Lollapalooza, according to “Rushmore” star and former Phantom Planet drummer Jason Schwartzman, is a little like the 1986 animated film “Care Bears Movie II: A New Generation.
He can explain. Sort of.
“The bands stay in one hotel and hang out in the lobby together and go to see each other's show,” Schwartzman said the Monday after last year's Lollapalooza. “That makes me happy. It's like the Care Bears movie where the Care Bears and the Care Bears Cousins join forces to take on the evil wizard at summer camp. It always gave me chills.”
Schwartzman is right. Many of the artists do stay at one hotel and spend much of the reunionlike weekend supporting one another. Why? Because artists like hanging out with other artists. And they like going to places where other artists have been. With Lollapalooza setting up shop for three more days of rock, hip-hop and dance music mayhem starting Friday, if you look in the right places, you just might see them out en masse.
The day after Pearl Jam headlined Lolla in 2007, frontman Eddie Vedder, Kid Rock and Big & Rich's John Rich attended a charity event hosted by former Blackhawk Chris Chelios at Stanley's Kitchen & Tap. Stanley's owner Don Kruse called the night one of the most memorable in the Lincoln Park bar's history.
“Eddie Vedder played several sets for the lucky people there, as did Kid Rock and John Rich,” Kruse said by email. “Eddie and Kid then did a set together. Bands stop in often, but this was the most memorable night. I mean, a headliner playing a corner bar.”
Fellow Lincoln Park bar Delilah's also has a reputation for drawing rockers. Two nights before last year's Lollapalooza, however, it hosted one of the biggest stars in pop music.
“Last year we had a Lady Gaga visit,” Delilah's owner Mike Miller said by email about the 2010 Lolla headliner. “Most people don't stop by with bodyguards, but she was great. Hung out for a while and had a fine time.”
Many artists will attend afterparties during Lolla simply because they like or are friends with the band performing, as Schwartzman pointed out. Lolla founder and Jane's Addiction singer Perry Farrell, Depeche Mode's Martin Gore and Soundgarden band members have all been on hand for the annual aftershows at Metro, which this year features Cold War Kids and Atmosphere. Lupe Fiasco was in attendance when his buddy Kanye West performed at the Underground's afterparty in 2007.
If a Lolla artist is unfamiliar with Chicago's night-life scene, the Hard Rock Hotel — which hosts several of the acts as well as celebrity gift suites and afterparties for the event — keeps a list of recommendations for its famous clientele. The concierge recommends Publican, Moto and Sunda for dinner, the Violet Hour and the Aviary for cocktails, and the Underground for clubbing.
Sunda and Hub 51 were the most popular restaurant choices during Lolla last year, thanks to their celeb-friendly reputations and well-connected staff, but some artists opt for traditional Chicago food when visiting. Pete Wentz, a Wilmette native, highly recommended Lou Malnati's pizza in a recent interview with Spin. Fellow Lolla 2011 act Cee Lo Green? He also enjoys a famous Chicago chain restaurant. “There's one spot in particular I love to eat at: Portillo's,” Green said in July. “I will definitely be at Portillo's when I come back.”
Still, because of the influx of rock fans and media in Chicago during the weekend, many of the bands prefer to shut themselves in.
“Sometimes the acts don't want to deal with all the people, so they stay in their room during Lolla,” said Amy Christenson, Hard Rock Hotel Chicago director of PR and communication. “We let them throw parties in their hotel room, and we bring the booze and their friends to them.”
Sax Chicago also is known to host Lolla acts and often will invite them to the hotel's Crimson Lounge for its afterparties. Last year, Phoenix and The Strokes stayed at the hotel and attended The Black Keys' afterparty at Crimson Lounge.
“When bands are staying with us, we keep in touch with them and say, ‘Would you be interested in an afterparty?'” Sax Chicago general manager Michael Carsch said. “They're not stupid, so they ask, ‘How much will you pay me to show up?' and we negotiate.”
Hard Rock hosted the famous Music Lounge parties the last five years, but this year's VIP parties, collectively dubbed the Belve Music Lounge, will take place at the W Chicago-City Center Hotel. (Hard Rock's parties will now take place in Angels & Kings, in the hotel's lobby, and will feature a performance by A&K co-owner Wentz's new band, Black Cards.) The Music Lounge booked up-and-coming performers for its afterparties in years past — it wasn't that long ago that unknown Ke$ha took the stage — and this year will do the same. Skylar Grey, Two Door Cinema Club, and Fitz and The Tantrums are scheduled to perform, and Grace Potter of Grace Potter and the Nocturnals will DJ.
These Music Lounge parties always attract a star-studded crowd, but it's not by coincidence.
“We have a team of talented wranglers making sure we invite the right people,” said Jenn Lee, creative maven for Music Lounge promoters BMF Media. “Last year, we had the cast of ‘Scream 4.' We contacted their people and arranged their arrival and made sure a certain section was blocked off in the VIP area.”
Though Lolla acts can expect preferential treatment throughout the city — after all, celebs are good for business — there are places that treat rock stars the same way they treat rock fans.
“(Metallica frontman James Hetfield) didn't mind when I asked to check in his bags while he shopped around,” Marissa Brosted, spokeswoman for The Alley in Lakeview, said by email. “I knew who he was when he came in, but I was a new employee and didn't want to get in trouble for not enforcing the bag-check policy."