The American festival circuit is disproportionately populated by male artists. Lollapalooza 2015 is no different in the lineup department, but the firepower the female acts—among them Alabama Shakes, SZA, Tove Lo, Banks, Charli XCX, gal/dude duos Sylvan Esso and MS MR, Florence + the Machine—are packing is going to write a new narrative.
Zach Dionne: Alabama Shakes put out their second album this year, the bountiful, brain-scrambling Sound & Color, and they've played every available stage since. SNL, Fallon, Kimmel. Festivals in Perth, Australia, in Lucca, Italy, in Montreaux, Switzerland, in Gdynia, Poland and so many more places around the world. Glastonbury, Bonnaroo, Coachella. With some acts this busy, I worry about festival fatigue, about the band deciding its festival setlist and then going through the motions all season. With Alabama Shakes, I worry about people being able to remember seeing any other bands. The amount of explosive, unchained energy Brittany Howard puts into every performance guarantees she and her band will leave another crater with their hourlong opening night set at Lolla. The Shakes might just be playing shows and having a good time, but they're a big part of the reason these festivals can't go much longer with this few female-fronted acts getting the jumbo font on the bill.
Jeff Benjamin: Touching on that “jumbo font” point, I’m glad Marina and the Diamonds is ranked high on the poster this year as not only is her live show loads of fun, but her latest album, Froot is her best work by far and will (hopefully!) constitute most of the setlist. Even more impressive is that the Welsh artist wrote the entire album by herself, and that’s awesome no matter what gender you are. I hope she mentions that at some point, as the casual fan likely wouldn’t know, and you can’t ignore the lyrics in songs like “I’m a Ruin” or “Savages.” Most of Marina's stage banter, though, is self-deprecating digs at herself—another major reason you need to see her.
Taylor Brown: I tend to be a small font kinda guy, and one of the bands I'm anticipating most is Bully because 1) their album is awesome and 2) I haven't seen them yet. I like higher energy sets when the day's just getting started because my back doesn't hurt yet. Alicia Bognanno is a badass vocalist with a rad screaming voice. There's lots of female-fronted punk bands with great records from the past couple years, actually. There should be more on this poster.
Maria Sherman: I'm with Taylor on the Bully front. They're very much a punk band but wear their Nashville guitar-shreddin' identity on their sleeves, which makes for some complicated composition. The best punk bands going are female-fronted, and Alicia and crew manage to stand out with her young Courtney Love hollers and self-serious sentiments. I'd argue the band's biggest tunes are "I Remember" and "Trying," both of which are unafraid to be vulgar—Bognanno scream-singing about getting too fucked up and throwing up in an ex-partner's car—in a way that feels refreshing. Watching and listening to them, you become a voyeur for something that's uncomfortable to witness. What's more rock 'n' roll than that?
I think Halsey exists in a similar sphere—while her breathy, sexy and sad pop music might lack the sonic aggression of Bully, she depends on performance and storytelling just as much. You have a song like "Ghost," about losing a lover, and she's thrusting the air while singing it; there's no question of who is in control of the moment. When she's onstage, Halsey makes it a point to express excitement for her generation in a way that's truly engaging. She breaks up songs explicitly about sex to talk about feminism. It's a unique experience. Put her in front of thousands at Lolla, I'm sure it's going to be something especially great.
Jessica Letkemann: Florence + the Machine could not possibly be a better choice to close out the entire Lollapalooza 2015 experience on Sunday night: Florence Welch has been winning massive festival crowds—often in early evening sets—for a few years with her boundlessly soulful pipes, and a buoyant spirituality you can feel in your bones even from the back of a huge crowd.
Flo led massive ecstatic singalongs that mesmerized Lollapalooza’s Bud Light stage before sunset back in 2012, riding the wave of Ceremonials and Lungs before it. And don’t even get me started about the parting-of-the-clouds majesty of her post-thunderstorm set at the Main Square Festival that summer in an out-of-the-way Renaissance citadel. But now, as the group continues to be at the top of their game with the gorgeous new album How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful—which added additional power to their sunset set at Governors Ball in June—Florence and her Machine’s return to the Lollapalooza stage as a headliner is sure to prove both triumphant and magical.
Kevin Rutherford: How about a one-two punch of talented ladies in one set? That'll be First Aid Kit, who are about to be the perfect 45 minutes for when you need to take a damn breather from the rockers, the rappers, the movers and the shakers. The sisters Soderberg have the breezy Americana game down to a blissful science, sounding as spine-tinglingly authentic as the talented bunch they name drop on "Emmylou." They'll win over crowds with soothing harmonies and self-spun tunes evoking the rustic charms of the American South—not bad for some Swedes. And when they launch into their chill cover of Simon & Garfunkel's "America," they'll have the audience wrapped around their fingers.
Jessica Letkemann: When FKA Twigs hits the Pepsi stage on Sunday evening, that gorgeous voice atop those deep grooves will demand undivided attention. She dropped her undeniable debut studio album LP1 last summer—with its simmering trip-hop, electronic, and future-pop elements spun into a world and a sound all its own—and enthralled Pitchfork Music Festival last summer. But with Mercury Prize and Brit Award nominations under her belt, and her third EP, Melissa, afoot, the stage is set for for the English chanteuse's unforgettable and all-too-brief Lollapalooza debut.