It’s Friday August 6th, the big kick off for Chicago’s much-anticipated Lollapalooza weekend. Musicians and their followers have been at it since 11:15 am, but it’s now 3 o’clock and the Grant Park grounds have already become flattened with beaten paths, muddy patches, and empty cans, the remnants of B.o.B and The Walkmen crowd. But with those sets wrapped up, there is only one reason for the current mob of people flooding the stage: The Big Pink.

Although lightly equipped with only 2009’s A Brief History of Love, the London based group has more than many acts, with at least five solid hit singles to work with. The patient crowd fuses closer towards the stage as Big Pink emerges, frontman Robbie Furze giving a brief shout out to Lollapalooza before their set begins.

The group squeezes out eight of their album songs with little to no banter, opening with their 2008 hit single release “Too Young to Love,” before diving straight into their romantic moodiness with standouts like “Velvet,” “Tonight,” “At War With the Sun,” and “Crystal Visions.” The biggest crowd pleaser, however, is obviously the stomper “Dominoes.” Saved for last, it lifts the crowd’s energy and gets everyone dancing, even if they thought they’d been sick of that overplayed song months ago.

It’s Chicago and it’s August, so the sun remains bright, intense, and burning. Fans have loaded on the sunscreen, purchased their beer and trekked from all over the park to the Playstation Stage to make the 5:30 show of Dirty Projectors.

The sextet’s lulling sounds of oohs and aahs ring out from the speakers. Amber Coffman, Angel Deradoorian, and Haley Dekle performing magnificent harmonies on stage as frontman Dave Longstreth does his acrobatic vocal noodling.

Crowd interaction is decent as they paused half way between their set and praised The Strokes and “Elle Gaga,” then dedicating “Dueling Voices” to Chicago. As the set comes to an end, there’s a time overlap with The Black Keys, dragging away a majority of their crowd. Dave Longstreth doesn’t give up the microphone, however, and thanks those who stuck around for another short little jam session before they walk off stage.

Jamie Lidell is a born crowd pleaser with high energy, big smiles, wise cracks, and a hell of a jacket. He plays around on stage, sometimes hitting the drummer’s cymbals himself. “Another Day”, from his 2008 album, Jim, is one of the first songs played, and a great lead in.

Lidell sings “I Wanna Be Your Telephone”, from his upcoming album Compass, (a witty song about the relationship of people and their phones), saying, “they get to be in all kinds of places…I wish I could be in your pocket…” He flawlessly incorporates old and new material in his show, making each era of albums blend into one smooth set with standouts like “Enough’s Enough” from Compass, “A Little Big of Feel Good” from Jim, and “Multiply” from the 2005 album Multiply, fullfilling crowd desires by playing called out requests.

Later on Friday, there’s a draw of the crowd when 8:00 hits as The Strokes and Lady Gaga duel for the headlining spot. Most head over to witness Gaga’s spectacle. But was it really everything this crowd expected?

Her performance falls somewhere between arena concert and Broadway theatre, and the show’s schtick-heavy glitz is half the fun. Saying that tonight Gaga went beyond the expected antics of her typical show might be a stretch, but she does have her elaborate costumes, erotic dance moves, and excessive makeup. The set begins as a broken down car rolls out onto stage, starting a dialogue between Gaga and one of her back up dancers about not being able to “go to the monster ball.” It’s all a nice intro for Gaga to claim there’s no need for mobile transportation, since she will take you there herself. Vroom indeed.

“Beautiful, Dirty, Rich” involves her robotic dance moves and erratic, freeze frame positions. Between songs, she preaches to the “freaks and monsters” out in the audience, making it seem a very self-reflective show by giving us a vulnerable, stripped-down Gaga reminiscent of her high school days, or ancient history, when critics were sure she’d never “make it.”

“You can be whoever it is that you want to be,” she shouts fervently to the crowd, “all the freaks are outside and we’ve locked the door. Follow the glitter way.”

Midway through the show, Gaga introduces an old performing friend, Lady Starlight, and they do a break time dance to Metallica. All the head banging leads to both Ladys bringing out lighters and aerosol cans to make a blowtorch scene as they stand back to back. (Of course there has to be fire involved in a Gaga set).

“Boys, Boys, Boys” brings out the male back up dancers, grabbing crotches and grinding around stage.
As far as her musicianship goes tonight, Gaga plays a suited-up Keytar and at one point, a piano that pops out of the hood of a car. She exposes a softer side as she sits at the piano, (not standing for a change), using her true voice in “You and I”, a recent release.

Lollapalooza Day Three: Blitzen Trapper, Mumford & Sons

The Dodos had just finished at the Playstation Stage as the roadies for Portland Oregon’s Blitzen Trapper check the sound one last time. As the crowd turns around and wanders across the shared field to the Budweiser Stage, the band meanders out to pick up their instruments, exciting fans with tongue-in-cheek timing.

The attendance isn’t intimate, but the large field belittles the number of heads that afternoon. The band seems to pay no mind, and the fans are happy with the close-up opportunity.

With songs from both June’s Destroyer of the Void, including the title track and big hits from 2008’s Furr, Trapper pick great choices from their cache. “God and Suicide,” “Lady on the Water,” “Black River Killer” and the self-titled big album hit, “Furr,” are all sure crowd pleasers, inducing sing-a-long feel that pull together their audiences.

At midpoint, frontman Eric Earley gives a “How about the Dodos?” shout out and the crowd cheers along in appreciation.

By the time Blitzen Trapper’s set finishes, Marcus Mumford is tweaking his guitar for an acoustic curtain call rally, with each respective member of his band sauntering out on stage, from upright bassman, Ted Dwane, to accordion/keyboardist, Ben Lovett, and finally banjo (and occasionally Dobro) warrior, Winston Marshall. However, members do not stick to just one instrument throughout the set. The indie-folk-bluegrass quartet is known to pick up and play whatever instrument is most convenient for the song’s sake.

Along with the crowd, Mumford and Sons give a collective sigh of relief that the sun decides to show, providing us all with beautiful weather as they play tunes from February’s Sigh No More. “Awake My Soul” and other gems like “Thistles and Weeds,” “The Cave,” and  “Feel the Tide Turning” are kicked in five-piston form, with sweat from Marcus’ head splattering his foot pedals.

“Little Lion Man,” becoming a popular radio hit as of late, picks up the pace out of front-porch meandering into near punk pogo jump, stirring a think cloud of dust on the baseball diamond that kisses the stage.

“Roll Away Your Stone,” another top pick from their love ballads, and an at once upbeat and somber cut, draws some inspirations with a feverish banjo pluck, with Marcus rising in a raspy voice, “It seems that all my bridges have been burned/but you say that’s exactly how this grace thing works.”

Bridges burned may be a drag, yet Marcus is quick to celebrate the great communicator aspect of tunage and gives a string of shout outs to everyone from The Strokes to Phoenix and Blues Traveler, reminding the Lollapalooza crowd that these musicians are all here in mutual support for the sake of our entertainment.--Text and photos by Courtney Clark