Every year the people at C3 release the lineup for Lollapalooza and you think, “Oh sweet! There’s a lot of bands I’d like to see this year!!!” Then you buy your tickets, only to find out afterward that every band you want to catch is playing across the park from another band you love. They force you to make an impossible choice, and that could lead to a panic attack. Or worse, death. I’m gonna try to help you out a bit and let you know who you should be checking out at what time and where. It’s a small gift, but I think it will help you greatly.
Friday August 2nd:
The only people that show up as soon as the gates open are the ones who are dying to see whoever the headliners are that night. They’re gonna show up, head to either the north or south stage, and camp out the whole day. That’s fine for some, but they’re gonna miss a lot of great music on the other stages. I’d hang back a bit and wait until at least 12:30 before arriving. I would say even later, but at 1:00 our first dilemma pops up. Do you check out the Australian dance rock band San Cisco, or the British R&B songstress Emeli Sande? Outside at one in the afternoon R&B is a bit of a hard sell for me. I’ve seen San Cisco and know that they’re good. They’ll bring a lot of energy and start your Lollapalooza off right. They’re at the Grove stage until 1:45, at which point I would start making my way over to Red Bull Sound Select to catch local boys Smith Westerns at 2:30. It might be a good idea to take a quick detour over to the Lake Shore stage to hear a little of the Swedish duo Icona Pop. At least until they play “I Don’t Care.”
Whenever Smith Westerns finish up (definitely stay til the end), head back to Lake Shore for Father John Misty. I’ve never seen him myself, but everything I’ve heard about his live show sounds like it’s magical. Not sure how well it plays at festivals, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take. After that we have another interesting choice-Band of Horses play at 4:15 against some decidedly different acts. I’m torn between hitting the BMI stage for Pacific Air (formerly KOKO), or going back to the Grove for the Trinidadian-by-way-of-Brooklyn hip-hop captain of cool Theophilius London. There isn’t much rap in this year’s lineup, so I think catching a couple songs from Pacific Air’s set and then heading over to London is the best bet.
The break after London’s set is a good opportunity to eat, run to the port-o-potties, and grab whatever drinks you need for the rest of the night, because it’s a great run to the finish. Queens Of The Stone Age start up at 6:15, and their spot is one of the best subs I’ve ever seen. Any other year they would probably headline. They get 75 minutes to rock, which should be plenty. In fact, and you may call me crazy, but I think it might be fun to leave after an hour and head over to the Lake Shore stage for some of Hot Chip’s set. After all that head-nodding from QOTSA, you may want to move the rest of your body for a bit.
Don’t linger too long, though. The headliners on Friday night are both amazing, so you’ll have to make a quick decision. If you go to Hot Chip, you may be forced into seeing The Killers just based on logistics. I saw them at Lolla 2009 and a couple times since then-brilliant live show. They’ve really got everything figured out to deliver the best experience possible. But, on the other side of the park Nine Inch Nails is doing their thing. I’d hate to go against Brandon Flowers and the gang, but how could anyone not want to see Nine Inch Nails? Granted, they’re about to go on a big tour after Lolla and they’ll be back in Chicago in a few months…still. It’d be worth it just to mosh against some sweaty 300-pound guy dressed in black to “Head Like A Hole.”
Saturday August 3rd:
As usual Saturday is a bit of a crapshoot. There’s a lot of great stuff going on, but there’s also a good amount of dead time. I’ll try to fill it as well as I can, but it’s not easy. I can say that, without a doubt, it will be worth getting to the park early to catch Frontier Ruckus’s 12:00 set at the BMI stage. Eternity Of Dimming is absolutely one of the best albums of the year so far. They play until 12:40, at which point I would run over to the Red Bull stage for Shovels & Rope. I’ve seen this duo a couple times, and their live set is fantastic.
1:30-2:45 is a nice lull where you can enjoy the sites and sounds of the park. Check out Buckingham Fountain, get some ice cream, hi-five a hipster. Once you’ve done all that, head over to the Bud Light stage to see Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires. You’ll be injected with so much soul you won’t even know what to do with yourself. If you’re in too much of a daze, just stay still and wait for British pop superstar Ellie Goulding. I find myself liking her music more and more every time I hear that Calvin Harris song. Her new single “Burn” isn’t bad either. Your other options are Haim, Matt & Kim, or Local Natives-not much. Haim would probably be ok, but they aren’t the type of group I want to see in an open-air venue with a bunch of drunk dudes asking for them to play that Childish Gambino song.
Goulding’s set finishes up at 5:45, which should give you just enough time to get over to the Red Bull stage to see The National. I’m a bit surprised they’re a sub this year instead of headlining, but that’s not my call. Honestly, I prefer it that way because with the headliners on Saturday, you can just check out after The National and call it a day. I would hustle over to the Bud Light stage and see if you can make it in time to see Kendrick Lamar do “Swimming Pools (Drank),” but it’s not a huge loss if you can’t.
The Bud Light stage, fittingly, hosts The Postal Service with Jenny Lewis. If she’s anywhere near as drunk as she was when I saw her in Omaha, you’re in for a rough night. I really don’t understand this obsession with a reunion tour for a band that was never really a band-all the parts were recorded separately for Give Up. Anyway, the other option is Mumford & Sons, so you don’t really have a choice. Enjoy being lulled to sleep by Ben Gibbard’s voice.
Sunday August 4th:
There’s some real garbage going on Sunday early afternoon, so I don’t blame you for not wanting to show up until 3:30 or 4. I would say that Skaters is a good listen and it probably won’t be crowded if you want to get there at 2 and hit the Grove. Jake Bugg plays early too, if you’re into Oasis covers. The party really starts at 4 with Tegan & Sara’s set on the Red Bull stage. They opened for The Killers when they played here in December, and their set was really good. Closer is easily their best album to date, so it’s a good time to see them. Once they’re done, run-don’t walk-over to the Petrillo stage for one of my favorites, The Vaccines! They’re dropping a new EP in a couple weeks, so they’ll be playing that plus all the hits we all know and love.
Following The Vaccines there’s a hipsters wet dream realized as Vampire Weekend subs for headliner Phoenix. Personally, I think your time would be better spent hitting Major Lazer’s 7pm set at Perry’s, then heading over to the Red Bull stage to close it out with The Cure. “Just Like Heaven” is a better-written song than anything either Phoenix or VW has ever done.
And that’s it. Another festival in the books. Hopefully this guide helps you out a bit.
If you’re unfamiliar with some of the bands, I made a Spotify playlist to give you a little sample of almost all the bands playing. Check it out!