August 24, 2010 by Robin
If it’s August, and you’re in Chicago, you know it’s hot. If you’re in Grant Park between Friday and Sunday, it’s even hotter. And bigger, too. This year’s Lollapalooza, Chi-town’s biggest annual music festival, has clearly evolved into a massive, well-oiled machine, welcoming near 100,000 music fans a day from across the country. Lolla’s creator, ex Janes Addiction lead-man Perry Ferrel, has expanded the grounds to encompass nearly all of Grant Park with two new stages. With a party this size you’d expect the trash-cans to be overflowing, the lines too long, and the masses almost unbearable, but Lollapalooza has managed to keep up with it’s ambitious aim to provide a larger and better experience. Throughout the day volunteers and employees pick cans off the grass, deliver ice to vendors, and keep the restrooms sanitary. When it got too hot, a shady and unoccupied space was never hard to find. Finding a good place to eat was our last worry with two cuisine-filled streets on the North and South sides of the park. The one thing we did have to worry about was how we would see our favorite acts between seven stages, with up to five of them blasting at once.
As always, the festival hosted some of the biggest acts around. Most events have a handful of head-liners, but Lollapalooza’s list can be best described as a collection of who’s been who in the past three decades of music, with Lady Gaga, Green Day, Phoenix, The Strokes, Soundgarden, ¬Arcade Fire, Cypress Hill, Blues Traveller, Jimmy Cliff, Social Distortion, and MGMT to name a few.
The rock trio that brought us the stoner-garage-punk-laden Dookie (1994) is still at it in the wake of their well received and heavily promoted 2004 American Idiot release. Their scheduled two hour and fifteen minute set, which singer Billie Joe Armstrong promised to break, stretched fifteen minutes past the festivals nightly 10:00 conclusion. Green Day’s set was filled with the same poignant and youthful energy that made them famous. They played a mix of old and new with songs like Longview and Boulevard of Broken Dreams , appeasing what we estimated was the largest crowd for any performer during Lollapalooza – filled with both tweens and older adults. A set filled with synchronized fireworks, tight riffs, and dexterous fills from drummer Tre Cool kept it rocking. While the theatrics of Armstrong often took precedence over the music they managed to hit all of the bases (even playing a cover of Hey Jude). The band ended their two and a half hour performance with Good Riddance (Time of Your Life) to tuck Saturday’s Lollapalooza into bed. Their stage presence has not diminished with time and Green Day was truly a memorable performance that codified their position among the biggest rock acts on tour.
After a thirteen year hiatus the ultra-heavy grungers of Soundgarden are back in the studio again and, even better, back on stage together. For frontman Chris Cornell, who has directed Audioslave and recorded three solo records in the meantime, there was no better place for this reunion to occur. “I’ve played more shows in Chicago [than anywhere else],” said Chris, alluding to his affection for The Windy City. In their younger years, Soundgarden treated the city as a base-of-sorts because of Kim Thayil – guitarist and life-long Park Forest, Chicago resident. That Sunday, it was a sweet feeling tinged with sour. The old-guard was definitely there, as forty-somethings pushing ear-muffed toddlers in strollers was a common sight, and a few of the younger fans managed to pull themselves away from The Arcade Fire for this performance. But to put it simply there was a simultaneous vibe of awe and nonacceptance. During their famous Black Hole Sun, the crowd managed to chant out the refrain, but many of the lesser-known tunes left people gently swaying or bobbing their heads trying to keep up with Kim’s arpeggios and bassist Ben Shepherd’s rumbling notes. Cornell’s vocals were powerful but off at times while drummer Matt Cameron (who drums for Pearl Jam, as well) delivered in timely fashion as he always does, banging along with the wildly orchestrated, off-beat, and jazz-influenced slamming rhythms he’s known for. A few folks in the crowd insisted that they sounded like it was still 1997. Others were delighted to hear one of the heaviest bands in rock and roll back together. It was an experience any true Soundgarden fan could easily enjoy, but a show somebody unfamiliar with the group would have had trouble digesting.