Friday, May 20, 2011

Lollapalooza preview

by Jon Stone | @jwstone - July 29, 2010

I’m off to Lollapalooza next weekend. I just can’t seem to get enough of being out in the sun and humidity for three and four days at a time, I guess. With Bonnaroo and Pitchfork under my belt, I’m excited to do a bit of comparison shopping. I was in Grant Park for Radiohead’s 2008 performance, and, if I remember correctly in addition to music, Lollapalooza seems to be about walking. The stages on either end of the park have to be at least a half-mile apart. So I will maybe turn in my flip-flops for some sturdy shoes this go around and see if I can have me a time.

Lolla always creates a bit of a problem in terms of headliners. It’s really a one-or-the-other kind of decision, since catching both bands means leaving one early and then being at the back of a massive crowd for your second choice. I don’t like that option. This year, it’s pretty easy (The Strokes over Gaga; Phoenix over Green Day) until Sunday night when Arcade Fire is playing at the same time as Soundgarden. I’m really (like, really) enjoying what I've heard of the new Arcade Fire record, but my sense is that I will get a chance to see them again. Who knows when Soundgarden, a band that I really loved in high school, will get desperate enough to reunite again. Plus with opportunities like this to see Arcade Fire from the safety of my own living room, I think I’m going to have to go with Chris Cornell. Seeing Kim Thayil play will be awesome though. I hope they play my favorite SG song, “The Day I Tried to Live.” So classic.

The rest of the festival is looking pretty good in terms of difficult choices. Things are spread out fairly nicely and I’m once again going to get the chance to see several several favorites again and a few that I’ve never seen before. Here’s my top ten (or so):

Grizzly Bear: I have not, of yet, had a chance to see Grizzly Bear play a full set. This will change. Since it’s been a while since Veckatimest came out, I’m hoping we’ll get new songs, reimaginings, and I know we’ll get some incredible jazz-pop jams and harmonies. They're the ones I'm looking forward to most.

Spoon: Same as above. I’ve been a fan for years, but have never made it to a show. Spoon’s new record Transferene has kind of gotten buried this year with so much other great new releases, but it remains one of my favorite albums of the year and I’m looking forward to the rock.

Dawes – Their Lolla set will mark the fourth time I’ll see Dawes this summer. They are my favorite new band, period, and if you haven’t yet heard them, well, this must be your first time visiting this blog.

The National – The National’s Bonnaroo set was incredible, but it just felt kinda strange seeing them out there in the broad daylight. Since the sun shines as bright in Chicago as it does in Tennessee, I’m sure the Lolla set will be equally hot and revealing, but it doesn’t diminish my excitement. High Violet is going to top a lot of folks' best-of-the-year lists, including mine. Any chance to see the National is a privilege worth relishing.

Mumford & Sons – Speaking of Bonnaroo, I’m still reeling from my front-row encounter with Mumford & Sons there. It was arguably the most chills-inducing, electric moment of the whole weekend. The Lollapalooza set is bound to be packed event as these guys have been selling out clubs across the States all year. I might not make it up front this time, but I will surely be in the crowd, sweating.

The Walkmen – When I saw the Walkmen play earlier in the year, I was amazed that they weren’t already superstars. I caught them on a tiny stage with a packed crowd and was super impressed by what they were throwing down. Amazing musicians of the National/Grizzly Bear caliber, those dudes.  Their new record, Lisbon, drops in September. I can't wait to hear it.

The New Pornographers – As I write this, I realized that I haven’t yet listened to the new record from one of our best Canadian bands. Firing it up now and the first track, “Moves” sounds great! I'm very excited to see yet another one of my old favorites for the first time ever.

Dirty Projectors – As I look over my list so far, it occurs to me what an amazing festival it is going to be. The presence of Grizzly Bear and Dirty Projectors alone is cause for the explosion of some heads. I love bands that have that something that makes you lean forward to listen closer. I also love bands that, when you do that, reward you with dense and clever melodies that almost seem to make you sonically smarter. Dirty Projectors is surely one of the most critically acclaimed bands playing Lolla this year. I will be there, leaning forward.

I’m having a hard time boiling down two more bands for this top ten list. Instead I’ll offer a handful of bands that I’m looking forward to. Drive-by Truckers and Deer Tick are both bands that I constantly hear good things about whose music has eluded me for one reason or another. I’m hoping the live sets change that. Also I’m a big fan of great R&B. Lolla offers Mavis Staples and Erykah Badu in the genre. I'll be glad to see both and I only wish Sharon Jones was gonna be there too.

There are plenty here that I’m missing (and let's face it, my list is pretty conventional). I’m wondering, though, which bands you recommend—especially bands like Miniature Tigers who are just starting to gain steam.

Discuss: Drop a comment with bands I missed here that are going to be can’t-miss for you.

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