CHICAGO — Perry Farrell left it to a couple of Lollapalooza veterans to close out day three of his annual party in the park. Of course, after two days of sets by everyone from Tool and Kings of Leon to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Asher Roth, one of those headliners was his own Jane’s Addiction, who played the fest with their original lineup for the first time since they helped launch the touring juggernaut way back in 1991. The other topper, the Killers, have also been there before, serving the same honors back in 2005 at the first Chicago-based Lolla, and they brought an even bigger sound and vision this time around in a head-to-head with the reconstituted Jane’s.
It’s hard to beat the anticipation sowed by the doomy, slow build of Jane’s titanic “Mountain Song,” but Farrell, in typical fashion, brought things up a notch: As the band took the stage, a helicopter buzzed in circles overhead, scanning the crowd with a searchlight. What followed was a master class in the group’s apocalyptic shaman rock, a hedonistic party that drew a smaller crowd than the uplifting glitter-rock anthems of the Killers at the other end of the park.
It was a long journey to get to the Las Vegas band’s rock-and-roll promised land. U.K. dance machines Friendly Fires had ripped open the triple-digit-degree day eight hours earlier with an ecstatic set of synth pop that got lunchtime feet moving at the Budweiser north stage thanks to high-energy singer Ed Macfarlane.
A seemingly mild-mannered chap in slightly too-tight trousers, Macfarlane came out grooving and never stopped — pogoing, spinning, shaking his head and punching the air during the bouncy New Order-at-a-rave opener “Lovesick.” He was sweating through his shirt just minutes into the set of funk-edged dance music, as the noonday sun hit him full in the face. At one point, Macfarlane warned that he might pass out but punched through that danger to the double-drum-kit, Calypso-techno workout “Paris.”
Wasilla, Alaska’s Portugal. The Man (yeah, they know the former governor ) brought things down a bit at the nearby PlayStation stage a short time later with a set of woozy ’70s-inspired rock. Singer John Gourley — looking aggressively retro in dark slacks, old-man shoes, white button-down, Prince Valiant haircut and deer-head belt buckle — was the focal point of the band’s mix of gospel-y, psychedelic freedom rock and folky reggae as a modest audience looked on, some in pleasant confusion.
Things were slow to get moving at Perry’s dance area. Many of the moon-eyed club kids were seemingly raved-out from two days of nonstop raging, including a few glow-stick jugglers whose green twirlers dangled listlessly from the branches of the trees they’d climbed to escape the heat. Austin, Texas’ Car Stereo (Wars) decided to give the hundreds crashed out in the shade a little motivation, inviting a dozen-plus scantily clad men and women onstage for his Girl Talk-esque mash-up dance party.
Things got out of hand pretty quickly for another dance act, Passion Pit, the Massachusetts indie-electronica band whose helium-vocal boogie tunes have become the soundtrack of hipster discos everywhere. “Sleepyhead” sounded as uplifting as ever and led to a steady stream of bikinied crowd surfers crashing over the security barrier. But you’d never have guessed from their vampire tans, retro eyeglasses and singer Michael Angelakos’ frizzy ‘fro that these guys had such smooth people-moving skills or that quirky songs like the bouncy “Let Your Love Grow Tall” would become audience sing-alongs.
One of the joys of Lollapalooza is juxtaposition, like when the soothing techno and harpsichord folk balladry of Bat for Lashes (a.k.a. Natasha Khan) gave way to the Stooges-inspired, rolling-around-in-glass punk blues of Kentucky’s Cage the Elephant. Singer Matt Shultz jumped on, off and under the stage during the band’s frenetic set. A perfect warm-up for the Killers, Los Angeles’ the Airborne Toxic Event celebrated their Lollapalooza debut later in the day with arena-band-on-the-make anthem rock, including the radio-candy hit single “Sometime Around Midnight.” Like the rest of his black-clad band, singer Mikel Jollett poured Killers-via-U2, big-idea attitude onto the main stage, serving notice that Event are a band to watch.
An act that’s already (kind of) made it and is prepping some new material, Vampire Weekend took time out from their set to pay homage to the recently departed John Hughes . Singer Ezra Koenig dedicated “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” to the director early in another jaunt through the band’s exuberant, Township Jive-style thinking-man’s rock. They brought their upbeat faces to a polite crowd largely made up of people who seemed to be waiting for Snoop Dogg to take the stage a short time later.
Ah, Snoop. The D-O-double-G proved that he’s hip-hop’s Wooderson (“Dazed and Confused”) — he gets older and his crowd stays the same age. Imagine a sea of thousands of bobbing heads rapping along to songs that came out when they were still in diapers and you’ll understand why Snoop’s popularity endures: Someone is always discovering him for the first time. Wearing a Lakers jersey and gripping a bedazzled microphone with his name on it, Snoop served up all the biggies — “Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang,” “The Next Episode,” “Gin and Juice” and “Drop It Like It’s Hot.”
Punk godfather Lou Reed also happens to be an O.G., but the legendary Velvet Underground leader tested a few nerves Sunday evening with an overlong set that was capped by a 20-plus-minute version of the lesser-known 2000 jazz skronk “Paranoia Key of E.” Reed went well over his time with that meandering noise-blues rave-up, then tacked on an equally jammy version of the VU’s “I’m Waiting for the Man” and finally, the long-awaited crowd-pleaser, “Walk on the Wild Side.”
But by then, the sizable mass awaiting Seattle’s Band of Horses had gotten ornery, with some shouting, “F— Lou Reed” — as sure a sign as any that punk’s generational torch was being passed. Though they took the stage more than 20 minutes late, BOH didn’t disappoint, playing enthusiastic versions of their sensitive, tattooed Southern rock, including such grand, crunching laments as “The Great Salt Lake,” “No One’s Gonna Love You” and “The Funeral.”
Then: Cue the helicopters, as Jane’s came out swinging with “Mountain Song,” which dove into the electric shock of “Ain’t No Right” and then swooned through the psych-rock epic “Three Days.” Punk-rock P.T. Barnum Farrell looked appropriately carnivalesque in a gold lamé flared-Elvis-pant tuxedo, accented by golden fingerless gloves and half a dozen swinging chains. With perennially shirtless guitarist Dave Navarro firing off picture-perfect renditions of his squealing metal solos on “Ocean Size,” Farrell was left to work the crowd, pondering the virtues of loose women before gleefully playing “Whores.” Long-estranged and recently rejoined original bassist Eric Avery brought a throbbing, bare-bones punk sound to classics like “Ted, Just Admit It…,” and drummer Stephen Perkins aggressively played his signature chest-pulsing tribal drums despite a recent injury that Farrell said doctors advised needed more time to heal.
Farrell says that Lollapalooza lives and dies these days through a combination of the old and the new, and there was no better example on Sunday night than the massive throng gathered at the south end of the park to see the Killers. Kicking off the set with “Human,” the Glitter City quartet set their sites way above Jane’s beloved grimy alleys, moving the crowd with propulsive fist-pumping smashes like “Somebody Told Me” and “Mr. Brightside.”
In the final moments of an exhausting weekend of punishing weather and musical overload, the giant words emblazoned on the back screen read “Hold On.”