Rage Against the Machine Mayhem at Lollopalooza in Chicago
August 28, 2008 · Print This Article
A few weeks back on the weekend of August 2nd I spent a few days in Chicago with friends. On Friday we attended the Chicago Cubs vs. Pittsburgh Pirates game at Wrigley Field and then spent the evening at Lollapalooza. Unfortunately the Cubs lost despite all the “it’s gonna happen” signs displayed on high.
That afternoon we saw The Raconteurs on one of the big stages. They were pretty good and pulled a huge crowd. I thought their music was a nice combination of indy creativity and mainstream appeal but they certainly looked wild. It was a fun show overall. That evening we saw Radiohead on the other main stage, with a crowd literally eight football fields in size. The visualizations with lights above the stage and on the display screens was pretty cool but the music was slow and from a combination of the heat, humidity, and the dragging on and on of each tune the crowd thinned out early. We left with about an hour left to head into town for a bite to eat.
On Saturday we saw Dierks Bentley in the afternoon and then spent the rest of the day before dark preparing for what was sure to be a blowout show that evening in Rage Against the Machine. We lined up with a packed crowd about one and a half hours before show time, about 60 “rows” back from the stage. We were at the top of a very small bump in the lawn which gave us a great vantage point and made keeping track of our original standing easy as the crowd forced us to migrate throughout the evening. Everyone was standing in a crowd that was easily over 200,000 in total. Walking without people in your path from the front edge of the stage to the back of the lawn would have probably taken 5 full minutes at a fast clip and the width was easily 200 yards.
MTV.com put up a nice review of the intensity and urgency of the situation that began shortly thereafter. The show started with Testify and Bulls on Parade and as soon as the first note screamed out the surge of the crowd pressing forward tightening everyone in around us. The group didn’t even make it to the end of the third song in the set before they pulled the power and shut the music down in an attempt to calm the crazed crowd. The intensity was incredible and the tunes brought me back to listening to Rage and similar genres while cruising down the ski hill with my headphones on in the cold of winter. It’s certainly the type of music that gets you excited and that’s what it did to the crowd.
I shot some video of the band pleading with the crowd to take several big steps back and to calm down which they did a total of four times throughout the night. We joked that it was like Rage had an insurance policy they were worried about as their pleas seemed more like the demands of the man than their honest intention. At one point the band even put one of their security team members on the microphone to plead for people upfront to thin out to prevent injury. Our jokes were probably as much out of jest as they were out of nervous concern for our own safety as kids nearby started shoving and punching circles into the crowd. The best indication I saw all night of the damage going on up in front of us was a husband and wife and their probably 14-year-old son holding hands and rushing in a single-file line while pushing hard to escape the crowd just minutes into the show. Their eyes said it all, pure panic.
Overall it was one heck of a show and one heck of an experience but I got what I wanted out of it. Next time I’ll be there with similar intensity but probably at a vantage point a few more feet back from the stage. Rock on!