The Eels Will Rock You on Lollapalooza’s First Afternoon

Lollapalooza 2006 will boast more than 120 bands on eight stages, all over the course of three days in Chicago’s Grant Park.

This August 4th through 6th promises dozens of unforgettable performances, most of which you will miss unless you approach the festival with a game plan and an open mind. Some of the most interesting artists on the bill are resigned to daytime sets to make room for more commercially successful headliners. But if you have wrangled the time off of work to view the festival in its entirety, you can count on an intimate and receptive set from rock veterans the eels.

At 2:30 in the afternoon on the first day, coordinators have booked the eels, fresh off the release of With Strings: Live at Town Hall, a live album that produces all necessary evidence that the band is a formidable rock act on stage as well as in the studio. Adding this release to the band’s six previous albums, their catalog of songs will provide a perfect soundtrack to Friday afternoon’s laid back but anticipatory feel.

Formed in 1995, the eels were originally grouped into the prevailing alternative rock movement of the time. One listen to their first single, “Novocaine for the Soul” confirmed a sound that blended the musical and lyrical content that was similar to the major acts of the time with an intriguing timeless quality that was more reliant on singer-songwriter forefathers. This is due in no small part to eels’ front man (and sometimes sole member), E.

The 43-year-old Virginia native does the bulk of the band’s writing, composing, and recording. He is, for any performance or tour, the only member a spectator can count on seeing, as E’s recording process often involves session players and guests that do not make it to the performance stage. Fans can expect anywhere from two to seven (in the case of the most recent live album) supporting players, under the watchful lead of E, the band’s somber singer, guitarist, and pianist.

The glare of the MTV buzz that surrounded the band ten years ago (they received three MTV Video Music Award nominations for “Novocaine for the Soul”) is long gone, leaving a band of solid live performers devoid of rock star trappings. In their time slot, they are also competing for an audience with Panic! At the Disco, an up-and-coming band with a decidedly younger fan base. It is all the better for a covertly powerful, dreamy day set for anyone who is paying attention.

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