11:19 PM CDT, August 4, 2012
A midafternoon storm Saturday prompted the first evacuation in Lollapalooza's eight year history at Grant Park.
The rains left the park a swampy mess, but Texas-based promoters C3 Presents and the city agreed to plough ahead with a revised schedule and reopened the gates at 6 p.m. after a 2-1/2 hour delay. Ticket-holders streamed back in, in a fairly orderly manner. Scanners were abandoned as security guards did visual checks of wristbands, which hastened the re-entry.
Several performances were canceled, including a much-anticipated set by Alabama Shakes. When Tune-Yards finally took the stage at 6:45 p.m., nearly two hours behind schedule, singer Merrill Garbus exulted, "We made it! Thanks for coming back."
She looped her voice into an ecstatic, wordless choir while bass and saxophones augmented her thrash-folk ukulele. Garbus cut off her set after 30 minutes, 10 minutes shorter than originally scheduled, and the Weeknd soon followed with Abel Tesfaye's tragically introspective R&B on the festival's main stage.
City officials extended the 10 p.m. park curfew by 45 minutes to allow headliners the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Avicii to play full sets.
Chief Keef thrills, chills with set
Chief Keef kicked things off Saturday at Lollapallooza. The South Side teen is riding a huge Internet hit, "I Don’t Like," and a deal with the major label Interscope, and the performance was his biggest yet in his hometown (outside of a brief two-song appearance at the Pitchfork Music Festival in Union Park three weeks ago).
An early arriving crowd swelled to several thousand by the time Keef arrived shortly after noon, accompaned by a crew of about 20 rappers, friends, hangers-on, and nearly as many documentarians manning cameras and cellphones.
For those aiming to hone in on Keef’s skills as a lyricist, rapper and performer, the 30-minute set came as a bit of a letdown. Mostly he let his crew do the heavy lifting, melting into the crowd on stage while choruses were chanted.
Dressed in white and tugging on his collapsing pants, Keef waved towels and occasionally joined the chants extolling the size of his bank roll, drug stash, gun, or manly attributes. As the set proceeded, the sound of fake gunfire became the overriding theme, a chilling commentary on one of the most violent summers in Chicago’s history.
This was a tragic blurring of the line between life and music, one directly experienced by Keef – he was recently under house arrest for a gun charge. It was a study in coldness and simmering anger, punctuated by the litany in “I Don’t Like.” It concluded a loose, shambling, nearly chaotic set. It only hinted at what Keef is or could be as an artist. But it’s effect couldn’t be denied. It’s likely nothing else we’ll experience this weekend will prompt such a visceral response. At a festival when even the devil-worshiping of Black Sabbath has become old hat, Keef struck a chilling chord that speaks to the times we live in, for better or worse.
Keef’s set was followed by an impressive showing by a team of artists from Doomtree, the Minneapolis hip-hop label, with Dessa combining singing and rapping with style and command. In an another impressive display of rhyming skill, Chancellor Warhol made even a sample of Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” sound funky, with – what else? – a cowbell.