At noon on Day Two of Lollapalooza, Grant Park looked like a ghost town. Maybe it was because of the mild drizzle, or the fact that everyone was recovering from Friday night, but only the faithful were roaming around, taking advantage of the quick-moving beer lines and semi-clean porta-potties.
Just when it seemed like the only action going on was in Perry’s Tent, where DJ Neil Armstrong was providing storm shelter (and Snoop Dogg tunes), Motown-loving L.A. crew Fitz and the Tantrums took the Music Unlimited stage. As red-suited frontman Michael “Fitz” Fitzpatrick thanked the crowd for “making our deepest dreams come true” over a soundtrack of hooky soul-pop, the mud-splattered fans threw their hands in the air. After a funked-up cover of the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams,” the band busted out its recent hit, “Moneygrabber.” “When we kick off this last chorus, I want everyone to lose their freaking minds,” demanded Fitzpatrick over fat sax blasts. “I want to see every fucking hand clapping.”
Not far away, Mayer Hawthorne was seducing his audience with suave, retro-soul jams. The California-based singer’s get-up – navy blazer, white pants, blue boat shoes – screamed yacht rocker, but his babymaking tunes, like the dreamy, falsetto-heavy “I Wish It Would Rain,” proved otherwise. “I have a lot of songs about love and relationships and sappy shit like that,” he admitted, before indulging his soft spot for adult rock with a cover of Hall and Oates’ “You Make My Dreams Come True.”
By mid-afternoon, the bulk of Saturday’s 90,000 fans had migrated to either end of the park to stake out spots for sets by headliners My Morning Jacket and Eminem. (Indie-folk group Beirut and electro outfit Pretty Lights were slotted for the same time as the superstar acts.)
At Music Unlimited, Cee-Lo was warming up the stage for Eminem. The soul singer scored a huge crowd, but holding its attention seemed to be another matter. Dressed in shoulder pads topped with huge spikes and a chunky neck chain, Cee-Lo channeled his inner-dungeon master/Billy Idol; he even played an R&B-flavored cover of the 80s star’s “Flesh for Fantasy.” But the set was anything but smooth: Between tunes, which included Cee-Lo’s own “Satisfied,” “Bright Lights Bigger City,” and Gnarls Barkley’s smash “Crazy,” he turned the spotlight to his DJ, who inexplicably spun Lenny Kravitz, Nirvana and Depeche Mode – a move that inspired boos from the crowd. “Don’t you dare let this wonderful outfit go to waste,” he said, palpably annoyed. But the irritation may have worked in his favor (and sent a subliminal message to his fans): On his closer, the Motown-inflected kiss-off “Fuck You,” his voice sounded richer than it had all night.
The night’s biggest draw was clearly Eminem, even though he was up against rock superstars My Morning Jacket. An informal fan poll explains why: Most people felt compelled to see the Detroit rapper for fear he’d never tour again. “Holy shit, there’s a lot of people out there,” said Em, whose debut Lolla appearance was a skittery, energetic barrage of career-spanning tunes. He dipped into his early days (“Kill You,” which ended with a startling gun-shot), the George- W.-dissing era (“Square Dance”) and newer hits, like “Love the Way You Lie” and “Lighters,” for which Bruno Mars appeared to sing the hook. At one point, he urged the crowd to chant “fuck you, mom, fuck you, dad”; it likely set a world record for number of voices unanimously expressing that sentiment.
Across the park, My Morning Jacket was getting psychedelic with spacey, stretched-out jams. Compared to Eminem, the crowd was shockingly sparse – but MMJ devotees were using the extra space to noodle dance and, in one dude’s case, try out yoga moves. Frontman Jim James whipped out his omnichord for the dreamy, otherworldly, “Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Pt. 2,” then traded it for an electric guitar, pumping out ear-splitting riffs on super-catchy new tune “Holdin’ on to Black Metal” and fan favorite “Wordless Chorus.” Midway through the song, he skidded across the stage on his knees, did a karate kick and unleashed a primal howl.
For the finale, MMJ played its classic 2003 track “One Big Holiday.” As the stage lights flashed, the snare drums hissed and James rocked out on a surging guitar solo, the fans jumped up and down like they were at a Kriss Kross concert. After a few minutes of straight-up jamming, James told the crowd to be safe. In his arms he held what looked like a golden teddy-bear, a comforting signal for everyone to say goodnight.