After going belly-up last year because of poor ticket sales, the pioneering alt-rock show Lollapalooza was reborn this summer as a two-day corporate-rock festival that drew 66,000 fans to watch more than sixty bands in Grant Park on Chicago's lakefront. For $125 a ticket, the July 23rd-24th event offered a smorgasborg of current hitmakers (the Killers, Weezer), venerated elders (Pixies, Dinosaur Jr.) and up-and-comers (Louis XIV, the Arcade Fire), Modeled after Coachella in California and the Austin City Limits Festival. "It's bittersweet, isn't it?" said Liz Phair backstage. "It used to be a touring festival, and now it's one event. But it started all these touring festivals. It's a very important statement to say, 'This needs to exist.'"
Topping the bill on the first night, the reunited Pixies tore through a set heavy on anthems, including a transcendent "Where Is My Mind?" with Kim Deal's wordless harmonies echoing across Lake Michigan. The Killers, who have acquired a new swagger to go with their eyeliner, won the loudest squeals of the weekend when they revved up "Somebody Told Me." Afterward, singer Brandon Flowers sounded pleased with Lollapalooza's new digs. "Obviously, the traveling thing didn't work too well," he said. "This is a beautiful city, and where else are you going to have it? Idaho?"
Death Cab for Cutie mesmerized through contrast, with singer Ben Gibbard's inward-looking meditations balanced by Chris Walla's mind-bending guitar squalls. The Arcade Fire, dressed like undertakers in the afternoon heat, stormed through a set of percussion-stoked fist-wavers. "It was hot as hell up there, but the crowd was great," singer Win Butler enthused backstage.
If there was one complaint about Lollalapoolza - besides the sometimes stifling heat - it was the lack of diversity. Hip-hop was mostly absent, save for the stellar performances by the reunited Digable Planets and agit-poet Saul Williams. DJ Muggs speculated that the city of Chicago was concerned about security issues, and that it was a necessary price for re-establishing the festival. But talent booker Charles Attal said Kanye West, Common and other hip-hop performers had been approached but turned him down.
Otherwise, the festival rolled through the sun-smacked weekend with Lollapalooza founder Perry Farrell glorying in his favorite role: party maestro. There he was calling Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong on his cell phone, preaching about the greenhouse effect or popping in on the children's stage to his Porno for Pyros hit "Pets." Even the normally taciturn Rivers Cuomo of Weezer was reduced to a bubbling fan boy when Farrell introduced his band from the stage. "As a nineteen-year-old, I wanted to be him," Cuomo said. "He always puts out such positive energy. It just seemed like you were going to have a really magical, fun experience whenever you did anything he was involved with, and that's carried over to Lollapalooza."
Setlists courtesy of Setlist.fm