If Lollapalooza festivalgoers (myself included) thought that Saturday was a muddy, hot mess, short-term memories of a bit of mud were nothing compared to the state of Grant Park by the festival's Sunday evening finale. After an already long, hot day, two separate bouts of rain soaked the festival grounds and left a bevy of mud pits behind in their wake.
Despite the rain and brief chill followed by nasty humidity, thousands persevered and stuck around for reportedly incredible sets from Foo Fighters, Deadmau5 and the rest of Sunday's headliners. And well before things got messy later in the day, the festival's final day of hot, sweaty action was packed with some incredibly entertaining sets from a variety of musicians (not to mention some eventful off-stage happenings) that brought the gargantuan musical extravaganza to a fitting, satisfying close.
(Scroll down to view a photo slideshow capturing some of the day's many highlights.)
Below are a few impressions from the long day of music, following on the heels of our summaries and photo galleries covering both day one and day two. Again, as a one-man festival crew representing HuffPost and attempting to cover over 130 bands, I may not have been able to see much or any of [insert your favorite Lollapalooza act here]'s set, but rest assured that no slights were intended. That said, if we missed something huge, be sure to let us know what some of your favorite moments (either from Sunday or the festival as a whole) were by commenting below.
Kicking things off: When New Jersey history nerd/pub punk outfit Titus Andronicus played the Pitchfork Music Festival last year, they were head and shoulders above much of that festival's lineup with their off-the-wall energy level and bombastic exuberance. It is that energy that likely qualified the band as one of a limited few that "graduated" from last year's smaller indie festival (also: Local Natives, Best Coast and the Smith Westerns, plus Beirut, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and Black Lips, who all played Pitchfork in 2009) to the big stages and bright lights of Lolla.
It's truly unfortunate that Titus was stuck with such an early time slot (12:45 p.m.) in their big stage debut, but the band brought their trademark, Springstreen-esque flair front and center in a set that was thrilling despite the relatively small crowd assembled on the muddy field to see it. Incidentally, singer Patrick Stickles sports one of the festival's finest displays of facial hair with his full Civil War era beard. I'm anxious to see what the band will have up their sleeves for their anticipated followup to "The Monitor," their highly acclaimed record, released early in 2010.
Ireland's next big rockabilly star: While wandering through the grounds' south end in pursuit of shade and additional water, I had to stop and take in Imelda May's set. I ended up staying for most of it. The Dublin, Ire.-based performer rocks straight-up bluesy rockabilly with a voice that rivals a young Wanda Jackson. She even, reportedly, threw in a cover of "Tainted Love" for good measure -- and who doesn't love a solid '80s cover song at an outdoor music fest? This is a star on the rise. [Correction: We originally attributed the aforementioned cover song to the Eurythmics, though it of course was popularized by Soft Cell (and later by Marilyn Manson). As an on-the-ball commenter pointed out, the song was first recorded by Gloria Jones in 1965.]
Instrumental Queen cover for the win: Back over on the festival's north end, English folksy rockers Noah and the Whale kicked off their set with (short of the Mountain Goats' heavy metal introduction on Friday) probably the festival's best set overture: a brass band's cover of "Bohemian Rhapsody," eliciting drunken sing-alongs throughout the adjacent grassy areas. By the time the band began, however, the mood went a bit more introspective on songs like "Blue Skies," thanks to singer Charlie Fink's saddening lyrical content. ("This is the last song that I write while still in love with you / This is the last song that I write while you're even on my mind," for example.) That said, it was a musically well-delivered mid-afternoon offering, if a bit of a downer in a festival setting.
Hidden gem: Another musical act who was probably overlooked due to scheduling was Lia Ices, a Conn.-born songstress who played for a tiny, tiny crowd on the BMI stage in the mid-afternoon Sunday. Between sets, Ices mumbled quietly and seemed a bit nervous, but it's still a shame more folks were not able to take in her profusely ethereal vocals on songs like the set-ending "Daphne," off her most recent album, "Grown Unknown," released earlier this year. I was a bit surprised by how engaging as performers she and her band are -- they put together a really moving live performance that's worth checking out the next time they roll through town.
The pains of having a dubious band name: The last time I caught New York dream pop-rockers The Pains of Being Pure at Heart live, they shared a double bill with fellow indie buzzsters Twin Shadow at the Lincoln Hall. In the few months that have passed since that show, the outfit has further finessed their live performance, and they seemed truly honored to be a part of this year's Lollapalooza lineup. Keyboardist and vocalist Peggy Wang at one point told the audience they were the best the band had ever played for, while vocalist Kip Berman admitted he always dreamed of playing the festival so that he could meet Helium's Mary Timony. Packed mostly with songs of their most recent album, "Belong," the Pains' set was impressive, particularly on "My Terrible Friend," a song Berman said was about "doing bad things with good people." Iffy name aside, this band has some serious skills.
Getting hazy: Beyond this point in the day, I must admit that the heat of the sun was beginning to get to me, as well as a sore ankle from huffing it from end of the festival to the other throughout the three-day event. So these notes will be brief from the bits and pieces of sets I caught in the day's latter half: The Cars put on a solid set that clearly had many folks feeling nostalgic. Meanwhile, over at the Kid Cudi-curated Perry's stage, The Cool Kids were keeping the ever-dancing children moving. Back on the north end, Celtic punk band Flogging Molly delivered a politically-charged, rallying set that did justice to their reputation as an exhilarating band to see live. And Illinois native singer-songwriter Lissie belted out her exceptional "Everywhere I Go" ballad with a whole lot of fire.
Pre-storm: Just after Mumford & Suns-esque Sydney, Aus. indie folkers Boy & Bear began their set on the BMI stage, the clouds began to roll in and many folks were already inching toward some sort of cover from the rain that, even as it seemed inevitable, was an intense pelting. Nevertheless, the band had attracted a surprisingly large crowd and offered a very satisfying, melody-driven set in what they said was their first-ever Chicago appearance. The song "Mexican Mavis" was one particular standout.
During storm: And then it all came pouring down. Just before Bethany Cosentino, a.k.a. Best Coast, launched into her surprisingly aggressive set, the rain began, soaking even those who had the forethought to bring an umbrella for the day. Not among that crowd myself, I buddied up with a fellow media buddy (thanks, Marcus Gilmer!) for some umbrella coverage, which still left me pretty damp. As far as I can recall amidst the muddy collective panic, Cosentino was spot-on in the performance of her '60s-styled, summery garage pop hits.
Post-storm: The rain eventually cleared and I can't imagine an act more appropriate than Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley & Nas to sooth a soaked crowd with their fusion of reggae and hip-hop. Though their set sailed along triumphantly, I began to feel defeated by the three days of festivities and I called it a Lolla after chowing down on an overpriced piece of lukewarm pizza -- by far the least impressive grub of an otherwise tasty selection of treats, thanks to Graham Elliot.
Watching parts of the Foo Fighters' night-ending set (which took place amid a second round of heavy rain) from the comforts of the couch via YouTube, I was struck by Dave Grohl's defiant, frenzied, fully amped-up presence. He's become, over years of hard work, what so many of the talented musicians who took to the stage over the long weekend at Lolla dream about each night as they drift to sleep in a minivan after playing at that night's hole-in-the-wall. The man is a titan. Though I can't say I was necessarily a Foo fan before their show, I just might have to change that fact now.
Day three highlights: Titus Andronicus, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Lia Ices.
All-festival highlights: Le Butcherettes, Death From Above 1979, Titus Andronicus, Bright Eyes, Tinie Tempah.