lollapalooza 2008 – impressions from day one

There was a time at which I took great pride at that fact that I’d never sat less than 30 rows back for any concert I’d ever seen. This was well after 50 some shows. With only a few exceptions – both Sting and the Grateful Dead at the Shoreline Ampitheater in California – this streak remains generally intact.

I’m the kind of fan who, pre-Internet days, would arrive hours early at the ticket location to purchase the best seats possible. I just never wanted to go to a show if I didn’t have an excellent view of the people performing. This desire was even stronger after those Shoreline shows, because watching a concert on the video screen with the sound out of sync just makes me think I should be at home watching it on TV.

So, no surprise that I concluded quickly that events like Lollapalooza are just not for me.

After waiting in 90 degree heat, drenched in a humid sweat, for 1 hour and 15 minutes to get in the grounds, I began my stroll to my first show – Rogue Wave. The music was solid, but it was very tough to get engaged in it from about 150 yards away. Likewise for every subsequent show except Gogol Bordello – for which I decided to annoy everyone and cut through everyone for a cush spot about 35 “rows” back.

Basically, I found this entire festival to be too much like Summerfest – which I’ll never go to again – because if there’s a band you really want to see, you have to pretty much camp out in front of that stage all day, and miss everything else going on at the event, only to be surrounded by people who show up when the band begins and decide that knocking beer on you and then standing right in front of you is where their ticket has them seated. At that point, I’d rather pay for a plane ticket and scalped show tickets to see a band like Radiohead with good, reserved seats.

It was really fun to hang out with Developer Jim, though, who had forsaken his other friends to tour around with me. We went to the other side of the park to see the Raconteurs. I’ve never liked what I’ve heard of them, and Jim really likes them, but ironically, I thought their set was good while Jim thought it sounded note-for-note like their CD. We walked from there to Radiohead to be bored by their show – though intrigued by the woman signing (as mentioned in the previous post).

One thing that struck me about the Radiohead show was the behavior of the crowd. I found it interesting that nearly everyone there had some sort of electonic device – camera, iPhone, etc – that they were periodically holding up toward the stage. From where we were, it looked a little like this…

They’re hard to see, but all the little white dots over the heads but under the stage are all electronic devices. I’m not sure there were that many cameras at a live show prior to the digital camera. But cameras weren’t THAT much bigger than they are now, so I’m not sure why people are bringing them now. I’m curious if people were using them as binoculars.

Toward the middle of the Radiohead show, as I was thinking about how I’ve never wanted a cool shower so much, I was contemplating leaving the show and heading to the Metro to try and catch Gogol Bordello. I did end up leaving early, but decided to just get out of Chicago (still not sure why anyone would live there).

I think I’m going to keep my concert-going to dedicated concert events and leave the festivals to whomever it is that likes ’em (about 225,000 in Chicago, by my count).


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