CHICAGO — What a difference a day makes. Whereas Saturday at Lollapalooza was marred by music interruptus due to some wild thundershowers , Sunday dawned bright and sunny, ending with a welcome dose of the stormy blues.
Making his third appearance at the venerable music festival on Chicago’s lakefront, Jack White, emphatically slammed the lid on a wild weekend with a nearly two-hour set of fiery tunes that mixed songs from his entire career on the South Stage, while French EDM duo Justice and hometown DJ Kaskade got hands in the air on the other end of the field.
With EDM stars on the rise at Lolla, drawing big crowds all weekend, White had his work cut out for him. But the modern shred master was more than up to the task. Working with his male band, the Buzzards, White blasted out of the gate with a thundering version of his recent single, “Sixteen Saltines,” stumbling around the stage as he tore off singeing blues solos.
The White Stripes’ “Dead Leaves and The Dirty Ground” took on an ominous note as White traded keyboard licks with a bandmate. Like a wild-haired Mississippi Delta-bred conductor, White took the group through an endless series of stylistic changes on his song from the Danger Mouse collaboration Rome, “Two Against One.” That one had a series of breathtaking hairpin turns, from Zeppelin-like stomping to dreamy psychedelic strolls and crazed hellbilly sprints, accented by fiddle, stand-up bass, pedal steel, piano and, of course, copious electric guitar.
He shared the microphone with back-up singer Ruby Amanfu for an acoustic “Love Interruption” and transformed the Stripes’ “Hotel Yorba” into a bluegrass hoedown. Changing bands mid-set, he let the all-female Peacocks rock awhile on such dinosaur stomps as the Dead Weather’s “Blue Blood Blues” and the Stripes’ dirty blues grinder “Ball and Biscuit.”
Dipping into the repertoire of yet another of his side projects, White played a chugging, brutish take on the Raconteurs’ pop blues hit “Steady As She Goes,” into a fuzz-drenched “Hardest Button to Button” and a thunderclap, crowd-pleasing finale of “Seven Nation Army.”
It was a fittingly epic closer for a final day that included a typically eclectic mix of music throughout the park. Brooklyn’s White Rabbits helped get things started, playing their energetic indie rock to a healthy crowd early on and winning them over with the driving “Rudie Fails.” With songs that bounced and wove in everything from thrumming dub bass lines to urgent 1980’s New Wave fueled by their insistent double-drummer backbone, they brought it to a bubbling head with their tribal beat hit “Percussion Gun.”
Within 300 yards you could check out the modern Delta blues of Gary Clark Jr. and the gothy girl group surf rumble of the women in black from the Dum Dum Girls. For something completely different, Iceland’s always-enigmatic Sigur Ros soothed the late-afternoon sun assault with their signature ethereal soundscapes, while a reunited At The Drive-In put on their signature relentless rock ground assault.
The influential 90’s post-hardcore band treated fans to a number of songs that were likely older than many in attendance. Leading with “Arcarsenal,” the opening track of their now cult-classic third album Relationship of Command, ATDI didn’t shy away from deep cuts, including crowd-pleasers “Napoleon Solo” and “One-Armed Scissor.”
Afro’d singer Cedric Bixler-Zavala (who joked at one point that he would now prefer to be called Cedric Lion has clearly lost little of his kinetic energy, as evidenced by his leaps off the drum riser and hot-stepping moves across the stage as it was covered with burning embers.
And so after three days, one seriously intense storm, more than 150 bands and a DSW-full of flip-flops surrendered to the giant sludge bogs on either end of the field, Lollapalooza 2012 is in the books. It was fun while it lasted, but next time we’re definitely bringing some muck boots.
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