Windy City Sounds: Marching through Lollapalooza 2007
By JOSHUA LIEBERSON
Special to STATIC and FEEDBACK
Somewhere around late April, the discussion began with my wonderful concert-going friend from Chicago: Come to Chicago, come to Lollapalooza. At the time, the only band that had been confirmed to be there was Pearl Jam. I tend to be a bit of an obsessive fan, but I knew that it might be too much, too obsessive even, to travel halfway across the United States to go to an enormous festival just to see them. So the idea was sort of shelved, at least for the moment.
Within a few weeks, the initial lineup was announced, and the decision was shortly made thereafter to just go. After all, I had never been to Chicago: land of the so-called biggest competitor to New York for greatest pizza (I ultimately never tried the pizza, perhaps the one great regret of the trip).
Most critical for me was that I was going to see Pearl Jam, Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals, The Roots and the Black Keys all in the same weekend, which are four of my five favorite bands. The concept was quite overwhelming from the start, and anticipation could only build from the date of the lineup announcement through my initial and long trip up the Orange and Red Lines on the El, which is where this tale begins…
THURSDAY, AUG. 2
“Welcome to Chicago!” the flight attendant says to me and about 70 other passengers on Delta Flight 6464. The sight is something both familiar and unfamiliar. Having arrived from New York City, seeing tall buildings was not a new experience. However, seeing them in the distance, a sort of city on the hill from Midway International Airport was. Downtown Chicago in the distance looks like the seat of the Empire, and gazing out upon it before my trip into the belly of the beast was a breath-taking experience on the potential of things to come alone.
The journey started innocently enough: take the Orange Line to Roosevelt, transfer to the Red Line straight north. If you see Wrigley Field, you went the right way. If you don’t, turn around and pray to God. Thankfully, I saw Wrigley on my left, and stayed on my stop, arriving shortly thereafter at my destination. My amazing host and one of the truly great music fans of this era, Rick, awaited me, and we dropped off my stuff and headed out for what promised to be a great night of hanging out, drinking, and allowing whatever craziness that was to happen around us to envelop the carefree night.
We stopped off in the neighborhood for some excellent microbrew and junk food at a local bar, taking in the end of the Cubs game, and chatting with other patrons, there to watch and discuss their beloved Cubbies. After about 5 beers, along with meeting up with another of the weekend’s great circle of good people I can now refer to as friends, we set off to the Vic Theatre to see what we could do about breaking into Pearl Jam’s warm up show.
Upon arrival at the Vic, I quickly came to two quick realizations. First, we weren’t the first group of fans that thought up the idea, as approximately a hundred or so shut out fans waited outside the venue not sure of what to do with themselves. That sounded faintly like our plan. Second, there are a great deal of people that are much more serious about Pearl Jam than I am. Here I thought I was the martyr of the great band, traveling from New York City to see them at their only accessible North American date of the year, while fans from South America and every corner of the country waited in line at the Vic, for basically no reason other than to get a glimpse of these six rock stars.
Not to say we lacked resolve, but approximately 15 minutes later, we were back to drinking beer, this time at Sheffield’s, a beer garden nearby. A few pitchers and nachos later, we wound up back at the Vic, this time in a narrow alley abutting the venue. After discussing various entry options on a relatively nice buzz, we saw some crazy Hawaiian smoking a cigarette surrounded by security folk. This gray haired man who looked like he could literally bust a coconut on his forehead was none other than Kenneth “Boom” Gaspar, Hammond B-3 organist for Pearl Jam. After spending a good portion of our drinking afternoon and evening debating the relative merits of having him in the band and extending “Crazy Mary” beyond an average man’s lifetime, there he was in the flesh.
How would we react? Would we stand there frozen? Would we babble like crazed lunatics and spew out every imaginable cliché about how great he and the band were? As it turned out, it was none of those, just a calm and unmemorable conversation about something or other before Boom headed back inside to join the band (for those keeping score, this meeting was right in the middle of the rest of the band treating the small, envied crowd to “Rats”).
From there, it was discussing the moment, regretting our collective forgetfulness for not asking in on Boom’s demand, and heading to whatever mode of transit we chose to embark on the journey back. We had a big day ahead, and we weren’t getting in, so…