The New York Times has a very interesting, and refreshingly unbiased (IMO), opinion piece today about how vulnerable the US really is to geopolitical causes of oil supply shocks. A key point:
Some policy makers and analysts worry that these emergency stocks are too small. For example, they sometimes compare the American strategic reserve to total American consumption, so the reserves appear dangerously inadequate. The United States consumes about 20 million barrels of oil every day, so the Strategic Petroleum Reserve could only supply the country for 35 days. (Furthermore, the United States could not draw oil out of the reserve at anything approaching a rate of 20 million barrels per day.) This is why President Bush in his 2007 State of the Union address called for doubling the strategic reserve.
But this vulnerability is a mirage. The size of plausible disruptions, not total consumption, determines the adequacy of global reserves. The worst oil disruptions in history deprived global markets of five million to six million barrels per day. Specifically, the collapse of the Iranian oil industry during the revolution in 1978 cut production by nearly five million barrels a day, and the sanctions on Iraq after its conquest of Kuwait in 1990 eliminated 5.3 million barrels of supply. If a future disruption were as bad as history’s worst, American and allied governments’ crude oil stocks alone could replace every lost barrel for eight months.
I found it to be a small haven for thoughtful and fact-based arguments and a good cautionary piece that reminds us not to get too wrapped up in the polemics of either party.
Best #1) The weather – thank you baby jesus! Reports earlier in the week called for mid-high 90s. We ended up with gorgeous low 80s. Which lead to…
Best #2) getting a quiet moment on the north end of the park early on Saturday before many people had arrived. I was rushing to get to De Novo Dahl, but missed them completely because of…
Worst #1) city traffic control completely rerouted the way to get to the entrance (presumably in reaction to the long lines that Friday’s sold out crowd created early) which required walking an extra six blocks to get across the street. But even after missing De Novo Dahl, the gorgeous spot on the field I claimed with a cold beer calmed me down pretty quickly. I decided to wait for the next band out of curiosity which led to…
Worst #2) the band was Does It Offend You, Yeah? and the answer is yes, yes it does. When I see teenagers freak out for bands like this and the Black Kids, I feel like this:
You call that music…give me some beans and I’ll play better for you.
Best #3) Seeing great bands like Okkervil River, the National, and Broken Social Scene get prominent pre-headliner spots and use them to convert a ton of new fans.
Best #4) Finding new bands to be impressed by, including Yeasayer, Foals, and the Gutter Twins (if the duo of Mark Lanegan and Greg Dulli can be called “new”)
Best #5) Jack White. I don’t need to elaborate, do I?
Best and Worst, simultaneously: Definitely the most creative solution to the issue of Sunday’s elevated temps: after all, who really needs a crotch in his pants?
And of course, there are the obvious bests of Radiohead (better than the 2001 Grant Park show, if only because In Rainbows sounds amazing live); not being at the Rage clusterfuck, seeing an amazingaftershow at Schuba’s featuring Okkervil River and The Octopus Project, and the whole afterglow resulting from three days of music in a beautiful setting where nearly 99% of the people are just happy to be there.
It was a late one the night before. In fact we woke up when last night’s opener The Octopus Project was getting on stage in Grant Park.
We opted for the calming (and ampersand-loving!) sets of Amadou & Miriam and Iron & Wine. Amadou & Mariam are a blind Malian couple who create light Afro-pop. Iron & Wine are a sighted brother-sister team who create light folk-pop. Although they sounded more engrossing and punchy than last year Pitchfork (and were translating better to open air), I left Iron & Wine’s set early because I had to see Saul Williams.
Saul Williams and his band took the stage with what could only be called space-age tribal makeup and fashion. The guitarist sported a shiny silver space suit (like a tailored suit, not a spacesuit) and his mohawked keyboardist was draped in a vampire cape. Williams revved up the crowd with his rap/rock sound and passed out brightly colored feathers, which much of the hipster crowd proceeded to wear like Native American braves in their pointless head/sweatbands. (The hipster crowd was most likely there early for Girl Talk, in my opinion.) I had heard on Sound Opinions that there was a Williams cover of “Sunday Bloody Sunday” floating around, and Williams brought it out, to my delight. That is, until he actually started singing. I had high hopes, but alas, I left to head towards Gnarls Barkley.
The dynamic duo came out in white pants and mustard-colored suit jackets, resembling the guys in country club ball photos from the 60s. They were backed by Molly Shannon as Mary Catherine Gallagher on keys. They quickly got to their standouts “Gone Daddy Gone” and “Going On” but we left to catch a bit of Girl Talk.
This evening brought my biggest conflict of the weekend – the Gnarls/Girl Talk/National timing. All three are great live acts, but for very different reasons. So I was going to attempt to hit a good chunk of all three. And I would have gotten away with it, if it weren’t for that medding…
…portapotty situation. For some reason, Sunday night always seems to have the worst portapotty issues. Long lines, no TP (not that I don’t always have a spare – oh and Girl Talk brought people shooting guns of TP) – I spent a good chunk of my Girl Talk listening time on line.
But I wanted to get to The National. What a perfect way to come down from the weekend. The sun was setting behind the skyline and most of the crowd was gravitating toward the main stage opposite to prepare for Nine Inch Nails. Lollapalooza 2008 ended for me with the soft opening strains of “Fake Empire” building and crashing into “Mr. November”. See you next year!
I got to the park early, but unfortunately missed De Novo Dahl (see here). Also unfortunately caught Does It Offend You, Yeah? (yes, yes it does). With a little time before Gutter Twins started, I explored the new offerings at this year’s more upscale Lollapalooza.
Some friends have told me they wouldn’t set foot at Lolla. The crowds, the trash, the portapotties, the annoying drunks, and the heat all have great potential to create a perfect storm of suckage.
But it doesn’t. The park is huge (one mile from each headliner stage to the other) and doesn’t feel like it has 75,000 people until the late shows. At 1pm on Saturday, it felt like heaven.
video by me
The organizers added a Whole Foods section with tons of healthy foods and a craft section with vendors (perhaps taking the cue from the Pitchfork Festival). There’s also a craft beer section! With $7 Stellas! Okay that’s not so necessary, but the section also has picnic tables and video screens showing the stages, and it was relatively uncrowded each time I passed.
The Gutter Twins are not a band you’d prefer to see at 2pm on a bright sunny day, but it worked anyway. They came on stage to the apocalyptic-scream opening sounds of “Idle Hands” dressed all in black, sporting black sunglasses and spewing black sentiment for the next hour. Give me all the black metal bands in Sweden, and I don’t think any of the their frontmen would intimidate me as much as Mark Lanegan does. I’m buying their album Saturnalia and I plan to listen to it on repeat for all of February, with a flask full of whisky.
On the opposite stage, the hipster/teen crowd had gathered for MGMT. I thought they would be young glam-era types, and they did not disappoint. Their leadman could literally be Marc Bolan reincarnated, with his curls, his voice and his posing. Since I believe the world needs another Marc Bolan, I enjoyed their set which included standouts “Weekend Wars”, “Time To Pretend” and “Pieces of What”.
Also, apparently it was difficult for anyone to stand still during their set.
video by almostfamousgirl via You Tube
I left MGMT early to catch a bit of Devotchka, whom we saw play an impromptu sidewalk set at SXSW. A decent crowd had gathered to sway to their Eastern European-tinged groove. Shortly after, Explosions in the Sky took the opposite stage and their atmospheric guitar-driven instrumental tunes lofted nicely over the park.
Okkervil River, as always, put on an energetic show. For a band whose tunes weave tales of princesses in towers, poets in Minneapolis and being tossed down oubliettes, they perform with a surprising amount of traditional rock antics: drumsticks twirled and tossed, jumps from drum kits and audience participation on hand-clapping rhythms. Their set included standouts from The Stage Names like “Plus Ones” (during which Will Sheff managed to transform a verse-ending line into an instruction for the soundbooth), the most upbeat material from Black Sheep Boy, and concluded with a crowd sing-a-long on the murder ballad “Westfall”.
Broken Social Scene crammed their 800 band members wielding 815 guitars on stage and alternated between proper BSS tunes (including my personal favorite “Cause=Time”) and newer material from Brendan Canning, Kevin Drew and Andrew Whiteman-led Apostle of Hustle. I am always amazed at how they don’t sound like a dissonant cacophony with all they have going on – Canadians are so talented at being nuanced. [And btw I know dissonant cacophony is redundant, but that’s what makes it perfect to use for BSS].
We left after Broken Social Scene to regroup for our aftershow at Schuba’s with Okkervil River and The Octopus Project. I was going to say that Explosions in the Sky is the most interesting and accomplished instrumental quartet out there — they, however, don’t have Yvonne, the queen of the theramin. Somebody’s been working on her aerial fingering!!!
video by hmc1410 via You Tube
Okkervil River played an expanded version of their earlier Lollapalooza set, including new tunes “Lost Coastlines” and “Blue Tulip” from their upcoming release/sequel The Stand Ins. I encourage you all to to treat yourself to that album when it comes out on September 9 – it’s outstanding. Other additions to the set included “Okkervil River Song” and opener “The War Criminal Rises and Speaks”. Also, the band members are very nice and tolerant people. I asked Yvonne and Lauren whether it was rough being the only women in each of the bands – did they have to deal with a lot of farting in the van? Apparently these boys are much more polite than most men I know.
Arrival time of 12:45, enough to catch the end of the Black Lips, who remind me of the White Stripes covering 60s surf rock and who also reportedly hit the stage hard. Unfortunately the line of thousands of people squeezing their hands into the new cloth wristbands caused us to get to Bud Light around 1:10, barely catching any punk rock awesomeness to kick our weekend off. So, naturally, we did the next best thing: beer and airbrush tattoos.
We trekked across to catch a bit of Rogue Wave, who sounded again like Death Cab For Cutie – but that felt great in the breezy dry heat. Yeasayer was up next – we’d missed them at SXSW and were quite excited to catch them. We were not disappointed. Their deceptively loose sounding experimental rock kept our heads bobbing while we watched them switch places and shift instruments.
We took a food break during the Kills to come back to catch Gogol Bordello, the other gypsy pirate polka band. We were dripping in the late afternoon heat but it didn’t suck any of their energy away.
video by jynblueflame via You Tube
We caught a few songs from the husband and wife pop duo Mates of State before heading out to catch Grizzly Bear on the side stage. For some odd reason, the organizers put the side stage directly facing the setting sun, but the Brooklyn quartet kept their cool harmonies and sparse arrangements – they always sound beautiful live.
We schlepped across again to catch some of the Raconteurs before heading back for the headliners. Jack White must have come out of the womb with a pick in his hands. They got some call-and-response crowd participation on “Steady As She Goes” and Brendan Benson stepped up to steer some slower numbers before we tore back across the field to fight the crowd that had parked all day for Radiohead.
Radiohead’s set has been glowed about and panned (as much as Radiohead can ever be panned), but I have no complaints…well only one.
As with last year’s Pearl Jam set, other events in the city seemed to be timed to compliment the headliners. During “Everything In Its Right Place”, fireworks appear to the southeast of the stage. The fireworks appeared almost perfectly coordinated with the climax of “Fake Plastic Trees”, and the below crappy video shows their start:
video by me
…and the talking…lots of talking…
Unless you were parked pretty close, the chatter of casual fans waiting for “Paranoid Android” drowned out the band’s more delicate numbers.
[oh wait…after 7 hours in the hot sun and more liquid meals than solid ones, that was me!]
Overall the set list was wonderful, covering ample old favorites from OK Computer and The Bends while also incorporating most of In Rainbows, which sounds fantastic live — to a song.
Here are the top t-shirts that we captured at Lolla 2008:
(the above appeared during the National’s set, a few songs before “Mr. November”)
And the winner, for its trifecta of reference to music, geek-chic, and overall pun-quality:
As far as quantity of shirts, headliners Rage Against the Machine, Radiohead, and Nine Inch Nails (as well as potential headliner Barack Obama) were the clear winners. Coming up close behind them was any t-shirt associated with Dunder Mifflin. Sadly, unlike last year, and even though they were co-headlining, Wilco shirts were pretty scarce.
For a few weeks, I’d been cursing the fates that put Shearwater’s headliner at the newly opened Mansion on the same night as Liz Phair’s live performance of Exile in Guyville.
Through most of 1994, Exile was on constant repeat in my stereo. After years of nice and sweet Lilith Fair vagina music, Liz Phair was like a kangaroo kick to the uterus. Much has been written about her subsequent declawing by the desire (hers or her label’s or both) to go mainstream. Her Exile follow up, Whip Smart, contains a few gems like “Supernova” that augured her move toward more straighforward pop while retaining a slight edge. Lyrics like “I’d never been to Rome until you smiled/You’re about as old and piled” (from bitter breakup song “Cinco de Mayo”) couldn’t approach “I want to be your blowjob queen”. However it’s a far cry from striking a Lita Ford album cover pose and insisting “I am extraordinary/if you’d ever get to know me”.
The experience of seeing Liz in her hometown at the smallish Vic Theatre would likely be very memorable. Even though Shearwater’s, Rook is quickly becoming one of my favorite albums, I’d be able to see them another time, right? I almost made the jump.
My neighborhood, River West, has developed more slowly than I’d like in my six years living here. Part of the reason for that is the many buildings and plots owned by one man who has refused to sell or fix up his abandoned properties.
On the positive side, street artists have often made these buildings more interesting by tacking their work to the walls.
Recently, one of these street artists, Brendan Scanlon, was murdered in Logan Square. As a tribute to him, his fellow artists peppered one of the abandoned buildings at Grand and Milwaukee. It’s important to note that this appears to be a senseless, random act of violence. Street artists are not to be confused with gang members that tag buildings with graffiti. Here are a handful of the pieces: