It's over. Tens of thousands of broken plastic beer glasses and Smart Water bottles later, Lollapalooza is over for another year. The dust has quite literally settled, the clean-up crew is earning its money big-time, and lots of fans with new t-shirts have gone home.
The guy with the neon orange Hillary Clinton tee is probably particularly disappointed with the way it all ended, since I saw him heading for the AT&T stage with the kind of grim determination that only a man wearing a Hillary Clinton t-shirt in August could muster. I imagine that he wanted to be in the front row for Kanye West's closing performance, since the rumor that Barack Obama would introduce him had congealed over the weekend into almost-fact. It had weight; it was such a substantial rumor that it engendered an anti-rumor, that Obama would instead introduce his pals Wilco.
Nope and nope again. All through Kanye's set, people speculated about when the presumptive Democratic candidate might appear; if not to introduce Kanye, then maybe after one song, maybe after two, maybe to close the festival. Uh uh. Probably a good move, given what McCain is trying to do with celebrity, given that most of the Lollapalooza crowd is already with the program. I only wished for a ladder and a set of binoculars, so that I could see down to the other end of the field to find out if Nine Inch Nails was playing to ten people because everyone else was waiting for the candidate.
When the last stage light went dark, the crowd streamed along Michigan Avenue and west into the city, doing the aural equivalent of the wave you see at football games. People at the south end of the avenue started to holler, and the sound rolled up the street and into the canyons between the skyscrapers as other groups of fans picked it up. Could people behind their triple-pane soundproofed windows hear it? What did it sound like to them? A little tired, kind of determined, defiant and worried all at once. Going back to the real world can be daunting after a long weekend away from it. It's enough to make you yell walking down a late-night street, especially if hundreds of other people are yelling with you.
As for me, a marginal and non-yelling member of the sect, I'm going to download my two contemporaries -- Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, and the fabulous and irresistible Amadou and Mariam, whose set inspired an endless conga line -- and listen to them whenever things start to weigh too heavily. They know something it's all too easy to forget, and if I listen to them often enough, I just might figure it out.
It was like the end of Waiting for Godot. Vladimir: Well? Shall we go? Estragon: Yes, let's go. Stage direction: They do not move. Instead of waiting for Godot, we were waiting for Obama, hoping that the rumors about him appearing with Kanye were true. As the notes of Kanye's first song rang out, the same song that opened the set he played at Madison Square Garden, we looked at each other, wondering when in the program Obama was going to come out. We kept thinking up other opportunities for his appearance: after the first song, after the first few songs, at the end of Kanye's set to bring the crowd over from the Nine Inch Nails performance, which would be done by then. None of these hypotheticals turned into actuality. Obama was absent, off somewhere having a great time with Godot I'm sure.
Wherever they were off partying, it certainly wasn't at Lollapalooza. I say too bad for them, because it means they missed Mark Ronson's set, one I could arguably call my favorite of the weekend. I usually have a disdain for crowd surfers, since they force those around them to support their weight not because they want to, but out of fear that the surfer will fall and crush them. And yet when Mark Ronson did it mid-song it was not annoying but rather endearing, probably because he continued to play his cowbell as he moved above the crowd.
As one would expect of him, his set was littered with guest appearances by other artists; he even turned the stage over to Phantom Planet so they could play their hit song "California." As someone who grew up close to the real OC, I've heard the theme song for the show far too many times and figured that the artists who wrote it were as brainless and blonde as the stars of the show. So it was a welcome relief to see Alex Greenwald, the lead singer of the band, clambering up the ladder on the side to stand on a stack of amps to belt out one of the other songs for which he joined Mark Ronson. The seeming spontaneity of the set and the enthusiasm with which the artists attacked the songs made it an absolute pleasure.
Sunday was a day of discovery, a day of listening to people I knew little to nothing about, Mark Ronson included. The weekend as a whole was a perfect balance of old and new, wonderful performances from artists I already knew, proof that their talent wasn't based solely on the ability of a technician to cover up their flaws in the recording studio, as well as a delicious assortment of new artists who I only wish I had known of earlier. The only agent of change who wasn't present was the agent of change himself.