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Lollapalooza 2010's Thirty Essential Sets

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SUNDAY

12:15 p.m.—1:00 p.m.: Nneka
Nigerian singer Nneka's music is stunning in its breadth, taking in folk, soul, rock and hip-hop. Her U.S. debut, Concrete Jungle felt like a long lost-sequel to The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, joining songs about romance to tracks about politics and social consciousness, all of them delivered in Nneka's rich, smoky voice. Count on this to be a rousing start to your final day at Lollapalooza.

1:00 p.m.—2:00 p.m.: The Dodos
Not nearly as loopy as their name would have you believe, the Dodos write piercing, straightforward pop songs that put an emphasis on acoustic guitars and roaming vocal melodies. Live, they ratchet up both the intensity and the enthusiasm, exploding from the stage with surprising force.

2:00 p.m.—3:00 p.m.: Blitzen Trapper
Country boys from Portland, Oregon, Blitzen Trapper update the Band's ramshackle Americana for the indie rock generation, bashing out songs with banjo and guitar and piano and sewing them up with shining harmonies. Frontman Eric Earley is odd and magnetic onstage, seemingly channeling songs from some alternate universe. It's the best kind of revivalism, keeping the heart and soul of '60s folk-rock alive with warm, earnest songwriting.

4:00 p.m.—5:00 p.m.: Yeasayer
In one of the strangest transformations of the last few years, one-time new age hippies Yeasayer emerged, with Odd Blood, as heirs to the throne abandoned by OMD. It's a buoyant, sparkling record, full of percolating synths, propulsive rhythms and vocalist Chris Keating's keening falsetto. They've retooled their live show, too, adorning the stage with glowing neon screens and glittery disco balls.

5:00 p.m.—6:00 p.m.: Erykah Badu
A must. Badu is a miracle live, winding her way slowly through dusky, ever-changing soul numbers. She's a riveting performer, somersaulting up the octaves and tumbling back down to go for the low notes, making sly asides to the audience and fully inhabiting her role as high priestess of R&B. Her band is just as versatile: one song seeps into the next, rhythms flutter, different grooves are examined and explored. Many of her peers have the voice, but Badu also has the vision.

6:00 p.m.—7:15 p.m.: MGMT
Not since the first go-round of Lollapalooza in the mid ‘90s has a popular band thumbed its nose so aggressively at the mainstream. This year's Congratulations is one of the most fascinating follow-ups of the last decade, a thorough repudiation of everything that made the band huge in favor of the pursuit of a strange artistic vision. Accordingly, at this Sunday evening set, you should be prepared for the band to skip the hits. Instead, go into this prepared to accept it for what it will be: one of the weekend's strangest — and, perhaps, strangely fascinating — sets.

7:15 p.m.—8:30 p.m.: The National
By this stage of the game, there can't be too many people left who haven't heard that the National are a powerhouse live, the exact opposite of their small, personal records. If you somehow still haven't seen them, this should be what you're doing Sunday night. Matt Berninger's forays into the audience are quickly becoming the stuff of legend: at Bonnaroo, he leapt off the stage during "Abel" and disappeared into the crowd completely, reemerging near the song's end atop the hands of rowdy and ecstatic audience members.

8:30 p.m.—10:00 p.m.: Arcade Fire
8:00 p.m,—10:00 p.m.: Soundgarden
This, by far, will be the most difficult musical choice of Lollapalooza weekend. YouTube clips of Soundgarden's performance at the Showbox in Seattle reveal Chris Cornell and Co.'s reunited band to be in fine fighting form. And yet at the other end of the park are one of contemporary music's most vital and inspiring bands, themselves known for passionate, rousing and nearly peerless live performances. The decision essentially comes down to whether you want to relive rock's past, or get a glimpse of its future. Here's the upside: there is no wrong decision.

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Song Stories

“Nightshift”

The Commodores | 1984

The year after soul legends Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson died, songwriter Dennis Lambert asked members of the Commodores to give him a tape of ideas. "And the one from Walter Orange has this wonderful bass line," said co-writer Franne Golde. "Plus the lyric, 'Marvin, he was a friend of mine' ... Within 10 minutes, we had decided it should be something like a modern R&B version of 'Rock 'n' Roll Heaven,' and I just said, 'Nightshift.'" This tribute to the recently deceased musicians was the band's only hit without Lionel Richie, who had left for a solo career.

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