Our guide to Lollapalooza 2014 | Music Feature | Chicago Reader

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Our guide to Lollapalooza 2014

Thirty-two Reader-approved acts to help you choose among the festival's eight stages every hour of every day

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Saturday, August 2

  • Peter Lueders

Noon-12:30 | Jon Batiste & Stay Human | The Grove

Pianist and bandleader Jon Batiste, a New Orleans native now based in New York, is a boundlessly talented prodigy, and on his 2013 album Social Music (Razor & Tie) he seems hell-bent on showing off his range. The scion of a musical family that's long had an outsize presence in Crescent City jazz, Batiste leads his nimble band, Stay Human, in a breathless rush through rock, soul, ragtime, gospel, jazz, folk-rock, blues, and more (including an overblown solo-piano reimagining of the national anthem). By the time it's over, I haven't gotten much sense of his musical personality, unless you count the suspicion that he may have a short attention span. I assume Batiste and company stretch out live, but on the album they don't linger long enough on anything for it to sink in. Peter Margasak

  • Max Norton

12:50-1:30 | Benjamin Booker | The Grove

Tampa native Benjamin Booker is 24 years old and started playing music only a couple years ago, but he just opened two Chicago shows for Jack White—and now here he is at Lollapalooza. Booker's self-titled debut on ATO has a raw, primitive edge that he'll probably outgrow with time, but for now at least his scrappy, flailing protopunk guitar and raspy, strained vocals benefit from the lack of polish. Most of the songs are mad dashes toward the finish line, but a couple suggest he has more to offer: the grimy, organ-drenched "Slow Coming" sounds like something from Stax, and "Have You Seen My Son?" (told from the perspective of an evangelical praying for his son's salvation) suggests a broken-down CCR channeling Hendrix. Peter Margasak


1:50-2:30 | Ratking | The Grove

When NPR premiered Ratking's So It Goes (Hot Charity/XL) in March, writer Timmhotep Aku said that it "might be the most 'New York' hip-hop project released in years." A bold statement, but I don't disagree—the trio's refined noise reminds me of the blur of color and sound outside the window of an express train rocketing through NYC. The constantly morphing instrumentals by producer Sporting Life are equally menacing and soulful, and even when he tones things down they're arresting. MC Wiki bobs and weaves through the beats with finesse, while rapper-singer Hak coasts on a spiritual groove—and when everything comes together, like it does on the psychedelic "Snow Beach" and the dramatic "Canal," it's magical. Also Thu 7/31 at Empty Bottle with headliners Blood Orange (see Friday), sold out, 21+, and Sat 8/2 at Double Door with headliners Run the Jewels (see Sunday), sold out, 21+. Leor Galil

  • Jacob Dekat

2:45-3:45 | Kate Nash | Bud Light Stage

Britpop singer Kate Nash made a name for herself with the catchy hooks and quiet confidence of her 2007 debut, Made of Bricks. That album still gets my toe tapping every time, but 2013's Girl Talk (Ingrooves) goes beyond reliable—it's got some of Nash's best songs to date. (And good thing too, because it doesn't take long for "reliable" to become "boring.") "Sister" in particular underlines her recent move from piano pop to heavy guitar riffs and harsh, angry vocals; between Girl Talk and its predecessor, 2010's My Best Friend Is You, someone must have really pissed her off, and we get to reap the rewards. There are a few straightforward pop songs—the lead single, "3AM," is a cutesy dance hit—but even on those, Nash puts a lot more heart behind every word she sings. Also Fri 8/1 at City Winery, $25, all-ages. Brianna Wellen

  • Courtesy Lollapalooza

4:00-4:45 | Rich Homie Quan | The Grove

Atlanta produced its share of rap anthems last year, but none as enthralling as Rich Homie Quan's insanely catchy trap banger "Type of Way." Its simplistic surface hides seriously ambiguous undertones—that is, exactly what type of way is Quan talking about? Urban Dictionary (as reputable a source as exists on the subject) suggests feelings of anger, happiness, sadness, horniness, boredom, and spitefulness, and Quan's lyrics are similarly multi­farious—maybe "Type of Way" just refers to a weird mixture of emotions that defies definition but always seems to bubble up at the right moment. Or maybe not. The song is great in any case, and Quan's got more than few other heaters up his sleeve. Drew Hunt

  • Courtesy Lollapalooza

4:30-5:10 | Wallpaper. | BMI Stage

I'll always love Wallpaper. main man Ricky Reed for his irresistible 2009 remix of Das Racist's "Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell," which underlined the song's absurd, wasted-in-the-wee-hours euphoria and crystallized its dumb-but-­brilliant hook in a shimmering piece of pop magic. Since then Reed has headed down his own big, dumb pop path. Last year's Ricky Reed Is Real (Boardwalk/Epic) combines EDM's skull-crushing bass, hashtag rap's punch-line flows, pop-rock's straightforward guitar melodies, and Top 40's saccharine vocal flourishes to celebrate reckless youth and drunken excess. He can spin idiotic lyrics into pop gold: on "Puke My Brains Out" he raps, "Man I can't think straight / Gotta get my brains outside of my face." Leor Galil

  • Andrew Thomas Lee

5:15-6:15 | Manchester Orchestra | Lake Shore Stage

Atlanta dudes Manchester Orchestra have been playing straightforward, perfectly enjoyable rock for nearly a decade. Their first album, 2006's I'm Like a Virgin Losing a Child, remains their best—it's dark and bruising, and it balances hearty head-banging fuel against a few hushed ballads reminiscent of 90s Radiohead. Their albums since then have been less cohesive, but there are still jams to be found, and some of them—including "Simple Math," "Shake It Out," "I've Got Friends," and "Top Notch," the lead single from this spring's Cope (Loma Vista)—ought to sound great live. Drew Hunt

  • Nabil Elderkin

5:45-6:45 | Nas | Palladia Stage

New York hip-hop icon Nas has a reputation as an inconsistent live performer. In a review of his set at this year's Hot 97 Summer Jam, New York Times pop critic Jon Caramanica wrote that Nas used a teleprompter for tunes from Illmatic—his landmark debut, whose 20th anniversary he was celebrating (Sony Legacy reissued it earlier this year with bonus material). When I saw him at North Coast last summer, he skipped some lines in his Illmatic material but still carried himself like a king, smiling as fans belted out the words to "Life's a Bitch." Most legacy acts try to present their classic albums in tidily wrapped packages, so when Nas gets lost in his own verses—and still looks happy to be there—it's actually sort of refreshing. Also Sun 8/3 at House of Blues, sold out, 17+. Leor Galil

  • Autumn De Wilde

6:45-8:00 | Spoon | Bud Light Stage

The new They Want My Soul, due Tuesday from Loma Vista, is Spoon's first new album in four years—during which time the group's front man, Britt Daniel, started touring with a second band, Divine Fits. But Spoon hasn't suffered from Daniel's divided attention: it maintains its masterful ear for dynamics, meticulously balancing blue-eyed soul and twitchy, minimalist postpunk. Quite a few of the new songs use beefed-up beats that seem designed for club remixes, including the 80s-style retro synth jam "New York Kiss" and the hyperactive, shuffling "Outlier," but even those relatively commercial numbers have all the controlled cool and terse hooks that have made Spoon one of the most dependable creative forces in indie rock for two decades now. The harp-kissed "Inside Out" is one of the band's loveliest tunes, with some of Daniel's most assured singing, and "The Rent I Pay" injects Stones-style swagger into the group's bone-dry attack. Also Fri 8/1 at Metro, sold out, 18+. Peter Margasak

  • Autumn de Wilde

7:45-8:30 | Jenny Lewis | The Grove

Jenny Lewis hasn't acted regularly since she was 19, but before her band Rilo Kiley took off in the early aughts, she played a bit part in a 1987 episode of The Golden Girls, costarred in the 1996 girl-gang grunge fantasia Foxfire (opposite Angelina Jolie), and appeared in a 1990 Perry Mason TV movie, among many other things. In her songwriting, you can still feel her actorly talent for living in other peoples' skins and refusing to recognize the limits of her own—her best tunes with Rilo Kiley and as a solo performer, including "Portions for Foxes," "Rise Up With Fists!!," and "Next Messiah," combine acid-tongued autobiography and complex characterization. On "Just One of the Guys," a breezy, stomping ode to middle-­aged singledom from her new solo album, The Voyager (Warner Brothers), our heroine's biological clock might be ticking like a bomb, but thankfully she refuses to break, pray, or pay—the three unacceptable options she sees. On her tour in support of the new album, her first in six years, Lewis has also been playing a smattering of older jams, including a Rilo Kiley classic or two. Also Fri 8/1 at Park West, sold out, 18+. J.R. Nelson

  • Getty Images for Firefly Music Festival

8:15-10:00 | OutKast | Samsung Galaxy Stage

This year's big reunion is OutKast, the ATLiens who helped train hip-hop's spotlight on the south with 1994's Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik. Andre 3000 and Big Boi released a steady stream of sun-soaked, eccentrically funky albums, reaching the highest peaks of pop before fading quietly away in the mid-aughts (well, the mid-aughts if you forget about the soundtrack to their anachronistic 2006 rap musical, Idlewild, which most people have). OutKast never officially called it quits, which might be part of the reason their chemistry remains so strong—by the time I saw them at Summerfest in Milwaukee last month, they'd fine-tuned their live set till it felt more like a party than a performance. Dre is hardly thrilled to do "Hey Ya!," but OutKast can make up for that (and then some) by performing the UGK collaboration "Int'l Players Anthem." Leor Galil

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