There are people who just don't like music festivals. It won't matter who's on the bill or whether the show is in the middle of the desert or the center of a city; they're just not interested in seeing bite-size sets crushed by an often bikini topped mob. Don't get me wrong, I understand. I hadn't been to Lollapalooza before, but it's certainly a festival, with all the sweat, portable toilets and spilled beer that come with that experience.
1. Fewer hipster types.
This could have a lot to do with the fact that Pitchfork hosts a festival in the same location a few weeks prior, but Lollapalooza had far fewer ironic t-shirts and $300 messy haircuts present than its Indio counterpart. People seemed to come to the show to actually see bands they enjoyed, rather than spend the day checking out the various VIP areas and seeing if Zooey Deschanel was going to show. This might be a little tough for a band like the Dirty Projectors, who were intent on sounding even weirder than their somewhat weird albums, confusing most of the people around me (including one girl who commented "I thought these guys were supposed to be cool").
2. Better food.
This isn't even a contest. Coachella's food options lean toward the county fair sort (not to dismay counter fair fare, which is awesome) with prices escalated because you're largely trapped. Since Lollapalooza is right in the city, the food courts are competing with restaurants within walking distance to some extent, so Lollapalooza brought in Chicago chef (and Obama fave) Graham Elliot Bowles to "curate" the selections. Sure, there are still burgers and fries to be had, but it definitely improves the experience when Asian Pork Belly Sliders, Truffle Fries and smoothies are in the mix as well.
3. In general, not being in the middle of the desert.
The weather wasn't perfect with the humidity and obvious factor, but being next to a lake helped out when a nice breeze would kick in. There's still a lot of sweat and sunburns, but Chicago at least resembles a place where human beings were intended to live.
To defend Coachella for a second against my own attacks, they do have Lollapalooza beat in a few ways.
1. The option of slightly nicer portable toilets.
The type in the little trailer with an actual sink? Look into them, Lollapalooza.
2. A weirder lineup.
Again, this is probably due to Pitchfork siphoning off some of those acts, but while you're likely to see an African act like Konono No. 1 at Coachella, as outre as it got yesterday was either the aforementioned Dirty Projectors or Balkan Beat Box, who play an cultural appropriated version of gypsy music and met in New York City.
Substandard port-a-potties or not, Friday belonged to Lady GaGa, without question. The line waiting for the gates to open: 90% were wearing some sort of GaGa related garb. The buzz everywhere all day was about GaGa, whether or not it was snarky remarks about whether the Strokes were a better choice as closer or whether it is two girls trying to guess how many outfits GaGa would go through. Bands like Hot Chip dedicated songs to her and fans could be seen wearing nearly every fashion choice she's sported over the last few years.
That being said, for someone like me who isn't exactly a fan, her performance was a bit of a letdown. I guess I just expected more. The outfits I had seen before, the seemingly endless between song speeches about how no one believed in her seemed tired. Maybe
this was supposed to be a more personal show than her Monster Ball shows, but I don't know if Grant Park is the place to try to put on a cabaret styled performance. Even after the show, there was far more buzz for GaGa's stage dive during the Semi-Precious Weapon's set than her actual show. Then again, that hour wasn't really for me...it was for the Little Monsters everywhere on Friday. I really do hope they got what they wanted, especially paying $90 to essentially see one act, but I imagine they did. Lady GaGa wants to be adored, and the fans who camped out in front of the stage all day were happy to oblige.
Otherwise, the rest of the day featured solid performances, but little in the way of spectacular. Alternate non-GaGa headliners the Strokes pumped out a few new songs and their hits in the same somewhat dull way they have since the start. Mavis Staples played "The Weight" and brought out the producer of her forthcoming album, Jeff Tweedy. B.o.B. was scheduled way too early for a guy with chart topping singles, but closed his set with a better version of MGMT's "Kids" than MGMT is likely to play themselves on Sunday. Wavves gave the day a touch of the old Lollapalooza, playing to a crowd likely larger than they ever have, with a snarky dismissive attitude and loud guitar. Sound problems plagued Hot Chip a bit, but their new-ish steel drum (no joke) heavy aesthetic was a lot of fun.
Lollapalooza - so far - has been what you hope for from a music festival; an opportunity to see a ton of bands in one day and maybe hear something you hadn't heard before. Friday lacked a little in the way of surprises, but for any fan of whatever mainstream alternative-ish music in 2010, it would be hard to feel disappointed after day one in Chicago.
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