The windy city was blessed with a gust of great music from a number of today’s premiere bands at the 2009 Lollapalooza music festival, held from Friday, August 7th to Sunday, August 9th. Friday’s showers unsuccessfully attempted to dampen the crowd’s spirits, while the sweltering heat on Saturday and Sunday hardly depreciated the experience. The headliners were magnificent and diverse. A revived Depeche Mode pitted and the momentous Kings of Leon capped off Friday. Saturday’s set peaked with shows from Lollapalooza legends Tool and headlining virgins (not to mention last second filler for the Beastie Boys) the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s. The festival concluded on Sunday with sets from the Killers and the band whose front man conceived the whole extravaganza in 1991, Jane’s Addiction’s Perry Farrell. But headliners aside, the music festival is most celebrated for its depth. As so, the Inflatable Ferret presents its “Ten Most Outstanding Non-Headlining Performances.” Without further tongue twisting, the (heavily debated) rankings:

10. Crystal Castles

The rain was at its thickest when Crystal Castles took the vitaminwater stage on Friday afternoon. However, any concertgoer with his or her umbrella up was surely in for more than seven years of bad luck at this particular stage (or am I confusing that with a broken mirror?)  Impatient patrons starving to see the spectacle that is Alice Glass berated their dry associates into assimilating with the wet masses. And with the number of visual hindrances at a minimum, Glass provided a convulsive sight for all the audience to follow, successfully translating a rave party atmosphere to an outdoor festival.

9. Snoop Dogg

From the opening notes of “Next Episode,” Snoop Dogg confirmed my notion that he’s the closest thing to a modern day Dionysus. The man knows how to throw a party, he has exhibited divine prowess in the rap industry, he is rarely seen without a chalice, and we all certainly acknowledge his status as the god of the vine, and another plant for that matter. There’s no denying that his performance at Lollapalooza contained the ritual madness that the Greek god never failed to provide.

8. Lou Reed

Distance between an artist and his fans is usually frowned upon, but Lou Reed made it clear that he’s the only one with a right to frown. And who are you to argue with Lou Reed?  The alternative rock legend took the stage twenty minutes late and left it twenty-five minutes late.  His band’s enthusiasm provided an amusing contrast to his equally delightful stoicism; only when ordering the audience to bark during “Mad” did he even break a smile.  The only real interaction with the crowd – if you can even call it interaction – came after the show, when he proceeded to introduce every member of the band, then calmly stated, “and me.”

7. Arctic Monkeys

With an audience channeling that of a headliner’s and a set list ripe with unreleased material, Alex Turner and his troupe of monkeys certainly had a lofty task in satisfying a festival crowd. However, the young Sheffield, England act successfully captivated the vast masses with its union of (relatively) old hits and tracks from its post-Lolla released Humbug, which hit stores on August 19th. Highlights included the album’s first single, “Crying Lightning,” megahit “I Bet You Look Good on The Dancefloor,” and a cover of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ “Red Right Hand.”

6. Bon Iver

I think the hype’s finally beginning to die down, and it’s only been – oh, 26 months or so since Justin Vernon self-released Bon Iver’s debut album For Emma, Forever Ago.  That takes nothing away from the Bon Iver live experience, however.  Though their crescendo folk-rock is better suited for a more intimate venue, they were certainly well prepared to take on a festival audience.  JV (the Ferret’s on initial-basis with the guy) was at the top of his game, scattering his typical shy witticisms amongst crowd-favorites such as “Skinny Love” and “Creature Fear.”

5. Gomez

Critically acclaimed in their UK homeland and official Bonnaroo veterans, Gomez finally took the Vitaminwater stage to make their grand Lollapalooza debut.  Not known for their bashfulness in uncharted waters, the ‘Mez won over yet another unsuspecting crowd on Saturday.  Highlights included seldom played “Bring Your Lovin’ Back Here”, Zeppelin cover “Bron-Y-Aur Stomp”, and a version of “Bone Tired” in which three band members used iphones to create an array of spacey sounds.

4. of Montreal

Though their performance looked like it belonged more in a Monty Python sketch than on the stage of a musical festival, of Montreal’s bizarre theatrics provided a suitable counterpart for the band’s two-faced music. Combining upbeat tempos and catchy choruses with dark themes has shifted of Montreal’s consistently devious image towards that of glam rockers, where frontman Kevin Barnes’ latest alter ego, Georgie Fruit, fittingly resembles David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust. The group seems to thrive with this persona, and their fans seem equally receptive. The Lolla crowd wholly immersed itself in the interpretative dancers, gas masks, pigs, boa-infested shoulder pads, inflatable rafts, and whatever else my imagination claimed to have seen. The band paid homage to Bowie in a “Moonage Daydream” cover and played recent singles “She’s a Rejecter,” “Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse,” “Id Engager,” and their latest hit, “For our Elegant Caste.”

3. Ben Harper and Relentless7

Ben Harper is only 39?  I could have sworn he was 70.  Ten studio albums, a few live recordings, and three backing bands under his belt, and this guy still doesn’t seem to have aged a year.  Perhaps it’s just the iconicity his reggae/folk/soul/blues/rock-influenced music has gained for him that makes him seem immortal.  Harper’s new album focuses on the latter two influences, and, whether you like the new material or not, Relentless7 is his most talented band yet.  Drummer Jordan Richardson, bassist/keyboardist Jesse Ingalls and guitarist Jason Mozersky, each equally fierce with his respective instrument(s), provide a much-needed buffer for Harper’s calm, introspective tendencies.  As if their own honest rock compositions weren’t pleasing enough, the boys paid tribute to the blues-rock legends Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix, blowing the relatively small crowd (Animal Collective shared their timeslot) with their own renditions of “Good Times, Bad Times” and “Red House.”   Sonorous and unabating, the quartet’s performance gave Chicago a deeper appreciation for and better understanding of their name (though they still have some explaining to do, what with the “7” and no space in between.)

2. Band of Horses

When Band of Horses took to the Playstation stage, 20 minutes after the show was scheduled to start, Ben Bridwell and company knew they had a dilemma on their hands. Lou Reed had taken his performance in the adjacent quad past its scheduled ending, and Jane’s Addiction needed to wrap up the festival from Reed’s stage by ten. The Horses were forced to shrink their set list or play into the show of the band that created Lollapalooza. They decided on the latter, and in doing so cemented themselves as some the gutsiest performers of the festival. As two convergent land masses can produce a volcano, so too did Lou Reed’s and Jane’s Addiction’s incursion only compound the magnitude of Band of Horses’ show, and what poured forth was an act that fueled the best crowd of the weekend. Pitting bigger tracks “The Great Salt Lake” and “Is There a Ghost” towards the front of the set list against hits “No One’s Gonna Love You” and “The Funeral” towards the end kept fans restless and their vocal chords honest. In between the hit single bookends, the boys unveiled a new, untitled song, giving the audience a taste for what’s to come and indicating that they won’t be running away from the limelight anytime soon.

1. TV on the Radio

When each of your last two albums makes an appearance in just about every critic’s top 10 albums of the year (not to mention a handful of number one honors), it is no less than your civil duty to put on one hell of a live performance wherever you go.  Still, before seeing the heavily touted TV on the Radio at Lollapalooza, I had only heard bad things about their shows.  I had to find out firsthand whether or not the rumors were true.  And I’m not saying they weren’t.  For all I know, every TVotR show up to that point was a complete flop – but that was far from the case on Saturday.  Vocalists Tunde Adebimpe and Kyp Malone led the electric charge, galvanizing the most surf-friendly crowd of the weekend.  Their layers upon layers of fuzzy synths and strained brass created a prime energetic atmosphere for a Lollapalooza audience that rarely displayed the proper fervor.  Seven of their eleven-song set list came from their 2008 release Dear Science.  It doesn’t hurt that TV songs just tend to leave a lasting impression, from the moment you first hear them to the time you get the opportunity to shout out the lyrics in front of their brilliant creators.

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