Chrissie Hynde (from left), the Verve Pipe and former Live singer Ed Kowalczyk.
Are you excited to see Chrissie Hynde's new side project at Lollapalooza?
If you weren't yet aware that the Pretenders leader is on this year's schedule, it's OK. She's performing -- as JP, Chrissie & the Fairground Boys -- on the kids' stage.
Once again, adults -- with or without children -- might want to pay attention to the lineup on the Kidzapalooza side stage at this year's three-day annual rock festival in Grant Park. Hynde is there and only there. So are veteran '90s alt-rock acts like Thenewno2, the Verve Pipe and Ed Kowalczyk from Live.
"The kids need acoustic rock!" Kowalczyk said by phone recently. He's flying all the way to Chicago just for a 15-minute set on the Kidzapalooza stage at 3:45 p.m. Friday. "I'll be asking my daughters -- they're 6 and 8 -- 'What can Dad do to make it rock?' I also have a song called 'Heaven,' which I wrote for one of them. That'll work quite well."
The Verve Pipe ("The Freshman," anyone?) recently reunited for the band's first CD since 1999. It's a children's record, "A Family Album," a project that started when singer Brian Vander Ark and drummer-lyricist Donny Brown were asked to contribute a kids' song to a charity album.
"Doing that one song was so much fun to not have the pressure of following trends, and being able to use any instrumentation we wanted -- and to write really silly lyrics," Vander Ark said in an interview from his Michigan home.
Brown added: "I was thrilled to discover I can write a rock song about breakfast cereal. I just started writing -- 'I love my cereal' -- and putting these big, ballsy rock chords on it, and chuckling, 'Hey, this is working!'
"What the band was in the '90s, with a song like 'The Freshman,' and what we are today -- to go into a studio now and try to speak to teens, it would ring so false. All that angst-ridden, I-hate-my-dad stuff -- we can't do that. I am a dad."
Do they feel sheepish about coming to Lollapalooza only to play the kiddie stage?
"Man, Chrissie Hynde is going to be there!" was Brown's answer.
The Verve Pipe plays Kidzapalooza at 2:30 p.m. Saturday and 4:30 p.m. Sunday. JP, Chrissie and the Fairground Boys have a 20-minute set at 4:15 p.m. Saturday.
Flea has graced this stage. So has Slash, Wilco's Jeff Tweedy, Band of Horses. Patti Smith has played Kidzapalooza. Twice.
"What has changed over the years of doing this," said Kidzapalooza director Tor Hyams, "is that both Perry [Farrell, Lollapalooza founder] and I have been preaching for a while about how we feel Kidzapalooza really embraces the independent spirit of the original Lollapalooza, and now people are starting to believe it.
"The whole way I pitched this years ago was, hey, I'm a modern parent and I want to still go to the show and be cool with my child. We thought so many kids' activities were stupid, but if we could get some of these rockers to come out and hang with the kids, that would be fun. If Chrissie Hynde wanted to play the main stage, I'm sure she could have. But I heard she was interested in this stage, and I said, 'Right this way.'"
Gone are the days, after all, when rock 'n' roll was a dividing line between old and young. Kids learn about Led Zeppelin today by listening to it with their parents. New parents, meanwhile, are sometimes cranking the Hold Steady, all the while shouting at the kids to hold still.
"Led Zeppelin, Hendrix, the Beatles, all the classic rock stuff is just pop music now," Hyams said. "Sure, it was subversive in its day, in context, and there was definitely a divide between kid and parents drawn right along these lines. But now we're a generation of parents that refuses to have a divide, or at least that one. If there is one, it's Hannah Montana. I started to feel old when that came along, and my daughters are out of that phase, and thank God. That's the one thing that literally caused me to say one day, 'I don't get the music kids listen to nowadays.'
"But everything eventually makes the transition. Even Metallica's a pop band now, if you think about it, and they were once the most hard-edge bad asses there were. My daughter was singing Nirvana's 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' the other day. She'd heard it on a kids-oriented pop channel. The gap is closing, and Kidzapalooza is pulling it tight."