At first glance,
the schedule of 130 bands performing today through Sunday during
Lollapalooza's second year in its new guise as a destination
festival in Grant Park seems mind-boggling, leaving you scratching
your head and wondering, "How on earth can I see a fraction of all
this music, and where the heck do I start?"
examination, though, the choices really aren't all that
For one thing,
there are really only four main stages -- all of them with naming
rights that have been sold to corporate sponsors, of course -- and
the staggered set times mean that only two of those are operating at
the same time. True, there is some overlap with the other two
primary music stages. But the timing is such that you can catch the
beginning or end of a set there and still see most of an act on one
of the main stages
thing, the more you parse the lengthy list of performers, the easier
it is to eliminate acts that aren't all that exciting or deserving
of a slot on a festival that aspires to be the best in America.
Texas-based promoters Capital Sports & Entertainment may have paid
big bucks for the name Lollapalooza, and they may have wide-ranging
ambitions for it, but there is barely a hint of the sort of
challenging, edgy and truly diverse programming that characterized
the festival when it was launched as a tour during the
alternative-rock heyday of the early '90s.
The new owners'
approach to booking the new Lolla boils down to recruiting any
touring act that can possibly draw a crowd -- and many that cannot
-- and throwing them at the wall -- or, as the case may be, putting
them on a corporately sponsored stage in Grant Park. Yes, there are
a significant number of great artists performing at the fest. But
when all is said and done, despite the considerable hype, there
aren't many more standout bookings than there were at this summer's
two independently produced festivals in Union Park: Intonation and
exception of several clusters of jam bands that have been grouped
together on the same stages, there seems to have been little rhyme
or reason to who was slotted to play where and when. And in too many
cases, two strong acts with very similar followings have been
programmed at exactly the same time. That's pretty unforgivable,
considering that there are other stretches -- especially today and
Sunday -- when the bookings are thoroughly mediocre for several
hours at a time.
Ah, well: It
will be good to have a little bit of down time to chill in the shade
in between the acts that are worth catching over the next
three days. And maybe the highlights will be strong enough to make
us forget about all of the shortcomings.
What follows are
my choices for the Don't-Miss acts of the next three days, along
with a quick look at the rest of the lineups on the six key stages.
There are two main stages in Hutchinson Field at the southern end of
Grant Park (where the entire festival was confined last year): the
Q101 stage and the AT&T stage. The other two main stages are in
Butler Field in the northern part of the park: the Bud Light Stage
and the adidas-Champs Stage, which we Chicagoans prefer to call by
its usual name, the Petrillo Bandshell, thank you very much.
The central part
of the park surrounding Buckingham Fountain will host many of the
festival's amenities and additional attractions, while the other two
primary music stages will be set up bordering Lake Shore Drive on
the east-west streets that will be closed to traffic throughout the
festival. The PlayStation stage will be on East Jackson Drive, and
the AMD stage will be on East Balbo Drive.
This layout may
not look all that daunting on the map we've reproduced here, but
it's actually a heck of a long walk from Hutchinson Field to Butler
Field, especially in 90-plus-degree heat, so you should consider
that in advance if you plan to see consecutive acts on the far
opposite ends of the park.
GET THE BEST
OUT OF HIT-AND-MISS EVENT
Here are Jim
DeRogatis' picks for the fest. The schedule is subject to change
(noon, PlayStation Stage) This quintet from the unlikely
psychedelic-rock hotbed of Denton, Texas, is touring in support of a
strong second album, "The Trials of Van Occupanther," which combines
swirling freak-out guitar and lush folk-rock harmonies.
(12:30 p.m., AT&T Stage) The Britpop sound thrives, courtesy
of this English trio that sings about the joys of being young, mod
and in love on its strong debut album, "Young for Eternity."
(3:30 p.m., Q101 Stage) I'm not completely sold on "The
Back Room," the 2005 debut by this English quartet, yet another
adherent of the New Wave of New Wave. The album can be a bit too
precious, and the debts to Joy Division and Echo & the Bunnymen are
a bit too obvious. But I'm willing to give the group a shot in
Machines, (5:30 p.m., Q101) In contrast to the Editors, I
have no reservations whatsoever in recommending this now-New
York-based, formerly Texan trio of swirling psychedelic rockers,
even if their second album, "Ten Silver Drops," hasn't hit you yet.
Onstage, the band combines pummeling rhythms as Nirvana with an
overwhelming sound that recalls My Bloody Valentine, if not early
'70s Pink Floyd.
Raconteurs, (6:30 p.m., AT&T) More than just an
indie-rock supergroup (with power-pop hero Brendan Benson and
members of the Greenhornes) or a full-on rock star's side project
(hello, Jack White), the Raconteurs proved themselves to be
wonderfully melodic and absolutely addictive on their recent garage-rockin'
debut, "Broken Boy Soldiers."
(8:30 p.m., AT&T) A strange thing happened to the gonzo-rock duo
led by Gene and Dean Ween on their way from the New Jersey
indie-rock scene of the early '80s and pot- and nitrous oxide-fueled
masterpiece such as "God Ween Satan" (1990): They somehow became
heroes to the jam band nation. You never know what you're going to
get from Ween -- bizarre hits such as "Push th' Little Daisies," a
mock Prince tribute or ersatz Nashville country -- but it's never
boring, and it's always strange.
THE REST OF
Dance-rockers Panic! at the Disco, 2:30 p.m., and jam
merchants Umphrey's McGee, 4:30 p.m.
Stage: Houston mood-rockers Blue October, 12:30 p.m.;
power-pop survivors the Eels, 2:30 p.m.; mercurial but
prolific alt-country bad boy Ryan Adams, 4:30 p.m.;
modern-day Lynyrd Skynyrd My Morning Jacket, 6:30 p.m., and
sensitive souls/stars of "The O.C." Death Cab for Cutie, 8:30
Stage: Fractured bluesy-metal duo Deadboy & the Elephantmen
(nepotism alert: managed by Lolla promoters Capital Sports!),
11:45 a.m.; sensitive folk-rockers Aqualung, 1:30 p.m.;
Canadian indie-rockers Stars, 3:30 p.m.; alt-country
one-man-band Iron & Wine, 5:30 p.m., and soon-to-disband
indie-rock heroines Sleater-Kinney, 7:30 p.m..
Austin art-rockers Sound Team, 11:45 a.m.; friends of Bright
Eyes Cursive, 1:30 p.m., and pioneering alt-rockers the
Violent Femmes, 7:30 p.m..
Stage: Ork-popsters Anathallo, 1 p.m.; East Coast rapper
Ohmega Watts, 2:15 p.m.; spiritual indie-rocker Jeremy
Enigk, 3:30 p.m., and, fresh from Intonation, English riot-grrrl
rapper Lady Sovereign, 5 p.m..
Electronic duo Ghostland Observatory, noon; Helsinki-based
mood-rockers Husky Rescue, 1 p.m.; Chicago power-pop band the
M's, 2:15 p.m.; art-rockers Mute Math, 3:30 p.m., and
pop duo Mates of State, 5 p.m.
(noon, AMD) These long-running indie-rockers, who relocated
from Madison, Wis. to the hipster-central scene in Brooklyn, endured
numerous ups and downs to release one of their strongest albums, the
well-titled "Catastrophe Keeps Us Together," earlier this year.
The Go! Team,
(1:30 p.m., Q101 ) With their mix of indie-rock guitars,
beat-box rhythms, sampled horns and effusive, double dutch-inspired
raps, these English musicians were the highlight of the first
Intonation Music Festival in 2005. Since the festival setting seems
to bring out their best, they're likely to match that energy here,
and maybe even top it, thanks to a number of new songs slated for
their eagerly awaited second album.
Cambria, (2:30 p.m., AT&T) How about a little modern
progressive rock on a sunny summer afternoon? The comic book- and
mythology-obsessed Upstate New York quartet is still touring in
support of its 2005 album, "Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV, Volume
One: From Fear through the Eyes of Madness." And how's that
for a title?
(3:30 p.m., Q101) I love the smell of stoner rock in the
afternoon! Sure, it's a shtick, but not nearly as much as, say, the
Darkness. The spirit of vintage Hawkwind and Deep Purple lives.
Barkley, (4:30 p.m., AT&T) DJ Danger Mouse and
rapper/vocalist Cee-Lo have made one of the best albums of the year
with the debut by Gnarls Barkley, an insanely catchy concept effort
about madness called "St. Elsewhere" that refuses to be pigeonholed
by genre. They're unproven onstage, but I'm betting they won't
Dolls, (5:30 p.m., adidas-Champs) It's a sin to have the
flamboyant, theatrical and very goth duo of singer, songwriter and
pianist Amanda Palmer and drummer Brian Viglione perform in the
sunshine (ack!). But even without the properly dark atmosphere, the
songs from "Yes, Virginia ...," another of my favorite albums this
year, are delightfully creepy.
Lips, (6:30 p.m., Bud Light) Oklahoma's fearless freaks
aren't setting the world on fire with their 10th album, "At War with
the Mystics," but their biggest triumphs throughout a supremely
strange 23-year career have been the result of dedicated touring,
and they're out to make the case for their new songs this summer
with an ambitious stage show that may (or may not -- it didn't work
at the Hollywood Bowl) find them arriving in a giant UFO.
Pornographers, (7:30 p.m., Q101) They're never quite as
powerful without Dan Bejar (whose other band, Destroyer, just played
the Pitchfork Music Festival) or Neko Case (who won't be on the
road, so maybe she'll stop by), but Carl Newman and the rest of the
band can still deliver the ebullient power-pop goods, and they're
still riding high on last year's stellar "Twin Cinema."
(8:30 p.m. AT&T) In the most annoying of many scheduling
conflicts, seeing the Flaming Lips means missing hometown hero
Common, but I'm consoling myself with the fact that Common will
likely make a cameo onstage with the artist he's mentored, the most
successful rapper Chicago has ever produced and one of the most
creative forces in popular music today. This will be the biggest
show Kanye has ever performed in Chicago, and it will serve as a
fitting celebration of all of his accomplishments, as well as tiding
us over until his third album.
THE REST OF
Glammy band of brothers Living Things, 12:30 p.m., and
phenomenal Chicago rapper Common, 6:30 p.m..
Pop-punks Nada Surf, 12:30 p.m.; Neil Young-flavored
guitar-rockers Built to Spill, 2:30 p.m.; New York's
long-running avant-noise gods Sonic Youth, 4:30 p.m., and the
French-Latin folk singer Manu Chao, 8:30 p.m..
California singer-songwriter Matt Costa, 11:45 a.m.; Canadian
indie-rock chanteuse Feist, 1:30 p.m.; alt-country heroes
Calexico, 3:30 p.m., and the sonic experimentalists Thievery
Corporation, 7:30 p.m..
Nashville indie-rockers Be Your Own Pet, noon, and Chicago
pop-punk champions the Smoking Popes, 5:30 p.m..
Kanye-championed hip-hop group Sa-Ra, noon; Chicago
art-rockers Sybris, 1 p.m.; consciousness-raising rapper
Lyrics Born, 3:30 p.m., and alternative-rappers Blackalicious,
Indie-rockers Cold War Kids, 1 p.m.; quirky pop band Oh
No! Oh My!, 2:15 p.m.; jammers Particle, 3:30 p.m., and
more jammers Disco Biscuits, 5 p.m..
(12:30 p.m., AT&T) The other band that rose from the ashes of
emo heroes At the Drive-In may have been overshadowed of late by the
Mars Volta, but Jim Ward and Sparta are gearing up to release a
strong new album called "Threes" on Oct. 10.
(2:15 p.m., PlayStation) These English electronic musicians
finally came into their own -- and justified at least some of the
hype -- on their recent album "The Warning."
(5 p.m., AMD) Still carrying the torch of psychedelic-pop for
the now mostly defunct Elephant 6 collective of indie-rock
alchemists, this group could deliver a sloppy mess or an inspired
set of orchestral-pop oddities. It will be fun to find out -- and we
may get both.
(6:30 p.m., Bud Light) Chicago singer-songwriter Jeff Tweedy is
currently fronting what many fans consider the strongest live lineup
Wilco has ever had, with the unmatched rhythmic genius of drummer
Glenn Kotche and an ever-more powerful guitar assault. They are
certain to sample a handful of new songs, as well as pulling out the
kinds of surprises that always make their highest-profile gigs (say,
Grant Park in 2001, or Madison Square Garden in 2005) something
Scene, (7:30 p.m., Q101) I have never understood the
alleged charms of this much-vaunted Canadian indie-rock supergroup
on album, but I've never seen it live, so I'm going to be all ears.
It probably kills the folks at Pitchfork that the band is playing
Lollapalooza instead of their festival last weekend.
THE REST OF
Sensitive punk Ben Kweller (nepotism alert: managed by Capital
Sports!), 2:30 p.m.; Hassidic reggae-rap novelty act Matisyahu, 4:30
p.m.; mainstream stoner-rockers Queens of the Stone Age, 6:30 p.m.,
and increasingly tired and aging alt-rock punk-funk granddaddies the
Red Hot Chili Peppers, 8:15 p.m..
Chicago garage-pop revivalists the Redwalls, 12:30 p.m.; the
mainstream bluegrass band Nickel Creek, 2:30 p.m., and
power-pop band the Shins, 4:30 p.m..
Chicago's 25-member Mucca Paza, 11:45 a.m.; Dublin-based
rockers the Frames, 1:30 p.m.; Chicago multi-instrumentalist
Andrew Bird, 3:30 p.m.; way-past-overplayed Chicago jam band
Poi Dog Pondering, 5:30 p.m., and even-longer-in-the-tooth
jam vets Blues Traveler (nepotism alert: managed by Capital
Sports!), 7:30 p.m.
Swaggering English rockers Boy Kill Boy, 11:45 a.m.; Brooklyn
rockers the Hold Steady, 1:30 p.m.; Hollywood heartthrob
Jared Leto's band 30 Seconds to Mars, 3:30 p.m., and British
New Wave revivalist DJs She Wants Revenge, 5:30 p.m.
Jam-friendly singer-songwriter Trevor Hall, noon; Toadies
veterans the Burden Brothers, 1 p.m.; reggae-punk band
Pepper, 3:30 p.m., and rockabilly madman the Rev. Horton Heat,
Austin pop band What Made Milwaukee Famous (nepotism alert:
managed by Capital Sports!), noon; Chicago indie-rockers
Manishevitz, 1 p.m.; alternative-jazzbos the Benevento-Russo
Duo, 2:15 p.m., and Get Up Kids offshoot the New Amsterdams,
Wait! There's more!
A key ingredient
of the original Lollapalooza tour was the odd collection of
merchants, food vendors and political action displays collected on
the festival midway. The new Capital Sports Lollapalooza has tried
to retain some of that spirit, albeit in a much more homogenized
way. (Where are Jim Rose's circus sideshow freaks these days,
Here is a look
at the festival's other activities:
Organizations that will be attempting to spread the word on the
midway will include the Natural Resources Defense Council, Stop
Global Warming, Music for America, Engineers for a Sustainable World
and the Parkways Foundation, the major local beneficiary of
Personally, given the crowds, the noise and the heat, I think it's
ill-advised to bring any preteen to the festival, but the promoters
are trying to encourage parents to bring the family (hook 'em when
they're young?), and to that end, they're providing a number of
activities such as drum circles, jam sessions and temporary
tattooing, as well as children's acts on the Kidz stage.
entertainment includes Scribble Monster, 11:30 a.m.-noon;
Hoopapalooza, 12:15 p.m.; Peter DiStefano, 1:15 p.m.;
Alvin Ailey Dance Camp, 2:15 p.m., and the Blisters, 3:15
p.m.. Saturday features Scribble Monster, 11:30 a.m.; the
Candy Band, 12:15 p.m.; Ella Jenkins, 1:15 p.m.;
Justin Roberts, 2:15 p.m. and 3:45 p.m., and Chutzpah,
3:15 p.m.. And Sunday gives the little ones School of Rock,
11:30 a.m. the Candy Band, 1:15 p.m.; Q Brothers, 2:15
p.m., and Asheba, 3:15 p.m..
Mindfield: This is Lollapalooza founder and continuing
figurehead Perry Farrell's attempt to inject a bit of multimedia
performance art and guerrilla theater into the proceedings with
text-message contests; games such as "a Bizarro Mystery Eating
Contest," "Foam Sword Jousting" and "Dirty Dodge Ball"; comedy sets
by Second City, Mission IMPROVable and Schadenfreude; a festival of
short films; an art market; PlayStation competitions; DJ sets, and
50 roaming clowns. Oh, yeah: There's also supposed to be a "Spanking
Booth" -- as if the clowns won't be punishment enough.
Finally, if there aren't enough musical choices above, this small
stage will present acts, many of them locals, affiliated with the
licensing agency. It's hardly an inspired lineup, and it seems like
a seriously missed opportunity: Next year, how about a stage
presented by one of Chicago's many great local clubs, record stores
or community radio stations? Or is this really all about the money?
The Friday schedule
is the Bon Mots, 11:15 a.m.; Cameron McGill, 12:30
p.m.; Makeshifte, 1:45 p.m.; Kelley Stoltz, 3 p.m.,
and Jon McLaughlin, 4:15 p.m.. Saturday features Musical
Outfits, 11:15 a.m.; St. James, 12:30 p.m.; Lanz,
1:45 p.m.; Elvis Perkins, 3 p.m., and Kill Hannah,
4:15 p.m.. And Sunday includes the Katie Todd Band, 11:15
a.m.; Catfish Haven, 12:30 p.m.; Manchester Orchestra,
1:45 p.m.; Moses Mayfield, 3 p.m., and Assassins 4:15