Aug 5, 2013

Lollapalooza Friday August 2, 2013

I was invited to attend Lolla this year as a "staff" member/volunteer (to earn a ticket/be a better friend/enjoy the company of your vendor friends) at Rock 'n Roll Noodle Company located in the Farmer's Market food court.  Let me start off by giving you an insider perspective (from an outsider) on the food vendor situation.  Putting together quality food to feed the masses is NOT AN EASY TASK.  My friends who are the makers  of yummy Thai sesame noodles, Thai red chicken and veggie curry  dishes, and sweet sticky rice with mango, blueberries and coconut sauce really had their work cut out for them over the Lolla weekend.  Serving up food as the crowd lined up was not too bad on Friday since it was technically a "work day" for most and less of a crowd and thankfully, my inaugural day at the food prep station.  There is a learning curve that I needed time to master.  There is an assembly line  that makes the magic happen with a staff member at the helm taking food orders and payment and ordering the food back, someone else at the garnish/prep station, another at the rice station, and more staff preparing the hot chicken or veggie curry.  In between lines of customers it was necessary to restock the prep station and rice trays.  I learned a lot of new lingo like "Chicken all day"and "Chickens walking" to indicate that a lot of chicken curry bowls were being ordered and to keep them coming.  This all brought me back to high school days,  working at the local McDonald's "on the line" and feeling a sense of camaraderie.  Of course I loved McDonald's at that time and now was happy to be eating sweet sticky rice with mango and not a Big Mac during a much needed break.

 Thai sesame ginger noodles:

The folks next to us in the food tent from the River Valley Market Grill were also having a blast wearing their "Got Shrooms" t-shirts (which could explain the good time they were having).  A well oiled machine of mostly fungi's (get it?) selling veggie burgers and other mushroom based food (foccacia, soup) to our right and a creperie vendor to out left crafting fruit and nutella crepes all day.  You really could not go wrong in any direction. I did get the sense that a lot of people never ventured to the Farmers Market area for food but stuck with ribs and pizza, standard staples at the main food area at the fest.  I would bet that many did not realize what other culinary treats they were missing.  Need for better marketing?  A crepe or sticky rice bowl on a string that would lead people to the Farmers Market?

The concert goers were mostly in their 20s and 30s (or looked like they were).  I was not in my age element as much as I like to think that I am still "young and hip".  The millenials were all very nice to me nonetheless and let me take pictures of them.  Of course it rained in the early afternoon, as would be expected at a Lolla event,  calling for rain ponchos to venture out of backpacks.  Those festivarians without the necessary gear were soon dressed in mud.  This girl made mud look "in style"with her festival couture.  She was wearing mud encased flip flops in case you were wondering.  These became the new "it" shoes of the day.

Taking a break from serving food during the day to see a show requires desire, a slightly less than perfect work ethic (after all you have to leave a line of customers at some point to go catch your favorite band), and coverage for your role on the line.  I managed to catch two songs from Jessie Ware and later on the Killers and Lana Del Rey. Both performed at the end of the day closing the show and requiring a bit of decision making on my part.  I decided that I could not choose so I opted to run from one end of the festival to the other to catch some of both shows.

On a side note, I met Kelsey C. on the train heading downtown to Lolla.  She painted her own nails! Talent was everywhere.

I managed to get to the Jessie Ware show late but in time to catch her singing "Wildest Moments".  She had a lot of energy and was at home on stage at all times.  During her finale she climbed on board her body guard's shoulders and sang off stage while being carried into the audience.  The crowd near her was thrilled, the crowd anywhere else could no longer see her.  You can only please some of the people some of the time.  Sound was great at the stage and the audience loved her based on commentary within ear shot and loud screams of joy from fans. 

I had hoped to catch "Band of Horses" but managed to walk to the wrong stage first and by the time I realized my rookie mistake and found the correct stage, the show was over.  Everyone around me was talking about what a great show they did.  Disappointing for me but there will be more shows.  I will say that when the bands were slated to end at time X, they ended at time X.  No encore no nothing.  Lolla ran like clockwork in that department.  I caught a few songs from "The Killers" on a packed lawn (also a fan fave).  The sound was crisp regardless of where you stood even far back from the stage.  A couple I met on the train ride home said they had a 3 day pass but only went on Friday night to catch The Killers.  Lastly, having a morbid fascination for train wrecks I wanted to catch Lana Del Rey to see how she would perform having only seen her flop on SNL.  It turns out (and I had no idea) that she has a huge fan base of both women and men (likely men who think she's hot).  I caught her singing her hit "Young and Beautiful" while wearing a long red dress with long flowing sleeves and a head band across her forehead.  She left the stage at one point leaving us to watch a video between songs that would only seem necessary if time were required for a costume change.  Alas, she returned wearing the same red dress.  Everyone around me was like "OK? Huh?".  Fans had climbed high into the trees in the dark to get a better view of Ms. Del Ray on stage.   She is adored by her fans despite her lack of stage presence.  She really just slowly walks around stage attempting to appear melancholy, deep and contemplative while singing her lyrics.   She sounds exactly like her recordings and does not veer from the formula.   Jessie Ware was much more engaging and fun but that is not what you are looking for when you see Ms. (off the deep end) Del Rey perform.  Don't get me wrong, I do actually like her music but aside from enjoying her mostly retro fashion and vocal style, her performance skills are less than engaging.

I took the train home at the end of the night, reflecting on the work of the day preparing rice bowls and topping sticky rice with berries and spending time with dear friends.  I have since been informed by my friends at Rock'n Roll noodle that I worked on the "easy" day having only helped out on Friday.   Saturday and Sunday were legendary days for the Thai food vendor so much so that the demand beat the supply.  Word got out that Rock 'n Roll Noodle is the real "authentic" deal.  Nothing frozen and all fresh and extra delicious.  My regrets of the day were not having my own bowl of chicken red curry, not having a dessert crepe, and missing "Band of Horses"perhaps.  There is always next year so count me in for another serving. My new Lolla motto: Come for the food, stay for the music.  I recommend stopping by The Farmer's Market next year or catching them at the local Chicago Farmer's Markets during the summer and early fall.

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