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Published: 2013/08/05

Mumford & Sons, The Postal Service, Phoenix, Nine Inch Nails, Charles Bradley and More Highlight Lollapalooza

The 17th Lollapalooza festival took place over the weekend in Grant Park in Chicago, marking the ninth year the event has been held there. This year’s three-day music extravaganza sold out faster than any previous Lollapalooza, and did not disappoint the nearly 100,000 attendees per day who had the opportunity to take in over 130 acts performing on eight stages.

The first day of the fest had considerably muddy conditions in Grant Park caused by showers earlier in the day. While brief spurts of rain occurred throughout the afternoon, festival-goers remained unfazed, especially those who remembered the heavy thunderstorms that forced the grounds to be evacuated during last year’s event. Friday afternoon included sets from rising stars such as Icona Pop, Twenty One Pilots and Houndmouth.

Father John Misty drew a small crowd of younger fans, and the ex-Fleet Foxes drummer performed songs from last year’s Fear Fun record and mocked the festival’s VIP benefits, joking that Platinum Pass holders would be able to eat sushi off of him later. Band of Horses performed in Friday’s 4:15pm time slot and ran through hits such as “Is There a Ghost” and “No One’s Gonna Love You.” Lead singer Ben Bridwell paid tribute to JJ Cale by telling the audience, “We miss him dearly,” before launching into an organ-heavy cover of Cale’s “13 Days.”

At 6:15pm, Lolla attendees had to choose between ‘80s alt-rockers New Order and ‘90s hard-rockers Queens of the Stone Age. New Order, which was formed by Joy Division’s surviving members after frontman Ian Curtis’ suicide, delivered a hit-loaded set, but diehard fans were likely disappointed by the noticeable absence of bassist Peter Hook. The band nodded to their first band by performing a trio of Joy Division hits at the end of their set, concluding with that band’s biggest number, “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” Meanwhile on the Bud Light Stage, Queens of the Stone Age performed a high-energy, face-melting hour-long set also heavy on the hits, but also featuring several songs from their recently released album, …Like Clockwork.

The Killers held down headlining duties on the Red Bull Sound Select Stage, while Nine Inch Nails reigned in the coveted spot on the Bud Light Stage. It was the second time The Killers have headlined Lollapalooza, and the Las Vegas quartet played a career-spanning set of familiar tunes while also nodding to New Order with a cover of Joy Divison’s “Shadowplay,” featuring a sit in from Joy Division/New Order’s Bernard Sumner. Killers frontman Brandon Flowers also told the audience that the band had taken their name from a New Order video.

The most anticipated set of day one was undoubtedly Nine Inch Nails, whose Lollapalooza performance marked their first American show since 2009. Trent Reznor took the stage alone during the first song of the set, “Copy of A” (from the upcoming album, Hesitation Marks ), and each member of the new NIN lineup joined him one at a time. Nine Inch Nail’s set mixed new songs with crowd-pleasing numbers from their ‘90s albums such as The Downward Spiral and Broken. A rendition of “Hurt” was a particular highlight, as Reznor’s emotional reading of the song famously covered by Johnny Cash saw thousands of enraptured audience members waving lighters in the air.

On Saturday, the first highlight came in the afternoon with a powerful set from soul man Charles Bradley. After asking the audience if they wanted to go to church and promising to take them there, the R&B singer wailed and danced his way through a performance that left the crowd awestruck. At 4:00, Los Angeles indie rockers Local Natives charged through songs from 2009’s Gorilla Manor and this year’s Hummingbird to a crowd of their loyal fans. At one point, the band asked the audience to scream, “Hey Aaron” in unison to The National’s Aaron Dessner, who produced their latest effort. Later, Dessner’s band attracted a massive audience to their 6:00 set. The National kicked things off with Boxer ’s “Fake Empire,” and also performed plenty of songs from 2010’s High Violet and this year’s Trouble Will Find Me, as lead singer Matt Berninger sang every note with his trademark intensity throughout the show. (A less expected collaboration took place later in the day when Lance Armstrong sat in with Lance Herbstrong during a festival after show.)

Earlier in the day, Ben Gibbard had tweeted that The Postal Service’s show at Lollapalooza and an after-party performance at Chicago’s The Metro Club would be the band’s “very last.” Gibbard and Rilo Kiley’s Jenny Lewis took over the Bud Light Stage, serving up songs from The Postal Service’s influential 2003 album, Give Up, in what was apparently the duo’s second to last performance ever.

The Lumineers proved to be the perfect opener for the highly anticipated headliners Mumford & Sons, who took the Red Bull Sound Select Stage moments after The Lumineers wrapped things up on the Lake Shore Stage. “We’re going to show you how to dance,” Marcus Mumford told the audience before “I Will Wait,” which had the enormous crowd clapping and singing along as fireworks could be seen in the distance coming from Soldier Field. Mumford also joked, “Ted’s alive,” making light of the brain surgery that bassist Ted Dwane had to undergo earlier in the summer and resulted in the cancellation of the band’s Bonnaroo appearances, along with several other gigs. The folk revivalists also performed a rousing cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire” and brought Saturday to a close with “The Cave.”

The final day of Lollapalooza saw performances from crowd favorites Tegan and Sara, Alt-J, Grizzly Bear and Beach House in the afternoon and early evening, as well as a career-spanning set from New York Ivy Leaguers, Vampire Weekend. But despite impressive performances by those and other acts, Sunday truly belonged to co-headliners The Cure and Phoenix. It was Phoenix’s second time headlining the festival and the French rockers sang their massive hits from 2009’s Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix such as “1901” and “Lisztomania,” as well as plenty of songs from their latest album, Bankrupt! The only complaint Phoenix fans had was that the show ended 15 minutes early, and left the gathered crowd wanting more. The Cure drew the biggest crowd on Sunday, and an uncharacteristically upbeat Robert Smith led his band through their catalog of hits, including “Pictures of You,” “Just Like Heaven,” “Close to Me,” and the final song of Lollapalooza 2013, a set-closing “Boys Don’t Cry.”

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