Lollapalooza 2008 Preview

Having fully recovered from the Pitchfork Festival over the past two weeks, I am now ready to fully dive into another long weekend of music. It’s Lollapalooza time, and while this festival has a much different feel than the aforementioned one, I can’t think of any better way to spend my first weekend of August.

Aside from one obvious exception, I must admit that I was disappointed with the overall lineup this year. Many of these bands have played here before, including some of the headliners, and some of the currently hot acts that I’ve never seen and was hoping to see here either didn’t get the invite or couldn’t accept it (think Arcade Fire, Sigur Ros, Annie, The Notwist, Hot Chip, Portishead and Wolf Parade just to name a few). Nevertheless, the promoters can’t get everyone, and the lineup is solid for the most part despite the fact that I’ve seen almost all of them already. Still, seeing Radiohead in my backyard is worth the price of admission in and of itself, and I can certainly find ways to entertain myself around them. What follows is my all-important game plan, with running shoes on. Here we go:

FRIDAY:

2:15-3:15: The Go! Team (Bud Light Stage)- I’ve seen them twice already and haven’t really familiarized myself with their newest album Proof of Youth due to the generally negative reviews, but these guys always bring it live with their energetic, sampled dance pop. Lead singer Ninja should put on quite a show.

3:15-4:15: Duffy (Playstation 3 Stage)- She’s the newest of the European soul rockers, and appears to have herself together in better fashion than Amy Winehouse, though that isn’t saying much. She’s the winner of the equivalent of American Idol in her native Wales, and on her debut album Rockferry has soundly demonstrated her pipes. I’m anxious to see if she can reproduce it live.

4:15-5:15: Black Keys (Bud Light Stage)- I actually find these guys to be pretty mundane, but don’t really feel like walking all the way to the other side of the part for Gogol Bordello only to walk right back. I’m planning to give these guys another chance unless somebody can talk me out if it.

5:15-6:15: Cat Power (Playstation 3 Stage)- Her performance at last year’s Pitchfork Festival left a lot to be desired, but she had a tough act to follow (Clipse’s spectacular and riveting rap set). She’s in a better spot here and should improve upon that performance with her soulful, heartfelt, at times whiny but ultimately beautiful piano pop.

5:45-6:45: Grizzly Bear (Citi Stage)- I’ll have to leave halfway through the Cat Power set to make sure I catch some of these guys and their harmonic, experimental indie rock.

6:15-7:15: Bloc Party (AT&T Stage)- One of the few bands near the top of my list of “never seen befores” to make the lineup, this will be one of the highlights of the festival for me. Their tight, intense, almost dancey Brit-rock earned their debut Silent Alarm Album of the Year honors from me in 2005.

7:15-8:00: Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks (MySpace Stage)– Ironically, the only time I’ve ever seen Radiohead live before, this was the opener. How fitting then that I’ll be watching them again as I grab another bottle of wine and push my way forward towards the adjacent stage? It’s decent music, although it’s a shame Malkmus never plays any Pavement stuff anymore.

8:00-10:00: Radiohead (AT&T Stage)- Aaah, bliss. Hopefully this needs no further explanation. Suffice to say that if they weren’t at Lolla, I wouldn’t be either.

SATURDAY

12:30-1:30: Does it Offend You, Yeah? (Bud Light Stage)- Somewhat of a watered down Bloc Party, but probably worth getting out of bed for. Both days have weak early day schedules for the first time I can remember, although Sunday is far worse.

1:45-2:30: Innerpartysystem (BMI Stage)- I’ve never heard a note of music from this band, but apparently it is electronica, which should be a nice change of pace. Word on the street is that they are a sleeper.

2:30-3:30: The Gutter Twins (AT&T Stage)– The former lead singers of Screaming Trees and Afgan Whigs combined to form this duo, who create dark, atmospheric indie rock that may or may not play well in the mid-day sun. I’m willing to make the walk over to find out.

3:30-4:30: MGMT (MySpace Stage)- Since I’m already on this side of the park, I’ll check out the psychedelic pop of MGMT instead of DeVotchka. I know nothing about either, but this band sounds a tad more interesting and seems to be gaining momentum from those who are in-the-know.

4:30-5:30: Explosions In The Sky (Bud Light Stage)– This should be the perfect mid-afternoon segway, as long instrumental epics dominate this band’s style. I’ve heard them described as “Sigur Ros light”. Post-rocky instrumentals should provide some relaxation before the heavy hitters play.

5:30-6:30: Okkervil River (Playstation 3 Stage)- This is another band I’ve been wanting to see since last year’s impressive The Stage Names. Heartfelt, lyrically sound indie rock dominates the catalog and should sound great as the sun begins to wind down on Lollapalooza.

6:30-7:30: Broken Social Scene (Bud Light Stage)- Considering the diabolical decision of the promoters to schedule Broken Social Scene, Lupe Fiasco AND Battles all in this slot, there should be someone for everyone at 6:30 on Saturday. I can deal with missing Lupe, but choosing between what likely will be the day’s two best sets is a very unfortunate scheduling debacle. I ended up going with Broken Social Scene, who have a deeper catalog than Battles and who I haven’t seen as recently. You can’t really go wrong in this slot with anyone, but for my money, BSS is just too good to miss for any band…besides Radiohead, of course.

7:30-8:30: Toadies (MySpace Stage)- This late addition adds intrigue and diversity to the Saturday lineup, and I’ll be sprinting across the park after Social Scene to catch as much of these old alternative rockers as I can. Rubberneck was one of the first alternative albums that I ever bought, and I’m hoping they play a good chunk of material from that one.

8:30-10:00: Wilco (Bud Light Stage)- A solid live act to be sure and the better pick over has-beens Rage Against The Machine in my opinion. Their last two albums haven’t had quite the same magic of their first three, but Wilco always rocks in a live setting with all of their deepening catalog of slightly rural alt-rock.

SUNDAY:

Black Kids: 3:30-4:30 (Citi Stage)- I’m going to go ahead and catch up on my sleep on the final day of the fest before heading out for this set. Black Kids are somewhat of an enigma, as Pitchfork loved last year’s Wizard of Aaahs EP but hated their debut full-length which contained many of the same songs. The music is basically upbeat indie rock and has been the subject of considerable hype. I’ll see for myself.

4:15-5:15: Iron and Wine (Bud Light Stage)- The last time I saw Iron and Wine, I was so relaxed by the music that I actually fell asleep. And anyone who knows me knows that it is virtually impossible for me to fall asleep in a public place or anywhere that isn’t silent and dark for that matter. I’m planning to stay standing and awake this time for these soft, lo-fi acoustic ballads.

5:15-6:15: Flogging Molly (Playstation 3 Stage)- This is a disappointing slot, especially considering the aforementioned dilemma on Saturday. I’ll already be on this side of the park so I might as well check out some Irish punk rock I suppose. If I can’t take it, I may wander over to the new Perry’s lounge and check out Franki Chan.

6:30-7:30: Girl Talk (Citi Stage)- An interesting choice of scheduling, as this mash-up artist certainly gets the party going and might have made more sense playing on Friday. In any event, I’ll swing over for a bit of the action before I have to head back the other way.

7:15-8:15: The National (Playstation 3 Stage)- I just saw them open for R.E.M. and have fallen even more in love with last year’s amazing Boxer since. I can’t wait to see what they are capable of in a festival atmosphere. The lead singer’s incredibly deep baritone voice adds to the dark city street feeling of the music.

8:15-10:00: Nine Inch Nails (Bud Light Stage)- Amazingly, I’m not very familiar with their music, but feel like I have to check out at least some of this set simply due to their wide influence, especially since I’ll already be on this side of the park. Should be scary is all I know.

8:30-10:00: Kanye West (AT&T Stage)- To me, this is the epidomy of a disappointing headliner simply because he was here two years ago headlining on the same stage. The good news is that he’ll be in his hometown and always puts on a show for his fans. He’s been arguably the most important rapper of the past half decade, so I can’t really complain, and catching the last half of this set should be a great way to close out the festival.

So that’s my plan. Festival-goers, enjoy yourselves and remember that it’s about a mile from one side of the park to the other. If you’re dead set on seeing two bands playing at the same time, you’re looking at about a 15 minute walk while both sets are going on. This can be frustrating for some, but if it’s worth it to see the last third of a particular set, it’s doable.

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