Lollapalooza ’06, or How I Spent My Summer Vacation: Day One

Nothing on earth stinks quite like the mud at the north end of Chicago’s Grant Park.
Sure, there are things that stink more, like New York City dumpster juice, or shark urine. (Trust me, shark urine might boast the most maddening organic stench in nature.) But nothing on the face of the planet stinks in a way remotely comparable to the sort of odor wafting up from the moist, slowly baking dirt currently sucking at the soles of our kicks. It’s like … it’s like the ceiling of Farters’ Hell has ruptured, and untold generations’ worth of sinners’ methane and damnation brimstone are leaching upward through soil loosened by the rains that followed last week’s scorching Midwestern heatwave.
Joey N., Tampa Bay Derby Darlin’ Slammy Davis Jr. and I are enduring the reek in order to hear notoriously mercurial singer-songwriter Ryan Adams ramble on about eggs.
Adams is about halfway through an absolutely stellar late-afternoon set — say what you will (and I have) about his hit-and-miss recorded output, but he’s a better in-person guitarist and singer than I ever would have imagined — and has broken from the top-notch ‘70s-indebted jams to ramble, at length and barely coherently, about Chicago being a great city because he can get eggs here after 11 a.m.
A local-news camera-copter drops low to get some footage.
“Oh shit,” says Adams, “here come the egg police.”
I was really hoping he was going to say or do something stupid; according to the y’allternative music glossies, he always does. But his set has been impeccable thus far, and when he finally ends his soliloquy with a few puns and returns to the electric, drawn-out twang-rock, the interruption seems like just another eccentric high point in a set full of them.
By this point, Joey N. and I have seen mature Spoon-influenced songwriting from Austin’s Sound Team; trendy coed post-grunge via the heavily buzzed Subways; visceral sonic catharsis from Omaha’s Cursive; Eels’ noisy garage-pop performance art; and former Sunny Day Real Estate principal Jeremy Enigk’s endless takes on the same great, bombastic after-the-emo formula.
All of it was good.
But none of it has been this good.
Ryan fucking Adams – who’da thunk it?
After Adams runs out of time, Joey N. gives up on his desire to trudge about a half-mile south to a stage sponsored by local radio station Q101 and see briefly hot Texas Pink Floyd-meets-VHS or Beta outfit Secret Machines. I like to think it’s because I’ve repeatedly told him that the immaculately studio-rendered group is somewhat boring live, but I suspect it’s because, after experiencing less than a third of Lollapalooza’s three-day hip-rock splendor, he’s already tired of making the trek between the northern stages and the southern ones.
I know I am.
So Slammy Davis Jr. heads off to catch a glimpse of The White Stripes’ Jack White in his new role as just one of the guys among the Led Zeppelin acolytes in The Raconteurs, and Joey and I rest a bit before discovering that quiet noise coming from the nearby Adidas/Champs stage (yep, every stage has a corporate sponsor) is none other than Miami retro-folk singer-songwriter Sam Beam, more properly known as Iron & Wine. While Beam waxes beardedly on the subject of, shit, I don’t know, swamps or field recordings or the Civil War or something, a young African-American kid with a box full of candy approaches us, and begins a polite pitch. Joey N. demurs, and the polite pitch turns into a violent stream of racist invective.
You haven’t lived until a 12-year-old kid calls you and your friend “honky fuckaz,” and looks like he’s seriously considering starting a fistfight with two dudes much more than a decade older than himself.
I’m asking myself if it really happened when the kid unleashes a similar tirade on some thrifty hippies off to our left.
Behind us, on the same stage Adams tore up an hour prior, the perennially cool My Morning Jacket delves into its earnest, spacey, reverbed-out mixture of Neil Young and “Stranglehold.” It’s awesome, so awesome that I almost miss the guy that I’ll swear until my dying day was Seth Green sauntering speedily by me. It’s at about this time that we realize Lollapalooza is not just a big event, but a huge one, maybe an unprecedented one, in terms of size — with barely three and a half hours of noise left to go, the crowd is bigger than it has been all day, a streaming, undulating mass of humanity that’s been notably careful in choosing T-shirts bearing the names of bands equally as hip as those appearing this weekend, but NOT appearing this weekend.
The Pixies appear to be the absentee favorite by a landslide.
After My Morning Jacket attains the status of being the first band we’ve seen all day to run over its allotted hour, we watch singer-guitarists Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein muddy one of groundbreaking Pacific Northwestern post-punk trio Sleater-Kinney’s last shows, EVER, by getting into an onstage argument over … shit, I don’t know what, they sound fine to me. Then we forego the too-crowded show-closing set by marvelous hipster faves Death Cab for Cutie (I’ve seen ‘em several times, and Joey N. likes ‘em OK, but would rather kiss a landmine than watch ‘em live again) in order to hoof it back to Printer’s Row in search of a great bar, a great bartender, and some nice, intelligent, friendly people we can engage in conversation and get drunker than they’ve ever been in their lives.
We find all three in Kasey’s Tavern on Dearborn — thanks for the drinks, Brandon.
Or was it Brendan?

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