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Lollapalooza Fri Aug 06 2010
Every year it becomes harder and harder to decide what band to see during a particular hour at Lollapalooza, partly because the bands are so great, partly because choosing a band on one end of the vast Lollapalooza empire means you just won't have time to hoof it to the other end for another's set. Here's our full preview of what to hit and what to skip at the festival.
FRIDAY, AUGUST 6th
Noon-1pm Wavves vs. Balkan Beat Box
While 2009's Wavves and this year's King of the Beach remain on regular rotation on my summer soundtrack, Wavves turned out a less than stellar performance at last year's Pitchfork Music Festival, so I'm inclined to write them off for this year's Lolla. To their credit, at the time singer Nathan Williams was playing guitar with a broken arm, security was having major issues after the barricades had caved in and I suspect the poor performance was partially due to sound issues that were not entirely the band's fault. Isreali electronica band Balkan Beat Box are guaranteed to bring a sweaty dance party, and offer a much larger variety of musical styles and sound experimentation than Wavves. The best bet would definitely be to get your gypsy punk groove on and head over to Balkan Beat Box's set.
- Stephanie Griffin
2-3pm: Mavis Staples vs. Raphael Saadiq
Schedule conflicts are criticized every year, even though most are necessary. But it's baffling that two of this year's three R&B acts are playing opposite each other at the same exact time. On the north stage is Mavis Staples, probably the most legendary act on this year's schedule. (Playing "Birth Ritual" in Singles is pretty great, but it can't quite compete with marching with Martin Luther King, Jr.) Even at 60 years as a singer, Staples hasn't lost a step. Her voice is in fine form when performing Staple Singers classics, her own material and even an array of delightful covers. On the south stage, Raphael Saadiq should be dropping some tunes with arrangements that may remind showgoers of Holland/Dozier/Holland. His latest record The Way I See It has been lauded for its retro style, but he's no slouch as a performer either.
- James Ziegenfus
2:15-3:15 Ana Sia vs. Tim and The Space Cadets
A fun loving power pop party that manifests the spirit of everything amazing about being a kid! Parties, Superheros and space travel to a moon that truly is composed of cheese, Tim and The Space Cadets might be a much needed break if you exhaust your indie rock threshold and need to jump around to adorably addictive hook and corny, yet witty lyrics. Their debut CD is entitled The Greatest Party Ever who wouldn't want to get down with that? Ana Sia is far on the other end of the musical spectrum, blending almost all of the elements of dance music in to a electro-crunk explosion of blips, beeps and a buzz out repetition that is like drowning in a sea of computer glitches. Both musicians will have you dancing, just in very different ways.
- Aharona Ament
3-4:30pm Peanut Butter Wolf vs. The Big Pink (vs. Drive-By Truckers)
The travels of one PB Wolf are a rarer treat than you might expect for an in-demand DJ. Of course, the man's evergreen appeal stems from the fact that he not only mixes music with the best of them, but he also curates it as well. If you really want to see the the head of Stone's Throw lay down on the wheels of steel, by all means do -- but for those who aren't quite sold, or prefer a little honky with their tonk -- take a gander at the Drive-By Truckers. Their three-pronged guitar attack brings plenty of Southern grit and little of the compositional fat that defines the dinosaur rock they blossom from. But if you'd rather not stray towards anything with a steel guitar, or just want to dance a bit, trust in the deep collection of Mr. Wolf.
- Dan Morgridge
4-5pm: Devo vs. The New Pornographers
The best thing about this potential conflict is that both Devo and the New Pornographers are playing aftershows. So the easy answer here is to see one at an aftershow, the other at 4pm on Friday. Unfortunately, Devo's become something of a novelty act the last few years, treading on songs that're 30+ years old. However, they do have a new record out that's added a bit of flare to their set lists. And they're always entertaining. The New Pornographers also have a new record out filled with power-pop jams. A lot of people think it's a big deal that Dan Bejar's playing with them again, but he really doesn't add much to their show. How could he over AC Newman and Neko Case?! They're the stars and the New Pornos live and die with them being on their game (or not).
- James Ziegenfus
5-6:30pm Fuck Buttons vs. Caspa
There is a new saying going around his Myspace page that states, "If you don't know Caspa, you don't know Dubstep". If you have found yourself in the situation of possessing ignorance to this style of electronic music, make haste to the Caspa stage as promptly as possible to get your needed fill of remix action. This English master of beats is said to bring it like no one. Fuck Buttons however, will have you in a daze. Their now classic 2008 release Street Horrsing put them on the map as masters of the drone/post-rock movement. With the ability to still capture their epic sound in a festival setting, the duo is amazing no matter where they play and experiencing them is something that one should do at least once to see why the band has a cult following. You will most likely join.
- Aharona Ament
5-6pm Dirty Projectors vs. Matt & Kim
The Dirty Projectors made a splash last year with their Pitchfork-approved LP Bitte Orca and the single "Stillness is the Move." Their experimental psychedelic brand of rock is great for laying in the grass and gazing up at the sky, but if a late afternoon dance party is what you're looking for, head to the Adidas stage for Matt & Kim. The Brooklyn duo is always a hit at festivals, known for their carefree, energetic performances, and their music is equally fun. Their song "Daylight" can be heard everywhere, from commercials, to TV shows, to your little brother's video games. Plus, you'll be in prime position to dance into the night with Hot Chip, Chromeo and Lady Gaga rounding out the lineup on the south end of the park.
- Michelle Meywes
6-7:15pm Black Keys vs. Hot Chip
Merging blues with a heavier-than-usual guitar assault, The Black Keys would have to wear some pretty ridiculous outfits (think feather boas and Hammer pants and maybe some clown shoes) to completely dilute the cool of their sound. The Ohio-based duo recently released their sixth album, Brothers, in March of this year, and they've been featured in pretty much everything (from American Express commercials to previews for Black Snake Moan to the theme song for HBO's Hung) since riding their lo-fi licks to fame in 2001. So if you're looking for music that's only a few more songs away from completely pervading the public consciousness, then make your way to the Budweiser stage around 6pm on Friday.
At the opposite end of Grant Park, you'll find a more computer-generated rock. As willing to use auto-tune effects and synthesized beats as anyone in the club scene, Hot Chip is likely to lend a dance-floor atmosphere to its outdoor concert. The band released its most recent album in February of this year, and you've probably seen the video for the single, "I Feel Better," making the rounds on YouTube and Facebook wall posts. With boy band/alien/Jesus imagery, there's no way of telling where the group got its inspiration for such a video, but it offers every indication that the members will have a sense of humor when they take the Parkway stage at 6pm on Friday.
- Geoff George
7-8:30pm Jimmy Cliff vs. Chromeo
Chromeo is a little hard to to turn down, with their synth-heavy funky sound that can tear up a dance floor, and at times has been compared to Hall & Oates (they've even worked with Hall himself!), but I'm going to have to go with legendary Jamaican musician Jimmy Cliff for this time slot. Younger audiences probably know him for the song "I Can See Clearly Now" which he covered for the Cool Runnings soundtrack, but Cliff is best known for his contribution to the 1972 film The Harder They Come which introduced much of the world to reggae for the first time. He wrote four original songs for the soundtrack and starred in the film. Cliff is still busy today, writing screenplays and just recently released a new album, Existence. There's not a much better time of day to see him perform: as the sun sets/ begins to set on a bright, sunshiny day.
- Michelle Meywes
8-10pm Gaga vs. The Strokes vs. 2 many djs
If you aren't a fan of pop spectacle or groundbreaking mashable electronic music, then head to The Strokes. I like The Strokes, but they seem like such a safe bet when going up against the reigning queen of pop and one of the best DJ outfits around. I implore everyone to check out either the start or finale of Lady Gaga's set, because I believe that's when she'll dish out the biggest reasons of why she is such a dedicated performer. But I also would suggest making sure you see 2 many djs, the Belgium Dewaele brothers who also are behind the massively successful electronic act Soulwax. As 2 many djs the two cleared the rights for to 114 recordings to create the 45 track As Heard on Radio Soulwax Pt. 2, a mashup and remix opus that came out long before the rise in popularity of the mashup style of DJ-ing. It's sleek and layered perfectly, and it would be a shame to miss 2 many djs live. Check out Gaga, then head over to the massive 2 many djs dance party that will surely ensue, work up a sweat, then catch the tail end of Gaga. The best of both worlds.
- Lisa White
SATURDAY, AUGUST 7th
12noon -12:45pm Morning Benders vs. Only Children
While Chicago DJ collective Only Children are bound to provide some smooth beats to start your long Saturday, the biggest downside to catching their set at Lollapalooza is the fact that they are locals, and we have ample opportunity to see them DJ around the city. On the other hand, The Morning Benders come around town way less often, not to mention that their aftershow at Metro with The Black Keys has been sold out for ages. Seeing as though their dreamy new album Big Echo hasn't left my stereo in ages, I'm more than a little biased on this one. However, take one listen to their Everly Brothers-inspired track "Excuses" and I'm positive you'll be convinced to head over to Grant Park as early as possible on Saturday afternoon to plop yourself down over at the Sony Stage. It's that good.
- Stephanie Griffin
12:30-1:15pm The Soft Pack vs. Skybox
Rising west coast band versus up-and-coming local band. Garage surf rock against quirk pop rock. It's a battle for the ages...okay maybe not, but it's a choice you're going to have to make when you get to Grant Park early Saturday afternoon. The Soft Pack comes our way from San Diego bringing fuzzy guitars and throwback rock that's been compared to The Kinks. Chicago group Skybox has influences of David Bowie and of Montreal going on, with genre-jumping pop songs that can only be described as fun. Both bands have catchy choruses and danceable rhythms in their favor, so if straightforward rock is more your style, give The Soft Pack a listen, but if you're more like me and you like surprises, make your way to the BMI stage for Skybox. Their latest album Morning After Cuts was just released this year, and single "In A Dream" is the perfect way to shake off a groggy morning (check out the video here). (Skybox is also playing a free aftershow with the Spinto Band and Jukebox the Ghost at Bottom Lounge the same day. RSVP here.)
- Michelle Meywes
1-2:30pm: Wild Beasts vs. Harlem vs. Rogue Wave
Don't get me wrong here; Rogue Wave have some phenomenal songs, but more days than not they're an underwhelming live act. If you love them, you have to see them. However, if you're on the fence, both Harlem and Wild Beasts are worth looking into. Harlem's lo-fi garage rock is raw and played ferociously. They'll bowl over an audience with their reckless abandon. On the other hand, Wild Beasts play a refined dream pop like a way more upbeat Antony & the Johnsons. Both can be mesmerizing, though clearly for entirely different reasons.
- James Ziegenfus
2:15-3:15pm Stars vs. Verve Pipe
If you think that "The Freshmen" is the only four and a half minutes you'd want to spend with one-hit wonders Verve Pipe, well, you're not the only one. The band put out a few albums after their big hit, but nothing quite measured up commercially and the band took an eight-year hiatus. In 2009, the band took an unexpected turn and released a children's album. Tracks like "Cereal" and "Go To Sleep Now" aren't exactly aimed at your age demographic, but the kiddos might like it, and maybe they'll sneak in a familiar sounding new song like "After we washed our hands/we were only Fresh Then." If you're not holding out hope for that and don't have wee ones to or the morbid curiosity to enjoy the saccharine new tunes, we might suggest the accomplished Canadian stylings of Stars, a part of the ever-popular Broken Social Scene and a fine band in their own pretty pop way.
- Dan Morgridge
3-4:15pm The xx vs. Dan Black
I adore the self-titled debut album from The xx, its soft and intimate nature makes me feel like I'm part of some secret when I'm listening to it. But even in an indoor setting the annoying person yapping can put a damper on things, so I'm going to bet a large festival crowd would bum me out even more. I saw Dan Black live a few months ago, and although a bit rough and not over the top impressive, I want to give him another chance. I really enjoy his polished dance pop tracks (not including that "Symphonies" single that I loathe), and I think he'd be a refreshing afternoon set. Check out Black in a festival setting where if you aren't impressed it's not a big deal, and spend a little extra to see The xx indoors.
- Lisa White
3:45-5:15pm Gogol Bordello vs. Grizzly Bear
This show presents an interesting contrast: a wild, gypsy, circus-punk show (Gogol Bordello) against a so-indie-it-hurts, orchestrated acoustic and experimental group (Grizzly Bear). Basically, it comes down to what sort of person you are. Do you like your front man to be sweaty and mustachioed or sporting a side-swoop haircut and earnestly crooning? Do you prefer an accordion-addled ruckus or freewheeling, feel-good rhythms? Perhaps it's time to take a good look in the mirror, friend.
- Kara Luger
5-6:15pm Deer Tick vs. Metric
Now I'm a big fan of any edgy, badass front woman — especially Emily Haines of Metric — but I can't see how you can pass up Deer Tick's gritty, southern-hued rock 'n' roll set. The Providence, R.I.-based band writes songs of sensibility and heartbreak, then smothers them in indie filth. I saw them live in a dive bar in Iowa, where they broke into an a capella version of "Dirty Dishes" so perfect I nearly exploded with glee — I am easily combustible when it comes to grungy, country blues. See them Saturday at 5pm on the Sony stage.
- Dee Fabbricatore
6:15-7:30pm Spoon vs. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
If you didn't catch Spoon the last 10 times they've played in Chicago this summer already, shame on you. And this weekend is not your chance, since you'll most definitely want to be at Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros, playing on the Sony bloggie stage Saturday at 6:30pm. Their Woodstock-esque peace, love and 1969 vibe mixed with Sharpe's neo-psychedelic guitar is pretty much the pinnacle of everything that is good about an outdoor music festival. Since their after show at Lincoln Hall is completely sold out, Lolla is the only chance to enjoy songs like "Home," the campy-jam that makes everyone feel like tying their hair into a makeshift crown and sharing pure hippie love.
- Dee Fabbricatore
7:30-8:30pm Cut Copy vs. Rusko
Cut Copy plays a jubilant, synth-heavy kind of pop that's likely to leave you light on your feet as you take mental flight through marshmellowy clouds. The Melbourne, Australia-based group has mastered the art of airy dance music for stoners, and with a pinch of '80s new wave added in, the sound is sure to induce head-bobbing, if not more. The band hasn't come out with an album since 2008's In Ghost Colours, and there doesn't look to be anything new in the pipeline until at least the beginning of next year. So if you're already a long-time listener, expect to hear the classics you already know and love at 7:30pm on Saturday at the PlayStation stage.
Rusko, the stage name of English DJ Christopher Mercer, showcases just as much synthesizer, but you're much more likely to find yourself gettin' low. Consider the following either an endorsement or a reason to avoid the stage at all costs, but Mercer plays a mean set of dub tunes that would fit right into a scene from one of the Step Up films. Rusko's latest album, OMG!, features samples of shattering glass and blaring klaxons mixed with heavy electronica to create a sound tailor-made for strobing lights. So Perry's stage might be the one to head for at 7:30pm on Saturday if you're already several beers in and looking to get crunk.
- Geoff George
7:45-10pm Green Day vs. Phoenix
If Green Day was only playing music before they released American Idiot, this would make my choice much more difficult. But this isn't the case, and although I understand why people love their rock opus, I'm just not a fan. I miss "Brain Stew" and Dookie Green Day. I miss the green hair and acting like a bunch of skater punk kids. I don't want the stylized political activist Green Day, but if you don't mind it, I'm sure they'll put on a loud and entertaining set. My heart is sold on Phoenix though. Ever since I heard It's Never Been Like That, I've been smitten. And to watch the band grow into a massive arena rock selling act has been a delight. I like that so many people of the world have been able to enjoy the simplistically crafted pop style of Phoenix. To finish off the night with the city skyline as your backdrop, "Lisztomania" floating through the field of Grant Park, sounds like a perfect ending to me.
SUNDAY, AUGUST 8TH
1-2pm Company of Thieves vs. The Dodos
While locals Company of Thieves have been a longtime favorite of mine, The Dodos supply a more complex and eclectic sound and would be a shoe-in for any music fan with experimental tastes. However, CoT singer Genevieve Schatz has one of the most charismatic stage presences of any band coming out of our city. Besides, it seems like The Dodos would be much more enjoyable if you are already familiar with their work, while I can't think of a single reason anyone would not completely fall in love with Company of Thieves upon first listen. This one's a toss-up. It's a total win-win.
- Stephanie Griffin
2-3pm Blitzen Trapper vs. Ike Reilly Assassination
If you're into keeping it mellow this afternoon, then Americana, bluesy music from the Sony bloggie stage from Ike Reilly Assassination is your bag. Plop on down on an old thrift-store sheet and beat your own tambourine to these fellas from Chicago. Even when they sing about terrorism, it makes you flash a peace sign and think about that Woodstock movie with Demitri Martin you watched once. If, on the other hand, you want a little music infused into your music festival, try out Blitzen Trapper, from Portland, Oregon, out on the big ole Budweiser stage. These boys have a way with dreamy lyrics with a poetic storyline — kind of like if a folk festival was invaded by a Renaissance Faire. They'll be amplified but not screaming at you across the dusty ground. Instead, they'll bring a large-stage mellow to the crowd, hopefully getting you past the mid-afternoon sugar crash, or, if you're just arriving, providing a lovely start to your final day at Lolla. Ribbon twirling encouraged. Watch out for the hula hoopers.
- Anne Holub
3-4pm Mumford and Sons vs. Freelance Whales
Though it may sound like it, Mumford and Sons isn't a family-run trucking business. Instead, it's a group of four young London lads with a lot of energy and even more melancholy packed into their four piece folk band. They've sprung from the sweaty, London underground folk scene to Lollapalooza this year. Expect warm stories and darkly reflective ballads that make you feel like you're in a song circle with misty-eyed men. While Freelance Whales' rhythmic and peculiarly arranged pop songs are certainly a good time, Mumford and Sons' trumps the poppy twenty-something. Catch Mumford and Sons at 3pm Sunday on the Playstation stage.
- Dee Fabbricatore
4-5:30pm Yeasayer vs. Mexican Insitiute of Sound
Yeasayer is the band that made experimental music fun! Before them it was all 45 minute long tracks of the same note with some screams thrown in. But seriously, the trio makes some groove-licious music that skims borders of along the lines of psych-pop, afrobeat and indie. If you missed them at the Metro a few months ago, you have been given another chance. The band released their second effort Odd Blood last February keeping their position as one of the few remaining musical pioneers. Another musical oddity that makes genre blending the hot new sport is Mexican Institute Of Sound and something you might not have another opportunity to see again for awhile. A one man project by the head of EMI Mexico who is also a DJ and producer Camilo Lara's is MIS and he notably amuses himself with the grandiose name. Blending classical Mexican music with an electronic edge, he makes some of the most unusual, quirk-filled dance meets culture sound. His second album Soy Sauce was released in May and the name just represents the creative multi-cultural inspiration that is MIS. If you ever wanted to hear a cover of The Verve's Bittersweet Symphony in Spanish backed by a mariachi sound, your chance is now.
- Aharona Ament
5-6:30pm Erykah Badu vs. Dirty South
The incomparable Erykah Badu, queen of neo-soul R&B, has made heads turn this year. Whether it was for the fact that she stripped nude in her video for "Window Seat" or for the fact that it was at the site of the Kennedy assassination in Dallas, she's been making news. The diva, once known for her traditional African hair wraps and bird-like voice, has started bearing all in recent years, with a magnificent afro and stripped down lyrics about sex and politics, not just heartache. She'll be at the adidas MEGA stage as the light starts getting mellow. By contrast, Dirty South, are Aussies with a devotion to House music. If you're one of the hundreds, if not thousands, of mini backpack-wearing dance trance fans who'll be in attendance at the festival, and are in search of a stage where you can crack your glowsticks a little early and get sweaty with your new best friends, Perry's stage across the street will be the place to be.
- Anne Holub
6-7:15pm Wolfmother vs. MGMT
This set will divide those who like those who want to rawk with those who, well, don't. On the latter tip is MGMT, whose sophomore album, Congratulations (released in early 2010), doesn't have the obvious dance singles that their first album, Oracular Spectacular, did. Instead, it's Oracular's poppier, tamer (and perhaps glammier) cousin. The tracks bounce around in different directions, often cultivating a huge, Wall of Sound atmosphere that might play well in an open festival setting.
Which brings us to the rocking. Aussie trio Wolfmother have been channeling Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, and the like for some time. Despite the band's rhythm section leaving the group (Chris Ross and Myles Heskett, who went on to work on a project with turntablist Kid Koala called The Slew, singer/guitarist Andrew Stockdale sallied forth, got new band mates, and put out 2009's Cosmic Egg. What can you expect from these fellas? Pretty much the same thing, actually: heavy, psychedelic rock that will have you pumping your fist.
- Kara Luger
7- 8:30pm Cypress Hill vs. The National
Okay, fine, The National are a fine band. Alligator and Boxer have been critically acclaimed all over the place, and High Violet isn't doing so bad in sales either. But put it on your headphones in your room and get all deeply into the beauty of it on your own time. This is the biggest festival the city has to offer, and Cypress Hill is going to be here, possibly with a giant inflatable skeleton on a throne. They're going to play songs you know all the lyrics to (consciously or not), the crowd's going to be swaying hard, and they've got a song about localized insanity that's pretty catchy. Use the festival to see a show, not just your favorite band live.
- Dan Morgridge
8-10pm Arcade Fire vs. Soundgarden
Finally, Lolla did something right in terms of scheduling by putting two bands that really aren't very similar on opposite ends of the park going roughly head to head (with the possibility of Soundgarden ending a touch earlier.) Both bands could be seen as aggressive, however Soundgarden is more heavy hitting whereas Arcade Fire projects an increasing urgency of believing in and getting their message across.
On the legendary scale, Soundgarden has Arcade Fire beat. The band has released five major full length albums and this reunion show may be a fan's only chance to witness the iconic Seattle grunge band in the flesh, especially if you were too young to see them/go to shows back when their last full length, Down on the Upside was released in 1996. The only question is...can the band still deliver the goods after not playing together regularly for so long? Purportedly, they also have a new track that will be coming out. Though it would be completely unexpected for Soundgarden to play mainly new material, perhaps their modern take on old tracks won't hold up like some die hard audience members would like.
Opposite to Soundgarden, The Arcade Fire has just released their third epic full length, The Suburbs. The album is a real grower with fantastic potential to demonstrate another apt criticism, this time of the suburbs specifically and the complications of so much sprawl. Arcade Fire has been known for their great live shows and have not come to Chicago in quite some time. It's possible that if we have to wait until their next release and tour, we could be waiting another 2-3 years to see them. In some ways, Arcade Fire seems more relevant today than Soundgarden. Though Soundgarden has won the test of time, seeing them might be more about nostalgia than of staying current with the pioneers of music.
- Kirstie Shanley