Battle of the Bands 

Kuyahoga's lineup offers no break in the great music.

The Hold Steadys anchor Kuyahoga's day of music.
  • The Hold Steadys anchor Kuyahoga's day of music.
With Live Nation's purchase of the House of Blues, there's no telling whether Kuyahoga's first year will also be its last.

But for the moment, let's celebrate our good fortune: HOB booker Anthony Nicolaidis has assembled the best single-day music lineup of the year.

Poaching the finest acts making their way to Lollapalooza on Friday, Kuyahoga mixes three generations of indie rock's biggest crossover acts (Sonic Youth, Flaming Lips, Death Cab for Cutie) with music from a wide variety of up-and-comers, such as dark-wave nostalgists She Wants Revenge and billowing psych rockers Secret Machines.

This poses a problem: When is it safe to grab a beer?

Here's how we handicap it:

Sonic Youth: (5:30-7 p.m.) The Sonic moms 'n' dads have just reached the 20th anniversary of their studio peak, the 1986-88 streak from EVOL and Bad Moon Rising to Sister and Daydream Nation, and they'll still kick your ass live -- and they don't need to run around in plastic bubbles to do it. Their new album, Rather Ripped, features short, melodic songs that will nicely bracket the savagely beautiful noise jams that have been Sonic's stock-in-trade for the past 25 years. Compare that to the Lips' pseudo-psychedelic drifting or Death Cab's emasculated balladry, and the choice is clear.

Death Cab for Cutie: (7:30-9 p.m.) When a jewel of the underground signs with a major, its albums often become adulterated as quickly as its fan base becomes 14-year-olds. But while Death Cab's demographic has shifted markedly toward The O.C. , the band's output is better now than it's ever been. Death Cab is still doing exactly what made hipsters swoon in the first place: Writing complex, textural, heart-on-the-sleeve guitar rock, tempered by Ben Gibbard's lonely and floating voice. Of course, if you want to be hip about it and are more interested in watching Sonic Youth search for some middle ground between four-minute atonal guitar songs and 14-minute noise jams, it's your life.

Flaming Lips: (9:30 - 11:00 p.m.) There's hardly a more unlikely band for pop stardom than Wayne Coyne and his crew of mischievous misfits. Their mind-bending musical excursions float on finely manicured waves of noise, ringing guitar, and a cockeyed lyrical perspective. Soft Bulletin, the Lips' '99 release, represents the refinement of the band's sound and was one of the decade's best albums. From ethereal yearning to walls of thundering distortion, the Flaming Lips' rainbow of tones and rich lyrical content outstrip any other act on the bill.

While those are arguably the three "can't-miss" acts of the day, they're hardly the only bands worth seeing:

The Go! Team: (4:00-4:30 p.m.) Brighton's musical cheerleaders, the Go! Team isn't all blissed-out pom-pom parties. Six young men and women, black and white, sing in unison and inspire happiness.

The Hold Steady: (4:30-5:00 p.m.) There's a drunken, stumbling, cranklike quality to Craig Finn's ambling story-songs. They're strange and alluring vignettes that unfold in a roundabout way, gather momentum, and often conclude in humorous revelation.

Wolfmother: (5:00-5:30 p.m.) Wolfmother has been the subject of so many hyperbolic comparisons, it's almost enough to make you suspect a conspiracy of rock journalists. But the blend of Mountain, the White Stripes, and Led Zeppelin III is the clear choice for all discerning rock fans.

Two terrific local acts are also on the bill: the angular Akron rock band the Six Parts Seven (3:15 p.m. -- 3:45 p.m.), which plays the main-stage area, and the throttling distortion merchants of Roué (5:00 p.m. -- 5:30 p.m.), who play the Grog Shop stage in the plaza area.


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