Wednesday, August 4, 2010


This weekend, THE major event in Chicago is the Lollapalooza music festival. I’ve never paid much attention to Lollapalooza as my main goal on Friday afternoons is to flee the city for the safety and comfort of the suburbs. Also, I envision a music festival like Lollapalooza as being really more for the youngsters and those who don’t mind using porta-potties, and I most certainly don’t fall into either of those categories. However, in light of my new heightened awareness of all things music lately, I decided to investigate Lollapalooza. I was very surprised and a little excited to see that some of the artists I have recently “discovered” will be performing. For a fleeting moment, I pictured myself not as I really am (suburban mom) but as a hip urban festival-goer. Then I saw that the price for the 3-day pass was $240, plus it could be hot and I would almost certainly have to stand in line for any sort of beverage, so I put the idea out of my head. However, I was still intrigued.

My research on Lollapalooza (done via looking at the website: revealed that there are about 6 stages in various parts of Grant Park, and multiple acts could be performing simultaneously. The “main” stage has some big names: Blues Traveler, Green Day, Lady Gaga. That last one is a puzzler as I recently read that her normal act includes no less than 15 costume changes and a multitude of pyrotechnics (some even part of her costumes!). There were lots of acts I’d never heard of but also some really good ones that I had. One thing that continues to startle me about music, particularly since I’ve been putting more effort into finding it, is what a small percentage of it is played on the radio. Therefore, I am challenging you to take matters into your own hands (and put your trust into my hands) and create your own Lollapalooza sampler playlist- I promise I will not lead you astray and you will feel cool to be listening to the music but won’t have to actually GO to the festival (and it will be much cheaper). Also, don’t be surprised if your kids don’t immediately recognize this slight bump in coolness; it’s taking my kids some time to recognize it even though I promote it to them frequently.

Okay, here are my picks:

The Black Keys (Tighten Up) – The Black Keys are kind of a bluesy duo who have a relatively new album out (Brothers) that I really like. I’m not usually too into serious blues, but after listening to the album for a while it really grew on me. That being said, I predict you will like Tighten Up right away.

The New Pornographers (Crash Years) – Don’t be put off by the name of this group (as I was). I don’t know why they decided to alienate a bunch of potential fans by giving themselves a name associated with vulgarity because they are a great band! Their latest album (Together) is really good and because they have both male and female vocalists, their songs have a different sound from one to the next. Other recommendations: Your Hands and My Shepherd.

The Strokes (Last Night) – You may well have heard this song at some point. I like The Strokes because they’re a pretty energetic group. If you ever have a party, throw one of their songs on the playlist. Other picks: Barely Legal and Someday.

B.O.B. (Nothing on You) – This guy is a little new to the hip hop scene and you’ve probably heard this song in passing. Even more likely is that you’ve heard his song Airplanes, which he sings with Ke$ha, America’s most fun (and possibly inappropriate) sweetheart. I do love Nothing on You, though.

Raphael Saadiq (Staying in Love) – I feel blessed to have relatives who spoon feed me good music. Just last week while on vacation in Michigan, one of my uncles gave me a CD of Raphael Saadiq’s: The Way I See It. From the very first listen, I was in love. He’s an R&B guy and I learned that he has produced songs for people like Mary J. Blige and John Legend, both of whom I adore. Apparently The Way I See It was nominated for some Grammys a couple years ago; I’m alarmed to have missed him entirely real-time, but listening to this album while I went to work this past Monday softened the blow of returning from vacation. Other picks: Never Give You Up (with Stevie Wonder!) and Love That Girl.

Spoon (Mystery Zone) – I don’t know a ton about Spoon except that every now and then I’ll hear a song I like and discover that it’s Spoon. Since a lot of my music listening is done while walking to or from work, I always notice when I fall in step with a certain song, and this one has a perfect beat for a brisk walk to the train, particularly if you’re running a tad late. If nothing else, you could recommend this song to any friends who happen to be mall walkers, although I think you’ll like this song in its own right.

Phoenix (1901) – You will immediately recognize this song, but you might not immediately realize why: it’s on the Cadillac commercials! Another good Phoenix song to try: Lisztomania.

MGMT (Congratulations) – This band has kind of a funky sound, but I think they’re really good. Congratulations (also the name of the album) is fairly mainstream. Another really good song from the album is Someone’s Missing, which feels like a musical journey with all its twists and turns.

Arcade Fire (Rebellion) – This band had an album a couple years (Funeral) that got a lot of critical acclaim, and they have a new album out this week with an exciting title: The Suburbs! NPR has a podcast series called All Songs Considered, and on one such podcast I heard the brothers from Arcade Fire interviewed and talking about the new album, amongst other things. I wish I could listen to artists interviews for every album- so interesting. On the podcast they played a couple songs from the new album, including the title track, which was really good. If you feel like not only being cool but also being cutting edge you might want to try that song.

There you go! Even if you don’t want to try all of these songs, choose a few and awaken your inner artist. Discover something new that might not be on the radio and know that you’re cool enough to be at Lollapalooza- if you really wanted to.

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