After making Bonnaroo my bitch back in June and peaking at Pitchfork a mere three weeks ago, I’m not so sure attending a weekend-long music festival (i.e. an excuse to summarily execute my own brain cells without inhibition under the guise of attending to professional responsibilities) for the third month in a row is the greatest idea in the world. But then again, I’ve gotta road-test that health care plan I’m paying into somehow, right?
This weekend I, along with fellow Cream contributor and “photographer” D. Patrick Rodgers, will trek up to the home of deep-dish pizza, Reckless Records and Scene music editor Steve Haruch to catch the annual Lollapalooza Festival in Grant Park. Now, unless you count having attended Lolla back in 1996, when it was still a traveling road show, then this will be my first experience with the festival in its current incarnation. This year, the three-day barrage of sights and sounds boasts a host of talent rivaling that of Bonnaroo, Pitchfork, ACL, The Gathering and just about any festival besides Coachella, which — having included, Gil Scott-Heron, a reunited P.I.L. Echo and the Bunnymen, Thom Yorke and Gorillaz featuring The Clash’s Mick Jones and Paul Simonon, joining the Jay-Zs and LCDs that comprised the festival circuit’s class of 2010 — hands-down had this year’s most ear-watering lineup of talent. Since many Nashvillians — including some of you loyal readers — are planning on making the trip to Chi-Town this weekend, let’s talk a little bit about the lineup.
If you’ve already hit up the festival’s official site then you know you’ve got both some tough and some easy decisions to make when choosing which shows you’re going to see, and which ones you’re going to forsake to do it. After developing inarguably impeccable taste over a lifetime of record-collecting and concert-going and professionally attending festivals on a now-monthly basis, I feel I’m qualified to help guide you through the decision process.
Noon: Wavves vs. Foxy Shazam vs. The Ettes
I’d say, as a general rule, if I’ve seen a band multiple times for free at Mercy Lounge, then they lose by default. Sorry Ettes. If I didn’t get to the Hole show at Cannery in time to see their opening act, then I’d say the prospect of me getting to a city park by noon to watch them in the hot sun is unlikely. Sorry Foxy Shazam. Wavves wins.
1 p.m.: The Walkmen vs. not applicable
It isn’t even worth listing other bands playing at this time. Don’t fuck up the opportunity to see The Walkmen — not only one of the best bands our time, but one of best live bands of our time — by not seeing The Walkmen.
2 p.m.: Mavis Staples vs. American Bang vs. Raphael Saadiq
When it comes to making important decisions, I’m kind of like Gordon Gekko: I don’t throw darts at a board. I bet on sure things. While I’d like to go and root for the home team, the opportunity to see American Bang for free at future local events is pretty likely. While Mavis Staples is an obvious soul legend, former Tone Toni Tony frontman Raphael Saadiq, is neo-soul’s savior, and he absolutely killed it at Bonnaroo last year. I’ve been dying to relive the experience ever since. Mavis may be a soul staple, but I seriously doubt she’s gonna bust out a version of The Stooges' “Search and Destroy” that’s as savage and destructive as the original. Like I said, I bet on sure things, and Raphael Saadiq is most definitely that.
4 p.m.: Devo vs. The New Pornographers
OK, this isn’t even a fucking a contest. If you happened to have seen this post I wrote back in May — featuring 18 Devo videos — then you’ll know where I stand on geek-rock’s greatest band. The New Pornographers have their moments, but if you aren’t already polishing your energy dome and fitting your knee pads in preparation for the spud revival, then you may want to reevaluate your priorities before setting foot inside a music festival.
5 p.m.: Dirty Projectors vs. Fuck Buttons vs. Matt & Kim
Despite committing some of the worst lyrics since Nine Inch Nails to wax (ex: “Temperature rising
/ I can feel it all the way down / And what hits the spot, yeah, like Gatorade / You and me baby, hittin' the spot all night” or “Isn't life under the sun just a crazy dream? / Isn't life just a mirage of the world before the world?”) Dirty Projectors probably take this round by virtue of their phenomenally tight, good-vibe-laden live show that is really some must-see shit if you’ve yet to experience it, or just dig hardcore on the whole "Ivy-Leaguers pretend they're writing songs for the next Nigeria ’70 comp" thing.
6 p.m.: The Black Keys vs. Hot Chip
If you can’t pace yourself and are already rollin’ on Molly and railing lines of blow by 6 p.m. on Day One of the festival, then by all means, go see Hot Chip, because that’s where you belong. If you’re content to spend the day simply smoking ganj like the rest of us, then The Black Keys’ garage-y vanilla-blues is probably more your speed.
7 p.m.: Jimmy Cliff vs. Chromeo
Tough call on this one. Both artists played at Bonnaroo this year, and while seeing Jimmy Cliff was only mildly exciting, seeing Chromeo without Daryl Hall is bound to be disappointing after seeing them with Daryl Hall. Plus, their show at the Cannery is just around the corner.
8 p.m.: The Strokes vs. Lady Gaga
OK, this is an interesting match-up. Even if you can’t fucking stand Lady Gaga, how do you pass up the opportunity to witness her phenomenal reign over the pop-culture zeitgeist while it’s at its fever-pitch? On the other hand, perhaps due to a flurry of side-projects, it’s been a minute since The Strokes have made a large-scale stateside appearance. But, if you’ve seen ’em before, you’ve seen ’em. I find no shame in admitting my love for the band’s first two albums, but I fear that seeing them go up against Gaga is going to make them look like yesterday’s news, as opposed to elder statesmen. I’m leaning towards Gaga.
Noon: Indie-pop relative newcomers The Morning Benders and San Diego garage-revivalists The Soft Pack, appear virtually unopposed in their respective noon and noon:30 time slots.
1 p.m.: Harlem vs. Rogue Wave
I have yet to see either. Suggestions? Editor's note from DPR: Go see Harlem. Rogue Wave is boring.
2 p.m.: Warpaint vs. The Verve Pipe vs. Blues Traveler
That was a joke. Har-har. In all seriousness though, Canadian social scenesters Stars are also playing around this time, but after reading the festival site’s description of them as “[mixing] The Smiths' breathy moping with the smooth electronic leanings of the Postal Service …” I think I’ll pass. Editor's note: It's more like break-up music for 20-year-old girls who wear a lot of sun dresses.
3 p.m.: The xx vs. Taking a nap
Trick question. The xx are the sonic personification of sleep. Somewhere around this time you’ll also have the opportunity to catch Against Me! and Gogol Bordello, if you’re into either of those types of things.
4 p.m.: Grizzly Bear vs. The Royal Bangs
While Grizzly Bear aren’t the most frenetic band in the world, and The Royal Bangs are at least the most frenetic band from Knoxville I can think of, I’m siding with the Bear, simply because I haven’t seen them yet. If it gets boring I’ll make my way over to catch the Bangs. Thoughts?
5 p.m.: Metric vs. Deer Tick vs. AFI
Out of curiosity, I’ll probably side with Metric over Deer Tick, but if AFI’s freakshow of guyliner, Misfits misappropriation and cacophonous crimes against the principles of sound bleed into either set I decide to catch at this time, I’m gonna lose my fucking mind trying to figure out how that band can manage to land a prime spot on any festival that isn’t Warped Tour.
8 p.m.: Phoenix vs. Green Day
OK, while I know this is a pretty easy call for most of you, I’ve already seen Phoenix twice this year — at Rites of Spring and Bonnaroo — and, while their stage show is great, it’s EXACTLY the same from night to night, to the point where repeated viewings elicit feelings of déjà vu. I doubt a third go around would have much impact — unless some kind of psychotropic substance is thrown into the mix. On the other hand, I saw Green Day when they came to Sommet Center last year, and despite greeting their last few records with either hatred or indifference, I found the show to be an utter blast of pyro, hits, crowd-participation and rock ’n’ roll bravado — you know, the stuff that makes for a great festival showing.
I’ll be honest, the Sunday lineup’s first half doesn’t much compel me — at least in the arena of head-to-head battles. The Dodos are playing, and while they’re pretty damn good, I’ve already seen them twice this summer. But, if you’ve yet to catch them, do yourself a favor and make it to Grant Park by 1 p.m. Also making appearances early Sunday are Miniature Tigers, current “What’s the BFD?” title-holders Blitzen Trapper, HEALTH, Freelance Whales and disgustingly chic synth-popsters Hockey. I’ll probably opt to catch the Ray Davies-approved quartet Mumford and Sons, or of-the-moment dance-rock superstars (relatively speaking) Yeasayer. Later on, both Erykah Badu and MGMT play unopposed at 5 and 6 p.m., respectively. Now for the day’s main events:
7 p.m.: The National vs. Cypress Hill
I know, it’s an odd quandary: Do I want to see a band that might touch my heart and make me think about stuff, or do I want to go insane in the membrane while trying to understand exactly how Sen Dog could, quite literally, just kill a man. Let’s be real, this is a totally subjective toss-up.
8 p.m.: Arcade Fire vs. Soundgarden
Since I’m an unabashed Arcade Fire fan — as you’ll soon see in the week’s dead-tree edition of the Scene — who thinks their new album, The Suburbs, is the greatest thing since sliced bread, or at least Best of Bread, it should come as no surprise that I think Canada and Merge Records’ contemporary rock ’n’ roll saviors mop the floor with Chris Cornell’s wife-beater in this challenge. Nevertheless, throngs of nostalgic festival-goers without a care for musical relevance, will likely opt to revel in the reunited grunge ensembles’ dated mélange of odd time signatures, nutsack-in-vice caterwauling, rehashed Led Zeppelin riffs and buzz-bin machismo. While I’ll admit that Soundgarden did indeed rock when I saw them at Lollapalooza ’96, I think seeing them at Lollapalooza 2010 will more than likely just make me feel old, as opposed to 15 again, whereas the Arcade Fire’s rousing spectacle of a emotion and community will handily bring out the kid in me.
In between all these shows are a host of DJ sets covering a host of electronica and techno sub-genres that are way too far out of my wheelhouse to discern professionally. (Paging Sean Maloney.) So, what are y’all planning on catching?