Lollapalooza vs. Austin City Limits

Of the slew of outdoor music festivals every summer, Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits seem to get the most hype. They both typically feature the biggest bands and best up-and-comers in the biz and are both located in hip musical cities. It might not be possible to make both events, so Sound Citizen presents to you: Lollapalooza vs. Austin City Limits – what’s your pick?

The Venues

Both festivals are located in hip music cities. Austin is known for its prolific indie music scene while Chicago, the birthplace of the blues is known for its diverse music offerings.

Lollapalooza, Grant Park, Chicago, Illinois

lollagrantparkChicago has some of the worst urban winters in the U.S., but come summertime, the city comes to life. Hundreds of street festivals can be found every weekend somewhere within the city limits, patio bars seem to never close and the lakefront is always buzzing. Grant Park (and neighboring Millenium Park) becomes the focus of many Chicago summer activities, including Lollapalooza.

Pros:

Getting to Grant Park is relatively easy. If you live in the city, there are plenty of options – public transportation abounds and a cab ride is fast and convenient. For those visiting Chicago for the festival, your best bet is to secure a hotel downtown. It wont’ be cheap, but walking to and from the park will provide the ultimate in convenience, as well as pleasant strolls through a beautiful city.

The park itself is situated right on the lakefront, so even in the heat of summer there’s often a nice, cool breeze. The views in and around Grant park are spectacular. Chicago’s skyline is one of the best in the world, Buckingham Fountain is a treasure and Lake Michigan provides a brilliant, sparkling contrast to the steel and concrete of the landscape to the east. Before and after the festival, there’s no shortage of things to do – world class museums and shopping are mere blocks away – and some of Chicago’s finest restaurants (not necessarily pricey) are just as close. Grant Park has some nice nooks where you can relax and catch a spot of shade.

Cons:

Grant Park is long. To get from one end of the park to the other it takes at least 10 minutes or more, depending on the crowd. This means you have to plan your shows carefully – you might have to leave one early to secure a decent view for the next.

Grant Park is narrow. It can get crowded quickly – if you’re going to wander around, it’s a good idea to have a couple friends secure a home base with a blanket and chairs. Otherwise, you’re going to have to constantly fight for a spot. It also results in some cramped conditions for the side stages. One is in a concrete-floored pavilion, another is on a street and a couple are crammed along walking routes.

Austin City Limits, Zilker Park, Austin, Texas

aclAustin is well-known for it’s music scene, hosting South by Southwest in addition to ACL. Stroll down Sixth Street and just about every bar will echo with quality music. Zilker Park hosts ACL, as well as an annual kite festival and is home to an expansive botanical garden.

Pros:

Zilker Park is huge. More than 351 acres huge. Of course, the festival doesn’t cover the entire park, but it sure feels that way. There’s more than enough room to set up a blanket and chairs, and wander around without bumping sweaty elbows. It also leaves room for many food and beverage stands and retail shacks, so long lines aren’t a big problem. The expanse also provides room for other extras like cooling areas and tents to play some cool guitars, or tinker with the latest gadgets from AT&T.

The stages are set far enough apart so the music does not compete, and the natural contours of the park usually means a good view is easy to find. Walking from stage to stage can take some time, but with all that room you’re not fighting crowds along the way.

Cons:

It’s hot as hell. You’re in Texas, mind you, and adding to that, there is almost no shade to be found. Make sure you bring chairs with some kind of umbrella or shade provider and drink gallons of water. Try the lemonade and iced tea, too.

There’s nearly nothing else around. Get ready for a lengthy hike back to your hotel, at least 20 minutes or more. Getting a cab or bus to get downtown after the shows has been known to include an hour wait. You can take a pedicab – for about $50. That said, there is one place on the walk back that’s worth a stop. Green Mesquite BBQ & More provides cold beer, good food and some great after-show live bluegrass.

Austin does provide a nice open atmosphere and a camping-like experience, and for travelers it’s more cost-effective. Despite what can be crowded conditions, Grant Park is beautiful and the city of Chicago offers so much outside the festival itself. Consider starting your trip a couple days early, or stay a few days late to really soak in the Chicago summer. They both offer unique experiences.

Edge: Lollapalooza – barely


The Lineups

Now to the meat of the issue, the performers. Of course, both offer an extraordinary amount of quality music but there are some key differences to explore.

The Headliners

Both Lolla and ACL will see the Beastie Boys and Kings of Leon – two bands who are sure to put on excellent performances. Lollapalooza will also feature Depeche Mode, Tool, The Killers and Jane’s Addiction to round out the top tier, while ACL will host Pearl Jam and Dave Matthews Band. Out of those differences, Pearl Jam trumps all of them. They are becoming one of rock’s legendary bands before our very eyes and ears and every opportunity should be taken to see them live.

Edge: Austin City Limits

The Supporting Cast

Several bands will be playing both festivals this year, including Ben Harper and Relentless7, Thievery Corporation, The Decemberists, Bon Iver, Andrew Bird, Dan Auerbach, The Raveonettes, Arctic Monkeys, Heartless Bastards, and Coheed and Cambria. These are all quality bands and it might make the final decision a little easier. Or at least less painful.

Then there are the bands that will only play at one or the other, and these make all the difference. Below are 10 bands who will be at Lolla and not ACL (as of this writing):

bohblackRa Ra Riot
Band of Horses (pictured)
Silversun Pickups
Cold War Kids
Of Montreal
Animal Collective
TV on the Radio
Rise Against
Fleet Foxes
Neko Case

Now, 10 bands that will be at ACL and not Lolla (as of this writing):

The Walkmen
ghostlandThe Dead Weather
John Legend
Ghostland Observatory (pictured)
Lily Allen
Medeski, Martin & Wood
Dr. Dog
Todd Snider
Asleep at the Wheel
Citizen Cope

In defense of ACL, Jack White’s new band The Dead Weather is attractive, The Walkmen are solid, Ghostland Observatory puts on a show to experience and Medeski, Martin & Wood never disappoint.

In Lolla’s corner, Ra Ra Riot has a host of catchy tunes, Band of Horses can stir a soul, Silversun Pickups are gaining momentum fast and Animal Collective is getting early votes for album of the year.

Edge: Lollapalooza

So what’s it going to be? Where will I put my money (and lots of it) this year?

In the end, the pre-performance title goes to Lollapalooza in 2009. Both have very strong lineups and the shared bands are top-notch. Although I will miss Pearl Jam, I could care less about Dave Matthews Band, while at Lolla, Band of Horses and Silversun Pickups hold particular sway with me, and I’m excited to experience Ra Ra Riot, Animal Collective and TV on the Radio. Combined with the city of Chicago and all it has to offer, I’ll be at Grant Park this summer.

Agree or disagree? Leave a comment below.

Rock Immortal: Rock Hall of Fame Induction 2009

metallicapicksThe Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction of 2009 is Saturday, April 4. Unfortunately, not everyone can make it out to Cleveland, but you can get interactive with the ceremonies right now, through Rock Immortal. This online exhibit honors this year’s inductees: Jeff Beck, Little Anthony & The Imperials, Metallica, Run D.M.C. and Bobby Womack.

Enter the site and you’re presented with swirling guitar picks, along with another larger pick on the left side. There you find the inductees. Click on one and you’ll get more picks, like the ones shown here for Metallica. And this is where it gets cool.

Each pick contains user-submitted content – comments, photos or videos about the artist. Click on one pick and you might get a video of someone playing their favorite Metallica jam. Click on another and you could see a photo from a show, or just some fans showing their love. One of Run D.M.C.’s has a user’s cover of “Tricky” on the drums – and it’s awesome.

dmcYou could get lost in this site. In fact, you should. I’ve yet to see something so focused on the fans and their appreciation for their favorite music. It’s fun, entertaining and there’s real talent out there. Most of all, it gives you a sense of how far-reaching music can be, regardless of race, color, creed or any other factor.

Well done, Rock Hall. You’ve truly created something special.

Below is “Tricky” from JoeyJordisonGirl. To get right into it, skip ahead to the 1:20 mark.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PNDykFan9LQ&feature=channel_page[/youtube]

MTV Unlocks Videos Online

mtvvaultRemember the early days of MTV, when you watched music videos? When was the last time you saw the video for “Good Thing” by the Fine Young Cannibals?

Thanks to The MTV Vault and AT&T, you can see videos that have previously never been released online. Each day, The MTV Vault will release music videos, interviews and live performances to the public. There’s also an interactive trivia game where you answer questions to unlock more content. Don’t worry, even if you don’t know the answers, you get in eventually. And who doesn’t love some good trivia?

The videos range wildly – from the aforementioned “Good Thing” to John Lennon, All-American Rejects and an interview with Ozzy Osbourne about eating bats and doves. Nice.

Below is a sample of the trivia game.

vaulttrivia

Kutiman’s Amazing YouTube Musical Mashup

This is one incredible use of YouTube. Kutiman, an Israeli musician who started playing piano at age 6, then drums and guitar, has taken numerous clips from YouTube and mashed them all up to create an entire album of songs. Some of the clips aren’t even musical in nature. But added together, mixed and remixed, it turns into a symphony of sound and vision. Clicking on the “more info” link on his YouTube videos will show you all of the videos used to compose each song.

Kutiman becamed influenced by the likes of James Brown and Fela Kuti while listening to a college radio station at his convenience store job. He then traveled to Jamaica, eventually working with Stephen and Damien Marley to perfect his funk/afro beat sound.

Below is one of the songs and video. Also, check out Thru-You.com to see and hear the rest of the album, and Kutiman’s MySpace page to hear some of his other music.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tprMEs-zfQA&fmt=18[/youtube]

The Black Cab Sessions Rocks

The Black Cab Sessions is one of the coolest music websites I’ve ever seen. In its second year, renowned artists play a quick gig while riding around London in those famous bulbous black taxi cabs.

Perhaps because of the shape of the taxis, the sound is surprisingly good and the lineup is impressive – Bon Iver, Brian Williams, Ryan Adams, Fleet Foxes, My Morning Jacket, The Kooks and many others including, of course, Death Cab for Cutie. One of the remarkable things about this series is that the cab drivers are the real deal, not part of the production crew. The artists and film crew actually stand on the street with their instruments and flag a cab.

And it turns out the artists are enjoying themselves too. Apparently the site has come to the point where they are turning down artists these days. Another interesting note is the cost of “production” – about £15, or $30.

Sign up for their newsletter on the Black Cab Sessions website to get updates, London music news and alerts of new sessions.

Also, check out The Londonist for an interview with the website’s creators.

Below is a double session from The Kooks.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lWBA8w4sdUY[/youtube]

Play Guitar Hero on Your PC, at Work!

(Video included) I’ve come across a lot of time-killing websites in my time, but JamLegend has to be one of the best. If you like Guitar Hero, it’s a must. Or, if you’ve never played Guitar Hero, here is your chance to try it out from the comfort of your computer, for free.

It works like this – songs play and, using your keyboard, you play along. The number keys are used as the guitar frets (or buttons on a Guitar Hero guitar) and the “Enter” key is to strum. You can play just by pushing the numbers, or the strumming version – which is much more fun. There are three levels, and like the video game, higher levels require using more buttons. You play against Roxanne, a computer, and at the end of the song the one with the most points wins. But if you create an account, you can play against friends.

The songs aren’t exactly the best, but it doesn’t really matter. It’s just plain fun. Hopefully in the future they will start adding more songs. By the way, I highly recommend playing guitar style with your keyboard, using the function keys as your fret board. You’ll see what I mean.

Below is a brief video showing how it works. It’s a screencast – but on the website the action is much smoother.