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How to make it through Lollapalooza: Saturday

Grant Park is going to look like a hypercapitalist refugee camp all weekend, but our hour-by-hour itinerary will lead you to so much great music that you'll hardly mind

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JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound
Sony stage
I've got nothing but respect for a band that can amp up a sluggish early-afternoon festival crowd that's marinating in oppressive humidity and last night's mistakes. And local soul combo JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound—with their James Brown-inspired vocals, dapper getups, and suave dance moves—will undoubtedly be going out of their way to inspire a couple or three to get down before lunch. Last year's Want More (Bloodshot) works best when it ditches the disco-ball slow grooves and plugs into the electric presence of front man JC Brooks (see for instance the snaking, finger-­snap-appropriate "Everything Will Be Fine"). The Uptown Sound are a live band through and through, and they know that if there's one way to pique the interest of the crowd at a gigantor midwestern festival—beyond playing a sweaty and entertaining set, which they're sure to do—it's a Wilco cover. And can you believe it, the boys just happen to have one: a soul reworking of "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart." Kevin Warwick

Red Bull SoundstageMinneapolis hip-hop collective Doomtree, with its sprawling roster of contributors (each of whom has at least one project on the side), die-hard DIY ethic, and earnest lyrics, comports itself a lot like a hardcore band—the group is equally indebted to Fugazi and the Wu-Tang Clan. (Some of its members even collaborated on a self-explanatory mashup album called Wugazi.) The combination of dreamy idealism and no-frills aggression on last year's No Kings (Doomtree) is quintessentially Minneapolitan, but the album's appeal seems to be pretty universal. Also Sat 8/4 at the Empty Bottle, 21+. Miles Raymer

Jeff the Brotherhood

PlayStation stage
Nashville two-piece Jeff the Brotherhood is—and presumably always will be—Jake and Jamin Orrall, siblings who've already spent years bashing out hazy, uplifting garage punk with just a guitar and a drum kit. Recently they've been expanding their palette a bit, and it sounds like they used every instrument in the studio to make the new Hypnotic Nights (Warner Brothers). Fat synth blasts cut through organ melodies, horns and violins gild the arrangements, and sweet vocal harmonies ring throughout. But deep down, every new Jeff the Brotherhood song shares something vital with every old Jeff the Brotherhood song: at its heart this is still gnarly rock, and crunchy guitar licks and propulsive drumming are what make it go. Also Fri 8/3 at Subterranean, 17+. Leor Galil

Aloe Blacc
Red Bull Soundstage
Aloe Blacc—born Egbert Nathaniel Dawkins III—has a thing for socially conscious 70s-style soul, and a special affinity for Bill Withers and Donny Hathaway. His album Good Things (Stones Throw) is a collaboration with Truth & Soul Productions—aka Leon Michels and Jeff Silverman, who've also done wonders with Lee Fields—and their punchy horn and string charts help compensate for the lack of range in Blacc's reedy voice, allowing him to concentrate on his agile, expertly expressive phrasing. The elegantly hooky tunes ride on simmering midtempo soul grooves touched with reggae and funk, and though the lyrics aren't especially profound, they're timely—the lead track, "I Need a Dollar," was the theme song of HBO series How to Make It in America. Peter Margasak

Chairlift Lollapalooza

Google Playstage
Chairlift used to be just another 80s-nostalgic synth-pop band from Brooklyn, with only the exceptional voice of front woman Caroline Polachek to distinguish the duo in that crowded field. On their latest, Something (Columbia), Polachek and multi-instrumentalist Patrick Wimberly still have their hearts stuck on 80s synth tunes, but they've grown into far more compelling musicians and developed the confidence to indulge Polachek's broad streak of artsy, Kate Bush-like weirdness—while at the same time giving the album strong hooks (see the effervescent "Take It Out on Me") and a glossy coating of radio-ready production that ought to earn it an audience outside the indie-rock world. Also Sun 8/5 at the Empty Bottle, advance tickets sold out, limited tickets available at the door, 21+. Miles Raymer

Alabama Shakes
Bud Light stage
Alabama Shakes' debut album, Boys & Girls (ATO), isn't exactly a masterpiece, but it jumps out of the gate with such force, confidence, and warmth that I couldn't resist it. Brittany Howard is a charismatic singer, with a feisty style closer to Janis Joplin's fireworks than Bettye LaVette's smoldering depth, and she transforms the band's familiar licks and chord progressions with raw conviction and an intimate command of each melody that lets her load it with ad hoc twists. Her no-holds-barred approach—full of growls, whoops, slurs, cries, and a sort of post-Billie Holiday vibrato—feels like overkill on some of the lesser material, but it helps her make the best songs sound like instant classics. Also Wed 8/1 at Metro with openers First Aid Kit, sold out, 18+. Peter Margasak

Tune-yards Lollapalooza

Sony stage
Underneath the faux-tribal face paint, bizarre typographic choices, and other wonk-pop idiosyncrasies, Merrill Garbus is pure soul. On her most recent album as Tune-Yards, 2011's Whokill (4AD), her vocals strut through looped chants and deconstructed melodies and rootsy rhythms—the latter produced with saxes and freestanding drums—with power and panache, like she's in the middle of a seance and bellowing to the gods for an apocalyptic monsoon or the second coming of Andy Warhol (I can't quite tell which). Even though the backing instrumentation is much more grand (and more important to the songs) than on her debut, Bird-Brains, Garbus's voice—which she can swing from falsetto-sweet to twisted and gnarly—is always the focus. Whokill was one of last year's critical favorites, which proves that quirkiness works when it's sincere and inventive—and the band's national TV debut on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon ought to convince you, even if you've never heard Tune-Yards before. The clip is on the Internet, so go ahead and watch it; I'll wait. Also Fri 8/3 at House of Blues, sold out, 17+. Kevin Warwick

The Weeknd
Red Bull Soundstage
Throughout 2011 a shadowy Toronto-based entity called the Weeknd—later revealed to be singer Abel Tesfaye collaborating with a number of producers—self-released three albums online that expertly combined a challengingly dark and dreamlike aesthetic borrowed from the chillwave scene, R&B's current appreciation for late-90s neosoul as well as its long-running interest in futuristic sounds, and a louche vision of excess imported from an ecstasy party at a boutique hotel. Alongside fellow success story Frank Ocean, the Weeknd helped establish a viable artsy alternative to mainstream R&B while making devoted R&B fans out of indie-rock listeners who'd never shown much interest in the stuff. Miles Raymer

Bloc Party
Sony stage
It's funny that Bloc Party's Lolla set overlaps with Franz Ferdinand's; both are British postpunk groups that blew up in the mid-aughts on the strength of hyped-up debuts (Silent Alarm and Franz Ferdinand, respectively), released two more albums with diminishing returns, and ended up postmillennial "indie rock" elder statesmen from whom most folks don't expect any exciting new music. Of the two, Bloc Party has the advantage—at least to my ears. The band may never re-create the emotionally taut dance-punk of its first album, but subsequent albums' failure to capture that same magic has at least resulted in interesting listens. Back after a brief hiatus, Bloc Party will probably focus on material from the forthcoming Four (Frenchkiss), but I'm hoping for a lot of Silent Alarm cuts too. Leor Galil

Red Hot Chili Peppers
Red Bull Soundstage
It says a lot about Lollapalooza that the only headlining rock 'n' roll band I can recommend without serious reservations is the fucking Red Hot Chili Peppers. But despite the damage the band did to its brand during its shamefully Navarro-fied period of success in the mid- and late 90s, and despite its recent run of hugely popular but completely inessential albums, I still have fond memories of the Chili Peppers from the grunge years, a grudging respect for their endurance, and a soft spot for Californication that I don't often admit, mostly because telling people about it would require me having to say that stupid, stupid album title out loud. Miles Raymer

Frank Ocean
Google Playstage
Today's hyperspeed news cycle and increasingly fractured media landscape have made superlatives like "album of the year" increasingly valueless, but Frank Ocean's new Channel Orange (his first proper full-length for Def Jam, after last year's self-released Nostalgia, Ultra mixtape) lives up to every bit of the wide-ranging hype that's greeted it. It's as grandly ambitious and wildly eccentric as OutKast's Stankonia (Ocean's dog, Everest, is credited as executive producer) and similarly close to flawlessness. Andre 3000 even shows up to rap and play guitar on the immensely habit-­forming "Pink Matter," which perfectly encapsulates Frank Ocean's appeal: he's a moody young man plagued by self-doubt, but immensely confident in his singular vision. Also Fri 8/3 at Metro, sold out, 18+. Miles Raymer

Next: Sunday's lineup includes Sigur Ros, At the Drive-In, and Jack White


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