(Hilary Higgins / RedEye )
So many bands! So many decisions! Before you panic, we’re here to help.
Absolute must-see: Father John Misty (3:15-4:15 p.m. at Lake Shore stage). The former Fleet Fox writes songs that can bust your gut or break your heart.
Absolute must-not see: Lance Herbstrong (7:30-8:15 p.m. at Petrillo stage). Because the only thing worse than the awful, awful name is the music.
Hardest decision: Queens of the Stone Age (6:15-7:30 p.m. at Bud Light stage) vs. Chance the Rapper (6:50-7:30 p.m. at BMI stage). Queens sound revitalized on the explosive “...Like Clockwork,” but the Chicago MC's “Acid Rap” is among the year's best.
Easiest decision: Nine Inch Nails (8:15-10 p.m. at Bud Light stage) over the Killers (8:25-10 p.m. at Red Bull Sound Select stage). I'll take Trent's dark visions over the Killers’ Vegas glitz any day.
Pick to click: Emeli Sande (1-1:45 p.m. at Red Bull Sound Select stage). Though the UK native obviously lacks Adele's pipes, her stately music has a similar appeal.
Local artist you have to catch: Chance the Rapper. He's the most vital artist making music in Chicago today.
Absolute must-see: Kendrick Lamar (6:45-7:45 p.m. at Bud Light stage). While the California rapper crushes with a mic in his hand, his songwriting proves he's every bit as adept with a pen.
Absolute must-not see: Matt & Kim (3:45-4:45 p.m. at Petrillo stage). Because the duo's music is as developmentally arrested and obnoxious as every character Vince Vaughn portrays on film these days.
Hardest decision: Eric Church (5-6 p.m. at Lake Shore stage) vs. Unknown Mortal Orchestra (4:45-5:30 p.m. at the Grove stage). Church is among the best songwriters working the country circuit, but the Orchestra play 1960s psych-rock with admirable flair.
Easiest decision: Charles Bradley (2:45-3:45 p.m. at Bud Light stage) over anything else. The soul vet's impassioned shows leave blood on the stage.
Pick to click (little-known band that will increase in popularity): Wheeler Brothers (noon-12:45 p.m. at Lake Shore stage). These folk-rock revivalists join a crowded field that includes Mumford & Sons, the Lumineers, etc.
Local artist you have to catch: Supreme Cuts (7:45-8:30 p.m. at Petrillo stage). The experimental electronic duo crafted a dense dream world on “Whispers in the Dark.”
Absolute must-see: Baroness (3:30-4:30 p.m. at Petrillo stage). This inventive Atlanta crew specializes in metal that's both brawny and brainy.
Absolute must-not see: Nightmare & the Cat (2:10-2:50 p.m. at BMI stage). While the group's musical pedigree is undeniable (band bros Sam and Django Stewart are the offspring of Eurythmics' Dave), its songs tend to be forgettable.
Hardest decision: Phoenix (8:30-10 p.m. at Bud Light stage) vs. the Cure (8-10 p.m. at Red Bull Sound Select stage). Feeling bummed out? Commiserate with the Cure. Flying high? Pogo along to Phoenix.
Easiest decision: Vampire Weekend (6:30-7:45 p.m. at Bud Light stage) over Grizzly Bear (6-7 p.m. at Red Bull Sound Select stage) and Beach House (7-8 p.m. at Lake Shore stage). While Grizzly Bear and Beach House are content to stick to sleepy ballads, Vampire Weekend uncovered a welcome dark side on “Modern Vampires of the City.”
Pick to click (little-known band that will increase in popularity): Jake Bugg (1:45-2:30 p.m. at Petrillo stage). The young UK folkie is no fan of fest headliner Mumford & Sons, dissing them as “posh farmers with banjos,” yet his self-titled debut would likely appeal to the London crew's growing legions.
Local artist you have to catch: The Orwells (1-1:45 p.m at the Grove stage). The barely legal gang reaches garage rock nirvana on its latest EP, “Other Voices.”
Absolute must-see: Chance the Rapper (6:50-7:30 p.m. at BMI stage). Chance has torn up 2013 the way Keef did 2012, but hopefully his Lolla set is better/actually sounds like a concert.
Absolute must-not see: Icona Pop (1:45-2:30 p.m. at Lake Shore stage). Too early in the fest, too early in the day. Love 'em, but just too early.
Hardest decision: Is the least "meh" act of Friday night the reunited NIN? Lana Del Rey, a twirler in a world of twerking? Brandon Flowers, master of modern arena rock? Who is Steve Aoki? Apathy is Friday night's real star.
Easiest decision: Crystal Castles (4:15-5:15 p.m. at Red Bull Sound select stage) over Band of Horses (4:15-5:15 p.m. at Bud Light stage). Their band names say it all, really.
Pick to click (little-known band that will increase in popularity): The Neighbourhood (Noon-12:45 p.m. at Petrillo stage). A dark PBR&B band with an oddly-spelled name. Definitely about to pop off.
Local artist you have to catch: Chance the Rapper, obviously.
Absolute must-see: Kendrick Lamar (6:45-7:45 p.m. at Bud Light stage). Hip-hop's current golden child comes through Lolla for one of his biggest sets ever.