Lollapalooza guide

August 3, 2007

BY JIM DeROGATIS POP MUSIC CRITIC

  • Lollapalooza Guide

    In its third year as a reinvented destination festival in Grant Park, the synergistic cross-promotional behemoth called Lollapalooza has a surprising dearth of truly exciting music, despite its massive size, ubiquitous hype and three-day roster of 130 bands.

    Many of the best acts on this year's bill have either already played their own shows at superior venues here or are secretly bemoaning the fact Lolla prohibits that -- the fest bans any group taking its stage from performing at any other venue in Chicago for 60 days before and 30 days after, a draconian practice that has had a debilitating impact on the rest of the city's summer concert season.

    That policy, combined with all of the corporate shilling, the often dicey sound from competing stages and the snotty "Us vs. Them" hierarchy created by the exclusive VIP sections -- private cabanas with catered food and lounge chairs are still available starting at $32,500 for a party of 30 -- belie the Texas promoters' claims that they're offering local concertgoers the best musical experience and the biggest bargain of the year.

    Nevertheless, I tried to look on the bright side as I scanned the schedule to single out my top five highlights per day, listed in order of appearance and at the geographic location of the stages (all of which Lolla names after corporate sponsors).

    FRIDAY
    Ted Leo and the Pharmacists

    1:30-2:30 p.m., Hutchinson Field North (MySpace Stage)

    The music starts daily at 11:15 a.m., but this is today's first don't-miss act. Always a rousing performer, Leo is still touring behind his strong fifth album, "Living With the Living," which is full of gripping political tracks such as "Fourth World War," "Army Bound," "C.I.A." and "Bomb. Repeat. Bomb." Hopefully, their message will inject some measure of meaning amid all the festival advertising.

    The Polyphonic Spree

    2:30-3:30, Butler Field North (Bud Light Stage)

    The indie underground has soured on this Dallas band, writing off its latest album, "The Fragile Army," for the inherent shtick of Tim DeLaughter and his massive ork-pop collective. But the pop hooks are as strong as ever, the arrangements are still inspired and the new black uniforms definitely trump the old white robes.

    Sparklehorse

    3:30-4:30, Butler Field South/Petrillo Band Shell (adidas Stage)

    I'm worried the achingly beautiful, heartfelt balladry of singer-songwriter Mark Linkous will get lost in the sweeping expanse of the park. But blessed with the proper amplification, a lack of bleed from other stages and an attentive audience, the songs from "Dreamt for Light Years in the Belly of a Mountain" could be magical.

    LCD Soundsystem

    7:30-8:30, Hutchinson Field North

    Daft Punk

    8:30-10, Hutchinson Field South (AT&T Stage)

    Simply put, LCD Soundsystem, the labor of love side project led by New York producer James Murphy, and Daft Punk, the collaboration of Paris house musicians Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter, are two of the most innovative, inspiring and energetic acts to ever fill a dance floor, and their subsequent sets at opposite ends of Hutchinson are likely to be the weekend's highlight. The only down side is that this double bill could have played a better-sounding indoor venue; no matter how good they are at Lolla, we'll always wonder if they would have been even better at the Aragon Ballroom or the Congress Theater.

    SATURDAY
    Tokyo Police Club

    12:45-1:30 p.m., Hutchinson Field South

    These ferocious Canadian garage-rockers have a sparse discography to date, with only a pair of EPs since 2006. But they're best experienced live anyway, and it's a good bet their full-on grunge assault will overwhelm any distractions in their path.

    Rhymefest

    3:30-4:30, Jackson and Columbus (PlayStation Stage)

    Chicago rapper Rhymefest is one of the hardest-working men in show business, throwing himself into live performances with a punk energy (think Iggy Pop) rarely seen in hip-hop. He's playing one of Lolla's smallest stages, but that shouldn't matter: He's got enough power to fill the park, and he often spends much of his time in the crowd.

    Roky Erickson and the Explosives

    5-6, Jackson and Columbus

    Taking the same small platform shortly after Rhymefest, the psychedelic-rock pioneer and punk-rock hero will hopefully reprise the stellar set he delivered at last year's Intonation Festival, which found him looking happier and healthier and singing in better voice than he has at any point since the mid-'70s. (Diehard fans love Roky enough to brave Lolla just for his show, but they don't have to: He will also headline a festival after party at the Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace, starting at 10 tonight. Tickets are $25 at the door; call 773-478-4408.)

    Yeah Yeah Yeahs

    6:30-7:30, Hutchinson Field South

    Led by the galvanizing singer Karen O, this New York trio brings the spirit of Patti Smith into the present, with an energetic and inventive sound uniquely their own. Catching this set is one way to assuage any qualms about missing Smith herself when she performs opposite my next pick ...

    Spoon

    7:30-8:30, Hutchinson Field North

    Sure, the Austin art-punks can be hit or miss onstage. But I'm going with Britt Daniel and his mates over Smith in this time slot because their recently released sixth album, "Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga," is one of my favorites of 2007 -- and if they bring the horns that power some of their best new tracks, they'll be unbeatable.

    Closing out day two in the 8:30-10 p.m. headlining slots are shameless Joy Division imitators Interpol and unjustifiably hyped English posers Muse. You might consider going home early and resting up a bit for the third and final day ...

    SUNDAY
    Lupe Fiasco

    2:15-3:15 p.m., Hutchinson Field South

    The second major Chicago rapper on this year's bill, Lupe has been given the fest's biggest stage, no doubt because of his hit "Kick Push." He may be challenged by such a big platform, but he's still preferable to his competition in this slot, the much-ballyhooed English R&B bad girl Amy Winehouse, who'll be better appreciated at the Aragon on Sept. 29 (providing she shows up and is sober at either gig).

    Iggy and the Stooges

    4:15-5:15, Butler Field North

    At the Cincinnati Pop Festival in 1969, when these proto-punk gods were touring behind "Funhouse," Iggy famously spent most of his performance atop the raised arms of his fans, taking a jar of peanut butter from one of them and gleefully smearing it all over himself.

    Peter, Bjorn and John

    5-6, Balbo and Columbus (CITI Stage)

    The biggest booking mistake of the fest has these Swedish popsters, the men behind the unforgettable single "Young Folks," playing another of the microscopic secondary stages. It's especially sad because their sound is much bigger live than on album, and even if you stake out a position early on, the venue is likely to be mobbed.

    Modest Mouse

    6:15-7:15, Butler Field North

    Isaac Brock and his current guitar foil Johnny Marr were underwhelming at the Auditorium Theatre last April, but I'll be giving them a second chance because "We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank" is another of the best albums of 2007.

    TV on the Radio

    7-8, Hutchinson Field North

    While Lolla has booked seven acts that previously performed at the Pitchfork Music Festival, this is the only band it got that Pitchfork really wanted. Underground rock fans raved about the genre-blurring sounds of last year's "Return to Cookie Mountain," but after the killer single "Wolf Like Me," the disc didn't do it for me. I have yet to see the band live, though, and that's where it's supposed to shine.

    Closing out Lolla at the other end of Hutchinson immediately afterward is, of course, festival headliner Pearl Jam. I won't grace the venerated Seattle rockers with an official pick because I've seen them be meandering and mediocre as often as I've seen them be truly riveting; I know they'll never match the intensity of the shows they gave when they first played Lollapalooza in 1992.

     

    LOLLAPALOOZA

     11:15 a.m.-10 p.m. today, Saturday and Sunday

     Grant Park, enter at Columbus and Congress

     Admission, $80 single day, $195 for a three-day pass.

     www.lollapalooza.com

     Concertgoers can bring blankets, hand-held umbrellas, baby strollers, two factory-sealed 1-liter water bottles, binoculars, non-professional cameras and soft-sided coolers. They cannot bring any other outside food or drink (bring cash, because vendors are pricey), weapons, illegal substances, large backpacks, tents or large umbrellas, bikes or skateboards, chairs, hard coolers, video equipment, professional still cameras or audio recording equipment.

    Post-Lolla club hopping

    After usurping much of their summer concert calendar, Lollapalooza promoters have attempted to assuage angry Chicago club owners by sponsoring a number of after parties at local venues. (Any act that performs at Lolla is contractually prohibited from playing another Chicago venue for 60 days before and 30 days after the fest unless the promoters give them permission.) Here is a look at these officially sanctioned events.

     

    TONIGHT
    Roky Erickson and the Invisibles

    10 p.m. at the Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace

    The Texas psychedelic/punk-rock legend is sure to be more in his element here than he will be late Saturday afternoon at one of Lolla's smallest stages. Ace garage-rockers the Last Vegas open. Tickets, $20 in advance, $25 at the door. Call (773) 478-4408.

    Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

    10 p.m. at Metro, 3730 N. Clark

    One of the best of the New Wave of New Wave bands, these New Yorkers have the sound of "Talking Heads '77" down cold. Unfortunately, this show already is sold out. Fellow Lolla acts Cold War Kids and Elvis Perkins in Dearland open the show.

    STS9 (Sound Tribe Sector 9)

    11 p.m. at the House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn

    Part hippie band, part electronic/psychedelic/space-funk collaborative, the Bay Area quintet is known for stretching out at its groove-happy live performances. Tickets, $28.50 in advance, $30 at the door. Call (312) 923-2000.

    SATURDAY
    Ryan Shaw

    11:15 p.m. at the House of Blues, Back Porch Stage

    This retro-minded R&B purist is out of place on the Lolla lineup, but he should shine at HOB, a venue suited to the sounds of his inspirations: Otis Redding, Sam Cooke and Wilson Pickett. Tickets, $15.

    Particle

    11 p.m. at the Abbey Pub

    This appearance by the cult-favorite electronic/psychedelic groove merchants is billed as an official Lolla After Party, though oddly enough Particle is not performing at the festival. 56 Hope Road opens. Tickets, $20 in advance, $25 at the door.

    Cafe Tacuba

    9 p.m. at Metro

    One of the best bands from the thriving rock en espanol movement, and always an inspiration in concert. Tickets, $40. Call (773) 549-0203.

    SUNDAY
    John Popper

    10 p.m. at the House of Blues

    Because maybe you won't have gotten enough of the harmonica-holster-wearin' jam-band hambone at Lolla. Tickets, $16.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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