You’re forgiven if a glance at the top of this year’s Lollapalooza bill makes you feel like you’ve fallen into a wormhole to 1991. Between old-school headliners Tool, Depeche Mode and Jane’s Addiction (fellow old-schoolers the Beastie Boys had to drop out due to Adam Yauch’s cancer diagnosis) and new school topliners who channel the good old days (Kings of Leon‘s 1970s AM radio rock, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs‘ ’80s new wave and the Killers‘ early U2 pose), everything old is new again.
But dig a bit deeper and there’s plenty of gold on the Chicago waterfront among the 100-ish bands who will sprawl out over the mile-long festival site in Grant Park, which kicks off tomorrow. Your legs might give out before you make it to all these sets, but catch half of them and you’ll thank yourself (or me) later.
The Henry Clay People
These Glendale, California shaggy dogs bring a West Coast halo to the bleary-eyed barroom rock perfected by the Hold Steady and the Replacements. Songs like the title track from their album Working Part Time, in which they bemoan “We were working part time all the time,” perfectly capture the get-in-the-van indie experience. They’re on early, but it’ll probably be just the wake-up call you need.
How can you not love a band with a song called “The Narwhal?” Unicorned sea creatures notwithstanding, this Brooklyn-based psychedelic five-piece made noise at this year’s South by Southwest festival and are starting to bend ears with their truly trippy, dirge-erific debut, Rewild. Plus, they’re pals with MGMT and Chairlift, so at the very least they have good taste.
Band of Skulls
This Southampton, England power trio broke out earlier this year with their debut album Baby Darling Doll Face Honey. Get past the cutesy title and you’ll find that the disc is full of White Stripes-style punk-blues that sound Godzilla-size live. If you don’t believe me, check out “Light of the Morning.” Also, they’re on the “New Moon” soundtrack, so you can be ahead of the curve with your vampire friends.
Not a dude, but a pseudonym for Swedish superproducers Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg (also known as Bloodshy & Avant), who have worked with everyone from Britney Spears to Madonna. As you might imagine, songs like “Animal” and “Song For No One” are packed with head-bobbing hooks, bubbly keyboards and helium vocals begging for dance floor remixes. Consider this your Saturday hangover cure.
Portugal. The Man
First of all, he’s got a new album called The Satanic Satanist, so he passes the Awesome Title Test. This Wasilla, Alaska-based quintet (yes, they know the state’s former governor) meld soul and psychedelic freak-outs like “Guns and Dogs” (we told you they were from Wasilla) that are guaranteed to melt your face quicker than the trippy, 3D pop-up book cover art for Satanist.
Cage the Elephant
You may have caught wind of this Louisville, Kentucky band thanks to their first single, the Beck-ian electro-blues thumper “Ain’t No Rest For the Wicked.” Their self-titled debut hops all over the place, from pseudo-hip-hop to blues, soul, punk and indie rock. Singer Matt Shultz has been compared to a “frenzied gibbon” on stage, so that’s something, right?