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14 Acts To Get Excited About Before Lollapalooza 2016

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Mar 24, 2016 5:17PM

Now that we've had a little time to let this year's Lollapalooza line-up marinate, we've rounded up some of the acts we're most looking forward to. They cover a wide range of genres, but there's one thing everyone on this list has in common: we expect their sets to be talked about long after the gates close on this year's fest.

The Struts, photo by Chris Cuffaro

The Struts
I went to The Struts' ,Lincoln Hall show last fall expecting to see a little English band bringing a little rock swagger to the stage. I didn't expect to encounter a full-blown glam rock and roll beast that came across as an arena rock act bursting against the cage of a small club's walls. Singer Luke Spiller channeled Freddy Mercury, belting out impossibly limber and sometimes operatic vocals, executing numerous costume changes that seemed to happen in the blink of an eye. I wondered if they could possibly maintain such an impressive level of epic rawk over an entire album—and with the release of this month's Everybody Wants, the answer is clearly yes. Every track sounds like a hit. This is one of the acts I expect to enter Lolla as underdogs and exit newly-minted rock stars. — Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

Skepta, photo via his Facebook page

People have been saying that UK rap would cross over to the States ever since The Streets dropped Original Pirate Material way back in ‘02. Since then, we’ve seen a handful of British acts try to make it in America (y’all remember when Lady Sovereign signed to Roc-a-Fella?), but with co-signs from Drake and Kanye, Skepta just might be the one to do it. He even got Idris Elba to lend a verse to last year’s “Shutdown,” so his Lolla set just might have an appearance from the real James Bond. — Quinten Rosborough

Bloc Party, photo via their Facebook page

Bloc Party
Where you been, Bloc Party? When lead singer Kele Okereke first struck out on his own back in 2010, we weren’t sure what the future held for the band. Their debut album, Silent Alarm, hit the scene with a bang at the height of the indie rock boom in the mid aughts. Bands like the Killers, Franz Ferdinand and Arcade Fire were releasing exciting, innovative rock albums, and Bloc Party was right there with them. After a couple of hiatuses and some lineup changes, the band is back with their fifth full length, Hymns. Here’s hoping they stick to mostly early material for the festival set though, because the new mid-tempo material could be a snooze in the open air. — Michelle Kopeny

J. Cole, photo via his Facebook page

J. Cole
People are divided when it comes to J. Cole. A large faction of Rap Twitter despises him, finding him offensively mediocre; others adore him. Cole may never be an exciting critical darling like Kendrick Lamar, but he has proven himself to be a dependable blue chip rapper who has risen and survived when others have fallen. In recent years, Cole has toured with the likes of Big Sean and opened for top-tier artists such as Drake and Rihanna. Like The Weeknd last year, Cole’s headlining set at Lollapalooza could be a test run at superstardom. We wonder how it will go. Also, Cole did (obnoxiously) guest on the recently platinum-certified single "Planez." Maybe he’ll bring out Jeremih. That’d be dope. — Justin Freeman

Alessia Cara

Alessia Cara
Alessia Cara is a girl after my own heart: a misanthrope that shows up to the party just to roll her eyes. Her angsty anthem, "Here," made her a radio regular, but she came up through YouTube, performing Amy Winehouse and Frank Ocean covers. She’s still here for the fans that have been with her since her bedroom rendition days, so expect her to give it her all at Lolla. — Sarah Gouda

Chairlift, photo by Tim Barber

Most folks know Chairlift through "that song in the Apple commercial," and much of the band's previous output followed the dreamy pop of that track. I've seen them live a few times and admit I quickly grew bored of the band's slightly sleepy sensibility. So imagine my surprise on hearing their latest album, the incredibly upbeat and quirkily funky Moth. I have no idea what got into Caroline Polachek and Patrick Wimberly to make this quantum sonic leap into upbeat bliss, but it has me excited to see what they bring to the stage in Grant Park this summer. Don't expect to doze off under a tree during their set. — Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

Cashmere Cat, photo via his Facebook page

Cashmere Cat
With a production credit on Kanye West’s “Wolves” and a debut album coming out this year, you’d be hard pressed to find a DJ having a better 2016 than Cashmere Cat. He’s far from your typical festival DJ, and that’s probably a good thing. If I were a betting man (I am.), I’d expect to hear a lot of Chicago sprinkled throughout his set, from Kanye to Jeremih to the late DJ Rashad (R.I.P.). — Quinten Rosborough

Miike Snow, photo courtesy of Atlantic Records

Miike Snow
Miike Snow are becoming Lolla regulars. This will be their third time on the festival bill, following the release of their third album, iii. We first saw the trio of Swedes at the Empty Bottle, back in their debut mask-wearing phase. While a little odd, it’s something a lot of artists do (think Daft Punk, MF Doom, and even Sia). Perhaps it was a good introduction to the band, because it made them faceless, putting the music center stage. Their tunes are clean, catchy and danceable, and the lead single from the newest album, Genghis Khan, even has a little bit of soul sway. — Michelle Kopeny

Pinegrove, photo via their Facebook page

That the emo band Pinegrove is playing Lolla is a minor surprise in a lineup full of predictability. I thought they’d probably be one of the bands announced for Riot Fest. Cardinal is a fantastic album; probably one of my favorite things to come out this year. I'm looking forward to escaping the blistering summer festival sun under the shade of a tree with an ice cold drink singing along to “Old Friends” during their set. And other local music writers are really into them as well, so I'm not alone in thinking this is a band on the cusp of something big. — Justin Freeman

Vince Staples, photo via his Facebook page

Vince Staples
The cancellation of Vince Staples' Pitchfork performance last year left my heart agape with a giant, Vince Staples-shaped hole. His first full-length, Summertime ’06, is stacked with shadowy bangers that tell the story of a tumultuous youth spent in Long Beach, California. It is obsessively good, and after last year’s no-show, he’ll be especially hungry to prove himself on the Chicago festival circuit. — Sarah Gouda

Drowners, photo by Butch Hogan

I first encountered Drowners through their debut EP, whose taut dance rock so enthralled me I ventured out to see them at Schubas on a Tuesday night in 2013. The room for that show was half full, and most had never heard of this New York band led by theWelshman Matthew Hitt, but everyone who exited the venue that night left as a rabid fan. Drowners' debut landed on my list of the best albums of 2014, and then the group went largely quiet. That silence breaks this year with the summer release of their sophomore album On Desire. The new LP continues to deliver the punchy pop hooks of the debut, but the sound has been slightly rounded out and softened—is this a sign of the band's growing maturity? I look forward to their Lolla set and predict they'll convert the crowd there as handily as they converted the Schubas crowd. — Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

Smino, photo via his Facebook page

For all the amateur A&Rs out there, Chicago-by-way-of-St. Louis rapper Smino is primed to blow up, so be sure to check him out before everyone else realizes how talented he is. His ear for melody lends comparisons to another independent Chicago rapper (that, plus the fact that he records at the same studio that produced Acid Rap), but with this year’s mixtape blkjuptr, Smino and frequent collaborator Montee Booker have quickly paved a lane of their own. — Quinten Rosborough

Grimes, photo via her Facebook page

Talk about a girl who rocks to the beat of her own drummer. Grimes has been producing her own experimental music since college in her native Canada. She often takes the stage as the sole musician—sometimes augmented by backup dancers—as seen at Pitchfork Music Festival in 2012 and 2014. Come 2016 and she’s graduated to the Lolla lineup on the heels of her fourth album, Art Angels. It’s her most accessible work yet, without losing her distinguishable edge, and one you’ll want to keep on repeat. — Michelle Kopeny

Third Eye Blind, photo via their Instagram

Third Eye Blind
Can you really consider yourself a good millennial if you pass up a chance to see Third Eye Blind? Listening to the iconic '90s band in the backseat of my babysitter’s car, I felt the depths of human emotion for the first time. Highs and lows, beauty and sadness. Don’t miss this. — Sarah Gouda

Now that you've seen our picks, enjoy this mix of tracks from each of the artists above.

Lollapalooza is July 28 to 31 in Grant Park.