Rocking out at Lollapalooza 2011 in Chicago

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Long before I identified myself as a medical writer, researcher, or digital nomad I was a teenager who was obsessed with loud alternative rock. In grade 7, I remember trying to establish what genre of music I should listen to, and no matter what I sampled, I simply could not connect with anything.

All that changed when I first heard a classmate’s cassette of Nirvana’s In Utero while sitting on a school bus.

That sound simply blew me away.

It was a completely transformative moment that paved the way not only for my taste in music, but also for my want to express myself through playing and writing music. Although I still get the guitar out now and then, during high-school, music was my life. After learning how to tune my guitar and learning a few songs, I started a band with a couple of friends. We practiced twice a week, driving our parents crazy in the process. Eventually we started performing beyond the confines of a basement: at our high school, and a couple of local clubs. We even got paid to perform now and then (just enough to cover the gas to get to the venue)! When we weren’t playing music we were going to see other local bands play live. And when there were no shows to see, we would hang around someone’s basement, huddled around a CD player blasting Nirvana, Soundgarden, Foo Fighters, Weezer, Tool, Bush, Smashing Pumpkins, Stone Temple Pilots, Alice in Chains, Silverchair, Pearl Jam, Our Lady Peace, Rusty, I Mother Earth, Tea Party, Hole, Veruca Salt, or any other band from that era.

Although I had attended a few larger concerts and local music festivals during this period, I always knew the biggest venue for seeing live alternative rock was Lollapalooza – an outdoor music festival in the US that always drew the best alternative bands of the time. Unfortunately, at that time, I hardly had the financial means to support a trip to the US for a multi-day music festival. Since then, I have always said that I would eventually attend Lollapalooza and experience it firsthand. When I found out earlier this year that two of my favourite bands, Foo Fighters (a band fronted by the former drummer of Nirvana) and Muse, were making an appearance at this year’s festival, I knew Marina and I had to go.

So one day in the early spring of this year, I purchased the 3-day tickets for a hefty $215 each and later informed a surprised, but supportive Marina.

The concert was held in Chicago’s Grant park during August 5-8 and consisted of 8 stages, and 130 different acts.

Our first day at Lollapalooza - notice how clean we are! This didn't last.

There was A LOT of music. I had an iPhone app that helped us schedule our weekend.

Oh, and did I mention 270,000 people attended over the 3 days?

In other words, there were also A LOT of people.

The whole weekend was an absolute blast.

While some artists were a tad disappointing (e.g. Cee Lo Green of Gnarls Barkley), our two main draws each gave a spectacular performance.

Personal highlights:

1. Muse, a more recent addition to my music collection (since 2004ish), randomly breaking into Nirvana’s “Negative Creep” – a song included on their original debut album from the late 1980’s. This moment brought my whole music journey to a complete circle – simply amazing.

Muse performing at Lollapalooza

2. Dancing and singing along with Foo Fighter’s performing “Everlong” while completely soaked from a downpour in a field full of mud, rain, and what smelled very much like fresh feces (we both lost a pair of shoes during this trip).

 

We're wet, our feet are submedged in mud/feces, and the Foo Fighters rock on!

That’s rock n’ roll!

Foo Fighters performing to a soaked audience

No, it really was that messy...

3. The crowd going crazy as Muse launches into “Plug-in Baby” and giant ‘eyeball’ balloons are dropped on the crowd. Check the video to fully appreciate:

4. Dave Grohl, Foo Fighters frontman, describing the personal significance of Lollapalooza and its creator, Perry Farrell, in the development of alternative rock. See below video. If the rock nostalgia bores you, fast forward to about 3:20 to hear “Everlong.”

What a weekend!

Peter

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The day we met Jennifer Lopez in New York City

Peter and Papparazzi

“Hey, look!”

“Paparazzi!”

“I wonder who’s there?” I question as we nonchalantly run up to the half dozen frenzied camera-wielding celebrity stalkers who are shooting photos through the windows of one of the wildest toy stores in the world.

If you’ve ever seen the movie Big with Tom Hanks, you might have a sense of the magnetism of one of the most extravagant toy stores in the world: FAO Schwarz. Not surprisingly, the store was ranked prominently on our list of must-see sights in New York City.

On Friday, just after lunch, we decided to head over to the store to check out the gigantic stuffed animals and play on the giant, foot-played piano.

Quickly, our fascination with giant toys was overshadowed by the fact that Jennifer Lopez, her husband, Marc Anthony and their two kids were currently shopping inside the store.

Hence the reason for the rabid photographers.

Marina snaps a pic of Marc Anthony while battling paparazzi.

As Marina was battling for window space with the paparazzi to get a good photo of the celeb family, I realized a critical thing: we were NOT paparazzi.

“Marina! Let’s go inside and see them! The paparazzi are not allowed, but we’re just customers!”

We quickly run to the door, and briskly enter FAO Schwarz with our target in sight.

“We should walk slower, so as not to rouse suspicion”, I mutter to Marina as we slow our excited pace while approaching J Lo’s clan, including a handful of security guards.

“Hi…” Marina and I say simultaneously, as we get to within 10 feet of Jennifer Lopez.

J Lo looks at us, smiles and waves, and says: “Hello!”

My mind goes blank: Jennifer Lopez is real and she acknowledged our existence.

We stand there transfixed, trying to act natural and managing to come off as anything but.

A number of lines run through my head as to how to start a conversation with one of my biggest celebrity crushes of all time.

And yet I continue to stand there, beside Marina. Neither of us are saying anything.

J Lo picks up one of her toddlers, who looks exactly like you would expect them to look given her parents, while Marc is occupied with the other twin.

Another bystander gets swiftly told to put away his camera phone by an intense security guard.

“Come on, the children are here!” says the guard, automatically disarming all bystanders from taking photos by virtue of guilt.

As we stand there looking at this otherwise normal family as though they are some sort of circus attraction, I realize just how difficult it must be to lead a normal life once that level of celebrity is reached.

I certainly felt guilty gawking at them, but to be honest, I couldn’t tear myself away.

I mean, right in front of me was Jennifer Lopez! I was a fan of hers even back during her “Fly Girls” stint on “In Living Colour” back in the early 90’s. And she looked just as gorgeous as she does on television.

But, there they stood with their kids, trying to have a normal trip to the toy store and they were surrounded by 3 layers of piercing eyes: a internal layer of body guards, a middle layer of random bystanders (including us), and finally the paparazzi just beyond the windows.

Eventually, we regained control of our bodies and continued to walk slowly past the family, and before long, they were escorted out the back entrance of the store.

We tried to enjoy the giant stuffed animals, and checked out the giant piano, but it was useless: we were still in a daze.

We walked over to the Apple store (the construction of which is highly reminiscent of the Louvre in Paris), and I tweeted about our recent encounter with J Lo et al.

We continued walking after, but our conversation was constantly interrupted with:

“Can you believe we just said ‘Hi’ to J Lo!?”

This was quickly followed by:
“I wish we said (insert lame attempt at striking a conversation with celebrity here) to her!”

Only in New York

BTW – In case you were wondering what Jennifer Lopez looked like when we saw her, check out these paparazzi pics.

We didn’t get a single picture of J Lo, and have been kicking ourselves in the behind ever since.

Peter

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