Lollapalooza 2010::Grant Park
OK, so it’s taken a few days to recover, but if you’ve been to a Lollapalooza in its current manifestation, you’ll know what I’m talking about. It is gigantic. What started as a legendary and game-changing touring phenom in 1991 has had its ups and downs over the years, but has found a home here in Chicago where current agreements keep the festival firmly planted in the city until 2018.
Since it adopted its current format in 2005 the festival has undergone some expansion and refinement. This year broke out of the mold. More ground was annexed, upping the space from about 80 acres to around 110. Attendance, which started in 2005 around 65,000/day, also jumped up to around 240,000 for the weekend. That’s a record for those keeping score at home.
We here at Shure have also refined our format as it comes to making sure our artists playing this giant festival are happy lads and lasses. Back in 2005 I would load up a Rock’n’Roller and beg and plead at any and every entrance to give me five minutes to off-load our gear before hitting a parking lot and walking all the way back down to that stage. That could be in excess of a mile, depending on the lot and the stage. Nowadays we make sure to get things done early and get the right shipping info. Let the cross-load trucks do the work, I say!
Our festival actually started the day before the gates opened. Shure played host to a recording session in our Performance and Listening Center (which if the fancy name for “the studio”…but when you’ve got a room like we’ve got you can’t do it justice just calling it a studio). Local organization The Happiness Club joined up with Ralph Covert (Ralph’s World), ex-Porno for Pyros guitarist Peter DiStefano and members of Recess Monkey and The Verve Pipe. The session was managed under the watchful eye of skillful producer, Tor Hyams, with whom I’ve had the pleasure of working for a few years now. Shure employees Dean Giavaras and John Born ran the audio. We wrapped the session before too late and all went our separate ways to get rested up before the fest.
The festival itself opened up on Friday. That’s the easy day to get around, mostly because it is still a weekday. The backstage hasn’t filled up to its insane capacity. The first day involved a lot of running around, getting familiar with our newer, larger, yet slightly more crowded surroundings. To the wonderful sounds of Devo I jumped on a large golf cart (known as the “Fest Express”) up to the Kidzapalooza stage, where Tor was running the show. Recess Monkey was up and playing. After a quick “hello” I shot up North to the Budweiser stage, one of the two main stages. I got in a chat with Patrick Carney from The Black Keys before they went up on stage and showed why they deserved to be on that big stage. I was whisked up to the side of the stage and got to catch most of their set from there. I got a brief snippet of video and some pics. As soon as we get the video figured on this site out I’ll put up clips.
After they were done it was to the North Lolla Lounge to catch up with a few industry contacts. There I stayed until it was time for The Strokes. It had been a few years, but they put on the show much like I remembered.
Day Two I hopped the train down to Grant Park again. Thanks to some slightly less than fun delays I didn’t get down there until most of Blues Traveler’s set had been done. Ah, well. Some things you can control, others you cannot. And I did get to catch up with the crew for a bit. After some chill time on their bus…and I mean “chill time” as in it was air conditioned…I wandered out to hear a bit of Against Me! on the adidas MEGA stage. (Man, who names these things?). As I was making my way on the hoof across the field Gogol Bordello started up. An interesting act, that. I first caught them about three years ago at a club. Now they were on the South main stage pouring it out to the sun-soaked crowd.
I arrived back at the Kidzapalooza stage to see who was about. You never quite know who will be showing up in addition to the scheduled talent. The Happiness Club had already wrapped up and Dan Zanes was up on the stage with members of the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra. The backstage was packed though, everyone clamoring to catch that special vantage point of the next act up: Chrissie Hynde. I was able to grab a song from the front.
I went back North to hear a bit of Metric and then Spoon from the backstage lounge area, but it was an early day for me. I had to get back up to my place to get cleaned up for the night’s big aftershow: The Black Keys and The Morning Benders at the legendary Metro.
After getting showered and grabbing a bite we headed down to the Metro and in as The Morning Benders were wrapping their set. Our access stickers afforded us a seat belly-up to the balcony on the stage right side, so we planted ourselves there and let the Keys do their thing. Afterward we ran to the backstage to say hello to our friends and meet new ones. Before you knew it, we were at 3 AM. Time to head back…still one more day to go.
Sunday was rough. By then most people who could figure out how to get backstage did, so the lounges were packed full of band members that had played over the weekend, industry insiders, and friends of friends who belonged somewhere between those categories. I ran in to more people I knew on Sunday than the other two days, combined.
Again I went up to the kids stage and was rewarded with a special treat. Perry Farrell and Peter DiStefano, backed by Thenewno2 played through “Pets” and Lou Reed’s “Sweet Jane”. That little surprise made the day. Following that, we grabbed some eats and made our way to the expanded West end of the fest to see what Perry’s was all about. This area had a great stage, lights and speakers artfully arranged for those that wanted to get away from the bands and go dance to the wide array of DJs.
I caught a few minutes of JFK from MSTRKFT and then tried to walk through the crowd to see some Mutemath. As Sunday was seemingly the most crowded day, I was caught in a sea of humanity and missed that opportunity. I went to the North lounge again and from there got to hear some MGMT. I was not long there, though, for it was getting to be time to meet up with some friends and figure out where we wanted to be for what I really wanted to catch over the weekend: the return of Soundgarden!
I caught that set mostly from behind the stage, which did not have the best audio, but there were decent screens set up in the lounge area. The audio quality at that spot did get to me though, so I went out to the field for a bit. I went and stood with tens of thousands of others as they went through a set list that those who had waited so long for a reunion would be happy to hear.
Before the end of their set I wound my way back to hang out with many friends and colleagues throughout my years in this wacky business at the Lolla afterparty. After a brief relocation to allow for set-up, we were back at the lounge and dancing to the beats of Felix da Housecat. It was close to two in the morning when we finally called it quits. Another epic festival in the can. I’m sure Lollapalooza 2011 is now in the works.