Lollapalooza 2007: Now this really is what I call music

Katie at LollaKevin at Lolla
Day Two

Cory had been telling us to make certain to see Matt & Kim, who up until about a month ago I thought were just two of his high school friends who had a myspace page. The schedule, however, threw us off because one version said they were playing on the stage prior to Pete Yorn and another didn’t list them at all.

Either way, we both wanted to secure a good location for Mr. Yorn, so we decided to hit that stage no matter who was playing (unless, of course, it turned out to be Ryan Adams, at which point I would have pelted him with incredible, edible eggs before leaving). Fortunately, both Matt and Kim showed up, and the New York pop/punk duo treated us with the weekend’s most enthusiastic performance, despite several equipment malfunctions, including one that caused their set to end about 15 minutes ahead of schedule.

The couple did not stop smiling the entire time they played, often stopping to bask in the crowd’s manic cheering and giving thanks for the turnout. As an added bonus, their music proved to be fantastic and served as the perfect opener, getting us on our feet, dancing and screaming despite not knowing one single word to any song (although we caught on fairly quickly to one tune that said “yeah” about 100 times in a row).

After the final equipment failure, Matt & Kim prepared to leave the stage, only to be called down to the crowd by one young lady who said it was her birthday and wanted a picture. Kim drifted off to talk with some fans on the opposite side of the stage, but Matt made his way toward us. After signing a few autographs, he posed for a picture with Katie, prompting Cory, via text message, to ask if he was starting a new side project, Matt & Katie.
Matt & Katie

Matt, Katie and I started talking, and he apologized for the sound problems. I told him I like it when that happens because it shows that the bands are real and not polished behemoths like U2. Hell, even Springsteen has had problems with equipment and remembering lyrics at shows, which makes us love him that much more. Matt agreed, saying that perfect shows are boring and if he wanted that, he could just pop in a CD. “Think of us like the CD that is always scratched and skipping,” he said.

We also explained to Matt that they weren’t listed on this one schedule, so when he autographed Katie’s schedule, he made a mark of “M&K” on their actual time and wrote “Matt wuz here.”

Not wanting to be left out, I asked for a picture, and he stood on a ledge, making him about two feet taller than me. The rather small Matt said he wanted to be the tall one in at least one picture, and that goofy look on my face is just sheer joy from the moment and the show.
Matt & Kevin

After Matt & Kim finally said goodbye, we decided to stay where we were at given that a) Pete Yorn was scheduled to play there in an hour; and b) we were in the front row. We sat down and leaned against a metal rail as we watched the 20-plus members of I’m From Barcelona perform across the field. I had only heard one of their songs — “We’re From Barceolna,” which is probably the worst name for a song since The New Skid Row (sans Sebastian Bach) wrote a number called “We’re The New Skid Row.” At least in those cases you know what the song is about.

I’m From Barcelona had plenty of catchy numbers, even throwing in a brief cover of Madonna’s “Like a Prayer,” and at one point, they really had me thinking about leaving my Pete post to go see them up close. I really had to fight that urge when the featured a kazoo solo from a crowd member. Then, by the time they played “We’re From Barcelona,” Pete’s band started doing their sound check, thus drowning out any chance of hearing anything else.

In the meantime, we befriended a Chicago girl who was attending her ninth Pete Yorn concert, and we talked about our favorite songs, the strength of his latest album and the merits of the song “Burrito,” which she loves and I hate. During our debate, we were interviewed by a reporter from Chicago Magazine (I check daily to see if I made it to print. OK, I check hourly …) about the festival, and we all tried our best to sound reasonably intelligent despite our impending giddiness as the show’s start loomed.

And then, without warning, Beatle Bob glided across the stage to introduce Pete Yorn, but first, I felt it necessary to give him a rousing welcome. I shouted “Beatle Bob” and clapped, earning a smile and point from The Beatle. Katie was slightly embarrassed, but at that point, she had yet to witness the power of Beatle Bob.

We sang. We danced. We watched Beatle Bob. We mimicked his moves.
Front row for Pete Yorn
Pete Yorn sings just for us.

In short, we had a blast. Although musically, The Black Keys were better, the sheer energy (helped, no doubt, by our front-row location and the fact we knew the words to most of his songs), of Pete Yorn’s show made it the best Lolla 2007 performance up to that point. Highlight: He covered Peter Bjorn and John’s “Young Folks.” Get it? Pete Yorn. Peter Bjorn (and John).

Exhausted, we took an hour break before heading back to the music — Katie to Motion City Soundtrack, Kevin to Cold War Kids. (I hate that I just referred to myself in the third person, but honestly, I didn’t know whether to use “I” or “me” so I did the old journalism tool of writing around it).

As much as I enjoy the Cold War Kids’ album, this show was a complete disappointment, turning out to be the worst of the weekend. First, through no fault of its own, the band was placed on one of the festival’s smallest stages, which is odd seeing as how they have quite a bit of buzz these days from the single “Hang Me Out To Dry.” It seems odd that Matt & Kim, who only have a devoted cult following, would get to play one of the festival’s four larger stages while Cold War Kids, who has a video in regular rotation on MTV or wherever the hell videos air these days, were relegated to the sideshow attractions.

So, with a large crowd in a small space, the sound was poor. It also didn’t help that I stood behind an 18-20-year-old hipster in women’s jeans, a dress shirt with the sleeves torn off and then refashioned into a skinny necktie and some sort of futuristic sneaker. The guy wound up standing on top of a trash can, seemingly looking for friends but probably wanting everyone to notice him. And notice they did as someone began throwing sticks at him. It’s not every day you see someone get stoned, particularly this far removed from biblical days and the Middle East, and it’s likely even more rare that you see someone get sticked.

I grew bored with the band’s stage presence (which was none), although I have to admit they sounded halfway decent, poor acoustics notwithstanding. But, overall, it was more than I could stand, forcing me to leave to get some water before watching The Roots.

Damnations, there were soooooo many people there to see The Roots, which shouldn’t have been all that surprising. Most spectators were probably like me in that we guessed we’d never have another chance to see them so why not try it now. In droves they arrived, greeted by an amazingly loud bass line and some great hip-hop. I hated leaving early, but I had to trek back across the park for other shows that overlapped, including Roky Erickson, who gets credit for creating the acid rock sound of the 1960s.

Ready to rock

It seems Roky also underwent electroshock therapy in his day, which caused him to disappear from the music world. Now we say, welcome back, as the aging singer seriously rocked some serious ass during the set, getting the crowd fired up for more of his blues-driven sound. Again, I hated to leave, but The Hold Steady awaited, and since my bum knee caused me to miss them last year, I wasn’t about to let anything stop me in ’07.

Cory has long proclaimed The Hold Steady to be his favorite band (when, of course, he’s not praising The Arcade Fire), but I have never warmed to them. Their albums underwhelmed me, and I just never felt the emotional connection he got from them.

On stage, though, they’re a different story. A group of middle-aged men, some balding, some with strange mustaches, just got up there and had more fun this side of Matt & Kim. I loved that the lead singer was wearing a Minnesota Twins jersey. I loved that the keyboard player was wearing a tuxedo. I loved that they poured every ounce of passion they could muster into every note and every word, letting us feel their energy and love for the music.

We then caught the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and my initial reaction to the band was a definite no no no, but that soon changed to a maybe maybe maybe. Three or four songs into the set, though, and I felt what they were selling, as lead singer Karen O made me remember that lead singers can sometimes be Rock Stars. While other bands, particularly the emo-ish types, are all meek and weenified on stage, Karen O, her face slathered in blue makeup and sometimes hiding under a silver pom-pom she used as a wig and mask, prowled the stage like some sort of tiger in heat. I hope other bands took note.

I’m guessing Karen O took notes from the next act I saw, rock poet legend Patti Smith, who I only wanted to catch because of the historic nature of the show. I’m only familiar with the song she co-wrote with Springsteen, “Because the Night,” but given her influence on music, I felt she would be worth seeing.

I sorely underestimated her.

As the light drizzle turned into a steady rain, so too did Patti’s performance pick up power, as the crowd held onto her every syllable and move. We didn’t care that it was raining. Many of us didn’t care that we didn’t know the words (I talked to several people after the set, many of whom said they just stumbled past and were drawn in. All, however, left as fans, calling it the best show they had seen).
A rainy night in Chicago

By the time Patti got to “Because the Night,” I was completely hers, and I sang and danced and cheered as though Bruce was there with her (not that she needed him). As she launched into her star-making hits, the crowd kept responding with yelling and fist-pumping, bringing her higher and higher until she then came down to stun us with a stripped-down cover of “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

As she growled the last line “And I forget just what it takes, oh yeah, I guess it makes me smile/I found it hard, it’s hard to find, oh well, whatever, nevermind,” I realized how true that was about today’s music scene. Kids don’t care about albums. They don’t care about lyrics. They care about being entertained, right here, right now, as fast as you can, like they’re entitled to it. It’s that attitude from this generation that relegates Patti Smith (and Springsteen and others who have something to say) to the has-been category while Now That’s What I Call Music! rules the charts. It’s no longer “here we are now, entertain us.” It’s “here we are. Now entertain us.”

So, as Patti drew out the final chorus, she launched into a spontaneous poetry session, hitting on wide-ranging topics, including love and the war and the beauty of the earth. By the time she was finished, we were soaking wet from the rain and sweat and excitement and wonderment of the song and performance, and we let her know with a heartfelt and extended series of applause and yelling and whistling. The reaction proved too much, as Patti, who has been doing this decades, stepped back from the microphone and wiped tears from her eyes.

And in that moment, those of us lucky enough to be there saw the most honest show of the weekend. Thank you, Patti.

Oh, and later Muse played.


5 thoughts on “Lollapalooza 2007: Now this really is what I call music

  1. Y’know… that last line really sums up Muse better than anything I’ve ever read. They’re good… I have nothing bad to say about them… but they’re that band in your stack of records that sits somewhere in the middle all the time.

    You find yourself digging through, finding Muse and thinking, “Well, I guess I could listen to Muse,” just before you leave the house to do something else.

  2. Pingback: Lollapalooza 2010: Sorry bands, but it’s about the food « So … there I was

  3. Pingback: Lollapalooza: The Dork Knight Rises | So … there I was

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