A Quick Guide to Kidzapalooza 2011

The 2011 edition of Lollapalooza kicks off today in Chicago and with it, of course, the Kidzapalooza stage. More details here if you need to know the finer points of the activities going on, but I'm going to focus on the music.

Now, I speak as a) an atypical attendee of C3-produced music festivals, and b) someone who's not been to Lollapalooza, but it's my sense that Kidzapalooza isn't quite as kid-friendly an experience as the Austin Kiddie Limits stage at the Austin City Limits Festival is. Not that it's an unfriendly experience, mind you, just that if I were looking to mostly hang out in the kids' area for 3 afternoons, I get the impression that there would be a lot more families doing the same thing in Austin than in Chicago.

Producer Tor Hyams also brings in a slightly different mix of artists for the Chicago festival than for the Austin festival. One prominent way this is the case is in the number of kids' artists -- not adult performers making music for kids, but tweens and teens making music. There are three such artists doing multiple sets this weekend, and while it's not kindie as it's typically thought of, there are far worse things for your kids than seeing kids just a few years older than they are making loud music sound good. (And you may even enjoy yourself.)

Beyond those artists, Hyams has put together another solid set of folks who've recorded specifically for the pre-tween set and their families. Most of them (like the teen artists) are playing multiple sets this weekend, which gives you the opportunity to dash off with your kids and see some sets you want to see. (Though trying to decide whether you see The Joy Formidable or Titus Andronicus early Sunday afternoon? Tough call.)

But if you're there with your kids this weekend and thinking about heading down to the Kidzapalooza stage to check out the area and an act or two, here's the schedule and some comments about the acts.
Friday, August 5
11:30 - 11:55 - Big Bang Boom
12:30 - 12:55 - The Happiness Club
1:30 - 1:55 - Northbrook Garage
2:30 - 2:55 - Kate Diaz
3:15 - 3:45 - Brady Rymer
3:50 - 4:15 - ELIZAVETA
4:20 - 4:50 - Haley Bonar

Kate Diaz is a Chicago-area teenage singer-songwriter who, judging by her YouTube channel, writes a lot of songs. I suspect that of all the teen acts at Kidzapalooza this weekend, she's the most likely to graduate to one of the other stages at the festival.

Brady Rymer and the Little Band Who Could are one of the best-sounding bands in the business. He's got a new album, Love Me For Who I Am, that manages to sing directly to kids with autism while being very accessible to the rest of the population. But I hope he pulls out a few of his older tracks -- here he is playing "Jump Up! (It's a Good Day)" at the 2009 Kindiefest conference.

Very little appears to be known about Elizaveta, who describes herself on her website as (in part) opera diva-in-training. I get a bit of an Enya-meets-Fiona Apple vibe from the tracks on her website. This is the "special guest" slot in Friday's lineup, so it's a short set.

If I were attending Kidzapalooza, Haley Bonar would be the set I would most want to see. Her Sing With Me EP was excellent, and her most recent album Golder was a fine album for those of drinking age. Also, she's pregnant, so what could be cuter than that up on the Kidzapalooza stage. Here she is performing "Beautiful You."

Beautiful You from The Duluth Scene on Vimeo.

Saturday, August 6
11:30 - 11:55 - Northbrook Garage
12:30 - 12:55 - The Happiness Club
1:30 - 1:55 - Big Bang Boom
2:30 - 2:55 - Haley Bonar
3:15 - 3:45 - Ralph's World
3:45 - 4:00 - Special Guest
4:05 - 4:30 - Brady Rymer

Exactly a year ago, the teen quartet Northbrook Garage was playing the Northbrook Days Festival. Now, they're playing Lollapalooza. Not bad. Here they are covering Sharon Jones' "She Ain't a Child No More" at that festival.

(Northbrook Days Festival 8.6.10)

Big Bang Boom plays slightly goofy and occasionally smart-alecky pop for kids; close your eyes and you might think it's a little bit like Ben Folds for kids. (And, er, bandleader Chuck Folds is Ben Folds' brother, so that's not entirely unrealistic.)

This is not Ralph's World first time at Kidzapalooza, I believe. Ralph's from Chicago, so expect some hometown respect. Here he is playing "Sunny Day Rainy Day Anytime Band" at last year's Austin City Limits Festival.

Sunday, August 7
11:30 - 11:55 - Kate Diaz
12:30 - 12:55 - Q Brothers
1:30 - 1:55 - The Happiness Club
2:30 - 2:55 - Keller Williams
3:15 - 3:30 - Peter DiStefano & Tor
3:30 - 3:50 - Lance Herbstrong
3:50 - 4:05 - Perry Farrell
4:10 - 4:35 - Ralph's World

Sunday is your day for hip-hop at the stage as not only does The Happiness Club play again -- they're a group of multi-ethnic teens playing pop and hip-hop for all ages, but so does the Q Brothers. The Happiness Club is providing hip-hop assistance to kids at the stage, much as the Q Brothers do down in Austin. Here are the Q Brothers freestyling at last year's Kidzapalooza.

If you need additional reasons to check out the Happiness Club's set, how about this? Most kids acts at Lollapalooza have 50-60 people who've added them to their public Lolla schedule -- Keller Williams has more than 1,300. So get there early -- or get the heck out if you hate crowds. (It'd be a shame, though -- I think it'll be a fun set, totally appropriate even for the Freekers who don't have kids.)

By the way, according to Williams will appear during Peter DiStefano and Tor's set, so stick around if you want to see more Williams. (Or if you have a kid who wants to get on stage, as they always bring kids up for a song.)

Perry Farrell will make his annual appearance (it is his festival, after all), and following that, the guest artist is Lance Herbstrong, who spins tunes with some band accompaniment. Warning to parents: you may want to double-check that he's not bringing the same crowd toys he brought to his 2010 ACL Festival (non-Austin Kiddie Limits) set.