The black keys

25 Years of Lollapalooza

For the last two years since this blog’s inception, Coachella has been a primary subject from January through April. It started because I attended Coachella last year and I had an overwhelming excitement for my trip to Indio that I wanted to preview all of my favorite bands who were playing the festival. I decided to preview bands again this year because of the solid response to last year’s posts. Coachella has become this blog’s sole music festival focus. It’s also one of the most popular and well-known festivals in the world, but especially in the U.S. The United States has plenty of other big, well-known festivals as well. One of those festivals is coming up this weekend and is celebrating its 25th year. It’s called Lollapalooza and its home base is at Grant Park in Chicago, IL. I’m lucky enough to be working at the festival this weekend and I’m excited to also be able to experience all that Lolla has to offer.

The first Lollapalooza happened in 1991. It began as a touring festival created by Perry Farrell who came up with it as a farewell tour of sorts for his band, Jane’s Addiction. The festival grew in the 90’s as an alternative rock, grunge festival, which were two popular music genres during that decade.The festival toured from 1991-1997 but ceased to exist in 1998 as the tour failed to find a headliner. The decline of alternative rock is also credited for the festival’s cancellation that year.

In 2003, Jane’s Addiction got back together. Farrell decided to revive the tour. It planned to go through 30 cities in July and August that year, but ultimately had to cancel some dates due to poor ticket sales. The tour again was planned for 2004 but low ticket sales due to high ticket prices caused its cancellation. In 2005, Farrell teamed with Capital Sports & Entertainment (now known as C3 Presents) to produce the festival. It was that year that Lollapalooza became a destination festival in Grant Park. Lollapalooza 2005 spanned over two days and featured 70 acts on 5 different stages which generated a crowd of 65,000+. After returning to much success in 2006, Chicago Park District and Capital Sports & Entertainment signed a 5 year deal that would keep Lollapalooza in Chicago through 2011. After the 2008 festival, the parties again agreed on another deal that would keep the festival in Chicago through 2018. This year’s festival will be the first time that the event spans over 4 days. The 4th day was added in celebration of the festival’s 25th anniversary this year.

Since 2011, the festival has expanded beyond Grant Park to countries in South America. Lollapalooza festivals started up in Chile, Brazil, and Argentina in recent years. Last year the festival even made its way to Europe with an appearance in Berlin, Germany. Many up and coming artists have graced a stage at Lollapalooza before their popularity increased such as The Black Keys, Passion Pit, Manchester Orchestra, Haim, Foals, Frank Ocean, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Fun., Tame Impala, and MGMT. As one of the most well known festivals in America in recent years, along with Coachella, Bonnaroo, and Austin City Limits, Lollapalooza has consistently attracted solid lineups and high-billed performers. This year’s headliners include Lana Del Rey, Radiohead, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and LCD Soundsystem. While not the most incredible set of headliners Grant Park has ever seen (but to each their own of course!), this year’s performances will surely be memorable since each headliner knows how to put on an incredible show.

When it comes to my history with the festival, it actually goes further back than Coachella. Lollapalooza was one of the first music festivals I had ever heard of. During the 2nd semester of my freshman year of college in a Music 101 class, one of my friends mentioned the festival. He was also the first to introduce me to the band Vampire Weekend, who played the festival a year earlier. I remember him saying that he would love to attend Lollapalooza that following summer. Up until then, all I knew of festivals were the Vans Warped Tour and the now non-existent, Bamboozle, so later that day I looked up Lollapalooza to find out who was playing and what kind of festival it was. At that time in my life, I didn’t know many of the bands playing. Now I can look back at the 2008 lineup and shake my head over what I didn’t know in the spring of 2008.

Since my love for indie/alternative music grew in 2011, I’ve always considered Lollapalooza as a prominent music festival in the United States, making the opportunity to be a part of this year’s festival that much greater. The festival weekend begins in 2 days and I head to Chicago in less than 24 hours. I can’t wait to experience this festival and see what Chicago has to offer. Hopefully this 25th anniversary will be legendary!

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The Film Playlist: School of Rock

When I was a freshman in high school, I had a solid 7th period Algebra class. My teacher was in his 20’s and an alumni of my high school, so he made at least one class in our transition to a new school pretty relaxed. I learned a few things in his class, all unrelated to math. I found out what it was like to live in NYC and work on Wall Street (his former profession before he became our Algebra teacher), that Pat’s makes the best cheesesteak in Philly (this was a lie because they don’t), and that School of Rock was a great movie (based on his and a fellow classmate’s recommendation). Out of those few things the most useful to me was that School of Rock was indeed a great movie and a must-see for any music lover.

Directed by Richard Linklater (Boyhood and Dazed and Confused), School of Rock was released October 3, 2003. It was the highest grossing musical comedy of all time until recently when Pitch Perfect 2 surpassed it this year. The movie stars Jack Black as rock singer/guitarist Dewey Finn, who gets kicked out of his band, No Vacancy. With no job and no way to afford rent for the apartment he shares with his friend and former band mate, Ned Schneebly (Mike White, also writer of the film), and Ned’s girlfriend, Patty (Sarah Silverman), Dewey poses as a 4th grade substitute teacher at a prep school to make some money. The school’s principal, Rosaline Mullins, who Dewey befriends to earn the job, is played by Joan Cusack. After Dewey hears his class during their music lesson, he concocts a plan to transform the class into a band to compete at Battle of the Bands and win against No Vacancy, who is also competing. He assigns the class (starring a young Miranda Cosgrove as one of the students) various roles either in the band or as stylists, roadies, groupies, production team members, security, or managers, and preparation for the event takes over normal class time. Obviously his plan is destined for struggles along the way, but through everything, he teaches the students some important life lessons.

The film features a stellar classic rock soundtrack with an original song and AC/DC cover (“It’s A Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock N’ Roll)”) played by the cast. Linklater actually searched for and cast young, talented musicians to play the roles of the kids in the band. The soundtrack also features songs by Led Zeppelin (who rarely distribute the rights to their songs for use in film or television), Stevie Nicks, The Who, The Doors, Cream, The Black Keys, and The Ramones. Many other classic rock songs by bands like AC/DC, Deep Purple, and The Clash are featured in the film as well.

After seeing School of Rock, I purchased the movie to add to my collection, since I enjoyed it so much. It became a movie night film I would turn to time after time (whether that be by myself or with friends). I even downloaded the original song “School of Rock” or “Zach’s Song” as they say in the movie. It’s still on my iTunes to this day. The film was a great ode to music, specifically rock n’ roll, and taught us all how to “stick it to the man”. The Film Playlist series wouldn’t be complete without it, despite it being just an average, funny, music oriented film. For any music fan, it’s worth checking out though, even if you only want to learn Dewey’s rock n’ roll handshake. Let’s rock, let’s rock. Today.

(** If you have seen the film, check out this amazing 10 year reunion performance of “School of Rock” from the cast.**)

Coachella Band Preview: Alabama Shakes

Too hyped that Coachella is only 3 weeks away? Me too. I’ve been listening to music, planning what to pack, and figuring out some other things I need for my arrival in beautiful Southern California. It’s about to get so real. In the meantime though, I’ve decided to blog about a band from the south playing the festival this year for their first time, Alabama Shakes.

Alabama Shakes was formed in 2009 when lead singer/guitarist Brittany Howard and bassist Zac Cockrell began writing songs while still in high school together in Athens, Alabama. They recruited drummer Steve Johnson to join the group  prior to recording some of the tracks they had been working on. Later, guitarist Heath Fogg came on board and so began their life as Alabama Shakes. They were formerly just called The Shakes but added the “Alabama” to differentiate from other bands also known as The Shakes. Their first album Boys & Girls was released in April of 2012, but they started gaining attention prior to that due to the release of a four song EP in September 2011. The band received Grammy nominations for “Best New Artist” and “Best Rock Performance” the following year for their work on the debut album.

I first heard of Alabama Shakes in the spring of 2012 shortly after the release of Boys & Girls. I heard the single “Hold On” and really enjoyed it. Then I remember reading about the group/album thinking, “these guys are gonna be like Foster the People was last year. I need to get into them before everyone else finds out about how good they are. (I like to say I knew about bands “first”.)” So I went out and bought the album. I told all my friends to listen to them. I saw they were touring and selling out shows after a solid performance at SXSW (South by Southwest) that year. However, what I thought would happen didn’t really happen as I expected. Alabama Shakes did end up receiving those Grammy nominations that were predicted when I first heard about them, but I still think Foster the People blew up more.

The band plays a blues, soulful type of rock known as roots rock, which is a combination of folk, blues, and country rock. They could also be classified in the Americana genre. Now that I think about it, it makes total sense why I got into Alabama Shakes in spring 2012. It was also at that point that my interest in The Black Keys started to peak. I purchased El Camino probably a month before I got Boys & Girls. Although I wouldn’t classify their styles and sounds as being the same, both Alabama Shakes and The Black Keys have some similarity with the blues rock sound they produce. Alabama Shakes definitely has more soul and a country-ish feel to their music though. I guess I kind of progressed to Alabama Shakes after listening to The Black Keys.

Like some other bands/artists playing Coachella this year, Alabama Shakes also have a new album due out soon after the festival (the week after Weekend 2 to be exact). The sophomore album is called Sound & Color and the group has already released two singles from it, “Gimme All Your Love” and “Don’t Wanna Fight”, but I doubt those will be the only new tracks the band plays in Indio. This year Alabama Shakes joins Coachella for the first time in a minor headlining role. They play Friday on both weekends. There’s not that many bands I have on my must-see list for Friday, but Alabama Shakes is one of them. I remember wanting to see them in 2012, but not having anyone to go with (at that point I wasn’t too keen on going places by myself). So now I can finally fulfill those wishes.

Song recommendations:

1. Hold On

2.Don’t Wanna Fight

3. Hang Loose

4. Always Alright

5. You Ain’t Alone

6. Be Mine

7. I Found You

Little Black Submarines Operator Please

I know it’s been more than a week since I posted. I also know I promised myself I would post weekly. However, I planned to update after Saturday and in the interim between then and my last post I went through some technical difficulties. That and the fact that I wasn’t really sure what to post about just yet prevented a new blog. Anyway, I’m back and it’s finally time to get into music, my favorite subject.

Dan Auerbach melting my face.

Dan Auerbach melting my face.

So Saturday was a pretty big deal. I attended a Black Keys concert in Philly that had been in my plans since I got a ticket in May. At the time I had recently been at a festival where I had lawn tickets for an outdoor venue. As a result, it was difficult to see anything besides a video screen of the acts. Not as good as actually seeing the acts. I promised myself the next opportunity I had to see live music I would go all out and get as close as possible. That opportunity came a few days later and I “splurged” to get general admission tickets for the Keys. (Thanks of course to my little Beans who attended with me and also agreed to go all in on the tickets.)

The Black Keys are a solid band by my standards. Composed of guitarist, Dan Auerbach, and drummer, Patrick Carney, they’ve been around for quite a while but have recently gained more mainstream success. They play a blues rock style filled with catchy riffs and licks. They also have a few successful albums and grammy awards to their name.

I first heard of them/started listening to them about 2 1/2 years ago around the time of the release of their album El Camino (I know I’m late to the party…you can shun me). I downloaded some of their songs prior to the album release, but I was hooked by the song Lonely Boy. I ended up purchasing the album. I remember thinking around that time that I’d like to see them live so with the release of their new album this year and plans to tour for it, I had the chance to make that happen.

Fast forward to Saturday.

Somehow it worked out that we got a spot right behind some folks on the stage barrier on the right side of the stage so I had the best view of a show/concert I’ve had in a while. Cage the Elephant opened for the Black Keys on this particular tour date (St. Vincent and Jake Bugg will be opening some of their other dates). As an opening band, they were fun and full of high energy which got the crowd going. Plus most people around us seemed to know their music well.

The Black Keys began their set around 9:20 and played til about 11:00 p.m. which included a three song encore of Weight of Love, Turn Blue, and Little Black Submarines. They played straight from start to finish with not many breaks to talk or chit chat with the audience. The only major break came right before the encore (as expected). Some people might not like that as much. I tend to prefer a bit of audience intereaction as well, but for some reason what they did was fine with me. It was full on music the whole set. Between our view and the amount of music played, I really enjoyed the show. It also helped that I knew a vast majority of the songs played. Trust me, it sucks when you don’t. I worried initially because the Black Keys put out a decent number of records to which I knew a couple like the back of my hand and a song or two off the others. I had no reason to worry though. All the well known hits were played along with a few older songs. It was a great set, a killer evening, and I hope everyone else in attendance enjoyed it as much as me.

Lastly when it comes to any music posts, I’ll leave you with songs you need to check out by the bands I write about. So here’s my Black Keys top 3:

1. Sinister Kid – As I was doing my pre-show prep of constantly listening to the Keys this song caught me off guard and I really got into it. Unfortunately they did not play it at the show but it’s extremely catchy and worth a listen.

2. Tighten Up – This was arguably the track that started the Black Keys boost to the top off their album Brothers.

3. Lonely Boy – The song that hooked me on the Black Keys. My friend Justin and I did a pretty sick guitar duet cover of it too.