With Lollapalooza’s rich history and mega-huge headliners, it’s easy to get side-stepped by the big names on the bill. Of course, we’re looking forward to sets from some of the festival’s biggest performers: The Shins, Passion Pit, Sigur Rós and Jack White are way up on our list. But fantastic music can be heard at any time of the day, with proof from acts like The Head & The Heart, The Tallest Man on Earth and Gary Clark Jr.
Below, we’ve got a list of 10 Lollapalooza acts that are worth waking up early for. Tell us in the comment box below who you’re excited to see.
10. The Head & The Heart
Hometown: Seattle, Washington
For Fans of: Fleet Foxes, Midlake, Mumford & Sons
Set Time: Friday, 5:15 p.m. (Sony)
Paste “Best of What’s Next” alums The Head & The Heart have come a long way since their modest formation in 2009. The orchestral-leaning folk band signed with Sub Pop after selling 10,000 copies of their own independent debut. But it isn’t their respected label backing or early success that has us still buzzing about the band in 2012—their new tunes tell us we’ve still got something to look forward to from the up-and-comers.
For Fans of: Fela Kuti, Talking Heads, Annie Lennox
Set Time: Saturday, 5 p.m. (Sony)
It’s one thing to experience a tUnE-yArDs song on album, but it’s completely different to see it unfurl live. With the use of looped ukeleles, drums and vocals, frontwoman Merrill Garbus’ piece-by-piece live performance almost acts as a lesson in composition as she builds her afro-beat-rooted loops. It’s just as fascinating as it is accessible, and it’s the perfect act to help ease you into an evening of dancing.
8. Of Monsters and Men
Hometown: Garður, Iceland
Fans of: Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Arcade Fire
Set Time: Sunday, 6 p.m. (Google Play)
It didn’t take long for Iceland’s Of Monsters And Men to make a name for themselves in the U.S. Their debut, My Head Is An Animal, is full of infectious folk-pop tunes led by standouts “Little Talks” and “Dirty Paws.” With only one full-length album out, the amount of sold-out shows on their current string of tour dates and festival appearances is a testament to their success stateside.—Nicole Oran
7. The Devil Makes Three
Hometown: Santa Cruz, California
For Fans of: Modest Mouse, Earl Scruggs
Set Time: Sunday, 1:45 p.m. (Playstation)
If bluegrass isn’t necessarily your thing, here’s a combo that still might work for you: Take traditional instruments like tenor banjo, guitar and upright bass; add a healthy dose of tattoos, whiskey, mischief and dark lyrical matter. Grind that all up together, and you’ve got The Devil Makes Three, a seasoned trio from Santa Cruz, Calif. It only takes one song for the trio to make an impression on their live album, Stomp and Smash.
6. Michael Kiwanuka
Hometown: London, England
For Fans of: Bill Withers, Otis Redding, Van Morrison
Set Time:Friday, 1:30 p.m. (Playstation)
“Soul music is just so linked to genuine human expression and emotion that if you get it right, people can relate to it,” Michael Kiwanuka told us recently. “It can be in the form of rock and roll, or Motown, or even folk. It just needs to press a button with audiences.” It seems as if Kiwanuka has found that button with audiences across all kinds of genres for one huge reason: his gentle—and yes, soulful—voice. We hear it on choice cuts from the London native’s debut album Home Again, like “Rest” and “I Won’t Lie,” but Kiwanuka’s musical reflections are at their heaviest in a live setting.
5. Alabama Shakes
Hometown: Athens, Alabama
Fans of: Otis Redding, Led Zeppelin, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings
Set Time: Saturday, 4:15 p.m. (Bud Light)
If you haven’t caught on to Alabama Shakes yet, leave it to their live show to turn you into a believer. The soul- and blues-rooted five piece lays the foundation for lead-lady Brittany Howard, who can vocally fill any venue with ease. If you don’t believe us, watch the band tackle the Paste office last year here.
4. Milo Greene
Hometown: Los Angeles, Calif.
Fans of: Fleet Foxes, Givers, Ra Ra Riot
Set Time: Saturday, 12 p.m. (Playstation)
Milo Greene is the kind of publicist young bands are lucky to have. He books regular shows for his clients, sends out countless emails and makes the right connections with the right people. He’s also not real. That’s because he’s the collective brainchild of Andrew Heringer and Robbie Arnett, two friends and aspiring musicians that once crafted the fake publicist to jettison their musical efforts. But if you’re looking for Milo Greene, plural, you’re in for a surprise. It’s an accolade well earned, as their harmony-driven self-titled debut quickly proves.—Megan Farokhmanesh
3. Sharon Van Etten
Hometown: Brooklyn, New York
For Fans of: Fiona Apple, The National, The Antlers
Set Time: Friday, 3 p.m. (Playstation)
Sharon Van Etten wowed us in 2010 with Epic, and she’s back at it again this year with an equally great-but-instrumentally richer set of tracks on Tramp. The album, which was produced by The National’s Aaron Dessner, is filled with some of Van Etten’s most vivid images on tracks like “Warsaw” and “Serpents,” and it only gets better live.
2. Frank Ocean
Hometown: New Orleans, Louisiana
Fans of:Stevie Wonder, Prince, The Weeknd
Set Time: Saturday, 8:45 p.m. (Google Play)
On his major label debut Channel Orange, Frank Ocean is all about bells and whistles: synthesizers, tape deck clicks, atmospherics, you name it. Live, he’s something different altogether, backed only by a modest four-piece jazz band. The simplified setup gives songs off Nostalgia, Ultra and Channel Orange a stripped-down sound that keeps Ocean’s R&B-influenced vocal parts where they belong—at the center of attention. Ocean was booked for the Google Play stage before the breakout success of his latest album, but he’s definitely reached headliner hype status by this point. Expect a (deservedly) massive crowd and a chorus of thousands singing along to his songs.Lane Billings
1. First Aid Kit
Hometown: Enskede, Sweden
Fans of: Fleet Foxes, Bright Eyes
Set Time: Friday, 12 p.m. (Playstation)
First Aid Kit—which features two angel-voiced, harmonizing Swedish sisters, Klara and Johanna Söderberg—became somewhat of an Internet sensation in 2008 after covering Fleet Foxes’ “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song.” Sure, the circumstances that surrounded their tunes were interesting; the duo, after all, was barely old enough to buy cigarettes in America, yet they were doing Americana better than many established acts. But their sophomore album, the lush, Mike Mogis-produced The Lion’s Roar, proved that they were more than just YouTube sensations that could harmonize well—the Söderberg sisters are talented songwriters.