This year Lollapalooza turns 25. In celebration, C3 Presents and Live Nation have expanded the Chicago festival into a four-day excursion, which will either a) give 15-year-olds more time to stumble on and off the wagon or b) shatter the knees of every aging thirty and fortysomething still fighting to “keep the spirit alive.” Probably both.
Lately, there’s been a well-debated argument over the homogenization of major music festivals, but really, that’s been happening for years. The reality is that the true identity of any world-renowned fest like Lollapalooza, Coachella, or Bonnaroo goes beyond the lineups. It’s about the scenery. It’s about the energy.
Look, we’ve done the same song and dance for you a dozen times about Lollapalooza: It’s Chicago! The skyline’s gorgeous! What about the after-shows? Save for that fourth day, nothing’s really changed. The outstanding positives still apply. Yet there will undoubtedly be something fresh to experience, and that “something” will likely extend outside of the music.
One way to start looking at these festivals is simply as an excuse to visit a particular city, and as ESPN’s Michael Wilbon insists, “There’s no place, none, better than Chicago in the summer.” He’s right. We talk about destination festivals, and Lollapalooza will forever be at the top of those lists. Then again, we’re a little biased…
But we’re not arguing for the merits of the festival as a whole. We’re looking at the lineup, and this year has the goods. Sure, it’s a little samey, but if you scrape away the competition and look strictly at the core names, it’s tough to scoff at Radiohead and LCD Soundsystem or an undercard that’s stuffed with legit mid-tier talent.
And so, here goes another installment of One Day Later, where we outline the highlights, the surprises, the omissions, and the least interesting acts. As with last year, the surprises were in short supply, which says more about the festival scene altogether than the festival itself, but the highlights are aplenty — and we’re not talking about Anthony Kiedis’ hair.
I still got it.
Every music fan has a an artist/band bucket list — a handful of artists and/or bands they need to see in this lifetime (either their own or the performer’s). Radiohead has always topped my list, and for years I was fearful of never having the chance to watch Thom Yorke slither on stage and sing songs that framed my high school years (yes, that’s right, high school). Regardless of what time period Radiohead transports you to, their music is undeniably nostalgic. The group last performed at Lollapalooza in 2008, and with the recent announcements of an album in the works and a handful of worldwide tour dates, this was one headliner that many had guessed and were pleased to be proven right. –Lyndsey Havens
Red Hot Chili Peppers
There really isn’t a better act to celebrate 25 years of Lollapalooza than Red Hot Chili Peppers. Maybe Jane’s Addiction. Or Pearl Jam. But really, there’s something about the California quartet and Perry Farrell’s festival that go together like peas and carrots — or surf and turf? It probably has something to do with the fact that they’ve headlined the festival three times over the last few decades, making this coming August their fourth go-around. It’s a good time for them. They’ll be back with a new Nigel Godrich-produced album, and they’ve been out of the spotlight for quite awhile. Stamp it: highlight! –Michael Roffman
Photo by Amanda Wicks
Seeing Future’s name near the top of the Lolla lineup is an indicator of just how in tune the festival is with the greater music culture. Whether collaborating with Drake or releasing his own endless stream of material, the prolific rapper has been one of the most rapidly ascending artists of late, and Lolla will mark his most marquee appearance yet. There is the possibility that Drake makes an appearance, but even if he doesn’t, Future’s quest to become the next arena-level hip-hop star gets a big bump from this booking. –Philip Cosores
Photo by David Brendan Hall
The last time Jane’s Addiction appeared at Grant Park was 2009 when they were headlining the Bud Light stage, from which Perry Farrell sparkled with gold and a low-flying helicopter lingered above. It was boisterous, it was exagerrated, and it was probably the last time the band would ever have a chance to do that. Seven years later, they’re at the end of the second line on the lineup, and there’s a freewheelin’ spirit to their identity that goes beyond being simply a nostalgia act. Lump all that in with the fact that it’s the 25th anniversary of Lollapalooza, and their inclusion feels all the more appropriate. –Michael Roffman
Photo by Philip Cosores
Although Claire Boucher has been busy touring Europe lately — where she was nearly electrocuted — things are about to heat up for her stateside next month. She’ll appear at Coachella and a number of festivals while also touring alongside Florence + the Machine, all of which she’ll follow with another European tour. Oddly enough, she wasn’t on our radar for Lollapalooza, even though she should have been once it was made clear that Pitchfork didn’t book her. Whatever. This is a surprise that only makes “realiti” that much better. Look out for the dancing idiot come August. That’ll be me. –Michael Roffman
Photo by Philip Cosores
Local Natives has a tendency to lay low, almost to an unnerving degree, so spotting the indie rockers on the lineup was a nice surprise, akin to hearing from an old friend. But, what exactly will they perform? The group have played Lollapalooza twice prior — in support of both their debut and sophomore album — so it’s likely they’re returning to support a third album. Which, in a way, makes their inclusion here more or less an unofficial album announcement (because, really, a simple press release is so last year). –Lyndsey Havens
Tiny Font Gold
Photo by Philip Cosores
While there’s a certain homogeneity amongst every North American fest this year (particularly in the mid-tier), the under-undercard is where these usually risk-averse fests can get creative and book some new and fresh bands. Whether you’re looking for some fiery rock (Potty Mouth, Pinegrove, Mothers, Sunflower Bean, Modern Baseball, Autolux), some hip-hop acts on the cusp of blowing up (Jazz Cartier, Flatbush Zombies), or the next big pop sensation (Lapsley), it’s worth whipping out your magnifying glass and peeping some of those tiny font acts. –Edward Dunbar
A Healthy Helping of Hip-Hop
Photo by Cathy Poulton
Last year, hip-hop was largely underrepresented at Lollapalooza, with the highest billed rappers only reaching line four of the poster. This year, the hip-hop presence is more indicative of how relevant and vital the genre actually is to the industry. Local talent is all over this lineup, like Saba, Sir the Baptist, and Savemoney representatives Vic Mensa and Towkio. Outside of the Chicago delegation, exciting rappers like Skepta, Smino, and Jazz Cartier populate the small print at the bottom of the bill, while indie stalwarts like Danny Brown, Vince Staples, and Flatbush Zombies are peppered throughout. Also represented is the populist side of the genre, like J. Cole, Mac Miller, and G-Eazy. But really, all you need to care about is Future. –Pat Levy
Explosions in the Sky
Next week, Explosions in the Sky will drop a new album — their first in five years — and they still don’t have a Chicago date. They won’t be at Pitchfork. They won’t be at Lollapalooza. Educated guess? They’ll appear at Riot Fest, which makes sense considering they popped up at Riot Fest Denver last year. Still, Explosions have a history with Lollapalooza, and they’re already appearing at C3 Presents’ other fest, Shaky Knees, so… –Michael Roffman
Photo by Frank Mojica
Why didn’t this happen again? Garbage is the quintessential ’90s alternative act that scream for a late evening set at Lollapalooza. Even better, Shirley Manson’s legendary outfit actually has a new album coming down the pipeline — Strange Little Birds, due out June 10th — which has this writer channeling his inner Big Red, “Platter, Lollapalooza, hello?!” Like Explosions in the Sky, they were probably snatched up by Riot Fest. Probably. –Michael Roffman
Photo by Heather Kaplan
Well, let’s see: Ryan Adams hasn’t played the festival since 2006. He’s touring all summer. He’s also free. What’s more, he hasn’t performed in Chicago since 2014, when he was still supporting his self-titled effort. Those are all logical reasons why Ry Ry should have appeared; if anything, it would have been a nice way to celebrate the 10th anniversary of his first appearance at Grant Park. Not that anyone’s celebrating that. ::smashes cake to pieces:: –Michael Roffman
Kanye West used to be Chicago’s shining son, and in a sense, he still is, in that he occasionally mentions he’s from here. Not having performed at Lollapalooza since 2008, people speculate that he’ll topline the bill every time he has new music out, and considering the saga that’s been The Life of Pablo, it was within reason that he might have a little homecoming. Unfortunately, he’s likely too busy selling artsy nude zines for 200 dollars and working on his line of Mad Max: Fury Road baby clothes. Maybe if he lives up to his new quota of three albums per year, he’ll have plenty of new material to perform at next year’s Lollapalooza. At this point, “maybe Kanye will be at next year’s Lollapalooza” has turned into “maybe next year is the Cubs’ year.” –Pat Levy
More than any of the other big music festivals, Lollapalooza embraces the mainstream radio fare the most. Whether it’s X Ambassadors, Nothing but Thieves, The Strumbellas, or G-Eazy, there’s an acceptance of what average teenagers are listening to that can be both comforting and horrifying. No one exemplifies this more than Bryson Tiller, whose rap/singing hybrid sounds like a shitty version of both hip-hop and R&B’s biggest stars. If watered-down, easy-to-consume bullshit is what you are after at a music festival, Tiller and the aforementioned artists will be there waiting. –Philip Cosores
Photo by Clarissa Villondo
Every year, Lollapalooza pays its respects to an alt-pop, overplayed, one-hit wonder — not only by including said group in the lineup, but by placing it questionably high up on the list as well. Not to say Bastille didn’t drop a sufficient album back in 2013, along with an extended, double-disc version in January of 2014, but that was two years ago. Sure, over those two years we all learned the lyrics to “Pompeii” willingly or not, but without a new album (maybe one is in the works?), follow-up hit single, or a strong fan following, Bastille falls on the least interesting end of the lineup spectrum. –Lyndsey Havens
Photo by Debi Del Grande
There’s no reason Die Antwoord should be slotted so high. They haven’t released a new album in almost two years, and although they’ve been teasing a follow-up, there’s been no indication of any sort of release date. That makes their appearance in Neill Blomkamp’s critical and commercial flop Chappie as their last real substantial appearance. In their defense, they haven’t appeared at the festival since 2012, but without anything new to promote, their inclusion is hardly a boom boom. –Michael Roffman
It makes sense why Flosstradamus would be a regular act at Lollapalooza. The Chicago duo of J2K (Josh Young) and Autobot (Curt Cameruci) are local favorites, and it’s an easy booking for C3. Still, they’ve popped up four times since their festival debut in 2007, and this year marks their fifth appearance to date, which some might say is a little much. Okay, we’ll say it: “That’s a little much.” –Michael Roffman
As a bonus, click ahead to see our Five Best Acts Playing Lollapalooza that You’ve Never Heard Of.