This weekend, the music world once again turns its annual attention to Chicago’s Grant Park, where Lollapalooza will spread its freaky tentacles across eight stages, dozens of food booths, and countless pairs of ruined shoes.
(If you’re not there, you may miss the falafel and the mud, but you can still watch nearly all of the performances on your laptop via the Dell-sponsored livestream and archive on YouTube,)
This year’s headliner crop is a weird collision of veteran rockers (Black Sabbath, Red Hot Chili Peppers), huge dance artists (Justice, Avicii, Kaskade), and extra-emotive folks from the hip-hop world (Frank Ocean, Wale, Childish Gambino).
With the undercard full of the usual indie-fied suspects, Lollapalooza 2012 looks a lot like the eclectic stew of alternative energy that Perry Farrell first envisioned when he invented the thing in 1991.
With that in mind, there are a handful of questions going into Lollapalooza weekend that should be resolved by the time Jack White plays his last note on Sunday night. Here are the five you need to consider at the dawn of the weekend.
Is this my last chance to see Black Sabbath?
It’s possible, though technically this isn’t actually the full Black Sabbath, as drummer Bill Ward elected to stay home on this particular reunion jaunt.
Still, the core of the Sabbath sound—Tony Iommi’s stump-fingered riffing and Ozzy Osbourne’s iconic wail—will be in full effect on Saturday night, and though the band has said a new album is imminent, it’s unclear exactly how much more the combo’s collective will and individual health will keep pushing them forward.
Is this the year Perry Farrell’s dream of dance music supremacy finally manifests?
It certainly seems like it. The Jane’s Addiction frontman and Lollapalooza co-founder has been ahead of the curve for years regarding the rise of electronic dance music, curating the ENIT festival back before the turn of the century and regularly hosting a stage devoted to DJs and knob-twiddlers every Lollapalooza weekend. While big time dance acts have played mainstage and headlining sets before, Lollapalooza has never seen this kind of volume, with Avicii closing out Saturday night’s festivities and Justice in charge of wrapping up Sunday.
Though some key names are absent (if there was ever a time for Skrillex to step up and be the pop star everybody thinks he can be, this was certainly the opportunity), it’s entirely possible to have a thorough and satisfying Lollapalooza weekend only absorbing dance acts.
Which headliner is the most compelling?
The biggest narrative at the top level at Lollapalooza may be Frank Ocean. He has an evening-ending slot on Saturday night, and his profile has only increased thanks to his critically-beloved (and surprisingly well-selling) major-label debut Channel Orange, as well as his recent confessions about his sexuality. Saturday night’s set will undoubtedly be the biggest crowd Ocean has ever performed for, and it will be interesting to see how he reacts to the size and scope of the attention he is likely to get. He’s already a star, but he could end up graduating to superstar status.
Who from the afternoon bands could break out?
It’s difficult to tell, though there are a handful of daylight acts that promise to draw far more than the wander-in-a-daze crowd. Milo Green kicks off one of the main stages on Saturday, and since their album is one of the best new releases of 2012, they should surely find some converts. The Growlers also have a pretty great debut and will be well worth getting to the festival grounds early on Friday. JEFF the Brotherhood will rock faces off on Saturday afternoon, and Trampled By Turtles should be able to transcend their silly name and move some units during their set early on Sunday. And hey, the Verve Pipe are playing multiple sets on the Kidz stage—did they become the Wiggles when nobody was looking?
What do I do if I can’t get to Chicago?
If you don’t want to brave the oppressive heat or rack up far too many miles on your walking shoes but still wonder what Bloc Party are up to, technology has solved that problem. As we mentioned earlier, a vast majority of the festival’s offerings will be livestreamed and archived online, so you can watch the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Frank Ocean without leaving the comfort of your air-conditioning. And if you’re interested in from-the-ground reports and photo galleries, stay tuned to the Music Mix all weekend for regular updates about the sights, the sounds, and, potentially, the newly-sprung stars inhabiting Grant Park.