CHICAGO — With the temperature a fraction cooler than last year’s triple digits and attendance more than doubling — to an estimated 170,000 people checking out 130 bands on nine stages over three days — Lollapalooza seems well on its way to establishing itself as one of the premier destination festivals in the country.(Click here for photos of Red Hot Chili Peppers, Kanye West, Panic! at the Disco and more of your favorites at Lollapalooza 2006.)
Organizers doubled the size of the festival — which took place along the lakefront here in Grant Park — during its second year as a non-touring fest. The two main stages were set up three-quarters of a mile apart on either side of the festival grounds, with the space between featuring seven smaller stages (including ones dedicated to comedy and kids’ music) and a social-responsibility area focused on environmental issues. There was plenty of room for the crowd, which ranged from newborns passed out in strollers to teenagers and their parents sprawled out on blankets.
Lollapalooza featured more hip-hop this year than last (with Common, Lady Sovereign, Lyrics Born and Blackalicious joining headliner Kanye West) and plenty of indie-rock and jam bands spread out over each day’s 10-hour schedule, making it nearly impossible to see it all, but we tried. Here’s a diary of the highlights. …
11:26 a.m. As the gates open for the festival’s first day, a clutch of fans sprint toward the far end of the grounds to get up front for Panic! at the Disco’s set, some three hours later. They succeed, beating out four friends from Chicago who have been following the band all summer.
11:56 a.m. Walking past the Kidzapalooza stage, a sunshiny song called “Scrub a Dub” by the band ScribbleMonster bleeds out onto the midway, to the confusion of the kid-less throngs walking by.
12:06 p.m. Dax Riggs, singer of the twisted blues duo (augmented by a touring bassist) Deadboy & the Elephantmen, seems to be challenging Panic to a makeup throwdown with his heavy dark eyeliner.
12:27 p.m. Texan techno-punk duo Ghostland Observatory have the festival’s best look so far, thanks to keyboardist/beatmaster Thomas Turner’s flowing powder-blue cape.
1:52 p.m. It just seems like Aqualung — essentially Londoner Matt Hales — don’t really belong here: The Coldplay-lite (if that’s possible) sound comes off kind of limp for the chatty early afternoon crowd. Hales seems to get it, though. He thanks the crowd for cheering for a ballad about “abject misery,” then busts a piano freestyle tune that turns things around. “You f—ing could be happy for all the things that are going for him … he’s English, so he’s a sad bastard,” Hales said. Funny, but a girl near the front still sneers, “Is that Chris Martin?” Hales finally redeems himself with a soaring cover of Queen’s “Somebody to Love” (a very difficult song to pull off).
2:41 p.m. Panic! at the Disco bring it. With help from their limber, theatrical friends in the Lucent Dossier dance troupe, they take the stage with a circus flourish thanks to a made-up carnival barker and two naughty cabaret girls in lingerie and clown makeup. Guitarist Ryan Ross wins the fashion award, as usual, busting out a ruffled shirt, fancy red vest, tight black pants and dramatic spangly swirls of makeup on his cheek. The band throws in a tweaked-out cover of Radiohead’s “Karma Police” and singer Brendon Urie gets a lapdance from a sexy cabaret clown during “But It’s Better If You Do.” Sadly, Smashing Pumpkins leader Billy Corgan doesn’t make the dramatic entrance some had hoped for when Panic bust out their cover of the Pumpkins’ “Tonight, Tonight.”
3:25 p.m. The Blisters rock the biggest crowd at the Kidzapalooza stage all day. It doesn’t hurt that they’re tearing through covers of the Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop,” the Flaming Lips’ “She Don’t Use Jelly” and Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World.” Oh, did we mention that the singer and drummer are Wilco leader Jeff Tweedy’s sons? Proud papa Tweedy stands halfway back in the crowd with some of his bandmates, fairly anonymous in a straw hat, tinted shades and a bushy beard, mouthing some of the words to the Beatles’ “Dear Prudence.”
6:55 p.m. The Raconteurs make their Chicago debut in style, ripping into “Intimate Secretary” with leader Jack White wearing freaky white kabuki makeup. “Steady as She Goes” sounds so big it seems to echo off the buildings downtown, and White chops out some futuristic blues solos that send a few girls in the crowd into peasant-dress-spinning hippy dances. With only one album to draw from, the band slips in a pair of killer covers, a take on Sonny & Cher’s “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” and a chugging Southern-boogie version of Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” that is one of the weekend’s high points.
7:47 p.m. Playing one of their final shows before their announced breakup, Sleater-Kinney appear to be getting along just fine, hitting fans with some signature jagged guitar and yelping vocals on newer songs like “The Fox” and “What’s Mine Is Yours” (see “Sleater-Kinney Announce ’Indefinite Hiatus,’ Thank Fans For ’Passion And Loyalty’ “ ). Guitarist Corin Tucker sings the line “Don’t go away” during “Turn It On” — a sentiment fans can appreciate, with some of them chanting “don’t leave us!”
8:34 p.m. Though they’d expressed awe at being one of the first night’s closing acts, Death Cab for Cutie are on top of their game, drawing the day’s second-biggest crowd (the Raconteurs took top honors) with wistful songs like “The New Year” and “Soul Meets Body,” which serve as a nice send-off into the half-moon-illuminated night.
12:15 p.m. This is not the best way to start the day: Be Your Own Pet singer Jemina Pearl, who spazzes around the stage during “Girls on TV” like she’s stepping on an exposed electrical cord with wet feet, informs the audience that she just threw up halfway through the band’s set. She blames it on heat sickness. “It wasn’t that much. It tasted like watermelon,” she lets the kids know. Thanks …
12:34 p.m. Seems like Living Things singer Lillian Berlin might have changed his tune a bit since his anti-American onstage banter got him in trouble with Alter Bridge last month. During a bluesy take on their anti-war tune “Bombs Below,” he yells “All hail the U.S. military!,” and then he jumps off the stage into the audience and grabs a Navy seaman from the pit and throws his arms around him. A short time later, during “Bom Bom Bom,” he shouts “We love America!” and, later still, “We salute our brothers and sisters in Iraq.” OK, we get it. He also leads the crowd in a chant of “Peace! Peace!” Now that’s more like it. …
1:44 p.m. England’s Go! Team put on a cheerleader camp for live hip-hop-soul junkies. Lead rapper/dancer Ninja bounces around in her cheer outfit during “Panther Dash” as the rest of the group swirls around her, trading off instruments, which include guitars, bass, keyboards, flute, xylophones, harmonica and two sets of drums.
2:30 p.m. Mike Patton is a freak. And between the white linen suit, the hair net and the smoothly flowing “Roll it up and smoke it” chorus of “Mojo,” it’s kind of hard to figure out what’s going on with the former Faith No More singer’s new group, Peeping Tom, a punk hip-hop/soul mash-up (see “Mike Patton’s Agenda: Touring With Peeping Tom, Humiliating Mark Hoppus And Danny DeVito” ). He can’t quite match bandmate Rahzel’s beatboxing skills (he busted out a bit of the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army”), but Patton holds his own.
2:51 p.m. The members of 30 Seconds to Mars can’t take their eyes off Coheed and Cambria, who bring a rare touch of prog-metal to one of the main stages.
3:34 p.m. And then there’s Wolfmother. The Aussie trio punch up the way-back machine with their Led Zeppelin-meets-Black Sabbath riffery on songs like “Dimension” and “Mind’s Eye,” inspiring the biggest crowd of the day so far to indulge in the first crowd-surfing of the festival.
4:31 p.m. Gnarls Barkley are known for their sartorial flair, but no one could have predicted that the group would make their entrance in fresh tennis whites. Singer Cee-Lo, swinging a tennis racket, fronts a 13-piece band that includes a string section and three back-up singers, one of whom plays a racket with a drum stick during songs like “Who Cares” and the jam of the summer, “Crazy.” Seemingly paying homage to the Raconteurs, who covered “Crazy” the day before, Barkley bust out their Motown-style cover of “There Is an End,” written by the Greenhornes — the Ohio band whose rhythm section is moonlighting in the Raconteurs.
6:40 p.m. A dozen dancing alien girls, 12-foot tall Santas, spacemen, another dozen booty-shaking guys in Santa suits, Superman, Batman, the Flash and Wonder Woman, 50 giant blue balloons bouncing over the crowd, confetti guns, a bullhorn spewing green smoke and a giant confetti-filled balloon exploded over the stage using a leaf blower: Just a typical Flaming Lips set. Oh, and they played crowd favorites like “Race for the Prize,” “Do You Realize??” and “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song,” which singer Wayne Coyne asked the crowd to dedicate to Israel as a plea to stop bombing Lebanon.
8:38 p.m. Lolla runs like clockwork, but hometown hero Kanye West is making the crowd of nearly 60,000 wait.
8:39 p.m.He finally emerges to the strains of “Diamonds From Sierra Leone,” running back and forth across the stage as tens of thousands throw up the Roc diamond hand signal. Kanye’s DJ A-Trak busts out some space-age scratches during “Heard ’Em Say,” but it wouldn’t be Kanye without drama. The rapper is thrown off by sound problems and complains about coming home after touring the world and having to deal with his vocals cutting out. “Y’all embarrass me in front of my city?” he says. “There’s gonna be some repercussions!” He gets over it and brings out protégé GLC and fellow Chicago rappers Twista and Common for cameos, as well as Lupe Fiasco, who skateboards onto the stage to trade verses on his hit, “Kick Push.”
9:23 p.m. West’s string section runs through a cover of Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” and the Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony” while Kanye attends to some backstage business, returning for a triumphant shout-along version of “Gold Digger” that can probably be heard blocks away. He doesn’t say, but maybe it redeems the earlier sound problems, making Kanye the prince of his city for the night.
11:59 p.m. What a way to wake up: Mucca Pazza, the punk-rock marching band, crowds the stage with more than 25 players, who spin, jump, run and skip while playing Dixieland rave-ups and doing high-energy mime skits alongside their cheerleader section.
12:53 p.m. Lolla founder Perry Farrell does his customary mini set of songs on the Kidzapalooza stage with guitarist Peter DiStefano. He brings on surprise guest Patti Smith, who doesn’t seem to get the whole “kid” part of Kidapalooza, as she goes on to tell the mini rockers that “any a–hole can play guitar.” She unveils a song she says she wrote the day before about the Israeli bombing of the Lebanese village of Qana. “How would you feel if 27 [of your children] were blown away by missiles and bombs?” she asks the crowd. The new, untitled song features lyrics such as “And the dead lay in strange shapes … limp little bodies caked in mud … small, small hands found in the road.” At least it ended on a somewhat hopeful thought for the visibly shocked crowd: “The miracle is love.”
2:26 p.m. English dance group Hot Chip prove that even five guys who look like rumpled college math teaching assistants can rock if they can kick out hot jams like “Boy From School.”
3:37 p.m. 30 Seconds to Mars make a dramatic entrance in all-white outfits and creepy Kabuki masks. Singer Jared Leto takes his life into his hands by scrambling up the rigging to sing a song from 40 feet above the crowd.
6:35 p.m. Wilco win the award for inspiring the oddest singalong of the weekend when the crowd enthusiastically shouts out the line, “To the handshake drugs I bought downtown” during a set that features four new songs.
7:27 p.m. And Queens of the Stone Age win the award for the loudest set of the weekend. In fact, you can hear it all the way over at the stage Wilco is playing on: three-fourths of a mile away.
8:21 p.m. Perry Farrell promises that the Red Hot Chili Peppers will “take the cork off and blow it sky high.” And while the veteran punk-funk band didn’t bust out any of their signature outrageous costumes (though the crazy quilt of colors and patterns on Flea’s pants and shirt was close), fans ate up funky versions of “Can’t Stop,” “Dani California,” “Scar Tissue,” “Readymade,” “Me and My Friends” and short snippets of the Clash’s “London Calling” and Neil Young’s “Needle and the Damage Done.” With more than 70,000 people undulating to “Give It Away,” the Peppers indeed pulled the cork on what has quickly established itself as Chicago’s newest summer tradition.
For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.