lollapalooza 2010

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The annual Lollapalooza festival returns to downtown Chicago on Friday with a pretty peppy line-up that reminds listeners just how much good music is around, even if all of it isn’t on display in Grant Park over the next three days.

Lady Gaga, The Strokes and Green Day pepper the headline slots, and Sunday night features Canadian art-rockers Arcade Fire and the reformed Soundgarden. The afternoons are sprayed with chances for surprises and disappointments.

The revitalized festival is run by the same folks behind Austin City Limits. Lollapalooza 2010 takes a pick-and-mix approach borrowed from its southern cousin and from the edgier Pitchfork gathering in Chicago.

Sprawling Grant Park is beautiful and boiling in early August, and a horse would come in handy to trot around the Buckingham Fountain between the seven stages. No word yet if the police horse whacked by an unruly fan at last year’s event plans to return.

Friday kicks off with Nathan Williams, aka Wavves. The unpolished west coast power-pop of his third album, “King Of The Beach,” should offer crowds plenty of opportunities to sing along–if the temperamental Williams doesn’t wilt under the noonday sun of a 12:15 p.m. start.

The indie band Cymbals Eat Guitars could play its breezy song “Wind Phoenix (Proper Name)” and walk off leaving a lot of concertgoers nodding their heads knowingly and feeling happy. The New York City band’s debut album “Why There Are Mountains” (2009) was a critical hit.

You will be pleased to meet The Morning Benders at noon on Saturday. The harmonies and lo-fi guitar sound on their “Big Echo” album, released this year, cry out to be turned up loud in an outdoor setting.

On Saturday afternoon, the excellent Warpaint promise to wash the crowd with an alt-country sound that can border on the ethereal, though songs such as “Elephants” give the Los Angeles-based all-female quintet ample scope to crank up the volume and avoid its sound being lost in the trees.

The xx follow straight after as the U.K. band translates into a live setting its recorded-in-a-garage eponymous debut. The group’s smart sonic soundscapes and gentle singing style swept up awards last year.

Sunday offers the opportunity for a very long brunch followed by a match-up that pits potential stadium-fillers Frightened Rabbit with the endearingly off-center Erykah Badu, both afforded the same 5 p.m. slot at opposite ends of the park.

Badu set off a media furor earlier this year with a video called “Window Seat” that riffed on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and also involved a kind of striptease. But the neosoul star doesn’t need to rely on attention-grabbing tricks: she arguably has the best voice of any musician at the festival.

Frightened Rabbit have dumped their folk-rock beginnings for a fuller sound that has endeared them far more to audiences in the U.S. than in their Scottish homeland.

“The dark can return with the flock of a switch,” sings frontman Scott Hutchison on “Not Miserable.” “It hasn’t turned on me yet. Yet.”

Lollapalooza starts on Friday morning and runs through Sunday.

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