Authors: David Heinrich & Jake Walczyk
This year marks the 26th Lollapalooza in Chicago. The fest has expanded to Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Germany, and most recently France. However, like a delicious Portillo’s hot dog, it all started in Chicago. With the beautiful skyscrapers of Chicago as the picturesque backdrop, many of world’s most popular artists flock to perform in front of thousands of fans. Over 400,000 people attended last year for the fest’s 25th anniversary. This was also the year that the festival was extended to 4 days instead of the 3 days like in previous years. Ticket prices continue to climb every year, but time and time again, passes instantly sell out. People have always been willing to pay any price for the spectacle that is this festival. There is simply not a festival like Lollapalooza anywhere else in the world, and there may never be one that matches up. The city is absolute madness every year with every hotel booked, transportation a mess, and young people roaming the streets in excitement and anticipation. Though it is not a camping festival, surviving all 4 days is a daunting task. However, any festival goer knows that the moments of hardship are always worth the memories that will be made when a band blows them away or their favorite artist makes a surprise guest appearance.
The 20-year old New Zealand singer/songwriter is performing for the first time in the Midwest in support of her excellent new album Melodrama. The album received rave reviews, as did her performances so far this year. Electrifying on stage, she will command the Bud Light stage as Thursday night’s headliner.
For the culture. Migos plays the Bud Light stage Thursday at 5:00, and they’re sure to start a mid-day party. The incredibly popular Atlanta trio composed of Quavo, Offset, and Takeoff are almost omnipresent on the charts, notably for their mega-hit “Bad and Boujee”. Expect a banger from start to finish.
Spoon will put on a great show, this time closing out the Lakeshore stage. The veteran indie-rockers from Austin, Texas are set to play their fifth Lollapalooza, first appearing in 2005. This time around, they will have new material from this year’s album Hot Thoughts.
Cage The Elephant
Matt Shultz may be our generation’s Mick Jagger. His unmatchable energy is evident in every show he plays. At festivals, an even wilder persona comes out, often leaving Shultz shirtless, lost in the crowd, with his microphone cord caught between hundreds fans. The band has made entire albums of hits, most recently with their Grammy winning Rock Album of the Year Tell Me I’m Pretty. This will be their second appearance at Lollapalooza in Chicago, but have played legendary sets at Lollapalooza Brazil, Argentina, and Chile as well. If you love good Rock n’ Roll and don’t mind getting drenched in the sweat of a crowd, you need to see this show.
CRX is going to be a great show. You might have heard of the band’s frontman and guitarist, Nick Valensi. He’s from this band called The Strokes. They might not run through “Reptilia” or “Last Nite”, but CRX will surely have the crowd rocking out to stuff from their album New Skin.
Need a dose of psychedelia on Thursday afternoon? (No, not that kind). English psych-rock outfit Temples are going to play one of the first sets at the Grant Park Stage from 2:30-3:30 on Thursday, and they’ll help start off the weekend with a bang. Expect groovy vibes coming from the south end of the park.
DAVID’S PICK: KAYTRANADA
Speaking of groovy vibes, Kaytranada is sure to bring them to his Thursday evening set. He’s playing the Pepsi stage at 7:30, so it’ll be sure to be an intimate sunset party. Acts who play this slot the rest of the weekend have all gotten 45 minute sets, but the Lolla gods gave us a whole 75 minutes of Kaytranada’s funk-infused R&B goodness. The Haitian-Canadian DJ and producer from Montreal rose to SoundCloud fame, but it wasn’t until recently that he released an album. In 2016, his excellent debut album 99.9% was given widespread critical acclaim and was included in Pitchfork’s The Best 50 Albums of 2016. The beat is all Kaytranada, and he’s joined by an outstanding cast of guest voices. Anderson .Paak features on the excellent “Glowed Up”. Vic Mensa takes the spotlight on “Drive Me Crazy”. And there’s plenty of dance-y R&B tracks to go around, from Syd on “You’re The One” to Phonte on “One Too Many”. It’s stacked with collaborators, but Kaytranada’s drums, grooves, and synths really tie the entire album together. For his live show, Kaytranada draws on a variety of genres and remixes (most of which are his) to create a wild set that is super diverse. He’ll go from a dance track to one of his own, to funk, to hip hop, to soul, to house, all working together in intersectionality. All of these are tied together by Haitian influence in his music, rooted in complex rhythms. Pitchfork’s review of 99.9% says “The genre-defying stew of funk, soul, R&B, and beat and dance music that Kaytranada has cooked up nods back at that heritage of percussion-driven synthesis.” He’s going to turn Grant Park into the Boiler Room. Don’t miss his set.
No, we’re not talking about the part of the brain. This indie rock band out of St. Paul Minnesota have been gaining steam on their current tour for their album Landmark. Having had the pleasure to have chatted with them in May before their sold-out show at Majestic in Madison and subsequently at Bonnaroo, it is evident that they have grown in comfort and confidence with their band’s identity. Their on-stage performance breathes life into each of their tired festival audiences with sunny guitar licks and tropical drum beats that always seems to make everyone dance. In recent shows, they have incorporated a trumpet into their performance, which is starting to be a new trend in indie rock. They previously performed at Lollapalooza in 2015 with a modest crowd, but with their rapidly expanding fan base, they are expected to draw the masses. This soundtrack of summer will find its place at Lollapalooza, and it will not be one to miss.
This year’s principle headliner is none other than The Killers. They’ve stuck around for quite a while and are back with a new single called “The Man”. I expect to hear a few new songs, followed by a “greatest hits” run-through featuring the loudest rendition of “Mr. Brightside” you’ve ever heard.
Foster The People
Indie-pop kings Foster the People are back! Finally! Their new album Sacred Hearts Club just released last Friday, and it’s a good one. It’s full of funky fun from start to finish. Mega-hit “Pumped Up Kicks” is going to bring the crowd there, but they’ll stay for the excellent new single “Sit Next To Me”.
They grow up so fast! Last year’s WSUM Snake on the Lake headliner Whitney are making moves this year. With a new tour on the way and new music coming in turn, Whitney are poised for one of their biggest shows every. Julien and Max are going to kill it on the Pepsi stage Friday evening, don’t miss it!
Cloud Nothings will be sure to brighten your afternoon on Friday. The Cleveland-based indie rock group will be sure to add a jolt of energy to your day with their catchy hooks and a wild chorus of guitars. They’re one of the best rock bands on the lineup.
Mura Masa is making quite a name for himself at the young age of 21. The producer and DJ from Guernsey has already collaborated with NAO, Christine and the Queens, Damon Albarn, Charli XCX, Desiigner, and A$AP Rocky. He just released his debut self-titled album, which is catchy and fun with a Pitchfork 7.7 to boot. His set on Friday afternoon is one that we’re really excited about.
David’s Pick: Run the Jewels
I’ll save you some time: Run the Jewels will be the best show you see at Lolla. The rap duo of El-P and Killer Mike was formed in 2013 after the two collaborated on a few albums, and realized that their partnership was something special. Fast-forward 4 years, and 3 albums later, they’re on top of the game. They are growing in popularity and headlining festivals around the world, selling out shows, and having a blast the whole way. RTJ are known for their wild concerts, and I would expect their set at the Grant Park stage to live up to the hype. The rhymes are as fast as a machine gun and as tongue-twisting as can be. The beats (produced mostly by El-P) are banging. The on-stage banter and antics keep things interesting. In anything they do, RTJ takes a stand against the establishment, oppression, and bullshit everywhere. Their music is packed with political themes and messages that could start a modern-day revolution. Every show they play is a celebration of breaking the rules and having a kick-ass time doing it. There is sure to be mosh pits everywhere and a riot-like atmosphere (in the best possible sense). I wouldn’t be surprised to see them leave the Grant Park stage in flames when they’re done with it.
Jake’s Pick: Kaleo
This band hails from Iceland, but could easily be mistaken for native Texans. Their fusion of rock, blues, and country sounds like it comes straight from the heart of the America. Their second and most recent album A/B was named to represent one of their most unique features: Their versatility. They know how to put it into full gear and rock out, but they also can slow it way down with a gentle love song. I saw these guys at Bonnaroo this year without ever having listened to their music before, and they blew me away. Mark my words, everyone will know the name Kaleo in the coming years. If you don’t get a chance to see them in Chicago, you can catch them at The Orpheum in Madison on October 7th.
Chance the Rapper
Chance the Rapper will be headlining Lolla on Saturday night. The savior of Chicago will bring the passion and energy to the stage and share it with every last Chicagoan he can (pretty sure they’ll all be there) in what’s sure to be a glorious and uplifting set. Lil Chano from 79th has to have something special ready to play the biggest stage in Chicago.
If hip-hop isn’t your thing, don’t fret. Dreamy indie-pop group The xx will soothe your worries in what’s sure to be a shimmering set at the Bud Light stage Saturday night. Their live shows this year so far have been exquisite, and give fans a good mix of all three of their albums (with no shortage of hits from their newest work, the excellent I See You). There’s even a small showcase for production mastermind Jamie xx to take the spotlight and throw down a few of his own dance tracks after the success and acclaim of his solo album from 2015, In Colour.
With two great mainstage headliner options in The xx and Chance the Rapper Saturday night, you would the other stages might fall to the wayside. The Pepsi stage will still be packed though, as Mac Demarco will be there. And where Mac Demarco goes, his loyal fans follow. The Canadian indie singer will wow fans with new material from this year’s This Old Dog.
Speaking of dreamy indie-pop, if you’re looking for someone to catch before you head to your headliner of choice, consider Sylvan Esso. The pop duo from Durham, NC (and Milwaukee, WI!) consists of Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn, and they bring a high-energy show full of sleek synths, powerful vocals, and beats that will have you moving (and most definitely grooving). Their excellent self-titled debut from 2014 was recently followed up by What Now in April, taking the band in a new direction and to new heights.
British rockers Blossoms are a great early-day pick on Saturday. They don’t have too big of a following in the United States. In their homeland of the UK, they’re huge. Their self-titled debut album debuted at number one on the charts and they only went up from there. They’ve already headlined festivals in the UK and are eager to make a name for themselves stateside. Don’t miss their set!
David’s Pick: Glass Animals
Glass Animals are returning to Grant Park this summer and I could not be more excited. They last played the festival in 2015 with their excellent debut album ZABA. They played an early-day mainstage set, but drew a decently sized crowd. For their second appearance, expect a much bigger crowd. The indie rockers from Oxford, England have a really unique sound that has evolved. On their debut from 2014, ZABA, the band produced a collection of great tracks with some really cool genre influences and intersections. The most noticeable is the influence of nature and the use of ambient nature sounds. Glass Animals could be the perfect soundtrack to a drug-induced journey through a psychedelic jungle. The indie rock record has also been described as psychedelic pop and art pop, and has influences from the emerging alternative R&B genre. The album is filled with sticky, groovy melodies over deep baselines (especially notable on “Flip”) and layers and layers of tropical sounds (“Intruxx” is a great example of this). They create a lush and rich texture. On their follow-up, How to Be A Human Being, the band refined their sound. They trend more toward pop on this one, approaching more conventional and accessible melodies while still maintaining their weird essence. Mixmag raves “Lead single “Life Itself” is cool and confident, its bouncy bongo drums mixing with bold oriental melodies. “Youth” follows suit, boasting bizarre chords, before “Season 2 Episode 3” showcases frontman Dave Bayley’s experimental lyricism: “My girl eats mayonnaise from a jar while she’s getting blazed” is brilliantly nonsensical wordplay. ‘Pork Soda’ and ‘Cane Shuga’ are both delightfully odd, ‘The Other Side Of Paradise’ is built around a hip hop structure and intriguing closer ‘Agnes’ has stadium-sized potential. Nobody else sounds like them right now.” HTBAHB has taken the band from a cult-beloved oddity to a modern indie gem. They’ve permeated the popular indie sphere and have a host of new fans who are excited to see them for the first time. Lolla is one stop on their extensive (and frankly irresponsible, but I’m not complaining) touring schedule for this year. With appearances at Coachella and Bonnaroo under their belt, an upcoming fall tour extension, and a Mercury Prize nomination to boot, they will only continue to grow.
Jake’s Pick: alt-J
If there was ever a time to camp at a stage, it would be Saturday of Lollapalooza this year at the Grant Park stage. Alt-J will find themselves sandwiched between Glass Animals and Chance the Rapper. These are two extremely hard acts to compete with, but alt-J has never been one to disappoint. They are much more toned down than the other two, but are extremely talented musicians and performers nonetheless. Their soothing, distinct sound is unlike any band at the fest, and it works so well. They were the first band I listened to at Lollapalooza, though I was on the other side of the fence. It says a lot about a band when their live shows are beautiful without even being able to see the stage. I am looking forward to finally getting a glimpse of their magic this year.
Car Seat Headrest
This indie rock band led by Will Toledo seems to never stop working. These guys seem to constantly either be releasing new music or touring. Often, the two go hand in hand. The product of a mind constantly focused on both music and performance leads to introspective masterpieces being performed with passion and precision. These meticulously crafted shows are just as fun as they are impressive. Will brought a fan, who sent him countless videos on facebook playing the cowbell, on stage at Bonnaroo and had her play the cowbell for the entirety of her favorite song. I cannot promise anything quite as weird is going to happen in Chicago, but I certainly would not be surprised.
I’m not even going to attempt to classify this band under a genre, because their combination of alternative rock, folk, reggae, electronic, and who knows what else, generates something completely unique to them. These guys are out of Germany and have heavy accents when they speak, but lead singer Clemens Rehbein’s irresistible voice sounds as articulate as any. Though his hair looks like he has a daily routine of touching a plasma globe, Rehbein has proven himself on their current tour to be an incredible performer. They have quite a few smash hits such as “Stolen Dance”, “Down by the River”, “Flashed Junk Mind”, and many more that are constantly getting air time on the radio, but never get old. If you get a “chance” to see these guys, you will not regret it.
Founded in 1996, this band is not new to the game. They’ve been in the industry for quite a long time, but it has not made them jaded. Their most recent album, Heartworms is a was a true treat for Shins fans. They stay true to their classic sound, but add a new, more modern twist to it. Though frontman James Mercer will turn 47 this year, he still has the same, if not higher level of energy and talent as when the band first formed. Their good vibes will surely make for a bittersweet conclusion of the festival.
David’s Pick: Arcade Fire
Canadian indie-rock legends Arcade Fire are closing out the Grant Park stage on Sunday night. They just released a new album called Everything Now, but they haven’t played Lollapalooza since 2010. That means the Lolla crowd hasn’t heard any of their material from two incredible albums, The Suburbs and Reflektor. Expect an epic setlist spanning all of their work, and catch me in a puddle of tears when they play “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)”.
Jake’s Pick: The Walters
If you haven’t heard of these guys, stop reading this article and look them up. It boggles my mind how these guys have not blown up in popularity yet. This unsigned indie pop rock band out of Chicago is something special. Their sound is both vulnerable and a ball of fun all at once. Their frontman, Luke Olson, has a distinct voice that pairs perfectly with their bright, bubbly sound. He is also just as much of a comedian as a musician when performing. He always seems to be goofing around and genuinely having fun playing the same songs off of their two short albums Songs for Dads and Young Men. This is one of my most anticipated shows, and if you’re a bit tired of partying on Sunday, let The Walters both sooth and energize you at the beginning of the day.