Sunday at Lollapalooza was all about strings — the old-fashioned kind. There were so many violins and cellos onstage, you'd think they were the coolest thing since straw hats. It began with the Frames, an Irish band whose red-bearded lead singer Glen Hansard sings haunting melodies, backed by electric violin. Then the acoustic bluegrass trio Nickel Creek took over, adding a double bass to the mix. The New Amsterdams — with a cello in their blend of country and rock — played to a small crowd of fans who joined them in singalong songs like "Bad Liar." The next violinist was Andrew Bird, a Chicago-based singer/songwriter whose voice is reminiscent of Jeff Buckley. With his passionate plucking and bowing (and whistling), he put his hometown fans in a mellow daze.
We may have missed a couple of other strings along the way, but the best violin performance of the day had to be Julie Penner from the multi-member jam band Broken Social Scene. They roused the audience into such a state that for 15 minutes after the show, fans still chanted for an encore — which couldn't happen because The Red Hot Chili Peppers were about to begin. And, by the way, guitar strings were all that Flea needed to rock out.