Spedding, Jack White and David Baxter, has just grown by one. This kid is unconscious.

Here's his set:

My Sweet Guitar (Quinn Sullivan)
I Ain't Been Everywhere (But I'm Gettin' There) (Quinn Sullivan)
Cyclone (Quinn Sullivan)
Little Wing (Jimi Hendrix)
Buddy Guy Blues (Quinn Sullivan)
Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad (Eric Clapton)

Stagger over to the BMI stage to catch one of way too many hip-hop artists at this festival. Not a single ska band. Shame. Overdoz was well received by their fans. Both of them.

Time for some rest and dinner. Off to the  Billy Goat Tavern, immortalized by John Belushi on Saturday Night Live, for some Cheezeburgers and, no Pepsi, Coke. Quick rest at the hotel and happy that I've saved some energy for the Sunday night closer, Jack White. My son is over watching Childish Gambino. I know he wishes we'd held on to those tickets and passed on Jane's Addiction. My Bad.

But all that is behind me now as Jack is about to take the stage. I find myself in the middle of the aforementioned mud patch and I can spread my arms out and turn around without touching anybody. The only distraction I have is people who look my way wondering why there's a lot of space until they wander in and slip in the mud. I'm standing 3" deep in this shit. Before it got dark a half-dozen people came over to compliment me on the good choice of footwear. I told them it wasn't my first festival.

So what about Jack? He's been off the touring trail for awhile now. After The White Stripes imploded near the end of 2007 he's had a rather underwhelming run with Dead Weather and a show with The Raconteurs at the Michigan Speedway in 2011 that ranks as the least impressive set I've seen from him. He's had some tough times. Following in Bob Dylan's footsteps he married a model. Didn't work out. (Reference also Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen. When are these guys going to learn that just because you are the current weeks rock-god and the models are throwing themselves at you, it may not be the best choice.) His son is cute as a button though.

Jack is loud. If we were in a club my ears would be bleeding. I prefer the girl band to the boy band. The set opens with The Los Buzzardos backing Jack. High energy songs. Not a lot of melody. We open with Sixteen Saltines, a song inspired by his daughter. Some cute lyrics, a sonic blow out. Followed by Black Math, which is hard to decipher at the best of times and the subtleties, such as they may be, are lost in the wall-of-sound treatment. Missing Pieces is a nice song from the new record. Nice sounding that is. Subject matter is another question.

I'm not sure about Blunderbuss. It's a little self-serving as a 'break up record', not unlike Dylan's Blood On The Tracks, mean spirited and perhaps misogynistic. Jack really is trying to become Bob. If he marries his black support singer and goes religious, it's a done deal. The one quote that stood out from his post-divorce Rolling Stone interview was..."Monogamy is not for me." Well, Jack, that's a deal-breaker in most marriages. Listening to this record you get the impression most of the fault lay on the other side. Not that art has ever been fair.

The show starts to take shape with the tour debut of Wasting My Time. Early Stripes, my favourite era. The full band treatment makes these songs different, some of them much improved. On others it just reminds you how great the duo were, that they could fill an arena with sound.

Back to a trio of sonic noise. Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground has moved quite a ways down the setlist. It's followed by Hypocritical Kiss and then a real staple of the Stripes show, the Cannon medley, this time with Nitro and John the Revelator.

The show has been a little uneven up to this point but it's about to take off on an upward trajectory culminating in a post-show chant that makes it's way out to North Michigan Ave and beyond.

 Two Against One (Danger Mouse and Daniel Luppi) is a lovely little word-play tune.  Maybe the closest Jack comes to admitting he was part of the relationship issues. The Same Boy You've Always Known is another great blast from the past. The boy group gets to close out with two complex, subtle songs, showing another side of themselves.

Band change comes during Take Me With You When You Go as Ruby Amanfu takes over some vocals and the players change genders. They move right into the seductive but creepy single  Love Interruption and the crowd goes wild. This trio of songs is closed out with another tune from the record, Weep Themselves To Sleep. I don't get this one yet.

The highlight of the evening is the country song, Hotel Yorba, with fiddle. Perfect. A song I'd become bored of in The White Stripes catalogue but it has a new life now. Top Yourself is also put in a new light as Jack asks each girl in the band how she's going to rock herself to sleep after he gives up his midnight creep...leading into their solo. Great stuff.

And now back to the sonic assault as a Screwdriver intro to Blue Blood Blues leads us into Ball and Biscuit and the encore break.

The trouble with encores that aren't really encores is the fans tend to be a little lackluster. Jack and band come back onstage to a rousing round of semi-silence. "Are you still out there?" he asks, before ripping into Steady As She Goes, Hardest Button to Button, Freedom 21 and Seven Nation Army to close out the festival.