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Tuning in with Thomas Conner

August 2012 Archives

Concertline: North Coast Music Festival and more

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A look ahead at shows worth seeing (and hearing) this week ...

NORTH COAST MUSIC FESTIVAL
The North Coast Music Festival returns to Union Park, scheduled the way a three-day festival should be -- with no work on Monday. The free-wheeling event jumbles jam bands, hip-hop and EDM into one smiley bundle, with this year's highlight acts including Yelawolf, STS9, Paul Oakenfold, Girl Talk, Atmosphere, the Rebirth Brass Band, Pretty Lights and Big Boi. Great local artists are on board, too, like jam titans Umphrey's McGee as well as Future Rock, Family Groove Company, the supergroup Digital Tape Machine and Van Ghost, which features North Coast co-promoter Michael Harrison Berg. Each night features a Lolla-like round of after-shows, too.
Music runs 1-10 p.m. Aug. 31-Sept. 2 in Union Park, 1501 W. Randolph. Tickets: Single-day tickets remain for Friday ($50), Saturday ($55) and Sunday ($60); regular three-day passes are sold-out, but VIP passes ($350) remain. Complete information at northcoastfestival.com.

Karl01a_20120430_171603.jpgThe title of the first song on World Party's newest batch of recordings -- "Arkeology," a five-disc, closet-cleaning retrospective, just left of a traditional box set -- is a massive understatement for the project's central figure, singer-songwriter Karl Wallinger.

"Waiting Such a Long Long Time" finds Wallinger singing, in his world-weary voice over a party-pop guitar jangle, "I don't even know what I want anymore."

Which isn't really true. Not anymore.

"What I've been through, it's made me feel that all the stuff we worry about is not worth worrying about," Wallinger told the Sun-Times in a recent interview. "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. It's very true. In my case, it's made me fatter. I had to be stronger to carry it all."

What he's been through is a virtual decade-plus absence from music following a brain aneurysm in 2000.

Exhibit hints at how John Cage's ideas impacted rock

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2012 is the centenary for two seminal figures in American music: folksinger Woody Guthrie and composer John Cage, both born in 1912.

They had a few things in common, believe it or not. Both were bold pioneers of their respective genres. Both dabbled in Eastern mysticism (well, Guthrie dabbled, Cage dove in). Both fell in love with dancers the second time around (Guthrie married Marjorie Greenblatt from the Martha Stewart company, Cage partnered with Merce Cunningham).

They probably never met, but Guthrie is on record as being deeply affected by some of Cage's groundbreaking, boundary-busting classical music. On July 10, 1947 -- the day his wife, Marjorie, gave birth to his son Arlo -- Guthrie wrote a fan letter to the Disc Co. of America. He'd been listening to Maro Ajemian's recording of the "prepared piano" solos (in which piano strings are augmented with screws, cards and more) from Cage's "Amores," and Guthrie declared that "this sort of piano music was really a keen fresh breeze ... a welcome thing in the way of a healthy change from the old ways."

Guthrie and Cage strived (and sometimes starved) in the service of that goal -- to freshen the stale ways of each particular niche in which they found themselves.

City Winery, Lindsey Buckingham highlight both sides

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There are two ways of looking at Chicago's new West Loop restaurant and music venue, City Winery, just as there are two ways of looking at the fact that Fleetwood Mac's Lindsey Buckingham performed there this week.

City Winery is a swank, Sonoma-esque spot, all open air and exposed blond brick, with bottles and casks and tanks of wine in nearly every sight line. A series of connected spaces -- restaurant, bar, patio and the 300-seat listening room -- it buzzes with attentive staff and golf-shirted suburbanites. The tony décor and upscale menu (including dozens of superb wines on tap) intend to align themselves with similarly upscale artistry on stage, with upcoming singer-songwritery bookings building on the venue's original New York acclaim (below).

Which means it's easy to walk around the place and say, "Jeez, this place isn't very Chicago." And just as easy to exclaim, "Wow, it's like I'm not even in Chicago!"

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(AP)


Three members of the Russian band Pussy Riot are now in jail for their church-crashing protest against the country's re-installed president, Vladimir Putin.

Pussy Riot, however, is a sprawling performance art collective with nearly a dozen members. British newspapers this week reported that Russian police are hunting for some of those other members who may have been involved in the group's February "punk prayer" demonstration at Moscow's national cathedral.

But while the identity is now publicly known of the three members convicted of "hooliganism" (as all good rock bands should be, mind you), the others remain a mystery.

That's because Pussy Riot performs wearing balaclavas (ski masks) in an effort to remain anonymous -- a wise logistical choice (see: Russian police are hunting them, above) but also, for many musicians, a carefully considered political or artistic statement.

The result, in addition to worldwide outcry, has been that as Pussy Piot's story percolated into the mainstream media we've been talking not about the usual musician celebrity trifles -- we've not even really talked about their music -- we've instead been talking about their actual message.

Here are eight other artists who've taken to concealing their identity in order to focus attention on their music and/or message ...

Concertline: Lindsey Buckingham, Archers of Loaf, more

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A look ahead at shows worth seeing (and hearing) this week ...

ARCHERS OF LOAF
As reissues of their '90s gems keep rolling out, the beautifully noisy alt-rock band Archers of Loaf continues a full-scale tour that began last year with their reunion for festival gigs. Back together after 13 years, Eric Bachmann and the band are still pealing unvarnished licks and working through thoughtful, skeptical lyrics. (When this wraps up, Bachmann will be back with his folk-rock project Crooked Fingers, Nov. 7-8 at Schubas.)
Metz opens at 9:30 p.m. Aug. 24 at the Bottom Lounge, 1375 W. Lake. Tickets: $22. Call (312) 666-6775; bottomlounge.com.

LINDSEY BUCKINGHAM
Fleetwood Mac is making noise about another reunion next year, and another new indie-rock tribute album to the '70s supergroup is out now. Meanwhile, the band's creative center and superfluously talented guitarist keeps making the rounds, playing some of the Mac hits in among his own intricate, edgy solo material. He rarely misses the opportunity to leave your jaw dangling. Bonus: It's one of the first shows at this swank, new West Loop venue.
At 8 p.m. Aug. 26-27 at City Winery, 1200 W. Randolph. Tickets: $80-100. Call (312) 733-WINE; citywinery.com/chicago.

Gotye: tomorrow's somebody that we used to know?

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Since the beginning of 2012, a mere three songs have dominated -- and, in each case, stubbornly held onto -- the No. 1 slot on Billboard's singles chart: fun.'s "We Are Young," Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" and Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know."

Each has proven polarizing, courting slightly more fervent fans than hardcore haters, but only the first two really sound like Billboard hits. The omnipresent fun. song, which has saturated nearly every music platform now available, twists alt-rock rumble and twee-pop sparkle into an anthemic Twizzler of cynicism and revelry. Jepsen's faux-innocent Debbie Gibson revival somehow managed to escape Rebecca Black's injurious fate and even wound up knighted by the U.S. Olympic swim team.

But Gotye's delicate, wolf-in-woolen-melody tune is different.

The Dukes of September, a little early

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Dukes_of_Sept_photo2012tour.jpgYou may think you've never heard of the Dukes of September, but you have.

The trio of Donald Fagen (Steely Dan), Michael McDonald (Doobie Brothers) and Boz Scaggs has dozens of '70s-era pop hits between them. Touring for a second time, after a successful inaugural go-round in 2010, the trio's run through their own catalogs as well as the heritage pop, rock and R&B songs that so inspired them hearkens back to a similarly programmed concert series led by Fagen in the early '90s called the New York Rock & Soul Revue.

The Dukes, though, have many more cities -- including Chicago -- on their minds.

Can't get enough of 'Hot Cheetos and Takis'

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More than a week ago, my Sun-Times colleague Mary Mitchell rightly lamented the lack of outcry over a viral video by Lil Mouse, a 13-year-old South Side rapper shown cursing, posing with guns and celebrating drugs.

This week, however, the Internet has been transfixed by a group of Minneapolis rappers -- most of them much younger -- and their own viral hip-hop video. Nobody here pretending to be a cynical, criminal adult. On the contrary, this video brims with youthful glee and celebrates the simple joy of a particularly lip-smackin' snack food combination.

Click. Watch. We'll talk ...

Power pop re-soled for new Shoes, 'Ignition'

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It's been a banner year for power pop revivals. We've gotten new discs from Winston-Salem, N.C.'s the dB's (first with the original lineup in 30 years), Hawthorne, Calif.'s Redd Kross (first new material in 15 years) and now Zion, Ill.'s acclaimed Shoes -- back with "Ignition," out now 3<br />
and a half stars, the first new album since 1994.

"When you go over the years and what we've been through, the delay makes sense. It just looks bad on paper," says founding Shoes member John Murphy with a chuckle. "I just saw No Doubt's together again. They haven't had a record in eight or 10 years. We just get used to the fact that these super-successful bands take forever to deliver a follow-up."

Shoes or any power pop band, really, could never be described as "super-successful." But while the core trio -- singer-guitarists Jeff Murphy and Gary Klebe, plus brother John Murphy on bass -- has never had a mass following, they always seem to be followed.

Gotye remixes his own 'Somebody' spoofs, covers

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gotyemug.JPGUPDATED: Gotye is not only aware of the hundreds of spoofs and covers of his hit song, "Somebody That I Used to Know," he's remixed them.

As he hinted to the Sun-Times in an interview last week, this weekend the Belgian-Australian singer unveiled his own YouTube response to the trend: a lengthy remix of the most musically interesting ones.

"Reluctant as I was to add to the mountain of interpretations of 'Somebody That I Used To Know' out there online," Gotye wrote on his website, "I couldn't resist the massive remixability that such a large, varied yet connected bundle of source material offered.

"

The fan-made versions of Gotye's springy single range from a straight-up klezmer version to the send-up sci-fi lament "The 'Star Wars' That I Used to Know."

"My favorite may be a solo guitarist called Mike Dawes," Gotye told the Sun-Times. "He's got these incredible, alien-like fingers all over the acoustic guitar. There's also a metal one that's pretty hilarious. Full shredding -- I loved it."

Here's Gotye's remix, plus some of the other spoofs and covers...

Music reviews: Frank Ocean, Passion Pit, thenewno2

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At Lollapalooza, fans often either show up to the band's set because they've heard the new album, or they leave the band's set eager to hear the new album.

Last weekend's Lollapalooza 2012 -- when it wasn't being rained out -- presented a handful of good performances, with many of the artists drawing from some stellar new albums. Here are three such records worth picking up or downloading now that we've all gotten the mud cleaned off:

channelO.jpgFrank Ocean, "Channel Orange" (Def Jam) 3<br />
and a half stars -- "A tornado flew around my room before you came," Frank Ocean sings by way of opening his debut album, "Channel Orange." Immediately before this album's release, Ocean certainly created a media storm with a sly online admission of his broad-minded sexuality. Many understandably suspected the move was calculated to raise the hype for his new album; indeed, the resulting buzz caused "Channel Orange" to be rush-released. Fortunately, all that fuss turned out to be irrelevant. This is an album brimming with genius and vision -- it requires no cheap tactics to sell its overall accomplishment.

Lollapalooza 2012: The index

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Sunday @ Lollapalooza: Jack White

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BY THOMAS CONNER Pop Music Critic

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(Tom Cruze/Sun-Times)


Jack White closed out this year's Lollapalooza with an epic performance of the same kind of blues-rock that inspired the festival's Friday headliner, the Black Keys. But White is more than the yin to someone else's yang, he's the whole colorful circle of modern American music -- bashing out rock, digging up roots and careening through country.

Fortunately, he brought along a band that could handle the breadth of material. In fact, he brought two.

Sunday @ Lollapalooza: Justice and Childish Gambino

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BY ANDERS SMITH LINDALL For the Sun-Times

If 2011 was the year dance music ascended to parity with other genres at Lollapalooza, this year solidified its rank. The Perry's DJ stage shed its tentlike cocooon (not without consequence, it should be noted -- sound bleed in Hutchinson Field increased exponentially) and was almost always packed. And two dance acts headlined the main stage, Avicii on Saturday and Justice Sunday.

It's safe to say the guys spinning records and making beats 30 years ago at Chicago's Warehouse nightclub never imagined a couple of French guys playing this music in Grant Park to tens of thousands of fans, but when Justice closed the festival, Butler Field was nearly filled.

Sunday @ Lollapalooza: At the Drive-In

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BY THOMAS CONNER Pop Music Critic

The other surprising reunion act at Lollapalooza doesn't have the profile of Black Sabbath but on a good day might be able to go toe-to-toe with them. For much of their Sunday evening set in Hutchinson Field, it was a good day for At the Drive-In.

The Texas quintet revived its controlled, virtuosic, "post-hardcore" thrash in a main stage set peppered with jerking guitar lines, stand-up comedy and technical glitches.

BY ANDERS SMITH LINDALL For the Sun-Times

This year's Lollapalooza offered almost no Latin music and failed to use its foothold in Chile and Brazil to book more than one act from those pop-loving countries (O Rappa performed early Friday). But a block of gigs Sunday offered the chance to see a few foreign acts whose stateside tours are infrequent.

Sunday @ Perry's: Big Gigantic, Kaskade

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BY MITCHELL HERRMANN For the Sun-Times

The saxophone is an instrument not commonly seen at Lollapalooza, especially among the DJs and producers performing at Perry's Stage. Big Gigantic distinguished themselves by adding an unconventional twist to their dubstep influenced electronic music -- live saxophone and drums.

Producer and saxophonist Dominic Lalli swayed and shook like a 1950s jazz musician, while drummer Jeremy Salken added cymbal patterns and tom fills over thunderous synthesized basslines. The group acknowledged their locationl by performing a "Chi-City" tribute track, newly created for their set at Perry's.

Sunday @ Perry's: Nadastrom

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BY MITCHELL HERRMANN For the Sun-Times

Few people are better qualified to showcase the up-and-coming style of dance music known as Moombahton than the creators of the genre themselves. American DJs Dave Nada and Matt Nordstrom combined their names and their talents to create Nadastrom, playing the bouncing, bass heavy music Nada invented nearly by accident in 2010. Moombahton is a cultural melting pot of musical influences, from Dutch House to Puerto Rican Reggaeton.

Sunday @ Lollapalooza: Sigur Ros

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BY THOMAS CONNER Pop Music Critic

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Sigur Ros performs Sunday at Lollapalooza in Grant Park. (Tom Cruze/Sun-Times)


You couldn't imagine a starker contrast between setting and style.

Here's Sigur Ros onstage at Lollapalooza. They open early with the funereal pace their hourlong set will maintain with elegant rigor throughout. Singer Jon Thor "Jonsi" Birgisson is, as always, playing his electric guitar with a bow. Eventually he begins emitting his pinched falsetto cry -- like the call of some eerie, autistic wild -- and continues the piece by singing that same cry directly into his guitar pickup. The result is an added echo, a faintly astral projected sound amid the band's chilly, lush, cinematic sound.

Before them, however, lies Hutchison Swamp.

BY THOMAS CONNER Pop Music Critic

"As Lady Gaga said when I saw her last time we played Lollapalooza [in 2010]," quipped the Walkmen's Hamilton Leithauser during the band's Sunday afternoon set at Lollapalooza, "'It's hot as f--- up here!'"

This sounds like a complaint from Friday or Saturday, when Chicago heat indexes were closer to 100, not on Lollapalooza's comparatively glorious third day -- cooler, drier, clearer.

Then again, Leithauser was on the Sony main stage, facing the direct sun -- and, just like the band's appearance in 2010, wearing a black suit.

BY ANDERS SMITH LINDALL For the Sun-Times

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The Weeknd, aka Abel Tesfaye, performs Saturday
at Lollapalooza.
(Scott Stewart/Sun-Times)


Anyone can be a pop star, fueled by inspiration that comes from anywhere - or seemingly everywhere - at once. That's the great democratic ideal of the music industry in the digital era, anyway, but to judge by Saturday evening's Lollapalooza lineup, it can actually come true. How else besides blind luck to explain the transformation of former punk singer and record label functionary Santi White, ukulele-strumming theater geek Merrill Garbus and 22-year-old Canadian social-media cipher Abel Tesfaye into Santigold, Tune-Yards and the Weeknd, three of pop's most talked-about artists?

BY THOMAS CONNER Pop Music Critic

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Frank Ocean performs Saturday night at Lollapalooza
in Chicago's Grant Park.
(Scott Stewart/Sun-Times)


Saturday's schedule at Lollapalooza came pre-loaded with excellent R&B. Too bad the afternoon evacuation on account of weather resulted in the cancellation of one of those acts, the widely acclaimed Alabama Shakes, but the rest more than made up for the deficit.

In the blazing sun and soupy, pre-storm heat, sly soul singer Aloe Blacc (E. Nathaniel Dawkins) strutted out to a jumping, genteel start. With a suited band, featuring two horns, Blacc opened by showing how widely soul music can reach -- swinging from "Politician," a lively groove stuffed with socially conscious lyrics ("This free country is not so free"), to a funky shaker celebrating more carnal concerns ("Her berries are sweeter and her melons are fat").

Saturday @ Perry's: Calvin Harris

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BY MITCHELL HERRMANN For the Sun-Times

If you've turned on pop radio anytime in the last year, you're probably familiar with the music of Calvin Harris, even if you don't know it. The Scottish DJ and songwriter has lent his production skills to a number of British and American pop stars, most prominently for Rihanna's No.1 hit "We Found Love."

A seasoned UK festival veteran, Harris demonstrated his experience by skillfully tailoring his Lollapalooza show to be more clubby than radio-friendly, mixing a few of his pop hits into a set of mostly electro and house. The energy began to flag noticeably towards the end of the set as large groups of people began to migrate towards the main stage where the Red Hot Chili Peppers had begun to play.

Harris' infectious single "Feel So Close" briefly restored life to the dance party, but by the time he finished, the sound from the Chili Peppers' set threatened to extinguish the Perry's energy.

Saturday @ Lollapalooza: Crowds swell as night falls

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BY ANDERS SMITH LINDALL For the Sun-Times

If no one was seriously injured Saturday night at Lollapalooza, it was only thanks to good fortune.

Just hours after a powerful thunderstorm forced Grant Park's evacuation, a new danger presented itself on the ground leading up to the delayed performance by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Extreme crowding among the throng of readmitted fans plus a new, more confining array of fences coupled to create scary bottlenecks of shoving bodies on the two staircases that connect Hutchinson Field with Columbus Drive on the west.

Saturday @ Lollapalooza: fun., Washed Out

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BY THOMAS CONNER Pop Music Critic

Once back inside Grant Park after Lollapalooza's rain delay on Saturday, fans scrambled to catch up to a revised schedule. Eventually, though, most just followed their ears.

A whole lot of them, in fact, crammed around the smaller capacity Google Play stage to hear Brooklyn's fun. The crowd wasn't surprising given the trio's series of chart and sales record-breakers thanks to the omnipresence of the hit single "We Are Young." But there was something else going on Saturday night -- a level of exuberance that exceeded the already highly pitched spirits the band often generates in concert.

Charities seek support at Lollapalooza

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BY EMILY MORRIS Staff Reporter

Denver-based non-profit Love Hope Strength came to Lollapalooza for its third year to test and register potential bone marrow donors on site. Anyone could come up to the tent, swish their mouths with water and swab the inside of their cheeks to be part of a registry that matches healthy bone marrow to patients suffering from leukemia.

The organization was founded by leukemia survivor James Chippendale in 2007, and workers at the charity's tent on Green Street said some fest-goers who have heard of LHS have sought out the tent to register this year at Lollapalooza.

"It's really hard to find a match," said volunteer Maria Socha, 24, on Friday, "So the more people we can get on the list, the better."

Saturday @ Perry's: Skream and Benga, Sgt Pokes

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BY MITCHELL HERRMANN For the Sun-Times

The crowd at Perry's stage grew steadily as festivalgoers filtered back into Grant Park after thunderstorms earlier Saturday. With the encouragement of the dreadlocked MC Sgt Pokes, fans gleefully ran, danced and slid through the muddy field at Perry's, grateful that the storms hadn't canceled the show entirely. The energetic MC was only occasionally shown on the LED screens to the side of the stage, a problem common to many of the acts at Perry's.

Coming in 2013: Lollapalooza Israel

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Shortly after Grant Park reopened to music fans after a temporary, weather-related evacuation, Lollapalooza made an off-topic announcement: the festival is expanding again overseas next year, this time to Tel Aviv, Israel.

BY ANDERS SMITH LINDALL For the Sun-Times

The mandatory evacuation of the Lollapalooza grounds ahead of looming severe thunderstorms is the story of the day. But before the heavy weather hit, there was music, too.

Aloe Blacc
was the last act to finish a set on the south end before music was suspended. Although one tune found him claiming to be "an old dog, but I've got some new tricks," in reality the erstwhile rapper-turned-R&B frontman is a classicist in the Raphael Saadiq vein. He even urged any steppers in the crowd to form a "Soul Train" dance line.

BY THOMAS CONNER Pop Music Critic
with Emily Morris and Mitchell Herrmann

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Lollapalooza fans evacuate Grant Park
ahead of approaching storms Saturday.
(Scott Stewart/Sun-Times)


"We need to clear the whole park."

That was the first audio announcement from the southern main stage Saturday afternoon at Lollapalooza in Grant Park. In the next hour, the day's entire sold-out crowd was evacuated from the park -- the first such procedure in Lollapalooza's eight years as an annual event in Chicago -- ahead of a squall line of severe storms that moved through Chicago featuring lightning, downpours and high winds.

"In all, more than 60,000 festival-goers and nearly 3,000 staff, artists and vendors were safely evacuated in 38 minutes," said a late-night statement from Lollapalooza producers C3 Presents.

Two and a half hours later, the crowds were back in the muddy park and bands were playing on a revised schedule. Storms? What storms?

-- Read more about the evacuation
-- See photos from day 2, including the evacuation

Here's a run-down of what we experienced:

Lollapalooza rebooting after Saturday storm delay

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Well, that happened.

Lollapalooza was shut down and Grant Park was evacuated for more than two hours Saturday as severe storms moved through Chicago.

The gates have reopened, and after a confusing but panic-free evacuation fans are trickling back in. Perry's stage is thumping and full of muddy dancers. Some acts have been canceled, but music is expected to begin shortly.

For now, follow the full report here.

All details posted to Twitter, too @chicagosmusic.

Saturday weather at Lollapalooza: Emergency plans

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Be ready for rough weather tonight, Paloozers.

Forecasts call for severe thunderstorms -- a 75 percent chance as of noon, and radar shows a colorful squall line already charging east across Iowa. Last year, thunderstorms blew through on the third day of the festival, merely slowing down a few bands including the Foo Fighters, but organizers tell the Sun-Times they're prepared for any eventuality.

What follows are details from the on-site emergency plan according to information this morning from Lollapalooza producers C3 Presents, as well as a few personal tips:

BY ANDERS SMITH LINDALL For the Sun-Times

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Ozzy Osbourne leads the reunited Black Sabbath in concert Friday at Lollpalooza. (Scott Stewart/Sun-Times)


There may be no more surprising booking at Lollapalooza this year than the return of Black Sabbath. It was hardly predictable that festival promoters would book the metal forefathers when few acts in its increasingly safe and electronic-oriented lineup bear the band's obvious influence. Even more, few could have foreseen that Sabbath would pick this venue for its first stateside show in seven years and only scheduled concert in North America.

Yet as the sun set Friday night and the black curtain rose, there was Ozzy Osbourne at center stage, arms spread wide and cackling as piped-in thunder rumbled, enormous video flames rolled behind him and his black coat trailed to the floor.

Friday @ Lollapalooza: the Black Keys

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Dan Auerbach from the Black Keys performs Friday at Lollapalooza
in Chicago's Grant Park.
(Sitthixay Ditthavong/Invision/AP)


Friday night's headliners tested fans with a black decision: see the newly reunited and infinitely influential heavy metal band Black Sabbath, or catch a widescreen performance by one of rock's most rollicking and fresh duos, the Black Keys.

For Nathaniel J. Werner, 56, of Oak Park, the choice was clear.

"This is a bucket-list item," he said, while awaiting the Black Keys. "Sabbath? Pfft! Seen that. These Black Keys -- I like the blues, and these guys do that and more."

That they do, and did.

Friday @ Lollapalooza: the Shins, the Head & the Heart

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BY THOMAS CONNER Pop Music Critic


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James Mercer from The Shins performs Friday at Lollapalooza
in Chicago's Grant Park.
(Sitthixay Ditthavong/Invision/AP)


Seattle's the Head & the Heart took to the Sony main stage Friday at Lollapalooza and sang, "Don't follow your head, follow your heart." So despite their name, we know where their allegiance lies -- with the impulsive, romantic and less rational of the two.

An unusual sound for Lollapalooza, even in its rebooted era, the Head & the Heart play music loaded with acoustic guitar, violin, piano and tambourine. Lots of real, resonating wood. Add to that the dual singing tasks of the equally gravel-throated Jonathan Russell and Josiah Johnson, and you have a rootsy pop that's, well -- if you're over 40, call them the Waterdudes, and if you're under 40, they're the Novemberists.

BY ANDERS SMITH LINDALL For the Sun-Times

Festival gigs force even the dourest of rock and roll animals into unnaturally sunny habitats, and such was the case with Afghan Whigs at Lollapalooza. But as jarring as the sight of frontman Greg Dulli abroad on a bright afternoon was the simple fact of his band's reunion after an 11-year hiatus.

As it happens, the Cincinnati natives never played the original incarnation of Lollapalooza when it was alt-rock's summertime traveling circus. Back then they shared a label, Sub Pop, with the bands that defined the moment's scuzzy sound, but the Whigs worked the dark end of the street, fusing sweaty R&B to scabrous rock guitars. Now that Lolla's remade itself as Ikea by the lake (big-box shopping with a safe, respectable veneer), here came the Whigs to drag it back into the mud. They couldn't have been more welcome.

Friday @ Perry's: Nero, Bassnectar

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BY MITCHELL HERRMANN For the Sun-Times

For those who preferred the loud and aggressive to the whimsical, Nero delivered a bombastic set of distorted dubstep later in the evening at Lollapalooza's Perry's stage.

The duo has long enjoyed success in Britain -- their first album reached No. 1 on the UK charts -- and recently has been riding the dance music explosion to popularity in the United States, as well. Their show mixed cinematic orchestral flourishes with torrents of wobbling bass, recalling the "Dubstep Symphony" the group premiered with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra in 2011.

Intentionally or not, Nero referenced a number of the other acts at Lolla during their set.

French electronics at Lollapalooza Friday: Madeon, M83

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BY THOMAS CONNER Pop Music Critic

Perry's stage showcases a lot of rising stars, such is the nature of the fast-paced EDM world. Friday afternoon's case in point: Madeon, aka French dubstep DJ Hugo Leclercq, who introduced himself two years ago with six little words: "Here are 39 songs I like." That opening to his very viral video for "Pop Culture," a deft three-and-a-half-minute mash-up of those songs, set him on the path to Perry's stage, where he put on one of the day's more animated performances.

Friday @ Lollapalooza: Haley Reinhart (video)

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Chicago-area native Haley Reinhart made her Lollapalooza debut Friday afternoon -- the first Lolla performance by an "American Idol" finalist -- on the lakeside BMI stage.

The former "Idol" third-place finisher and Wheeling native, 21, whose debut pop album "Listen Up!" was released in May, performed with her parents (from the suburban band Midnight) in the lineup.

After the show, Reinhart spoke to us backstage about Lolla and loving Chicago ...

Friday @ Perry's: LEDs and TEED

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BY MITCHELL HERRMANN For the Sun-Times

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Orlando Higginbottom of Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs performs
at Lollapalooza in Grant Park Friday.
(John J. Kim/Sun-Times)


As electronic music has risen from the underground into the mainstream, DJs are getting booked into venues traditionally reserved for musicians with guitars and drums. Over the last few years, Lollapalooza has experimented with including dance music acts alongside the usual pop and rock lineup, resulting in a series of incarnations of Perry's stage. Last year's tent setup proved too small
for larger than expected crowds of dancers, so the newest version of Perry's is back in the open air and features a pair of rave-ready LED towers.

Lollapalooza Friday opens with hot rock block

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BY THOMAS CONNER Pop Music Critic

lollaostrich.JPG

Alex Schaaf from Yellow Ostrich performs
Friday afternoon at Lollapalooza in Chicago's Grant Park.
(Sitthixay Ditthavong/Invision/AP)


Lollapalooza's first day began, as expected, with a strong indie-rock block in the afternoon. What wasn't expected was the marriage proposal.

Wisconsin native Alex Schaaf, performing on the Sony main stage as Yellow Ostrich, stopped his set midway through and introduced someone named Nate, who came on stage and promptly proposed to someone named Steph. "I met you a year ago and knew then that I'd be getting onstage with Yellow Ostrich to ask you this," Nate told his beloved. Everyone has their dream, man.

Lollapalooza: Perry's tent, White Panda in the sun

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BY THOMAS CONNER Pop Music Critic

Some Lollapalooza fans wasted no time starting the rave Friday afternoon at Perry's stage, jumping and dancing to the duo White Panda.

Perry's, the one of Lolla's eight stages that focuses almost exclusively on DJs and electronic music, has been under a large tent in previous years. That caused high temperatures to be trapped and endanger fans, so this year Perry's is open-air -- an enormous new stage, rivaling the size of the main Red Bull Soundstage in Grant Park's Hutchinson Field. The new Perry's features a special raised deck for the DJs, plus two video screens on either side and three LED strips above and below the stage.

"This is our home town and this means the world to us!" shouted White Panda's Tom Evans (aka Procrast).

The out-of-state folks who book Lollapalooza at least make an effort to dip into the local talent pool, resulting in often well-deserved showcases for Chicago-area up-and-comers. Last year's side-stage performance by Kids These Days was explosive and contributed to landing the band on the "Conan" show earlier this year. Lolla 2012 spotlights several other locals, including the great alt-rock band Empires (3:20 p.m. Saturday, BMI stage), the already sweat-inducing soul group JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound (noon Saturday, Sony stage) and our own suburban "American Idol" finalist, Haley Reinhart (1:10 p.m. Friday, BMI stage).

Another one to watch is Andrew Christopoulos, a senior at Glenbrook North High School (pictured below).

Lollapalooza opens Friday with record crowd

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lollapreprain.JPG

Workers cover lights to protect from rain on the main stage
of Lollapalooza in Grant Park earlier this week.
(Rich Hein/Sun-Times)


And so it begins again.

Year eight of Lollapalooza as a sit-down music festival in Chicago's Park -- with at least 10 more on the horizon -- is the biggest ever. Last year's fest jumped up to 90,000 fans each day; this year, a sold-out crowd of 100,000 per day will stream through the gates.

Concertgoers can expect to see added vendors, the usual upscale food options in Chow Town, Perry's stage under an open sky, extra barricades around the perimeter to foil fence jumpers and extra fencing around the park's landscaping (be kind to the bushes -- you own them). Here's a look at the set-up.

Gates open at 11 a.m. today. For complete info about the fest, look to the Reader's handy guide. Plus, here are my music picks for Friday, Saturday and Sunday in the park.

Lollapalooza 2012 picks: SUNDAY

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Plucking some must-sees from this year's Lollapalooza lineup (see the full schedule and maps here):

Sunday

SIGUR ROS
Sunday's headline -- though not a headliner -- is the presence of this revered Icelandic enigma, on the road for the first time since 2008. The band, led by singer-guitarist Jonsi Birgisson, has survived its hurricane of hipster hype by delivering powerful, versatile, mysterious music for nearly 20 years.
4-5 p.m. Aug. 5 on the Red Bull Soundstage

Lollapalooza 2012 picks: SATURDAY

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Plucking some must-sees from this year's Lollapalooza lineup (see the full schedule and maps here):

Saturday

SOULFUL SATURDAY
A triple shot of excellent R&B: Chicago's own JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound, a masterful funky bunch and pros at crowd control, kicks things off with a kick. Stay nearby for Aloe Blacc (E. Nathaniel Dawkins), a sly soul singer who'll surely perform his hit "I Need a Dollar." Then head north for the justly ballyhooed Alabama Shakes, a fiery quintet playing country-soul that both Skynyrd and Otis could love.
JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound: noon-12:45 p.m. Saturday on the Sony stage
Aloe Blacc: 2:15-3 p.m. Aug. 4 on the Red Bull Soundstage
Alabama Shakes: 4:15-5:15 p.m. Aug 4 on the Bud Light stage

Thomas Conner

Thomas Conner covers pop music for the Chicago Sun-Times. Contact him via e-mail.

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