Attending Lollapalooza, which took place this past weekend in Chicago's Grant Park, gave me an odd feeling I've seldom had before of being at The Center of Things. Our newspapers were full of it. They weighed in with what to do, who to see, and how to survive.
Then, turning on the television Saturday morning to check the weather forecast, we noticed it was getting mainstream media attention across the country. You will not be shocked to hear that this never, ever happens with operas, even when Renée Fleming is on the bill.
The best party in the United States of America, so they were saying, and I was going to it.
We didn't arrive until mid-afternoon, as C had class during the middle part of the day and didn't want to skip it. He's such a good boy.
The heat was heavy - in the mid-90s - but the sky was overcast and the weather wasn't so breathtakingly oppressive as it would prove to be the next day.
There was nobody vital on stage and so we strolled over to a sort of auxiliary art-and-culture area where a fashion show was going on. The clothes themselves were fairly typical, which is to say nothing to write home about, which is to say awful, but some savvy stylist did her best to distract us by piling unspun rovings onto the heads of the unfortunate Ford models who were roped into this gig.
We listened for a brief while to a group named Brian Jonestown Massacre. I wouldn't say the music was memorable - an annoying mosquito-like buzz. However, I did sit up and take notice when the lead singer, who perhaps needs an adjustment in his medication, started hurling anathemas at the band on the opposite stage. They were (so I gathered) playing loud enough for him to hear, thus distracting him from giving all the proper nuances to his own performance. Apparently he was confusing Grant Park with Avery Fisher Hall.
We headed for the East Stage to stake out places for the first act C really wanted to watch, Billy Idol, and took the obligatory "Look Ma, I was there" shots. In my case, of course, it truly was necessary to take this picture or my parents would never believe I went.
That's my Caligula shirt, by the way.
Note the shirtless frat boys in the distance who are suspiciously fond of each other.
One of the best things about not being a huge rock/pop fan at Lollapalooza was that I didn't feel guilty about not giving the performers my undivided attention. The crowd was often the better part of the entertainment. For example, these Billy Idol fans had just caught their first glimpse of him.
I actually know who Billy Idol is, which was comforting. What I hadn't realized was that his set would be like a Banned at My Catholic High School Hit Parade. He kept launching into things I half-remembered (like "Dancing With Myself") and a little light would go on in my brain.
He was fun. Lots of fun. He's not so much sexy these days as a cartoon of what sexy is, rather like Cher. I also hope I can have muscles like that at his age. Hell, I would like to have muscles like that at my age. He did his schtick to perfection, poses and grimaces and all. He also got progressively more naked which drove the crowd into a frenzy.
Lollapalooza's rules meant I had to work with no telephoto lens, but you get the idea.
His final song (sorry I can't remember which it was) brought out the sort of visible crowd reaction I have only seen in movies like Wayne's World. Party on, dudes and dudettes. Rah!
Billllyyyy! Billllyyyyyy! Biiiiiiilllllllyyyyyy!
The Pixies were next up on the same stage, with a break of about an hour in between. We decided (wisely, at it turned out) to stay put since we had a spot near the stage. While waiting we were able to listen to Cake, performing nearby on the West Stage. I liked Cake. The lead singer had a sort of aging hippie frat boy vibe going on. Agreeably goofy.
Other people started to crowd in, waiting for the Pixies.
For some people it had obviously been a long day.
I amused myself by shooting and shooting and shooting. (I'd brought knitting but it was very dusty and elbow room was at a premium.)
...et puis, je fume.
No, that's not my arm.
Right on the dot of the hour, on came The Pixies. My biggest surprise of the day. I loved them.
The crowd was huge, and much more dense than Billy Idol's, but they were remarkably sober, agreeable, and happy. You can see what a wonderful setting Grant Park is, bordered on the west side by the famous Michigan Avenue "wall" of uniform skyscrapers.
And gee, C seemed to like them pretty well.
Which was the general reaction.
I started playing with long exposures to try to capture some of the energy through blur.
By the end of the set, some people were positively manic. And I could well understand.
We left after The Pixies. On the way out, C and I stopped to photograph each other near a planting of bushes that had been illuminated. Cool colored light, eh?
After we'd left the festival grounds, I took a shot of C by one of Chicago's signature sights, Buckingham Fountain. The long exposure with no flash or tripod meant blur, but I still like it.
Sunday, I must confess, was less enjoyable. We got all geared up and went down there, and lasted about 30 minutes. The crowd had changed. Fewer goofyhappy music lovers, more Lincoln Park snobs and arrogant college students strutting around with their cell phones. Security had turned nasty (although my camera had no interchangeable lenses and is clearly not a professional model, they still didn't want to let me take it in). And it was 107 degrees out.
We walked onto the field in front of the East Stage, which felt like a frying pan. Dust was flying through the air. It was still two hours before the next act we wanted to see. I turned to C, who was frowning, and said, "What are you thinking?"
"I want to go home," he said. And we did.
Just that brief time out in the heat brutalized us. When we got home, C fell into an exhausted sleep. I laid down next to him and read the final 400 or so pages of the latest Harry Potter. A good book, a cool room, C snuggled up on my shoulder. There are certainly worse ways to end a weekend.