Music

Lollapalooza Is A Big City Music Festival Done Right

After effectively riling up the audience with nostalgic hits, Green Day‘s Billie Joe Armstrong took a moment during the band’s headlining Lollapalooza set to reflect on how much the festival has meant to him over the years. To a sea of tens of thousands of screaming fans spanning generations, Armstrong said attending an early iteration of the then-traveling festival gave small-town kids like him a chance to see all their favorite bands in one place. It affirmed his decision to start Green Day, who got their first chance to play the festival only a few years later in 1994.

Lollapalooza has changed a lot since its early, traveling days. Now a massive event that beckons nearly 400,000 people through its gates every year, Lollapalooza has found a permanent home in Chicago’s downtown Grant Park. With a 360-degree view of the dazzling city skyline, eight stages with minimal sound bleed, and thoughtful amenities, Lollapalooza is an example of a big city festival done right.

Lollapalooza’s lineup has also evolved a lot since the ’90s, but this year’s bill paid tribute to its early days by inviting bands like Metallica and Green Day to headline. Billy Corgan, who headlined with the Smashing Pumpkins in 1994, even made a guest appearance on stage with festival founder Perry Ferrell’s band Porno For Pyros. But the four-day event’s eclectic bill had something for everyone to enjoy. One stage was dedicated to EDM fans raging all day long to artists like Kaskade and Rezz. Hip-hop heads found a home at the festival too, getting a chance to see J. Cole, Big Sean, BLXST, and Lil Durk. Pop artists big and small like Dua Lipa, Charli XCX, and The Regrettes, took the stage and K-pop icons like Tomorrow x Together and BTS’ J-Hope were greeted by thousands of screaming fans. Even the kiddos weren’t left out at Lollapalooza, with a stage dedicated solely to interactive sets for children and parents to find respite from the massive crowds.

The giant crowds are definitely something Lollapalooza has earned a bit of a reputation for, though huge signs reading “fence jumpers will be prosecuted” may have deterred anyone thinking of sneaking in without a wristband. Due to Lollapalooza’s sheer size, the festival effectively takes over the entire city of Chicago each year. It’s located on a one-mile stretch in Chicago’s downtown Grant Park, but the festival manages to set the whole city in motion. Public transportation is jam-packed with excitable festivalgoers sometimes ignorant of the disruption they cause to the average commuter. Main streets like Michigan Ave are shut down and cars get re-routed to account for the hundreds of thousands of people flocking to the park. While Lollapalooza brings many out-of-towners, many who actually live in Chicago are used to avoiding the weekend like the plague. Even those who forget about it are subject to its aftermath, left to wonder things like: “Why are the trains so delayed?” and “Why does everyone downtown look like they were downloaded directly from the Shein website?”

And while the yearly festival may cause a headache for those not in attendance, it’s more than clear why Lollapalooza is one of the most-talked-about music festivals in the country. For one, every performer continually brings their A-game. Dua Lipa put her refined dance moves on full display and Charli XCX transformed an entire field of people into a euphoric, daytime club. It also wasn’t uncommon for artists to surprise guests on stage. During his Saturday set, Big Sean brought out his very pregnant partner Jhené Aiko for a few songs. The two shared some very tender moments on stage, like when Sean lovingly kissed Aiko’s belly before leaning in for an intimate embrace. But that wasn’t the only surprise appearance: J-Cole invited Bas and J.I.D to the stage during his headlining performance, Still Woozy was joined by Remi Wolf to sing their collab, and Sunday closer J-Hope had Becky G make a surprise appearance during his penultimate song.

Speaking of J-Hope, the BTS member’s performance was history in the making. Not only was the K-pop star’s set reportedly the highest ticket selling event in Lollapalooza’s history, but it also marked the first time a South Korean solo artist has headlined a US festival. The momentous occasion was more than tangible, as the entire festival was seemingly flooded by the BTS fandom. From the grounds, J-Hope’s performance would at times be washed out by the ear-piercing screams of the crowd.

Along with bigger artists going all-out, Lollapalooza also offered a space for up-and-coming musicians to shine. Gen Z favorite PinkPantheress managed to start a mosh pit when performing the short-but-sweet hit “Just For Me.” Newcomer GAYLE, who has gained a notable following thanks to an uber-viral TikTok song “Abcdefu,” showed off her rock-star status on stage. She had the crowd on their feet before ripping through an electrifying cover of Joan Jett & The Blackhearts’ “Bad Reputation.” Indie pop trio MUNA also fired off a fun cover during their set, getting the entire audience to shout along to a rendition of The Killers’ “Mr. Brightside.” Meanwhile, pop singer Fletcher played a main stage set for her first time ever and took the opportunity to lead the crowd through a cover of Billie Eilish’s popular song “Happier Than Ever.”

Most of Lollapalooza’s four days were accompanied by awe-inspiring sets and appreciative artists. But like any festival of its ilk, there were a few drawbacks. For one, many of the on-site amenities felt like corporate cash grabs in disguise; an intriguing art installation tent turned out to be an NFT gallery that implored you to sign up for an NFT minting service. Another installation designed to look like a haunted house ended up being a scheme to get your email address in exchange for a free can of water. Thankfully though, none of the drawbacks had anything to do with safety measures, other than an unforeseeable accident Lil Durk had involving pyrotechnics during his set. Efficient water stations were conveniently located near every stage and EMT volunteers were constantly on the lookout for anyone in need of help. After one attendee fainted just a few feet away, two medical professionals were on-site within seconds, handing them water and carrying them safely out of the crowd.

Overall, Lollapalooza 2022 lived up to its reputation in nearly every way. Yes, there were massive crowds and lots of rowdy teenagers, but there were also outstanding performances accompanied by breathtaking city skyline views. And after four days of music, dancing, and meeting new friends, I was left with a sense of gratitude for the festival, a camera full of unforgettable memories, and very sore feet.

Some of the artists covered here are Warner Music artists. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.

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