Lollapalooza ’09: Crooked Rain

August 8th, 2009: As seen on Paste (PDF)

Chicago’s behemoth of pop festivals, though dampened by eight hours of fantastically annoying rain droplets, laced up its rock kicks in prime fashion yesterday, Grant Park playing a muddy host to everything from tribal DJ sets to David Gahan’s iconic Depeche Mode nightcap.

A few aggressions could be heard from fans towards the sky, but for the most part, pancho or no pancho, people flocked in from the noon get-go, feeding the energy of starters like Gringo Star and the southern bayou counterpart to Portland’s Decemberists, The Builders & The Butchers. Slinging hit tales like “Devil Town” and and “Bottom of the Lake,” the band’s dual-drummer thump mocked the weather, frontman Ryan Sollee teasing upward, “Bring me some rain, bring me some thunder.”

Thunder never did show.  And you wouldn’t even have been able to hear it over at the new slab of concrete dedicated to Perry’s DJ enclave, where Dark Wave Disco ruled the afternoon, piling on the Daft Punk samples and washes of hipster synth to masses of hands and hips. Although I could only take so much of it before needed a little guitar.

Elsewhere in the park, rock came in spades, Heartless Bastards, The Virgins and Fleet Foxes playing despite puddles on stage.  Dreary weather aficionados the Fleet Foxes were shocked that people were out in the numbers that they were, stickman J. Tillman saying that their set will definitely make the highlight reel, while Thievery Corporation delivered the epic dance party that we all knew they would, baseball diamonds turning into mud-people galas.  Some girl even whipped out a pacifier.

Come sunset, rain still strong, Peter, Bjorn & John, plagued in years past by faulty stage preps and delays, finally killed a set, looking like they just rolled off a sailboat.  One minute the signature whistle of “Young Folks” blasted, the next Peter Moren’s emulating Ian Curtis full seizure with a cover of “Transmission.”  It was a perfect segue into Depeche Mode.

Not unlikely that this could be one of Gahan’s last tours, as rumors of the singer’s health fly, near 100,000 filed into the south end of the park, skipping Kings of Leon for some classic ’80s new wave. Rain would have probably completed the mood, ironically, but the crew caught the first glimpse of clear sky, digging into their entire catalogue, from requisite Violator classics “Policy of Truth” and “Personal Jesus” to newbies off 2009’s Sounds of the Universe, while cryptic poetry typed on a faux-typewriter flashed over faces from the jumbotrons. Certainly no pain brings art moment, but a nice sing-along eyeliner salute to day one.

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