Lollapalooza 2013: Which day rocks the hardest?

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Lollapalooza presented festivalgoers with some difficult choices Tuesday when it announced its hour-by-hour schedule for the three-day, sold-out festival. Two headliners a day will play simultaneously at opposite ends of Grant Park: Nine Inch Nails and the Killers on Aug. 2, the Postal Service and Mumford & Sons on Aug. 3, and Phoenix and the Cure on Aug. 4.

In addition, the dance-music-intensive Perry’s stage will continue its recent tradition of presenting top DJs or electronic artists opposite the headlining acts to further spread out some of the massive crowds. Closing sets at Perry’s will include Steve Aoki on Aug. 2, Steve Agnello on Aug. 3 and Knife Party on Aug. 4.

Eight stages (including a “Kidz” stage) will host more than 130 performers and pack in more than 10 hours of music daily. So which day offers the best musical value? Here’s a quick assessment:

Aug. 2: The headlining showdown presents a clear choice between fans of ‘90s Lollapalooza nostalgia (a reunited Nine Inch Nails, who appeared at the first Lolla in ‘91) and more recent arena rock (the Killers).

A wild card sandwiched between those two bands is Lana Del Rey, whose intriguing, smoky singles were undercut by a disastrous performance on “Saturday Night Live” last year.

The Perry’s lineup includes a strong undercard with Flux Pavilion and Modestep. Jessie Ware and Emeli Sande, two U.K. neo-soul stars trying to make a bigger impression in America, also perform. Swedish dance-pop duo Icona Pop is sure to draw a big crowd with its early afternoon slot, and Thievery Corporation could very well prove to be a late-afternoon highlight with its globetrotting version of electronica. Rising Chicago MC Chance the Rapper gets a closing slot on the BMI stage, right before the headliners. The rock is in relatively short supply, but Queens of the Stone Age will make up for it.

The verdict: A mini-history of dance, industrial and electronic music, with Nine Inch Nails and New Order representing the pioneers and the adventurers, while Crystal Castles, Hot Chip, Flux Pavilion and Icona Pop bring the new wave.

Aug. 3: The one-two punch of suspendered folk-rockers the Lumineers and Mumford & Sons will keep plenty of fans down at the South end of Grant Park as the day winds down. But the Postal Service reunion is the rarer event, a likely last chance to see Jimmy Tamborello and Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard reprise songs from their 10-year-old million-selling debut, along with vocalist Jenny Lewis.

The cruelest overlap of the festival just might be acclaimed MC Kendrick Lamar going up against agit-rappers Death Grips in the early evening. On a slow-starting day, soul singer Charles Bradley is a must-see at 2:45 p.m. The National is sure to be road-testing new tunes from its forthcoming studio album, “Trouble Will Find Me.” Expect a massive dance party to shake loose when Baauer breaks out the ridiculously addictive “Harlem Shake” – but then do you really want to see Baauer kill an hour performing the rest of its “repertoire”?

The verdict: Despite a few must-sees – Kendrick, Bradley, Death Grips, the National – this is the softest lineup of the weekend.

Aug. 4: The headlining faceoff again presents a clear choice between a revered veteran (the Cure) and an exuberant (relative) newcomer (Phoenix). The dance crowd is likely to flock to Perry’s for Skrillex side project Dog Blood and the global dance party hosted by Major Lazer.

Bawdy Southern rapper 2 Chainz will provide an antidote to the somber beauty of Beach House and the studied quirkiness of Vampire Weekend. But some of the most intriguing music will arrive at the crack of noon or soon after, with co-ed bands Guards and Wild Belle, Chicago scruffs the Orwells, rough-and-ready Brits Palma Violets, rising rapper Angel Haze, Prince favorite Lianne La Havas, and metal adventurers Baroness.

The verdict: If festivals are about discovering great new bands, make sure to get an early start on Day 3.

greg@gregkot.com
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