Lollapalooza 2010's Thirty Essential Sets

Lady Gaga, Black Keys, Soundgarden and more: a daily guide to the best bands at Perry Farrell's fest

By |

Perry Farrell's Lollapalooza has transformed from a roaming freak show into one of the year's most reliable showcases of brilliant pop, rock and hip-hop acts. This year, Lady Gaga and Arcade Fire share top billing alongside Soundgarden, Green Day and the Strokes, and fans can jump from seeing stoner rapper B.o.B to lo-fi punks Wavves. If you're headed out to Chicago this weekend for three days of sun and music, here's the essential, hour-by-hour breakdown of what sets to catch. Stick with Rolling Stone for full reports from this year's fest, plus photos, video, interviews and more.

Check out Perry Farrell's favorite Lollapalooza memories, from Rage's return to Snoop dodging bullets.


FRIDAY

11:30 a.m.—12:15 p.m.: B.o.B
One of this year's many hip-hop success stories, B.o.B. sailed up the charts courtesy of the Hayley Williams-assisted "Airplanes," a song about, of all things, being tired of success. It's those kinds of paradoxes that propel B.o.B.'s music, melding melody with clean, nimble rapping, songs that have both bounce and heart.

12:15 p.m.—1:00 p.m.: Wavves
Nathan Williams was halfway to trainwreck when he released his first record, melting down at the Primavera Sound festival and getting into fights in Brooklyn bars. Somehow, he's righted the ship: nicking the late Jay Reatard's crackerjack rhythm section, he assembled the full-throttle-sunshine of King of the Beach, and turned a sloppy, disinterested live show into pure punk power.

1:00 p.m.—2:00 p.m.: The Walkmen
With each new record, Hamilton Leithauser & Co. seem to get more imposing and expansive. Their last outing, You & Me, found them blowing out their reverb-soaked noir-rock to full 70mm, and leaked tracks from the upcoming Lisbon promise even more: string sections, brass sections, bigger choruses, deeper yearning. Live, all of these elements seem more urgent and desperate. Leithauser twists and contorts his gangly frame as he bellows out lyrics about fading light and fading love. Mid-afternoon is the right time for this slow-building force of nature.

2:00 p.m.—3:00 p.m.: Mavis Staples
Any opportunity to witness a legend in action must be seized, but that goes five times over for Mavis Staples. At 71 years old, her voice has lost none of its rich, earthy tone or its singular spiritual power. As if that's not enough, she'll almost certainly be debuting songs from You Are Not Alone, her forthcoming collaboration with Jeff Tweedy which splits the difference between gospel and country, drawing out the best bits of both. Expect her to close with one of the best versions of "The Weight" you've ever heard.

3:00 p.m.—4:00 p.m.: Drive-By Truckers
Alt-country's resident hard-luck storyteller Patterson Hood has a snarl for every season. The group's latest, The Big To-Do, is stripped-back and simple, with prime focus on Hood's yowl and a steady chug of guitar. Onstage, the group is ferocious, tearing up the center of their catalog with reckless abandon and throwing their whole body weight into ragged pickup truck rockers. Scorched and perfectly ruined, the Drive-By Truckers are the grit between the gears.

4:00 p.m.—5:00 p.m.: Devo
Pioneering bizarro new wavers Devo's scathing Something for Everybody is less like a reunion and more like king cynics coming to reclaim their pylon-shaped crown. The album amps up the synth leanings of their later works, but the set's a must-see because of the band's flair for the visual and their perverse sense of humor.

5:00 p.m.—6:00 p.m.: Dirty Projectors
Beloved by everyone from bleeding-edge art students to Beyoncé's little sister, Brooklyn's Dirty Projectors are purveyors of the perfectly refracted pop song. They turn the essential elements inside out: weird, bent-metal guitars, arrhythmic percussion and unlikely melodic twists. But the songs still work: there are undeniable traces of R&B in the vocal delivery of Amber Coffman and Angel Deradoorian, and the way their smooth tones contrast with the wildman yelping of singer Dave Longstreth helps give the Projectors their strange power.

6:00 p.m.—7:15 p.m.: The Black Keys
The gruff blues duo's latest, Brothers, nicks elements of soul and funk, and even a bit of glam rock in the T. Rex stomp of opener "Everlasting Light." Nine years on the road has turned them into a live powerhouse: Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney churn out a big noise, fierce and terrific, and one not to be missed as the sun sets on Chicago.

7:15 p.m.—8:30 p.m.: Jimmy Cliff
If his Bonnaroo set is any indication, Cliff's performance at Lollapalooza should find him in good spirits and outstanding voice. His song selection — "You Can Get it If You Really Try," "I Can See Clearly Now," "Many Rivers to Cross" — is exceptional. Cliff is exuberant onstage: running in place, laughing, egging on the crowd. If energy is flagging near the end of Day One, Jimmy Cliff is certainly the top choice to wake you up in time for the big show.

8:00 p.m.—10:00 p.m.: Lady Gaga
8:30 p.m.—10:00: The Strokes
This is festival programming genius at its finest: on one stage, the definition of opulence and spectacle — a mind-blowing, eye-widening panorama of sight and sound that, according to most estimates, cost upwards of a quarter of a million dollars. On the other stage, five guys who are the apotheosis of don't-give-a-shit minimalism. You'll be lucky if they even have a smoke machine. Look, let's be honest: no matter how fantastic it is that the Strokes are out of their temporary limbo, that they're working on a new album, and that recent show reports have been excellent, don't you kind of have to see Gaga? It's like being in the same room as a mermaid riding a unicorn through the aurora borealis and deciding instead to watch this really great Fellini movie on a TV. I mean, the Fellini movie is still great, but it's a mermaid riding a unicorn through the aurora borealis. Which, coincidentally enough, is actually a set piece in Lady Gaga's quarter-of-a-million-dollar Lollapalooza performance.


SATURDAY

12:00 p.m.—12:30 p.m.: The Morning Benders
After Friday's boundless decadence, you're going to want to ease into Saturday slowly. Enter California's Morning Benders. Their second disc, Big Echo, is aptly named: produced by Grizzly Bear's Chris Taylor, it swoons and swoops, the sound of lullabies recorded at the bottom of a canyon. Vocalist Chris Chu offers a high, piercing lead, but he's balanced out by the rest of his band, who rise up pillow-soft to carry him into the chorus. This is sun-coming-up, headache-soothing music, the perfect start to a long Saturday.

1:00 p.m.—1:45 p.m.: Harlem
The old adage says one man's trash is another man's treasure, but in the case of this fantastic Texas scuzz-rock band, you could just as easily argue that one man's trash is another man's chorus. The band is fantastically grimy — dirty riffs played greasy guitars and topped with old-school '50s greaser vocals. They're full-on whine and thrash, but they never allow their penchant for fuzz to negate their fondness for a well-placed hook.

2:15 p.m.—3:00 p.m.: Warpaint
One of the year's most promising new acts, Warpaint construct mysterious songs that pair the rhythmic chug of Pylon with the otherworldly eeriness of Throwing Muses. Bass lines zigzag and drums kick off-kilter rhythms and Emily Kokal's soft, pleading vocals. Every song feels like an incantation: weirdo dance number "Beetle" finds Kokal belting out lyrics in jump-rope cadence between bouts of bent-wire guitar and eerie ripples of synth. The band was captivating in their performance at SXSW this past March, and they're poised to loom even larger when their second record is released this fall. See them in Chicago, and claim all the corresponding bragging rights.

2:45 p.m.—3:45 p.m.: Against Me!
Chalk it up to years of touring or their deep-down punk-rock roots but sometime over the course of the last year, Against Me! turned into one of the best live rock bands in America. Now rounded out by former Hold Steady keyboardist Franz Nicolay the band delivers a big, bruising noise, all sweat and passion, lead vocalist Tom Gabel capable of making even the bluntest political lyrics sing like sweet poetry. Under the heat of the blazing Chicago sun, this is guaranteed to be one of the weekend's most exuberant sets.

3:45 p.m.—4:45 p.m.: Gogol Bordello
A close second to Against Me! in enthusiasm and energy, Gogol Bordello have been delivering their wild-eyed fusion of punk rock and the music of Eastern Europe for over 10 years. The time hasn't blunted any of their manic edge: live shows are still a spectacle as frontman Eugene Hutz whips across the stage like an electrocuted carnival barker, frantically leading his band through high-kicks and backflips and low-dips with whirling-dervish fury. Back-to-back with Against Me!, they make for the perfect late-afternoon heart-starter.

5:00 p.m.—6:00 p.m.: Deer Tick
Rhode Island's Deer Tick specialize in ragged, rugged country music — the slumped-over, empty-bottle-of-whiskey, sobbing-on-a-Sunday night kind. Not that they had much choice: vocalist and founder John McCauley's rusted-over pipes are more croak than tone, but they're the perfect conduit for his hard luck tales. Their latest album, The Black Dirt Sessions, is full of slow, stomping dusty-road numbers, and live they've proven again and again their ability to  progress from smolder to full-flame, barreling through the heartache with set jaws and steely eyes. Expect them to bring Southern discomfort to the sunny Midwest.

6:15 p.m.—7:30 p.m.: Spoon
In 2001, Spoon recorded a song called "The Fitted Shirt," and there is perhaps no better description for their taut guitar-pop. It's clean lines and brilliant whites, Britt Daniel's parched, slightly pouty vocals cruising over silvery filaments of guitar. And though they may be known for their studio wizardry, they're also a crackerjack live band, one that ornaments airtight studio recordings with crackle and spark.

7:30 p.m.—8:30 p.m.: Cut Copy
Your transition into evening could not possibly be more perfect: Australia's Cut Copy expertly revive the percolating sounds of ‘80s synth pop, crossbreeding the frantic rush of New Order with the sparkling synths of Depeche Mode's sunnier moments. But Cut Copy's secret weapon is the fact that they're expert pop craftsmen, putting as much focus on chorus as rhythm to create songs that inspire singing as well as motion.

7:45 p.m. —10:00 p.m.: Green Day
8:30 p.m. —10:00 p.m.: Phoenix
It's hard to remember now that they're Broadway-beating megastars, but in 1987 Green Day were a bunch of snot-nosed punk rockers led by a 15-year-old who barreled around the country in a beat-up Bookmobile and thrilled locals at the fabled all-ages club on Gilman Street in Berkeley, California. Phoenix labored for years in relative obscurity until last year's thrilling Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix catapulted them into America's earbuds (having a few well-placed songs in The Virgin Suicides, directed by vocalist Thomas Mars' now-girlfriend Sofia Coppola, didn't hurt, either). Live, both bands have their virtues, but for sheer audacity, heart and spectacle, the edge goes to Green Day. The band's sprawling live show (scheduled to run a whopping 135 minutes) is sure to make all stops across their hefty catalog — everything from recent-vintage epics like "Jesus of Suburbia" to fast-and-furious classics like "Basket Case." Those seeking a softer exit to Saturday might opt for Phoenix — the group's precision and timing has never been better, and when they launch full-bodied into "Lisztomania" and "1901," expect the crowd to move right along with them.


8:30 p.m. —10:00 p.m.: Phoenix
It's hard to remember now that they're Broadway-beating megastars, but in 1987 Green Day were a bunch of snot-nosed punk rockers led by a 15-year-old who barreled around the country in a beat-up Bookmobile and thrilled locals at the fabled all-ages club on Gilman Street in Berkeley, California. Phoenix labored for years in relative obscurity until last year's thrilling Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix catapulted them into America's earbuds (having a few well-placed songs in The Virgin Suicides, directed by vocalist Thomas Mars' now-girlfriend Sofia Coppola, didn't hurt, either). Live, both bands have their virtues, but for sheer audacity, heart and spectacle, the edge goes to Green Day. The band's sprawling live show (scheduled to run a whopping 135 minutes) is sure to make all stops across their hefty catalog — everything from recent-vintage epics like "Jesus of Suburbia" to fast-and-furious classics like "Basket Case." Those seeking a softer exit to Saturday might opt for Phoenix — the group's precision and timing has never been better, and when they launch full-bodied into "Lisztomania" and "1901," expect the crowd to move right along with them.


SUNDAY

12:15 p.m.—1:00 p.m.: Nneka
Nigerian singer Nneka's music is stunning in its breadth, taking in folk, soul, rock and hip-hop. Her U.S. debut, Concrete Jungle felt like a long lost-sequel to The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, joining songs about romance to tracks about politics and social consciousness, all of them delivered in Nneka's rich, smoky voice. Count on this to be a rousing start to your final day at Lollapalooza.

1:00 p.m.—2:00 p.m.: The Dodos
Not nearly as loopy as their name would have you believe, the Dodos write piercing, straightforward pop songs that put an emphasis on acoustic guitars and roaming vocal melodies. Live, they ratchet up both the intensity and the enthusiasm, exploding from the stage with surprising force.

2:00 p.m.—3:00 p.m.: Blitzen Trapper
Country boys from Portland, Oregon, Blitzen Trapper update the Band's ramshackle Americana for the indie rock generation, bashing out songs with banjo and guitar and piano and sewing them up with shining harmonies. Frontman Eric Earley is odd and magnetic onstage, seemingly channeling songs from some alternate universe. It's the best kind of revivalism, keeping the heart and soul of '60s folk-rock alive with warm, earnest songwriting.

4:00 p.m.—5:00 p.m.: Yeasayer
In one of the strangest transformations of the last few years, one-time new age hippies Yeasayer emerged, with Odd Blood, as heirs to the throne abandoned by OMD. It's a buoyant, sparkling record, full of percolating synths, propulsive rhythms and vocalist Chris Keating's keening falsetto. They've retooled their live show, too, adorning the stage with glowing neon screens and glittery disco balls.

5:00 p.m.—6:00 p.m.: Erykah Badu
A must. Badu is a miracle live, winding her way slowly through dusky, ever-changing soul numbers. She's a riveting performer, somersaulting up the octaves and tumbling back down to go for the low notes, making sly asides to the audience and fully inhabiting her role as high priestess of R&B. Her band is just as versatile: one song seeps into the next, rhythms flutter, different grooves are examined and explored. Many of her peers have the voice, but Badu also has the vision.

6:00 p.m.—7:15 p.m.: MGMT
Not since the first go-round of Lollapalooza in the mid ‘90s has a popular band thumbed its nose so aggressively at the mainstream. This year's Congratulations is one of the most fascinating follow-ups of the last decade, a thorough repudiation of everything that made the band huge in favor of the pursuit of a strange artistic vision. Accordingly, at this Sunday evening set, you should be prepared for the band to skip the hits. Instead, go into this prepared to accept it for what it will be: one of the weekend's strangest — and, perhaps, strangely fascinating — sets.

7:15 p.m.—8:30 p.m.: The National
By this stage of the game, there can't be too many people left who haven't heard that the National are a powerhouse live, the exact opposite of their small, personal records. If you somehow still haven't seen them, this should be what you're doing Sunday night. Matt Berninger's forays into the audience are quickly becoming the stuff of legend: at Bonnaroo, he leapt off the stage during "Abel" and disappeared into the crowd completely, reemerging near the song's end atop the hands of rowdy and ecstatic audience members.

8:30 p.m.—10:00 p.m.: Arcade Fire
8:00 p.m,—10:00 p.m.: Soundgarden
This, by far, will be the most difficult musical choice of Lollapalooza weekend. YouTube clips of Soundgarden's performance at the Showbox in Seattle reveal Chris Cornell and Co.'s reunited band to be in fine fighting form. And yet at the other end of the park are one of contemporary music's most vital and inspiring bands, themselves known for passionate, rousing and nearly peerless live performances. The decision essentially comes down to whether you want to relive rock's past, or get a glimpse of its future. Here's the upside: there is no wrong decision.
x