At least in my circles, I couldn't go anywhere last week without being asked the following question by someone hopeful of delivering new gossip: "Do you know who's headlining Lollapalooza this summer?" All but the first eager face was met with the response that yes, I'd already heard that Morrissey was the main act. But even though I was well acquainted with that fact, I couldn't help but shake my head in amazement that the gladioli swinger would play a summer festival--a series, caravan-type summer festival--and wonder over whether it meant the end of his hallowed, unbesmirched career (all right, the fatty tour smirched it a little, but it was instantly forgiven with his breathtaking "'68 Comeback" tour), or the chance for the pied piper to gather a new set of followers. Most surprising, however, was learning that this was not to be the bloated, grizzled form of Lollapalooza those of us old enough to have attended the first year have come to expect. This year's festival is revived.

Kicking the tour off locally at the often-a-pain-in-the-ass-to-get-to White River Amphitheatre (who would have thought the three-hour drive to the Gorge would be more convenient than a quick whiz to Auburn?) features not only Morrissey, but Sonic Youth (whose over-the-top feedback during a show with the Amps made me barf after having had only three glasses of red wine), the Polyphonic Spree, the Flaming Lips, Gomez, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, and--here's the real eyebrow-raiser--Modest Mouse.

So Modest Mouse will tour with Morrissey? I couldn't imagine a more perfect and God-sent pairing. (And in case you didn't notice, Good News for People Who Love Bad News, Modest Mouse's excellent new album, debuted on the Billboard Top 200 chart at number 19. Congratulations, and even though I expected it to begin well, even I'm shocked at how high it charted.)

But back to Lollapalooza, along with the good there's the grossness of the fact that for the gratification of many granola-eating, hippie-dippy, outdoor-concert-loving, white-guy-dreadlock-having, mandal-wearing, pierced-eyebrow-sporting types, it will not be Morrissey who headlines day two of the White River Amphitheatre tour kickoff, but the String Cheese Incident. And that there, my friends, is the first time since that band's gut-turning, until-now-ignorable existence that I have actually thrown up my fingers in disgust and defeat and typed out that horrible name in print. Those fucking motherfuckers; I might as well go ahead and get Leftover Salmon out there too, despite the fact that they are not playing Lollapalooza 2004.

Due to the awesome lineup, hmmm-hmmm-incidhumm notwithstanding, there should be a run on high-level sunscreen around these parts due to all the balding pates sure to brave the sun in hopes of reliving the old days when Cypress Hill (again?!) was the sliding flute sound on the bill. And remember the year when Tricky arrived so late to the stage that he played for only 10 minutes (the same year the excellent and super sexy Maxinquaye came out)? Remember that?

But speaking of Morrissey again, as I am so apt to do in this space, Mark Simpson's Saint Morrissey, unpublished in the United States until now, has finally hit shelves in hardback. I read it last weekend and though one must once again wade through the somewhat obligatory yet irksome as-if-anyone-who's-a-fan-didn't-already-know biography of Steven Morrissey, the book is the first to focus so deeply on the lyrics. Several interesting facts are revealed because of that, like the lyricist's repetitive fetishes. Says Simpson: "There appears to be, it must be admitted here, an almost fetishistic interest in mostly male 'hands' on the part of this singer from a working-class background: 'Hand in Glove'; 'The Hand That Rocks the Cradle'; his sweaty attachment to the word 'handsome'; the strong interest he developed later in his career to the handy art of boxing."

Simpson also points out that "The Boy Racer," "Shoplifters of the World Unite," and "Reel Around the Fountain" contain references to hands, but death, literature, driving, child abuse, and the ever present "mother" are other more obvious checks in Morrissey lyrics. I also like that the author constantly compares the singer to his hero Oscar Wilde but clearly believes that the Mozz out-Wilded Wilde in the end. (I've yet to hear his latest album, hence my use of "in the end.") Simpson also reiterates for a new generation of fans that both Noel Gallagher and Damon Albarn were inspired to form bands after witnessing Morrissey on TV. For the most part, I liked Saint Morrissey, and would recommend it to any fan.