So you’ve decided to attend Lollapalooza 2018. Congratulations! You have made a smart investment in your musical future. At four days and 170+ artists however, there’s a whole lot to digest. You can’t see and do everything no matter how hard you try, so choices need to be made. Some choices are easier than others, but if you’re looking for a bit of guidance, allow me to play Pied Piper and point you in the direction of some bands and artists to see over the course of the weekend. Part of the goal here is to point out some lesser known or up-and-coming artists you might not be familiar with yet, but who are worth the effort to try and see (even if they perform early in the day). There are a few veterans sprinkled in for good measure as well, but no headliners because you can presumably figure those out on your own. Five recommendations per day with minimal time conflicts between them, so if you hustle around Grant Park here are 20 performances that will turn your festival experience from good to great. Join me after the jump and we’ll get started!
Valee [American Eagle Stage, 12:50 – 1:30]
This Chicago rapper has been making major waves so far this year, and there’s little doubt he’ll be a household name with much later festival set times within the next couple of years. His recent single with Jeremih “Womp Womp” probably deserves to be the Song of the Summer for 2018, so show up early on Thursday and support some promising local music!
Allie X [American Eagle Stage, 1:50 – 2:30]
A Canadian singer-songwriter who crafts catchy synth-pop in the vein of Chvrches, Allie X also has some fascinating and avant-garde tendencies that help her stand out from similar artists. Her second album Super Sunset will be out this fall, so expect a preview of some fresh and insanely addictive new songs.
Franz Ferdinand [Grant Park Stage, 4:45 – 5:45]
While it sometimes feels like Franz Ferdinand’s career has been that of diminishing returns since the release of their self-titled debut in 2004, you can rest assured that their live shows remain as good as ever. The whole thing should be a massive dose of late afternoon energy with serious party vibes to guide you easily into the evening.
Billie Eilish [Tito’s Handmade Vodka Stage, 6:00 – 7:00]
You wouldn’t know it by her songs or the way that she dresses, but Billie Eilish is all of 16 years old. Where most artists that establish themselves in their teens have immature yet fun songs about hanging out with friends and such, Eilish skipped past all that and feels like a fully grown pop star. People are eating it up, to the point where she just sold out every single show on a massive U.S. tour this fall. Better to see her now before she gets any bigger.
Khalid [Bud Light Stage, 7:00 – 8:00]
The future of R&B is in good shape with Khalid leading the way. His voice is incredible and his debut album American Teen shows exceptional depth and detail as a songwriter. Since being named Best New Artist at the MTV Video Music Awards last year, the 20-year-old has sold out tours and racked up millions of streams, and he’s just getting started.
Alex Lahey [Grant Park Stage, 1:00 – 1:45]
Australian Alex Lahey has a little bit of a Courtney Barnett thing going for her, though her songs often pack an almost-punk rock level of energy with less of a focus on the mundane parts of every day life. In other words, if you’re looking for some insanely fun rock and roll with bright energy to kick off your Friday, Lahey has you covered.
Clairo [Tito’s Handmade Vodka Stage, 1:45 – 2:45]
Clairo, aka Claire Cottrill, has been sharing music online since the age of 13, starting with a bunch of cover songs before eventually writing and recording her own original lo-fi pop tracks. Now 19, she’s gained an avid following over the last year thanks to some goofy music videos that were paired with some remarkably catchy songs. But beneath her very easygoing, almost disaffected vocals lie some sharp-witted commentaries on topics like dating and misogyny.
Parquet Courts [Bud Light Stage, 2:45 – 3:45]
One of the best things about Parquet Courts is that their three principal guitarists each write and sing their own songs on every record. Somehow it all comes together in a cohesive whole that’s this bouncy and at-times frenetic bit of garage rock with a weird streak running through it. Their latest effort Wide Awake! explores their more rhythmic side, so here’s hoping it takes their already-great live show to a whole other energy level.
LIZZO [Tito’s Handmade Vodka Stage, 3:45 – 4:45]
You’re likely familiar with LIZZO’s music but simply don’t know it yet. Her songs have appeared in a number of commercials and on movie soundtracks. Upbeat, fun, and above all else focused on self-empowerment and body positivity, LIZZO effortlessly blends pop, rock, gospel, soul, and R&B into something wholly unique. All of her live shows are full-on celebrations, so come in with a positive attitude and you’ll have a blast.
Greta Van Fleet [American Eagle Stage, 6:30 – 7:15]
The second coming of Led Zeppelin emerges with Greta Van Fleet, a band of brothers from Michigan. They’ve got the riffs and that distinctive Robert Plant wail to genuinely capture that classic rock feel and make you believe there must be some sort of time machine or body switching scenario going on. Even if it’s a touch unoriginal, who wouldn’t bring back Zeppelin in their prime if given the chance?
Femdot [American Eagle Stage, 12:50 – 1:30]
Chicago rapper Femdot released his debut album Delacreme 2 back in June. It’s a smart and playful record that experiments with some different approaches to hip hop than you might otherwise expect, which is a good thing. Lollapalooza will likely be his biggest stage and performance to date, and he’s bringing a full band along to help bring some of his most soulful tracks to life. Show him some much-deserved local love and get in on the ground floor with an artist with great things ahead of him.
Pale Waves [American Eagle Stage, 2:50 – 3:30]
Do you like The 1975, but wonder what they’d sound like with female vocals? Say hello to the Manchester band Pale Waves. They craft catchy pop-rock for mass consumption, and happen to be quite good at it. Their debut album My Mind Makes Noises will be out in September, but they’re already released about half of the songs as singles so you can be familiar with them and sing along at their shows. For what it’s worth, they’re a highly enjoyable and energetic live band as well.
Carly Rae Jepsen [Lake Shore Stage, 5:30 – 6:30]
It’s amazing to me how far things have come from Carly Rae Jepsen’s biggest hit “Call Me Maybe”. Yes, she still plays it in concert and everyone goes absolutely nuts for it. But much more interesting is how a pop star like Jepsen managed to earn the love and respect of some of the most discerning hipsters. She managed to become so uncool that it was cool. It doesn’t hurt that she’s a tremendous songwriter and knows her way around a strong vocal hook or two.
St. Vincent [Bud Light Stage, 6:45 – 7:45]
The last time St. Vincent (Annie Clark) came through Chicago, she was performing a dramatic stage show entirely on her own in support of her latest album MASSEDUCTION. This time, she’s retooled the performance with a full band to be much more festival friendly, as she is playing about 50 different fests this summer. As someone who thinks she sounds better with a band, I’m interested to hear how the newer songs sound when accompanied by multiple musicians. Come for the wonderful songs, but stay for all the insane guitar shredding Clark will be showing off.
Tash Sultana [American Eagle Stage, 7:45 – 8:30]
If you don’t know anything about Tash Sultana, you’re in for a real treat when you watch her perform. She’s a multi-instrumentalist from Australia who’s earned all kinds of attention and praise for her ability to loop sounds and construct every single part of a reggae or psych-folk song from scratch. She may start with a bass line, and while that’s looping she’ll get behind the drums and put down a beat, then a splash of keyboard followed by a standard electric guitar and vocals. Even if you can only drop by for five minutes, I encourage you to watch her work because it’s immensely compelling.
Superorganism [Tito’s Handmade Vodka Stage, 12:15 – 1:00]
Superorganism is an eight person collective whose members originate from across the globe. Their self-titled debut, which came out earlier this year, was largely composed online as members sent portions of tracks to one another and added new elements. The result is some sort of strange indie pop hybrid that manages to be catchy and fun. Their live show has a very interesting approach as well, where many members use everyday objects rather than instruments to recreate each song.
The Regrettes [Grant Park Stage, 12:45 – 1:30]
The Regrettes are a very fun and high energy pop punk/riot grrrl band from California led by 17-year-old Lydia Night. Their debut album came out last year and earned almost universal acclaim for its ability to channel the speed and energy of a band like Bikini Kill with the sweeter, more pop-driven approach of ’60s girl groups such as The Ronettes. On stage The Regrettes are a force to be reckoned with, pushing the recorded versions of their songs to new, thrilling levels you might not be ready for.
Rex Orange County [American Eagle Stage, 1:50 – 2:30]
English singer-songwriter Rex Orange County (Alexander O’Connor) is a name you might recognize from his collaborations with Tyler, the Creator. He’s self-released two albums of music best described as neo-soul, which mostly amounts to some jazzy piano work and extremely smooth vocals. That’s not intended as a slight, because he manages to do it so earnestly you can’t help but fall in love with the songs. Plenty of people already have, as many of his songs have well over a million streams each despite not being signed to a record label.
Kali Uchis [Lake Shore Stage, 3:30 – 4:30]
Colombian-American singer Kali Uchis uses her 2018 album Isolation to explore a variety of different sounds. There are songs that dip into pop, reggae, funk, R&B, and psychedelia. It’d be a lot more frustrating if she didn’t absolutely nail every track. It speaks perfectly to the dimensions of her talent, and her commitment to exploring genres and styles well beyond expectations. She’s ready for the spotlight, so you’d be wise to give it to her.
Cigarettes After Sex [American Eagle Stage, 6:30 – 7:15]
Imagine if The xx and Beach House had a musical baby, and it’d come close to describing the sound of Cigarettes After Sex. Their songs are sexy and beautiful slices of slowcore dream pop that manage to put you in the mood and keep you there. What’s weird is how similar their songs sound to one another, yet each manages to carve a distinctive path to the same place. If you can find a shady spot near the stage to sit down and rest for a bit, just let Cigarettes After Sex take your mind off your troubles. Bonus points if you’re with someone and can make out.