Chicago – It’s late July, you’re standing in the middle of an open field in downtown Chicago, and there are multiple bass tones and distant drumbeats battling for your attention. Chances are you’re at Lollapalooza, and festival season is in full swing. The festival – one of the famed “Big 4” (the other three being Coachella, Bonnaroo, and Austin City Limits) – came to be back in 1991 at the hands of Perry Farrell, a vehicle for the farewell tour for his band Jane’s Addiction. The touring festival’s popularity carried the tradition through the mid-90s, and though it died out momentarily just before the turn of the millennium, it was revived in 2003 and became an annual staple in Chicago’s Grant Park in 2005 (not to mention its countless international editions that have popped up since). As this year marks the 25th year since its inception, the festival has been expanded to span four days instead of the usual three, and there are plenty of new bands and rising talents to check out over the course of the weekend. Here are just a few of our picks for Lollapalooza 2016:
Thursday, July 28th
Hiatus Kaiyote (Petrillo Bandshell, 2:00pm-3:00pm)
Melbourne’s Hiatus Kaiyote is a self-proclaimed future soul quartet formed in 2011. The band released its debut LP Tawk Tomahawk back in 2012 and returned last year with sophomore effort Choose Your Weapon, “imagining the future, past, and juxtaposing the acoustic and electronic, over 18 tracks and a 70-minute musical adventure.” All of HK’s studio material is self-produced and magnanimously cinematic, blending aspects of funk and jazz with a healthy dose of psychedelia. Hiatus Kaiyote’s live show promises to be immersive and somatic, as the foursome hopes to carry festivalgoers into a new and exciting dimension with its sound.
*Recommended if you like: Erykah Badu, Flying Lotus, Petite Noir, Blood Orange
Yeasayer (Lakeshore Stage, 3:30pm-4:30pm)
Since this trio’s beginnings in the latter half of the mid-2000s, the three members of Yeasayer have demonstrated an eccentric and exciting approach to contemporary independent music, over the course of their acclaimed studio LPs: Eastern-influenced All Hour Cymbals (2007), synth-pop driven Odd Blood (2010), and the brutally psychedelic Fragrant World (2012). Earlier this spring, Yeasayer teamed up with drummer Joey Waronker (Beck, Atoms for Peace) and released an album entitled Amen & Goodbye, mixing religious fantasy and dramatic imagery to detail “a collection of strange fables from the Bible of a universe that does not yet exist.” Known for prowess on the live stage, Yeasayer is sure to whip out a ton of older material to balance the quirk and infectious lunacy that permeates their newest release. Get ready to dance, y’all.
*Recommended if you like: Depeche Mode, Django Django, Wild Beasts, Miike Snow
Daughter (Lakeshore Stage, 5:30pm-6:30pm)
The members of London-based trio Daughter have been hard at work ever since they came together back at the beginning of the decade. The band recently followed up the excellent 2013 debut LP If You Leave with a sophomore album, entitled Not To Disappear, released a few months ago via the label 4AD. For its second album, the neo-folk outfit cranked up the production, filling the soundscape with booming percussion and bounding reverb, with singer Elena Tonra’s space-age vocals echoing throughout. We had the pleasure of catching Daughter at an earlier date on this current tour, and the band is sure to continue the tradition of mind-bending performances as Daughter takes on the Lakeshore Stage on Thursday evening.
*Recommended if you like: Florence and the Machine, Bon Iver, MS MR, London Grammar
AlunaGeorge (Pepsi Stage, 6:30pm-7:15pm)
AlunaGeorge — the London duo made up of singer/songwriter Aluna Francis and producer George Reid — is perhaps best known for a featured role on the Brit Award-nominated single “White Noise” lifted from Disclosure’s 2013 debut full-length Settle, though not many know that AlunaGeorge’s debut album, Body Music, was released just a few weeks after the seminal Disclosure LP. AlunaGeorge’s music doesn’t exactly follow the same trends as the breakout “White Noise,” as it better resembles the styles at the mellower end of the electronic music spectrum. AlunaGeorge tends to stick closer to what you might find in a bargain bin of ‘90s trip-hop 7-inches, breeding quick-cut arpeggios made of distorted vocal samples with the elegance of moody basslines and echoing synth harmonics, all highlighted by Francis’ bright and punchy vocals. The duo’s sophomore LP, I Remember, is due out this fall, so there’s bound to be plenty of new tunes to sink into at their performance at Lollapalooza this year.
*Recommended if you like: La Roux, Charli XCX, Róisín Murphy, Santigold
Friday, July 29th
HÆLOS (Petrillo Bandshell, 12:00pm-12:45pm)
HÆLOS is another three-piece out of London to grace Lollapalooza this year, yet the band’s sound is unlike any other on the lineup. The project was conceived as the three members — Arthur Delaney, Dom Goldsmith, and Lotti Benardou — came together after working on individual projects, and with the release of the band’s first single “Dust” back in 2014, the trio cemented a spot as one of the most enigmatic and groundbreaking electronic acts of the decade. In 2015, HÆLOS released its first EP, the four-track Earth Not Above, which was briskly followed-up earlier this year with the debut full-length, Full Circle. HÆLOS is set to kick off the Friday festivities at the Petrillo Bandshell and will hopefully be cooling the midday air with its signature “shadowy” sound.
*Recommended if you like: The xx, Massive Attack, Glass Animals, Jungle
Day Wave (Samsung Stage, 12:45pm-1:30pm)
Oakland, California’s Jackson Phillips — better known as Day Wave — has yet to release a debut LP, but over the course of the past year or so has already made waves in the indie pop/rock music scene. His hit single “Drag” was a summertime favorite of last year, and his double EP Headcase/Hard To Read has garnered critical and fan acclaim. He and his touring band have already hit up a few festivals (including a hometown set at this year’s Noise Pop Fest in San Francisco this past February), and if his popularity continues to grow as it should, he could very well be a mainstay for years to come.
*Recommended if you like: Kurt Vile, Car Seat Headrest, The Shins, DIIV
MØ (Lakeshore Stage, 3:00pm-4:00pm)
Karen Marie Ørsted — aka MØ — likes to push the envelope when it comes to her brand of electronic music. Since she started out in 2012, she has worked with a slew of collaborators, including controversial rapper Iggy Azalea, American pop sensation Ariana Grande, and famed EDM producer Diplo, appearing on his Major Lazer track “Lean On” while also enlisting him for her own track “XXX 88,” which appears on her 2014 debut LP No Mythologies To Follow. Her style is incredibly nuanced, deriving inspiration from a number of influences, including dub, dancehall, and R&B. Though she has yet to formally detail her second album, its release is imminent as evident through the issue of two singles over the past year: the title track “Kamikaze” (also featuring Diplo) last fall, and this spring’s “Final Song.” Quoted by NME as being a mix between Siouxie Sioux and Janet Jackson, her performance at this year’s Lollapalooza should be one for the books (though it will be hard to top her performance at Treasure Island 2014, in which she did her whole show without the use of her left eye).
*Recommended if you like: Lykke Li, Empress Of, Elliphant, Banks
Foals (Samsung Stage, 4:00pm-5:00pm)
Oxford outfit Foals has gone through quite the metamorphosis since the release of debut LP Antidotes back in 2009, though it has been a graceful and continually rewarding one. Now, on the heels of the release of its fourth LP What Went Down last year, the band is taking on the festival circuit once again to blast its eclectic blend of music mixing math rock, indietronica, and arena rock into the willing eardrums of 2016 festivalgoers. Foals is no stranger to large-scale festivals, having played the likes of Glastonbury, Outside Lands, and Coachella over the course of their career, so the band should feel right at home on the Samsung Stage come Friday. Even if you aren’t planning on seeing Foals this year, chances are you will most likely hear them from wherever you happen to be.
*Recommended if you like: Muse, Editors, Battles, Soundgarden
Saturday, July 30th
Baio (Pepsi Stage, 1:50pm-2:30pm)
Vampire Weekend bassist Chris Baio has not left the band (though the same cannot be said for former keyboardist/backing vocalist/virtuoso Rostam Batmanglij, who departed the outfit earlier this year), but that’s not to say that he hasn’t made time to carve out his own niche with his solo work. After releasing several tracks between studio sessions and touring with Vampire Weekend, he finally put out his first solo LP, The Names, last fall. Baio’s solo work echoes some of his contributions to Vampire Weekend, both structurally and aesthetically, but all in all, The Names has a voice all its own. The album is surprisingly electronic, and breezily showcases Baio’s talents as a producer and DJ. After catching him at last year’s Treasure Island Music Festival, we are excited to see how he has grown as a performer and an artist.
*Recommended if you like: Vampire Weekend, Pet Shop Boys, Ra Ra Riot, Skylar Spence
DROWNERS (BMI Stage, 3:20pm-4:00pm)
The members of New York band DROWNERS are basically chemists at work. The indie rock darlings take all the best sounds from the late 80s and early-mid 90s, mix them all together, and with the addition of just the right amount of modern edginess, create a concoction that’s just too great to resist. The foursome recently released its second LP, On Desire, a few weeks ago, and with this album the band sounds more promising and confident than ever before. DROWNERS solidified its 90s-tinged sound with an eponymous 2014 debut and continue to make fun and energetic rock. DROWNERS’ performance at TBD Fest 2014 was one of our favorites of the weekend, so it’ll be exciting to see how the band has evolved its live show, bringing sunny rock and roll to Chicago this summer.
*Recommended if you like: The Strokes, Surfer Blood, The Vaccines, Palma Violets
Grimes (Lakeshore Stage, 7:30pm-8:30pm)
Canada’s Claire Boucher — aka Grimes — is somewhat of an anomaly. The Webby Award-winning electronic music producer and singer has released four LPs since 2010, the two most recent of which (2012’s Visions and last year’s Art Angels) heralded as among the best albums of each one’s respective year of release… and for good reason. The haunting aesthetic of Visions arrested listeners with its dark magnetism and wacky song titles, while Art Angels vaulted audiences in the complete opposite direction, combining bubbly, rambunctious pop melodies with grizzly electric guitar riffs and blistering production. Her enigmatic nature as an artist is balanced with her outspoken feminist views as an activist, and her performances rank high on many critics’ “best of” lists. Her collaborators range from R&B sensation Janelle Monáe to Taiwanese rapper Aristophanes, making her one of the most eclectic musicians on the scene today. She writes, records, produces, mixes, and masters all of her own material herself, and it is a wonder to see her perform on the live stage, bouncing between her mountain of sequencers and mixers to the forefront of the stage, microphone in hand, as she bounces along with the array of colorful dancers she has enlisted to accompany her. The anomaly lies within the inability to pinpoint any genre or style that she belongs to, but at this point, she needs no label assigned to her. She is just Grimes, and she will make you move like no other performer can.
*Recommended if you like: Robyn, Kathleen Hanna, CHVRCHES, Crystal Castles
Disclosure (Bud Light Stage, 8:30pm-10:00pm)
The fraternal duo Disclosure — made up of electronic wunderkind brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence — has been making music since the two were teenagers, and upon the release of the group’s debut LP Settle back in 2013, only one of the two was even old enough to drink in this country. Still, their youth was not going to stand in the way of producing one of the best albums of 2013, and their unique cornucopia of electronica spearheaded a revival of the UK garage sound of the early 90s. The brothers are known for many collaborative efforts, most notably working with young crooner Sam Smith on the inescapable “Latch,” though names like AlunaGeorge, Jessie Ware, and London Grammar also pepper the duo’s debut LP. Last year saw the release of sophomore album Caracal, and included several more collaborators, such as The Weeknd, Lorde, and Miguel, as well as some of the duo’s own material in which Howard Lawrence provides fantastic vocals. If past experience is anything to go off of, then Disclosure’s headlining set on Saturday is not to be missed, as the duo will expertly navigate new and old material, with a jaw-dropping visual setup to boot. The two may even play a song from the recent EP Moog For Love, and there is always the possibility of a guest vocalist or two.
*Recommended if you like: Gorgon City, SBTRKT, Squarepusher, Jamie xx
Sunday, July 31st
Låpsley (Samsung Stage, 12:45pm-1:30pm)
UK singer-songwriter Holly Fletcher – known simply by her middle name Låpsley – is one of the hottest new acts making the rounds on the summer festival circuit this year, and no summer circuit would be complete with a stop at Lollapalooza. The English chanteuse has wowed critics and audiences alike since signing with XL Recordings, releasing her Understudy EP at the beginning of last year and following up with her excellent debut LP Long Way Home earlier this spring. Her silky vocals weave beautiful tapestries with the delicate textures of minimalist electronic production she provides as instrumentation, and often distorts her voice’s pitch to sound more masculine (doing an almost perfect impression of James Blake at times), almost as if she is carrying a conversation between two people all on her own. The softer side of her music is imaginatively balanced with perkier, disco-infused songs, the performed combination of which is an arresting spectacle to behold. She will undoubtedly be a perfect start to Lollapalooza’s final day of festivities.
*Recommended if you like: Adele, Poliça, Shura, James Blake
MUNA (Pepsi Stage, 2:50pm-3:30pm)
Self-proclaimed “dark pop girl band” MUNA is one of the more mysterious acts to appear at Lollapalooza this year. The Los Angeles-based trio only has one release to date – the EP entitled Loudspeaker – and has no bio on the Lollapalooza artist’s page. The group’s barebones website offers little more information, other than the fact that all of the music was written and recorded in bedrooms in LA and NYC. The Loudspeaker EP, which includes the title track and three others, is full of dark-wave synths, sultry dancebeats, and brooding yet somehow playful vocals. Much like with HAERTS’ teaser EP Hemiplegia – which emerged over a year before the band’s debut LP – listeners are aching to hear more from the cryptic threesome, so they are a top pick for Sunday afternoon, as the band is sure to be introducing some newer material.
*Recommended if you like: HAERTS, Haim, Sky Ferreira, Imogen Heap
Local Natives (Bud Light Stage, 4:45pm-5:45pm)
Local Natives is another Los Angeles based group that lucked out with near-perfect scheduling, as the band’s percussive blend of afro-pop and indie folk will do well as a Sunday afternoon set on the Bud Light Stage. The group’s first two LPs, 2009’s Gorilla Manor and 2013’s Hummingbird, were both critical darlings, navigating somewhat familiar terrain in a unique way, glossing over the bumpier edges of traditional folk with saccharine vocal harmonies and driving percussion that is impossible to ignore. Local Natives’ upcoming third LP, Sunlit Youth, is due out this September, and we’ve already been given a taste of the first three tracks, all of which display a shift in style that will undoubtedly shape Local Natives’ newest release into something grand and unexpected. We are eager to see what other new treasures the five-piece will bring to the stage at Lolla, and cannot wait to hear “Past Lives” – one of the aforementioned new songs – performed live.
*Recommended if you like: Grizzly Bear, Fleet Foxes, Band of Horses, The Dodos
Stay tuned to Best New Bands over the course of the weekend for reviews and photos of these sets and many more. For those attending the festival, a full schedule for the weekend can be found here, and for those who cannot make it out to Chicago this year, many shows will be streamed live via the Internet. For more information, head to the Lollapalooza website. Follow Lollapalooza on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Crowd shot by Shea Flynn. All photos courtesy of Lollapalooza and Fresh Clean Media.