For a first-time attendee of Lollapalooza, it can be maddening trying to plan your weekend. It’s so big, with so many bands, and there are so many stages. To top it all off, as part of the festival’s 25th anniversary celebration, organizers added a fourth day to the scrum. The typical time conflicts between headliners are still in play, but the sets that make or break a good Lolla experience aren’t the headliners anyway. It’s how you spend your mid-afternoon.
What Lollapalooza has always done an incredible job of in its final boss form is packing the bill with newcomers and experienced vets alike. Many side stage stars eventually moved up the list and became headliners just a few years later, so chances are if you schedule your days right, you’ll be up close with bands that will later pack the nightly main stages soon. But others may never get that chance, and still put on an unreal show.
Circling a few of these slightly under the radar acts will give you markers to guide your weekend, and provide you with just enough freedom to go rogue or improvise if the situation calls for it. Here are a few acts to keep an eye on if you’re dropping by Grant Park this week (or catching the free livestream on RedBull.tv.)
Kehlani – 2:30 p.m. – Samsung Stage
For many, the knowledge of Kehlani starts and ends with the social media firestorm that involved her, Kyrie Irving, and PartyNextDoor earlier this year. But she didn’t let it derail her. She touched on her emotional state on “24/7,” and dropped the infectious “CRZY” in mid-July.
Focusing on the public image of Kehlani ignores the fact that she’s a damn good singer with a lot of presence. Her star is still on the rise, and in a Thursday afternoon slate that is lacking a bit in energy, you could do a lot worse. I expect her to come out with a big smile and bounce around the stage with a lot of fire, as a bunch of phones are pulled out afterward by festivalgoers who want to make sure they search her name.
Bob Moses – 2:50 p.m. – Pepsi Stage
There’s something about the heat, the sun, and the crowds that makes danceable music at Lollapalooza that much more fun. And Bob Moses will scratch that itch if you’re not quite ready at 2:50 on Day 1 to go all-in on the Perry’s stage. Bob Moses finds ways to put you in a trance with extended tracks that bob and weave, harkening back to a lot of British electronic-fueled bands that’d you’d likely hear in a Josh Hartnett movie or something.
The duo from Vancouver will likely take a little bit to get the crowd going, but if they stick with it in their set, they’ll have people grooving up front, with lots of heads nodding and bouncing on the grass.
Kurt Vile and The Violators – 6 p.m. – Petrillo Bandshell Stage
Okay, so Kurt Vile isn’t really under the radar to those who peruse festival lineups often. He’s a staple, and you really don’t know what you’re going to get with him from year to year. That said, his guitar-based songs translate well to stage if he’s fully engaged, and his latest album, b’lieve i’m goin down…, was one of his finest works to date.
As he told UPROXX last fall, “I feel like every time I play music, it gets a little better. Every time I put out a record, it gets a little better.”
He’s had almost a year to play those songs from b’lieve i’m goin down… and he has a stable of other great studio tracks that could get a fresh live take. If you’re waiting out The 1975 on the next stage over or aren’t interested in catching G-Eazy’s set, give Kurt Vile your full attention.
Haelos – Noon – Petrillo Bandshell Stage
Quietly building a following through buzz and a bit of mystery, Haelos broke out in a big way with a set at Coachella earlier this year, and they’re hoping to do more of the same at Lollapalooza. They didn’t get lucky with their time slot – they’re among the first bands to play on Friday – but the vocals of Lotti Benardout, Arthur Delaney, and Dom Goldsmith and the the catchy riffs put forth by Goldsmith will invoke all the fun you had with The xx way back when.
If you’re planning on getting to the park early on Day 2, get there in time for Haelos, even if you decide to grab lunch outside the park and come back.
Modern Baseball – 1:45 p.m. – Petrillo Bandshell
Let your pop punk love grow. Modern Baseball dropped the 11-track Holy Ghost earlier this year on Run For Cover records, and it’s insanely listenable. This is the perfect placement for the band, which gets an afternoon slot and an hour to win over a bunch of new fans who can hear hints of Say Anything, Yellowcard, Into It. Over It., Brand New, and even The Hold Steady in Modern Baseball’s guitar-based, reflective songs.
This is exactly the type of band that thrives at Lollapalooza. With so many choices, and all those other competing acts, a little bit of guitar rock and a few guys on stage having fun is enough to draw people from all over the park. Catch a few songs, and then listen to the rest of them on Spotify. (Also, if you enjoy this set make sure and find your way over to The Front Bottoms on Saturday.)