You may not have to rattle off band stats at Lollapalooza to preserve your scene cred—most of the weekend's bands are pretty well-known, and there won't be a quiz in the port-a-potty line—but it doesn't hurt to bone up on some festival basics. From festival history to this year's buzz bands, industry luminaries to local heroes, here's our alphabetical primer on all things Lolla:
Amadou and Mariam
Blind folk duo from Mali injects worldly elements—from Dogan percussion to Syrian violins—and rock guitars into a set rife with blues, Afro-beat and rock.
Impressive Georgian pink marble centerpiece to Grant Park and the Lollapalooza grounds was constructed in 1927, long before it garnered pop-culture fame in the opening credits of "Married With Children."
Austin-based production company (a merger between Charles Attal Presents and the music division of Capitol Sports & Entertainment) cut a five-year deal with Grant Park to make Lollapalooza one of the country's premier destination festivals, sparking controversy in the local music scene by imposing a radius clause barring any Lolla acts from playing within 250 miles of Chicago for 60 days before the festival and 30 days after.
New York producer who famously folded the Beatles and Jay-Z together into The Grey Album, has mixed albums by Beck and Gorillaz, been nominated for a Grammy and comes to Lollapalooza as half of the eccentric alt-hip-hop duo, Gnarls Barkley.
Launched by Perry Farrell in '96, this misguided fest sought to be a "Spiritual Alternative" to Lollapalooza—complete with an all-night lineup, early-morning rave and sunrise tree-planting ceremony. Due to the complications of having thousands of fest-goers planting trees and the tendency of major metropolitan areas to have sound curfews, the ENIT festival was a massive failure from the onset.
2008 has been the year of expletive-deleted band names, and Chicago's summer festivals reflect this well: Pitchfork delivered the experimental UK group, Fuck Buttons, while Lolla gets in on the trend with Canadian media-manipulators, Holy Fuck.
Chicago's front yard and Lolla's home for the weekend stretches for 319 acres along Lake Michigan and boasts incredible views of the cityscape. The adjacent Millennium Park includes a host of public art and the distinction of being the world's largest rooftop garden (it's built on top of a parking garage).
Hard Rock Hotel
The nearby hotel is once again hosting The Music Lounge, Lolla's all-day celebrity-spotting den and the Rock The Vote Lounge, the weekend's after-party headquarters: DJ Momjeans and Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings rock Friday night; Saturday sees both Ronsons (and a rumored appearance by Lindsay Lohan); and Sunday closes out with DJ AM.
The Orwellian-named Pennsylvania band doles out dark electro-dance music with a rock bent, a la Nine Inch Nails and the Chemical Brothers.
This Brit's penchant for exploratory layers, loops and sequencing, along with his soulful lyrics and showmanship, have him straddling the awkward territory between the electronic and soul genres. His always exuberant performances (his energetic knob-twiddling once set a speaker aflame at Washington's Bumbershoot festival) are not to be missed.
Cobain's band, Nirvana, was largely responsible for ushering grunge music (the genre that was to become early Lollapalooza's bread and butter) into the mainstream. The group was slated to headline the '94 Lollapalooza tour, but pulled out of the headlining spot on April 7, just a day before the body of frontman Kurt Cobain was found. Spooky.
Last Band Standing
The festival's online battle-of-the-bands contest offers a slot at Lollapalooza to the winning band, as well as the runner-up. As of press time, only five finalists remain from thousands of entries; .Sub (UK), ArtOfficial (Miami), Foxtail Somersault (San Francisco), Lapdance (Puerto Rico) and The Melismatics (Minneapolis). The winner will be announced during the final July 30 concert at the Double Door.
The oddball moniker of DJ Danny Masterson (best known as Hyde from "That '70s Show") is actually not as strange as his first club name, DJ Donkey Punch. In addition to renewing his afterparty responsibilities at the Hard Rock (he also DJ'ed last year), Masterson has a two-hour Saturday night set on Perry's Stage.
Nine Inch Nails
Trent Reznor's brainchild, Nine Inch Nails, played the first incarnation of Lollapalooza way back in 1991. Although live NIN shows rarely sound like the albums (this being due to the fact that Reznor does everything himself in the studio), they make up for it by employing heavy production elements. This year's NIN lineup: Alessandro Cortini (keys), Robin Finck (lead guitar), Josh Freese (drums) and Justin Meldal-Johnsen (bass).
The presumptive Democratic nominee—whose campaign headquarters are located less than a mile from the fest—has reportedly cleared a slot in his schedule for a Lolla appearance, during which he is expected to introduce either Kanye West or Wilco.
The alt-rocker conceptualized Lollapalooza as a farewell tour for his band, Jane's Addiction, back in 1991. The annual festival toured until '97, was revived in '03 and will remain as a destination festival in Grant Park until 2011, at least. Farrell's other projects include Porno for Pyros, a DJ career (DJ Peretz) and The Satellite Party.
This Portland alternative band is the long-time side project of Sleater-Kinney drummer Janet Weiss and her now ex-husband Sam Coomes. Jicks bassist Joanna Bolme toured with the band in 2006, the same year that Weiss became a permanent member of the Jicks. In 2007, Bolme officially joined Quasi, making the Touch & Go band a trio.
The siblings Ronson are all over Lollapalooza this year. Grammy-winning producer Mark (who was the architect behind Amy Winehouse's Back to Black) performs a Sunday-evening set that will undoubtedly be rife with Brit pop, but catch him and little sis Samantha at the Rock the Vote Lounge on Saturday (with an expected cameo by Sam's girlfriend, Lindsay Lohan).
Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings
Daptone's house band didn't get its due praise for anchoring Amy Winehouse's Back to Black, but with Sharon Jones at the helm, the boys get proper billing. Expect plenty of soulful crooning from "Queen of Funk" Jones to accompany in this retro, horn-driven set.
Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy is the Chicago music scene's beloved poet, Grammy-grabber and rock hero (he also happens to be an active supporter of another favorite son, Barack Obama). When this year's schedule was announced, festival attendees were horrified to discover that Wilco would headline on Saturday night, in direct competition with Rage Against the Machine.
Tomorrow's "It"-Girl, 20-year-old Anna-Catherine Hartley—the resident ingenue of France's Ed Banger Records—already has the blogosphere in eruptive stance, and her debut hasn't even been released. Expect crunky club with an electro smear and plenty of vulgarity during her Saturday-evening set.
While most concerts, festivals and performances of any ilk offer VIP access, Lollapalooza's disparity of wealth is perhaps the biggest stretch: while the GA massive (who paid a paltry $200 for their passes) fry in the sun, those willing to shell out serious dough for access to the Lolla Lounge get a catered affair complete with prime viewing, spa treatments and air-conditioned rest rooms. Those willing to flash even more green can book personal climate-controlled cabanas with private servers.
The New York slam-poet has spent his entire career gathering accolades; be them for his award-winning Sundance and Cannes entry, Slam, his four collections of poetry or his inspired 2003 dissent album, Not In My Name. He takes the Citi Stage on Sunday at 5 p.m.
Another entry in the long column of shaggy-haired, dandy Brit-fetishists, San Diego's Louis XIV finds itself in a tough spot on Friday: Playing against the synth-driven duo of The Kills and Welsh Motown sensation, Duffy.
This Brooklyn group marries experimental rock with worldly influences—taking notes from Middle Eastern and African traditions for an east-coast answer to freak folk. Although its slot is in steep competition—with The Enemy UK, The Go! Team and Holy Fuck—this band's tailor-made for a festival environment.
One of last year's most talked about Lolla acts was Kentucky-based My Morning Jacket, who performed a number of songs with the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra. Festival founder, Perry Farrell, jumped on stage to request that the audience break our their cameras to film "Gideon," a stand-out track from the band's breakthrough album, Z (2005). Snippets of audience-sourced footage (an astounding 8GB, and estimated 1,000 contributers) were spliced into a music video for Current TV.
Want more Lolla? We've got you covered. With our guides, you can get to know the local acts in this year's lineup; learn how you can go green in Grant Park; and, of course, plan out your schedule. Got kids? You can plan out their schedules, too. If you've got a sitter for the night, you should be at one of these after-parties. And don't forget our music-festival survival guide.