Monday, August 07, 2006

Hotter than a match head

Plenty of reviews of this past weekend's Lollapalooza are online. Blogs like Chrome Waves, Can You See the Sunset from the Southside? and Muzzle of Bees share their experiences while Chicago Sun-Times critic Jim DeRogatis gives his full wrap-up today. That's just a sampling, but in this sampling I notice something that would drive me bonkers with seeing these kinds of festivals: too many bands playing all at once in very hot conditions.

Let me upfront about this: I've never been to an open-air concert festival in my life. I saw a few all-day Buzzfests in the late-'90s and those were marathons under the hot sun while bad bands outnumbered the good ones. The one and only time I went to the Warped Tour, rain was in the forecast, so instead of playing in the parking lot, all of the bands played inside Astro Arena. I'm saying all this because what I'm reading about with these open-air festivals makes me stay away from them -- very far away.

I've lived in Texas for almost twenty years now. Yes, I know it gets very hot here in the summer, but heatwaves and droughts still suck. This summer, the most I go out during the day is to pick up the mail. Just five steps from my door to my mailbox is enough exposure to the heat to make me race back inside. I'm under shade, but still, the heat and humidity are tough to deal with. So when I hear about festivals like these, I think of being in that feeling for hours upon hours.

No matter how much water I drink or how much sunscreen I have on, open-air festivals seem to have more of a discomfort level than a comfort level. Yes, Lollapalooza and Pitchfork's festival were in Chicago (where it's not 100+ everyday), but it was still sunny and hot. Then there's the Austin City Limits Festival, the now annual event in Zilker Park every September. Texas weather is usually cooler then, but it's still in the 90s.

My point is this: these festivals seem too costly (monetarily-wise and physically demanding-wise) for me. Why should I pay so much for something to feel like a fried egg in a sea of other fried eggs? Nevermind the cost of travel, food and lodging -- the tickets themselves cost a bundle. How can you convince me this is a good time at this price?

Add on top of this is the large amount of acts on the bill. Reading blog reviews where the reviewer only had time to see one or two songs by one band and then had to make way to another stage for another band, I put myself in his or her shoes. If Wilco were playing around the same time that Ben Folds and Death Cab for Cutie were playing elsewhere on another part of the park, I'd be in a major pickle. Asking me to decide between acts like these is almost as difficult as choosing between children. I don't want to miss anybody I want to see, but I don't want to just get a small sampling and feel like I had to move on.

Maybe my perspective is very skewed or maybe I'm too hard-headed about this, but for the price of all this stuff, I wonder if there are people that feel a little gipped by these kinds of festivals. Maybe I should actually go to one of these and decide for myself, but with various obstacles in my way, this isn't going to happen any time soon.


captain groovy said...

I've been to several outdoor festivals over the years.When you are young it's like a rite of passage.You get thru the day by drinking & toking.It's a communal experience.That sense of community is almost more important than the weather.The first Lollipalooza was the best.All the bands were great & at sundown the Banshees came on.It was perfect.The second time around was not quite as much fun.Too much hardcore & the bastard sons of Henry Rollins were in abundance.Too much testosterone for me.Hell i saw the first Texas Jam.Ted Nugent was amazing.
But now i would not go near an outdoor festival.But hey i'm old.I don't want to suffer for my art.When i was younger i went to clubs with no ac,no heat,bad sound,you name it.Now this year i went to an amazing indoor festival Terrastock.Now thats how it should be done.Face it we are over the hill.But the kids are alright!!

Eric said...

No. I pretty much agree with your points. Too many bands with too little time to devote to each one.

All that aside, I caught the full sets of most of the bands I saw. Even my ADD couldn't pull me away from a lot of them.