Is Chicago a Lollapaloser?

March 20, 2007


While there are certainly a number of major rock and pop shows filling Chicago's outdoor venues this summer with the much-anticipated reunion of the Police at Wrigley Field on July 5 and 6 topping the list there is no denying that the massive, three-day Lollapalooza Music Festival has made a major impact on the city's ultra-competitive summer concert season.

Because Lollapalooza demands that the bands performing there sign exclusivity agreements prohibiting them from playing here for several weeks on either side of the festival, many acts that would otherwise perform at the First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre in Tinley Park, the Charter One Pavilion on Northerly Island or one of Chicago's theaters or indoor arenas are making only one stop in the Windy City this summer, in Grant Park, Aug. 3-5.

"Lollapalooza takes a lot of business away from everybody, but competition is good, and that's just the reality," says Scott Gelman, Chicago's vice president of marketing for national concert promoters Live Nation, which owns and books the FMBA, Charter One, and the Alpine Valley Music Theatre in East Troy, Wis.

If you factor in the trend of the last few years of many artists preferring to perform indoors, you have much less activity at these outdoor venues or "sheds" than ever before. But Live Nation remains bullish.

"Charter One in its third year is going to have a tremendous season," Gelman says. "As far as the number of shows at First Midwest and Alpine Valley, it's an average year. It's not 30 shows like it was in 1980, but it's not 12 shows, either."

Next summer, Live Nation's major rival, Chicago-based Jam Productions, plans to open a new outdoor venue near the recently launched Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates, close to where the old Poplar Creek Music Theatre once stood. This means the competition for outdoor concerts will only grow more intense.

"The shed has ended up being its own worst enemy, and I believe consumers are burned out on the old-school shed concept," said Andy Cirzan, a talent buyer with Jam. "It's time for sheds to reinvent themselves, because they started off being a great idea, and then they just became consumer abuse."

It remains to be seen whether Jam's new, reimagined shed experience will reinvigorate outdoor music in Chicago, and if Jam and Live Nation can both offer full rosters of summer concerts despite the competition from Lollapalooza. But this year, as always, there is a bounty of concert choices both indoors and outside and at prices ranging from free (courtesy of Taste of Chicago and this year's Ozzfest) to a top ticket price for the Police of more than $250.

The most bang for the buck can often be had at the big multi-band outdoor festivals. In addition to Ozzfest (with headliners Ozzy Osbourne, Lamb of God, Static X and Lordi) and Lollapalooza (with top acts Pearl Jam, Daft Punk, Ben Harper, Muse, Iggy and the Stooges and Modest Mouse), there are numerous smaller fests rounding up several acts on one ticket (see list).

True music lovers, however, may find that these action-packed fests aren't as much of a bargain as they seem. Many concertgoers seem to be there to drink and scope out the opposite sex rather than to hear the bands (sort of like the bleachers at Wrigley during a Cubs game); the acts must contend with shortened sets and sometimes abysmal sound; the concessions tend to be ridiculously overpriced, and the entire day can end up being more of a test of endurance than a great musical experience.

Yes, Lollapalooza offers the opportunity to see 130 bands at a cost of $190 for a three-day pass. But ask yourself: Would you have a better time seeing 20 or 30 bands for the same amount of money spread over different nights throughout the summer playing smaller, more intimate and better-sounding shows?

While you're mulling that one over, here is a look at how the summer concert schedule is shaping up, with most dates already on sale, and a few expected to be added in the coming weeks:


Summer camp 2007
May 25-27 in Three Sisters Park in Chillicothe, Ill.

Break out the jam bands for this one, featuring Moe, Umphrey's McGee, Medeski, Martin & Wood and more.


    Alan Jackson and Brooks & Dunn, June 2 at First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre

    Chicago Blues Festival; June 7-10 in Grant Park. Kick off summer with a basics of the blues: Koko Taylor, Billy Branch, Irma Thomas, Magic Slim and Bobby Rush are the headliners.

    Stevie Nicks and Chris Isaak, June 8 at Charter One Pavilion

    Gwen Stefani with Akon and Lady Sovereign, June 8 at FMBA

    Roger Waters, June 9 at United Center

    Fall Out Boy June 9-11 at Charter One. The local natives return to the lakefront with a heaping dose of chart-topping pop-punk.

    Madeleine Peyroux and Dr. John, June 10 at Ravinia Festival

    Nelly Furtado, June 12 at Rosemont Theatre

    True Colors Tour June 12 at Auditorium Theatre. Cyndi Lauper organized this summer tour benefitting numerous gay-and-lesbian equality campaigns, and she performs with Erasure, Debbie Harry and the Dresden Dolls.

    The Fray with OK Go and Mae, June 12-13 at Charter One

    Philip Glass performs Leonard Cohen's "Book of Longing." June 12-13 at Ravinia's Martin Theater Celebrating Laughin' Lenny's 70th birthday is this Chicago premiere of Philip Glass' music set around Cohen's famous words.

    Dave Koz, June 15 at Chicago Theatre

    Doobie Brothers, June 15 at Ravinia

    Q101 Block Party June 15-16 at Charter One. The annual radio station promo fest this year features Godsmack, Good Charlotte, Sum 41, the Violent Femmes and the Bravery.

    Taste of Randolph Street. June 15-17 on Randolph between Peoria and Racine streets. Relive the recent and distant pop past at this street festival featuring Fountains of Wayne, the Smoking Popes, Lowen & Navarro, Marshall Crenshaw and more.

    Manu Chao, June 17 at Aragon Ballroom

    Cesaria Evora and Seu Jorge, June 17 at Ravinia

    Barenaked Ladies, June 18 at Charter One

    Bob Weir & Ratdog, June 19 at Aragon

    Michael Buble, June 23 at Auditorium Theatre

    B96 Summer Bash, June 24 at Toyota Park. The radio station's annual bash pulls Hilary Duff, Omarion, Ne-Yo, Rihanna, Ciara and others plucked from the top of the pop charts.

    Indigo Girls, June 25 at Ravinia

    Tool, June 27 at Sears Centre

    Steely Dan, June 27 at Auditorium Theatre

    ABBA: The Tour, June 28 at Ravinia

    John Mayer and Ben Folds, June 28-29 at Charter One

    Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, June 29 at Petrillo Music Shell (Taste of Chicago)

    Lyle Lovett and k.d. lang, June 29-30 at Ravinia

    FitzGerald's 27th Annual American Music Festival, featuring Sleepy LaBeef, James Hunter and more, June 29-July1 and July 3 at FitzGerald's in Berwyn

    Def Leppard with Styx and Foreigner, June 30 at FMBA

    Kenny Rogers, June 30 at Petrillo

    Chicago and America, June 30 Charter One. They teamed with Earth, Wind & Fire for a hugely successful summer tour, then last year they were with Huey Lewis & the News. This year the band Chicago teams with ... America? Did they have horns?

    Sara Evans and Craig Morgan, July 1 at Petrillo

    John Mayer, Robert Randolph and Rodrigo y Gabriela, July 4 at Petrillo

    Lyfe Jennings, July 5 at Petrillo

    The Police, July 5-6 at Wrigley Field. The biggest reunion if not the biggest tour of the summer camps in the Friendly Confines for two nights, both of which quickly sold out despite the steep ticket prices.

    Black Crowes and Umphrey's McGee, July 6 at Petrillo

    Cheap Trick, Soul Asylum and Cracker, July 7 at Petrillo

    Los Lonely Boys, July 8 at Petrillo

    Steve Miller Band, July 13 at Ravinia

    Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, July 13-14 at United Center

    Pitchfork Music Festival, July 13-15 at Union Park. Intonation is gone but this three-day fest holds its own with Sonic Youth, De La Soul, Cat Power, the New Pornographers and many more, providing the most diversity, the biggest bargain and the finest setting of any of the summer fests.

    Widespread Panic, July 13-15 at Chicago Theatre

    10th annual Chicago Folk & Roots Festival, with Betty LaVette, the Knitters and more, July 14-15 in Welles Park

    Poison, Ratt and White Lion, July 17 at FMBA

    The Decemberists, July 18 at Millennium Park. A rare and free! orchestral performance by this arty rock band with the Grant Park Orchestra.

    The Moody Blues, July 18 at Chicago Theatre

    Zappa Plays Zappa, July 20 at Civic Opera House. Frank's son Dweezil and several virtuosic players keep the unique auteur's music alive on stage.

    Jimmy Buffet, July 21 at FMBA

    Nickelback and Staind, July 21 at Alpine Valley

    Family Values Tour, July 22 at FMBA. Raise your fist and jump in the mosh pit for Korn, Evanescence, Atreyu, etc.

    Sounds of the Underground Tour, July 23 at Congress Theater. This cheerful lil' fest features Gwar, Chimaira, Shadows Fall, Every Time I Die and other rays of sunshine.

    Incubus, Simon Dawes, July 25 at Charter One

    Warped Tour, July 28 at FMBA. Getting a bit long in the tooth, this year's mall-punk perennial offers A Static Lullaby, Alkaline Trio, Bad Religion, Hawthorne Heights, Killswitch Engage, New Found Glory, the Toasters and more.

    Jimmy Buffet, July 28 at Alpine Valley

    Crossroads Guitar Festival, July 28 at Toyota Park. Eric Clapton brings a bevy of heavy hitters to the stage for this benefit concert, including Sheryl Crow, Los Lobos, B.B. King, John Mayer, Jeff Beck, Robert Cray and Buddy Guy.

    Kelly Clarkson, July 29 at Allstate Arena

    Natalie Cole, July 30 at Ravinia

    Buddy Guy and Susan Tedeschi, Aug. 2 at Ravinia

    Lollapalooza, Aug. 3-5 at Grant Park. The mammoth alt-era party is in its third year at Grant Park in its new incarnation as a "destination festival."

    American Idols Tour, Aug. 7 at Allstate Arena. Start the chant now: San-ja-ya! San-ja-ya! San-ja-ya!

    Dream Theater, Aug. 10 at Rosemont Theatre

    Ozzfest, Aug. 10 at FMBA. The indecipherable Ozzy is back, playing for free along with Lamb of God, Hatebreed, Static X, 3 Inches of Blood and other ghouls and goblins.

    Nickel Creek and Fiona Apple, Aug. 10 Ravinia

    Kenny Chesney, Sugarland and Pat Green, Aug. 11 at FMBA

    Reel Big Fish and Less Than Jake, Aug. 15 at Congress Theater

    Hootie & the Blowfish, Aug. 15 at Ravinia

    Gipsy Kings, Aug. 17-18 at Ravinia

    David Sanborn and Tower of Power, Aug. 19 at Ravinia

    Aretha Franklin, Aug. 21 at Ravinia

    Hinder, Aug. 21 at Charter One

    Rise Against, Aug. 24 at Congress Theatre

    Dave Matthews Band and the Roots, Aug. 25-26 at Alpine Valley

    John Hiatt and Shawn Colvin, Aug. 27 at Ravinia

    B.B. King and Joan Osborne, Aug. 28-29 at Ravinia

    The Allman Brothers, Aug. 29 at Rosemont Theatre

    The White Stripes, Aug. 29-31 at the Auditorium Theatre

    Tony Bennett, Aug. 31 at Ravinia

    Projekt Revolution Tour, Sept. 1 at FMBA. Linkin Park is going lighter on the rap-rock and heavier on the ballads, but it still leads this tour also featuring My Chemical Romance, Taking Back Sunday, Placebo, HIM and others.

    Download Music Festival, Sept. 2 at Alpine Valley. The UK import of the same name is expected to feature several popular, alternative- or indie-oriented acts to be announced, including the Shins.

    Dianna Krall and Chris Botti, Sept. 2 at Ravinia

    Hideout Block Party, Sept. 7-9 at the Hideout. Announced earlier as a joint venture between the Hideout and Metro for the latter's 25th anniversary that's no longer the case, but the Hideout always throws a heck of a bash (witness last year's party for Touch & Go), and it's the perfect way to end the summer.

    Rush, Sept. 8 at FMBA

    Emmylou Harris, Sept. 15 at Ravinia

    Ani DiFranco, Sept. 22 at Auditorium

Still to be announced
    Wilco at Millennium Park, The White Stripes, The Cure, Amy Winehouse, The Flaming Lips, 311 with Matisyahu, The Goo Goo Dolls, Smashing Pumpkins, Nine Inch Nails