From the headline acts and the corporately sponsored attractions to the massive crowds, everything was a bit bigger at Lollapalooza 2008. Featuring eight stages, largely ignored green initiatives and a variety of distractions squeezed into a mile-long stretch of Chicago's Grant Park, the festival entertained sellout crowds for three sunny days (August 1-3). There were more than 100 bands on the bill, but it was the five headline acts' strong and colorful sets that carried the weekend, ending each day with points of exclamation.
True to expectations of the 75,000-strong day-one crowd, Radiohead displayed an unmatched mastery of sonic dynamics with a career-spanning two-hour set performed beneath an impressive display of tubes of dripping light. Local heroes Wilco brought a touch of Nashville to night two via brightly colored rhinestone- and cartoon-decorated suits, and their fractured folk and uncommon country provided a laid-back finish. In juxtaposition across the park, Rage Against the Machine released righteous fury before an unrestrained crowd.
On the final night, Kanye West's sizable ego and audacious showmanship came home for a hit-filled set. But his flash was no match for the excitement brought by Trent Reznor and his tight Nine Inch Nails crew. Surrounded by mind-bending lights and visuals, their well-paced set mixed thunderous hits with plenty of deeper new material.
Not to be outdone, the rest of the weekend's acts had something to please every taste. Rockers could choose from Black Lips' lo-fi grooves, Foals' rhythmic excursions, Does It Offend You, Yeah?'s caustic dance-rock, Battles' complex arrangements and Bloc Party's punchy set. Hip-hop's new guard took over with Spank Rock and Amanda Blank getting lascivious while the effervescent Kid Sister debuted new material and Saul Williams and CX Kidtronik destroyed eardrums, minds and gear.
Gnarls Barkley showed no one is doing more to take funk and soul into the future, while Jamie Lidell worked his live band revue, and Chromeo's updated new wave had people chanting. The DJ stage had asses moving all weekend, but on a larger stage, Booka Shade led a midday rave and Girl Talk created a literal roadblock with his dancefloor recontextualizations.
The three days of music and sun were evident on the tired faces and in the trampled grass strewn with empty cups, but those faces mostly wore smiles, and the park will certainly rebound for the next overabundance of music and people that is Lollapalooza.