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August 06, 2011 at 04:12 PM EDT

If Lollapalooza, with its 130 bands spread over three epic, deodorant-challenging days in Chicago’s mammoth Grant Park, is a marathon and not a sprint, Friday was its hope-you-carbo-loaded 10K kick-off.

Fans of chugging, red-meat rock– and Aerosmith obsessives (brothers Adrian and Tony Perry are the sons of Aero icon Joe Perry) — came out early for Boston boys TAB the Band; frontman Adrian told me that they recently spent time in the studio with Mark Neill, who co-produced the Black Keys’ Brothers. I like the Stones-y, jangling “She Said No (I Love You),” even though the title sounds uncomfortably like an After-School Special about date rape.

Next up: Electric Touch, a whammy-bar-friendly Austin outfit with a British frontman whose  black-jeans strut works melodically, if not always lyrically. Either way, the dude near me in the full-body blue spandex bodysuit with his cargo shorts all bunched up underneath seemed to have no reservations; he was extra-loving the “Blitzkrieg Bop” cover.

Reports say there are 90,000 showgoers expected this weekend, and approximately 45,000 of those seemed to be in attendance at Foster the People‘s set on the Sony stage. The L.A. breakouts’ indie-pop anthems — and faithful, slightly incongruous cover of Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold” — were swallowed at times by the field’s massive sprawl, though the kids didn’t let that stop them from some surprisingly civilized crowd-surfing during “Don’t Stop (Color on the Walls),” “Helena Beat,” and “Pumped Up Kicks,” a.k.a. The Hit. (Don’t worry, “Houdini,” you are still my favorite.) Frontman Mark Foster seemed appropriately awed, recalling to the crowd his very recent days spent selling clothes and pulling coffee. Barista no more!

A different, if no less passionate, crowd gathered for Kerli on the smaller BMI stage: The Estonian Bubblegoth star, in her latex Lolita pinafore and moonboot platforms, looks like an anime notebook doodle brought to life, and sings like one too. Slavic-Gaga jams like “Walking on Air” and “Army of Love” aren’t really made for outdoor afternoons in the baking Midwestern sun, but these fans clearly didn’t care. (Random note: Kerli also recently co-penned Demi Lovato’s July iTunes smash “Skyscraper”; get that Disney money, girl.)

Next up: Fall Out Boy Pete Wentz’s poppier, ska-tinged side project Black Cards, featuring doll-faced vocalist Bebe Rexha, who looks like Blue Lagoon Brooke Shields and sounds vaguely like Gwen Stefani’s baby sister, on frothy midtempo hip-snakers like “Dominoes” and “Club Called Heaven.”

Guess what happens when Pete handpicks fans to come onstage? People go bat-crap crazy. (Shout out to the Schwarzenegger-necked teenager who elbowed me in the solar plexus while trying to hoist his girlfriend to the front; that felt awesome!). It’s interesting, if a little odd, to see Wentz working more as dancefloor hype man than bass-playing duke of mid-aughties emo, but the songs are consistently catchy.

Two celebrity sightings later — hey there, beardy Jason Sudeikis and dude from Twilight that I had to Google image — it was on to Crystal Castles. I don’t mind what the Toronto duo do with twinkling, dark-star techno, and I like very much what they did with Robert Smith, but all those serrated synths and cascading Tron-soundtrack bloops and bleeps can feel a little soulless after a full hour.

Finally, headliner time: A quick stop by Muse before a cross-park trek to Coldplay turned into a half-set stay: Who can walk away when the fireworks start on the third song? Seriously — like full, booming Fourth of July sky-splosions over the Lakeshore. Say what you will about Kate Hudson’s baby daddy and his band of un-merry men, Muse know how to put on an epic show of rock riffage and bombast. From “Uprising” into “Supermassive Black Hole,” “Hysteria,” and — why not? — a smidge of the Star Spangled Banner, then “Maps of the Problematique” and “Butterflies and Hurricanes,’ during which I saw a girl dancing so enthusiastically on top of a chair that she lost her footing, wiped out, and bounced back up with a giant smile before the next drum fill.

Inevitably, Coldplay felt a little subdued after that outsized showing, though Chris Martin worked hard to give the crowd his gentlemanly best on the new ballad “Us Against The World” (which he joked was about a torrid love affair between Bill O’Reilly and Sarah Palin), the prettily mournful “The Scientist,” and a thunderous, singalong-led “Viva la Vida” — even cheekily inserting “Lollapalooza on a Friday night” into the lyrics of “Politik.”  Fans were politely happy to hear another new one, “Charlie Brown,” though the sun-worn crowd truly revived for a classic, anthemic “Clocks,” a brief tribute to Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab,” and the swoony “Fix You.”

With one last, expansive push of new single “Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall,” it was off into that good night — and into dreams of two more long-haul Lolla days to come.

Readers, were you there? What did you love, and what else are you looking forward to? Tell me in the comments below.

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