Every year Chicagoans trudge through snowy sidewalks, bitter, frozen-over train platforms, and arctic-laden winds only to be living off of the promise of, well, Summer. What would be the point to live in such a brutally cold city with its share of political ills and deficit problems—not to mention it’s clear racial and class divisions? The architecture, beaches, food and, yes, Festivals makes the fuss and the, seemingly, nine months of the winter solstice worth it. People travel far and wide to see our city-spanned lake fronts—unique shore frames from north to south—and our world class cuisines allowing us to, unpretentiously, boast about why we rival—with our own distinguishable traits—Mexico City, London, Paris, and dare I say, New York among other places.
Above all, our festivals—which includes beach parties, boundless food, music, and more—is our saving grace when we’ve had enough of everything else. Lollapalloza, housed in Chicago’s Grant Park, for instance, in its 10th year, endures with stamina. It has mainstream appeal with an indie scene feel but bigger than big. It’s alluring because of its tamed Wookstock persona, bringing in droves of music enthusiasts from suburbanites and city troopers alike who spend the entire weekend knee-deep in intoxicating shows and after-sets, getting their last chance at the summer fun. It’s overwhelmingly good and, for some, a bookend to a summer that will soon be autumn (those fleeting days before winter).
Though the large number of acts at Lollapalooza can cause a mental meltdown, it doesn’t have too. Which is why we’ve come up with a little collection of ten, handpicked—and often off-the-beaten-path— artists that will give you a jump start to your Lolla experience, and ease that anxiety-ridden question: which “lolla” stage should I run to next? It’s all covered in our 2011 Lollapalooza Digital Playlist.
A mixtape takes gusto and incomprehensible intuition. Since the inception of cassette tapes, to the later mix CD, music fans have put their heart and soul in creating meticulous lists of tunes for car rides, loved ones, and rainy days.
Ana Tijoux – 1977
The depth of Ana Tijoux’s life—and her family history—explains her lyrical dexterity. In 1977 the song title, and the year she was born, is a hip hop laced track with traditional flamenco influences equipped with the Spanish guitar and nudging percussion—with metronomic movement—her beat- heavy raps and classical sound leaves us moving our heads (like a true hip-hopper) and, concurrently, grabbing our partner as Tijoux talks about growing up mired in social consciousness.
Ceci Bastida – Ya me voy
Lollapalooza isn’t wavering with its number of musical acts from Latin America. Ceci Bastida—who is on the verge of releasing her debut full-length album—is fittingly part of this year’s lineup. Though her songs are primarily in Spanish, her live shows include crowd favorites from Mike Snow and Kanye West, setting her apart from her peers. While being a highly praised indie artist, Bastida became known by her work with producer XXXChange with Controlar. Ya Me Voy highlights her supple vocals while conjuring comparisons of Nelly Furtado like reflections.
Cee Lo Green – Bodies
Cee Lo’s smash hit Forget You (an expletive replaces forget in the real title) reminded everyone why this musical titan was so large in the first place; he hails from Atlanta where he got his start with Goody Mob then going solo and, most notably, became one half of the duo Gnarls Barkley, think Crazy and Moving On. Bodies is a trance-induced, melodic tune with his signiture wide sounding vocals over thumping snare drums. Knowing his track record, Green unabashedly ads a high level of genuine soul to this year’s lineup.
Chico Trujillo – Sombrero
The Chilean wonder Chico Trujillo has produced hits like Y si no fuera and Loca. Our pick, Sombrero, adds flair to your summer playlist; it’s fun and mixes auditory flavors of Cumbia with a sprawling fix of widespread Latin music influences from the start to finish. The enticing horns from the get-go ushers us into his very intimate conversation with, you guessed it, the sombrero. If you don’t put on—or even buy—a sombrero (or a guayabera) by the end of the track, at the very least, you will be moving and your hips should be effortlessly guided by the percussion at the core of the song.
Girl Talk – That’s Right
Where can you find full-out samples of Rihanna, Whodini, Nine Inch Nails, Beastie Boys, Beyonce, and Foxy Brown mashed into one epic aural a la carte? On Girl Talk’s That’s Right from his fifth album entitled All Day (Illegal Art records). Girl Talk is a true treat that has been around since 2002, indiscriminately melding songs with beats and lyrics across genres, which is seemingly intuitive for the American-born DJ.
Le Butcherettes – The Leibniz Language
Like death, good things come in threes and, apparently, the same adage goes to the goodness that comes from Mexico. This Guadalajara implant Teri Gender Bender (lead vocalist and guitarist)—with drummer Gabe Serbian and, on bass and keyboard, Johnathan Hischke—is a three-tiered musical force combing the best elements of electro-rock in The Leibinz Language. Teri’s fully agape sound fused with her lyrics of metaphorical body dismemberment beckons one to ponder, and embrace, how Le Butcherettes interpret sound from afar in a way that encourages us listeners to want to understand as we play this on repeat.
Los Bunkers – Llueve sobre la ciudad
What do you get when you mix the ingenious Beatles-like musical arrangements with modern-day Maroon 5 crooning (in Spanish) and a whole lot of Chile? Los Bunkers of course. Off their Vida de Perros album we chose Llueve sobre la ciudad for it’s excellent guitar rifts and keyboard driven tune, a perfect listen for any situation.
Ratatat – Mirando
Ratatat, comprised of Mike Stroud and Evan Mast, is an electro-pop-hop band with cinematic instrumentals (no vocals) leaving the story up to us to fill in. Ratatat has four LPs—the proceeding extrapolating off of the one before—of complex digital sounds, live instruments, gripping progressions and breaks to usefully wield your curiosity as the song moves along. Mirando is a prime example.
Tinie Tempah – Pass Out
Pass Out is a product of the British rapper Tinie Tempah, a fine example of how music becomes inevitably intertwined in many diasporic experiences and, ultimately, is redefined and owned. The track is primped and ready for moving crowds and deftly addresses the breakout artists’ street rep’ and rhyming abilities
Ximena Sariñana – Mediocre
Everyone relishes a good song about heartache and despair, especially if it is layered with complex builds on fluctuating love and hate, moments that are justified by painstaking ends to what once was a good thing. Ximena Sariñana talks about the distant ups and recurring downs in Mediocre, her debut album, recorded in her home Mexico; a mellow yet poignant addition to the summer sound.