Never in its nearly two decades of existence has Lollapalooza scheduled two more polarizing headliners than Sam Smith and Metallica, who closed out the main stage lineups for day two (Aug. 1) on the respective north and south ends of Chicago’s Grant Park. Yet it worked well on several levels: The fest’s single-day ticket option allowed fans to buy in for either top dog, so neither crowd would ever necessarily clash given the stages’ solid one-mile gap and -- in a greater sense -- the divide made each show that much more intimate and manageable for those attending.

It was a testament to the stunning level of diversity that Lolla has adopted over the years, which is especially apparent when comparing recent rosters to its inaugural 1991 lineup (Jane’s Addiction, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Nine Inch Nails, Violent Femmes and the like).

The sense of variety cropped up earlier in the day’s proceedings without ever creating an overly mixed bag -- again due to smart scheduling on each end of the venue. The north side eventually became hip-hop land with standout sets from Tyler, the Creator, Kid Cudi and rising San Francisco rapper G-Eazy, who most certainly seized his chance to shine as a fest closer -- albeit on the smaller Pepsi stage -- with a dazzling display of smoke, lights and deftly delivered raps.

The south side meanwhile catered to the dance-pop crowd for most of the afternoon. Though her formula became predictable after just a few songs, Charli XCX’s repetition of vocal hooks like “Well, f--- you!” on “Sucker,” “You say you love me” on “Breaking Up” and “I dont care!” on the track of the same title never became tiresome. And that’s because the British singer born Charlotte Emma Aitchison convincingly delivered those lines, fanning the flames of widespread dancing with her own middle-finger flips, high kicks and a cheesy yet charming jam on a giant inflatable guitar.

Afterward, across the field on the Samsung Galaxy stage, Death From Above 1979 had a similar effect. One might not normally associate their metal- and noise-accented music with dancing, but songs from the duo’s 2014 sophomore release, The Physical World, underscored aggression with infectious melody, and the noticeably youthful crowd ate it up. Not quite so much, though, as they did the glaringly '80s jams of Cincinnati outfit Walk the Moon directly afterward at the adjacent Sprint stage. During a set heavy on new, synth-pop cuts off their new album, Talking Is Hard, the crowd bloomed to engulf about half of the south end. The massive response proved two points: '80s music is back in a huge way (especially among teenagers), and Walk the Moon is poised to conquer amphitheaters and eventually arenas if fans react this rabidly in every market.

Though their just-released third album, Currents, was arguably one the most anticipated of this year among indie fans, Tame Impala’s main stage show was vastly under-attended compared to WTM’s. To boot, mastermind and frontman Kevin Parker’s inner-ear monitors were malfunctioning during opening tracks “Let It Happen,” “Mind Mischief” and “The Moment,” though his boyish, contented grin remained affixed throughout and after the choppy start. And why wouldn’t he be thrilled during every moment on that stage? The Aussie psych-rockers quickly recovered their poise during standout new tracks, “The Less I Know the Better” and “Eventually,” and -- after already opening for legendary countrymen AC/DC during Coachella’s dual weekends in April -- they got to be this night’s warm-up act for Metallica. Epic much?

Then it was down to the final choice between the San Francisco-based metal legends or Smith’s contemporary crooner vibes on the park's opposite end. The former group -- returning to the Lolla stage for the first time since their 1996 tour alongside Soundgarden, the Ramones and Rancid -- turned in a crushing run of mostly ‘80s and ‘90s classics, then offered up a real treat for attending diehards by pulling out their pulverizing plays on traditional “Whiskey in the Jar” and Diamond Head’s “Am I Evil?” -- both prime selections from 1998 covers collection, Garage, Inc. -- to kick off the encore before annihilating with their usual finale of “Nothing Else Matters” and “Enter Sandman.”

A mile north, Smith was sprinkling on his own bits of spice with a tribute to Amy Winehouse (“Tears Dry on Their Own,” which the British player sang during her own Lolla set on that same stage in 2007), plus covers of Marvin Gaye’s “Ain’t No Mountain,” Chic’s “Le Freak” and Naughty Boy’s “La La La.” A couple of those, however, were less enthralling than originals like “Leave Your Lover,” set closer “Stay With Me” and his biggest banger, a massive dance throwdown on Disclosure collab “Latch.”

The fact that such significantly different characters were simultaneously delivering equally affecting sets -- each momentous in their own right -- was a bit mind-boggling. Big ups to Lolla organizers for hatching a Choose Your Own Adventure scheme that yielded something truly special no matter what path you took.

Click through our gallery above for photos of all Saturday's standouts and tune in tomorrow for pictures and notes on Florence and the Machine, FKA Twigs, Of Monsters and Men and more!

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