A little less than a mile separates Lollapalooza’s main headlining stage at the south end of Grant Park from the secondary headlining stage on the far north end. It’s a 15-minute walk on day one and a 20-minute waddle on day four — but a majestic waddle nonetheless, taking place as it does with a lake breeze on your face, in the shadow of the world’s prettiest skyline. Along the way you pass a corporate carnival ground of branded games, selfie stations, and quarter-mile-long booths where you can pay $7 for a single piece of chicken and buy an alcoholic beverage with a down payment of one kidney.
The livestream captured the biggest names to play Lollapalooza 2022 but left out all the little things that make festivals great: The wild fashions; the travelers hoisting flags; the hustlers in novelty costumes offering to be in your pictures for $1; the swarms of dragonflies hovering like vultures above fallen cans of Bud Light Seltzer; and the would-be influencers ruining everyone’s day in pursuit of the next viral video.
And of course, music is different in person. Over the livestream, it’s harder to tell when an artist loses the audience, or when they never had an audience to begin with. You can’t recognize when someone is playing to the video cameras at the expense of the spectators, or those goose-bump-inducing moments when a wave of sound sends shockwaves through the festival grounds and causes the crowd to triple in size.
If you watched the livestream, congratulations on your un-blistered feet, I bet they feel great right now. But here’s what you missed.
Who Will Secure Us from Security?
Going through security, I got searched up to and including the crown jewels. On Saturday I even got patted down a second time, and that guard definitely owes me dinner. Maybe I just look like a guy who uses drugs.
But they didn’t find shit.
As for facilities, taking care of that many bathrooms isn’t an easy task, but I never found a stall to be unusable, and when I returned to the same urinals multiple times I noticed that the inevitable pileups of alcohol cans were consistently getting cleaned. Staff did have trouble keeping the hand sanitizer stocked, though.
Besides that, you were never far from officers of the Chicago Police, who could often be heard saying helpful things like, “Yeah that sucks. Yeah, we’ll probably never find your phone.” Hey, at least they didn’t try.
One of the Stages Is Much Worse Than the Others
Once again this year the two main venues were T-Mobile, the crown jewel of the south campus which showcases the starriest headliners of the night, and Bud Light Seltzer, which hosts each evening’s counter-programing and anchors the north campus. Across the lawn from Bud Light Seltzer, sharing a common audience space, is Tito’s Handmade Vodka, better known to Chicago residents as the Petrillo Music Shell. It’s a permanent stage in Grant Park, and according to a rumor that I just started, if you say “Petrillo Music Shell” in the mirror three times you lose your voice and require an immediate hip replacement.
It sucks. The audience stands on blistering hot concrete that ruins the acoustics and makes it literally painful to dance. It’s also an east-facing venue, which means for about three hours every afternoon the crowd can’t even see the stage because they’re staring west at the setting sun. Each year Lollapalooza hosts a high-stakes mini-game: Which artists will push through the adverse conditions and which will get swallowed?
On Saturday, COIN got swallowed whole. Petrillo is death to nuance and demands near-constant belting, while frontman Chase Lawrence was inaudibly relaxed. I was close enough to tell which of the quartet had their eyes open or closed at any given time, and I couldn’t hear more than bass and drums with the faintest whiff of vocals and guitar.
The Marías battled the Music Shell to a draw. While the vocals were too quiet, a trumpet pierced the concrete gloom and kept the crowd, if not dancing, then at least bobbing in place
King Princess fared better on Friday, and under even harsher circumstances. I didn’t see another set at Petrillo where such a blinding sun walloped the crowd in such a cloudless sky. For the first half of her set, a near-total inability to see took the spectators almost completely out of it, making them slow to respond and late to cheer. But she won them back with a call and response of “Your pussy is?” “Bomb!” and then, at 6:17 by my clock, a heroic cloud shielded us just long enough for the sun to sink behind a skyscraper. The second half of the set went off like gangbusters.
But the best show I saw at Petrillo this year was The Regrettes. Singer Lydia Knight is a mind-melting talent, a human firework. She owned that stage like I have never seen anyone own it, and when the mosh pit failed to materialize, she teased the audience: “We’re from Los Angeles and we do this thing where we form a big circle and dance and just go crazy,” she said. “Could be fun.” The crowd went about as crazy as they could on the concrete, welcoming arthritis in pursuit of a few moments of ecstasy.
Idiots and Influencers and ODs, Oh My!
During YG’s set on Saturday, about 20 people climbed scaffolding and tried to unseat a giant inflatable Lollapalooza ball. They failed, after which a couple of guys began using the scaffolding as monkey bars, causing it to swing alarmingly, and nearly sending one young woman tumbling to the ground, though a friend saved her from falling. It was almost as stupid as what was happening on stage; YG sexually harassed every woman watching from someone else’s shoulders, demanding that they show their breasts. Some quickly got down, others obliged and found themselves judged: “She got big old titties,” he said of one, and, “Oh, she got mosquito bites,” he said of another. At least he had fun; nobody else at the show did.
The festival wasn’t totally without danger. I saw my first two overdoses almost immediately on Thursday afternoon: a man and a woman, him on his knees with his face in the grass, she flat out and immobile on the sidewalk, both being attended by medical staff. I also saw a lot of drunk people head-butt the earth, especially on Sunday, where no fewer than three people passed out within ten feet of me. Throughout, the medical helicopters stayed busy.
As for influencers, they were everywhere, but the funniest I saw was a young woman and her photographer standing in the middle of the road, trying to find the exact angle that would make it seem like her ass was blotting out the setting sun. She was almost mooning our nearest star; call it a lunar assclipse.
2022’s Biggest Disappointments Showed the Cost of Inexperience
These weren’t the worst sets (thanks, YG) but almost all of the disappointing shows came from rising artists who recently released great albums. PinkPantheress just recently turned 21, and her 2021 EP To Hell with It might point towards the future of pop music. But she’s still developing her stage presence. She only has one move right now — wandering across the stage from side to side — and while I didn’t think her English accent was overly strong, I overheard some kids next to me complaining that they couldn’t understand her. Accent or no, she talked too quickly and too quietly for her jokes to land, but she’ll get better with confidence.
Many of the same criticisms could be leveled at Wet Leg, although they weren’t uncomfortable on stage, just stoned. Despite an audience that knew every word, Rhian Teasdale couldn’t maintain the energy between hits, and during Hester Chamber’s solo vocals, she was less audible than about 500 people in the space. At least they were having a good time; they kept cracking each other up, and during “Chaise Longue,” the two of them retreated to the back of the stage to dance privately. As the last song wrapped, they exited so abruptly that the guest guitarist had to step up and thank the audience so people wouldn’t get confused.
While Maxo Kream continues to get love for his machine gun flows, at Lollapalooza he didn’t have the breath to sell them. After a high-stepping entrance, he was gassed from the very first song, skipping several verses at a time and occasionally yelling, “1, 2, 3, 4!” or “Let’s go!” Feeling the strain, his voice also went much higher than his studio performances, so that even the parts he got out were unrecognizable. To be fair, his songs are harder to perform than most artist’s songs. But he doesn’t have the stamina to play lead dancer and sole rapper, and he might need to rethink his approach.
Djo, aka Joe Keery of Stranger Things fame, was booked for one of the biggest stages because of the audience he would attract, but he didn’t have the toolbox to keep them involved. He was very charming between songs, but charm is no substitute for stage presence, and so the set devolved into a lawn full of people sitting down and playing on their phones. The biggest cheer he got was when he said, “I’m so pumped to see Charli [XCX].”
None of these complaints are terminal conditions. As proof look no further than KennyHoopla, a bright spot this year. When I saw him at Riot Fest 2021, he came out spinning, ran out of breath, and spent the rest of the set apologizing for not being able to perform at the level he thought his fans deserved. This year was a totally different experience. He still came out spinning, but he stopped earlier, jumped a little less, better controlled his breathing, and used audience banter to earn rests. The result was a high-energy show from start to finish, and proof that committed artists who wants to get better, will.
Best Time and Place to Get Food
You should have packed a sandwich from home.
Best Time and Place to Get Food at Lollapalooza
After 7:00 p.m. on the north end of the park the lines cleared out and you could get anything you wanted in about five minutes. But the prices were insane; a single wing of chicken cost $7 at Gus’s. In terms of calories for cost, the best bargain was probably a $6 slice from Lou Malnati’s or, better yet, $22 for a pie. As for quality, considering what a catering challenge it is, and how long that food sits out, I recommend none it.
Best in Fest
For my money, two sets towered above the rest: Turnstile and MUNA.
Turnstile seem like guys who’ve been to a thousand hardcore shows and studied them the way Tarantino geeked out on grindhouse films. Brendan Yates was fucking fighting the air, punching and jumping and doing dramatic run-off, run-on flying leaps. I saw shades of young Iggy Pop, and not just because he took his shirt off. Jim Morrison maybe, too. He’s the kind of frontman that leaves you reaching for historical comparisons, because you felt like history was being made.
As for MUNA, what a class act! Katie Gavin was the only artist I saw to thank her sound team, stage managers, and other production crew by name. She also told a story about coming to Lollapalooza high, and before a cover of The Killers’ “Mr. Brightside,” recalled seeing it with her sister on her shoulders. Live, those hooks wash over you like a tsunami of sound, and hearing “Silk Chiffon” with a crowd that knows every word is as close as I’ll ever get to seeing the face of God.
I also want to spare a moment for a few other great performances. Zach Bryan is known for tuneful melodies and incisive lyrics, but live he’s got an absolutely massive vocal instrument, which is made all the better because it’s so damn expressive. He cried, he roared, and he put a grind into his voice that would make the most diehard metalhead a little country curious. As if that weren’t enough, his fiddle player was good enough to scare the devil out of Georgia.
As someone who didn’t watch Eurovision, seeing Måneskin was like watching a puzzle piece fall into place. It’s hair metal without the mousse — power without pretensions. It was one of the best shows I saw at the T-Mobile stage, and evidence that they’ll be rocking out in arenas for decades to come.
Meanwhile, the award for most surprising set of the year goes to Remi Wolfe. “Merry fucking Christmas Chicago!” she said on a stage dressed with snowmen and holiday hats. “It’s my first Lollapalooza and I’m trying to make it special. It’s Christmas in July, baby.” Remi Claus also came bearing gifts. “Who wants a present?” she asked, grabbing at her feet. “Who wants a shoe?” Whatever your feelings on hurtled footwear, the set was delightfully kooky.
Oh, and we cannot forget the stunning solo debut of BTS’ j-hope. Check out the recap.
If you watched on livestream, you missed the random relationships that develop when the same few thousand people go to every show. On Saturday, the divine festival powers assigned me a nemesis: an enthusiastic gentlemen with a big fan and the same taste in music as me. He liked dancing while holding the fan above his head, especially when the fan could come between my eyes and the stage. I hope he had fun (he likes some good music!) and I hope his sunburn is driving him crazy.
Headlines for the Headliners
Last year the headliners spanned great to poor, with Miley Cyrus bringing out one of the most impressive guest lists in festival history, Tyler, the Creator showcasing an imaginatively theatrical performance, and Post Malone doing pretty much nothing. In comparison, this year’s headliners all met expectations, leaving fans satisfied without blowing anyone’s minds. Here are a few quick notes:
Metallica’s set had a buzzy tension between diehards and newcomers. The tale was in the fashion: I saw one original tour shirt from the ’90s, several from the early aughts, two replicas from the ’88 tour worn by people whose parents may not even have been born by then, and about a dozen Hellfire Club shirts. Oh, and over one hundred of the $15 Metallica shirts from Target. Stranger Things loomed large above Lollapalooza — I clocked a “Justice for Eddie” sign during “Wherever I May Roam” — but this isn’t the first time Metallica have become a meme, and the band gleefully rolled with the punches. Young and old, that set may have hosted the entire collection of cargo pants in the Chicagoland area.
Dua Lipa put on a classic pop show: Lights, dancing, body roll after body roll, with a lineage that stretches back to the days of New Kids on the Block. It helps that every track on Future Nostalgia is a banger. No moves that you haven’t seen a thousand times before, but still, an athletic achievement.
Speaking of shocking athleticism,J. Cole’s skills and breath control are close to as good as it gets. Over the years I’ve seen a lot of hip-hop on the T-Mobile stage, and rarely has someone commanded a space that large while delivering such a word-perfect performance. His crowd was also the most committed of any audience; they took over the south lawn three hours before he performed, and it required tough skin and a lowered shoulder for anyone else to get a good spot.
As for Green Day, Billie Joe Armstrong is an ageless wonder, though the rest of the band had to pick their spots and conserve their energy. When it comes to the audience, the lawn was full, but still notably less crowded than previous headlining shows, with enough room to push to the front well after the show had started. But what they lacked in density they made up for with enthusiasm; no other performance saw so many people moshing.
Finally, Charli XCX had a headliner’s audience, even if she wasn’t given a traditional headliner’s slot. She performed midday Sunday on the smaller north lawn, in an egregious example of booking malpractice. I arrived late after running from Beach Bunny, and the crowd grew really dense about 60 rows before the sound even got good. I was in the fucking pit at hardcore shows, and I didn’t get as bruised as I did trying to push my way closer to Charli XCX.
We exited along a bed of crushed seltzer cans, past closed stalls, as smiling Lou Malnati’s employees doled out free pizza to other staff members while gleefully telling ticket holders to fuck off. Two nights, at the north end of a park, a man with a megaphone waited to explain in detail how we were all going to go to hell. Past the gates, unlicensed vendors sold water bottles to the unprepared and knockoff t-shirts to the unaware, as scalpers called for wristbands. The crowd fizzled out into the blocked-off streets: to take over train stations, clear out car parks, and (no judgment) piss in rich people’s alleyways. Another festival in the books. We’ll see you next year.
[flexi-common-toolbar] [flexi-form class=”flexi_form_style” title=”Submit to Flexi” name=”my_form” ajax=”true”][flexi-form-tag type=”post_title” class=”fl-input” title=”Title” value=”” required=”true”][flexi-form-tag type=”category” title=”Select category”][flexi-form-tag type=”tag” title=”Insert tag”][flexi-form-tag type=”article” class=”fl-textarea” title=”Description” ][flexi-form-tag type=”file” title=”Select file” required=”true”][flexi-form-tag type=”submit” name=”submit” value=”Submit Now”] [/flexi-form]
Tagged: Alternative Music, FEATURES, Festival News and Rumors, Lollapalooza, music, music blog