CHICAGO — First came the rain on Friday , then the heat on Saturday. But Lollapalooza breeds a hearty stock, so with slip ‘n slides, togas and giant Chinese peasant hats in tow, out came the 70,000-plus for another day of music that was capped by fill-in headliners the [artist id="1229828"]Yeah Yeah Yeahs[/artist] and doomy metal icons [artist id="1149"]Tool[/artist].
Taking the place of the Beastie Boys, who had to drop out several weeks ago due to MC Adam Yauch’s bout with cancer of the salivary gland, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs brought their always-colorful A-game, led, as usual, by fashion-forward singer Karen O, who took the stage in a kaleidoscopic, towering bird costume. Down on the south end, things couldn’t have looked and sounded any more different, as Tool singer Maynard James Keenan stripped down to a pair of black workout shorts and moaned the lyrics to his band’s turgid D&D metal as giant H.R. Giger-like images of giant bugs and morphing aliens were projected on the big screens.
Saturday dawned hot and steamy, with a chance of furnace blasts, as Friday’s buckets of rain turned some parts of Grant Park into a fetid field of chocolate-colored slop that smelled like the elephant house at the zoo. English trio Band of Skulls had the honors of kicking off day two with a raucous set of dirty blues that included the stomper, “Death by Diamonds and Pearls.” Also working early was nasal folkie Ezra Furman and his band, the Harpoons, who charmed with the quirky plea for personal space, “I Wanna Be Ignored,” a sentiment lost on some of the golden-knee-high-gladiator-sandal-feather-mask-and-giant-sombrero-wearing masses.
It was hard to ignore the big crowd for the relatively unknown Thenewno2. The band is led by Dhani Harrison, who told us a bit later that his dad, late Beatle George Harrison, forbade him to attend Lollapalooza as a youth, and said he could go when he performed at it. Well, Harrison finally arrived, and his five piece band played a mind-expanding set of raga rock that swooped and swayed in psychedelic washes, mixing shoegazer noise with more contemporary glitch rock, and, of course, Harrison’s eerily familiar voice.
The debut album by Miike Snow — which features the Swedish production duo known as Bloodshy & Avant (Britney Spears, Madonna) and American singer Andrew Wyatt — is full of catchy falsetto synth pop. But onstage, with the group wearing totally weather-inappropriate black satin jackets and black jeans, songs like “Silvia” and “Plastic Jungle” came off like throbbing techno rock brain teasers, ebbing and flowing with a hypnotic thrum.
Stomping around the stage like a petulant little girl, Norwegian rocker Ida Maria regaled the crowd with her many songs about drinking and its less appetizing aftermath (“Morning Light,” “Louie”), bounding around in a shiny gold dress with what appeared to be a lengthy poem scrawled on one of her forearms. Minneapolis hip-hop crew Atmosphere drew a huge crowd on the south stage midday, with thousands of hands pumping in the air for “Puppets,” and lots of knowing nods when lead rapper Slug threw in a lyrical reference to the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” in honor of the missing legendary crew.
In their Lollapalooza debut, England’s Arctic Monkeys thrashed out of the gate with the trippy “This House Is a Circus” and pub-fueled bounce of “Fluorescent Adolescent,” letting up a bit as they moved through a few too-slow songs before hitting their clattering stride again on the breakthrough hit, “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor.”
Seemingly recovered from previous vocal problems, Santigold looked regal in an animal-print jumper and bejeweled crown as she reworked “You’ll Find a Way,” “Shove It” and “Say Aha,” with dub and mashed-up live beats in front of an audience packed with girls wearing animal feathers in their hair and glittery golden eye shadow.
They were also decked out for Sweden’s answer to Lady Gaga, Lykke Li, whose entire body pulsed like a pint-size percussion instrument. Moving in frenzied blur as if possessed by the rhythm, Li smashed a tambourine, struck a crash cymbal and honked on a kazoo during “Dance, Dance, Dance,” and thrummed on her chest during the slinky “Little Bit.”
The thrum was mind-zapping when sonic amoeba Animal Collective abandoned the more poppy song structures of their most recent album, Merriweather Post Pavilion and moved a blissed-out crowd with a set of loose, trancy falsetto incantations, trippy visuals and dense, throbbing bass and synthesized clicks. Singer Avey Tare often looked as if he himself was lost himself in the sonic brainwash.
The day also featured the melodic hardcore rantings of Chicago’s own Rise Against, the hippie friendly jamming of Gomez, Coheed and Cambria’s ear-shredding prog metal arias and some rocking blues from Ben Harper and the Relentless7.
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs didn’t shy away from the unenviable task of filling in for the Beastie Boys. Guitarist Nick Zinner tossed in a few bars of the B Boys’ “So Watcha Want” at the end of the grinding, Led Zeppelin-like dirge “Phenomena.” Dressed, as usual, in a colorful ensemble, singer Karen O danced like an indie disco queen during “Gold Lion” and the spiky “Honeybear,” ably working the big stage with her larger-than-life persona and eliciting some knowing nods from likely newbies with the burbling intro to the band’s recent hit, “Zero.”
A quick 9 p.m. stroll past Perry’s dance area, where, as was the case all day, thousands were jumping and twirling to the sounds of party music emerging from what looked like a giant flashing spaceship, yielded an earful of some seriously tweaked dancehall reggae moving into hardcore hippie techno. On the other main stage, though, there were no such glow-stick-twirling vibes, as Tool helped close out the night with a grinding, visual overload set of prog/industrial metal that brought out the faithful, many proudly wearing their weathered black Tool shirts.
“Stinkfist” got the majority of the dirty and exhausted crowd to wake up, and “Forty Six & 2″ built slowly to an anthemic chorus that had the masses raising their voices along with Mohawked Keenan’s unmistakable growl. Guitarist Adam Jones’ work shredded faces, and appropriately enough, the video playing behind the band was a digital face being destroyed, just one of the band’s signature disturbing visuals, which ranged from babies being born inside brains to quite a bit more things piercing eyeballs than would seem totally necessary.
They swayed and jumped, predictably going ballistic by the time “Schism” came on, with drummer Danny Carey tearing up his kit on the bridge to the final build. Ending with the bleak, ominous “Vicarious,” Tool left without an encore, which seemed fine for the spent masses shuffling off into the humid night air.