Lollapalooza's promoters are fond of the mantra that the giant music festival, which descends upon Grant Park for its fourth year Friday through Sunday, is a tremendous bargain: "130 bands--a dollar a band," they chant for anyone who'll listen.
In fact, those numbers are a little squirrelly.
This year, there are 139 scheduled performances on eight stages, but if you eliminate the acts that are playing more than once, there really are only 124 bands. With the early-bird special-price tickets long since sold-out, the cost is now $205 for a three-day pass--more like $1.65 per band. But the new math doesn't stop there.
The schedule at the fest and the geography of Chicago's gorgeous lakefront park are such that you can only realistically see about seven to ten bands a day--unless you think that catching a mere 10 or 15 minutes of a 45-minute set qualifies as "seeing" the band, and you don't mind spending most of the day running back and forth the 9/10ths of a mile from one end of the park to the other.
At a generous 10 bands a day, Lollapalooza's ticket price is more like $6.83 per act--which is still a heck of a bargain in these ever-tightening times; you can't see "The Dark Knight" for that price, much less buy popcorn. But the key to really getting your money's worth at the festival--not to mention fending off heat stroke and exhaustion while trying to see everything and winding up seeing hardly anything--is to study the schedule and the map in advance and head to the park with a solid plan.
Oh, about that map: As in the past, Austin, TX-based Promoters C3 Presents have sold corporate naming rights to just about every square inch of Grant Park. They may dismiss the good, old-fashioned Chicago street map, but it remains the most sensible guide, so I've listed the locations of the stages geographically from north to south as follows: Butler Field North at E. Monroe Drive (the Bud Light Stage); the Petrillo Music Shell in Butler Field South (the PlayStation 3 Stage); E. Jackson Drive at Lakeshore Drive (Lollapalooza figurehead Perry Farrell's stage); Lakeshore Drive north of Buckingham Fountain (the BMI Stage); the Kidz Stage, Lakeshore Drive south of Buckingham Fountain; E. Balbo Drive at Lakeshore Drive (the Citi Stage); Hutchinson Field North at E. Balbo Drive (the MySpace Stage) and Hutchinson Field South at E. Roosevelt Rd. (the AT&T Stage).
With so much music happening spread over such a large space, it's possible for 10 people to have 10 completely different festival experiences. My must-sees for the weekend and my own plan for making the most of Lollapalooza 2008 follow, but I'd love to read alternate suggestions in the comments section below. And once the fest is underway, I'll be posting here live from Grant Park as often as possible.
FRIDAY, AUGUST 1
Black Lips, Butler Field North, 12:15-1:15
With their self-titled debut on Bomp! Records (2003) and their 2007 album "Good Bad Not Evil" on New York's hipster Vice label, the Black Lips have emerged as proud inheritors of the raucous garage-rock sound pioneered by the Seeds, the band that gave us the immortal "Pushin' Too Hard." At the same time, the Georgia quartet's relentlessly high-energy gigs--which have been known to include vomiting, urination, spontaneous nudity, fireworks and other forms of drunken debauchery--have marked it as a band that has to be seen to be believed.
My 2007 profile of the Black Lips can be found here.
The Go! Team, Butler Field North, 2:15-3:15
Yeasayer, Hutchinson Field South, 2:15-3:15
Here's the first tough choice of the weekend: England's high-energy indie-pop heroes the Go! Team are still legendary in Chicago for their performance at Union Park a few years ago, and the group released a strong second album last year with "Proof of Youth." Meanwhile, though I'm not a huge fan of Brooklyn shoegazers Yeasayer's "All Hour Cymbals" (2007), the group did wow me with its set at the South by Southwest Music Festival last March, playing a swirling, melodic and hypnotizing brand of psychedelic rock liberally laced with exotic world rhythms. With luck--and a long walk in between--I should be able to catch a third of each set.
Gogol Bordello, Hutchinson Field South, 4:15-5:15
Friday afternoon offers slim pickings across the board, except for this genre-defying, formerly Ukraine-, now New York-based punk/gypsy/cabaret act, justifiably renowned for its over-the-top stage shows. This is exactly the sort of act that would have been at home at the old traveling Lollapalooza in the '90s, and Farrell wishes he was still as cool as frontman Eugene Hutz.
The Raconteurs, Butler Field North, 6:15-7:45
A huge fan of "Broken Boy Soldiers," the 2006 debut by the moonlighting Jack White's supergroup with power-pop hero Brendan Benson, I was seriously disappointed by this year's follow-up, "Consolers of the Lonely." I'm hoping the band redeems itself in concert--and leaves the classic-rock bombast and pointless art-rock decoration at home.
My review of "Consolers of the Lonley" can be found here.
The Cool Kids, Lakeshore Drive north of the fountain, 7-8 p.m.
If the Raconteurs let me down, the best motivation from beginning the hike south toward the evening's headliners will be a stop in the center of the park to see this unapologetically old-school, much-buzzed Chicago hip-hop duo. And you never know what other local heroes could pop in during their set.
Radiohead, Hutchinson Field South, 8-10 p.m.
The long-running British art-rockers are finally playing Chicago for the first time in support of their seventh album "In Rainbows" (2007), which was notable for some of the band's most soulful yet innovative sounds as it was for its revolutionary "pay what you think it's worth" digital download release. The biggest irony here: The outspokenly leftist musicians, dedicated opponents of globalization and advocates of Net neutrality, are performing on the stage sponsored by the telecom giant that censored Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder during its Blue Room broadcast when he spoke out against President Bush last year. (The Blue Room is once again streaming much of Lollapalooza live.) It will be interesting to hear what if anything Thom Yorke has to say about all of this.
My review of "In Rainbows" is posted here. The Daily Swarm has an article about AT&T's Blue Room here, and the Chicago Tribune also addresses the potential clash between Radiohead and the corporate sponsorships here.
The rest of Friday's lineup: Butler Field North: The Black Keys, 4:15-5:15.
Petrillo Music Shell, Butler Field South: K'NAAN, 11:30-12:15; Butch Walker, 1:15-2:15; Duffy, 3:15-4:15; Cat Power, 5:15-6:15.
Perry's Stage, E. Jackson Drive at Lakeshore Drive: Willy Joy, 12:30-1:30; Zebo, 1:30-2:30; Holy F*ck, 2:30-3:30; James Curd (Greenskeepers), 3:30-5; Million $ Mano, 5-6; VHS or BETA (DJ Set), 6-8.
Lakeshore Drive north of the fountain: We Go To 11, 11:15-11:45; Magic Wands, 12:15-1; the Parlor Mob, 1:30-2:15; Electric Touch, 2:45-3:30; Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears, 4-4:45; Your Vegas, 5:15-6; Cadence Weapon, 6:15-7.
Kidz Stage, Lakeshore Drive south of the fountain: Suzy Brack and the New Jack Lords, 11:30-12; Paul Green's School of Rock All-Stars, 12:15-12:45; the Dream Jam Band, 1-1:30; the Terrible Two's, 2-2:30; Jeff Tweedy, 2:30-3; Rogue Wave, 3-3:30; Tiny Masters of Today, 3:30-4.
E. Balbo Drive at Lakeshore Drive: Last Band Standing, 11:15-11:45; Sofia Talvik, 12-12:30; Manchester Orchestra, 1-1:45; the Enemy UK, 2:15-3; Louis XIV, 3:15-4; Free Sol, 4:30-5:15; Grizzly Bear, 5:45-6:30; CSS, 7-8.
Hutchinson Field Nouth: Bang Camaro, 11:30-12:15; Rogue Wave, 1:15-2:15; the Kills, 3:15-4:15; Mates of State, 5:15-6:15; Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks, 7:15-8.
Hutchinson Field South: Holy F*ck, 12:15-1:15; Bloc Party 6:15-7:15.
SATURDAY, AUGUST 2
The Ting Tings, Hutchinson Field South, 12:45-1:30
This extremely danceable indie-pop band from Manchester scored a big hit with its first single, last year's "That's Not My Name," and it finally released its first full album "We Started Nothing" last spring. The group should provide a sugary, high-energy kick to start Day Two off right.
The Gutter Twins, Hutchinson Field South, 2:30-3:30
There's something wrong about seeing Mark Lanegan, formerly the vocalist of the Screaming Trees, and Greg Dulli, formerly the vocalist of the Afghan Whigs performing together in the full light of day: These are two of alternative rock's most legendary denizens of the dark side. But it would be even more wrong to think of missing them.
MGMT, Hutchinson Field North, 3:30-4:30
Though I'm dubious of the hype--reviews of the group's performance at SXSW were mixed--the buzz continues on Ben Goldwasser and Andrew Van Wyngarden's fizzy electro-pop, and Lollapalooza has given them a prime showcase to strut their stuff.
Spank Rock, E. Balbo Drive at Lakeshore Drive, 5-6
Heroes in the red-hot Baltimore club scene, MC Naeem Juwan and producer XXXchange should keep the beats and your blood pumping hard through another otherwise sleepy late-afternoon stretch.
Lupe Fiasco, Hutchinson Field South, 6:30-7:30
Broken Social Scene, Butler Field North, 6:30-7:30
Difficult decision #2: Whether to support hometown hero Lupe, who hasn't really played the high-profile show warranted by his stellar second album "The Cool," or indulge in the powerful pop charms of Toronto's Broken Social Scene. With luck--and another 15-minute walk--it ought to be possible to catch the first third of the former and the last third of the latter, then be in position for my choice of Day Two's headliners.
My 2007 profile of Lupe Fiasco is posted here.
Wilco, Butler Field North, 8:30-10
As powerful as Rage Against the Machine's once unique rap-rock was in the '90s, and as inspiring as Libertyville's Tom Morello will always be as a guitarist and activist, the reunited group is essentially a nostalgia act in 2008, while Wilco continues to be one of the most vital rock bands in the U.S. today, always rising to the challenge of such a high-profile gig--and, if the rumors can be believed, quite possibly bringing Sen. Barack Obama onstage to address the crowd. That's newsworthy enough to make me skip Rage (performing at exactly the same time at the other end of the park)--though it's sad to think that a contender for President of the United States might appear on a platform named for a light beer soon to be owned by a company from Belgium.
The rest of Saturday's lineup: Butler Field North: Does It Offend You, Yeah?, 12:30-1:30; Dierks Bentley, 2:30-3:30; Explosions in the Sky, 4:30-5:30.
Petrillo Music Shell, Butler Field South:: De Novo Dahl, 11:45-12:30; Mason Jennings, 1:30-2:30; DeVotchKa, 3:30-4:30; Okkervil River, 5:30-6:30; Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, 7:30-8:30.
Perry's Stage, E. Jackson Drive at Lakeshore Drive: Dani Deahl, 12-1; Devlin & Darko, 1-2:30; Dash Mihok, 2:30-3:30; Perry Farrell and special guest, 3:30-5; Does It Offend You, Yeah? (DJ set), 5-6; DJ AM, 6-8; DJ Momjeans a.k.a. Danny Masterson, 8-10.
Lakeshore Drive north of the fountain: Krista, 11:15-12; the Postelles, 12:30-1:15; Innerpartysystem, 1:45-2:30; Steel Train, 3-3:45; Serena Ryder, 4:15-5; DJ Bald Eagle, 5:15-6; Uffie, 6-7.
Kidz Stage, Lakeshore Drive south of the fountain: The Dream Jam Band, 11:30-12; Tiny Masters of Today, 12:15-12:45; the Jimmies, 1:15-1:45; the Terrible Two's, 2:15-2:45; special guest, 3-3:30; Homemade Jamz' Blues Band, 3:30-4.
E. Balbo Drive at Lakeshore Drive: Witchcraft, 12-12:30; Ferras, 1-1:45; Foals, 2:15-3; Booka Shade, 3:30-4:30; Battles, 6:30-7:30.
Hutchinson Field North: Last Band Standing, 11:30-12; Margot & the Nuclear So and So's, 12:15-12:45; Dr. Dog, 1:30-2:30; Jamie Lidell, 5:30-6:30; Toadies, 7:30-8:30.
Hutchinson Field South: Brand New, 4:30-5:30.
SUNDAY, AUGUST 3
Kid Sister, Hutchinson Field South, 12:15-1:15
Chicago's Melissa Young is, plain and simple, magnetic on the mike, and her forthcoming Downtown Records debut is one of the most anticipated hip-hop releases of 2008. See her here and you'll be able to say you saw her when.
Black Kids, E. Balbo Drive at Lakeshore Drive, 3:30-4:30
Though their new album "Partie Tramatic" has just been dissed in a big way by their former champions at the Pitchfork Webzine, which bestowed a coveted 8.4 on the 2007 EP "Wizard of Ahhhs," that only makes me want to see the Jacksonville, FL, indie-pop band more--well, that and the fact that Lollapalooza is once again suffering a serious mid-afternoon lull. (Do the promoters just assume everyone drops off for a siesta? Wouldn't it have been nice to spread some of those competing headliners out during these off hours?)
Coverage of Pitchfork's turnaround on Black Kids is here.
Saul Williams, E. Balbo Drive at Lakeshore Drive, 5-6
Absolutely incendiary onstage, poet, rapper and activist Saul Williams deserves a much larger audience for his brilliant concept album "The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of NiggyTardust!"--and it's just possible that his friend and producer Trent Reznor will show up during this set to help make that happen. If he does, that will make missing Nine Inch Nails' set later on a little easier to take.
My interview with Saul Williams can be found here.
Gnarls Barkley, Hutchinson Field South, 6:15-7:15
Having proven that their collaboration is much more than a crazy one-hit wonder, thanks to the strong second album "The Odd Couple," DJ Danger Mouse and Cee-Lo Green are sure to attempt to raise the ante on their last memorable Lollapalooza appearance, which means wilder, crazier costumes, stronger hooks and even more irresistible grooves.
My review of "The Odd Couple" is posted here.
Mark Ronson, Hutchinson Field North, 7:15-8:30
After Danger Mouse, this English turntablist is one of the most innovative and diverse producers on the current music scene, with a resume that ranges from Nas and Chicago's Rhymefest to Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen. He should be the perfect warm-up act for...
Kanye West, Hutchinson Field South, 8:30-10
Hey may be unceasingly egotistical and occasionally annoying, but Chicago's own hip-hop superstar raised the bar to a whole new level for live hip-hop with his Glow in the Dark Tour, which I was sorry to miss thanks to the distraction of the R. Kelly child pornography trial. Because of that, I've gotta go with 'Ye over Nine Inch Nails, headlining at the other end of the park at Butler Field North at almost exactly the same time (8:15-10), even though Reznor always delivers an intense live experience, and he's in the midst of the most fruitful period of his recording career since "The Downward Spiral."
The rest of Sunday's lineup: Butler Field North: White Lies, 12:30-1:15; John Butler Trio, 2:15-3:15; Iron & Wine, 4:15-5:15; Love and Rockets, 6:15-7:15.
Petrillo Music Shell, Butler Field South: Office, 11:30-12:30; the Weakerthans, 1:15-2:15; Amadou & Mariam, 3:15-4:15; Flogging Molly, 5:15-6:15; the National, 7:15-8:15.
Perry's Stage, E. Jackson Drive at Lakeshore Drive: The Glamour, 11:45-12:45; Small Town DJ's, 12:45-1:45; E-Six & Roan, 1:45-3:15; DJ Mel, 3:15-4:15; Franki Chan, 4:15-6:15; Flosstradamus, 6:15-8:15.
Lakeshore Drive north of the fountain: Ha Ha Tonka, 11:15-12; Wild Sweet Orange, 12:30-1:15; Tally Hall, 1:45-2:30; Newton Faulkner, 3-3:45; Eli "Paperboy" Reed & the True Loves, 4:15-5.
Kidz Stage, Lakeshore Drive south of the fountain: Q Brothers, 11:30-12; John Butler Trio, 12-12:30; Homemade Jamz' Blues Band, 12:30-1; the Jimmies, 1:30-2; G. Love & Special Sauce, 2-2:30; Peter DiStefano & Tor, 2:45-3:15; Perry Farrell, 3:15-3:30; Paul Green's School of Rock All-Stars, 3:30-4.
E. Balbo Drive at Lakeshore Drive: The Blakes, 12-12:30; What Made Milwaukee Famous, 1-1:45; Nicole Atkins & the Sea, 2:15-3; Girl Talk, 6:30-7:30.
Hutchinson Field North: The Octopus Project, 11:30-12:15; the Whigs, 1:15-2:15; Chromeo, 3:15-4:15; Blues Traveler, 5:15-6:15.
Hutchinson Field South: Brazilian Girls, 2:15-3:15; G. Love & Special Sauce, 4:15-5:15.
11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday to Sunday
Tickets $80 per day or $205 for a three-day pass via www.lollapalooza.com