CHICAGO (Reuters) - Thousands of music fans swarmed Chicago’s sun-drenched lakefront on Friday for the opening of a three-day festival that will feature British sensation Radiohead and local hip-hop phenomenon Kanye West.
Lollapalooza is billed as the nation’s largest alternative music festival, an ultra-marathon of music, street food, beer and sunscreen.
The art-rock quintet Radiohead is riding a wave of success from its critically acclaimed 2007 release “In Rainbows,” which the band famously sold via download for whatever price customers chose, including for free.
City officials promised airtight security for the festival after a fatal, gang-related shooting a month ago at Chicago’s Independence Day fireworks show.
Fans camping out early to save prime seats for Radiohead’s Friday night gig were in a light-hearted mood.
“We just came from The Go! Team, and it was really cool,” said Wayne Bromgard, 22, of Chicago, referring to a band from Brighton, England whose music is heavy on action theme songs and cheerleader chants.
“I like to hear everything. The headliners get people out, but the other side is coming out and checking out new stuff,” said Chicagoan Sandy Hunter, 23.
Daniel Mollendor and Andrew Villalobos, both 21, traveled from Fort Collins, Colorado, with a clear agenda in mind.
“We mainly made the trip for Rage Against the Machine,” Mollendor said of the Los Angeles-based band known for its radical political views.
“Rage” plays on Saturday night, going up against Chicago’s own indy favorite Wilco.
Rumors have been flying that Democrat presidential hopeful Barack Obama will appear with Wilco, as he did at the band’s appearance at a Farm Aid show in 2005. Wilco has also played at Obama fundraisers.
Another Chicago native son, hip-hop superstar Kanye West, closes the festival on Sunday night in a head-to-head match-up with industrial rock icons Nine Inch Nails.
The city’s famous skyline lends a spectacular backdrop for the many bands vying for fans’ attention.
Musical genres range from Goth rock to old-school funk/soul.
Cassandra Gillig, 15, was attending her first Lollapalooza with father Carl, 47, and said the “layered vocals” of Brooklyn freak-folk quartet Grizzly Bear had been an early highlight.
More than 100 bands and artists are slated to appear on eight stages at Lollapalooza, whose name is slang for “something extraordinarily impressive.”
The festival, which in its 1990s incarnation toured the United States each summer, is contracted to stay in Chicago’s Grant Park through 2011.
Editing by Eric Walsh