August 10th, 2009
06:36 PM ET

Lollapalooza 2009 – Day Three: Jane's Addiction, Snoop

Final day of Lollapalooza and they saved the best for last! Highlights of the day:

Jane's Addiction's frontman Perry Farrell performs during the final day of Lollapalooza 2009.
Jane's Addiction's frontman Perry Farrell performs during the final day of Lollapalooza 2009.

Vampire Weekend ripped through their self-titled debut CD to a packed crowd.

Lead singer Ezra Koenig cranked up the excitement with frequent shout-outs including a dedication to director John Hughes, who passed away last week. I chatted with the guys from Vampire Weekend before their set and they told me they are working on their new CD and it should be releasing in the next few months. They performed several songs from the sophomore album including “Run".  The crowd sang along to favorites “I Stand Corrected,” “A-Punk,” "Oxford Comma" and their 'farewell song' "Walcott" to close out the performance.

Snoop Dogg performed next on the same stage. This was one of the highlights of the weekend for us and Snoop did not disappoint. I have rarely been to a concert with so much energy. The crowd kept their hands in the air the entire set. When Snoop sang “Gin and Juice,” “Who Am I(What's my Name)” and a rendition of Akon's “I Wanna Love You,” everyone went crazy.

At one point, Snoop broke into a dedication to Tupac, singing a couple of his songs, and asked the crowd to chant Tupac and we miss you with hands in the air two fingers displayed. Fellow rapper Lady of Rage made a guest appearance and the duo performed several tracks from their earlier collaboration on Doggystyle. I would say Snoop's performance was the best of the festival but then we caught Jane's Addiction Sunday night.

I am a big fan of 90s alternative music and of course Jane's Addiction has a place on my iPod, but I have a new appreciation of the reunited group after seeing them live. Wow!

Jane's Addiction's frontman Perry Farrell told me on Saturday they were putting on a spectacle and mentioned helicopters and dragons. Intriguing! When Farrell, guitarist Dave Navarro, and the rest of the group took the stage, the crowd erupted. Despite an elbow injury that caused the group to cancel an Australia tour a few weeks ago, drummer Stephen Perkins performed. Farrell gave the drummer a shout-out and explained to the crowd that Perkins was there against doctor's orders.

Farrell bounced, twirled, and danced his way from one side of the stage to the other - his jagged voice even stronger than I would have imagined from their CDs. Helicopters circled overhead, spotlights on the crowd, and about that dragon?  Turns out a group of dancers performed in front of the stage with a giant blue paper dragon like you would see during Chinese New Year.

JA played all the classics: "Been Caught Stealing,” "Mountain Song”, “Stop!", and closed with an acoustic rendition of perhaps their biggest hit "Jane Says.” The entire group seemed to be having a blast throughout the set and the energy was infectious.

Toward the end of the night, Farrell introduced special guest Aerosmith's Joe Perry and sent well wishes to Aerosmith lead singer Stephen Tyler who was injured after falling off a stage last week. As the show ended, Farrell brought out his two boys on stage and then in a truly bizarre but touching moment, he introduced a friend who actually proposed to his girlfriend on stage in front of the enormous crowd.

As much as I love The Killers, who were playing at the same time on the opposite stage, I am so glad I went to this show instead. It had to be one of the best concerts I have ever been to and I go to a ton of concerts. Here's hoping the reunion sticks and Jane's Addiction keeps rocking. It was a fantastic way to end an entertaining weekend.

I'm not a prolific music writer, just a producer for CNN.com and an enthusiastic music fan who wanted to share a little bit of my own experience at this very cool festival. Thanks for checking out my first blogging experience.

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Filed under: Lollapalooza • Music
August 9th, 2009
03:37 PM ET

Lollapalooza 2009 – Day Two: The sun comes out

The sun made its first appearance Saturday and dried the muddy grounds after the monsoon on Friday. It was hot and humid, but I prefer that to being wet and cold any day. I didn't think the crowds could get much bigger than Friday's turnout, but I was wrong. Some people caught a break from the intense heat by taking advantage of hammocks in the shade and a wind machine that blows water.

Friday and Sunday are the two big lineup days for me this weekend, so I skipped some of the early band performances Saturday to do a little work. I chatted with some music fans and Lolla founder Perry Farrell.

The Jane's Addiction frontman was charming, a bit quirky, but you can tell he is a savvy businessman with a huge love of music. Farrell told us to expect a spectacle when he and his Jane's Addiction bandmates take to the stage Sunday night and mentioned special guests and helicopters. Drummer Stephen Perkins has been sidelined with an elbow injury, but Farrell says he would be surprised if Perkins didn't play Sunday. Just in case, the Smashing Pumpkins’ Jimmy Chamberlain will be waiting in the wings to jump in if needed.

We later caught Farrell entertaining an enormous crowd at the “Perry's” dance stage. There were so many people watching the show, we had to leave the Lolla grounds and circle around to another entrance to make our way close to the stage. Perry and wife Etty bounced around, igniting the crowd, massive machines blowing smoke across the stage. The lack of space didn't stop the crowd from jumping up and down and swaying to the music.

The big headliners Saturday: Tool vs. Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs. I hear the Karen O and the Yeah, Yeah Yeahs put on a great show, but my friends opted for Tool. I have to confess I am not real familiar with Tool. I was curious, though, because so many concertgoers were pumped for their performance. They opened with an ominous song, but I could not tell you the title. It was a crowd pleaser and lead singer Maynard James Keenan shouted after, "Let the Games Begin." The big monitors displayed graphic images instead of the band and for much of the performance Keenan could only be seen in silhouette because of the lighting. It didn't take long for Tool to win me over. My friend Neal, a fan of Tool, says they sounded a little rusty at first, like they haven't played together recently, but as the set went on they found their groove and settled into crowd favorites like "Sober" "Stinkfist" and "Schism."

Sunday has a fantastic lineup: Jane's Addiction, The Killers, Vampire Weekend, Snoop Dogg and Lou Reed just to name a few of the many bands performing on the final day. Can't wait!

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Filed under: Lollapalooza • Music
August 8th, 2009
09:44 PM ET

Lollapalooza 2009 – Day One: Rain can't stop the music

Lollapalooza can be summed up in one word: overwhelming. The festival, held in Chicago, Illinois, since 2005, has more than 130 bands playing throughout the weekend, including headliners Depeche Mode, Kings of Leon, Ben Harper, The Killers, Tool and Lolla founder Perry Farrell's recently reunited band, Jane's Addiction. Rain made an unwelcome guest appearance all day Friday, but that didn't stop the sold out crowd's enthusiasm. At one point while walking the huge grounds at Grant Park, we watched a couple of guys wrestling in a giant mud puddle.

Festival goers enjoy one of the performances on the first day of Lollapalooza 2009.
Festival goers enjoy one of the performances on the first day of Lollapalooza 2009.

Early Friday afternoon, we checked out a hot hip hop group called The Knux. Fronted by brothers Krispy Kreme and Rah Al Millio, the self-proclaimed “party starters” cranked up the crowd. Krispy and Al told us later that they really get energized by the crowd's enthusiasm. They vary their set lists for every performance and for Friday highlights included "Bang Bang"  and did a very cool rendition of "You Really Got Me" by the Kinks. They got the crowd hopping with the classic “Jump Around” by House of Pain to close the set.

The Virgins were another crowd favorite, playing later on the same stage as The Knux. They rocked out the crowd with familiar hits such as “Rich Girls.” Thievery Corporation was a big draw, too, on one of the main stages later in the afternoon. We checked out Perry Farrell and surprise special guest LeAnn Rimes at the Kidzapalooza venue. They rocked the young crowd with renditions of Tom Petty and Stevie Nicks’ "Stop Dragging My Heart Around" and The Beatles’ "Here Comes the Sun." Kidzapalooza is a great area for music-loving parents to bring their kids. They get in free if under 10 and the area offers fun activities like hip hop lessons and a “petting zoo,'” where kids can play real instruments. They also can get a punk haircut at a “salon.” I wish they had stuff like this when I was a kid.

Later in the day, strategizing about which bands to see became more challenging. The evening schedule pitted old-school favorite Depeche Mode against new rockers Kings of Leon. My original plan was to check out part of KOL and then make my way over to Depeche Mode's stage. Only problem with that plan was that Grant Park is enormous and the evening crowds were so enormous there was no room to move. Once we marked our spot at Kings of Leon, we had to stay. They did not disappoint! KOL opened with “Be Somebody” off their latest CD. They had at least two sign language interpreters on stage, which was cool. They rocked hard; lead singer Caleb Followill shouted to the crowd that Chicago was one of his favorite cities in the world. They played most of their big hits, including “Sex on Fire” and an intense "Closer." We were thankful the rain finally stopped before the evening headliners started and it was an awesome night.

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Filed under: Lollapalooza • Music
March 1st, 2009
01:05 AM ET

My night with the Jonas Brothers

I have to admit: even though I am way past the "tween" age and consider myself a serious journalist, I enjoy anything pop culture - especially teen movies and TV shows, and my favorite "niece" keeps me up on the latest Disney sensations.

jonas.bros

The Jonas brothers talk to CNN before surprising fans in Atlanta, Georgia, on Saturday.

So when I received a call on Wednesday that the Jonas Brothers were coming to Atlanta this weekend, and was asked if CNN.com would be interested in covering their visit, it was a no-brainer. The Jonas Brothers are huge; you can't pass a magazine rack without seeing Nick, Joe and Kevin's faces. We were sworn to secrecy, no one could know that Atlanta had been chosen as one of the few cities to take part in the "Surprise Theater Invasion Tour."

Saturday was D-Day– or should I say J-day - and the brothers successfully arrived at Atlanta's Regal Hollywood Theater in secrecy.

Our own Brooke Baldwin, our photojournalist crew and I were escorted to a tiny room on the second floor of the theatre. We were given the opportunity to speak with the Jonas Brothers one on one before the big surprise. They were hustled in and could not have been more polite.

Brooke asked them why they were doing the tour. "It's so very important to us to really enjoy all of what we are doing with our fans," Nick Jonas responded. "They are making it all possible."

Joe Jonas talked about the reaction so far to the surprise tour. "We've been to a few cities already today to surprise some fans and it's been amazing, the reactions have been over the top."

They talked about how amazed they were about everything going on in their lives. "There are moments where we are shocked every single day, I think that's what makes it so special for us," Kevin Jonas said. "This is incredible." With all the craziness, they still claim to try and lead pretty normal lives. "We're normal guys, we hang out and go see movies, we go shopping, we like to play golf," said Kevin.

After the interview, the brothers gave a quick press conference, and then we were moved to the theater where their new movie "Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience" was being played to a sold out room of tweens. With all the media cameras set up in the room, the excited girls still had no idea that there was a big surprise coming. They were just excited to see the movie.

Then the Jonas Brothers were introduced, and the girls broke out in giddy screams. My ears are still ringing. Nick thanked the crowd (or at least I think he did, it was hard to hear over the screams). They spoke for about five minutes and waved a quick goodbye before running out the back door to the deserted parking lot in back.

Their mission was a success: they shocked the crowd. "We had no idea," said one young girl. Another went on about why she is such a big fan, saying "their music is really good."

Nick Jonas told us that he and his brothers appreciate all that their fans do (including the screaming and fainting). They feel very loved - and they certainly weren't disappointed in Atlanta. The young crowd showed their love and appreciation, and it was a night I'm sure they will never forget.

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Filed under: movies • Music
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