Lollapalooza 2011 Preview

Photo Credit: Aaron E. Silvers

With dozens and dozens of great bands playing at this weekend’s Lollapalooza festival in Grant Park, trying to figure out who to see can be a bit overwhelming. That’s where we come in. Below we’ll preview select acts from all three days, with a special emphasis on those that call The Windy City home.


Ruby Jane – 12:00pm – BMI Stage

One of the more intriguing Friday acts has got to be Ruby Jane, the 16-year old Austin native who is being hailed as the next big thing in country. And no, I’m not talking about pop-country. Jane’s soulful, elegant ballads suggest a maturity well beyond her years. Not only does she have a killer voice, she’s also a skilled fiddler and guitar player.

Check out this recording of “The Fall.”

Smith Westerns – 3:30pm – PlayStation Stage

The young local glam-poppers in Smith Westerns have been scoring boatloads of praise for their most recent record, Dye It Blonde. Soft, catchy vocals soar over pop beats and some fun guitar noodling — the kind of stuff Lollapalooza was made for. If you’ve had fun in years past dancing to groups like MGMT then do yourself a favor and check these boys out.

Check out the video “Weekend” for a taste.

The Kills – 4:30pm – Bud Light Stage

One of my favorite moments from the 2008 incarnation of Lolla was sweating my ass of while rocking out to The Kills. Well, the duo is back for 2011 and no doubt prepared to crunch and snarl their way into a whole batch of new hearts. Alison Mosshart’s Patti Smith-swagger is well-complemented by Jamie Hince’s snakebite guitar riffs. Hopefully its not too hot during this set, ’cause they’re only going to make it worse.

Enjoy this recording of “Fried My Little Brains” from Lollapalooza 2008.

Ok Go – 7:15pm – Google Stage

When not jumping from Chicago to L.A., Ok Go can be found hopping around on treadmills. Yeah, those guys. One of the best power-pop groups in recent memory, Ok Go channels bands like Material Issue but with the live energy and punch of, say, Screeching Weasel. They got their start playing the city’s street festivals. Now go enjoy them on the big stage.

Here’s that famous treadmill video, “Here It Goes Again.”


Disappears  – 12:45pm – Bud Light Stage

The gruff shoegaze whirlwinds created by Chicago’s own Disappears aren’t necessarily the most easily palatable thing at Lolla all weekend, but they could be some of the most impressive to see. Despite being relatively new, the band is certainly experienced. They’re already vets of Pitchfork Festival (2009) and have recently recruited Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley. This might be the set you hear about for weeks after. Don’t miss it.

From the album Lux, here’s “Pearly Gates.”

Maps & Atlases – 2:15pm – Google+ Stage

Slightly strange, extremely fun, local quartet Maps & Atlases blend folk, experimental and math rock together to create something that fans of Fleet Foxes and Sonic Youth will dig. The group’s tight percussion, starburst melodies and xylophone twinkles are even more powerful live than on record. This is one I’m really looking forward to.

Check out Maps & Atlases performing “Ted Zancha” here in Chicago at Reggie’s.

Cee Lo – 6:30pm – Music Unlimited Stage

The man who makes up one half of Gnarls Barkley is no stranger to the Lollapalooza stage. Cee Lo rocked Grant Park as a part of that duo back in 2006 and now he’s back with a hot new solo record, The Lady Killer. His lyrics and vocals are as smooth as the suits he sports and the beats are sure to get Lolla shakin’ its booty. Got a problem with that? Well, “fuck you!”

Cee Lo Green performs the infamous “Fuck You!” on Later… With Jools Holland.

Lykke Li – 7:15pm – Google Stage

Swedish chanteuse Lykke Li has a striking voice that immediately captures the attention of those within earshot. Backed up by dynamic arrangements that include a variety of instruments — violins, synths, tambourines, saxophones, cellos and trumpets — her songs seem to channel an earnestness far too uncommon in popular music. Lykke Li is one of those rare artists that can make you want to cry and then get you dancing and smiling three minutes later.

Here’s Li performing “Little Bit” back in 2009.


Gold Motel – 2:15pm – PlayStation Stage

The perfect summer pop band, Chicago-based Gold Motel is poised to be one of the breakout acts of Lollapalooza. With frontwoman Greta Morgan (of the Hush Sound), their songs play like a modern take on the girl groups of the ’60s in all of the best ways. Grab a copy of their debut, Summer House, now so that you have time to memorize some of the choruses before Sunday.

Gold Motel’s video for “Safe in LA” should end any debate about whether you need to see them.

The Joy Formidable – 1:00pm – Bud Light Stage

London trio The Joy Formidable are touring in support of their excellent debut, The Big Roar. The album is aptly titled, as songs like “A Heavy Abacus” are armed with solid hooks, sweet vocals and enough bombast to blow your speakers out. With the kind of monster sound-system that Lolla provides, I’d hate to be a band playing anywhere near these guys. Get your earplugs.

Crank the volume and enjoy the video for “A Heavy Abacus.”

Arctic Monkeys – 6:00pm – Music Unlimited Stage

At the beginning of the video for their 2005 breakout single “I Bet You Look Good On The Dance Floor” lead singer Alex Turner coyly says “don’t believe the hype.” I have my own bit of advice: don’t listen to him. The band’s previous Lolla set turned into an hour-long rock party and this year is shaping up to be no different.

Check out that video here.

Foo Fighters – 8:00pm – Music Unlimited Stage

What can I say? I grew up in the ’90s alt-rock scene. Of all the big headliners at this years festival, Foo Fighters are your best bet to give you your money’s worth in one set. Dave Grohl and company are playing for a solid two hours, so you can expect to hear all the hits. This man was in Nirvana for heaven’s sake. Do yourself a favor and don’t miss this set. It’ll give you something to tell your grandkids about.

For a taste of their famous live energy, dig this clip of “Everlong” live at Radio 1’s Big Weekend earlier this year. Goosebumps.

Gene Wagendorf III

About Gene Wagendorf III

Gene is a writer who has spent his entire quarter century of life as a resident of Chicago. When not exploring the city he can be found wandering flea markets and garage sales or having a cigarette between classes at Northeastern Illinois University, where he hopes to acquire a degree in the next quarter century. His favorite smells are old books and bowling alleys. His poetry (how embarrassing!) can be found in issues of Kill Poet, Ditch, Word Riot, O Sweet Flowery Roses and Vowel Movements.

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