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Lollapalooza 2010's Thirty Essential Sets

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SATURDAY

12:00 p.m.—12:30 p.m.: The Morning Benders
After Friday's boundless decadence, you're going to want to ease into Saturday slowly. Enter California's Morning Benders. Their second disc, Big Echo, is aptly named: produced by Grizzly Bear's Chris Taylor, it swoons and swoops, the sound of lullabies recorded at the bottom of a canyon. Vocalist Chris Chu offers a high, piercing lead, but he's balanced out by the rest of his band, who rise up pillow-soft to carry him into the chorus. This is sun-coming-up, headache-soothing music, the perfect start to a long Saturday.

1:00 p.m.—1:45 p.m.: Harlem
The old adage says one man's trash is another man's treasure, but in the case of this fantastic Texas scuzz-rock band, you could just as easily argue that one man's trash is another man's chorus. The band is fantastically grimy — dirty riffs played greasy guitars and topped with old-school '50s greaser vocals. They're full-on whine and thrash, but they never allow their penchant for fuzz to negate their fondness for a well-placed hook.

2:15 p.m.—3:00 p.m.: Warpaint
One of the year's most promising new acts, Warpaint construct mysterious songs that pair the rhythmic chug of Pylon with the otherworldly eeriness of Throwing Muses. Bass lines zigzag and drums kick off-kilter rhythms and Emily Kokal's soft, pleading vocals. Every song feels like an incantation: weirdo dance number "Beetle" finds Kokal belting out lyrics in jump-rope cadence between bouts of bent-wire guitar and eerie ripples of synth. The band was captivating in their performance at SXSW this past March, and they're poised to loom even larger when their second record is released this fall. See them in Chicago, and claim all the corresponding bragging rights.

2:45 p.m.—3:45 p.m.: Against Me!
Chalk it up to years of touring or their deep-down punk-rock roots but sometime over the course of the last year, Against Me! turned into one of the best live rock bands in America. Now rounded out by former Hold Steady keyboardist Franz Nicolay the band delivers a big, bruising noise, all sweat and passion, lead vocalist Tom Gabel capable of making even the bluntest political lyrics sing like sweet poetry. Under the heat of the blazing Chicago sun, this is guaranteed to be one of the weekend's most exuberant sets.

3:45 p.m.—4:45 p.m.: Gogol Bordello
A close second to Against Me! in enthusiasm and energy, Gogol Bordello have been delivering their wild-eyed fusion of punk rock and the music of Eastern Europe for over 10 years. The time hasn't blunted any of their manic edge: live shows are still a spectacle as frontman Eugene Hutz whips across the stage like an electrocuted carnival barker, frantically leading his band through high-kicks and backflips and low-dips with whirling-dervish fury. Back-to-back with Against Me!, they make for the perfect late-afternoon heart-starter.

5:00 p.m.—6:00 p.m.: Deer Tick
Rhode Island's Deer Tick specialize in ragged, rugged country music — the slumped-over, empty-bottle-of-whiskey, sobbing-on-a-Sunday night kind. Not that they had much choice: vocalist and founder John McCauley's rusted-over pipes are more croak than tone, but they're the perfect conduit for his hard luck tales. Their latest album, The Black Dirt Sessions, is full of slow, stomping dusty-road numbers, and live they've proven again and again their ability to  progress from smolder to full-flame, barreling through the heartache with set jaws and steely eyes. Expect them to bring Southern discomfort to the sunny Midwest.

6:15 p.m.—7:30 p.m.: Spoon
In 2001, Spoon recorded a song called "The Fitted Shirt," and there is perhaps no better description for their taut guitar-pop. It's clean lines and brilliant whites, Britt Daniel's parched, slightly pouty vocals cruising over silvery filaments of guitar. And though they may be known for their studio wizardry, they're also a crackerjack live band, one that ornaments airtight studio recordings with crackle and spark.

7:30 p.m.—8:30 p.m.: Cut Copy
Your transition into evening could not possibly be more perfect: Australia's Cut Copy expertly revive the percolating sounds of ‘80s synth pop, crossbreeding the frantic rush of New Order with the sparkling synths of Depeche Mode's sunnier moments. But Cut Copy's secret weapon is the fact that they're expert pop craftsmen, putting as much focus on chorus as rhythm to create songs that inspire singing as well as motion.

7:45 p.m. —10:00 p.m.: Green Day
8:30 p.m. —10:00 p.m.: Phoenix
It's hard to remember now that they're Broadway-beating megastars, but in 1987 Green Day were a bunch of snot-nosed punk rockers led by a 15-year-old who barreled around the country in a beat-up Bookmobile and thrilled locals at the fabled all-ages club on Gilman Street in Berkeley, California. Phoenix labored for years in relative obscurity until last year's thrilling Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix catapulted them into America's earbuds (having a few well-placed songs in The Virgin Suicides, directed by vocalist Thomas Mars' now-girlfriend Sofia Coppola, didn't hurt, either). Live, both bands have their virtues, but for sheer audacity, heart and spectacle, the edge goes to Green Day. The band's sprawling live show (scheduled to run a whopping 135 minutes) is sure to make all stops across their hefty catalog — everything from recent-vintage epics like "Jesus of Suburbia" to fast-and-furious classics like "Basket Case." Those seeking a softer exit to Saturday might opt for Phoenix — the group's precision and timing has never been better, and when they launch full-bodied into "Lisztomania" and "1901," expect the crowd to move right along with them.

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Mickey Newbury | 1969

A country-folk song of epic proportions, "San Francisco Mabel Joy" tells the tale of a poor Georgia farmboy who wound up in prison after a move to the Bay Area found love turning into tragedy. First released by Mickey Newbury in 1969, it might be more familiar through covers by Waylon Jennings, Joan Baez and Kenny Rogers. "It was a five-minute song written in a two-minute world," Newbury said. "I was told it would never be cut by any artist ... I was told you could not use the term 'redneck' in a song and get it recorded."

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