I wisely avoided the Rage Against the Machine madness from the previous night, but I felt the results Sunday. Chicago police blocked fans’ access to the main road leading to Lollapalooza’s front gate, making us walk about a half-mile down the road and then back up again just to gain entrance. I was told this was because fans were blocking the roads with their jaywalking after the festival closed each night, but I’m also sure it was also due to the fact the police failed to stop up to 2,000 people from crashing the gates to get into the Rage show.
Now, I’m no emergency planner, nor am I a high-ranking executive in the Chicago Police Department. I am, however, smarter than the average Toby Keith fan, and I think the police might have been better off looking at Saturday night’s schedule. Had they done so, they might have reasonably figured that maybe a greater security presence would be needed for a band called Rage Against the Machine.
It’s not that hard to figure out: do you put more police at the weed-loving hippies watching Wilco or at the show for a band proclaiming to be raging against the fucking machine?
OK, so technically I saw What Made Milwaukee Famous, Tally Hall, Black Kids, Iron & Wine and Saul Williams, but the day belongs to two people: Mark Ronson and Kanye West.
Cory and I originally planned to catch Girl Talk, but the crowd just got too big for the tiny stage they stuck him on, so we headed off to see some Gnarls Barkley instead. As we turned the corner toward the stage, though, we saw an amazingly tiny crowd prepping for Mark Ronson, so we plopped our arses down to be in the front.
First of all, we met a trio of Irish lads (Shane, Mark and one whose name I can’t remember) who had apparently never seen a bandana before. They were amazed at the white one Cory had on, as well as the red one around my wrist. I gave Mark mine, and you would have thought I’d just handed him a pot o’ gold – I’ve never seen someone quite so excited about receiving a sweat-soaked bandana. He shouted to his friends, showing it off, and then wore it the rest of the night. I told him to always remember his mates from “Kentooky” (and I really need to remember to always say our state they way they did with that Irish accent).
The evening also put us in touch with Allison, a cool Chicago gal who danced with us, provided Cory with free beer and then showed us around the city (at least the parts between Grant Park and her bus stop). She was exceptionally cool, has great taste in music and rocked her hat like nobody’s business.
Rhymefest gets close to the crowd
And when I say “put us in touch with Allison,” that’s pretty literal. The crowd packed its way toward the stage, making us all one giant sweaty, fleshy mass of bodies. For 60 minutes-plus, though, it was so worth it, and Ronson got the energy flowing so that by the time Kanye took the stage almost immediately following, the adrenaline was unstoppable.
As was Kanye.
Looking to make people forget the Bonnaroo fiasco, Kanye stormed out and delivered 90 solid minutes of nonstop Kanyeness. Impressively, Cory knew almost every single lyric being rapped, while Allison knew about half or a little more. I, on the other hand, was lucky to spout out every ninth word, making me sound like a hype man, the Flavor Flav of the trio.
Allison and Cory know diamonds are forever
At one point in the set, Kanye’s choir started singing Journey’s massive hit “Don’t Stop Believing,” and Kanye watched in wonder as the crowd, probably 40,000-plus, took over the vocals, belting it out, arm in arm.
It was perfect.
After the show, the three of us, exhausted but not wanting the night (or the festival, really) to end, walked off in search of food. As we tromped across a baseball diamond, a girl, clearly strung out on God knows what, approached me.
“Do you drive an Xterra?” she asked.
“Um, no. Sorry,” I answered before starting to walk away. I realized, though, that she had posed an odd question, so there was always just a chance I could have misheard.
“Wait a minute – what did you say?” I asked her.
“Do you have a cigarette?”
I stopped Cory, told him and Allison the exchange, and both laughed at me. Cory provided the woman with the requested cigarette, and she, too, laughed when I explained the confusion.
“Oh, man, that’s weird,” she said. “I do drive an Xterra.’
And that, friends, was Lollapalooza 2008.