Hey friends! I’m happy to present you with Faronheit’s Guide to Lollapalooza 2012. Whether you’re headed to the festival this year or would just like to learn a little more about the artists performing on this year’s lineup, hopefully this guide will point you in the direction of the acts you won’t want to miss. Before we get started, I should go over a few details to help you interpret this properly. The purpose of this guide is not to analyze every act on the lineup and weigh who you should go see at what particular time. Simply put, I picked 10 acts from each day, irregardless of what time they are playing, and attempted to explain why they’re worth seeing. It’s a very good lineup this year, so choosing only 10 from individual days was tough, but I like to think this is distilled down to help you have the best possible Lollapalooza experience. I should note that some of the small side stages and Perry’s go largely ignored in this guide, because I think if you want to know where to go for dance parties or American Idol runner-ups, you can find them yourselves. Speaking of finding things, make sure you look at the festival map before going to Grant Park, if you’ve never been before. Knowing where the stages are located and that it’s a 15 minute walk from one side of the park to the other is very, very important. In the guide below, I’ve indicated when and where the acts I’m recommending are performing, and they’re ordered by time slot to help plan out your day. Additionally, if you’d like to hear music from the artists I’ve mentioned below, along with a bunch of other acts, there are links to individual day Spotify playlists for your enjoyment. I’ve structured those playlists thematically rather than by time slot to provide you with the best possible listening experience. All that said, I hope you’re ready to have a lot of fun this weekend. Drink plenty of water, dip yourself in sunscreen, and try to rest whenever possible. Those are my tips for surviving the weekend. Without further ado, click past the jump to view my Guide to Lollapalooza 2012!
FRIDAY (Spotify Playlist)
First Aid Kit (12:00-12:45, Playstation Stage)
Sometimes you just need to ease into a long weekend. First Aid Kit will more than provide you with that, as sisters Klara and Johanna Söderberg make lovely folk songs with impressive harmonies. Their latest album The Lion’s Roar was produced by Bright Eyes’ Mike Mogis, and it has the feel of Fleet Foxes combined with Joanna Newsom. If that alone isn’t a selling point, I don’t know what is.
The War on Drugs (2:15-3:00, Google Play Stage)
There are moments on The War on Drugs’ last album Slave Ambient that are very introspective and Southern-tinged folk rock along the lines of Kurt Vile. There are also moments of dark psychedelia and sheer, stadium-sized anthems. This band is many things, but boring is not one of them. Not only are the songs good on record, but they do some excellent work live as well.
Sharon Van Etten (3:00-4:00, Playstation Stage)
If this were two or three years ago, Sharon Van Etten would be performing by herself with only a guitar strapped around her neck. Her quiet but excellent folk melodies would probably be drowned out by sound bleed from a neighboring stage. With her stellar new album Tramp however, she’s further established herself and now has a full band to back her up. It’s made a world of difference, and has only made her stage presence that much more engaging.
Tame Impala (3:15-4:15, Sony Stage)
Tame Impala’s debut album Innerspeaker was a very healthy slice of modern psychedelia, even as they channeled some of the greats from the ’60s. They’ve got the follow-up Lonerism due out in October, and the two tracks they’ve released from it so far have done nothing but increase the anticipation and fan base for these guys. Expect to preview even more new stuff during their set, and hopefully have your mind blown.
Metric (4:00-5:00, Bud Light Stage)
Metric’s last album Fantasies raised their profile significantly, filled with melodies that work well with stadium-sized crowds. Their new album Synthetica is pretty much more of the same, even if it might not generate quite so many hit singles. What’s much more notable is their live show, which is super fun and packed to the brim with energy. Sometimes a really good performance is better/more important than the material you’re performing.
The Afghan Whigs (4:15-5:15, Red Bull Soundstage)
The Afghan Whigs had their heyday around the time of The Replacements, Dinosaur Jr. and Husker Du. In other words, we’re talking about the late 80s/early 90s. They made some great, great records back then, and their current reunion tour should bring out a whole bunch of classic material, along with a few fun covers, including their most recent favorite, a rendition of Frank Ocean’s “Lovecrimes.”
Passion Pit (6:00-7:15, Bud Light Stage)
After cancelling a bunch of their tour dates both leading up to and immediately after Lollapalooza, it seems the band will make their appearance at the festival in spite of frontman Michael Angelakos’ mental health issues. Hopefully he and the rest of the band will be in good spirits, because their new record Gossamer is their best yet and is filled to the brim with fun sounding songs about dark topics.
The Shins (6:15-7:30, Red Bull Soundstage)
First Shins frontman James Mercer fired the rest of the band. Then he went off to work with Danger Mouse on Broken Bells. In spite of my relative dislike of where things have headed with the band these last few years, the new Shins record Port of Morrow feels like a triumph and pretty much makes up for all the bad stuff. While the band isn’t exactly wild to watch live, they’ll sound good and may even inject some humor into the stage banter.
M83 (7:30-8:30, Sony Stage)
Against all practical will, M83 and frontman Anthony Gonzalez have done almost everything right career-wise. They’ve built each new record on the ones before it, and their popularity has skyrocketed every time too. The band’s latest opus, the double album Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, was one of 2011’s finest and the single “Midnight City” has become a summer radio hit. I’ve seen M83 a handful of times now, and I can tell you their set will be a fun dance party you won’t want to miss.
Black Sabbath (8:05-10:00, Bud Light Stage)
I’m going to argue that this is the most hotly anticipated set of the entire weekend. Black Sabbath’s only North American tour date so far, and all of the original lineup is along for the ride, save for drummer Bill Ward. Still, expect a set where their classic heavy metal records from the ’70s dominate, though we could get a new song or two thrown in, as they’ve got a new album on the way. However it goes, you probably won’t want to miss seeing these giants of rock as it’s a big question mark on whether or not they’ll keep touring after this.
SATURDAY (Spotify Playlist)
Chief Keef (12:15-12:45, Perry’s)
It’s great to see that the Lollapalooza organizers found room for a last minute add to the lineup with Chief Keef. He’s a Chicago guy making huge waves in the city and elsewhere right now. Expect him to graduate up to larger stages and better festival time slots sooner rather than later, so go see him to start your Saturday and say you knew about him before almost anybody else did.
Bear in Heaven (1:30-2:15, Sony Stage)
Okay, so Bear in Heaven’s latest album I Love You, It’s Cool didn’t quite hold up as well next to the powerhouse of buzz that was their debut Beast Rest Forth Mouth. That’s okay though, because Bear in Heaven are actually a pretty engaging live act. Consider their set to be a nice early afternoon dose of psychedelic pop music.
Givers (2:15-3:00, Google Play Stage)
Givers are the happiest band I know. Yes, even happier than Matt & Kim. Their debut album In Light gave them plenty to smile about though, as it’s an energetic and blissfully fun indie pop record with songs that will get stuck in your head for days. Expect an equally energetic and blissfully fun set from them, the perfect sort of recipe for a Saturday afternoon.
Chairlift (3:30-4:15, Google Play Stage)
If Chairlift were playing Lollapalooza a year ago, I would not have recommended you go see them. Their debut album Does You Inspire You? was not inspiring. However their new album Something is quite…something to behold. It’s a rather brilliant synth pop record filled with high energy and catchy moments. One of the year’s best, in fact. Naturally then, you should probably see them play those songs.
Alabama Shakes (4:15-5:15, Bud Light Stage)
A lot of people really like Alabama Shakes. They’ve built a steady and loyal fan base from just their debut album, to which I say good for them. I also hear they’re pretty great live too, which is why I’m giving them a tacit recommendation. I wish I could more fully get behind the band, but really I’m just a slight bit confused as to where their appeal exactly lies. To each their own, I guess.
tUnE-yArDs (5:00-6:00, Sony Stage)
In case you didn’t already know, tUnE-yArDs’ W h o k i l l was my favorite album of 2011. To throw a little whipped cream on top, the live show that Merrill Garbus puts on is jaw-droppingly great too. Her voice is incredible, as are her looping techniques.
The Tallest Man on Earth (5:15-6:15, Playstation Stage)
Part of me really wishes that the new Tallest Man on Earth album There’s No Leaving Now was as strong as his previous two efforts. Alas, Kristian Matsson’s magic was bound to wear off sooner or later. Nevertheless, it’s impressive what he’s able to do on stage by himself with only an acoustic guitar. It’s breezy folk for Bob Dylan fans, which should feel just right in the late afternoon sun.
The Weeknd (6:00-7:00, Red Bull Soundstage)
One of the most impressive things about how The Weeknd has operated thus far is that all the music he’s released has been free. He appeared seemingly out of nowhere, and released three great mixtapes last year. Download them all here for free. It’s a fascinating take on R&B, and with a band now formed to play these songs live, it should be that much more engaging (and rare to see). It’s also a very nice warm-up for Frank Ocean just a short time later.
Red Hot Chili Peppers (8:00-10:00, Red Bull Soundstage)
So we have the Chili Peppers. They headlined Lollapalooza a few years ago. Anthony Kiedis didn’t have a creepy moustache then. John Frusciante was also still with the band. Their latest album I’m With You didn’t earn them a whole lot of praise, and their radio singles were shaky at best. Still, they’re worth seeing for the back catalogue alone. If you don’t like the new stuff there’s plenty of the old to keep you satisfied.
Frank Ocean (8:45-9:45, Google Play Stage)
Do you think the Lollapalooza organizers knew Frank Ocean would be releasing one of the best albums of 2012 when they booked him? I’d bet not. But they got very lucky, and Ocean is getting more praise and popularity than ever. He’s performing against the Chili Peppers and Avicii (and Santigold), but is arguably better than all of them. Of course he’s also only got an hour-long set. Perhaps it’s best to divide your time.
SUNDAY (Spotify Playlist)
Bowerbirds (12:00-12:45, Sony Stage)
Bowerbirds are a band that’s growing by leaps and bounds with each new release. Their last album The Clearing was their most developed and beautiful to date. Their melodies are getting bigger and more stadium-sized too. Expect a set that will feel like a pleasant way to start a Sunday, especially if you’re already tired from the two previous days of music.
Bombay Bicycle Club (12:45-1:30, Red Bull Soundstage)
For a relatively light and goofy sort of start to your Sunday, don’t miss seeing Bombay Bicycle Club. They’re a little bit strange, but also a little bit fun, which is better than being weird and boring. Their last album A Different Kind of Fix was a small sonic change for them, but they’ve come out much better as a result. With any luck, they’ll play a new song or two that shows even more promise.
Polica (1:30-2:15, Sony Stage)
In their very short, one album existence, Polica have done a great job making a name for themselves. The duo of Channy Leaneagh and Ryan Olson were able to effortlessly blend synth pop, R&B, and a bit of psychedelia on Give You the Ghost. There have been some complaints about their gratuitous use of AutoTune, but I think it gives them a unique dynamic. Oh, and they’re very good live too.
White Rabbits (2:30-3:15, Bud Light Stage)
The latest White Rabbits album Milk Famous was produced by Spoon’s Britt Daniel. Guess what? It makes White Rabbits sound like Spoon. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, unless you don’t quite live up to the real thing. There’s some disagreement about whether White Rabbits make that cut or not. You be the judge. I will say this though: they’re a better live than on record, and bring some positive energy with them.
The Walkmen (3:00-4:00, Sony Stage)
I’ve seen The Walkmen perform live a few times, and essentially promised myself I’d never do it again. It’s not that their live show is bad at all, it’s that the last time I was right up against the stage and could see frontman Hamilton Leithauser’s neck veins bulge when he hit certain notes. When a band leaves such an imprint, every other time pales by comparison. Their new album Heaven is great though, and it’ll be great to hear those new songs played live.
Sigur Ros (4:00-5:00, Red Bull Soundstage)
This is the biggest crime Lollapalooza committed in 2012: scheduling Sigur Ros for an afternoon set. If you ask me, they deserve to be headlining, even if it’s on the smaller Google Play stage up against Jack White and Justice. I’m not sure how their gorgeous post-rock melodies will play out in the hot sun and massive crowds. If everyone would sit down on the grass and be quiet, it could work great. The odds of that happening? Zero.
Toro Y Moi (5:00-6:00, Sony Stage)
Toro Y Moi’s last album Underneath the Pine was a great step forward for Chaz Bundick, the man behind the name. Moving away from the glo-fi sound as that little subgenre of music steadily went away, that record was a fun and funky electro-pop record mined from some ’60s and ’70s classics. He’s got a new album reportedly due out before the end of the year, so expect to hear some new stuff along with the good old stuff during his set.
Of Monsters & Men (6:00-6:45, Google Play Stage)
Some will argue that Of Monsters & Men’s single “Little Talks” is the “song of the summer.” I’m partial to a few others myself, but even I can’t deny it’s upbeat catchiness that’s eerily reminiscent of Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros’ big hit “Home.” I also like to think they’ve got a touch of Mumford & Sons in them too. They should all start an ampersand band together. But yeah, expect Of Monsters & Men to put on a lively and enjoyable set.
At the Drive-In (6:00-7:15, Red Bull Soundstage)
If I were to assign a “must see” to one set the entire weekend, it would be At the Drive-In’s set. I became infatuated with their record Relationship of Command back in 2000, and was extremely upset when they broke up right after releasing it. Not only was the record great, but their live shows were legendary for being super high energy and quite insane. See them now while they’re cashing in their reunion money, because they probably won’t be back in Chicago again.
Jack White (8:15-10:00, Red Bull Soundstage)
Have you ever seen The White Stripes perform live? How about The Raconteurs? The Dead Weather? Some have been stronger than others, and featured Jack White more than others. Given his immense talents as a guitarist and lyricist, sidelining him for even a little bit feels like a mistake. Now that he’s officially gone solo, he’s free to let those talents fly. His record Blunderbuss is quite good, and he’ll be dipping into some classic White Stripes when performing live too. It’s tough to say no to that. Really tough.
Check back all weekend for daily updates and recaps from Lollapalooza 2012. Follow me on Twitter for running commentary and bits of playful snark as well.