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Kings Of Leon Crown Wet Lollapalooza Friday

Dave Vann
Kings of Leon at Lollapalooza, Aug. 7, 2009.

Wet weather continued its plague on summer festivals at Lollapalooza's opening day in Chicago. At noon, when the first bands took to the stages at Grant Park, a steady pour had already turned the grounds into a mud slick.

On Friday, Lollapalooza founder Perry Farrell found time to sing a few numbers with country star LeAnn Rimes and chat with about the Jane's Addiction summer tour and his future plans for the band. (Video:

The crowds endured, however, and by late afternoon the rain let up in time for the headliners to go on. Appearing on the Budweiser stage, Kings of Leon marched on looking like they meant business and launched into a set that was just that. It started with "Be Somebody," frontman Caleb Followill delivering it as a subdued tease with a slow build, while giant screens behind the band captured the rest of his family. The foursome, decked out tees, button-downs and tight jeans, appeared cool and calculated, and continued to deliver sound on target throughout the night.

During the band's nearly 20-song set the Lolla audience reacted most favorably to tracks from last year's "Only by the Night" and 2007's "Because of the Times." "Closer" brought a dangerous, darker edge to the performance. "Use Somebody" drew yet another sing-a-long, powered by a stunning video cityscape background flashing with bright primary colors. "On Call" and "Knocked Up" also elicited excitement. But "Sex on Fire" was the hit of the night, the crowd dancing, hands in the air. "That was beautiful," Caleb said. "I thought I was the only one here who had that sexual experience."

Despite a few friendly banters, Caleb remained stoic until about halfway into the set and mentioned multiple times how grateful the band is, while decrying negative attention the act has received. "A few years ago at traveling festivals maybe 10 people would be out there to watch us," he said. "And we'd walk out with our mustaches and outfits, and those 10 would leave and we'd be fucked…We know there are a million bands out there who deserve to be where we are. Lots of people have lost faith in Kings of Leon, but fuck it, man. We're having the times of our lives, right?" They closed with "Black Thumbnail," which Caleb ended by kicking his mic stand away, then getting down on his knees in front of the drum set for the final guitar blast.

Billboard Underground artist April Smith gave us an artist's eye view of Lollapalooza. Here's part one as she takes us from the press area out amongst the muddy masses.(Video:

Throughout the day, bands played on energetically despite the dreary weather. New Jersey punk-rockers the Gaslight Anthem were one of the first to power through the worst of it, with singer/guitarist Brian Fallon delving into a set heavy on the band's working-class-themed songs that are steeped in images of Cadillacs, tattoos and jukeboxes. Fallon, who was even wearing a Social Distortion T-shirt, slings his lines in a voice that tinges on Mike Ness territory. The Heartless Bastards-and their gritty frontwoman Erika Wennerstrom-proved that garage rock at its most genuine is anything but typical. She exhibited a stage presence not unlike fellow Ohioan Chrissie Hynde-lean, mean and in-control.

The Portland, Oregon band Hockey had a rough first day at Lollapalooza, but they didnt let a loss of power that cut their show short get them down. Nope, they just started a drum circle and gave out as much free beer as possible. talked to the guys about that, their debut record (hopefully due in October), and meeting The Boss. (Video:

Other Friday performers included Depeche Mode, Bon Iver, Ben Folds, the Decemberists, Of Montreal, Andrew Bird, and Peter Bjorn and John. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, stepping in for the Beastie Boys, and Tool headline Saturday.