Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Lollapalooza: 2007.08.06 Grant Park, Chicago Review – In Memoriam

My second music festival in as many weeks (Rock The Bells last week). It's getting tougher and tougher for my body to keep up with the physical demands of standing in a field listening to bands play for 3 days, but, alas, another year of Lollapalooza (or "Lolla-pa-palooza" as Iggy Pop called it) is in the books and it’s time to take stock of the events.

Overall, I still maintain that Chicago has an amazing ability to host a festival of this magnitude, with plenty of space, an amazing backdrop, ample security, and easy access to and from the park with such a variety of public transportation offered. This being the third year of the "permanent" Lollapalooza, I was curious to see what improvements were and were not made…

Tales From A Topographic Perspective
The stage setup was kept largely intact from last year, with 2 stages on either side of Buckingham Fountain and a handful of smaller stages in between. For those who know Grant Park fairly well (or were there), you would appreciate that the distances between fields was therefore very large, rendering it almost impossible to see one band on one side and then catch another band right afterwards on the other side. Standing in a field for an entire day is one thing. Having to trek from one end to the other all day is even more taxing.

That being said, I can't think of a better way to do it while still preserving the sound clarity of each performer and avoiding sound bleeds. Which brings me to my second point, the sound. This year, the sound was infinitely better than in previous years, with speakers projecting sound to every nook and cranny of the park. I recall being able to hear Daft Punk playing with crystal clear sound while standing all the way at the fountain. Kudos to the C3 team for the upgrades!

My second observation is around the relative ease for doing the peripheral things that go with a music festival – food, drink, bathrooms, etc. Again, the festival delivered in magnificent fashion. Lines for food, drink, and bathrooms were very rarely more than 1 person deep, if that. Prices for food and drink were very reasonable ($4-7 for beer and $3-$10 for food items), and they had good selection of food (beer was limited to Bud and wine…yes, wine). The festival also allowed patrons to bring in 2 liters of water per person, which is plenty to keep you nourished for the day. I have been hearing and reading complaints about them charging for water, but, then, why didn’t you just bring your own?

The weather largely held up for us, with a brief spell of heat on Friday, some light rain on Saturday, and some humidity on Sunday morning. Overall, though, we got lucky with enough cloud cover and breeze to keep us fairly cool for the weekend. Perry gets no credit for that, though.

I am left with 2 suggestions for the planning committee:
1. Less bands more spaced out: in understanding of the size of the park and realizing how tough it is to get from one end to another, having 10 minutes in between the completion of one band and the beginning of the next round would be ideal. There were enough "dud" bands that reducing the quantity by 15-20% would allowed for this.
2. TV screen: I would love for them to put up a screen (no audio of course) on each major field showing the feed from the band on the "other side". This way, you’d be aware of what was going on across the park, and could make a judgment call as to whether you wanted to stay put or make the trek across.

Coupling all of this together, I think it’s clear that no one could really see all bands, so you had to pick and choose which band you wanted to see and commit. Some tough decisions (Patti Smith or Spoon? TV On The Radio or Café Tacuba? Clap Your Hands Say Yeah or The Roots? Modest Mouse of My Morning Jacket?), but I made up my mind, and stuck with it. Here are the final highs and lows:

1. Polyphonic Spree (Friday)
2. Black Keys (Friday)
3. LCD Soundsystem (Friday)
4. Daft Punk (Friday)
5. The Roots (Saturday)
6. Iggy And The Stooges (Sunday)

1. Son Volt (Friday)
2. G Love And The Special Sauce (Friday)
3. Silverchair (Saturday)
4. Snow Patrol (Saturday)
5. Amy Winehouse (Saturday)
6. Paolo Nutini (Sunday)
7. TV On The Radio (Sunday)


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