“Sorry man, they blocked of Roosevelt. We’re gonna have to go around. To think this city wanted the Olympics, and they can’t even handle Lollapalooza.” – My cab driver.
And with that, my 2013 Lolla experience started a mile south of where I was supposed to be. I was born and raised in Chicago, and as referenced above, it can be a challenging city. It can also be a world class city, hosting a ridiculously large and successful festival, bending only slightly, and never outright breaking. It’s good to be back for a little bit of insanity, but only a little bit.
I leisurely made my way to the media tent, where people, generally more important than I, talk to musicians. Mostly anyone who covers music on a nationa level had sent some delegation to cover the festival. Radio Milwaukee was no exception.
We sent our three interns. And me. So, like three and a half interns.
While Josh and Allison were covering the festival from the grounds, Justin and I spent a good portion of sunlit hours waiting, pacing, and asking questions of bands in the press area. The bands are being shepherded to different magazines, tv networks, and of course, radio stations, dutifully answering every serious and bizarre question they’re asked.
Justin had the bright idea to compile a series of either-or questions, framed as a ‘personality quiz.’ It was a brilliant idea, because bands would often disagree within their own members, sparking an entirely new discussion. My favorite two were: “Fame or Fortune?” and “Buy an album or Burn an album.”
Some Musical Highlights
New Order. They’re one of my favorite bands of all time, and they could not have sounded better. It was almost shocking how good it was, considering how many bad “live” New Order performances there are out there. You could debate the merits of a band missing Peter Hook, but I honestly didn’t notice or mind. Plus, Hook went out as a one man Joy Division recently, so 3 out of 4 isn’t bad. Benard’s vocals were great., too. All and all, a real victory for fans of the band.
Nine Inch Nails. Might have been my favorite childhood/adolescent band. I like pointing out they retired in 2009. They’re back with a new album and tour. I think there should be a mandatory 5 year waiting period for retirements. I found the whole thing to be a little off-putting. What’s the point of “saying goodbye” unless it’s to elicit some response of loss and longing? So, now on what’s shorter than some bands album cycle, they’re back. Rather, Trent is back. With a killer band that sounded absolutely fantastic. They stage show, which was touted as a Stop Making Sense homage, was cool, but tough to see, because they turned off the video screens. That was silly, guys. Nonetheless, it was a great set.
Little Green Cars. They were fantastic. Surprised the heck out of me how they commanded they stage. I think the Mumford guys knew what was going on when they signed them. It really was exciting to see them do well, early on a Saturday afternoon.
Charles Bradley. I think he made some new fans. The few minutes I saw were just incredible. He really shines on the biggest of stages.
The National is not a band I go home and listen to one of their albums. However when it comes to a live show, they are really, really good.
I mentioned in 88Times that the band to check out was Death Grips. Post hardcore two piece, quite incendiary, could be interesting. Well, they got wiped from the bill after they intentionally no-showed a pre party the night before. Because even in no-showing, they found a way to be incendiary. Needless to say, I think they may have crossed the line into irrelevance. Too edgy for their own good.
Less Hoopsters. I think everyone is on to the joke now. It didn’t stop a bunch of people from wearing their best mid 90’s Champion replica jerseys. Those jerseys, which went for $40-50, brand new, routinely fetch over $100 on Ebay. One man’s trash, right?
Other Random Notes
My Dad. He was up at midnight on Friday, patiently waiting to make sure I got home alright. I’m 34 and it was a welcome sight. He suggested rye whisky. We ended up chatting for two hours. I probably needed the sleep, and definitely not the rye. Alas, it was a great moment. One thing I need to mention about my dad is that he’s always checking to see if my car doors are unlocked, which inevitably they are. I then get a text about it, asking if he should lock the doors. I love you, Dad.
Slacker. First, a disclosure: I worked for Slacker in various capacities in for a few years. They’re good peeps, and using actual humans to build and customize stations (as opposed to computers). Slacker gave us a home base for interviews, and provided plenty of entertainment along the way. Speaking of which…
Malort. Mat and Andrew were gifted a bottle of the spirit from Yelp Chicago. From the Jeppson’s label from which it originated: "Most first-time drinkers of Jeppson Malort reject our liquor. Its strong, sharp taste is not for everyone. Our liquor is rugged and unrelenting (even brutal) to the palate. During almost 60 years of American distribution, we found only 1 out of 49 men will drink Jeppson Malort. During the lifetime of our founder, Carl Jeppson was apt to say, 'My Malort is produced for that unique group of drinkers who disdain light flavor or neutral spirits.'
Chinatown. There were so many incredible food options on site, but sometimes you just need to get away and enjoy the city. I had not been to Chinatown in fifteen years, but I was really impressed how much it had grown, and the amazing shops and restaurants in the vicinity. Our dinner was great, and if I could really share one more brilliant completely not Lolla related moment, it would be this.
Uber. Even with what feels like 20,000 taxis in Chicago, it’s hard to find one when you really need one. Enter Uber. A private taxi service that just blows my mind. I feel like based on the lack of taxis in MKE, this would be a hit. Lets you know where the closest driver is, GPS tracking to your location, and a rating of the driver’s reliability/service. Saved me once or twice, no doubt.
Our Lolla Team. Just judging from all of the great experiences they shared, I once again have to tip my hat to Allison, Josh, and Justin for doing a great job.
Lolla, itself. They did a great job this year, with talent and management. It’s about an easy of an experience one could hope for with 95,000 people running about every day. Now, the streets surrounding it? Can’t help you there.