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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Sunday, August 3

JAKE NILES GETTER
  • Jake Niles Getter

Noon-12:40 | Plastic Visions | BMI Stage

Plastic Visions are a side project of Cage the Elephant guitarist Brad Shultz. His main band regularly fills theaters with its eclectic rock 'n' roll (there's a Cage the Elephant album called Live From the Vic in Chicago), so these guys have probably earned an indulgence or two apiece. Punkier and noisier than CtE, Plastic Visions are at their best when vocalist Kane Stewart doesn't crank up the "rock 'n' roll" personality till it comes off as lame, like he does on the over-the-top "Kamikaze" (from their self-titled debut EP, released last year on Shultz's Death Panda label). Plastic Visions do much better when they shoot for a grungy sound with a Weezer-like pop sensibility, taking full advantage of Shultz's knack for writing arena-ready choruses. Kevin Warwick

GETTY IMAGES FOR BET
  • Getty Images for BET

12:45-1:30 | Jhene Aiko | Samsung Galaxy Stage

Neosoul singer Jhene Aiko has gotten cosigns from some of the heaviest hitters in rap and R&B (Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, Drake), and she's poised to make a name for herself. Her forthcoming debut LP, Souled Out (Def Jam/Artium), will feature multiple tracks with legendary Chicago producer No I.D., who's been known to launch a career or two. Aiko's breezy yet subtly sultry voice is best suited for minimalist, 808s & Heartbreak-esque beats, which she proves on "Bed Peace," a standout track from her recent Sail Out EP. Also Sat 8/2 at Reggie's Rock Club, sold out, 18+. Drew Hunt

COURTESY LOLLAPALOOZA
  • Courtesy Lollapalooza

1:30-2:15 | Bleachers | Lake Shore Stage

With its jittery new-wave pastiche, this solo venture by Fun. guitarist Jack Antonoff should provide enough of a jolt to reanimate even the most worn-out Lolla warriors after a late Saturday night. Bleachers' debut, Strange Desire (RCA), is by turns self-searching and triumphant, full of shout-along choruses that give Antonoff's reverent take on modern rock a 21st-century edge ("Shadow," "Like a River Runs"). Also Sun 8/3 at Lincoln Hall, $22, 18+. Maura Johnston

COURTESY PARADIGM AGENCY
  • Courtesy Paradigm Agency

2:15-3:00 | White Denim | Samsung Galaxy Stage

Austin's White Denim are in love with being weird. They're all over the genre map—prog rock, southern twang, Stevie Wonder—and they wear their many influences like a tuxedo and top hat. That said, beneath the glaring sheen of eclecticism, their most recent album, Corsicana Lemonade (coproduced by Jeff Tweedy and released by Downtown), is classic rock more than anything else—its parched, rolling-tumbleweed air and stompin' guitar licks might just summon your inner Ronnie Van Zant. Also Sat 8/2 at the Empty Bottle, sold out, 21+. Kevin Warwick

COURTESY LOLLAPALOOZA
  • Courtesy Lollapalooza

2:45-3:45 | Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue | Bud Light Stage

New Orleans brass prodigy Trombone Shorty (aka Troy Andrews) strips down his sound on his most recent album, Say That to Say This (Verve)—unlike his previous record, it's just hard-hitting, rock-saturated R&B and funk, with no looped rhythms and no unfortunate Kid Rock cameo. Andrews even orchestrated the Meters' first studio reunion since 1977, on a remake of the Crescent City funk legends' "Be My Lady." That's not to say there's much New Orleans flavor on Say That to Say This, though—Raphael Saadiq's sterile production seems to confine Andrews, so that his personality shines through mostly when he blows extended solos on trombone or trumpet. Also Sun 8/3 at the Vic, $25, 18+. Peter Margasak

COURTESY WINDISH AGENCY
  • Courtesy Windish Agency

3:45-4:45 | Run the Jewels | Palladia Stage

It seemed like an odd pairing when Atlanta MC Killer Mike and Brooklyn rapper-producer El-P began collaborating a few years ago—Mike is fierce, friendly, and passionate, and El-P is paranoid, inward, and often cryptic, even in his jokes. In a 2013 interview with Red Bull Music Academy, El-P admitted that even he was surprised by how well it went: "You're not expecting at 35 to meet your best friend." They've definitely got a good thing going, and each made the other sound rejuvenated on his most recent solo album, both of which came out in May 2012—Killer Mike appeared on El-P's quasi-industrial beatdown party Cancer 4 Cure, and El-P produced Killer Mike's agitprop barrage R.A.P. Music. Their chemistry has bubbled over into a full-blown partnership as Run the Jewels, whose self-titled 2013 debut for Fool's Gold is nasty, pointed fun. The second RTJ full-length is nearing completion as I write this. Also Sat 8/2 at Double Door, sold out, 21+. Leor Galil

DAVE MA
  • Dave Ma

4:45-5:30 | The 1975 | The Grove

Last year's immensely satisfying self-titled debut from this Manchester four-piece is a throwback to the glory days of Britpop, but not so much because of its sound—the record's charm has more to do with the way it harnesses the type of swagger and sexual tension that seems especially strong in young, emboldened, guitar-­wielding Brits. The 1975 (Vagrant) owes as much to Orange Juice's anxious jangle as it does to Prince's skittering foreplay guitar, and front man Matt Healy is a kick to watch in action. Also Sat 8/2 at Park West, sold out, 18+. Maura Johnston

COURTESY WINDISH AGENCY
  • Courtesy Windish Agency

5:40-6:20 | Betty Who | BMI Stage

Hailing from Australia by way of Berklee, this bubbly singer-songwriter specializes in big-tent pop that marries the sad and the effervescent—"Heartbreak Dream," the opening track from her most recent EP, Slow Dancing (RCA), has a towering hook that makes looking back on a lost love sound like a fun way to spend three minutes and change. The combination of Betty's breathy soprano (think Katy Perry minus the sour self-regard) and her songs' airbrushed synth-pop makes even the wistful "You're in Love" feel comforting. Maura Johnston

COURTESY NEW FRONTIER TOURING
  • Courtesy New Frontier Touring

6:00-7:15 | Avett Brothers | Samsung Galaxy Stage

It's been eight albums now, so you kind of know what you're gonna get from North Carolina's Avett Brothers. They're a salt-of-the-earth outfit that grafts roots music onto arena rock, and these days—when Mumford & Sons can draw the biggest crowd at Lollapalooza—the Avetts Brothers' banjo plucking and gentle vocal harmonies sound perfectly credible on the kind of mammoth stages that used to host walls of Marshall stacks. Superproducer Rick Rubin oversaw last year's winsome Magpie and the Dandelion (American), which jells better the further the band gets from folk—the sweet, dramatic orchestral pop of "Vanity" really sparkles. Leor Galil

JUSTIN VAGUE
  • Justin Vague

7:15-8:15 | Flume | The Grove)

Australian producer Harley Streten, aka Flume, fuses supercharged modern EDM with smooth, luxurious R&B. On his self-titled 2012 full-length for Mom + Pop, he uses his aggressive synths tenderly, so that they wrap the songs like duvet covers while retaining their dance-floor energy. He processes the vocals in his tracks (sampled or sung by guests) till the singers seem possessed by techno demons, but he can find the heart and sensuality in alien, robotic noises. Over the hiccuping beat of "Stay Close," Streten chops up and rearranges a pitchedup vocal sample that sounds like a chipmunk playing trumpet, then combines it with a lower-­pitched loop to create a sentimental melody. Also Sat 8/2 at Concord Music Hall, sold out, 18+. Leor Galil

RICHARD A. CHAPMAN/SUN-TIMES MEDIA
  • Richard A. Chapman/Sun-Times Media

8:30-9:45 | Chance the Rapper | Perry's Stage

When Chance the Rapper played in the late afternoon at last year's Lollapalooza, he Drew a crowd way too big for the teeny BMI Stage. It'd been only months since he dropped his engrossing mixtape Acid Rap, which appeals to hip-hop heads and rap philistines alike with its mix of mature introspection and drug-fueled party anthems. The poppy "Chain Smoker" combines a wistfully soulful synth melody, processed and edited vocal samples, and a rattling dance beat, which together have a loose, open-ended feel that allows Chance to switch smoothly between nasal rapping and sweet singing; it's so life-affirming that he sounds irrepressible even delivering lyrics about his fear of dying. His crossover appeal is so obvious that it didn't take the world outside Chicago long to catch on—within a year of Acid Rap he'd appeared on tracks by Skrillex (who plays opposite Chance on the Bud Light Stage) and Justin Bieber. Leor Galil

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