BY SELENA FRAGASSI | FOR THE SUN-TIMES
“Isn’t this a special little cove?” asked the host of the Kidzapalooza Kids Stage on Saturday afternoon?
It’s true, as the years go by, the kids’ area has become one of the highlights of the Lollapalooza festival weekend with a number of unannounced appearances, activities that the grownups would die to get in on (I want to be in a rock star karaoke video!) and plenty of shade in the dead of the afternoon sun before the area goes to bed at 5 p.m. and the adult party takes over.
Arriving around 1:30 p.m., a performance by the School of Rock All-Stars was in full effect with a singer who had the vibes and pipes of Janis Joplin and a backing band with a median age of 15 that grilled their guitars to produce sweaty licks that even Buddy Guy probably heard down the street at his Legends club. The teenagers only got 20 or so minutes to prove themselves but that’s all they needed to show they were better than even some of the day’s main roster.
If Kidzapalooza is out for any mission it’s to make sure rock is still alive and well with the new school. Around the corner from that stage where every little kid gets to live out their dream, were tents for “hip-hop workshops,” “rock star video karaoke” and “rock star photo shoots” and stations to get rainbow-colored and spiked hair and “tattooz.” Right after the School of Rock Allstars, the drum zone also got underway, a huge drum circle with eager learners banging on bongos, congas, kettle and cow bells and tambourines in a free zone where they were encouraged to make it louder.
Lessons like these paid off well for a band like The Helmets, from California, ages 10-11, who drew in swells of people, not the least of which was James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich and Robert Trujillo of Metallica who popped in by the side stage. To be fair, Trujillo’s 10-year-old son, Tye, is the bassist of the band (though not advertised as such). He’s a dead ringer for dad and was wearing a Suicidal Tendencies T-shirt (his dad’s old band) while whipping around his hair in a way that was perfectly inherited. The quartet offered well-rehearsed covers of Green Day, Led Zeppelin, Nirvana, and yes Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.” But in between there were also originals “Thrash Doom” and “Ghost Riders,” which have us hoping some record exec was in this crowd. More than an anomaly, the kids were incredibly good. Keep an eye out on them.
After, the host returned to caution attendees that the “special sauce” was coming, which happened to be a special appearance by Lollapalooza founder and Jane’s Addiction frontman Perry Farrell and also Trujillo senior punching out a few Jane’s hits including “Mountain Song.”
The BMI Stage is a harbinger for stardom (everyone from Lady Gaga to Chance The Rapper has debuted here), but seems word has gotten out about Elle King already as the crowd was so packed in for the raspy voiced crooner there was slim chance of getting more up close and personal with her today.
King is the daughter of comedian Rob Schneider but don’t think that makes her any kind of joke; her performance was the raw, real deal bringing whispered reminders of Billie Holliday, Amy Winehouse and Dusty Springfield through a talented combination of country, pop, rock, blues and soul that transcends any loopholes other pop stars of her era get criticized for sliding by on. Highlights of her set included her single “Ex’s and Oh’s” and a cover of The Beatles “Oh! Darling” that you just hope McCartney stuck around to hear. With the whole band dressed in white, consider this King’s baptism into a long future ahead of her.
Anyone passing by Brand New’s set might have thought for a second they were at another festival — Riot Fest. In fact the Long Island hardcore/punk/emo/alterna outfit has played it before (most recently 2013) but was a nice change of pace at Lollapalooza that has been less apt to book a lot of punk-leaning bands as they have electro and pop over the years.
The group started out with a bang slaying into “Mene,” their first new song in six years, which was a fresh reminder that these guys are still very much worth listening to 15 years after forming in 2000. It was a worthy accompaniment to older songs like “Millstone” that screamed and pushed its way into the crowd’s consciousness with guitars that wailed like sirens and frontman Jesse Lacey perching on a proverbial platform — behind his mic stand covered in sunflowers.
Heed the warning — take notice of Kidzapalooza this weekend; at this stage, it’s all about right time, right place.
Selena Fragassi is a local freelance writer.
Posted on Aug. 1, 2015