Lolla Recap 2010: Day One

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So, I’m in the front lines, in the heat, in the crowd, typing as other people’s sweat drips off my body, as my ears are assaulted, as the cigarette burns down and the booze is chugged, typos caused by elbow-bumps from dancing hipsters, the skyline glowing in the background… ok, not quite. I’m at home, shoes off, on the couch, thanking Lady Gaga for being terrible enough, thanking the Strokes for being boring enough, that I could leave early tonight and get some rest.

I needed the rest. This is my sixth Lollapalooza and just this year I made a rookie mistake — I got shit-faced the night before. So yes, I was late, and so I didn’t get to see Los Amigos Invisibles. I mean, I guess if they really are invisible then no one saw them, but, well, yeah, I didn’t. I hear they were good though.

Mavis Staples

She’s seventy, she’s in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and she’s from Chicago. Two of those three facts were on display during her set. Mavis grooved on the stage like a woman half her age. She moved with swagger. She sang with swagger. Her voice still sounds shot out of a cannon. As Lolla started to heat up, her band’s gospel/blues riffs took on the role of perfect summer soundtrack. The crowd went nuts when fellow Chicago musician Jeff Tweedy, of Wilco, joined the group on-stage for a low-key collaboration. Tweedy was so well received that towards the end of the set he returned for another song at the urging of the audience and Staples herself.


Are they not men? Thank heavens for Devo. D-E-V-O. This set made me think two things — 1, why don’t I own a Devo record, and 2, why weren’t these guys headlining instead of the Strokes? Crazy kitschy videos, energy dome hats, headless 80s-tastic basses, it was all there. Devo sounded tight, crisp, perfect. The new songs had people dancing as much as older crowd-pleasers like “Girl You Want” and “Whip It”. I got hard. My friend Pete got hard. We bought energy dome hats. We smiled. The only person in my group more hungover than I was couldn’t help but feel the energy. As she lay nearly passed out at our feet we only had to look towards her tapping foot to know that Devo rocks so hard you can feel it when you’re dead. After a few costume changes and tons of aural evidence for conspiracy theorists who suspect that Devo actually is/was from the future, the set ended. Tragic, but not the slightest bit dissatisfying.

Matt and Kim

The music, yeah, it’s bouncy and catchy and fun. Would I listen to it at home? I haven’t decided yet. But catch Matt and Kim live if you can. I’ve never seen two people who look like they’re having more fun on stage, and that feeling is totally contagious. The more the jumbotron cameras zoomed in on Kim’s smile, the more I smiled. The more Matt bounced, the more I bounced. The highlight was a tongue-in-cheek cover of Biz Markie’s “Just A Friend”. Several thousand drunk people singing “You, you got what I need…” Yeah, it was all right.

The Black Keys

I don’t really care about this band and their set did absolutely nothing to change my mind. To cut them some slack, they were on the Budweiser Stage, which every year suffers from some sound problems. Lou Reed was tortured by them last year. Modest Mouse sounded half-power at best when they played. So maybe, maybe, the Black Keys aren’t really this dull. Maybe.

Jimmy Cliff

I love whiskey, which means I love Delilah’s. Luckily for us whiskey drinkers with an ear for good music, Delilah’s has excellent DJs. One of these has a penchant for playing “You Can Get It If You Really Want”. I always dig the tune and I always make a mental note to look up who does it. And then I drink three or four more whiskeys. Today, thanks to Lollapalooza, I learned that Jimmy Cliff sings this great song. And he sung it well. Most of his set was mellow, and we did leave a little bit early to go check out Lollapalooza’s Green Street (a series of eco-conscious, couscous-eating, incense-burning hippy shops and information booths), but all in all I’d say Mr. Cliff was a solid show, a nice middle of the day rest before the big guns.

Lady Gaga

The big guns… Ugh. Ok, in full disclosure, I hate Lady Gaga. I wasn’t going to see her or the Strokes until I committed to doing these recaps. I thought, how can I leave both headliners out of my article and call it complete? Well, Lollapalooza rendered its two Friday night headliner spots effectively vacant and still called the day complete. If I had bought a one day pass I’d be storming Perry Farrell’s hotel room right now demanding my money back. Lady Gaga came out with none of the flair and pomp for which she is known. No cool costume, no interesting set, nothing. Her sound seemed to be fading in and out — I’m suspecting the CD that had her vocal track had a scratch. Her songs sounded flat, and the only time the bored crowd seemed at all tempted to move was at around 8:30 when the Strokes were playing across the park. After about fifteen minutes of ridiculing Lady Gagged at Lolla, my crew headed over to check out the Strokes.

The Strokes

Why, on earth, ever, would anyone check out the Strokes? These guys are so fucking boring they make Coldplay seem like a band living on the edge. I get it, it’s the same thing over and over again. And your songs sound like they’re being amplified out of an old coffee can. Intentionally. Fine. But what have you done in, say, the last five years to make people care about you and warrant a headlining slot at Lollapalooza? Nothing. We stayed for literally forty-five seconds of the Strokes before deciding to call it an early night, that is, if you don’t count the ten minutes we stood around waiting for the Strokes to start their set ten minutes late. So, the Strokes owe me ten minutes and forty-five seconds of my life back. That’s ok though, Lady Gaga owes me my sense of self-respect.

All in all, Day One was ok. Devo saved it. Friday, the Day of Devo, and I have the hat to prove it. The weather’s been great, and people watching A+, as always- today I met low rent look-a-likes of Dave Navarro, Jim Gaffigan and Gordon Beckham. I learned that if you tan with a thong on and then go to Lolla wearing low-cut jeans without applying suntan lotion that you’ll get an embarrassing whale-tail sun burn. I learned that via observation, by the way, not first hand. Going to finish this beer and hit the sack. Tomorrow’s a longer, better day.

Gene Wagendorf III

About Gene Wagendorf III

Gene is a writer who has spent his entire quarter century of life as a resident of Chicago. When not exploring the city he can be found wandering flea markets and garage sales or having a cigarette between classes at Northeastern Illinois University, where he hopes to acquire a degree in the next quarter century. His favorite smells are old books and bowling alleys. His poetry (how embarrassing!) can be found in issues of Kill Poet, Ditch, Word Riot, O Sweet Flowery Roses and Vowel Movements.


  • Jackie Berkery Jackie Berkery
    August 9, 2010 | Permalink |

    Two quotes from Gaga:

    “Tonight, Chicago is my religion.”

    “Don’t rape me.”

    Ok, she’s kind of insane. Yes, very insane. But for those of us who are gaga-holics — clearly not you, Gene 😉 — she rocked. Crazy or not, (ok, definitely crazy), the girl can sing.

    Also, Raphael Saadiq was faaantabulous. That is all.

    • Gene Wagendorf III Gene Wagendorf III
      August 9, 2010 | Permalink |

      To be fair, I did hear that her set got better after I left. My friend Shelly swears that Gaga was in fact singing. I also hear there were fireworks.

      Wish I would’ve seen Raphael Saadiq. Heard good things about that set all weekend too. What else did you check out?

  • KMH
    August 10, 2010 | Permalink |

    One of the best shows on Friday that wasn’t seen by many was B.O.B.. He had an amazing set and it was a tragedy that he was scheduled so early in the day that many had to miss him. He put everything he had into every song. He recognized fans from his show the night before and threw his shoes into the crowd, which turned out to be a bad idea later when he burned his feet on the hot stage. It was by far my favorite show on Friday.