RHCP, Broken Social Battle on the South Side

As the sun ducked under the city skyline and most Lollapaloozers lingered in anticipation of last night’s headliners the Red Hot Chili Peppers, a smaller grassroots music contingency had their own plan. Commandeering the corner in front of a different stage, the plaid-clad and free-spirited didn’t care if they had to watch Anthony Kiedis from afar. They were the few, the proud, the fans of Broken Social Scene. And after the 15-person collective finished their too-short set, they were one more thing: Awestruck.

In order to understand the epic battle of musical allegiance pulsing on the south end of Grant Park, it’s worth noting that the Red Hot Chili Peppers were scheduled to rock out at 8:15, right after Broken Social Scene finished their 7:30 set on the stage directly across the park’s southernmost field. All weekend, sets have run an hour for bands that aren’t closing off the night, but for Broken Social Scene, the Peppers’ longer planned set time cut them short.

Add this shorter time to the reality that many fans had sprinted to the RHCP stage at 11 A.M. when the doors opened for the last day of the festival. As the field bubbled-over with Red Hot Chili Pepper fans, those who weren’t die-hard were relegated to the jumbotron-details and pin-sized rock stars. Barring all description, the crowd was massive.

Meanwhile, those in front of the Broken Social Scene had their back turned to the headliners while watching some Canadian all-stars work together, particularly on a goosebump-inducing performance of “Anthems for a Seventeen-Year-Old Girl” that leaned on surreal three-part harmonies by Feist, Metric’s Emily Haines, and Stars’ Amy Millan. As trumpets and sultry voices fanned in from the outskirts of the stage, the audience wailed with unfettered appreciation.

“This is one of my New Year’s resolutions, to go somewhere and see Broken Social Scene,” Kim Streeter, 28, said. Streeter had come from Asheville, N.C. with her boyfriend, Ryan Conrad, who added that he didn’t care he was missing the Chili Peppers. “Broken Social Scene is much more dynamic,” he said. “It’s like comparing Sigur Ros to Toots and the Maytals.”

Despite a disinterest in the Peppers, the small legion of Broken Social Scenesters held their turf, demanding one more song by chanting, well, “One more song,” once the set was over. After switching to “Let them play,” in loud overtones, the band emerged awestruck and appreciative for a silent curtain call, as the entire band waved their thanks to what seemed like the festival’s most adoring audience. Then the voice of Perry Farrell began to welcome RHCP across the field, which hardly assuaged fans who wanted more Scene and less mainstream. Despite the denial of a deserved encore, Streeter was still content with her time with BSS. “That’s the easiest resolution I’ve ever made,” Streeter said.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers headlined with a heavy-handed set that was full of their hits. The audience, sopped with sweat, was violent and virulent: Fans who had been waiting in the front row all day were soon pulled out by security after being unable to handle the crowds forcing them into the metal grate. “Don’t go into crowd! You’ll pass out,” warned one young fan who was still stoked to have been in the front row. “I was like this close to John [Frusciante], so it was totally worth it.”

But for Lauren Jessen, 35, watching away from “sweating distance” was ideal for the vintage T-shirt-clad mom, who had come from Colorado to see her favorite band perform. This was the first time she had seen the Peppers, and she brought her 14-year-old daughter, another avid fan, to see Flea, who was wearing a tie-dyed leotard, and friends.

“They got me through high school,” Jessen said. “But the majority of the people in the audience are younger than their albums. How can they be huge fans?”

That may be what separated the two shows: As the small crowd of Broken Social Scene pleaded for one more song once their set ended, those who stuck around for the Chili Peppers were pleading for nothing but a shower. KURT SOLLER

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PHOTOS BY RACHEL AHERIN AND EMILY ZEMLER

Flea rocks the unitard.

The heat doesn’t keep John Frusciante out of a sharp blazer.

Onstage with the Peppers.

What the Peppers saw from the AT&T Stage.

Leslie Feist with Broken Social Scene

Broken Social Scene in one of the less-crowded moments onstage.

Feist and BSS’ Kevin Drew.

At Lollapalooza ’06, Spin is on the ground with our college correspondent program. Eight college students — four writers, four photographers — earned the opportunity to cover the festival for SPIN.com, live, all weekend long. Sound appealing? Stay tuned to SPIN.com for future opportunities to apply for our college correspondent program!

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