As I said in my previous post, all of the videos I took at Lollapalooza were pretty terrible. I didn’t have my Flip or anything too fancy, so I was just taking them with my digital camera, which doesn’t allow me to zoom in or out once I start filming, and also doesn’t have the highest video quality. Plus, I’m pretty unwilling to stand with my camera in the air for the entirety of what were, in most cases, my favorite songs by whichever band I was watching. I’d get one chorus recorded for posterity and then turn the camera off and enjoy the rest of the song in the moment.
Some people, however, are much more prepared/professional/devoted than I am. YouTube is awash in Lollapalooza videos far, far superior to my own. For the entry that had all of my personal thoughts on the shows, I wanted to only use my own photos and videos. But as a follow-up, I thought it would be nice to pick out some better representations of the artists I saw.
For the third year in a row Johanna and I attended Lollapalooza in Chicago. It’s become a tradition and a great excuse to return to a city we love. (As I type this, I’m watching My Boys on TBS. Yes, I love Chicago so much that I’ll even watch My Boys.)
I thought I would share my belated thoughts on the festival, along with some photos I took and a few terrible, shaky, fraction-of-the-full-song videos that I took. Because who doesn’t love terrible videos?
Friday, August 6th
4:00 – 5:00 The New Pornographers
During the first act of a music festival I’m always relatively distracted trying to get my bearings and people-watch, so it’s a shame that we started things off on Friday with The New Pornographers, a band that I actually like quite a bit. I don’t remember much from their set. I know Neko Case was wearing a big floppy hat, and I know that they played a nice version of “Challengers.” That’s about it.
5:00 – 5:50 Dirty Projectors
Reviews of this performance were pretty mixed, and seemed to be less about the performance and more about how much the individual reviewer actually likes Dirty Projectors. Well, I like Dirty Projectors and loved Bitte Orca, and I thought they were great. The tempo of the songs was even less stable live, and several seemed just about to collapse before Dave Longstreth pulled everything back together. The erratic nature added a nice bit of tension and seemed to snap me to attention, which was good since I’d been sleepwalking during the New Pornographers.
Johanna and I really enjoy this stage because it’s usually easy to get pretty close to the action, and also because we’ve seen some of our best afternoon/early evening shows here (Sharon Jones, Santigold, Band of Horses).
This list has been the hardest to compile so far by a wide margin, for several reasons. When the 1990s began, I was seven years old, and the music I was most familiar with was the Phantom of the Opera soundtrack that my dad was always playing and the Super Mario Bros. theme song. By the time they ended, I was seventeen, had gone through about ten favorite bands, and was eagerly anticipating the release of the new Radiohead album. It’s hard to rank songs from a time period when I was so many different people.
Also, I could never really decide if I wanted this to be a list of songs that I loved at the time, or songs that I really love now. In the end, it’s a little bit of both, and sort of suffers because of that. There are songs on here that I don’t even have in my music collection anymore, and also songs that I never really listened to until five years ago.
But the real reason this was so difficult is that I’m absolutely sure that I’m forgetting things. I have a pretty good grasp on music from the 2000s, and didn’t really feel like I was leaving anything major out. This time I feel like there could possibly be a song out there that I might have put in my top ten that I didn’t even think of. Let me know if you see any glaring omissions.
So, all that said, here are my ninety favorite songs of the nineties:
90) Kris Kross – “Jump” (1992)
An appropriate song to start things off. This isn’t the oldest song on this list, but it might be the oldest song here of which I was a huge fan from day one. I spent about six months of my ninth year listening to my Totally Krossed Out cassette non-stop on my Walkman.
89) Cornershop – “Brimful of Asha” (1997)
This song, and this entire album, really, is such a weird blip on the nineties pop scene. Making this list made it clear to me that while music was much better in the 2000s, it was quirkier and seemed to take more risks in the 1990s. I was introduced to the song, and the band, when this video appeared on the short-lived MTV show 12 Angry Viewers.
Johanna said this had to be on the list, and I suppose she’s right. I loved it at the time, obviously, but don’t have much to say about it now, so instead let me just suggest that all of you go Google the lyrics to another single off of this album “1,2,3,4 (Sumpin’ New).” Johanna and I had each other in hysterics talking about them.
Last year was the first time in forever that I actually watched the Grammys. I was drawn in by the commercials advertising the killer lineup of performances, and it pretty much lived up to the hype. It was worth sitting through the whole show just to see Radiohead play with the USC marching band. Plus, there was all the Rihanna/Chris Brown drama to follow.
This year I don’t think I saw a single commercial for it. So that doesn’t bode well. Plus, I printed out the ballot, and it is just ridiculously bad. I’ll discuss in detail as we slog through this train wreck, but it almost seems like they are trying to piss people off with their nominees.
Anyway, Johanna and I will be competing again in a winner picking game. As usual, I pick who I think is going to win, not who should win (in a lot of these categories, none of the nominees deserve to win). Out of principle, I did not just pick Taylor Swift in every category, even though she’ll probably sweep the night. I did, however, pick a Marley in two separate categories. Let’s get it started. Categories and winners in bold.
8:01 – “Oh Jesus,” says Johanna as Lady Gaga kicks off the night. This is a little too Broadway for my tastes, but God bless her. She looks like a character from Tim Burton’s upcoming Alice in Wonderland. I should also say here that I’m really surprised that they didn’t start with some Michael Jackson thing. I guess MTV stole their thunder.
8:04 – “Everybody’s going googoo for Gaga,” says the weird emcee. And now here she comes on some weird double piano with Sir Elton John. WTF is going on right now? This is like if Disney Imagineers were trying to show me what an acid trip would be like. Again, God bless her. She is talented. She deserves to win in all four categories in which she’s nominated tonight, but I doubt that will happen.
I debated how to best represent the decade in music in list form. Eventually, I decided on songs over albums; it seemed more fitting in the era of iTunes.
This list shows that my musical tastes, like my politics, are pretty middle-of-the-road. I like the most mainstream and accessible indie rock and I’m a sucker for the occasional pop song.
I should also point out that I think this might be longer than anything I wrote in college. It’s entirely possible that the length of this will make it completely unreadable. But whatever, brevity has never been my strong suit. Here they are, my 150 favorite songs of the decade (music videos when I was able to easily find one that I liked that allowed embedding):
150) Cannibal Ox – “Iron Galaxy” (2001)
This album has such a singular sound that it’s weird hearing Vast Aire rapping over any other production. I think that’s why I could never really get into Look Mom…No Hands. The Vast Aire verse at the end of this song is sort of the end of the golden age of underground hip hop for me, a topic that will definitely be more thoroughly discussed if I ever do a list of my favorite songs of the 90s.
149) Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros – “Johnny Appleseed” (2001)
The best part of John from Cincinnati. Almost makes me want to check out the rest of Joe Strummer’s post-Clash career.
148) Air – “Universal Traveller” (2004)
The only song from Talkie Walkie that holds up for me. Really the only Air song that I listen to on a regular basis. Pops up on the occasional Rick Steves podcast, so that’s a plus.