Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Don't call it a comeback: Lollapalooza '05

Even though I attended the second Lollapalooza when I was 16 years old–and had a great time–I really haven't missed it these past few years. In '92, bands I enjoyed quite a bit, like The Jesus And Mary Chain, Lush, Ice Cube, and Ministry, played. But I discovered punk rock shortly thereafter, and as the years wore on, I had no desire to attend what I viewed as a lame festival full of cheeseball alternarock bands. And there's just something weird about seeing shows with thousands of other people. In fact, the only time I've ever feared for my life in my 15 years or so of going to shows was at Lollapalooza '92, when a stage rush at the beginning of Pearl Jam's set pinned me upright in a crowd, my feet literally off the ground.

Nevertheless, I checked out this year's festival here in Chicago because it seemed intriguing. More important than that, though, was the fact that a reunited Digable Planets was playing. I never had a chance to see the hip-hop trio before they broke up in 1995, and my wife and I have been huge fans since back in the day. Then there was the reunited Dinosaur Jr., not to mention the reunited Pixies (but I saw them last fall).

I expected the worst out of the festival: unruly crowds, outrageously priced concessions; brief sets; people boozed up and looking to kick some ass; etc. But the whole thing pleasantly surprised me. The four-stage set up on the main field kept everything moving; as soon as a band finished on one stage, another would start. There was some audio bleed from stages across the field, but if you were relatively close to the stage you were watching, you'd only hear it between songs. The crowds weren't too bad, and even though literally thousands and thousands of people were crammed onto this field, I never felt claustrophobic. Even drinks were relatively cheap: $3 for soda & water, $5 for beer. The price of food varied, but it wasn't outrageous.

Everything seemed really great on Saturday, which turned out to be overcast and surprisingly mild in temperature. The punishment arrived on Sunday, when the mercury surpassed 100 degrees, and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. Still, though, if you were smart about things (i.e., drank a lot of water, avoided alcohol, Coke and other diuretics, dressed coolly, and wore sunscreen), it wasn't too big of a deal. Don't get me wrong; it was definitely uncomfortable–I drank 2 liters of water within an hour and a half of arriving at 2:30 p.m.–but it could have been worse. Lolla's organizers also could have taken advantage of the heat, but instead they passed out free bottles of water and arranged for air-conditioned city buses to park on the premises so people could get escape the oppressive conditions.

Every band I wanted to see played well, sometimes amazingly so. Of note: Blonde Redhead, Pixies, Digable Planets, Dinosaur Jr., The Arcade Fire, The Killers, & Death Cab For Cutie.

Lollapalooza '05 may have strayed from the template Perry Farrell & company created more than a decade ago, but no one seemed to mind. Yeah, there were corporate sponsors, but fighting that these days is a futile effort. And, for the most part, it wasn't obnoxious. Compared to Warped Tour (which was in town that same Saturday), Lollapalooza was pretty mellow.

If you attended, what were your thoughts? Do you think we saw a transformation of a new, more sustainable Lollapalooza, or the last gasp of a failed franchise?

Also, keep an eye out for our Lollapalooza Minute By Minute Guide, which will appear in the 8/4 issue.