Today's festivalgoers don't divide the world up by genre. They do not group according to census demographics or their preference in (or for) pants. To them, the age-old query, "To rock, or to rave?" is not a lifelong commitment, but a choice made in the moment. And what a choice it is with so much incredible, diverse talent billed for today's field-filling musical jubilees. It's hard out there for a young stage-hopper, and that's why SPIN is here to help cut through the noise. The good folks behind Chicago's enduring Lollapalooza have at last shared the schedule for the fest's 2013 iteration — running Friday, August 2 through Sunday, August 4 at Grant Park — and there are some serious conflicts to consider.
5. Phoenix vs. Cat Power vs. the Cure, Sunday, 8:00 to 10:00 p.m.
A classic conflict. Some ambitious French indie-pop whiz kids with a fantastic new album (Bankrupt!) currently making the rounds. A bewitching singer-songwriter star suddenly back in action after canceling her last tour in a bout of health issues and general shit-losing. And an elder statesband whose sound is always being recontextualized by up-and-coming early-in-the-day sorts.
Recommendation: Cat Power. Phoenix is excellent but barring the occasional R. Kelly cameo, we know exactly what their set will feel like. Meanwhile, if the Cure are less than spectacular, their legacy could be forever tarnished in the eyes of the unsuspecting fan. But Chan Marshall has a solid record in her recent past (Sun) and offers the potential for true unpredictability. Transcendence and train-wreck are equally within reach.
4. The National vs. Kendrick Lamar vs. Death Grips, Saturday, 6:00 to 8:15 p.m.
Truly brutal, partly due to the presence of those Sacto rap-noise rulers. This one's mostly about mood. Up front we have a direct conduit to intense personal sorrow via baroque rock instrumentation and songs actually called "Sorrow." Followed by SPIN's rap-album-of-the-year-maker, who's got a mellow but thoughtful vibe that simply won't be killed. And lastly, pure punishment.
Recommendation: Triple-play. Seek catharsis with 30 minutes of the National, allowing time to recover on the walk over to Kendrick, where you will find acceptance most likely assisted by a slowly developing contact high. At this point you will want to succumb and stay, but in order to complete the emotional journey (and work off those calories that'll soon come via munchies) you'll want to rage the eff out over at DGz.
3. Nine Inch Nails vs. Lana Del Rey vs. the Killers, Friday, 8:15 to 10:00 p.m.
If variety is the spice of life, than this trio is a blast of pepper spray to the eyeballs. On the one hand, you've got a legendary '90s industrial-metal act retooled for maximum impact with a light show that will probably melt faces. On the other hand, there's LDR, a compelling character study in both all-American ideology and onstage what-the-fuckness. On the third hand, the Killers are better than you think.
Recommendation: Nine Inch Nails. There's a reason their set completely envelops the other two — Trent Reznor and his tech-addled gloom goons offer a black hole of a show that has no problem swallowing up weird, damaged women-as-assemblage-art-pieces and arena rock acts in one fell gulp. Their set will be incredible and who knows when you'll get a chance to experience it again. Be there, start to finish.
2. Vampire Weekend vs. Major Lazer vs. Beach House vs. 2 Chainz, Sunday, 6:30 to 8:15 p.m.
There's no easy way out of this one. New York City's favorite prep-pop progenitors just made a stone-cold Essential album (Modern Vampires of the City). Diplo's insane dancehall carnival is peppered with giant balls, bared breasts, and rampant twerking. Baltimore's dream-pop queen and king make thick moody music you just have to lilt to. And 2 Chainz is freaking 2 Chaaaaaiiiinnnnzzzzz!
Recommendation: Safely catch the first 30 of Vampire Weekend. It'll be enough. Then relocate to 2 Chainz. If he's late or falters in any way (the last part being pretty much impossible), don't delay — head straight to Major Lazer, where you will be greeted by a glorious bacchanal that will not disappoint. Apologies to Beach House, but they really never stood a chance.
1. Queens of the Stone Age vs. Chance the Rapper vs. New Order, Friday, 6:15 to 7:30 p.m.
The worst of the best. This is the kind of conflict that forces festivalgoers into a (weekend-long) life of drugs, sex, and other forms of escapism. It's simply too much to bear. The desert rock gods are back with their first album in six years and tons of potential for guest action (Dave Grohl, Elton John, Mark Lanegan, Trent Reznor). But that rapper might be the art form's most thrilling new voice. And those other guys are legends.
Recommendation: Queens of the Stone Age. Though he's been doing his thing for a minute, this is Chance's first big year in the limelight. There's a temptation to have "seen him when" but his show and oeuvre is only going to get better over the next couple of years. He'll be around. And New Order sound best when they're doing Joy Division covers — watch the YouTube footage. QOTSA will destroy you and leave you begging for more.