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Yet another sea of cargo shorts

After Friday’s update on my epic 45 minute plane ride from St. Louis to Chicago, I figured I’d spare you bitches from having to read any more having to do with Lollapalooza. There wasn’t a whole lot of hip-hop there anyway, and I wasn’t sure if I’d catch any of it.

There may have been one or two more rap acts on the bill (a veritable shiteload of groups played this weekend), but the three main ones were the Roots, Rhymefest and Lupe Fiasco. I had just seen the Roots a mere matter of days prior, when I was in New York for Rock the Bells. And I had seen both Rhymefest and Lupe last summer when I was in the Chi for the Intonation festival, which I wrote about here at the time.

I enjoyed Rhymefest’s set last summer quite a bit, and I figured I might catch him again this weekend, but it wasn’t very high on my list of priorities. Lupe, on the other hand, didn’t do a whole lot for me at all, and they had him playing against Amy Winehouse, so I knew for certain that neither myself nor anyone with the sense god gave a bird would be catching his set. As it turns out, this guy I was meeting (no homo) was checking out Rhymefest, so I caught about half of his set.

Unfortunately, Rhymefest’s set turned out to be the second rap show I’d seen in as many weeks that was kinda ruined by the artist opting to play with a live band rather than a DJ. Not that it was awful or anything, but you knew it would’ve been that much better had the artist actually played to his strengths rather than, presumably, trying to switch their style up for a cracka-ass cracka festival crowd. You’ll recall that this was also the case with Public Enemy’s set at Rock the Bells.

To be sure, I don’t have anything against a group that opts to perform with live instruments rather than a DJ, but I find that sort of thing works best when said group’s catalog was obviously meant to be performed that way in the first place, a la the Roots or Rage Against the Machine. When you have a group that’s more reliant on sample-based production, like Rhymefest or especially Public Enemy, it’s obviously going to be that much more difficult to recreate that live with your typical guitar, bass and drums setup.

If I remember correctly (I did my share of drinking this weekend, plus some), the Roots were going on not too long after Rhymefest went off, and they were on the main stage not too far from the smaller stage Rhymefest played, so we decided to head on over. For me, it meant missing almost all of the Hold Steady’s set on the other side of Grant Park, but I figured what the fuck. You could have a whole other festival just based on the groups I figured I’d like to see this weekend but didn’t, either because it didn’t work out logistically or I was too lazy and drunk. Or both.

As I noted in my recap of Rock the Bells, the Roots put on one of my two favorite sets there and just plain one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen. Their set at Lollapalooza didn’t quite live up to those lofty standards, even though it wasn’t all that different either. In general, it seems like they cleansed a lot of the rap from their set and played a lot of jam-oriented shit, which is ironic since the crowd at Lollapalooza was hardly any less, shall we say, “ethnically diverse” than the crowd at Rock the Bells.

Indeed, if I had one complaint about Lollapalooza that didn’t have to do with the hit my already rather meager checking account took, it’s that there were so many overtures to ethnic diversity that seemed kinda forced and corny, especially when you consider that the festival is supposed to have some sort of progressive political element. Aside from the few hip-hop acts, there were black rock groups and a few hispanic acts, but they were all the kind of groups that appeal to a primarily white audience.

The thing is, I think Rock the Bells already kinda proved that black people just plain aren’t gonna pay whatever it costs (in that case, about $100) to hear thoughtful music in a live setting. I know in the debate that stemmed from the lily white turnout to RtB it was put forth by some that black people, only 140-something years removed from the end of slavery, just don’t have enough money to kick it like that, but who wants to bet how many of us show up to the Scream Tour with T.I. and Lil’ Bow Wow or whatever?

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