Lollapalooza, it is a comin’!

Well, now that I’ve had over a week and a half to recover from the amazing Pitchfork Festival, it’s time to start preparing for next weekend’s ultimate summer music fest, Lollapalooza. I have to admit, I’m happy to have the two weeks in between this year; last year, the two festivals were on back to back weekends! In my opinion, this year’s Lollapalooza boasts and even stronger lineup than last year’s.

Being a bigger festival, there is certainly a different feel at Lollapalooza than there is at Pitchfork. The crowds are bigger, the grounds are larger and tougher to get around, and many more bands are playing at any given time. To me, one of the hardest things about this festival is dealing with the frustration that ensues when two can’t miss acts are playing at the same time. Luckily, that isn’t happening terribly often this year, although there are many occasions where bands are playing back to back on stages that are across the park from each other, forcing fans to decide whether to leave one band’s set ten minutes early or miss the first ten minutes of the other (The Bud Light stage is next to the Adidas stage, and the MySpace stage is next to the A&T stage, while about a ten minute walk separates the two areas). The schedule has been released for over a month now, so I’ve had plenty of time to determine my plan of action. Beginning with Friday around 2:30, which is about the earliest I can hope to get there, here’s who I will be seeing:

FRIDAY

2:30-3:30, Polyphonic Spree, Bud Light Stage: This is actually a tough call, and I may end up going over to the A&T Stage for Jack’s Mannequin early, but I’ll have to end up on this side of the park by 3:00 or so in order to get a good spot for the next band. Plus, it should be interesting seeing 20-plus people on the stage making music.

3:30-4:30, Sparklehorse, Adidas Stage: I’ve seen these guys live before when they were opening for R.E.M. Their generally soft, baroque pop style produces great music, and they even throw in the occasional rock jam. Their album It’s A Wonderful Life from 2001 still ranks in my top 100 of the decade, and their most recent release Dreamt For Years in the Belly of a Mountain isn’t half bad either.

4:30-4:45, M.I.A., Bud Light Stage: I’ll be staying on this side of the park still for the next act, so I’ll catch very little of this set, but she should be interesting to watch. M.I.A.’s music is a unique Indonesian rapping style.

5:00-6:00, The Rapture, Playstation Stage: This is one of the bands that I’m most excited to see, although I’m shocked that they are playing on one of the smaller side stages. The Rapture creates a complex hybrid mix of music informally dubbed “funk-rock” or “dance-rock.” 2003’s amazing Echoes ranks just outside of my top ten albums of the decade, and tunes from last year’s dancy Pieces of the People We Love should get the party started early Friday evening.

6:00-6:30, DINNER BREAK!

6:30-7:00, The Black Keys, Bud Light Stage: Why not stay on this side of the park to prepare for the next act? (Friday seems to be the easiest day position-wise, as all of the top bands are playing north of the fountain until the headliners). I’ll check these guys out briefly, although I don’t know much about them, but I can remember hearing good things a while back…

7:30-8:30, LCD Soundsystem, Adidas Stage: Get ready to dance! Another band of the “funk-rock” genre, LCD Soundsystem followed up its outstanding debut with Sound of Silver this year, which may end up being crowned the best album of 2007 by yours truly. I’m always excited to see how music that depends heavily on electronics fares in a live setting, and I have a feeling that this set isn’t going to let me down.

8:30-10:00, Daft Punk, AT&T Stage: Since I feel like I’ve already seen Ben Harper about a hundred times opening for bands like Dave Matthews back in my high school days, I figure I’ll make the trek across the fountain to check out this influential house band. I’m not incredibly familiar with their stuff, but the word on the street is that they put on quite a show.

SATURDAY

1:30-2:30, Tapes N Tapes, MySpace Stage: This presents a minor decision as Pete Yorn is scheduled at the same time, although this one isn’t a very tough pick if you ask me. I saw Tapes N Tapes play at last year’s Pitchfork Festival and they completely stole the show opening the day up on Sunday. Their tightly wound, intense indie rock is worth seeing again for me.

2:30-3:30, Silverchair, AT&T Stage: Wow, now this show will send me back about a decade! Who even knew that these guys were still around? If they’re smart, they’ll play a lot of stuff from the vastly underrated grunge album Frogstomp that made them famous and featured instant classics like “Tomorrow”, “Shade” and “Pure Massacre.” Sounds like fun!

3:30-4:30, Cold War Kids, Citi Stage/ FOOD BREAK: I’m mostly trying to just stay South of the fountain here, although I do have one of their albums so I’ll have a chance to at least get familiar with some of their songs. I don’t know enough about Motion City Soundtrack to merit walking all the way to other side of the park only to sprint back for the next act.

4:30-5:30, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, AT&T Stage: I saw these guys play at the Vic Theatre last fall and they brought the house down with their upbeat psychedelic folk-rock. I’m guessing they’ll be even better outside; most bands usually are. Their self-titled debut album holds a special place in my heart, so hopefully they’ll play everything off of that one. This year’s Some Loud Thunder lacks a lot of the punch that made their debut so memorable but also has its fair share of good tunes.

5:30-6:30, The Hold Steady, MySpace Stage: Not that there was ever in chance in hell that I was going to miss this for Regina Spektor, but it certainly makes it easy that they go on right across from Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and I won’t have to miss a note. I saw them two years ago at Pitchfork, but that was before their incredible sophomore effort Boys & Girls In America. This is pure American summer rock, with classic guitar riffs and a lead singer that talks (not sings) over it through lyrics that speak mostly about partying and having a good time. Sounds perfect!

6:30-7:30, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, AT&T Stage: Snow Patrol plays at the same time across the way, but this is really a no-brainer for several reasons. First and foremost, the music of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs is generally deeper and more intense, which usually equals a better performance. Additionally, I’ll already be on this side after The Hold Steady plays, and the next band I want to see is playing on this side as well. It’s all about being smart about location when you have a toss-up situation, although I feel fortunate that Yeah Yeah Yeahs are on this stage because they’d be my pick regardless.

7:30-8:20, Spoon, MySpace Stage: SPOOOOON! Now here’s a band that is physically incapable of making a bad song, and they always rock live (I’ve seen them a couple of times). Their innovative mix of upbeat rock, dance beats and blues is a winner every time, and the fact that their latest album Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga is a masterpiece doesn’t hurt either. Sadly, as you can see, I’m going to be forced to leave this one ten minutes early in order to walk over in time for the biggest act of the festival…

8:30-10:00, Interpol, Bud Light Stage: On the planet Earth, this is the #1 band on my list to see that I’ve never seen before, so I’m beyond pumped that they are headlining this thing Saturday night. Brit-rockers Muse play on the other side, and since I’m not familiar with much of their stuff, this is a no-brainer. I’m not even concerned about the fact that their latest album leaves a lot to be desired. Interpol made one of the best albums of all time back in 2002 with Turn on the Bright Lights, and I’m sure they are aware of that. If you aren’t familiar with their eerie post-punk sound that bears similarity to the short-lived brilliance of Joy Division, come, listen, and be amazed.

SUNDAY

2:15-3:15, Lupe Fiasco, AT&T Stage: This year’s Lollapalooza features a shockingly small amount of rap acts considering that Kanye West was a headliner last year. Since I’ll have to miss The Roots on Saturday for Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, seeing Lupe Fiasco will be my only chance to see good rap out in the sun.

3:30-4:30, Annuals, Citi Stage: Sunday is easily the most frustrating day, as the next two hours pass pretty much without anyone that I care about seeing only to square off three bands that I want to see all of at the same time around the 5:30 hour (Yo La Tengo, Peter Bjorn and John, and !!!). What’s worse is that once the bands start to get good, all my picks are on opposite sides of the park, so I’ll be walking back and forth a lot. I’ll use the afternoon to relax before this chaos begins, and seeing these guys on the small stage sounds reasonable enough. I’ve got one of their albums as well, so I can try to prepare to enjoy myself for their innovative, melodic, circus-orchestra sound.

4:30-5:00, DINNER BREAK!

5:00-5:45, Peter Bjorn and John, Citi Stage: As mentioned before, this time frame features three bands that I would love to see, but since I’ve seen the other two before, I can’t resist devoting the majority of the time to seeing this brilliant band on the small stage. The music is so diverse that it seems impossible to explain, but the best I can attempt is to say it sounds like Simon and Garfunkel, Belle and Sebastian, My Bloody Valentine and LCD Soundsystem all rolled up into one glorious package. I’ll cut out with about ten or fifteen minutes to go unless they haven’t played “Amsterdam” yet.

5:55-6:15, Yo La Tengo, Adidas Stage: I hate to miss anything from these indie-rock pioneers, but since I saw them last year at Pitchfork I’ll choose to miss over half their set for what I think could be a show-stopping performance from Peter Bjorn and John. I’ll be able to force myself to catch at least the last twenty minutes or so since I need to be on this side for the next show. These guys have so many good songs that I’ll surely be satisfied, and they continued to show their musical evolution with last year’s spectacular I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass.

6:15-7:10, Modest Mouse, Bud Light Stage: My Morning Jacket is slotted at the same time on the other side which is unfortunate because they put on a terrific show, but since I saw them last year I’ll opt for these emo crazies! I hear mixed reviews about their performances live, although I can’t imagine I’ll be disappointed with a catalog boasting the likes of the ground-breaking The Moon and Antarctica, not to mention this year’s stellar, upbeat We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank. Of course, “Float On”, the summer anthem of 2004, can’t be overlooked either. I’m not really willing to miss any of this set, but I’ll probably have to start sprinting across the park at about 7:10 in order to prevent missing any of the next act’s unfortunately shortened set…

7:15-8:00, TV on the Radio, MySpace Stage: The only good news about this performance being on this side of the park is that I’ll be over here already for Pearl Jam, which is likely to get crowded despite the fact that everyone and their mother has already seen them about a dozen times. Anyway, I can’t wait to see TV on the Radio, and I’ll probably be out of breath if I succeed in getting there on time to see their opening song. Last year’s Return to Cookie Mountain was my favorite album of 2006, and this band’s post-modern pop innovation is generally dazzling across the board.

8:00-10:00, Pearl Jam, AT&T Stage: I have to admit, I’m kind of over Pearl Jam. I’ve seen them three times in my life and they haven’t really released a great album this decade, although Binaural and Riot Act weren’t too shabby in their own right. But the fact of the matter is, Pearl Jam are pop icons with so many classic songs and with such great stage presence that I can’t help but get excited to see them yet again. It’s been awhile, after all!

10 days to go!

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