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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Saturday, August 1

  • Courtesy Lollapalooza

11:45 AM-12:30 PM | Mick Jenkins | Palladia Stage

Chicago's been spoiled by great local rap releases lately, but few have been as potent or powerful as Mick Jenkins's 2014 mixtape, The Water[s] (Cinematic Music Group). The 24-year-old combines resplendent soul-­influenced instrumentals with painful stories about black kids catching stray bullets; his personable, relaxed flow makes his complex rhymes about street violence and racism easy to absorb. Two pop-centric singles from Jenkins's forthcoming Wave[s] EP, "P's and Q's" and "Alchemy," sweeten his intellectually stimulating lyrics and dense wordplay with sparkling production. Also Sat 8/1 at Reggie's Rock Club, $20, $17 in advance, 18+. Leor Galil

  • Courtesy the artist

1-1:45 PM | Holychild | Bud Light Stage

This Los Angeles duo want you to know they're clever. They're trying to popularize a subgenre they call "brat pop"—apparently a mishmash of Sleigh Bells' hard rhythms and Passion Pit's quirky pop hooks, topped with multicolored sprinkles—and the name of their debut-full-length, The Shape of Brat Pop to Come (Glassnote), is a tongue-in-cheek nod to Refused's 1998 album The Shape of Punk to Come (itself a not-so-tongue-in-cheek nod to Ornette Coleman's 1959 masterpiece The Shape of Jazz to Come). But it's worth getting past that posturing and actually listening to the music: "Running Behind," with its drum-line snare providing a thoroughfare for a thump-thump beat and the playful, confident rallying-cry flow of vocalist Liz Nistico, is so hot-damn catchy you're all but guaranteed to find yourself bobbing your head. Also Fri 7/31 at Lincoln Hall with headliner Charli XCX, sold out, 18+. Kevin Warwick

  • Courtesy the artist

1:30-2:15 PM | Ryn Weaver | Sprint Stage

Twenty-two-year-old Ryn Weaver is still new to the music business. After the success of her online single "Octahate" last summer, she released it again on her debut album, The Fool (Mad Love/Interscope), which came out last month. The song attracted social-media attention from big names such as Hayley Williams and Jessie Ware, as well as comparisons to the likes of Charli XCX (with whom she collaborated on "Octahate") and Lorde. Though little on the album makes as immediate an impression as that single, Weaver's vibrant storytelling provides a thread that ties it together. She certainly owes some of her success to high-­powered producer friends (Michael Angelakos of Passion Pit, Benny Blanco, Cashmere Cat), but her spunky energy and trilling vocals would make her synth-pop infectious no matter who else had a hand in it. Also Fri 7/31 at Schubas, $20, 18+. Cassidy Ryan

Fifty-four Lollapalooza aftershows all in one place

  • Courtesy Lollapalooza

2:15-3 PM | Travis Scott | Perry's Stage

Houston MC, producer, and fashion plate Travis Scott has been signed to Kanye West's label (racking up a few collabs with and cosigns from the dude himself), and both men favor a baroque, avant-leaning production style and extensive use of digital vocal manipulation—in part because Scott, like his erstwhile mentor, has only halfway decent rapping and singing skills. It sometimes seems like Scott has gotten lost in Kanye's considerable shadow—and though that's probably not a terrible place for a 23-year-old to post up momentarily, he should ask Big Sean if it's worth lingering for more than a hype cycle or two. Scott's uncanny production skills occasionally reach the master's heights, as on 2014's "Mamacita," a stomping banger with assists from Rich Homie Quan and Young Thug—but the recent "3500," with Future and 2 Chainz, is only lukewarm (it's supposedly about the fur coat proud parents Kimye bought for baby North). With any luck the other tracks on the forthcoming Rodeo (Grand Hustle/Epic) will push him into a spotlight of his own. Also Sat 8/1 at First Ward with Logan and Saba, $50-$75, 17+. J.R. Nelson

  • Crackerfarm

2:45-3:45 PM | Sturgill Simpson | Bud Light Stage

On Sturgill Simpson's second album, last year's Metamodern Sounds in Country Music (High Top Mountain), the Americana singer is clearly in thrall to the 70s output of Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard, where the electric guitars seem to have flange effects built in. But it's more than his sound that connects Simpson to the 70s. I can't think of anyone else in the genre today who'd drop in Buddhist references the way he does on "Just Let Go," a cosmic ode to the extinction of the self: "Gonna break through and blast off to the bardo," he sings. If those spiritual leanings are the yin of Simpson's music, then his self-destructive streak is the yang; in "Life of Sin" he's unapologetic about the drugs and booze he pours into his body, explaining, "The level of my medicating some might find intimidating / But that's all right 'cause it don't bother me none." Also Fri 7/31 at Metro, sold out, 18+. Peter Margasak


4-5 PM | Death From Above 1979 | Samsung Galaxy Stage

Toronto bass-and-drums duo Death From Above 1979 formed during the early-aughts disco-punk explosion, putting their own spin on the sassy genre by blasting it through a wall of huge, noisy amps. Their weird fusion of earth-rattling heavy-metal bass and high-strung pop propelled them to massive success, but in 2006, two years after their debut LP, You're a Woman, I'm a Machine, they split up. The band reunited in 2011, and last year they finally dropped a second album, The Physical World (Last Gang), which operates from the same blueprint they drafted more than a decade ago. DFA1979's dance-floor-ready beats, crushing bass lines, and off-kilter pop sensibilities sound as fresh as they did when the band first blew up. Also Fri 7/31 at Bottom Lounge, sold out, 17+. Luca Cimarusti

  • Cameron Wittig

4:45-5:45 PM | The Tallest Man on Earth | Bud Light Stage

Among the hordes of solo dudes with acoustic guitars and crackly, Dylanesque croons, the Tallest Man on Earth (aka Kristian Matsson) stands out for the much darker shades he uses to paint his yarns. His newest album, this spring's Dark Bird Is Home (Dead Oceans), undergirds its whirling, driving acoustic lines with strings, ambient electronics, sputtering noise, and an implicit understanding of the bleakness of the world. But that doesn't mean Matsson can't strum his Guild guitar right into a campfire circle: though the lyrics to "Darkness of the Dream" are typically sullen, its chorus includes a gospel-like vocal melody that falls in with the triumphant thrum of the song. Kevin Warwick

  • Courtesy Lollapalooza

6-7 PM | Tame Impala | Samsung Galaxy Stage

I can't be the only one curious about how Tame Impala—the solo project of Kevin Parker in the studio—will use its touring lineup to translate its music onstage. The Australian act's new album, Currents (Interscope), abandons the guitar-­driven psych-pop of its two predecessors in favor of something calculatedly artificial. Though the mix includes plenty of real instruments—notably Parker's nimble bass, which often adds some grit—the sound field is dominated by electric keyboards and dry, almost airless production. It's as if Bread front man David Gates decided to ditch soft rock and sing with 10cc for a session of insular hot-tub funk. Peter Margasak

  • Courtesy Lollapalooza

7-8 PM | Brand New | Sprint Stage

If you have even a passing interest in the latest swell of emo music, you should thank this Long Island four-piece for sowing its seeds. Despite a thin discography and a sporadic touring schedule, Brand New are among the most influential indie-rock bands of the past 15 years or so. They've been pretty quiet since their latest and greatest album, 2009's blistering Daisy, but things appear to be picking up: this spring's "Mene," the band's first new music in six years (and presumably a single from their yet-to-be announced fifth LP), is a loud, nihilistic punk jam led by Jesse Lacey's throaty vocals. Over raging guitars and pounding drums, he insists, "We don't feel anything"—but Brand New fans will surely have all the feels. Also Fri 7/31 at House of Blues, sold out, 17+. Drew Hunt

  • Courtesy BBGun Press

8-10 PM | Metallica | Samsung Galaxy Stage

The guys in Metallica are some of the biggest assholes in the world, but I always end up giving them a pass. No matter how many bears James Hetfield hunts, how many free download services Lars Ulrich denounces, how many innocent bassists the band hazes, or how many annoying, self-­indulgent documentaries they make about themselves, one thing will always remain true: Metallica are responsible for four of the greatest, most perfect heavy-metal albums ever made. These guys have cranked out a quarter-century of crap since the last of those albums, 1988's . . . And Justice for All, and it'd be easier to enjoy the music if Ulrich were forbidden from speaking in public, but Metallica's live shows still rely heavily on the 80s classics—and for the most part, the band's got those dialed in tight and loud. Sure, the members of Metallica totally suck, but this set will not. Luca Cimarusti


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