More Saturday Sets: Jim James, Roky Erickson, Muse, Snow Patrol

Rumors ran rampant by 3 P.M. regarding the Kidzapalooza stage’s last “very special” guest of the day. Some said Eddie Vedder (and you’d have thought, judging by the two enormous black-clad Pearl Jam fanatics sitting with the kids in the front row), while others said Patti Smith and My Morning Jacket’s Jim James. The latter were right, and at 3 P.M. James arrived alone, called the kids up to the front row, and sang his heart out. Hearing James sing Alvin & the Chipmunks’ Christmas Song and Kermit’s “Rainbow Connection” was certainly one of the more eclectic treats of this year’s Lollapalooza.

At quite the opposite end of the spectrum, I found myself surrounded by grizzled old rockers cheering on Roky Erickson and his newly resurrected band. The old-school rocker confidently strummed his huge white guitar on the Playstation stage, despite the fact that he’d only begun performing again relatively recently. “Starry Eyes” and “Two-Headed Dog” rocked with raw guitars, jamming solos — not a synth or hipster in sight. Even renowned “superfan” Beatle Bob — who some unenlightened onlookers assumed to be the Cars’ Ric Ocasek — danced arhythmically on the side of the stage. And it was here I saw one of my favorite tees of the fest so far: A picture of ‘W’ with the tagline, “Next time you’ll vote hippie.”

But hippies were nowhere in sight for Snow Patrol‘s set an hour later at the Bud Light stage — baseball caps and A&F tanks were the costume of choice. A scruffy Gary Lightbody and his fellow self-proclaimed “Lollapalooza virgins” arrived amidst Irish flags waving in Chicago’s windy fields (out in full force tonight) and the band pumped out songs new and old: “Eyes Open,” “Chocolate,” “Chasing Cars,” and “Run” were all highlights. I half-expected Martha Wainwright to appear out of the woodwork for “Set the Fire to the 3rd Bar,” but Lightbody brought up Silversun Pickups bassist/vocalist Nikki Monniger instead, who wowed the crowd with her sweet, yet melancholy voice. Even with the rain coming down, you could tell Lightbody was having a blast, and not only onstage — he name-checked the bands he’d seen during the day, and lamented at having to make the choice between Interpol and Muse. He then dedicated every song to members of the crowd (most notably, one guy dressed as Spider-Man). Happily, the last one, “You’re All That I Have” went out to all of us.

Any act would have had trouble following Day One’s ridiculous set by headliner Daft Punk, but the three Englishmen of Muse, were up to the task. The show was as much a visual feast for the eyes as one for the ears; layers of lightning fast images were as complicated and mesmerizing as the layered noise and melodies of the music. Green lasers assaulted the crowd, as Clockwork Orange-like images flashed, strobe-like on the screens.

Epic songs like “Starlight” and “Time Is Running Out” were huge crowd-pleasers, but as one audience member lamented, “Last night Daft Punk felt like one huge party, tonight actually feels like a concert.” A good one, definitely, but the no-holds-barred insanity of the previous night was more subdued for the ambient hard-rockers (if there is such a thing, Muse is it). This was a rock show, not a dance party. Just shy of 10 P.M., fireworks may have been exploding on the video screens, but the true fireworks igniting overhead were really coming from frontman Matt Bellamy’s powerful pipes. ROBIN MONHEIT


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