By Kyle Anderson
July 27, 2017 at 08:51 AM EDT
Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

In the midst of Chicago’s unrelenting heat, the Shins helped cool off the thousands gathered in Grant Park for Lollapalooza on Friday evening. Armed with a quiver full of beloved songs both old (the show-opening “Caring Is Creepy,” Manic Pixie Dream Girl anthem “New Slang”) and new (the chugging “Simple Song” and majestic “Port of Morrow”), frontman James Mercer led a series of singalongs that helped sweaty revelers forget about their sunburns and hunger.

This is Mercer’s second time playing Lolla, and he’s learned a lot about festival survival since his first appearance in 2007. “In this environment, you get less time, and you want to play more upbeat stuff,” he explained to EW backstage a few hours before his set. “There’s often something else happening in the distance. We played a festival in Ireland once, and in the middle of ‘New Slang,’ the Scissor Sisters kicked in across the field on this mega stage. It was a little distracting. It was hard to keep track of what I was supposed to sing.”

Luckily for Mercer, the Scissor Sisters were AWOL at Grant Park yesterday, though festival co-founder and spiritual leader Perry Farrell was very much on the scene. As the fest’s official power animal, part of Farrell’s job is to inspire, and he certainly had that effect on Mercer back in ’07.

“Meeting Perry Farrel was kind of cool,” Mercer said. “He’s such an icon, and I was such a fan of Jane’s Addiction. He’s a f—ing rock star, but he seemed to me to have a certain calm about him, and he was very polite.”

For Mercer though, there is one thing that Lollapalooza is missing: “We just played Fuji Rock in Japan, and they have the best food,” he explained. “I got these grilled skewers of pork with these slightly pickled cucumbers, and it blew my mind. I basically got back in line for another one as soon as I got my first.”  Take that, Chubby Weiners!


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