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Concert Preview: Lollapalooza 2011

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This weekend Lollapalooza will once again rumble and rule Grant Park in Chicago. But it wasn’t always a three-day, sold-out mainstream celebration to boot. It’s nothing short of amazing to think of the festival’s roots and remember that Lollapalooza first started as a traveling farewell oddity tour for Perry Farrell and Jane’s Addiction in 1991.

And things have certainly changed since then. Because 20 years later, in 2011, the festival has a more corporate-flavor with sponsored stages and three-day ticket prices topping out at $215. This year, the fan count has swelled to an expected record number of 90,000 fans a day who will come ready to rock to the tune of 130 bands on eight stages.

One of the ways I’ve put the whole experience in perspective over the years is by re-reading one of my favorite interviews with Perry Farrell. The intriguing chat is from Dimitri Ehrlich’s Inside the Music, an excellent collection of conversations with artists and performers. One of the reasons I love reading this interview is because it was written around the time of Woodstock 1994, and it never ceases to amaze and challenge me to think differently about Farrell. And each time I read it, I always notice something new about Farrell’s artistic vision.

I can’t help but struggle with deciding whether or not his perspective on performance and entertainment has changed over the years. And each time I read deeper into what he says, I often wonder if the Farrell of today would put on the Lollapalooza of 1991, or vice versa.

So before I tell you which bands I’m looking forward to seeing this weekend, I’d like to get you ready for this year’s show by sharing a section of this interview that takes us back to Farrell’s provocative “self-love” mindset in 1994 and that properly celebrates Lollapalooza’s 20th birthday.

Ehrlich writes, “As the founder of Lollapalooza, Farrell gave a generation it’s own version of Woodstock, an alternative rock tour de force, which became so big, so powerful, and so popular that Farrell had to jump off … Farrell is playing to smaller crowds but he’s adamant about creating art on his own terms. Operating with that sense of freedom, he’s finding not only artistic rejuvenation but a kind of spiritual one as well.”


Lollapalooza logo

Farrell says, “Whether it’s about being a catalyst or being another cell in a total living organism, I’m finding that in the ’90s, this is what I’m shooting for, this is what I believe. I believe that the next step for entertainers is to teach people self-love.

“Those people who separate themselves, those who look down, those who condescend, they are going to be wiped out. I think that people are just going to wipe them of the slate. The performers who will be valued are those who come to a town and practice and exhibit self-love. Because I think that’s what we want now is to learn how to love ourselves ….”

“What I’m trying to do in my life right now is learn how to love the position that I’m in …. I welcome the fact that I entertain people. I don’t separate myself from them, I don’t look down at the crowd. I like being the emcee at the party, I like putting people in a good mood, and I work hard to do it.”

Farrell’s thoughts are certainly an interesting thing to think about as the music begins to rock this weekend.

Now, here are my top picks that I’ve already marked off as “must-see” on this year’s Lollapalooza mobile app. I’d love to hear what you think of Farrell’s thoughts and what bands you’re looking forward to seeing this year too.

If you’re heading out to the festival be sure to take a break from the music and check out all the new Lolla activities and fan-centric side shows going on this year. And, stay in the know with a few helpful tips

For those of you not able to see the action live, the whole festival will be streamed live on YouTube, and you can watch it here


Kids These Days, 4:15 p.m. @ BMI Stage: Don’t be fooled by their lack of years. This Chicago-based eight-piece is quickly winning fans with each passing show. Get caught up in their raw, re-energizing and refreshing mix of Roots-style jazz, rock and hip hop.

Bright Eyes, 6:30 p.m. @ Bud Light Stage: One of the best singer-songwriters today, Conor Oberst will certainly leave no personal story untold and no emotion unfelt.

Girl Talk, 8:45 p.m. @ Perry’s Stage: It’s always a joyous free-for-all when Greg Gillis is behind the laptop. And fans are never able to resist the thumping and surging mashup of party beats and Top 40 hits when he hits full throttle.

Muse, 8:15 p.m. @ Bud Light Stage: A fitting end to day one is Muse. It’s British anti-establishment anthem rock at it’s finest. Fans’ fists will be raised high in pleasureful protesting salute.


Atmosphere, 7:30 p.m. @ Music Unlimited Stage: As one of the pioneers of indie-rap, this Minnesota-based duo never disappoint live with the beats and rhymes. And with their latest offering Family Sign, the superb storytelling combo of emcee Slug and producer/DJ Ant has only gotten better with age.

Cee-Lo, 6:30 p.m. @ Music Unlimited Stage: Yes, Lollapalooza wouldn’t be complete without Cee-Lo putting a mile-wide smile on the masses. Expect one of the biggest sing-a-longs in the festival’s 20-year history to erupt during uber hit (and hopefully uncensored) “F*ck You.”

Eminem, 8:30 p.m @ Music Unlimited Stage: Mr. Mathers isn’t touring a lot, so this Saturday closer will be one to remember and is not to be missed.


Cool Kids, 3:00 p.m. @ Perry’s Stage: This crafty hip hop duo have honed their release of their latest album When Fish Ride Bicycles. And the hometown crowd is ready to put it to the test live.

Manchester Orchestra, 7:00 p.m. @ Google + Stage: Courageous, intimate and epic storytelling doesn’t get any better than on their latest gem, Simple Math; it’s simply one of the best, most personal and inspiring rock albums of 2011.

Kud Cudi, 9:00 p.m. @ Perry’s Stage: Escape in the cold dark world of Cleveland native Scott Mescudi as he raps deftly with a slow and melodic flow about his life’s drug-hazed trials and lonesome tribulations.

Foo Fighters, 8:30 p.m. @ Music Unlimited Stage: When he’s not kicking fans out for fighting during their shows, Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl shows why he is the master of arena rock.

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About Chris Catania