Lollapalooza day one: Ted Leo, Polyphonic Spree, MIA, LCD Soundsystem, Daft Punk, and more riveted our woman in Chicago


By K. Tighe

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No logo? Photo by Cambria Harkey.

Ted Leo himself seemed a bit apprehensive about playing under a corporate logo at his afternoon performance on Aug. 3. The political punker lost his footing at the start of his set, falling onto the deck of the Myspace stage. I'll try to suppress the symbolism in all of this. Once he got back to his feet, he and his Pharmacists plowed through 45 minutes of pure rock, pounding out poly-agit hits like "Bomb Repeat Bomb" and "A Bottle of Buckie" to an enthusiastic crowd. Closing the set with "C.I.A.,” Leo managed to use his guitar to rain a pound the hell out of the stage for a few minutes.

Tim Delaughter's cultish Polyphonic Spree offered indisputable proof that many bodies in motion do not make a movement. Having abandoned their trademark white robes for black military MASH jackets, the gimmicky horn section was joined by an off-key choir and a band of tap dancers. The spree had the crowd for the first part of their set, which was loaded with old favorites and tracks from their recent album, The Fragile Army. By the end of the set, after several promised that "this will be our final song,” the crowd's energy had fallen away from the band and the audience made its way to other stages.

Another disappointment came with the loss of MIA's voice. Where did it go? I'm not sure, but it wasn't in Grant Park today. The pint-sized Sri Lanken still gave it her all, explaining to her fans that she'd traveled a long way to get there, and even throwing in that Jack White Fed-Exed her some "supplies" to get her voice going again. Performing songs from her debut, Arular, as well as the upcoming Kala, she got the stage energy to a dance-party high. The political messages about the violence of her homeland rang through like so many bells.

Speaking of bells, what exactly is it about a cow bell that gets hipsters all riled up? I would have asked the Rapture, but there was a 10-foot gap between the band and the audience, an isolating technicality that seemed to affect their set. Perhaps it was being booked in the same timeslot as MIA that put a damper on the start of their performance, because it wasn't until her set wrapped and the fans started floating over that the Rapture turned on their sassy charm. By the time "House of Jealous Lovers" started to break the air, the Adidas stage had become the party we all expected it to be.

Lollapalooza founder and former Jane's Addiction frontperson Perry Farrell delivered a mediocre performance with his new band, Satellite Party. Fans of Jane's Addiction and Porno for Pyros were pleased: almost every other song in the set was an oldie from a previous Farrell outfit.

What followed was the highpoint of the day: LCD Soundsystem, playing to what is likely the biggest crowd they'd ever seen. In between invasive, infectious grooves tickled with that trademark hipster cowbell - seriously, I really don't get it - frontperson James Murphy doled out a little advice, "If you don't see any girls around you, you're dancing wrong." Rife with over-the-top electro-clad beats, LCD Soundsystem owned this Friday night. They ended the set with "Daft Punk Is Playing at my House" just in time for Daft Punk to close out the night on the opposite stage.

OK, here's where journalistic integrity gets a little tricky. If only I could have scored a little ecstasy, I could have been as into Daft Punk as the guy beside me, who was busy explaining that he had hearts on his shirt. And he did. Quite simply, Daft Punk delivered a rave. Rising from a gigantic pyramid - which at least supplied witty stage banter for all the low-budget indie bands playing later in the weekend - under epileptic fits of white light, the two masked Frenchmen did what they do. The crowd loved it. I thought it was ridiculous.

More fans were drawn to the Bud Light Stage on the other side of the park, where Ben Harper was busy being low-key. As if the crowd wasn't gaga enough for the mellow man with the slow vibe, Harper brought out his old friend Eddie Vedder, who is a native of Evanston, Ill., the Berkeley of the region. The two powered through Bob Dylan's "Masters of War," and the result was moving enough to make me forget the great pyramid debacle on the other end of the park.