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Lollapalooza 2012: Five questions going into the weekend

This weekend, the music world once again turns its annual attention to Chicago’s Grant Park, where Lollapalooza will spread its freaky tentacles across eight stages, dozens of food booths, and countless pairs of ruined shoes.

(If you’re not there, you may miss the falafel and the mud, but you can still watch nearly all of the performances on your laptop via the Dell-sponsored livestream and archive on YouTube,)

This year’s headliner crop is a weird collision of veteran rockers (Black Sabbath, Red Hot Chili Peppers), huge dance artists (Justice, Avicii, Kaskade), and extra-emotive folks from the hip-hop world (Frank Ocean, Wale, Childish Gambino).

With the undercard full of the usual indie-fied suspects, Lollapalooza 2012 looks a lot like the eclectic stew of alternative energy that Perry Farrell first envisioned when he invented the thing in 1991.

With that in mind, there are a handful of questions going into Lollapalooza weekend that should be resolved by the time Jack White plays his last note on Sunday night. Here are the five you need to consider at the dawn of the weekend.

Is this my last chance to see Black Sabbath?
It’s possible, though technically this isn’t actually the full Black Sabbath, as drummer Bill Ward elected to stay home on this particular reunion jaunt. READ FULL STORY

Lollapalooza 2012 lineup: Black Sabbath, Jack White, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Black Keys headline

Coachella kicks off its first of two weekends in just a few days, which means that festival season has officially begun. And ever since Lollapalooza put away its touring circus format in favor of shacking up for one huge weekend in Chicago’s Grant Park, it has become the cornerstone of the summer concert calendar.

The past few Lollapalooza lineups have followed some sort of theme. Last year was the year that dance music got much bigger (deadmau5 was one of the main stage headliners), while 2010 was the year of pop (featuring Lady Gaga and a host of other nods to the bubbly mainstream). This year’s collection of bands doesn’t seem to have much of a tether, though it could be the loudest lineup in recent memory (or at least since that year that Metallica headlined). The sorta reunited Black Sabbath headline (drummer Bill Ward remains on the sidelines), along with the Black Keys, Jack White, At the Drive-In, Florence + the Machine, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Other highlights include the Shins, Justice, Passion Pit, Sigur Ros, Frank Ocean, Delta Spirit, and the reunited Afghan Whigs. The undercard also consists of about-to-break acts like Alabama Shakes, Gary Clark, Jr., the Growlers, the Jezabels, LP, Bear in Heaven, and Michael Kiwanuka. They’ve even got that ridiculous band that won that Rolling Stone contest, the band with the number one song in the country, at least one former American Idol contestant, and Franz Ferdinand (who are still a band, it turns out).

Since Lollapalooza Perry Farrell is gaga for hot beats, there’s also a pretty awesome round-up of people from the dance world booked on his personal stage, including Calvin Harris and Santigold. Check out the complete list of performers below. READ FULL STORY

On the scene at Lollapalooza, day three: Foo Fighters, the Cars, and wild weather.

According to old lore, the traditional gift for a 20th anniversary is china. According to Mother Nature, it is apparently giant, monsooning sheets of rain.

Major precipitation made an unannounced headlining appearance on 20-year-old Lolla’s third and final evening, opening up the Chicago skies for an hour-long all-stages, all-ages showing of gumball-sized raindrops, thunder and (yay, unlimited pyro budget!) lightning.

And like any good mainstage performer, Ms. Nature brought an encore—turning good chunks of fest-closing sets by Cage the Elephant, Arctic Monkeys, Foo Fighters and DeadMau5 into a cross between the “November Rain” wedding-party-downpour scene and a lawless, topless WWE mud pit.

See below, live and supremely Tide-resistant from the Monkeys’ set:

READ FULL STORY

On the scene at Lollapalooza, day two: Eminem, Cee Lo, and (shhh! ) Foo Fighters

This is how the second day of Lollapalooza 2011 ended: With Wynonna Judd swinging her cramazing Ariel hair (she did not, alas, whip it back and forth) in the balcony during an epic two-and-half-hour “secret” Foo Fighters show at Chicago’s 1100-capacity Metro club.

But let’s start with how it began: Morning rain turned to sunshine in time for L.A. retro-soul shakers Fitz & the Tantrums‘ early-afternoon set on the main Music Unlimited stage.  Even as already-tipsy showgoers began to wilt in the heat like drunk little flowers, frontman Michael Fitzpatrick, in a crisp cranberry suit, and his leopard-print-clad leading lady Noelle Scaggs, were extra-sharp, turning up the volume on their shake-and-stomp grooviness to fill the super-sized space and give the crowd the “hits”: “Don’t Gotta Work It Out,” “Moneygrabber”—even a Fitz-ified take on the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).

The soul train continued on the adjacent Sony Stage with flashback-R&B smoothy Mayer Hawthorne, who pleaded good-naturedly with the audience to take their camera-phone pics all at once and then “actually be in the moment and enjoy the show, I know it’s crazy.” After a cascade of snaps and flashes, they were duly rewarded with his shimmying cover of the Isley Brothers’ classic “Work to Do.” 

And work to do there was, Mr. Hawthorne—which is why I had to miss the rest of the set to quick-hustle over to the mercilessly sun-scorched Bud Light stage for reunited noise-punk aggro-vators Death from Above 1979, who (sarcastically) played a snatch of AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck,” but thrashed more like a Canadian Pantera on Quaaludes. You know how they say, If it’s too loud, you’re too old? Maybe I was just too hot. READ FULL STORY

On the scene at Lollapalooza, day one: Coldplay, Muse, and more

If Lollapalooza, with its 130 bands spread over three epic, deodorant-challenging days in Chicago’s mammoth Grant Park, is a marathon and not a sprint, Friday was its hope-you-carbo-loaded 10K kick-off.

Fans of chugging, red-meat rock– and Aerosmith obsessives (brothers Adrian and Tony Perry are the sons of Aero icon Joe Perry) — came out early for Boston boys TAB the Band; frontman Adrian told me that they recently spent time in the studio with Mark Neill, who co-produced the Black Keys’ Brothers. I like the Stones-y, jangling “She Said No (I Love You),” even though the title sounds uncomfortably like an After-School Special about date rape.

Next up: Electric Touch, a whammy-bar-friendly Austin outfit with a British frontman whose  black-jeans strut works melodically, if not always lyrically. Either way, the dude near me in the full-body blue spandex bodysuit with his cargo shorts all bunched up underneath seemed to have no reservations; he was extra-loving the “Blitzkrieg Bop” cover.

Reports say there are 90,000 showgoers expected this weekend, and approximately 45,000 of those seemed to be in attendance at Foster the People‘s set on the Sony stage. The L.A. breakouts’ indie-pop anthems — and faithful, slightly incongruous cover of Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold” — were swallowed at times by the field’s massive sprawl, though the kids didn’t let that stop them from some surprisingly civilized crowd-surfing during “Don’t Stop (Color on the Walls),” “Helena Beat,” and “Pumped Up Kicks,” a.k.a. The Hit. (Don’t worry, “Houdini,” you are still my favorite.) Frontman Mark Foster seemed appropriately awed, recalling to the crowd his very recent days spent selling clothes and pulling coffee. Barista no more! READ FULL STORY

Perry Farrell's favorite Lollapalooza memories: Lady Gaga dives, Pearl Jam flies, and Patti Smith frightens the children

Next weekend, Perry Farrell will once again take over Chicago’s massive Grant Park and welcome some of the biggest names in music, including Eminem, Coldplay, Muse, Foo Fighters and My Morning Jacket, to Lollapalooza.

The long-running festival celebrates its 20th anniversary this year (the very first Lolla, in 1991, traveled across the country and featured Jane’s Addiction, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Nine Inch Nails, Living Colour, Ice-T & Body Count, Butthole Surfers, Rollins Band, Violent Femmes and Fishbone), and in honor of all those epic sets and crazy tales, here are Farrell’s five favorite Lollapalooza memories.

Ice-T & Body Count (1991)
“On the first Lollapalooza, Ice-T used to come out during the Jane’s set and we would perform [Sly Stone’s] ‘Don’t Call Me N—–, Whitey.’ It was always a real heavy experience. [To start] I would tell a ‘n—a’ joke to the audience and everybody would laugh, and as they’re laughing, out Ice-T would come from the shadow. He’d slip right behind me and he’d go ‘Don’t call me n—a, whitey!’ That’s how we’d get into it. Then we would end up doing a square dance together.”

Pearl Jam (1992)
“Pearl Jam played the second Lollapalooza. Eddie Vedder is just the consummate showman and gives you every last bit of sweat and blood and guts in his performances. I remember him jumping into the crowd off a speaker stack that was really high. I couldn’t actually believe he did it. The crowd carrying him away will stay in my memory as one of the moments when I knew that Lollapalooza was really an important component to modern music.” READ FULL STORY

Eminem, Foo Fighters, Coldplay top Lollapalooza's 20th anniversary lineup

The last big festival of the summer is also the last to announce its lineup, but Lollapalooza always manages to bring it. In 2010, the three-day event featured the only festival appearance by Lady Gaga as well as comeback sets by the Strokes and Soundgarden.

This time around, the headliners include Eminem (who will also be turning in a set at Bonnaroo), Foo Fighters (somehow making their Lollapalooza debut) and Coldplay (who will likely use the opportunity to preview some new songs from their upcoming fifth album).

The 2011 version of Lollapalooza, which will again run in Chicago’s Grant Park over what is always one of the hottest weekends of the year (pack your sunscreen!), will also include appearances by My Morning Jacket, Cee Lo Green, A Perfect Circle, Bright Eyes, Arctic Monkeys, Big Audio Dynamite, Cage the Elephant, Grace Potter & the Nocturnals and dozens more.

READ FULL STORY

Soundgarden wraps up Lollapalooza

Lollapalooza-chris-cornellImage Credit: Tim Mosenfelder/Getty ImagesWhen attending Lollapalooza, you have to make some agonizing decisions about what to see.  Green Day or Phoenix? The New Pornographers or Devo? Arcade Fire or Soundgarden? With five or more bands playing simultaneously at any given time, you can’t have it all, I’m afraid. As Chicago’s biggest music fest came to a close on Sunday, there was no other way to cut it—Day 3 was a letdown. By which I mean Soundgarden was a letdown, since the historic reunion of Chris Cornell’s Seattle grunge band was one of the highlights of Sunday’s schedule. This was just their third concert since their reunion in April, and, for that matter, since their breakup 13 years ago. (Arcade Fire, who played at the same time, were a mile away at the opposite end of Grant Park, so there was no possibility of taking in a bit of both acts.)

I had a few reservations leading into their set. First, it was obvious this was going to be little more than just a greatest hits concert. I mean, Soundgarden hasn’t released any new material since 1997. Also, Chris Cornell has since left his grunge roots far behind, embracing pop-rock instead, and even contributing the lackluster song “You Know My Name” to Casino Royale.

Few shared my reservations. One woman named Jackie who was attending the concert with her husband told me that Soundgarden was her favorite band. “I’ve been waiting 15 years to see them live,” she said. “I’ve seen Audioslave in concert and Chris Cornell’s solo act, but never Soundgarden.” Gauging from the audience reaction to their first glimpse of Cornell & Co., the rest of the crowd was every bit as excited, more so than they had been for Lady Gaga or Green Day the nights before. From the start, dozens of lighters (not cell phones, thankfully, with all due respect to the Surgeon General) popped up, pointed at the sky.

To be fair, Soundgarden’s concert opened well, with classic hit after classic hit—including “Spoonman” and their enduring masterpiece “Black Hole Sun.” But unlike the effervescent Billie Joe Armstrong the night before, Chris Cornell didn’t interact with the crowd at all. He played song after song with a dour reserve. Sure, I know grunge is all about melancholy. But Cornell’s vocals and guitar lacked passion, feeling dutiful more than inspired. It was a competent set, but little more than that. Unlike Green Day, who played for an additional 15 minutes beyond their allocated time, Soundgarden ended 10 minutes early. Everybody stood motionless for a few moments, thinking that more was to come. But no, a Macy Gray song started blaring from the speakers to signal that Soundgarden, and by extension Lollapalooza, was done. By all rights, this concert should have been historic. The crowd couldn’t have been more excited if Kurt Cobain had gone all Lazarus on us and Nirvana reunited. Instead, I was left feeling that I should have seen Arcade Fire instead.

And with that, Lollapalooza comes to a close. For those of you who were there, what were your favorite acts? What do you wish you could have seen? And, like me, were you disappointed with Soundgarden?

(Follow the Music Mix on Twitter: @EWMusicMix.)

More news from EW.com’s Music Mix:

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Lollapalooza Day 2 brings Green Day, AFI, and Social Distortion: 'Wait, what year is this?'

green-dayImage Credit: Gary Miller/Getty ImagesIn its second day, Lollapalooza, Chicago’s giant music fest, finally revved into high gear, with concerts by Spoon, Phoenix, and Slightly Stoopid. But it was three aging punk-rock acts that ended up stealing the spotlight—AFI, Social Distortion and, of course, Green Day. These big three called to mind Lollapalooza’s early days, starting as a relatively small alt-rock festival in the early ’90s, before ballooning into the massive multi-day, multi-stage event that has now completely taken over Chicago’s sprawling Grant Park. These were yesterday’s three defining acts, and oddly enough, their sets shared a number of similar traits—shameless pandering to the crowd, some self-indulgent nostalgia, overt political content, showy production values, and some transcendentally amazing moments. READ FULL STORY

Lady Gaga kicks off Lollapalooza: On the scene

lady-gaga-3Image Credit: Barry Brecheisen/WireImageThe Simpsons once made fun of Lollapalooza as “Woodstock, only with advertisements everywhere and tons of security guards.” That’s truer now than ever. The annual Chicago music festival, which started yesterday and runs through tomorrow evening, has ballooned in size to incorporate eight different (heavily-sponsored) stages, almost all of which are hosting simultaneous performances. Daunting though that may be for the casual music fan, the scope of the fest allows for an amazing variety of music, with dozens of bands playing each day.

On Friday, this rock festival was taken over by a pop singer. That’s right: Lady Gaga. Gaga’s exuberant concert in front of 80,000 fans was a condensed presentation of her Monster Ball, which continues its seemingly endless world tour. If her recent stint at New York City’s Madison Square Garden was marked by her affection for her hometown fans and a desire to put on a polished, professional show, Gaga’s Lollapalooza set hinted more at self-satisfaction at how far she’s come since she last played this crowd. READ FULL STORY

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