Eminem or the Arctic Monkeys? Calvin Harris or OutKast? Here's our expert advice.
If you’re a pro at the music festival game, you know you’ve got to come prepared.
Once strictly an alt-rock festival, Lolla now offers a refined palette of hip-hop and EDM options, so you don’t want to overdo one genre. You might think you can hop back and forth between stages, but alas, it’s not that simple. It’s a grueling walk across the festival grounds from the Bud Light Stage to the Samsung Galaxy Stage, so there’s clearly no time to be indecisive. Fortunately, we examined the lineup’s toughest time clashes and offered expert advice on which route to take.
10. Spoon (Saturday, 6:45 PM, Bud Light Stage) vs. Vic Mensa (Saturday, 6:50 PM, BMI Stage)
The Conflict: Indie heavyweights Spoon take on hometown hero and festival newcomer Vic Mensa.
The Right Choice: Spoon is an alluring choice, given their fine-tuned, squeaky-clean live show and brand new album They Want My Soul, which drops next week. But at Lollapalooza, sometimes you’ve got to go with the Chicago native. Catch Vic Mensa -- he’s still at the exciting breakout stage in his career and there will be plenty more opportunities to catch Spoon as their new album cycle kicks into gear.
9. Chromeo (Sunday, 4:45 PM, Bud Light Stage) vs. the 1975 (Sunday, 4:45 PM, the Grove)
The Conflict: Chromeo bring the funk, which will include a boatload of tracks from their fantastic new album White Women. British pop-rockers the 1975 are out to convince American audiences they’re more than the band that does “Chocolate,” as their self-titled debut had several additional hits in their homeland.
The Right Choice: Chromeo all the way. Not only do Dave 1 and P-Thugg have four albums worth of material to get you dancing, but Lolla is sorely lacking in the genre of Hall & Oates-inspired, futuristic retro soul-funk.
8. Cage the Elephant (Sunday, 4 PM, Samsung Galaxy Stage) vs. Run the Jewels (Sunday, 3:45 PM, Palladia Stage)
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The Conflict: The pride of Bowling Green, KY., Cage the Elephant, overlap almost entirely with the critically-acclaimed hip-hop bromance of El-P and Killer Mike.
The Right Choice: Cage the Elephant put on a wild show, as frontman Matt Shultz can crowd-surf, crowd-stand, and stage dive with the best of 'em. But we’re backing RTJ here. You'll get a chance to hear some new material from their upcoming sophomore album, and El and Mike are so gloriously candid that you’re guaranteed to laugh your ass off and attain spiritual enlightenment, maybe even at the same time.
7. AFI (Friday, 5:45 PM, Palladia Stage) vs. CHVRCHES (Friday, 5:30 PM, Lake Shore)
The Conflict: Long-running goth-punk torchbearers prepare to rock while the fast-rising synth-poppers prepare to conquer the Lake Shore Stage, much like how they conquered Google.
The Right Choice: If you agree with Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington in calling CHVRCHES “Disney commercial music,” then your mind is already made up. If you’re on the fence, take a leap of faith and give ol’ Davey Havok and friends a shot. CHVRCHES are touring behind one of last year’s best debuts, but their live act could use a little more charisma, especially for such a big setting. AFI aren’t churning out the hits like they once did, but they know how to put on a show.
6. Nas (Saturday, 5:45 PM, Palladia Stage) vs. Martin Garrix (Saturday, 5:45 PM, Perry's Stage)
The Conflict: A pair of artists who both know a thing or two about being called a “genius” during their teenage years go head-to-head on Saturday evening.
The Right Choice: We totally understand wanting to party with Martin Garrix if you missed the Nas glory years. But if you’re at all considering the Nas set, we suggest you see it -- he’s currently celebrating the 20th anniversary of Illmatic and his last studio album (2012’s Life Is Good) is one of his best efforts since writing hip-hop’s greatest album.
5. Lorde (Friday, 6:45 PM, Bud Light Stage) vs. Broken Bells (6:30 PM, Samsung Galaxy Stage)
The Conflict: Lorde plays one of her first major American festivals, while a pair of festival veterans — James Mercer and Danger Mouse -- build off years of festival know-how via their alt-pop collaboration Broken Bells.
The Right Choice: Go with Lorde. Good seats for her fall North American tour are already tough to come by and we’ve got a feeling that you won’t be able to see her as a non-headliner for much longer.
4. Interpol (Friday, 4:45 PM, Bud Light Stage) vs. Blood Orange (Friday, 4:45 PM, The Grove Stage) vs. Iggy Azalea (Friday, 4:30, PM)
The Conflict: The festival’s first real tough call comes just before dinnertime on Friday -- you’ve got Interpol playing a lot of new tunes from a promising comeback album, Iggy Azalea reaping what’s arguably the Song of the Summer and a rare festival setting for Blood Orange to exhibit last year’s phenomenal Cupid Deluxe LP.
The Right Choice: We’d hate for you to miss I-G-G-Y during her moment, but chances to catch Blood Orange perform in a summer festival atmosphere don’t come around too often. Dev Hynes doesn’t tour much as it is, and watching him bring Cupid Deluxe to life -- with all its gripping emotion and sonic lushness -- should be a feast for the senses.
3. Skrillex (Sunday, 8:30 PM, Bud Light Stage) vs. Chance the Rapper (Sunday, 8:30 PM, Perry's Stage) vs. Kings of Leon (Sunday, 8:15 PM, Samsung Galaxy Stage)
The Conflict: How are you going to close out your Lollapalooza? There’s a three-pronged genre battle going on between EDM, hip-hop and rock and roll.
The Right Choice: Skrillex has had a busy festival season, so if you’ve already seen Sonny Moore in person, we respect your choice to check out Chance or the Followill family. But we’re going with Skrillex, who’s always a pummelingly good time even if you’re not a dance music-first type. Might as well go out in style.
2. Calvin Harris (Saturday, 8:45 PM, Bud Light Stage) vs. OutKast (Saturday, 8:15 PM, Samsung Galaxy Stage)
The Conflict: The EDM A-lister goes up against a reunited OutKast, who are playing the hour and fifteen minute-long headliner spot across the festival grounds. You're going to be dancing at either one -- what kind of dancing is the question.
The Right Choice: OutKast's live show has come a long way since Coachella and it's getting progressively smoother as their summer reunion rolls onward. Who knows -- you might even see Andre and Big Boi speak to each other on stage! All kidding aside, no one really knows when we'll be able to see OutKast again, so soak in as much of their set as you can. Harris' set is going to be a trip, but there are plenty of other EDM stars playing Lolla this year, so you'll still be able to get your fix.
1. Arctic Monkeys (Friday, 8:30 PM, Bud Light Stage) vs. Eminem (Friday. 8:30 PM, Samsung Galaxy Stage)
The Conflict: Rock vs. Rap! England vs. America! Five albums deep into their career, the Arctic Monkeys are a tight, authoritative live act, while Eminem -- the seasoned battle rapper-turned-stadium headliner -- is set to deliver an intense musical therapy session as the night's headliner.
The Right Choice: If you're a committed fan of either genre, your mind is already made up. But if you're somewhere in between, shoot for Eminem. As slick as the Monkeys' act has become, Eminem's live show stands alone among A-listers in his genre. OutKast will get down and party, Jay Z will show you why he's the boss, Kanye will attack the issues, but Em will really exorcise the demons.