The Preface: Ever since they expanded the grounds of Lollapalooza for the 2010 incarnation of the festival it became a different experience. The decision created for an upgrade and enhancement of pretty much every aspect of the festival experience. It always had a name synonymous with a large music festival, but now it has earned respect and prestige in a world class fashion. Maybe that’s why this festival sold the majority of it’s tickets beforethe line-up was announced.
By expanding the grounds to encompass essentially the entirety of Grant Park, which is situated between the impressive man-made mountains know as Chicago’s downtown and the blue vastness of Lake Michigan, the festival become much more manageable and enjoyable. Yet there is still enough space to have 8 stages, 2 of them being massive main stages, 4 of them being well sized medium stages, with 2 smaller stages to fill it out (one being a stage for children’s music, Kidapalooza, and the other being a local stage). Yet at no point is there ever substantial sound bleed, due to the distance between, and placing of, the stages – and due to the fact that there are trees that lie between each stage. And with Columbus Ave, which runs the length of the festival north-to-south, being basically a 4 lane highway to quickly move between stages (or to food, drink, shops and bathrooms), there are no bottlenecks – meaning you can move at the speed of your choosing. Not only this but the added space of widening the fest means it has more bathrooms and food stalls (of very high quality grub mind you) than any other festival this author has ever attended. This means lines are manageable, and that means everything. Every experienced festival goer can relate to that statement.
One change from last year we already know about; Perry’s stage has – yet again – been ungraded. Just as it has for the past 5 years, every year. And remember Lollapalooza’s had a dedicated electronic stage well before other festival. Last year it was situated inside of a massive tent. This year it is comprised of a stage which at other festivals would be a main stage (but is here one of the medium sized ones), and – apparently – another 360 degree stage in the rear of the area. Undoubtedly this is an interesting way to guarantee non-stop music. It will be quite interesting to see if this is a successful upgrade, one has to think it will be. (Take a look at this picture Lollapalooza posted of the stage being built)
M83’s Midnight City
The Music: Ironically, while Lollapalooza may have been one of the first festivals to feature a dedicated electronic stage, it now also is one of the more rock n roll friendly festivals around – due to the predominance of EDM & electronic music in today’s music culture, and hence festivals. This is evident by the headliners of The Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Jack White, The Black Keys, and Black Sabbath. Yet beneath the headliners there is a well mixed selection of mid to high tier acts. The bigger names include Bassnectar, Avicii, The Shins, Justice, Passion Put, Kaskade, The Weeknd, and Sigur Ros.
Beneath them is a great selection of indie and up-and-coming bands. Lollapalooza, while drawing the world’s largest names, always seems best in it’s non-headliner selections. One could say that Friday is overly loaded with good acts and conflicts, more-so than the other day. But hey, nothing’s perfect, and at least it means the fest is going to start with a bang.
Let’s take a look at some of each day’s choice selections that you may not know off the bat:
Friday: The Black Angels play at 2:15 on Friday. If you are into psychedelic rock, or thick rock with a toe-tapping element to it, then you want to check these guys out. Sharon Van Etten plays after The Black Angels. She plays a brand of introspective and engaging indie rock, often times it leans toward acoustic rock but not always. It’s deep and layered and well thought out, but accessible for most anyone. SBTRKT, the British DJ’ing duo who stepped onto the scene with their 2011 single Wildfire put on a fun DJ set. They aren’t about blowing you away with bass and crescendos, they prefer to use finesse and variety to entertain, so when they do hit it hard it is really meaningful and boisterous. Band of Skulls is at 6. This band is straight up classic in-your-face rock and roll. They swagger, they yell, and they wield their guitars deftly. The Shins, who have only been playing live again for about a year, will play in the early evening. For those of us who have a soft spot for adroitly written soul-searching smooth indie rock, these guys are heroes. In the sunset spot you can choose between, or try to catch a bit of both of, M83 and Nero. The former being the shot-to-stardom electro rock band who created the atmospheric double album ‘Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming’ which was among many people’s choices for best album of 2011. The latter being one of the better dubsteb acts out there, with an attention to detail, sound, and proper emotional building that most in their genre do not possess. It will probably be a fun throw-down of a show, maybe the weekend’s most intense. Time will tell.
Saturday: Paper Diamond is a good DJ act to catch in the earlier part of the day. His beats hit hard, but there is a certain urban polish to the cadence of his songs that makes it different. There is an undeniable uniqueness to it, it’s worth checking out. The Alabama Shakes, another band that soared quickly in popularity, play a brand of soulful and rootsy blues rock, heavy on the soul part. There is a reason they are loved by many. And their lead singer can belt it out as well as anyone in the fest. The Tallest Man On Earth will be in the late afternoon. This is one guy and his guitar and yet it is pretty darn entertaining. He has mastered the art of creating a substantial musical atmosphere through only his fingers and vocals. This author can’t wait to hear him play The King Of Spain. The Weeknd plays a brand of psychedelic and post-modern R&B. It’s bump and grind music, but completely accessible for people who don’t listen to that otherwise because of the way it’s infused with a minimalist/trippy character.
Sunday: Gary Clark Jr. has brought the blues, and rock-based soul music, to a generation not totally accustomed to that. At least not in the traditionalist manner he presents it. And he has does it with success. It’s like a contemporary Muddy Waters, with a certain kick-in-the-pants if you will. Toro y Moi are in the afternoon and were one of the bands that helped escalate the chill wave genre within the indie rock world. It will be interesting to see how their music translates to a live show. The Big Pink play a brand of gritty and wide electro rock. With deep and raucous beats, and a certain psychedelic tint, they should be a fun act to catch in the early evening.