The party the crowd was readying for came next, when George Clinton and the P-Funk All-Stars took the stage dressed with more circus-style absurdity than the entire crowd could muster. Clinton's presence on the tour could be Lollapalooza's bid to shun ageism -- Clinton is, after all, a good generation older than most of the other performers -- but it was more likely a nod to the power of the greatest party band presently gracing the planet. Sir Nose the contortionist was there, the nerdy white roadie who looks like your high-school physics teacher was on stage rapping, and this time through Clinton introduced a buff-and-cut white female rapper who looked like a poster child for Santa Barbara and flowed in a squeaky chirp that was mixed too low to hear properly. Clinton and company drew the biggest response to that point, and, by the looks of things, made more than a few converts. Highlight: yes. Of the entire day.

If I were a Beastie Boy, I'd be scared shitless to follow George Clinton, but if the Beasties were frightened, they hid it well. The sky went dark midway through their set, the stage lights came into play for the first time and the Beasties hit on everything from punk rock to industrial grade hip-hop and soundtrack funk. Highlight: by this point the day had started to turn grueling, and my attention was easily swayed to the frozen fruit juice stand whose lights dimmed every time the blender was turned on, much in the manner of a prison block at execution time.

And then headliners Smashing Pumpkins came on stage and played all of their hits, most of which sound quite similar to one another. Singer Billy Corgan -- who's going to stop being described as cherubic if he keeps letting that ugly hair grow -- made a goodwill effort to defuse any tension left over from his last Houston appearance, during which the band left the stage early after Corgan got beaned by a shoe. This time he told the crowd to "throw all the shoes you want, we're not leaving this fucking stage." A shower of shoes ensued. The Pumpkins' take on multilayered arena rock is fine, if musical overindulgence and rock-star posing is your bag, but I'd been primed with a pretty serious dose of funk by this time, and the stylistic clash didn't go over very well with me. Highlight: when half the crowd sang along to the Pumpkins' smash hit "Disarm," drowning out Corgan, who owns the single most annoying voice in all of rock.

On other items: from a spectator's perspective, the greatest improvement this year was the fan's ability to bring his or her own water into the grounds. The second stage was located in such a far corner that it was almost impossible to catch any music between main-stage acts. I managed to catch a bit of Shudder to Think, who suck in the most generic way, and later a snippet of Tibetan dance with monks blowing blasts of air through 12-foot horns. Nobody in the crowd understood thing-one about the performance, and the monks looked equally confused over the makeup of their audience.

The Chameleon virtual reality ride looked like it might have been fun if it weren't so damned expensive, but I never saw much of a line. The Revival Tent was located as far from the main stage as geography allowed and housed early afternoon poetry slams characterized by poor organization and vapid feminist ranting from the touring poets. Local word manipulator and occasional poetry slam host Malcolm McDonald, by the way, walked away, and into the history books no doubt, with $100 for his triumph over a panel of judges who seemed constitutionally incapable of giving, on a scale of one to ten, a score lower than nine. The fabled computer networks escaped my eye undetected. The food was pretty darned decent and, not surprisingly, expensive.

It was, in the end, a lovely concert. Really just lovely. And all the more enjoyable for holding no more cultural or generational significance than a mall outlet record store.

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