CHICAGO — If you wandered into Grant Park Friday night for the last few hours of Lollapalooza, you might have thought you’d accidentally stumbled into a wormhole and landed in 1997, when the original Lolla was rich with techno acts like Orbital and the Orb.
(Get your Lollapalooza fill: Watch the Roots’ ?uestlove Perry Farrell, Cold War Kids, Stephen Marley and more chill in the shade with Tim Kash and see snaps of Daft Punk, M.I.A., Perry Farrell, the Rapture and more. )
Even though it’s 10 years later, co-founder Perry Farrell still loves himself some dance music, and show closers LCD Soundsystem and Daft Punk delivered a one-two punch that felt anything but retro. Sitting atop a gigantic pulsating pyramid of lights and rocking the shiniest robot helmets this side of “Battlestar Galactica,” Daft Punk‘s Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo played a 90-minute mash-up of their hits that got the glow sticks waving and proved you don’t need Marshall stacks to blow some wigs back.
Opening with the haunting alien siren song from “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” the duo emerged at the top of the pyramid to the strains of “Robot Rock,” with the bass pumping in time to the explosion of blinding lights. In a battle of flashing lights, hundreds of fans hoisted their cell phone cameras to get a souvenir of the moment, with the sea of blue screens bobbing in time to the techno beats. Suddenly the show had turned into a full-scale rave, replete with popping and locking, pantomime-esque liquid dancing and glow-stick poi.
Like any good DJs, the pair knew just when to pick up a song, drop in a beat and then loop it back around later in the set, teasing the crowd repeatedly with bits of their hits “Around the World” and “One More Time.” And though it was the hot rumor of the day, Chicago’s favorite son, Kanye West, did not make a special appearance atop the pyramid when the duo busted out their pulse-pounding “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger,” which West samples on his new hit song “Stronger” (see “Kanye West’s ‘Stronger’ Video: Japanese Motorcycle Gangs, Mad Scientists — And Cassie” ).
Prior to Daft Punk’s set, LCD Soundsystem helped spark the pseudo-rave with an hourlong set on a different stage. The group’s mastermind, James Murphy, might look like the IT guy from your office with his dirty white pants, loose T-shirt and glasses. But the Clark Kent of dance music busted out his rock alter ego, blasting his dance beats with a punk fury on tunes like “North American Scum.” He even teased some of the more aggro dudes in the audience by pointing out that if there aren’t any girls around them when they dance, “you’re doing it wrong.” With a sound that at various points mashed up the Godzilla stomp of Rage Against the Machine with the techno fury of the Prodigy and the odd Hendrix-worthy guitar freak-out, Murphy brought dance music out of the clubs and into a field full of people who looked like the only bangin’ they’d ever done before was of the head variety.
Those who brought along their dancing shoes got plenty of chances to cut a rug — er, grass — earlier in the day too, although there was a solid slab of political punk rock tossed into the mix as well. The day got off to a promising start with Ted Leo and the Pharmacists‘ set, which mixed punk rock and politics so smoothly that many in the crowd might not have realized they were getting some fiber mixed into their Lolla smoothie. Leo pulled a Beyonc— and slipped two songs into the set, disappearing somewhere near the drum riser for a few seconds but then bouncing back up unscathed to set off an atomic blast of punk rock with the vicious “Bomb. Repeat. Bomb.”
Though their politics are mostly of the personal variety, the 20-member Polyphonic Spree put on their own candidate-worthy rally, taking the stage in matching all-black outfits that were as weather-inappropriate as it gets. Lead singer Tim DeLaughter shook his fists and raised his arms in victory as a chorus of eight backup singers, an electric flute player, harpist and a dozen other bandmates raised the roof with such hallelujah rock as “Running Away” and “Hanging Around.” By the time he got to the line “Hey! It’s the sun! And it makes me smile!” in the rousing anthem “It’s the Sun,” it was clear DeLaughter didn’t mind the fact that said orb was beating down on him mercilessly.
It wasn’t the sun that was messing with rapper M.I.A. — though she bounded into the crowd in her silver spangly shorts, silver high tops and African print shirt, the “Galang” singer was clearly having some trouble hitting the notes. At one point she apologized for blowing her voice out at a previous gig in Los Angeles, then produced a mysterious spray that she claimed White Stripes singer Jack White had FedExed her the day before to help her get through the show. With a remixed video of “The Jungle Book” playing on the big screen that made it look like Mowgli were scratching at an invisible turntable, M.I.A. worked the stage during “Sunshowers” as the bass hit so hard it felt like it might cave in chests 75 yards deep.
The beats were equally banging just a few stages down, where New York’s the Rapture were slaying the crowd with “Get Myself Into It,” a disco-punk-funk throwdown that had the crowd — dressed in funny hats, sunglasses and headbands — shaking its collective booty as the sun began to set over the city’s iconic skyline.
The early part of the day, though, belonged to Against Me!, who gave a smashing performance from the first note with anthems like “New Wave,” “Haste Killed Creativity” and the Condoleezza Rice-baiting “From Her Lips to God’s Ears (The Energizer),” during which one Mohawk-ed kid up front was rocking so hard he literally threw up a little.
One of the afternoon’s strongest sets was turned in by Los Angeles’ Silversun Pickups, who won the crowd over not even 10 minutes into their hourlong performance. With the overwhelming heat punishing the crowd and bandmembers — who had sweat straight through their clothing — frontman Brian Aubert punished his guitar unrelentingly, as if he were slapping someone in the face. Halfway through the band’s set, the singer stopped for a second to take in the thousands of fleshy music lovers before him; he seemed floored by it all, almost intimidated. Hoisting a beer in the air, Aubert returned the love: “Cheers, you guys.” When the Silversuns launched into their “hit single,” “Lazy Eye,” the audience started cheering in unison with the song’s bass line — and one person raised a stuffed-animal chicken above his head in an awkward salute. Aubert crisscrossed the stage, swinging his guitar from side to side amid a distorted wash of guitar squalls.
And of course, it wouldn’t be Lollapalooza without Perry Farrell, who took the stage with his new act, Satellite Party. But fans of the alt-rock icon’s better-known band, Jane’s Addiction, were the real winners on Friday. Satellite Party — which have gone through a recent lineup overhaul — opened with a cover of Jane’s “Stop!,” eliciting “Wooos” and “Eee-yeahs” from the audience. The band took on a few more Jane’s numbers, like “Mountain Song,” “Been Caught Stealing” and the set’s closer, “Jane Says.” At one point, Farrell even invited former Porno for Pyros guitarist Peter DiStefano onstage for a rendition of that band’s hit “Pets” (Perry introduced the song by telling the crowd, “I wish I could reach out and pet you all”).
All the while, Farrell pranced around the stage with a bottle of Dom Pérignon in hand, taking swigs from it and then spitting it out at the audience. He was at his flamboyant best, twirling and windmill-ing across the stage like a cheerleader at homecoming. This is, after all, Perry’s party, and at times, he seemed to demand everyone’s respect: “I’m singing my guts out for you mother—-ers, and all you’re doing is drinking beer.” At one point, Farrell attempted a jump-kick but failed to land it, instead dropping down like a ton of bricks, right on his keister.
But Satellite Party did deliver, rocking out numbers like “Wish Upon a Dog Star” and “Insanity Rains.” The set was so groovin’, even the sign-language interpreter was shaking her thang. All that was missing were the glow sticks.
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