Rainy start to day one of Lollapalooza

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Lollapalooza opened in Grant Park on Friday to -- what else? -- rain and a soggy turf that required wood chips to be imported and portions of Hutchinson Field to be roped off. Inclement weather is now a regular visitor at this festival, especially after a major storm prompted a brief evacuation last year.

The opening hours Friday weren't nearly so dramatic after morning rain puddled the field. The three-day, 30-hour, 130-band mega-concert is expected to draw 270,000 people to the park, and fatten the city's wallet by more than $4 million.

Greg Kot(GK), Bob Gendron(BG) and Andy Downing(AD) give us the play-by-play of day one.

12:30 p.m.: Ella Jenkins, a week shy of her 89th birthday and easily the oldest performer on the Lollapalooza bill, is completely at home in front of the fest's youngest attendees when she kicks off action on the Kidzapalooza stage. The longtime Chicagoan exudes boundless optimism (upon exiting she says, “Instead of saying goodbye I'll say hello”) as she leads a few dozen children through call-and-response versions of songs like “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” Though Jenkins is decades older than everyone in the crowd, the generation gap is only evident when she's momentarily caught off-guard by a young girl's dyed-blue pigtail. “Look at how her hair is colored,” she says, “That's very...ok.” During her set, she sings in English and Spanish, and she leads the audience in counting to 10 in English, Spanish and French. The lesson at the heart of the performance is clear: music remains a universal language. (AD)

12:31 p.m.: First cover song of the festival? Quite likely. Robert DeLong accents the Rolling Stones' "Miss You" with a rave edge as part of a set during which the one-man band splits the divide between purely electronic and hybrid pop elements. Twisting knobs and hitting buttons, DeLong relies on loops, MIDI samples and programmed beats while intermittently providing live vocals and taking turns on a drum kit. It's a techno-splashed dance party even if his voice lacks depth and his songs, despite the anything-goes construction, strike a one-dimensional note. Who cares? When you're your own boss, you can do what you want. (BG)

12:52 p.m.: Hundreds of fans patiently wait behind yellow tape stretching across the width of the field to prevent access to the first 200 feet of the southernmost stage. Apparently, field conditions are horrible, as security says mud is "knee deep" in certain locations. Mulch is on the way to try and repair e problems. But it's too late. Security is helpless as fans break through and run towards the stage in anticipation of Emeli Sande. It's going to get muddy and organizers will almost assuredly be replacing sod after the fest ends. (BG)

1:13 p.m.: Emeli Sande wastes no opportunity to expose herself to new audiences and impress with a big, gospel-kissed voice. Donning a blonde and green mohawk, white shirt and cherry-red lipstick, Sande hops around the stage in a crouched position, suddenly bouncing up when her singing swells. In between subconscious hand gestures that coincide with the lyrics, she introduces nearly every song by name and exudes optimism, independence and thankfulness. Sande briefly sits at the piano for the introduction to her hit "Next To Me," which soon evolves into a soul-jazz anthem that soars courtesy of her smooth timbre and a thumping backbeat. Equipped with both personality and pipes, the Scottish-born singer could be primed for an American breakout provided her future material reflects the boldness of her churchy voice. (BG)

1:47 p.m.: Duo Deap Vally blends cranky guitar and enthusiastic drumming into the latest take on White Stripes-style garage-rock minimalism. But the songs are pure Katy Perry escapsim, detailing a morning-after "Walk of Shame" and misadventures that "are bad for my body ... my health ... my future." At least they're not recycling "Robert Johnson at the crossroads" blues cliches. (GK)

1:57 p.m.: Spice Girls for a new generation. Icona Pop touts the festival benefits of "making out with strangers you might never see again." Indeed, the Swedish duo's tinsel-thin electropop subscribes to a similar forgettable disposability. Plastic, silly and splashy, the female pair bops around to pop at its basest, the songs designed for jumping around between innings at a baseball game or shouting at the top of one's lungs while driving with a bunch of teenagers in the car. As rain pours down, the crowd becomes a combination of pumping fists and activated umbrellas. People love the mindless nature of Aino Jawo or Caroline Hjelt. Neither possesses a memorable voice, and their lyrics evoke the kind of boy-crush thoughts scrawled by a seventh-grade cheerleader in the margins of her homework. but it doesn't matter. Icona Pop keeps its club smash "I Love It" in its collective back pocket until the finale, celebrating everything carefree and stupid. (BG)

2:15 p.m.: Twenty One Pilots musical output proves nearly as unpredictable as the weather, which shifts from rain to intense sunshine over the course of the Columbus duo's afternoon set. Frontman Tyler Joseph lays out the band's ethos near the midpoint of its performance, saying, “We're just a couple guys doing what we think is ok.” This extends from the music, which incorporates elements of hip-hop, piano balladry and screamo explosions, to the pair's onstage antics. Joseph sings “Holding On to You” while being held aloft by the audience, while drummer Josh Dun interrupts another song to perform a backflip off the piano. At times the two musicians fall prey to gimmickry (there's little to enjoy about the keytar solo Joseph breaks out on “Car Radio”), but their energy is so radiant one could almost credit them with singlehandedly staving off the rain. (AD)

2:30 p.m. Sweden's Ghost B.C. instantly becomes front-runners for best-dressed rock band of the weekend with their black hoods and capes. The music is nearly as memorable with its quasi-Medieval overtones and heavy-metal melodies.The singer addresses the crowd in what sounds like a Transylvanian drawl, though the campiness belies just how accomplished these musicians are. They perform with surgical precision, the knotty arrangements and nimble guitar solos never calling undue attention to themselves because the songs are paramount. (GK)

2:52 p.m.: Smith Westerns battle against losing their first ten minutes to setup issues. The Chicago lads epitomize politeness to the degree that their wispy, 70s AM radio pop-rock threatens to get blown away by the breeze. The quartet, augmented by a keyboardist, plays retro-based fare suggestive of good-intentioned guys that spend their Friday nights sitting around their house wondering whether to call the girls over which they're obsessing. Vocalist Cullen Omori's light falsetto sells the dreamy intentions, and the band's swimmy guitar effects and sincere jangle do the rest to project longing and sadness. Quick, somebody get these guys a tissue to dry their tears. (BG)

3:20 p.m.: The vibe at Perry's stage is reminiscent of the early party scenes in director Harmony Korine's “Spring Breakers.” Countless revelers hold aloft sweating tallboys of beer, and the wardrobe of choice appears to be skin. Onstage, London-based Monsta lays down massive beats as city-consuming as its name suggests. The musical outpouring draws on soul, hip-hop and house, and vocal snippets act as “Simon Says”-worthy commands for revelers. When a computerized voice repeats the word “jump,” a sea of humanity immediately begins pogoing. When it later commands “shake,” the mass seizures begin. Behind the pair, geometric patterns flash on the stage's outsized video screen. But the music eschews such military order, instead lurching in unexpected directions like a drunk stumbling home after a long evening at the pub. (AD)

3:26 p.m.: Is that the Eagles' Glenn Frey onstage singing in a feminine upper register to Laurel Canyon folk rock? No, it's Father John Misty, who also happens to be kissing a plush unicorn head mounted on a stick. And Frey would never do that. Nor would he deliver one droll blow after another. Misty, aka ex-Fleet Foxes drummer Joshua Tillman, takes humorously ironic pot-shots at an array of targets. The crowd's fluorescent apparel. Festival sponsors. Pricey Lollapalooza ticket upgrades and privileges. Perry Farrell's old band Porno for Pyros. Disposable mainstream-aimed dance music that gets feverishly popular. The very notion of celebrity. Inane, cliched banter. Apathy. Banality. Taste. Corporate slogans. Meanwhile, he and his band manage to play a satisfying batch of equally clever songs steeped in bluesy ramble and country twang. The small crowd suggests most people aren't getting Misty's elevated, between-the-lines commentary on issues such as mass consumerism ("Now I'm Learning to Love the War") and hopeless romance ("I Love You Honey Bear"). Too bad. Misty is as understatedly smart an entertainer Lollapalooza has welcomed in years. (BG)

3:38 p.m.: British neo-soul singer Jessie Ware fills the Sade gap with sultry vocals and gently bumping beats that ramp up as the set proceeds. Unlike Sade, the subtle vocal delivery is a choice rather than a constraint. She's got terrific range and a robust tone, but she rarely lets loose. Her skill becomes evident when she drops refined trills and frills, little wordless incisions between verses and at the end of lines. Those moments are the most enchanting in the set. But it's also clear she's just getting started in exploring her musicl possibilities. Ware edges toward more upbeat, dance-pop, eventually shaking it up on stage and wading into the audience. "I'm glad I wore flats," she says. (GK)

4:22 p.m.: Alice Glass clutches a cigarette in one hand and a bottle of wine in the other. The Crystal Castles vocalist indulges in a long swig and proceeds to crawl on all fours up to the microphone stand. Glass quickly becomes a figure you can't dare take your eyes off. Her creative partner, electronics maestro Ethan Kath, opts for a more reserved approach. Clad in black leather and sunglasses, he and a guest drummer resemble Hell's Angels that haven't bathed in a month. Their dark, grizzled appearance mirrors the ugliness, violence and chaos of Crystal Castles' throbbing electropop, which storms by at a pace and volume common to heavy metal. Glass' shouts and screams exist solely for texture, and she can't be stopped. With holes in the knees of her white tights, she wades into the front rows of the crowd, slams around with the unbridled energy of an aerobics instructor, slaps her face and wraps the microphone cord around her neck as if strangling herself. More wine and nicotine supply the fuel. Chirping 8-bit beats enliven the dance pulses. Dry-ice fog adds to the gothic atmosphere. The only thing Crystal Castles need now is nighttime; the overcast afternoon skies don't suit the Toronto band's gloomy underground vibe. (BG)  

4:35 p.m.: Band of Horses ratchets up the intensity when Ben Bridwell plaintively sings, "Is there a ghost in my house?" A finger-picked guitar introduction gives way to a landslide of noise. Bridwell sounds like a ghost himself, chasing something he'll never find while the world crashes around him. (GK)

4:46 p.m.: Theophilus London, backed by an agile, five-piece band, attempts to turn his set into a globe-trotting affair that transports listeners from Brazil (“Rio”) to Jamaica (a new, reggae influenced tune) to his hometown of New York City (nearly everything else). Unfortunately, the Trinidad-born musician can't get out of his own way, and he struggles to generate any momentum as he cuts some numbers short and restarts others multiple times (“Hold up, hold up, hold up. I can hit it harder!”). Even so, some songs still manage to take hold. The concrete-hard “Why Even Try,” for one, doubles as a potent attack on artistic malaise, while the musician repeatedly howls “digital world!” on another tune as his band locks into a futuristic groove that could best be described as space station funk. But more often than not the material sounds half-formed, with London approaching the performance with all the urgency of band rehearsal rather than a prime festival slot. (AD)

5:23 p.m.: Silence. Less than two songs into Imagine Dragons' set, the power goes out. Almost ten minutes expire before the problem--attributed to a failed generator--gets resolved. The hiccup, along with vocalist Dan Reynolds' Patrick Swayze-styled mullet, proves to be the most exciting aspect of the Las Vegas group's appearance. Imagine Dragons haul out and bang on a few circus-ready drums but the band, bolstered by the ubiquitous crossover hit "Radioactive," is as bland, feeble and over-emoting as contemporary synthpop artists come. Reynolds also elects to turn "Tiptoe" into a call-and -response duet with the audience despite having been muted for an extended period. Now's the time to seize the moment, not rely on fans that waited out the delay. (BG)

5:34 p.m.: Thievery Corporation conjures a transglobal meet-and-greet of exotic rhythms. Sitar-inflected Eastern accents bump up against strutting, Caribbean flavored hip-hop and simmering electro-funk. The eight-piece band, including a small horn section, delivers the goods, but the rotating cast of vocalists is the weak link, a relatively faceless bunch that lacks the panache or personality to light up the songs. A "remix" of Bob Marley's "Get Up, Stand Up" is particularly undercooked, a crowd-pleasing cliche that moved dangerously into wedding-band territory. (GK)

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