Note: Photos in this essay depict re-enactments of actual events, not the events themselves.
Thursday, July 12
McCaskill picked me up at my folks’ house at 9PM. We weren’t planning to leave Jackson until about 1 or 2AM, but we’d decided to hang out a while and say goodbyes because, naturally, we may never come back.
Instead of going to the bar, for obvious reasons, we opted for dinner. Regardless, as with alcohol, we are both bottomless pits for food. The meal was uneventful, save for the fact that our waitress had apparently served McCaskill once before, and had taken offense to a conversation about foreskins. Despite this, the food was palatable and (hopefully) spit-free.
The waitress and McCaskill, before the offensive conversation.
We picked up Quincy, then Randolph, who is invariably slow as a sloth. When we arrived at his house, surprise! he was in the shower. Four hours later (hyperbole), we were on the road. McCaskill drove for a few hours, then I took over in Missoura. We watched the sun rise in Illinois, and it’s fairly goddamn gorgeous, seeing the sunrise somewhere other than Jackson, TN.
Friday, July 13
Illinois fun fact #1: the state is 99% corn, 1% Chicago. We arrived in Chicago around noon after a somewhat uneventful drive (we did make a bizarre, semi-serious, American Pie-style pact to
get some, well, trim, 70s-style find some girls). Note: never, ever, travel to a strange town without a place to stay, or you will end up as we did: driving through terrifying traffic for hours. Randolph called his ma and got her to find hotels on the Internets, but we were driving with such rapidity that each street mentioned was already blocks behind us. We drove through O’Hare, took a random left, and found a Motel 6, the beacon of the cheap traveler who believes he is not really that cheap. The cost: 60 bucks a person for the weekend. We totally checked in.
With three hours until the festival opened, and the choice to either eat or nap, we unsurprisingly decided to eat. We also unsurprisingly ordered Chicago-style pizza, which is perhaps the most awkward and messy food that’s not alive when you start eating it. The Motel 6 towel that I used as a plate got pretty ugly. Then, Quincy’s leg brushed the front of the air conditioner and the whole fucking facade fell off. The Pantera-style destruction of the room had begun; for those keeping score we were now down one towel and one A/C unit.
And we’re off: no one in Chicago knew where or what Union Park was. Instead, we encountered mystified glances and vague directions to other parks. We finally got one lady who’d heard of the festival, but (and maybe she was just a cruel bitch) she sent us to the totally wrong place, 19 blocks from our destination. We took a cab, and unwittingly set a pattern for the weekend. The cabbie knew where it was. We rolled up just after five and got in line.
As we waited in line, I’d begun to feel ornery because of our thus-far strange trip, so when a lisping PETA-phile wandered up touting chickens’ rights, I told him that “chickens are my mortal enemies,” even though I’m a vegetarian. Without a word, he walked away. Chicago 0, Me 1.
This is me attacking a giant chicken, out of spite for PETA.
Slint was fucking badass. They totally locked into the trance-like state that is Spiderland; with delicate lines fattened, they tore through the afternoon like barbed wire. A new song was played, as well. Next, the GZA, I hate to admit, disappointed. The sound was fucked, so I wandered with Quincy. Then, Sonic Youth: psychedelic, noisy, impeccable, messy, beautiful, chaos in order and order in chaos. I wandered more, buoyed by Sonic Youth, until I saw David Pajo walking toward Quincy and me. I shook his hand and gushed like a 70’s schoolgirl meeting David Cassidy. Pictures were taken.
Back to the hotel. We rode the train for awhile, then were told to get off. At a place that was not our stop. We were told that a bus awaited, and we boarded, eager for respite and beer. We rode the bus for an hour or more, time ceased to exist on public transit and we were instructed to disembark again, where a train awaited. This seems like a colossal CTA practical joke, as we were no more than two blocks from where we’d started. We were not amused; a cab would suffice in the future.
Saturday, July 14
McCaskill awoke to find his uvula swollen beyond belief. It resided in the back of his throat like a squat, pink toad, obstructing his airway and rendering him incapable of speech. We lightened the atmosphere by calling it his vulva. Quincy and I then abandoned Randolph and our afflicted friend, so as to not miss the Twilight Sad and Califone. We took a train, then a cab to the park–just in time to catch the first notes of the Twilight Sad, who put on an awe-inspiring, crushing show. Too, too short, but they had to vacate for Califone, who played an equally short set. I loved Califone, but I am biased, and it did seem like much of their awesomeness was snatched away by the breezy Chicago weather. I opted for Grizzly Bear over Beach House, and they were awesome, bass heavy, and more intensely psychedelic than Yellow House would have you believe.
During the Grizzly Bear set, we caught up with McCaskill, who was devastated over missing the first two acts of the day, but his vulva had healed, thank you. After Grizzly Bear, McCaskill and I saw Battles, but not before telling our two comrades that they would regret not attending the show. Battles were weird, rhythmic, and powerful, with members dressed in some of the most outrageous shirts this side of Miami Vice (the series, not the film). At first, I wondered which sounds were made by man, and which by machine, but then I realized: who gives a fuck? It was radical.
I split off from Cass after we browsed the merch stands. He went to Oxford Collapse, and I to the thunderous apocalypse that was Mastodon. Before we split up, Cass yelled, “THURSTON,” like he and Mr. Moore had been grade school chums. I took their picture and was suitably awed.
Even though Mastodon was tearing Chi-town a new one, I wanted to see a bit of Oxford Collapse and be well-positioned for Dan Deacon and Girl Talk at the Balance Stage. Next year, let’s call it the “Goddamn We’re Going To Get Trampled Stage.” Watching Oxford Collapse was not uncomfortable, and sound difficulties aside, they rocked very hard. Then came the fear. We met up with Quincy again, who’d found four 19-year-old Bostonians eager to drink. Quincy introduced them to McCaskill and me, and then they mysteriously disappeared. As Dan Deacon set up, we realized that we were packed into a very narrow alley like Brazilian soccer fans, and that if people didn’t stop pushing, we may end up on RealTV, legs pinned against the stage, screaming for release.
The promoters asked everyone to back up a few steps. Yeah, right. Dan Deacon started on time anyway, and that man had the most marvelously goofy stage banter ever. Silver Surfer, collectible foil print trading cards, and dragons were all mentioned. Then, he wanted everyone to chant “Sears Tower Future Pyramid” with each syllable lasting the exhalation of one breath, after we said “yes” 20 times. He wasn’t kidding, either. Then he dropped the first beat, and a sea of sweating indie kids began to churn. Quincy was propelled past me by a large group of strange people. He looked distressed, but as McCaskill and I were already sweating bullets, we left him to his fate and avoided Tramplefest ’07.
Girl Talk was no less crowded, and he was eventually shut down by John Q. Law. Before we left, Rand and I had a surreal encounter with a member of Mastodon that I still don’t understand. I look a lot like the guy, except I don’t have a facial tattoo. Rand saw him hanging out, and we thought it would be cool to get my picture taken with him. Ironically, when we saw him, he was taking pictures of festival-goers. Rand said,”How would you like your picture taken with your doppelganger?” The guy from Mastodon responded, “How would you like your picture taken with my doppelganger?” He then snapped a picture of Rand and me, and walked off.
Me with the guy from Mastodon (he’s on the left).
Afterward, we tried to find a nice eatery in Rosemont, the suburb where we were holed up. Apparently, people don’t eat there, as all restaurants seem to be hopelessly obscured–guarded forever by the vengeful ghost of Honest Abe. We found a Euro-cuisine bar, and the food was served by a sexy waitress with a purring Slavic accent. “Eat it up, bitches,” I think she said to us.
Sunday, July 15
We all woke up early, uvulas intact, to catch Deerhunter. Quincy was skeptical; he’d heard that they only play hourlong sets of white noise which, to me, sounded appealing. Bradford Cox wore a dress, the set was song–rather than noise–centered, and it became one of my weekend highlights. Two guys from Grizzly Bear joined them for the closer, and it all ended awesomely. Brightblack Morning Light were plagued by sound difficulties and a live show that could only be referred to as “too fucking stoned.” McCaskill and I vamped, and shopped a bit until the Sea and Cake. They gently rocked and easily rolled, and played a satisfying set for a bunch of old dudes. I watched Deerhunter, then drank several beers after Stephen Malkmus‘ satisfying solo set.
By Of Montreal‘ first notes, I was loosey goosey, yelling, and practically accosting strangers. I snapped a pic of a guy who’d bought a Joe Piscopo record, and told him to “Smile, motherfucker, you just bought a Joe Piscopo record!” He said he didn’t even know why he bought it, but the answer was obvious to me: “Because it’s fucking awesome!” Two cute Chicago sisters asked me where I’m from; they loved the accent and the beard. I jerkassedly replied, “Texas,” before telling them that I’m really from Tennessee. I had to hand it to Illinois, though. No one asked us specifically if we were from Texas. It has happened before.
Kudos, land of Lincoln. I danced my set off during Of Montreal’s patently bizarre and homoerotic set. It was a wonderful experience. The New Pornographers played a rockin’ show, weighted with material from their forthcoming LP, Challengers. It sounded really fucking good, and I almost OD-d on their sugary, bittersweet music. At the end of the set, I found my image on the jumbotron, and I flipped off all of Pitchfork, which would have been worthless had McCaskill and Rand not noticed.
De La Soul closed the festival in style and put on a crisp, body-rockin’ hip hop set that had me shakin’ myself like a bottle of medicine in suspension. When they brought out Prince Paul, and I damn near browned my pants. It was transcendent; fuck all them haters. I have seen De La with Prince Paul. Put that in your pipe and smoke it. No, wait, let me.