After a fairly innocuous start yesterday, Lollapalooza took quite a turn as the sun went down and people got a little more loose with the flowing alcohol and various other substances. After catching part of Band Of Horses set I decided I needed some time away from the masses and went for a walk outside the grounds. It was a little humid, but overall a really nice summer evening in Chicago. There were certainly no signs that it was about to turn into one of the craziest nights of my life.
I was walking past the Art Institute when I spotted Josh Homme from Queens Of The Stone Age. He was bent down behind one of the lion’s that guard the entry. I couldn’t tell what he was doing, but as I got closer it became very obvious that he was doing blow off one of the girls in Icona Pop’s ass. I was a little surprised-not so much by the situation, but the players. Why was Josh Homme hanging with Icona Pop? I mean, I guess Sweden has a lot of black metal bands, which would probably interest Homme. Maybe they were talking about some new terrible metal act and the girls were like, “Hey we brought some of that famous cocaine that you can only find in Sweden.”
I probably shouldn’t have, but I engaged them and said, “Hey I thought ‘No One Knows’ sounded really good out there today.” I could tell they weren’t really interested in chatting, but Homme said thanks and then rubbed his nose for a full minute before saying, “You party?” I explained that I would, but I didn’t want to miss The Killers set. Homme got visibly upset and yelled ” I BET YOU WOULDN’T SAY THAT IF GROHL WAS HERE!” Then one of the girls from Icona Pop was like “Come on. It’ll be fun! We’re gonna take some X and then makeout together.” I looked at them. Looked at Josh Homme, who at this point was bleeding heavily from his nose and looking ready to throw a beatin’ my way. I said “No thanks, I don’t make out with dudes,” and ran away as quickly as possible.
I admit I was a bit shaken up by that experience, so I took my time making it back. I walked a lap around chow town, filling my nose with the delicious scent of Glazed & Infused and M Burger before making my way out to the Bud Light stage for The Killers set. As I got closer to Buckingham Fountain, I noticed there was a large gathering of people forming a circle. I tried to make my way through them, but they were all transfixed on something and I needed to find out what it was. I asked a guy wearing a pork pie hat what was going on, and he said a fight had broken out. I forced myself to the front of the crowd and couldn’t believe my eyes.
Jordy from San Cisco and Cullen Omori of Smith Westerns were circling each other “Beat It” style. They were talking some pretty weak smack back and forth that made it sound like a fifth grade brawl. “Hey Cullen, if you’re such a talented musician how come all your songs sound exactly the same?” “I don’t know, Jordy. At least people have heard my songs. Not that anyone could tell what you’re saying anyway with that stupid Scottish accent!” “I’m Australian, you wanker!” Then they both paused for a second to make sure their hair looked ok.
Out of nowhere a mace got tossed to Omori, and I realized the guy I had just talked to was actually a member of The Lumineers. They were just off to the side now, making weapons using the blacksmithing skills they picked up in their “How To Live Like It’s 1866” class taught by Marcus Mumford. Jordy was on the defensive now, and hollered for a weapon of his own. “Sorry, mate,” bellowed Neyla Pekarak, “We don’t make weapons for criminals. Why don’t you go back to Australia and screw a koala!” As if that wasn’t strange enough, Baauer walked right into the middle of the fight and said, “I know how to fix this. DO THE HARLEM SHAKE!!!!!” Baauer started convulsing uncontrollably and Omori took a swing at him with the mace. I thought he was done for, but then Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend came screaming from the back of the crowd. He was running toward the fight, saying that when he was a kid he was deputized by the guy who played chief of police on The O.C., and that he was declaring Marshall Law.
Everyone was stunned. The crowd gasped as Koenig, Omori, and Jordy all looked at one another with shifty eyes. Cullen was still the only one with a weapon, and he smiled with the devil in his eyes. “Looks like the games over, Ezra…The kids don’t stand a chance, and in this case, the kids is you.” Koenig giggled a bit to himself, frightened but delighted by the clever use of his clever song title. Baauer was still shaking on the ground from the previous blow combined with his Harlem Shake-ing. Omori pulled back for a haymaker that would certainly destroy Baauer’s head. Suddenly Chance The Rapper appeared, as if from the Heavens above. The Acid Rap star was on his home turf and the crowd exploded with joy. He was behind Omori, a fellow Chicagoan, who thought the cheers were for the coming ultraviolence. Chance grabbed the mace and tossed it aside. He punched Cullen and lifted him up with one arm, picking up Baauer with the other. He threw Omori over the fence before quickly turning to Koenig and Jordy. He approached them and knocked their heads together like the Three Stooges.
Ezra Koenig died shortly after, and we all mourned the loss by listening to a cassette tape of Graceland that he carried with him always. I looked at my phone and knew I had to book it to catch the rest of The Killers set. I forced my way through the crowd that was all doing the Harlem Shake together and got a pretty decent spot to see Brandon Flowers and company headline a night at Lolla for the fifteenth time in six years.
I was enjoying myself quite a bit now, with all the craziness behind me. Dave Keuning was rocking some nasty riffs and Brandon was playing with the crowd. They sang a song about Chicago being their kind of town, which I thought was nice. I definitely prefer “Read My Mind” or “Miss Atomic Bomb,” but it’s a fun way to show a crowd some love (even if half the people aren’t from Chicago). I was all smiles and dancing when I got a tap on my shoulder. I turned around and it was Josh Homme. Before I had time to say anything, he punched me in the throat. I fell to the ground, and I could see that Homme’s entourage had grown quite sizeable-Icona Pop was still with him, though they looked pretty strung out, and he also had Lana Del Rey and the Haim sisters trailing along. They took turns kicking me in the ribs and face for the duration and to the beat of “Smile Like You Mean It.”
When I was finally given the opportunity to stand up, I tried to run. Homme yelled “GRAB HIM!” and before I knew it Lana Del Rey had my arms pinned behind my back. I don’t know if I was just physically worn from having the crap beat out of me, or if she is freakishly strong, but I couldn’t move a muscle. I saw the guys from Imagine Dragons walking past and I screamed for help. They heard and came running over. Dan Reynolds said “What the heck is going on here, Homme?” The Queens Of The Stone Age frontman snarled “Mind your own business, son. You don’t want no part of this.” Reynolds demanded my release, but was cut off by guitarist Wayne Sermon who interjected “Isn’t that the guy who said we’re just like Creed on twitter?” Reynolds laughed. “Holy shit. You’re right. Well let’s see Scott Stapp do this!” He then proceeded to punch me in the groin for five straight minutes.
A light appeared out of the corner of my eye. The Killers set had long been over at this point, so the surroundings were all dark except for this one light-an orb almost-like Glenda the Good Witch, and it was coming closer. It’s speed toward us was getting faster and faster, to the point it was just a blur. As the beam of light became clearer, I could see it was a person-was I hallucinating from massive blood loss? The light stopped about 30 feet from us. Homme was freaking out, screaming at his posse of girls to go check it out. As they walked toward where the light stopped, one by one they all fell over, unconscious. This really got Homme mad. “NO! NO! It can’t be…WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?!?!?!?”
“Josh, what are you doing?” a calm, sweet voice asked of the man holding me captive. It sounded familiar, but it wasn’t until Homme responded that I figured out who was helping me. “You get out of here Trent! Let me do this on my own! I don’t need you to tell me what to do!” The figure coming out of the darkness could now be seen, and it was Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor wearing his tux from the Academy Awards. He said, “What has this young man done that has upset you so much, son?” I stood there, still unable to move, as the story about me refusing to party was told. Apparently declining their invitation had upset Icona Pop and they didn’t want to party with just the old guy from QOTSA. He rounded up some other girls, but they all felt the same.
Trent took this all in, consoling the now openly weeping Homme. “What good would beating this man do, Josh? These girls still won’t want to party with you.” The former Kyuss member wailed out with the kind of sad pathetic whimpers one would expect from a four year-old girl. “Everybody loves you, Trent! And they love Dave, and they love stupid Paul McCartney! Nobody cares about Josh Homme!” Reznor looked at his old friend and smiled. “Of course people care about you, Josh. you just played to a crowd of 30,000 people who all care about you. Come on. How much coke did you do today? Some? Did you do a little blow today?” Homme nodded. “Uh-huh. And what happens when you do that?”
“I get paranoid.”
Reznor sat down on the ground and Homme laid his head in Trent’s lap. “Now we’re gonna sit here for a few minutes and you’re going to calm down. Then we’re gonna free this guy that you’ve been terrorizing, and maybe we can all go to the Death Grips show together. Would you like that?” Homme bargled a yes through his tears and I nodded-more for the getting free part than the Death Grips, but whatever. The creative force behind Pretty Hate Machine ran his hands through Homme’s buzzed hair, and sang him the spanish version of “Hotel California” until the tears subsided.
As the red-haired brute composed himself, Reznor set me free and said ” Look. Josh has been going through some rough stuff. He had a one-night stand with Amanda Palmer a couple years ago, and he keeps getting hate mail from Neil Gaiman. I mean, hate mail is one thing, we all get that. But can you imagine how well-done hate mail from Neil Gaiman is? He says some pretty sick shit about disemboweling him and feeding his entrails to his dogs. I mean, it’s just psycho stuff. So we’re gonna hit this Death Grips show at Bottom Lounge, do you wanna come as our guest?”
It had been a long night, but I couldn’t pass up a night hanging out with Trent Reznor. So we hopped in his private helicopter and headed over to the venue. We were a little late because it took forever for mister whiney pants to get his act together, so we missed the opener. We walked in just after a guy came up to announce that Death Grips weren’t going to be performing. The place immediately turned into Thunderdome. We tried to make it back to the exit, but Homme got knocked out by Kendrick Lamar (who for some reason said “DRANK” after he toppled my new friend). Reznor was yelling for me to help him pick up his dear boy, but I could’t make it the five feet to where they were because someone had set a fire that ran the length of Bottom Lounge between us.
Bodies were everywhere as people stampeding every which way. It seriously looked like a war zone in there. Across the room my eyes locked with Ben Bridwell’s. He was still wearing his JJ Cale t-shirt from his performance earlier, and I could tell he was scared to death. I ran to him and said, “Ben, if you can get me out of here I swear, no one’s gonna love you more than I do.” He gave me a stern look and said “This isn’t the time for punnery. That was a good one, but not right now.”
We spotted an exit about 100 feet from where we were by the bar. People were climbing over one another to get there, so we needed to take extreme measures if we were going to make it out alive. Ben was a quicker thinker than me, and he broke a bottle of tequila and held it up for me to see. I grabbed a Crystal Skull head, which seemed less effective but I didn’t have time be choosey. We started running, limbs swinging wildly at anything around us. Ellie Goulding was coming at us like a banshee and I clubbed her right in the face with the Crystal Skull. I heard a crunch, but I couldn’t look back. This was my Vietnam. We were just boys.
Perry Farrell was standing at the exit, directing people out. He saw Ben and yelled “Come on, Ben! It’s this way! Forget your nobody friend, we’ll go hang out with Anthony Keidis after!” Perry tried to stop me from getting out and Ben slashed his jugular without thinking. We were both sprayed with something akin to blood, but not quite blood. It’s like Perry Farrell lived on some other substance in his body that’s a bit more like ginseng tea than blood. It was definitely hotter than blood, as if his inner body temperature ran at about 140 degrees-like having a hot shower inside your skin.
Ben and I got separated by a sea of people trying to get out, and I was worried that I’d never see him agian. I felt a tugging at my shirt, and reflexively whirled around and swung the vodka bottle in the direction of the tugger. It was Ben. He was on the ground now, and I could see the inside of his head. I knelt beside him and turned his slumping body over so I could look into his eyes. “I’m so sorry, Ben! I thought you were Bernard Sumner.” Then I looked up at the sky and shook my fists while yelling “BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEENNNNNNNNNNN!!!!!” for a couple minutes.
There was a loud bang and I looked up to see Robert Smith of The Cure with a shotgun taking out some of the more destructive people that were blocking the exits. “Come with me if you want to live!” he warbled in that stupid accent he has. “It’s Friday and I’m in love with shooting people who don’t listen to my directions! Now let’s get the hell out of here!” He ran, well, ran isn’t really the best description…it wasn’t quite a waddle either. His movement was most like an old woman who goes to the kitchen when she thinks her soup is burning. I followed him out with about 60 or 70 others, and we were on the street under the el when we thought it was all over.
I had my hands on my knees, bent over and out of breath from the terror inside, when I heard someone yelling. Running out the exit I could see the charred face of Josh Homme coming straight for me. He was screaming that he was going to kill everyone who tried to protect me, and without missing a beat Robert Smith finished reloading and blew a hole in Homme’s head the size of a baseball. I collapsed and woke up in a hospital bed.
I thought it was all a dream until I heard a voice from the hallway-it was Smith talking to the police. He came into my room and sat beside my bed. “That was a right good scare you gave us last night. What did you do to Glen Hansard to piss him off so much?” I explained the whole thing from beginning to end, and Smith couldn’t help but laugh. “All that happened to you tonight then, eh? Well guess what…when we was touring with Souixsee And The Banshees you know what we called that? Tuesday.”
He stuck around and watched an episode of Beverly Hills 90210 with me and then said he had to get ready for his show. I can’t believe Robert Smith saved my life. Even more unbelievable is his preference for Brandon over Steve Sanders, but that’s another story for another day.