Lollapalooza: The rock party in the park


August 4, 2006


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?"

On closer examination, though, the choices really aren't all that overwhelming.

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

For another 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 Pitchfork.

With the 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.


Here are Jim DeRogatis' picks for the fest. The schedule is subject to change without notice.


Midlake (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.

The Subways, (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."

The Editors, (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 concert.

The Secret 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.

The 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."

Ween, (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.



AT&T Stage: Dance-rockers Panic! at the Disco, 2:30 p.m., and jam merchants Umphrey's McGee, 4:30 p.m.

Bud Light 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 p.m.

adidas-Champs 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..

Q101 Stage: 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..

PlayStation 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..

AMD Stage: 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.


Rainer Maria, (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.

Coheed & 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?

Wolfmother, (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.

Gnarls 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 disappoint.

The Dresden 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.


The Flaming 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.

The New 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."

Kanye West, (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.


AT&T: Glammy band of brothers Living Things, 12:30 p.m., and phenomenal Chicago rapper Common, 6:30 p.m..

Bud Light: 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..

adidas-Champs: 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..

Q101: Nashville indie-rockers Be Your Own Pet, noon, and Chicago pop-punk champions the Smoking Popes, 5:30 p.m..

PlayStation: 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, 5 p.m..

AMD: 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..


Sparta, (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.

Hot Chip, (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."

Of Montreal, (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.

Wilco, (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 special.

Broken Social 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.



AT&T: 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..

Bud Light: 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..

adidas-Champs: 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.

Q101: 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.

PlayStation: 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, 5 p.m..

AMD: 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, 3:30 p.m..

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, anyway?)

Here is a look at the festival's other activities:

  • Causapalooza: 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 Lollapalooza's largesse.


  • Kidzapalooza: 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.

    Friday's 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..


  • The 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.


  • BMI Stage: 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 p.m.