With a few dozen bands on the menu, Lollapalooza can overwhelm with its options. We're here to make it easier for you. Here are the top ten acts we'll be seeing in Grant Park on Sunday, August 4. It's the strongest day of the bunch.
1. Phoenix Some claimed (okay, most of us here at TOC, too) that Phoenix was not ready to headline in 2010. Bankrupt! and impeccable recent performances have erased those doubts. Three years later, is there a closing act on this bill you imagine to be more fun? Two of the biggest headlining acts in the world right now are from France. (Daft Punk, duh.) That’s the first time anyone’s been able to say that. Bud Light stage, 8:30pm.
2. Vampire Weekend Take a moment and appreciate everything that Vampire Weekend has nailed. The New Yorkers have self-produced a trademark sound, an entire aesthetic of sans-serif fonts, New England ennui and postgraduate vocabulary. It’s smart, textured, home-crafted and also radio-ready. Ezra Koenig and co. take ballsy chances (beyond the drummer wearing Phish shirts onstage), always pushing their Paul Simonisms into a more digital approach. Koenig chipmunk-warps his vocals on new tunes “Ya Hey” and “Diane Young.” The weirder they get, the more approachable they become. That’s the secret to transcendent pop. Bud Light stage, 6:30pm.
3. Major Lazer Free the Universe, the sophomore album of Diplo’s cartoon dancehall crew, expertly balances idiotic and exotic. One minute you get Bruno Mars toasting asses on “Bubble Butt,” the next Amber of Dirty Projectors is cooing over winsome roots reggae (“Get Free”). Basically, it’s Gorillaz for Jersey Shore gorilla juiceheads. Expect Ezra Koenig to pop in for “Jessica.” Perry's stage, 7pm.
4. Beach House It seems like I’ve seen this dream-pop duo perform every summer for the last half decade. Don’t care, need more. Victoria Legrand's titanic sighs never fail to get me as high as the heat index. Lake Shore stage, 7pm.
5. DIIV, 6. Wavves One can’t be blamed for writing off Wavves’ skate-brat thrash in the past, but this year’s Afraid of Heights leaps forward by dialing it back a couple decades. It’s the record the world has been foolish waiting for Frank Black and Weezer to make again since ’95. It’s also deeply indebted to the whatever, nevermind arena-rock of Nirvana. Zachary Cole Smith of DIIV also owes a lot to Kurt Cobain, too, but it only shows in his appearance. His voice lies echoing underneath his laconic guitar picking on the group’s Oshin, but, boy, does his instrument alone manage to wring all sorts of feeling. It’s like some dream fusion of R.E.M. and Ride. Grove stage: DIIV 6pm, Wavves 4:45pm.
7. Alt-J The Radiohead comparisons make no sense, aside from the fact that both bands are British and intellectualize theatrical rock music. Singer-guitarist Joe Newman sings like a Muppet, but his avian affectation grows oddly addictive. He sings entrancing gibberish in the verses of “Breezeblocks”—which only makes the clear closing barbershop harmonies (“Please, don’t go / I love you so”) a heftier guy punch. Live, the guys nail their mathy mix of folk and electronics with precision. Lake Shore stage, 5pm.
8. 2 Chainz The Atlanta rapper is purposefully stupid (In his own words: “I be going retard”). I know he’s rather brilliant, though. Lines like “pull up to the scene with my ceiling missing” and “codeine got me standing horizontal” are poetic. He’s simple but has a way with imagery. Give him credit for this, at least: He was smart enough to change his name from Tity Boi. His band, complete with live drummer and guitarist, crushed at Coachella, too. Grove stage, 7:15pm.
9. Cat Power Have you seen the video for “Manhattan?” How could you not love Chan Marshall? With a new record named Sun, the captivating singer has left behind the Memphis blooze of her last couple records and set herself up quite nicely for bright, August stages. Yes, all these people are basically playing at the same time. This is why Lollapalooza can suck. Grove stage, 8:45pm.
10. Angel Haze With Missy Elliott M.I.A., the public is hungry for the great, bizarre female rapper. Azealia Banks, Haze’s foe in a ridiculous feud that has spilled into Twitter and diss tracks, is too cavalier with her use of faggot, and deeply ineloquent when defending herself. We know which side we’re on. Also, Haze is just a better MC. Perry's stage, 2pm.