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Lollapalooza's Grid Wars

You can go with this, or you can go with that ...
Saturday Jul 24, 2010.     By Ben Rubenstein
Centerstage Chicago Nightlife City Guide Arts

Lady GagaLady Gaga and DJ VH1
In this world of colliding genres, it's not uncommon for a music-lover to be a fan of everything from soft indie-pop to hard rock to booty-shaking electronica. Which makes an unfocused festival like Lollapalooza a dream come true – and a nightmare waiting to happen. With so many acts going on at once, there’s the potential for some of your favorites to be going head to head. In our annual Grid Wars guide, we help you tackle some of Lollapalooza 2010’s biggest schedule conflicts, so you can save energy for the mad dashes from one stage to the next.


The New Pornographers vs. Devo, 4-5 p.m.
Advantage: Devo
We were almost ready to pick the Canadian indie supergroup based on its hilarious run-in with the moral police in Salt Lake City, but then we saw Devo's recent appearance and performance on "The Colbert Report" and were reminded how creative and fun these guys are. There's little doubt that the show will be one filled with interesting outfits and video segments galore - and "Whip It," of course. Plus, it seems like The New Pornographers are in town every year anyway.

F**k Buttons vs. Matt & Kim vs. Dirty Projectors, 5-6 p.m. Advantage: Dirty Projectors
F**k Buttons put on a great show, but we're pretty sure you’re going to get your electronic fix throughout the weekend, whether it's at Perry's or with one of the many electro-centric headlining acts. Meanwhile, we have all the love in the world for Matt & Kim, the smiliest husband-wife pop-punk duo ever. But again, if you haven’t seen them by now, you haven’t been trying hard – they've played in Chicago several times over the past few years, and we’re worried about burning out on them. On the contrary, Dirty Projectors have been around for eight years but still feel like something fresh and new -- the band’s unique mix of experimental rock, world music and R&B (as shown in the 2009 single "Stillness Is The Move") will no doubt provide an interesting hour.

The Strokes vs. Lady Gaga, 8-10 p.m.
Advantage: Lady Gaga
It is a pretty big deal that the garage-rock upstarts are hitting the stage again after what’s essentially been a four-year break. But that is no reason to miss the reigning queen of pop – even if you’re a Mets fan. It doesn’t matter so much if you like her or her music (though “Poker Face” is undeniably catchy); you have to know that this will be a spectacle worth witnessing, costume changes and all.


The xx/Grizzly Bear vs. Gogol Bordello, 3:15-:4:45 p.m.
Advantage: Gogol Bordello
The way the schedule's set up, you could conceivably catch all three of these acts, but you might gain a few blisters in the process. If you’re in a subdued mood, the combo of The xx's understated boy-girl tunes and the experimental folk-pop of Grizzly Bear could be good, but in our experience such sounds don’t fare too well in a festival setting. On the other hand, the crazy gypsy-punk party that Gogol Bordello puts on can’t be denied no matter how cavernous the location. To really experience it, you'll want to get up close to the stage, so don’t lag in getting there.

Spoon vs. Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, 6:15-7:30
Advantage: Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros
Don’t get us wrong – when Britt Daniel and co. are on their game, Spoon offers one of the best live shows around (it doesn’t hurt that the Austin act has several albums worth of top-notch material to draw from). But the band has also played Lolla twice now (plus Pitchfork), and even made a recent stop here at the Old St. Pat’s party in July. Add to that the fact that this year’s Transference doesn’t quite live up to past glories, and you’ve sealed the deal for Alex Ebert’s rambling neo-hippie crew. What Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros lack in authenticity, they make up for in sheer exuberance; throwback songs like “Home” and “40 Day Dream” would’ve been appropriate at Woodstock, and this is probably the closest you’re gonna get in Chicago.

Green Day vs. Phoenix, 8-10 p.m.
Advantage: Green Day
Last year, we learned our lesson: the Lollapalooza crowd loves ‘90s chart-toppers, no matter how much they’ve sold out. Now, we’re not saying Green Day is exactly like Snoop Dogg (whose epic ’09 set was a major surprise), but its long string of hits, from "Basket Case" and "When I Come Around" all the way to "American Idiot" and "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," means they’ll have plenty of fodder for the two-hour-plus set. If you want to sacrifice a little of that time to catch "1901," "Lisztomania" and the rest of Phoenix's catchy alt-rock, we can't blame you. But don't underestimate how far nostalgia can take you.


Blitzen Trapper vs. The Cribs, 2-3 p.m.
Advantage: The Cribs
Two words: Johnny Marr. The former Smiths and Modest Mouse guitarist joined forces with these upstart UK rockers a couple years ago, bumping an already raucous live act into something nearing must-see territory. The unfortunate casualty here is Portland's Blitzen Trapper, whose experimental folk-rock we love, but again, it's something we'd rather see in a club, anyway.

Yeasayer vs. X Japan, 4-5 p.m.
Advantage: X Japan
In many ways, Yeasayer is the perfect festival band. It's got a world of influences (literally) to please pretty much everybody, and its upbeat sound will help drive you through to the final hours of the fest. But if you really want a pick-me-up, look no further than the power metal of X Japan. In a time of rehashed musical movements, these guys offer an authentic trip back to a time when big hair was cool. Though the group has toned it down in recent years, this will still likely be an experience you don’t want to miss.

Frightened Rabbit vs. Erykah Badu vs. MuteMath, 5-6 p.m.
Advantage: Frightened Rabbit
OK. We love Erykah Badu’s revolutionary manner, and her courage to bare all in her recent controversial video, "Window Seat." But the last time we saw her in a full concert, we got a little drowsy. It pains us to steer you away from one of the few R&B acts on the bill, but this just doesn’t seem like the right setting for her sultry yet powerful voice. When choosing between the two rock acts in the same hour, we decided on the soused Scottish band over the genre-mashing, instrument-switching New Orleans act. But since it'll be hard to find any decent whisky at the fest, we understand if you go the other way.


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