Our guide to Lollapalooza 2014 | Music Feature | Chicago Reader

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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In the years since Lollapalooza became a destination festival in 2005, organizers C3 Presents have perfected a formula for success. The fest's tenure in Grant Park has outlasted its original seven-year run as an alt-rock package tour, and three-day passes to the 2014 version were all snapped up in March, before the lineup was even made public. Single-day passes became available a few days later, after the lineup announcement, and they were gone within two hours. At this point the only kinds of Lollapalooza tickets not totally sold out are the three-day Platinum Pass and two flavors of travel package, which include hotel stays (if you have to ask how much they cost, you can't afford them). Not bad for a festival with a daily capacity of 100,000—roughly the population of South Bend, Indiana.

Many of the people who threw down $250 for a three-day pass were surely returning customers, looking forward to partying in Grant Park no matter who happened to be onstage. I hope for their sake they didn't have buyer's remorse once the lineup came out. Lollapalooza scored big with OutKast, but the reunited ATLiens are headlining night two, not closing down the festival like they should—on Sunday they'll be in Toronto playing Drake's OVO Fest instead. Every one of the other five headliners—Eminem, Calvin Harris, Skrillex, Arctic Monkeys, and Kings of Leon—has played Lollapalooza in the past five years. Among them, only Eminem really has the star power to headline a U.S. festival of this size (sorry, Arctic Monkeys; I'm sure you do much better at home). And though Lollapalooza has long been synonymous with alternative rock, neither of the two rock bands at the top of the bill is the better choice to end the night. I'll take Skrillex over Kings of Leon any day.

Further down the roster, the lineup is more varied and interesting. The festival's eight stages, spread out across most of Grant Park, play host to 130 acts, including the lightning-­rod chart topper of the moment (Iggy Azalea), a band of punk lifers (AFI), a few recent Pitchfork festival alumni (Parquet Courts, Blood Orange, Run the Jewels), and some talented locals the Reader has been championing for ages (Flosstradamus, Into It. Over It., Vic Mensa, Chance the Rapper). It's impossible to catch everything worthwhile—I'm especially bummed to see Brooklyn rockers Parquet Courts scheduled against New York hip-hop group Ratking—but the Reader crew has put together an itinerary of 32 acts that ought to maximize your ratio of "good music seen" to "total time spent in the park." Leor Galil

For information on transit, accessibility, re-entry policies, festival wristbands, prohibited items, nonmusical attractions, Chow Town vendors, and more, visit lollapalooza​.com.

Friday, August 1

  • Kyle Dean Reinford

12:15-1:00 | San Fermin |Palladia Stage

Not long after graduating from Yale University with a degree in music composition in 2011, Ellis Ludwig-Leone retreated to the Canadian Rockies and wrote a 17-song suite, which ended up on the self-titled debut album by San Fermin, released in September of last year by Downtown Records. In some ways he was working like a classical composer—as he wrote, he didn't have an ensemble to play his music or even specific musicians in mind—but San Fermin is unmistakably a sophisticated pop-rock record, its operatic grandeur and contrapuntal complexity notwithstanding. Ludwig-Leone plays keyboards, but otherwise the elegantly melodic music is brought to life by a highly skilled cast he assembled. At times the steeplechase vocal arrangements recall the Dirty Projectors, and the lush, corkscrewing orchestrations suggest Van Dyke Parks with his sensibilities updated for the present century. Also Sat 8/2 at Schubas, $18, 18+. Peter Margasak

  • James Loveday

1:00-1:45 | Temples | Bud Light Stage

Noel Gallagher of Oasis always has a lot to say, and one of the things he's been saying a lot over the past year or so is that Temples is one of the best bands on the planet. He's been so busy talking up these British psych-rock revivalists that he claims it's distracted him from re-forming Oasis. Temples and Oasis are clearly cut from the same cloth (the Beatles love is strong in both), but Temples' songs are pushier and jumpier—and on their first full-length, this year's Sun Structures, they deploy a dizzyingly diverse palette of richly colorful, acid-soaked 60s sounds. Also Thu 7/31 at Subterranean, sold out, 17+. Luca Cimarusti

  • Courtesy High Road Touring

1:45-2:45 | Lucius | Palladia Stage

Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig define Lucius with their terrific voices and the terrific way they blend. I first heard the two of them in San Fermin's sophisticated art-pop (see above), where they sang as hired guns; on their debut with Lucius, last year's Wildewoman (Mom + Pop), their harmonies wend through fairly standard but well-played contemporary indie-pop. They transcend that generic template by using a variety of vocal approaches: prewar pop a la the Andrews Sisters, classic Brill Building brio, the clever braided melodies of the Roches. Whether gently shading each other or opening the throttle wide, Wolfe and Laessig never falter—here's hoping they start writing songs worthy of their sparkling, graceful voices. Also Sat 8/2 at Lincoln Hall, sold out, 18+. Peter Margasak

  • Rosanne Webster

2:30-3:30 | Bombay Bicycle Club | Samsung Galaxy Stage

On their fourth album, this year's So Long, See You Tomorrow (Island), London four-piece Bombay Bicycle Club have settled into an aughties indie version of AOR rock. Its poppy songs are punchy but gentle, with interesting detours into bordering territories: "Come To" cozies up to fuzzy, starlit shoegaze, "Carry Me" mixes in stuttering, menacing electro, and "Feel" approximates the flavor of Paul Simon's Graceland. The band deploys these elements sparingly, but even a little is enough to give these sweet, sleek tunes a kick. Also Fri 8/1 at Bottom Lounge, sold out, 17+. Leor Galil

  • Mia Kirby

3:30-4:30 | Warpaint | Lake Shore Stage

On Warpaint's first long-player, 2010's The Fool, grand strokes of bravado explode from the limber rhythmic skeletons of dark, slow-burning postpunk songs. Four years later, the four women in this Los Angeles-based band have finally delivered a follow-up, a self-titled album that strips down their Joy Division-tinged formula till it's downright minimalist. They patiently weave somber, delicate structures and moods, casting an unbroken spell. The lack of bombast on Warpaint means it won't bowl you over right away, but once it gets its hooks in you, they're hard to tear out. Luca Cimarusti

  • Courtesy Lollapalooza

4:45-5:30 | Blood Orange | The Grove

Dev Hynes is only 28, but he already has a resumé many pop veterans would envy. He played in the short-lived and hyped-up Test Icicles, he was the main dude behind Lightspeed Champion, and he's written and produced for a bevy of big-name pop and dance artists, including Solange Knowles, the Chemical Brothers, Basement Jaxx, and Kylie Minogue (he even made an ill-fated attempt to collaborate with Britney Spears). But it's as Blood Orange that Hynes sounds most at home. The smooth, minimal, slightly funky tracks on last year's Cupid Deluxe (Domino) are confident but introspective. He delivers his lush melodies in a lofty croon a la Prince, backed on most songs by guest vocalists, among them Chairlift's Caroline Polachek and Friends' Samantha Urbani; the yearning harmonies they create tug at the heartstrings a bit, but Blood Orange never gets as bleak as most other dark R&B outfits (such as, say, the Weeknd). Hynes executes everything so flawlessly that even the slap bass that pops up here and there on Cupid Deluxe sounds great. Also Thu 7/31 at the Empty Bottle, sold out, 21+. Luca Cimarusti


5:30-6:30 | Chvrches | Lake Shore Stage

With their hypercolor beats and high-gloss synths, Scottish trio Chvrches make glitzy synth-pop whose dazzle initially seems almost too bright. But dig into last year's The Bones of What You Believe (Virgin/Goodbye) and let its geared-up sound swirl around you, and soon the lyrics will gravitate to the foreground. Lead vocalist Lauren Mayberry, a tiny force of nature, can be grim and cryptic: on "We Sink," she sings, "I'll be the thorn in your side till you die / I'll be the thorn in your side for always." Fun. Also Thu 7/31 at the Vic, sold out, 18+. Kevin Warwick

  • Charles Howells

6:45-7:45 | Lorde | Bud Light Stage

The most striking thing about Lorde's supernatural breakout debut, 2013's Pure Heroine, is that she's flanked by minimal, grumbling electro beats but still sounds completely alone. The New Zealand teenager's conviction is so absolute that her voice seems to swallow up what's happening around her, like a kind of beautiful, delicate black hole. (Onstage, though, she tends to fragment your attention with jarring, gyrating dance moves.) Pure Heroine still sounds electric, even after all the Grammy nominations and multiplatinum hubbub of "Royals"—and if you think that song has lost any of its luster since you first fell for it, you must not have experienced it live, with the early-evening sky painted bright with color above the Chicago skyline. Kevin Warwick

  • Josh Olins

7:30-8:30 | Lykke Li | Lake Shore Stage

On her new album, I Never Learn (LL/Atlantic), Swedish singer Lykke Li sings about a painful breakup, and though it's her second straight release to address it—song titles include "Never Gonna Love Again" and "Love Me Like I'm Not Made of Stone"—there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel this time. I Never Learn is dominated by bittersweet, richly dramatic ballads on which her voice sounds stronger and more honeyed than ever, and the production of regular collaborator Bjorn Yttling (of Peter Bjorn and John) provides larger gestures fit for larger stages. This means that many of the pleasantly quirky touches from previous records—girl-group harmonies, ersatz tribal drumming, Brill Building melodies—have been removed, but in exchange the music gains a new, heightened focus that feels like an important progression. Peter Margasak

  • Timothy Saccenti

8:45-9:45 | Phantogram | The Grove

More than four years elapsed between Phantogram's 2009 full-length debut, Eyelid Movies, and the recent Voices (Republic), but the New York electro duo stayed omnipresent during that downtime thanks to the 2011 EP Nightlife and the hypnotic single "When I'm Small." You've probably heard an edit of the song that features Sarah Barthel's soft owl-call vocal, whether you know it or not—it appeared in an episode of Skins and in a few commercials, including for Gillette and Canon. Voices sounds more grown-up than its predecessor, particularly in Barthel's newly foregrounded singing; it's divided into harsh, buzzing hip-hop beats, ambient synth washes, and electro-­tinted indie rock (plus a few attempts at re-creating "When I'm Small"). If you want a trippy light show and some hazy dancing tonight, not a potentially disgruntled Marshall Mathers, this is the late-Friday Lollapalooza set for you. Kevin Warwick

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