What do you think of when you hear the word “Lollapalooza”? If you’re anything like me, you think of cheesy alt-rock bands from the ’90s trying to stay relevant by inviting a Starbucks compilation’s worth of safe, popular, “major indie” (mindie?) bands to open for them. The 2012 line-up came out today, and while this may hold partially true, a closer examination of the list shows the wisdom of making such safe choices: there’s nothing too bad anyone can say about them, other than the fact that they’re safe.
While last year’s billing held such embarrassing ’90s post-grunge acts as The Deftones and A Perfect Circle, this year seems to only have one of those left in the form of The Red Hot Chili Peppers. But they are joined at the top of the bill by legendary ’70s/’80s/’90s/now metal band Black Sabbath, whose best stuff is so unfuckwithable they pretty much cancel out any and all titters over the RHCPs’ somewhat dated sound. Rounding out the giant fonts are two of the least controversial acts in rock today: Jack White and The Black Keys. These bands might not be breaking any new ground, but they are “keeping rock alive” in a way that is so listenable and otherwise completely, utterly fine that I’m hard pressed to come up with a reason they shouldn’t headline Lollapalooza. Who did you want instead, some unrealistically obscure math-metal-core act from Brooklyn?
Further down the bill, there are some mindie favs that remind people who are in their late 20s/early 30s now of what it was like to be on their own and behaving irresponsibly for the first time: Franz Ferdinand, Santigold, The Walkmen, Bloc Party, Sigur Ros and the like. Can’t believe it’s already been ten years since the early 2000s! Need some punk rock cred? There is At The Drive In. Token R&B? Try Frank Ocean and The Weeknd. Avant-garde weirdness? There’s Die Antwoord for dumb people, and tUnEyArDs for smart ones. There are also a whooooole lot of DJs, because like it or not, rave music is back and it would be poor form for a giant festival that ostensibly cares about youth culture to ignore it.
Sure, there are some choices I am willing to crap on for being SO BORING and everything I hate about indie rock today: White Rabbits, GIVERS, Chairlift, and a few more. (What, could they not afford Bon Iver?) But taken individually, most of the bands are good, IMO: Twin Shadow, Neon Indian, Dum Dum Girls, Jeff the Brotherhood, and friends are popular because they deserve to be. Is it such a crime to choose bands a lot of critics and music fans enjoy?
In general, I think Lollapalooza is moving in a more tasteful direction, as tasteful as a festival of this kind can be, anyway. Come to think of it, if I can get someone else to pay for it, I might even go.