The Upstate Life
The Upstate Life

Tuesday, August 05, 2008
Lollapalooza '08 Recap: Day One

This year's Lollapalooza ventured into new territory this year since it took up residence in the great city of Chicago back in 2005. It was the first time in the festival's history that it sold-out all three days. In case you're counting, Lolla never sold-out one day let alone all three prior to this year.

The 2008 lineup, especially its headliners, was a monster bill that appealed to a huge demographic which obviously helped explain the impressive sellout. While previous years had headliners that were targeted to specific audiences such as Manu Chao, Daft Punk, and Pearl Jam, this year's incarnation of Lolla featured the globally beloved Radiohead, a reunited Rage Against the Machine, Tent Reznor's latest version of Nine Inch Nails, and hometown stars Kanye West and Wilco. Ben Harper and Death Cab this was not.

Needless to say, the schedule was overwhelming at times as stages were all over the park making it nearly impossible to see everyone we had wanted to. We tried our best, and were successful for the most part, but unfortunately sacrifices have to be made if you're going to attend a massive music festival like this. That's why I've included Sorry We Missed among Best Act and Most Pleasant Surprise while recapping the three-day weekend. Let's start with Friday now, shall we?

We made our way over towards the Bud Light stage to catch The Go! Team while getting ourselves reacquainted with Grant Park. I've seen TGT several times so I wasn't into their set that much. In fact, I believe I quickly made my way towards the beer tent after only watching the band play for 10 minutes. Not a knock on TGT, but they have very little repeat watching value (though I did enjoy their show at the 9:30 last fall, which IIRC, was incredibly/surprisingly loud).

Up next was newcomer Duffy over at the Playstation stage. Rachel was very much looking forward to her set but Jeremy and I were trying to make subtle head nods to each other to see someone else. Rachel soon caught on with our boredom and soon trekked half a mile to the other side of the park where we would spend the remainder of our day. As for Duffy, great voice and all but I just wasn't into it.

Our first conflict of the festival arose when it was The Black Keys up against Gogol Bordello, two bands who are known to have excellent live reputations. We ultimately chose the latter and I'm sure glad we did. Having not seen the gypsy band in person before, they turned out to be a real treat and were the first noteworthy performance of the entire festival. Every member gave it their all despite the oppressive heat and made me really regret not buying tickets to their aftershow later that night. The Black Keys will have to wait another day (maybe this Sunday?).

Since Gogol was performing on the same stage as Radiohead, Jeremy and I decided to setup camp in the trenches the rest of the evening while Rachel and her friends checked out Mates of State across the field. This meant that we had to stand through a performance by Bloc Party before Radiohead's headlining 8pm set. I didn't really dig their second album as much as their first but these guys still came off sounding great live regardless of the material performed. Their new song "Mercury" was one of the highlights of their hour long set despite the apparent fact that 80% of the audience watching were instead waiting for the anticipated headliner. If anything, it helped Bloc Party gain some new fans as the masses assembled.

As Jeremy put it, we were "in the shit". Rachel, surprisingly, was able to find me before Radiohead went on at 8pm. When you have an unopposed headliner at a sold-out festival, there's going to be a shitload of people. I even somehow lost Jeremy as he was able to move up a few rows, but our position was still pretty good given the ridiculous amount of people congregating in front of the AT&T stage.

Radiohead appeared to a massive ovation as soon as the clock struck 8pm and subsequently broke into "15 Step." You can probably assume from reading posts in the past that I'm not the biggest Radiohead by any stretch, but their two hour set on Friday won me over. I've never hated on the band, I've just hated on Pitchfork's obsession with the band. But fuck it, these guys were THE highlight of our first day of Lollapalooza and played a perfect set. Remember, the only other time I saw them live was during the Nissan Pavilion Washout and that, in my mind, didn't even count as a concert since I only saw 40 minutes of Radiohead and four hours of the parking lot.

As the sun set, Thom Yorke and Co. demonstrated why they're one of the best bands on the planet after a rousing set that spanned their entire catalogue. Surprisingly, "Karma Police" was nowhere to be found but honestly, it didn't matter. Having the chance to hear "The National Anthem", "The Bends", and "Dollars and Cents" live made myself and the 75,000 other fans feel satisfied. It capped off a successful first day of Lollapalooza but it was agreed among everyone that we were not going to be at the same stage for five hours the next two days.

Best Act – Radiohead

Sorry We Missed – Lupe Fiasco

Most Pleasant Surprise – Gogol Bordello

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