Best of the Tiny Fonts is a recurring feature in which our staff handpick the must-see smaller acts at all the major festivals.
Lollapalooza, which first started in 1991, is older than a lot of the artists who will be performing on its stages in Chicago this weekend. That doesn’t mean the festival itself is overstaying its welcome, though, as festival founder (and Jane’s Addiction vocalist) Perry Farrell is still trotting out big-time performers like Radiohead, LCD Soundsystem, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and a host of others.
No matter how far down the poster you read, Lolla’s lineup is stacked, even if some of the names aren’t familiar yet. We say “yet” because among the tiny fonts lies an abundance of talent, including the following acts who are bound to break out or have already started to make names for themselves.
Click ahead to see which of these acts are a must-see this weekend at Grant Park.
Saturday, 12:50 p.m., Pepsi
The New York-based Tor Miller has found a sound that’s nostalgically forward-looking, merging the contemporary sounds of upbeat indie acts like Grouplove with the timeless ballads of classics like Bruce Springsteen. The young singer is an indie superstar waiting to happen, considering he is signed to Glassnote Records, the label that’s also home to success stories like Mumford & Sons, Phoenix, Childish Gambino, and CHVRCHES. “Carter and Cash” is a beauty of a single as well, and hopefully its enchanting pop hooks and sense of adventure are indicative of what’s to come on his debut album, American English, which drops on September 30th.
Thursday, 1 p.m., BMI
“I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore” is one of those songs that sounds like you’ve heard it a hundred times even if it’s only come out of your speakers once, but that’s a positive. It’s immediately able to tap into a comfortable space in a way that most rising acts aren’t able to manage, and that should hint at some staying power for Lucy Dacus. She’s on the road opening for The Decemberists at the moment, and her debut album, No Burden, will receive a physical re-release via Matador Records on September 9th.
Sunday, 12 p.m., Pepsi
St. Louis rapper Smino hopped on a track with Chance the Rapper, Big Sean, and Jeremih that, to the displeasure of the artists involved, was leaked. Still, the Coloring Book cut at least shows that Smino belongs in the same room as the big boys of hip-hop, as does “blkjuptr”, the subtle production of which makes way for Smino’s baby-skin-smooth flow to shine through. Like Chance, he’s also an extremely capable singer able to provide his own hooks, and from where we’re sitting, it looks like just a matter of time before Smino gets an increased font size.
Louis The Child
Sunday, 4 p.m., Pepsi
This Chicago duo are fine purveyors of what could be described as “subtle EDM,” as their unmistakably modern electronic instrumentation teases gigantic rave-ready drops but instead settles into more of a head-bobbing groove that’s just as satisfying, or more so for listeners who love being surprised by a change of pace. Louis the Child also teamed up with Icona Pop for recent single “The Weekend”, and the two acts of contrasting energies pull each other slightly out of their traditional comfort zones in a way that benefits both. A couple more high-profile collaborations like this and Louis the Child could easily be the next big pop producers and breathe some life into the radio.
The Front Bottoms
Saturday, 3:15 p.m., Lakeshore
The re-emergence of Blink-182 has ’90s punk on the collective brain again, but New Jersey-based The Front Bottoms do it a bit differently. They’re not so much like classic singing-about-sneaking-out-at-night pop punk, but more akin to something between Guided by Voices and Parquet Courts, with enchanting vocal melodies that work within a framework of raw guitar rock that could derail from its track at any second. They maintain control throughout, though, and the wild ride that throws you around the train is all the more fun for it.
Friday, 12:50 p.m., Pepsi
Here’s another up-and-comer who got himself a boost from Chance the Rapper: Saba famously guested on “Angels”, providing the whimsical hook for the infinitely uplifting track. He also manages more than fine on his own, especially on new single “World in My Hands”, which introduces us to the fabulous diversity of Saba’s voice, seemingly working every possible vocal cord in every possible way without suffering from an identity crisis.
Friday, 12:45 p.m., Samsung
If a summer music festival doesn’t include some drum machine surf pop, did it really even happen? Day Wave is here to fit that bill, and while plenty of bands have done what they’re doing, few of them are doing it quite as well. They’re not too self-indulgent or whiny or boringly formulaic; In fact, Day Wave bring an almost ambient punk feel to the genre, something like the vibe-heavy music of Deerhunter side-project Lotus Plaza. Also, a co-sign from The Late Late Show with James Corden bandleader Reggie Watts never hurt anybody.
Thursday, 3:20 p.m., BMI
On their latest single, “Private School”, this Canadian band give off heavy hints of Beck, meaning that their catchy indie rock is both easy to engage with while not shying away from experimentation that ultimately pays off in a big way thanks to catchy melodies (not to mention that the vocal melody in the chorus is eerily reminiscent of Beck’s “Broken Drum”). That’s not to say Arkells are derivative, but rather that they make multi-dimensional rock that’s as fun on the first listen as it will probably still be on the hundredth, something only talented artists can do.
Saturday, 1 p.m., Perry’s
Stubborn indie kids can hate on dance music all they want, but there’s no denying that Generik knows how to make songs that get people moving. The Australian producer’s brand of electro house manages to bring the energy of disco into contemporary times, and it’s not outlandish to say that the epic ’80s ballads of Bonnie Tyler had a hand in molding this sound. People have been moving to music for a long time, and Generik honors that tradition with a slightly throwback sound that’s thankfully not too EDM.
Sunday, 1:50 p.m., Pepsi
Chance the Rapper has his hands all over the Lollapalooza tiny fonts: D.R.A.M. actually got his own track on Coloring Book, and his appearance there is right in line with what he does on his own time. His Lil Yachty-featuring single, “Broccoli”, is supremely simple, composed of little more than drums, a piano line, and some synth bass, but it works oh so well because D.R.A.M is a supremely fun vocalist who knows how to make the most of a basic instrumental and get you in on the fun too. When D.R.A.M smiles at the camera, it’s hard not to flash your teeth right back at him, and that’s a quality that few entertainers inherently possess.