I am a loner and a voyeur who attends music festivals like Lollapalooza as a sort of out-of-body experience—the spectacle of them is the drug itself. I typically cling to music because of the company it gives me when I’m alone, so sharing it with tens of thousands of others at once is a startling thing. I must leave my precious head to do it; I laugh and laugh, apropos of very little, when I walk Grant Park’s ever-popular grasses, taking things in as a speck in the crowd, not as the performance’s sole addressee I usually treat myself as. Join me as I become a citizen of the hearing world for a weekend.
San Fermin’s baroque, melancholy self-titled debut was an overlooked gem in 2013, full of surprising horns and polyrhythms. Throw in that singer Allen Tate’s thick baritone often sounds like our president’s orating tone, and this is the obvious way to begin the festival.
There is money in the harmonies of Lucius. One of the fifty-six billion female folk outfits to arise from contemporary Brooklyn, their spare arrangements don’t make any point of hiding their dual honey voices, which will agree endlessly with sunshine in the afternoon.
Warpaint makes more strategic use of their neon production and rock bombast than can usually be expected from the acts of these stadium stages. Skipping along and eschewing the gut punch, their shiny sounds will add extra sparkles to the lake before the day turns wild.
If Michael Jackson, Prince, Damon Albarn and D’Angelo had an MP3 lovechild, it might be friends with Blood Orange’s shockingly fresh 2013 LP, “Cupid Deluxe.” A wunderblend of bright, sunny styles and voices, it’s the perfect party soundtrack. Your friends will make fun of you if you miss this set.
Bask in the nostalgia of Hot Topic’s pre-mainstream boom; get lost in the grand, major chord heartbreak of this outfit’s grim take on love loss. Go down with the Emo ship, and do it proudly.
Lorde’s rocket ship might fly too high in the next few years for you to ever be this close to her in the future. Miss her prodigious grasp on the masses now, and you may never see her sing her tantalizingly simple melodies in the flesh.
Mr. Mathers hasn’t done his best work in recent years, but that’s okay. He’s an icon. He has been for more than a decade, and he knows it. He’ll hold this crowd by their hearts and shake them up with his singular energy for language. He’ll leave you happily exhausted.
You’ll be tired already by Day Two, so take your time arriving, and Parquet Courts will extend your leisure with their slow-boil jams and effortless, Pavement-y charm. Start your day off right, with a heaping dose of healthy guitar.
Keep keeping it light with Kate Nash, the English songstress of Hornby-esque wit who makes comedy out of her chambers without sacrificing her tight, uppity pace. Smile when Nash punches through cynical musings with her choruses of optimistic joy.
Lose your mind with GROUPLOVE, regardless of whether you like them. Their screaming, confetti-fed style was built for the festival arena, and if you’re going to enjoy their loud love, it’s going to be here.
It’s Nas. Are you not convinced? Listen to “lllmatic” again.
Get at Vic Mensa before he’s too big for his home city. Chance The Rapper was the last young wordsmith star to break out of the Chi, and if the hip-hop weather report is working at all, then we can see his friend Mensa is next in line. Listen to his terrific single “Down On My Luck” if you need swaying.
If you’re sick of hip-hop, you’ve picked the wrong day for this festival. The most influential Southern rappers this side of everything are back after an unspeakably long hiatus, and I’ll personally cuff you on your way out of Grant Park if you miss their return.
Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue
Show up even later on Sunday—your body will tell you the same when the time comes. But there’s nothing else like Shorty’s regional swing at this festival, so don’t bide your time too long to miss out on his candied party-starter.
Run The Jewels
Killer Mike and El-P have lots of socio-political opinions, but just as many body-quaking beats. Take in their dystopian rap sermons; just try not to lose yourself in their racing rage against the Government machine.
Never has a band named after a decade sounded so much like a kickback to the one after it. Grab a seat far from the stage in the lawn and let their keyboard wonder wash over you as the day winds down toward some rowdy finales.
Donald Glover does daily war with fame, the internet and his fraught relationship with race as Childish Gambino. His angst may be a bit overdone for someone who wrote for NBC Primetime before he hit thirty, but Glover’s wordplay energy is infectious enough for an evening of thrashing and sing-along.
For better or worse, Skrillex is an auteur. Miss out on this experience and you’ll be counting an extra regret. His helplessly weird, abrasive synth-slap aesthetic makes for even stranger fans, and I’d be no voyeur if I allowed you to miss this one.