The essential guide to Lollapalooza 2015 | Music Feature | Chicago Reader

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The essential guide to Lollapalooza 2015

These 30 Lollapalooza acts are worth running around Grant Park to see.


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Most music festivals have more than one stage these days, but when it comes to scale, Lollapalooza has few peers: this year it's booked nearly 150 acts on eight stages. It's difficult if not impossible to see more than a small fraction of the weekend-­long bill, unless you've got access to a jet pack or teleportation technology—the northernmost and southernmost stages are nearly a mile apart, which would be a 15-minute walk even if you didn't have to maneuver through a crowd of 100,000 people. The number of stages allows the festival to give every act a substantial set—nobody's stuck with just 20 minutes—but it's also pretty easy to entirely miss a band that's playing for an hour. At least this situation is a win for Lollapalooza's advertisers: you can't navigate the park or the schedule without using the names of the companies that have sponsored most of the stages.

The Reader kept the on-the-ground realities of Lollapalooza in mind while plotting our coverage. We've assembled an itinerary of 30 acts approved by our writers, which despite its occasional gap or overlap ought to get you through all three days and leave you enough time to see a substantial portion of each recommended set.

Schedule conflicts forced us to make tough choices and leave out some fantastic groups: UK electro-soul outfit Hot Chip and ratchet king DJ Mustard play at the exact same time (we went with Lolla newbie Mustard), and indie titans TV on the Radio share a time slot with R&B chanteuse FKA Twigs (we picked Twigs). We also decided to recommend two of Friday's headliners, because you can catch more than half of Paul McCartney's set and still see pretty much all of Flying Lotus.

Fifty-four Lollapalooza aftershows all in one place

Lollapalooza has the nitty-gritty details—what you can bring to the park and what you can't, where to find the two main gates—on its website. Regardless of the flavor of pass you've bought, you can reenter the park three times per day (after your initial arrival). Keep that in mind if you lose your nerve and decide to change out of your banana hammock—once you've already skipped out a few times, you might want to wait till the next day to slip into something more comfortable. Leor Galil

Friday, July 31


12:45-1:30 PM | SZA | Samsung Galaxy Stage

Though her music is often described as R&B, SZA (aka Solana Rowe) does a good job of rendering genre categories irrelevant: "Julia," from the 2014 album Z (Top Dawg Entertainment), finds the common ground between Genesis and Cassie; the Marvin Gaye cover "Sweet November" grafts psychedelic guitars to a slow jam; "Warm Winds" burps and bubbles lyrically, turning hip-hop into indie pop (or vice versa). SZA's airy vocals lean back into the blissed-out tracks; scheduled at the very beginning of Lollapalooza, her set should be a good way to ease into your weekend. Also Fri 7/31 at Reggie's Rock Club, sold out, 18+. Noah Berlatsky

  • Devin Doyle

1:30-2:15 PM | Misterwives | Sprint Stage

This winter's debut album from New York indie-pop group Misterwives, Our Own House (Photo Finish), sounds like it was produced by someone who loves Miley's "Party in the U.S.A." but thinks it's a little too risque. The band's shimmering guitars feel like running onto the beach with a bunch of buddies to catch the first perfect wave of the day; once the single "Reflections" wafts into your head, it'll stay there all through a summer afternoon. Also Fri 7/31 at Park West, sold out, 18+. Leor Galil

  • Courtesy the artist

2:50-3:30 PM | Badbadnotgood | Pepsi Stage

The young hip-hop nuts in jazz trio BadBadNotGood have embraced both sides of their identity. Last year they released their first album composed entirely of original material, the controlled energy wave III (Innovative Leisure), and immediately followed it with Sour Soul (Lex), a rap-first collaboration with Ghostface Killah. The band's improvisations are just as inspired as their MC-friendly covers: drummer Alex Sowinski rarely repeats a measure, while keyboardist Matthew Tavares and bassist Chester Hansen know when to go all in and when to dial it back. Onstage, though, they always seem mere seconds from eruption. Also Thu 7/30 at Subterranean, sold out, 17+, and Fri 7/31 at Concord Music Hall with headliner Tyler, the Creator, $30, 18+. Tyler Daswick

  • Emma Elizabeth Tillman

3:30-4:30 PM | Father John Misty | Palladia Stage

The first time I heard "Nothing Good Ever Happens at the Goddamn Thirsty Crow," one of the strongest tracks on Father John Misty's great new album, I Love You, Honeybear (Sub Pop), I was taken aback. This was mostly because my own experience at the Thirsty Crow—an unassuming Los Angeles cocktail bar on a weirdly sparse stretch of Sunset Boulevard that connects the Echo Park and Silver Lake neighborhoods—was downright wonderful. But I was also surprised by his ability to color my perspective with his own. Such is the power of Father John Misty, whose singular folk-rock is alternately brusque and welcoming, cynical and jovial: it's the perfect mood music for the times you can't decide which mood you're in. Drew Hunt

  • Courtesy Lollapalooza

4:30-5:30 PM | DJ Mustard | Perry's Stage

The libidinous pulse of ratchet ruled last summer, and LA producer DJ Mustard was its primary architect and undisputed king. He worked on most of YG's 2014 debut, My Krazy Life, and during that season, six singles he'd had a hand in hit the Billboard Hot 100. Mustard's first album under his own name, last year's star-studded 10 Summers (Roc Nation/Republic), includes appearances from 2 Chainz, Rick Ross, and Wiz Khalifa; Mustard had also gotten big enough to enlist Big Sean to nearly ruin a perfectly good track ("Face Down"). Lean, mean, and deceptively funky, 10 Summers begs to be played loud enough to burn down your speakers. I haven't had much time with its follow-up, the brand-new 10 Summers: The Mixtape Vol. 1, but what I've heard carries on the spirit of the album. Leor Galil

  • Courtesy the artist

5:45-6:45 PM | Alabama Shakes | Samsung Galaxy Stage

On their strong second album, this spring's Sound & Color (ATO), Alabama Shakes play music rooted in soul that has little to do with any sort of old-school soul revival. Singer Brittany Howard and company certainly make use of the classic vocabulary that evolved in the Memphis studios of Stax and Hi Records, but they've broadened their stylistic range, conveying jackhammer fury on "The Greatest" and riding a primitive beat-box groove on the gorgeously subdued "Guess Who." No matter the genre trappings, every song revolves around Howard, who sounds better than ever—she unleashes a spine-tingling cry at the start of "Don't Wanna Fight" but then sounds utterly vulnerable on the acoustic ballad "This Feeling." Peter Margasak

  • Courtesy Lollapalooza

6:50-7:30 PM | Young Thug | BMI Stage

Over the past couple years, oddball Atlanta rapper Young Thug has become hip-hop royalty in his hometown, which remains a center of gravity for the national scene. He's done it in part by playing with the English language like blocks of Jell-O. He performs as though he's surprised by his own ability to reshape words and vowels, and his songs are adventures in finding new ways to turn up. The instrumentals on April's Barter 6 (300/Atlantic) are minimal, but Young Thug's Technicolor flow more than fills their empty spaces; I'm not always sure what he's saying, but I love how he says it. Leor Galil

  • Courtesy of Lollapalooza

7:45-10:00 PM | Paul McCartney | Samsung Galaxy Stage

Lollapalooza's choice of headliners on Friday night feels like a choice between centuries. There's digitally augmented crooner the Weeknd; experimental producer Flying Lotus, who has his own radio station in Grand Theft Auto V; and Paul McCartney, who wrote most of the songs he'll play tonight between 1962 and 1982. Now 73 years old, he routinely plays for longer than the 135 minutes allocated to him at Lollapalooza, delivering more than 30 hits from the Beatles, Wings, and solo McCartney songbooks. YouTube evidence suggests that time has been kind to McCartney—he can still hit many of the high notes, and his hair and waistline haven't changed all that much in a half century. Most important, his knack for crowd-pleasing showmanship remains intact. Bill Meyer

  • Timothy Saccenti

9-10 PM | Flying Lotus | Pepsi Stage

On last year's You're Dead! (Warp), a dense meditation on death and what might come after it, Los Angeles producer Flying Lotus (aka Steven Ellison) brought together disparate musical threads from his hometown. The album helped announce the arrival of young jazz saxophonist Kamasi Washington, celebrated the fluid backbone of bassist Thundercat, and showcased contributions from three generations of stars who call LA home—Herbie Hancock, Snoop Dogg, and Kendrick Lamar. The sounds are just as multifaceted as the guest list, with hip-hop, funk, spiritual jazz, and psychedelia coming together in a richly hypnotic weave of melody, ambience, and groove. Also Fri 7/31 at Spybar (DJ set), $20, 21+. Peter Margasak

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