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Lollapalooza ’08: All I Hear Is Radiohead Gaga

Lyndsey Parker
Maximum Performance

Friday at Lollapalooza in Chicago's Grant Park was all about one of the hands-down best festival bands on the planet: headlining attraction Radiohead. I, like pretty much all 70,000 people at the fest, spent the entire day waiting for Thom Yorke and company to hit the main stage. But then when they did, I barely saw them and I was unable to get even one photo of them in all their glory.

Why, you ask? Why did I shirk my responsibilities as both an on-the-scene Lollapalooza reporter and a Radiohead fan? Um, because the crowd pushed up against the stage looked like THIS:

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Radiohead went on at 8pm, and there was no other band on any of the festival's other seven stages (what band would sign up to compete with Radiohead???). So basically, at about 7:45pm the other 69,999 people at the festival besides myself started migrating en masse across the Grant Park grass. The photo pit was soon so packed with snappers elbowing each other in the nostrils, it looked like something out of the UFC; I didn't dare join the fray. The sheer crush of humanity made me fear some sort of Who-in-Cincinnati-style incident was eminent.

So, no, I didn't see much of Radiohead. Or any of Radiohead, really. Sigh. But I can report that they sounded amazing.

To be fair, though, before the Radiohead riot began, everything at Lollapalooza was as smooth as buttah; Friday was in fact one of my most pleasant and painless festival experiences ever. Recycling bins, drinking fountains, and ATM machines were conveniently located seemingly every 10 feet. The consequently litter-free grounds provided plenty of shady areas, including an inviting hammock garden. A "Kidzpalooza" funfair kept the under-13 set entertained while their thirtysomething parents rocked out. The relatively unsmelly portapotties appeared to have been cleaned within the last decade. An official Obama Store and a mini Whole Foods stand were onsite to meet concertgoers' PC shopping needs. And the press area was a shaded oasis equipped with leather sofas, complimentary cocktails, and chilled bottles of Olade (the lemony electrolyte drink founded by Rage Against The Machine's Brad Wilk). So Lolla was all quite delightful, aside from that little not-being-able-to-see-Radiohead thing.

But there were plenty other acts on the Friday bill that were special, so very special. Like undersung powerpop GOD Butch Walker, who's made plenty of cash producing and writing for the likes of Avril Lavigne and Bowling For Soup, so don't feel too sorry for him...but who should really be a huge name in his own right. Butch, a man with such a big 'n' brash personality I'd pay good money just to watch him banter onstage for 60 or so minutes, entertained the largely unfamiliar but unusually receptive early-afternoon crowd with anecdotes about his "first ex-wife," then rocked his guts out. A highlight was him belting out his ballad "Best Thing You Never Had" while curled up on the stage floor in a fetal position, but here's a photo of him rocking upright:

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Next were English newbies and NME cover darlings the Enemy--who on this side of the pond now go by the name the Enemy U.K., because apparently there's an Enemy U.S. (I think the Enemy's real enemy is the Patent Office.) Looking so young and spotty and snotty they seemed like they belonged on the Kidzapalooza stage, these teenage Brit brats played a Jam-like jam, the highlight of which was their suburban teen-angst anthem "We'll Live And Die In These Towns." The Chi-Town crowd adored them (the boys are on their first U.S. tour right now, and they dedicated their entire Lolla show to their new American devotees), so it seemed like the Enemy made a lot of new friends this afternoon:

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Then Anglo-American relations were strengthened even further when the Kills--aka American rawk chick VV and British guitar man Hotel--hit the MySpace stage. The Kills certainly killed it with their set of raw, angular, deconstructed electropunk, although the layered look VV was rocking in Chicago's 100-percent humidity made me wonder if she'd mistaken Lollapalooza for a chillier, rainier festival in Britain:

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San Diegan cocky-rockers Louis XIV should have known better, since they're accustomed to warm weather, but they too dressed most climate-inappropriately. (Three-piece suits? Vests?) These glammy hams, who seemed hornier than the entire Tijuana Brass Band, also should have known better than to sing their expletive-heavy sex songs in such close proximity to the aforementioned Kidzapalooza stage. When randy frontman Jason Hill bantered about "doing something that you know is wrong, but it feels soooo f**king good," before snarling his way through the infidelity hardcharger "There's A Traitor In This Room," I imagined concerned parents over at the neighboring Kidzapalooza stage cupping their hands over their tots' delicate little ears:

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Speaking of horny bands, and kid-unfriendly tunes, funky Texan brass band Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears (who've actually opened for Barack Obama, oddly) were definite crowd-pleasers with their brass-kickin' bad-love throwdown, "Bitch, I Love You":

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Then came the milder sounds of Your Vegas--the Leeds, England band that was all set to become the Next Coldplay, until Coldplay got around to releasing Viva La Vida and spoiled that plan. But since Coldplay are supposedly the Next U2, maybe there's room for majestic and moody pop-rockers Your Vegas to advance after all. They certainly rocked the small BMI stage with Chris Martin-like, stadium-worthy skill, and in a way they were the perfect "opening band" for upcoming headliners Radiohead:

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Of course, the real opening act for Radiohead was Bloc Party. It surprised me that a band so stern, so serious, so very British, could get the bikini-clad American masses so worked up, but the main-stage audience was indeed tossing beachballs like beer-bonging spring-breakers throughout Bloc Party's set...even during the George W. Bush-skewering, somewhat anti-Yank "Helicopter":

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(Wonder if Bloc Party lead singer Kele Okereke bought his T-shirt at the Lollapalooza Obama Store?)

But the real block party was going on over at the Citi stage, where Brazillian disco divas CSS were merrily frolicking about in day-glo unitards seemingly lifted straight out of Deee-Lite's closet. Frontwoman Lovefoxxx inspired hundreds of simultaneous boy-crushes and girl-crushes (sorry, admirers of both genders, but Lovefoxxx is reportedly engaged to nu-rave it-boy Simon of the Klaxons), as she pranced and danced in her neon floral catsuit--especially when she purred, in the titilatingly titled "Music Is My Hot Hot Sex": "Music is my boyfriend/Music is my girlfriend/Music is my favorite mistress/Music is my kingsize bed/Music is my hot hot bath/Music is my hot hot sex/Music is my back rub/Music is where I'd like you to touch."

CSS stands for "Cansei De Ser Sexy"--literally "Tired Of Being Sexy"--but apparently Lovefoxxx isn't too tired yet, judging from her rump-shakingly Hi-NRG performance:

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And then, after a thwarted attempted to view Radiohead's concert (they looked smaller than premature baby ants, even through a pair of borrowed binoculars; the only person onstage I could make out at all was the sign-language interpreter/dancer dude), the block party was over for me. I gave up and instead watched an unexpectedly awesome fireworks display (which I really hope is repeated Sunday, when Kanye West performs "Homecoming" with its "fireworks at Lake Michigan" line), set to the soundtrack of "The Bends," "Fake Plastic Trees," and "No Surprises." It would have been nice to see the actual stage--but hey, this was hardly a bad way to spend, or end, an evening.

 

Be sure to catch the live Lollapalooza 2008 webcast in the AT&T blue room. For more info on Lollapalooza, click here.

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