Sometimes the gods of music-fest coverage throw you a bone. It's imperative, when this happens, to pick up said bone and run with it. In my case, this year's bone came in the form of a Lollapalooza photo pass rather than a general media pass. I, of course, fancy myself as something of a scribe — having attended and/or covered Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, South by Southwest and Pitchfork — and the only cameras I've ever used to take more than 12 photos with at a music festival were disposable.
So I borrowed the Scene's official camera, and after a brief tutorial and about five minutes of practice on my front porch, decided to lay back and let Gold take the reins as far as the bulk of written coverage goes. What follows is a collection of some of the better photographs I managed to crawl away from Lollapalooza with ... and hopefully not too much of an embarrassment to the blog. Props go to our art director Elizabeth Jones — and colleagues/friends Jonathon Kingsbury and Michael Eades — for teaching me what an F-stop is. By the way, the girl in the above photo ended up being alright. Just a bit too much sun and probably a bit too many drugs.
Perry Farrell was almost literally the first person we saw when we entered Grant Park. We ended up spotting him incessantly, culminating with him directly asking me to move during Empire of the Sun. More on that later.
This is the best I could do for The Walkmen. We caught the back half of their set, including "The Rat," of course. They sounded remarkable, unsurprisingly.
Raphael Saadiq remains among my favorite modern performers. Not only neo-soul at its finest — timeless music at its finest.
It was at this point that Gold and I began to spot Lady Gaga fans — or "Little Monsters," as they call themselves — decked out in full gear. The following section I present to you under the title Monsters, Inc.
Man, Devo. Those dudes are still absolutely unstoppable, and they're older than my dad. I'm sure Gold will have at least 1,000 words for you on their set, so we'll move on.
I've only seen The Dirty Projectors two times, but both shows featured two of the most compelling live vocal performances I've ever seen. Ridiculous arrangements.
Alright: The Gaga Scenario. They told us when we arrived the first day that there would be a cap on the number of photographers allowed into the pit for her performance. Despite showing up over a half-hour early, I didn't make the cutoff — I was No. 57, and 50 were permitted. And no, the "But I'm not a real photographer, so you shouldn't include me in the 50 and just let me in anyway" approach didn't work. And thusly, a pain-in-the-ass of a rigmarole and having to sit through some of the most awful audience chatter I've ever been subjected to, and this is the best I could get:
The delay resulted in me not getting any shots of The Strokes whatsoever. But they played "Reptilia" and "Take It or Leave It," and Julian Casablancas deserves every ounce of his rock-star credibility as far as I'm concerned — even if he does look like a dystopian teenage warlord.
Also, we took a pedicab that night.
No matter how many times you catch Spoon live, they never fail to look and sound exactly like Spoon. I happen to remain a Spoon fan, so that works out alright for me.
The Green Day situation was similar to that of Gaga. Might be all for the best, though, because Billy Joe had all of the photogs lower their cameras and gather up in order to get a young showgoer to stage-dive into the photo pit. Kind of awesome, really. But all I could think was, "I'd be afraid I'd catch a fist to the groin that way."
Made a rookie mistake and left my flash on during a tiny bit of Phoenix. D'oh.
Just as I'd made it into the pit at Perry's Stage to shoot synth-poppers Empire of the Sun, I got a tap on the shoulder from a security guard. "Hey man, these guys need through." "These guys," as it turns out, were Perry Farrell, his wife and his two small children. So I basically got moved back to a spot just behind a speaker so Perry could show his very young sons what dramatic Australian synth-pop looks like. But hey, it was Perry's festival — at Perry's Stage, no less. Gotta pay the tax at some point, right?
I'm a fan of Yeasayer's latest record, and they sounded great. But I was doomed to have my path cross with that of a teenage girl on a bad acid trip throughout a sizable chunk of their set.
Acid Girl: "Please, please ... I'm begging you. Just get my cell phone out of my backpack for me."
Me: "Um, I really feel like that's your cell phone in your hand."
AG: "It's not. I swear to God."
It definitely was.
I unfortunately had to scurry off from MGMT pretty quickly in order to get my confirmation for Arcade Fire. What I heard of the new record sounded rehearsed and full. They've improved exponentially live since they first began touring.
Oh, and as I waited in the photo-credentials line in the press area, the most epic gate-crashing attempt of all time unfolded around me. I'm talking 30 ticketless youngsters in a full-on sprint vs. 20 mildly ill-prepared security guards. There were punches thrown, there was blood, trashcans were thrown, faces bled. By the time I'd finished fumbling with my camera lens to try and get a shot, every attempted crasher had either made it in or been collared and ejected.
I was lucky to make it for a bit of The National after scoring my Arcade Fire credentials. In case it hasn't been made obvious by now, I'm a relatively huge National fan, and High Violet sounds incredible live. Oh, and Richie from Arcade Fire sat in on "Anyone's Ghost."
And wonderfully, serendipitously, stunningly, the weekend came full circle with the last and — for my money — best performance of the entire weekend: Soundgarden. NOT! Arcade Fire was completely moving, and everything from The Suburbs sounded wonderful. I'm actually relatively proud of some of the shots I got of them, too. Not in a tooting-my-own-horn sort of way; more in a "Win Butler is completely photogenic" sort of way. Dig that crazy haircut.