Grant Park, Chicago, Friday 3 to Sunday 5 August
Back in 1991, Jane’s Addiction frontman Perry Farrell created Lollapalooza. Initially a touring festival, it was a gloriously anti-corporate affair, showcasing underground talent of any type (Ice-T and Nine Inch Nails played the first year), but specialising in grunge and freak shows. Various fuck-ups, including interference from The Man, riots and Kurt Cobain shooting himself just as Nirvana were
due to headline, gradually brought about the festival’s slow demise in the late ’90s. But now it’s back to stay, thanks mainly to the return of Perry, aka King Lolla, who stands before NME now…
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
“This band boast extreme talent and expressiveness that rarely happens,” Farrell gushes awkwardly as two YYYs head towards the crowd, Karen O hanging out at the side of the stage, adding an extra minute of fashionably lateness. Like an S&M-loving member of Kiss she finally emerges in her latest costume, an elaborate zig-zagged black and white cape which lasts just a few seconds before before she flings it to the floor to reveal an off-the-shoulder pleather (plastic-as-leather, fashion fans) creation, criss-cross tights and a random patch of blue paint beneath her fringe. Maybe the paint’s poisonous, maybe the pleather chafes a little, but she looks like she’s crying up there – her demonic yelpings on ‘Sealings’ and ‘Maps’ are delivered with such emotion that it’s hard to tell if it’s moisture on her face or frustrated tears.
Songs performed from recent EP ‘Is Is’ are sublime. The overwraught vocals and aching guitars of ‘Kiss Kiss’ match perfectly O’s emotionally confused lyrics, while ‘Down Boy’ sees her stuff the mic in her mouth and bend backwards so far you worry her spine might crack like her pleading voice. There’s more costume changes for ‘Gold Lion’, when she dons a bowler hat with silver streamers, and by ‘Cheated Hearts’ and ‘Honeybear’ we’re so mesmerised that a major downpour fails to piss on our parade. After an hour of gripping, growling brilliance O, Nick Zinner and Brian Chase depart to make way for headliners Muse. Mighty big heels to fill, boys.
The Polyphonic Spree
Bud Light Stage
It’s hot as all hell in the mid-afternoon sun, but even the heavy black military garb worn by all 20-something members of The Polyphonic Spree can’t contain their seemingly boundless energy, as they bring their Fragile Army to Chicago. And, as if there weren’t enough people onstage already, they welcome the entire Chicago Tap Theatre on to dance up a storm to ‘The Championship’ before the three-song encore – including a cover of Nirvana’s ‘Lithium’, for which they don their trademark robes.
Bud Light Stage
It’s their second show in less than 12 hours and, after much booze and no sleep the previous night, there’s only one thing to do: get drunk again. A noon slot in searing heat doesn’t mean shit to The Cribs, who snarl and drink their way through a full hour of material, watched by thousands of early birds.
Bud Light Stage
The golf carts line-up and get in mini-traffic jams as VIPs rush from the artists’ area to the Bud Light stage, where Amy Winehouse is due to sing. She’s 15 minutes late and the 40,000-strong crowd wilts in the blistering heat. Applause is lacklustre, although this is more to do with the temperature than Amy’s show, which is as smooth as velvet.
When it’s your festival you can bill yourself wherever you please, so naturally Perry Farrell and his Satellite Party are pretty high up. Thankfully it’s not a total exercise in delusion as he plays a greatest-hits set including Jane’s Addiction and Porno For Pyros material. ‘Jane Says’, ‘Pets’ and ‘Been Caught Stealing’ almost distract us from the fact that Farrell snogs his bassist halfway through, and by the close we’ve decided that not only does he put on one hell of a festival, but he still rocks pretty damn hard too.