By Leah Greenblatt
August 08, 2011 at 12:00 PM EDT
  • Music

According to old lore, the traditional gift for a 20th anniversary is china. According to Mother Nature, it is apparently giant, monsooning sheets of rain.

Major precipitation made an unannounced headlining appearance on 20-year-old Lolla’s third and final evening, opening up the Chicago skies for an hour-long all-stages, all-ages showing of gumball-sized raindrops, thunder and (yay, unlimited pyro budget!) lightning.

And like any good mainstage performer, Ms. Nature brought an encore—turning good chunks of fest-closing sets by Cage the Elephant, Arctic Monkeys, Foo Fighters and DeadMau5 into a cross between the “November Rain” wedding-party-downpour scene and a lawless, topless WWE mud pit.

See below, live and supremely Tide-resistant from the Monkeys’ set:

The day began differently—sunny, hot, and up-with-people happy at the Bud Light Stage with Noah and the Whale. Early arrivers lured by loudspeakers booming a rousing marching-band version of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody” stayed for the London outfit’s orchestral, cinematic pop; they obligingly delivered on “Blue Skies” “Give It All Back,” “Love of an Orchestra,” vaguely Tom Petty-ish “L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N.,” (who else hears a distant echo of “Don’t Come Around Here No More”?) and sweetly boppy Saturn-ad soundtracker “5 Years Time.”

Halfway across Grant Park—flip flops don’t fail me now!—Brooklyn’s New-Ro revivalists The Pains of Being Pure at Heart delivered their sonic love letters to ’80s and ’90s alt jangle with a newly-upped stage presence. Keyboardist Peggy Wang thanked the attentive throngs for being “the best crowd we’ve ever had, seriously.” They cheered, even if they all looked a little blank when frontman Kip Berman said he always wished he could have gone to Lollapalooza when he was younger because he “wanted to see Mary Timony.” Google her, kids!

The median age rose considerably when Me Decade icons the Cars stepped out minutes later on the nearby Music Unlimited Stage. The recently reformed rockers obligingly played the hits—”Just What I Needed,” “Magic,” “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight”—though it feels like an exaggeration to say they enjoyed it; “endured” might be a better word.

As a fan of spiral-y psych rock and unnecessary punctuation, I hung back for several songs—including the excellently anthemic “Got It All (This Can’t Be Living Now)”—from Portland’s Portugal. The Man before heading on to Cage the Elephant, who first knocked my cranky-rock-critic socks off four years ago when I stumbled across the then-unknown punk-funk delinquents at a small Lolla side stage in 2007.

Guess what? They’re still pretty awesome. If anything, frontman Matthew Shultz, with his snarling wail and baby-Iggy strut, has only sharpened his chops on long-gestating songs like “In One Ear,” “Back Against the Wall,” and immediate crowd-rouser “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked.”

The crowd, of course, wasn’t the only thing roused by Cage; down came the rain—and woosh went this reporter’s notebook, so there’s not a ton I can tell you about the rest of the night that doesn’t look like a Rorschach ink blot.

I stayed through storm delays for a few songs from Nas and Damien Marley, but having seen Sunday-night headliners Foo Fighters’ epic two-and-a-half hour “secret” set the night before—and some 25 hours of show over the past three days—I confess: Mama wanted to go home (or at least, back to the hotel), rinse a monster truck rally’s worth of mud down the shower drain, and watch it all on YouTube from a warm, dry bed.

Luckily, you can too—see the Foos’ full two hour and twenty minute Sunday set here:

And tell me readers, if you were there: How did you spend your final day at Lolla? What was your all-festival highlight? Let me know in the comments below.

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