Welcome to the official Lollapalooza 2013 Preview Guide! In this post, you’ll find an hour-by-hour breakdown of all the bands you won’t want to miss during each of the three days at Lollapalooza this year. Whether you’re an experienced Lolla attendee or a newbie showing up in Grant Park for the first time this year, there’s probably no chance you’re familiar with every single artist that’s part of the lineup. This guide is intended to help. Maybe you’d just like to familiarize yourself with the artists by listening to them. I understand that logic as well. Find something that suits your tastes, and then go see that artist, even if you’re not necessarily very familiar with their catalogue. Allow me to provide some assistance in that aspect. Here are Spotify playlists for Friday, Saturday and Sunday so you can let your ears make some decisions. All of those three playlists are organized by musical genre, to help everything flow just a little smoother in case you want to give the whole thing a listen. Moving past the sonics and into the nuts and bolts of the lineup, after the jump are my thoughts on what you should see each hour during each day of Lollapalooza 2013. Please note that I’ve restricted myself to one and only one artist during each hour of each day. There are some tough conflicts I’ve been forced to make decisions on, and in some cases you might want to do split sets and see half of one and half of another. Have a look at the full schedule here for all of those details, and keep in mind that things are so spread out it takes at least 10-15 minutes to walk from one side of Grant Park to the other. Plan accordingly. I do think that if you follow the game plan that I’ve set out for you below, you’re guaranteed to have a great time at Lollapalooza this year. Without further ado, here’s my preview guide to Lollapalooza 2013!
Noon – The Neighbourhood [12:00-12:45, Petrillo]
If you listen to even a minimal amount of alternative rock these days, it’s likely you’ve heard The Neighbourhood’s song “Sweater Weather.” It was the #1 alt-rock song in the country for the last few weeks, in fact. While I actually quite like the track, this band is so much more than just one single. Their debut album I Love You. isn’t half bad, and their set should be a nice high energy start to the weekend.
1:00 – Deap Vally [1:30-2:15, Petrillo]
The guitar and drums duo of Lindsey Troy and Julie Edwards have been making a small splash so far in 2013, with people openly calling them the female version of The Black Keys. It’s hard to argue with that sentiment. Their recently released debut album Sistrionix, along with their debut EP Get Deap play in that blues and garage rock sandbox and demand your full attention. It’s intense, heavy, and blisteringly cool despite being patently unoriginal. While on record they charge ahead with little to no regard for variety in sound or melody, that approach apparently works like gangbusters in a live setting. I’m excited to hear what these women can do.
2:00 – Ghost B.C. [2:15-3:15, Bud Light]
This is certainly poised to be one of the most fascinating sets of the day, if not the entire weekend. Ghost B.C. are a Swedish heavy metal band, and while their sound has earned them comparisons to everyone from Black Sabbath to Blue Oyster Cult, it’s their live show and general stage presence that’s their biggest selling point. The names of the band members are largely kept secret, and when playing live they don hooded black robes. The vocalist for the band wears a skull mask and cardinal’s robes, really bringing out the dark and gothic elements in their music. How that will fare in the middle of the afternoon is going to be interesting to say the least.
3:00 – Jessie Ware [3:15-4:15, Petrillo]
Jessie Ware’s album Devotion was a great part of 2012’s revival of the R&B genre. Next to Frank Ocean’s record, she really helped bring a strong female presence back to a type of music that was looking for a new hero. Her songs, particularly “Wildest Moments,” have since appeared in numerous TV shows, movie trailers and commercials, though you may not have perked up your ears and taken immediate notice. In a live setting she’s a delightful performer too, and should make the middle of the afternoon that much more delightful.
4:00 – Crystal Castles [4:15-5:15, Red Bull Sound Select]
Crystal Castles are a Lollapalooza favorite, and their presence at the festival multiple times over the last few years has seen them pull in bigger and bigger crowds. They’re essentially an electronica act with a sharp edge, and frontwoman Alice Glass will probably slice you open without hesitation should she feel the urge. One of the wildest, and most intense live shows you’ll see on Friday, it would probably be much better in the dark rather than mid-to-late afternoon, but beggars can’t be choosers.
5:00 – Imagine Dragons [5:15-6:15, Lake Shore]
Consider this a case of the right band being in the right place at the right time. I like Imagine Dragons, but I don’t love them. Many like to classify them as an “indie” band, but to my ears there’s nothing remotely indie about them. The attraction to their sound is completely understandable, which is why I suppose “Radioactive” has become one of (if not) the highest charting alt-rock songs of 2013. The only other real competition they have in this time slot are Lolla mainstays Thievery Corporation, a collective I’m still surprised has a lot of fans. So really if they had put much else worthwhile on at this time, I might not be recommending Imagine Dragons. But they didn’t, so here we are.
6:00 – Disclosure [6:00-6:45, The Grove]
Honestly, after the lazy five o’clock hour, it’s a total clusterfuck at six. Queens of the Stone Age vs. New Order vs. Disclosure. Why does Disclosure win this battle royale? Allow me to try and justify this answer. Queens of the Stone Age have a fantastic catalogue. Pretty much everything from Songs for the Deaf and Rated R is classic. The issue is, their last couple albums, particularly Era Vulgaris, have been a little weak. Their new album …Like Clockwork is a strong step back in the right direction, but the loads of guest stars they employed (Dave Grohl, Elton John, Mark Lanegan) won’t be appearing at any forthcoming shows, Lolla included. New Order is a band that goes beyond classic to the category of legendary. Even though Peter Hook is out of the band, they haven’t really lost a step. They’re currently touring and playing exactly what fans want to hear, which is their greatest hits. What’s not to love? But then there’s Disclosure. Their new album Settle might just be the best dance record of 2013. Their set is going to be endless amounts of fun, and with any luck, Jessie Ware will show up to do vocals on her track “Confess to Me”. I’ve got a feeling these guys are going to be the secret weapon of Friday at Lollapalooza, so maybe spare 30-45 minutes and check them out, then bounce over to New Order or something.
7:00 – Chance the Rapper [6:50-7:30, BMI]
Of course instead of running to catch the second half of sets by New Order or Queens of the Stone Age, maybe instead you stop by the relatively tiny BMI stage and check out Chance the Rapper. He’s a Chicago guy, and his Acid Rap mixtape may just be the finest thing that hip hop has to offer so far in 2013 (next to maybe Kanye West). Seriously, if you’re a fan of rap music and miss out on seeing Chance the Rapper, I promise you will be kicking yourself in a year or two. It should be a high energy, entertaining set, too.
8:00 – Nine Inch Nails [8:15-10:00, Bud Light]
After calling it quits in 2009, Nine Inch Nails have been revived, with Trent Reznor and a collection of new guys backing him up. Despite talk of “doing things differently” this time, which I interpreted as trying out a new direction and maybe performing classic songs in a way that seems fresh and original, this is pretty much the same NIN you’ve grown to know and love. At least that’s what video from the band’s first two reunion shows have shown. Lollapalooza will be their first U.S. tour date in their revived state, and Reznor has promised some supremely innovative visual elements to blow your mind as the band runs through songs both old and brand spanking new. I’ve seen NIN about 6 times now, and each set was something different and a revelation in its own way. I’m looking forward to what’s going to happen this time.
Noon – The Bright Light Social Hour [12:15-1:00, Petrillo]
Due to Azealia Banks being forced to drop out of the festival at the last minute due to a throat infection, the schedule for Saturday shifted a little. Instead of talking about the folk stylings of Family of the Year, who were originally scheduled for noon, I’m now taking on Texas band The Bright Light Social Hour instead. They should give your Saturday a pretty solid start with their Southern rock approach that’s mixed with hints of psychedelia, jam band and blues elements. According to reports, they put on quite the amazing live show that’s earned them attention in many of the right circles, so they might bring an invigorating start to your day.
1:00 – Little Green Cars [1:30-2:15, Lake Shore]
I’ve chosen Little Green Cars as a member of my Class of 2013, meaning they’re a band I expect to do big things this year. They’re starting to make good on that promise, first with a pretty strong debut album Absolute Zero, and now by touring relentlessly to help build their audience base. I felt like they might turn into something special because of their relative sonic similarity to The Lumineers, but in some ways they’ve transcended that band’s sound and ventured into slightly different waters. I for one am thrilled to hear what their incredible vocal harmonies sound like in a live setting.
2:00 – ReignWolf [2:00-2:45, Petrillo]
Realistically speaking, if you just wanted to make a day of it with folk bands on Saturday, you probably could accomplish such a feat. But it’s important to break that cycle if something interesting catches your eye, such as ReignWolf. It’s the project of Jordan Cook, who essentially performs solo with a guitar and his foot on a bass drum pedal for backup. His style is a blues and garage rock fusion, a la Black Keys and White Stripes, but perhaps outweighing any debates over originality are the many reports about the live show that he puts on. The guy lives up to his name by absolutely going wild with energy and incredible, mind-bending guitar work that may just leave your jaw on the floor. People tell me ReignWolf is not to be missed, and I’m inclined to believe them.
3:00 – Charles Bradley [2:45-3:45, Bud Light]
One thing I’ve discovered in my many years attending Lollapalooza is that you can almost always count on the artists that have been around for decades to put on a great show. After all, they’ve had tons and tons of practice. Unlike some bands on a reunion tour after 10+ years out of the spotlight where the magic may have been lost, somebody who’s been as consistently around as Charles Bradley has can only be a great thing. I mean, he wouldn’t have such longevity if people didn’t love him, right? He started his career as a James Brown impersonator, and though he’s getting up there in age himself, he still knows how to bring the funk and soul to his performances. It should be a very welcome set for the middle of a Saturday afternoon.
4:00 – Local Natives [4:00-5:00, Red Bull Sound Select]
It’d be really easy to recommend that you go and see Matt & Kim during this time period. They are performing on the opposite side of Grant Park while Local Natives are on stage. Here’s the thing about Matt & Kim – they’re delightful, fun, addictive, and perhaps the happiest band that I know working today. Yet in spite of all those positives, they’re starting to feel a little old hat. They’ve performed at Lollapalooza about a handful of times – nearly once every two years – and once you’ve seen them power through a bunch of high energy songs with smiles on their faces, there’s not much else going on. Local Natives, on the other hand, are a much rarer breed of band. This is only their second time at Lollapalooza, and the two albums they’ve now got under their belts are remarkably catchy and feature some intense vocal harmonies that need to be seen to be believed. As a result, they’re just barely earning my recommendation for the hour.
5:00 – Ellie Goulding [4:45-5:45, Bud Light]
Ellie Goulding is a pop star. Even if you think you haven’t heard a song of hers before, chances are you have thanks to a commercial or TV show or movie. The last time she came through Chicago, she sold out a 3,000 capacity venue in the blink of an eye. Her set is likely to be one of the most crowded of the day, but that doesn’t mean you should stay away. It should be quite a bit of fun, actually, with more than a few sing-alongs to help keep the crowd engaged. Will she play her cover of Active Child’s “Hanging On”? One can only hope.
6:00 – The National [6:00-7:15, Red Bull Sound Select]
The National have performed at Lollapalooza a couple times before, and have delivered both of those times. There’s no reason to suspect they won’t do it again, especially because their new album Trouble Will Find Me maintains their streak of great records, which now stands at four in a row. I don’t know many bands that can accomplish such a feat. Their songs may largely wallow in misery, but their dark subject matter in many ways makes them even more compelling to listen to. As the sun begins to set over Lake Michigan early on a Saturday evening, something about seeing The National perform at that time should just seem absolutely perfect.
7:00 – Kendrick Lamar [6:45-7:45, Bud Light]
For me, this is the toughest call to make on a Saturday. But when you really put your mind to it, the choice is pretty obvious. Also performing during this time slot are The Lumineers and Haim. You can bet that the folk stylings of The Lumineers will be the most crowded of the three, and that mixed with people camping out for Mumford & Sons an hour later will hopefully make at least one side of Grant Park just a bit more empty. As for Haim, well check out the special “half hour” addition I’ve made just below here. Yet the ultimate preference falls to Kendrick Lamar. He performed at Pitchfork Music Festival last year and I wasn’t too impressed, but then I heard his debut album and suddenly everything changed. Seriously, good kid, m.A.A.d. city was the best rap record of 2012, and maybe even the best record out of any genre. To miss him performing some of those tracks feels almost foolish.
7:30 – Haim [7:15-8:15, The Grove]
[Special half hour addition due to the set times shifted per Azealia Banks’ cancellation] Yet another member of my Class of 2013, Haim is a trio of sisters – Alana, Este and Danielle – from Los Angeles. They’ve put out a couple of singles already this year, including “Falling,” which made a pretty big impact and earned them a fair amount of praise. Their new single “The Wire” dropper earlier this week and has quickly become a great late entry for “song of the summer.” Their sound is reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac with a Tom Petty-like touch, and boy do they know their way around a hook. Their debut album will be out before the end of the year, but now is probably the best time to see them before they really hit it big.
8:00 – The Postal Service [8:30-10:00, Bud Light]
Everybody is going to see Mumford & Sons. They are arguably the biggest band in the world right now. But you know what? They’ll likely still be around this time next year. I certainly can’t say the same thing about The Postal Service. We’re lucky that this reunion has lasted this long, because 10 years ago a single album called Give Up was to be their legacy after they did a short tour to support it at the time and then decided to return to their original projects, though the door was always open should they ever want to try again. Ben Gibbard has carved out a nice career with Death Cab for Cutie. Jenny Lewis is a solo artist these days, but also did amazing work with Rilo Kiley. And Jimmy Tamborello does Dntel and remix work that’s far less popular than his Postal Service bandmates but strives to push forward the boundaries of electronica. Anyways, after their Lollapalooza set and a subsequent Metro aftershow, The Postal Service have no more live dates scheduled. This could be the last we ever hear from them, and I don’t know about you but it’s not something I’m interested in missing. If you are looking for what’s sure to be a thrilling sidebar though, Death Grips performing at The Grove stage in a time slot move makes this choice quite a bit tougher. The duo’s blending of hip hop and punk aesthetics feels like an assault on your ears just listening to it, and I can only imagine what it does to you in a live setting. Due to the headliners, Death Grips could wind up as the most overlooked set of the entire weekend.
Noon – Guards [12:00-12:45, Lake Shore]
As some of my friends like to say, it’s Sunday Funday, and if you’re itching to get your final day of Lollapalooza started right, Guards is the band that will scratch you right where it counts. Their energetic indie pop songs have a nice ’70s style twist to them that’s one part psychedelic and another part bouncy garage rock. Expect them to feel more than right at home in the sunshine and low 70s temperatures the weather report suggests will be in place at the time.
1:00 – Wild Belle [1:30-2:15, Lake Shore]
Chicago artists are relatively well represented on this year’s Lollapalooza lineup, and Wild Belle is one of those bands that is really starting to break out into the mainstream consciousness. The duo of Natalie and Elliot Bergman released their debut album Isles earlier this year, and the sound is a grand mixture of reggae, pop and disco that’s both fun and laid back at the same time. In other words, as you’re easing into your day and trying to either fully wake up or shake off that hangover, Wild Belle will provide a nice soundtrack to help you feel better.
2:00 – Angel Haze [2:00-3:00, Perry’s]
This is the only time all weekend I’ll advocate that you go to Perry’s, but that’s more a statement of personal preference rather than a suggestion that it’s a terrible place with terrible people. Hahaha. Really, I’m just not that into EDM, and Perry’s is almost 100% EDM. Well, except for Angel Haze, who is decidedly NOT that. I don’t know why they put the up-and-coming hip hop star there, but I suppose organizers had their reasons. Anyways, Angel Haze is another one of my Class of 2013, and when she’s not starting fights with other hip hop artists, she’s releasing new tracks and mixtapes for free. At least they’re free for now. She’s got a proper, non-free debut full length set to be released before the end of the year, and a stop at Lollapalooza is just one of many ways to continue to build her hype until then. She’s quite talented and will likely be a big name in the rap game about a year from now, so catch this early afternoon set if you can!
3:00 – Baroness [3:30-4:30, Petrillo]
Who wants to inject a little metal into their Sunday afternoon? Baroness have you covered. Of course, they’re not quite your typical metal band, what with their dabbling in a multitude of styles that include psychedelia and post-rock. They are students of the heavy guitar approach, and as such refuse to limit themselves or allow themselves to be boxed into a corner very easily. It’s this mentality that has caused them to excel above many of their peers to be one of the most widely revered metal acts working today. Of course things have changed dramatically in the Baroness camp over the last year. A turbulent bus crash in England sent most of the band members to the hospital with injuries of varying seriousness. They’ve since lost a couple members and gained a couple replacements, and the shows will go on, hopefully without a drop in quality.
4:00 – Tegan and Sara [4:00-5:00, Red Bull Sound Select]
The last time Tegan and Sara performed at Lollapalooza, Sara came down with heat stroke and they had to stop their performance after 30 minutes. It was disappointing. Now a few years later, they’re returning to the scene of the incident with the intention of making it right. Helping them through it will be their new album Heartthrob, which is synth pop done in a way that’s more commercially accessible than any of their other work up until this point in time. Expect a very fun set from the Quin twins, who in addition to being talented songwriters are also exceptionally gifted at entertaining stage banter. At the very least, that’s something to look forward to.
5:00 – alt-J [5:00-6:00, Lake Shore]
Oh, what can I say about alt-J? For reasons I both can and can’t fully explain, the band has become huge in the last year or so. Their debut album An Awesome Wave was sharply constructed to make use of a lot of different trends and styles in indie rock, which ultimately makes it unoriginal. But that an unsuspecting public has latched onto like these guys are future saviors of rock and roll, and even I’ll admit I can understand why people would be compelled to fall in love with this band. They should put on a very crowded but very fun set against some even more mediocre competition in the same time slot.
6:00 – Vampire Weekend [6:30-7:45, Bud Light]
Do I really need to put up any sort of argument why you should go and see Vampire Weekend perform? I mean sure, they’re not the most crazy and innovative band in a live setting, but what they lack in distractions and general presence they more than make up for with bouncy, fun indie pop songs. Their latest album Modern Vampires of the City is likely the best full length released in 2013 so far, and don’t be surprised if nothing else is able to steal its crown away. Turns out these Ivy League guys are even more talented than their first couple albums suggested. Hearing the new stuff performed live should be a treat unto itself.
7:00 – Beach House [7:00-8:00, Lake Shore]
If you’re doing it right, you’ll probably be watching Vampire Weekend until 7:45, and by the time you reach the other side of Grant Park it’ll be 8:00 already. Should that not be the case and you’re hunting down a spot to stand for The Cure, you could do a lot worse than stop to watch Beach House perform. Much like the last couple times I’ve seen them perform in an outdoor festival setting, their largely slow songs will be extra gorgeous at sunset, but will also make you want to take a nap for an hour. I love this band, but they’re quite snooze-worthy and static during their performances. I could well have chosen the hip hop of 2 Chainz or the dance party that will be Major Lazer for this particular hour, but Beach House wins if only for the overall excellence of their catalogue.
8:00 – The Cure [8:00-10:00, Red Bull Sound Select]
Does Phoenix really have more than two or three legitimate “hit” singles? Are they popular enough to be worthy of headlining a music festival? These are questions I ask myself every time I see the band on top of a festival lineup. To each their own, I guess. Going to see The Cure is practically a non-decision. If you think that songs like “Friday I’m in Love” and “Boys Don’t Cry” just aren’t your cup of tea, what planet are you living on? Expect The Cure to put on a highly enjoyable, hit-filled set that will have everyone singing and dancing along. It’s the perfect way to end the long weekend, and I’m exceptionally excited to get to spend it with Robert Smith & Co. I hope you are too.