Perry's Oddfest

Lollapalooza's architect redesigns a rock festival for the 21st Century

AUDIOSLAVE:From all accounts, Audioslave has been the highlight of the main stage thus far, which comes as a bit of a shock to those who were certain the supergroup -- pieced together from remnants of Lollapalooza vets Rage Against the Machine and Soundgarden -- wouldn't even stay together this long. Remember, Chris Cornell initially bailed on the band a year after signing up, claiming the project wasn't proceeding to his liking, then rejoined just before the release of its 2002 self-titled debut. That album certainly felt like less than the sum of its parts. The musicianship was excellent, but the songs sounded fairly listless, neither as incendiary as Rage nor as darkly powerful as the 'garden. Now, though, this seeming marriage of convenience has apparently evolved into a true connection, as the foursome is taking those tunes to a much more inspired level. Fans will only benefit from the added heart and soul.

INCUBUS:Whether you actually like Incubus -- or you're smarter than that -- their inclusion on this year's bill has given even more ammo to the critics who think the festival's return is just a crass marketing opportunity. After all, didn't Perry say he bailed on Lollapalooza in 1996 because organizers were destroying the tour's pure, eclectic, alternative vibe by signing up Metallica? The presence of the slick, trendy, multiplatinum-selling Incubus seems more like Lolla's mating call to a large fan base that could help fill seats rather than Perry's stated goal of a "new music revolution." For its part, Incubus is road-testing new material and new bassist Ben Kenney (formerly of the Roots). Ho-hum.

QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE:Other than Jane's Addiction, QOTSA are really the main reason to be at this year's Lollapalooza in the first place. Their reputation as one of the more forward-thinking, adventurous, and exhilarating acts in today's rock scene -- hell, music in general -- is well-deserved. Though known for an ever-shifting lineup (which has famously included Dave Grohl behind the kit), the band has been bringing essentially the same configuration for about a year now. That's allowed frontman Josh Homme and crew to tighten their heavy, chugging, arty grooves even further. Bassist Nick Oliveri -- who logged time with Homme in the criminally underappreciated stoner-rock outfit Kyuss some years back -- is the Queens' resident madman: Not only are his frenzied screams a great foil to Homme's oft-mellow croons but he's been known to perform in the buff. But a recent Fort Lauderdale club show (where Turbonegro beat the pants off 'em) may have already quenched SoFla's thirst for the Queens.

Jane's Addiction retakes the alt-metal throne
Walter Novak
Jane's Addiction retakes the alt-metal throne
Supergroup Superman: Chris Cornell leads Audioslave
Walter Novak
Supergroup Superman: Chris Cornell leads Audioslave

JURASSIC 5:The overwhelming Big Guitar Rock of this year's bill will be momentarily interrupted by the old-school-informed Los Angeles hip-hop sextet Jurassic 5, which offers more diverse and credible music than most anything you'll find in the mainstream rap world. It does get a tad bit boring when so-called "underground" crews spend their precious stage and wax time taking incessant shots at chart-topping MCs, but J5 don't make it their raison d'être. Instead, their clever, nimble rhymes tackle bigger issues with depth and vivid imagery, though in this setting, it'll be the dope beats, loops, and truly insane turntable maneuvers that really get the crowds movin'. Hope they don't move en masse to the bathrooms during J5's set.

THE DONNAS:Lest you think this year's Lollapalooza lineup is one big sausage party (Lilith Fair it ain't), all-female four-piece the Donnas bring their Ramones-meets-Kiss riffage to the main stage. A few short years ago, the quartet seemed destined for the novelty cutout bin with its power-punk rehash, but it's somehow managed to ride the antipop backlash to both critical praise and a healthy TRL following. Frankly, though, if Lolla really wanted to offer some truly kickass all-girl power, better bets would've been Le Tigre or Sleater-Kinney. Plus, South Florida's already seen plenty of the frolicsome foursome in years past.

THE DISTILLERS:This year's breakout act could very well be the Distillers, the gritty, snarling, old-school punk outfit fronted by tough-girl Brody Armstrong. It's been an up-and-down year for the newly expanded quartet -- the singer recently divorced Rancid guitarist Tim Armstrong, and the band earned the enmity of some fans for bolting from Epitaph to Warner Bros. But on the bright side, they just wrapped up recording Coral Fang with famed producer Gil Norton (Pixies, Foo Fighters) at the helm, and they'll be previewing songs that they say expand the parameters of their punk-rock style (whatever that means). But if they stick to the kind of fiery anthems and no-bullshit attitude they've been sporting on the road for the better part of four years, this will be one of the day's highlights and should win the Distillers a lot of new fans.

SECOND STAGE

MC SUPERNATURAL:MC Supernatural offers the best reason for ditching the bigger acts for a little while. Arguably the best freestyle rapper in the history of the game, the Indiana native has been putting other battle MCs to shame for more than two decades. Sharper than an infomercial knife, he'll crack you up and blow your mind by instantly rhyming about the contents of your pockets, letting the crowd choose the words he freestyles with, or doing dead-on impressions of other rappers' famous flows.

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