Even before entering this year's Lollapalooza festival, the Grant Park grounds were littered with reminders that this year's event is supremely sold out. There were scalpers, signs, massive lines, and a group of at least 50 ticketless kids plowing over a chain-link fence and running like hell to avoid security. The gatecrashers kicked the day off with a little mayhem, authorities scrambling to grab each of them while Delta Spirit knocked out "People C'mon" in the background and crowds grew with each hour.
The premier Midwest music festival was in full swing, and thousands of music fans seemed prepared to do almost anything to attend.
Los Angeles-based Foster the People followed Delta Spirit's soul-heavy set with a dose of gee-whiz optimism, giddy over the sheer number of people that showed up to see them play. "This is the most people we've ever played in front of," singer Mark Foster said excitedly, white shirt soaked through with sweat on this 85-degree summer day. Running through a setlist heavy with piano and dual drumkit workouts, FTP rounded out their slot with a cover of Neil Young's "Heart of Gold" and their most popular track, "Pumped Up Kicks", while a crowd anxious for White Lies started filling in the gaps at the far end of the park.
White Lies's dark snyth-pop -- in contrast to FTP's optimistic disposition -- held the crowd with a standout performance of the day that zeroed in on their best material from their last two albums. Superfans with homemade signs crowded at the front, begging the band with marker and cardboard to play their single "Death" (prompting a new set of "Thank You" signs after they got their wish).
In an interview backstage in the media tent (with web editor Jen Boyles), White Lies bassist Charlie Cave said the band has been heavy on the festival circuit all summer, playing out what feels to him like a "best hits" set -- and that's exactly what it was today.
Meanwhile, in Perry's dance tent, the vibe was more intense, sweatier, and filled with younger faces. It changed from last year's open-air setup to a massive white tent packed with lights and shirtless clubbers in the process of losing their minds. The Bloody Beetroots, who have since teamed with Refused frontman Dennis Lyxzen to form Death Crew 77, slung aggressive, buzzing synths and loops at the crowd -- almost bordering on metal. A late-set remix of The Refused's "New Noise" overheated crowd surfers, who poured over the front barricade in waves.
Lollapalooza creator/Jane's Addiction singer Perry Ferrell stopped by his beat-heavy namesake stage to catch dubstep artist Skrillex along with thousands of other fans, but left just before the California DJ dropped the anthemic "Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites". Skrillex climbed speaker stacks during the track's peak before taking an impressively high dive into the crowd, becoming lost in an ocean of outstreched hands before launching back onstage.
As the only DJ playing outside the dance tent, a quick conversation backstage with Chicago fixture Dani Deahl revealed some anxiety about her timeslot. "I'm right after Bright Eyes on one of the main stages and I'm pretty nervous about it," she said while standing in Gaga-worthy pink stilettos decorated with faux fur. Deahl played against OK Go on one end of the park while Crystal Castles appeared on the opposite side, closing their set with crowd favorite "I'm Not In Love" (sans Lolla alumnus Robert Smith of The Cure, who lends vocals to the track).
Night-time headliners Muse kicked off their set with "Uprising" before tearing through "Supermassive Black Hole" and by the third track (and after a loose rendition of our national anthem on guitar), fireworks exploded behind them. The crowd jolting into high gear despite what, for most, was likely the end to a long, hot day. The group had no use for subtlety, prompting crowd singalongs with lyrics posted on screens and an electric honeycomb design pulsating behind them.
Another Day 1 closer, Girl Talk, played his rap mash-ups to a packed dance tent (which got TP'd via a leaf blower at the start of the set) and had festival-goers dancing in the streets as they piled on Michigan Avenue to hail cabs. It was a welcome indicator that, after some rest, these music fans would be back for more and equally excited tomorrow.
Personal Bias: Wasn't a huge fan of White Lies before the festival, but a solid showing changed my mind.
The Crowd: Sweaty and drunk.
Overheard In The Crowd: "I seriously lost my Ray Bans in there." (Hipster valley-girl coming out of the Skrillex tent)
Random Notebook Dump: I keep seeing that guy with the "DJs heart BJs" shirt, and wishing I didn't.