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Lollapalooza has been the Midwest’s biggest music party since it stopped touring and planted in Chicago in 2005. In recent years, the rising genres of trap and EDM have accompanied rock, and inarguably have taken over the crowds rock used to draw years ago. Despite this, it has opened up an opportunity for people: you can walk around all day to each of Grant Park’s stages, and continuously find music that sounds nothing like the previous stage you visited.
If Lollapalooza has done one thing well for years, it’s giving ticket-buyers a diverse lineup. The festival has become a melting pot for rising artists who grow significantly each year in the festival card. As a matter of fact, those rising artists drew some of the festival’s most intriguing crowds this year.
The New Genres Rule: The headlining acts were an evident teller of what’s popular nowadays. The National drew a crowd that fizzled once surpassing the sound booth, while Bruno Mars and Dillon Francis drew packed crowds, one for the moms, and one for the teenage Molly-heads (you can probably guess which one’s which). Jack White drew an uninspiring crowd on Sunday night at the Main Stage while Odesza and Playboi Carti drew the targeted demographics that go to Lolla now. And on Thursday, Arctic Monkeys were noticeably outnumbered by Travis Scott’s crowd, who dropped an album an hour after his energetic performance.
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Hope: Still though, rock is far from dead. The genre’s undercard has really stepped up its appearance at festivals in recent years. On Friday, Parquet Courts rocked the Bud Light stage, being led by Andrew Savage’s intense, hardy vocals – which he made sound great. Post Animal evidently showcased their up and coming talent, which I believe will be something fun to watch in the coming years, and Greta Van Fleet has reached a height no new rock band has reached in quite some time.
How Do I Choose?: Lollapalooza, being in a city and in a public park has strict rules against how late the music can go, as it always has, with the music ending each night around 10pm. This can put festival goers in a pickle, having to choose between four of the festival’s biggest names all at once. Although the music ends relatively early at Grant Park, plenty of bands host aftershows in the surrounding venues in the area.
Diverse Talents: The American Eagle stage played as a host as the most diverse stage in terms of who performed there. Post Animal rocked their early set on Friday in the scorching heat, playing right down the road where they originated. Greta Van Fleet drew all the moms and dads reminiscing over their love for Led Zeppelin, raving over Josh Kiszka’s Robert Plant-esque vocal range. They were followed by Brockhampton, who immediately substituted those middle aged parents for kids, who quickly became surprised at how much moshing goes on at a Brockhampton concert.
Sunday at the stage was more alt-based, with Rex Orange County drawing one of the largest crowds of the weekend at the closed off stage. It was the English singer’s first career stop in Chicago, and festival goers certainly showed him the love. We watched Sabrina Claudio draw a crowd that was very intimate, whilst Gucci Mane took over the entire parking lot at the Bud Light stage, a place where that happened multiple times (Post Malone on Friday, Lil Uzi Vert later on Sunday). Cigarettes After Sex brought the full extent of their melancholy aesthetic to the stage on Sunday evening, dressed in all black accompanied by – you guessed it – black colored instruments. Their sound was quiet enough that any prominent talking in the crowd could rival it.
Welcome to the A-list: Post Malone attracted one of the most packed crowds of the entire weekend. Since Post has become such an attractive personality and knows the formula for making a hit, performing right now for him isn’t too much of an issue. He plays his hits with a backtrack, raps the parts he wants, and it satisfies the crowd who attends – however, it won’t for the entire duration of his entire career, though. What made his Lollapalooza a special occasion was his eccentric, custom made suit he wore for his performance.
Eye-roller: The fashion of festival goers, however, wasn’t something to rave over. Basketball jerseys ravaged the grounds, flooding the Bud Light and Perry’s stages, moms and dads wore, well what moms and dads wear, and you would see an occasionally cute couple every now and then.
A First: The most strangely entertaining set of the weekend went to Superorganism. The eight-piece collective played their first-ever American festival at the Tito’s Homemade Vodka stage at high noon on Sunday. 18-year-old lead singer Orono Noguchi displayed her casual coolness with her NPR shirt, out-of-style jeans look, paired with the occasional comment that just reinforced her coolness. She is the perfect face for a band of that energy.
The Cake: The Best Main Stage performance I witnessed was Tyler, the Creator. The Flower Boy rapper acknowledged to the crowd that most of them probably knew him for his most recent album, but he pleased older fans with excellent performances of “Deathcamp,” “Tamale,” and “IFHY.” He took the stage in a vibrant tie-dye button up with matching shorts, and a rainbow hat that spelled out “Problem Child”, but wasn’t shy about showing off his spotted hair. You can sense the growth in his performances since the days of Goblin. The mosh pits during “Who Dat Boy” were priceless as well.
New Rap is Still Entertaining: Outside of Tyler, and Travis Scott’s performances, Lil Uzi Vert was probably the most truly entertaining rapper at Lollapalooza. The 24-year-old played a well put-together mix of his discography, and actually completely performed his verses and essentially all hooks aside from his groundbreaking “XO Tour Llif3”, simply because he didn’t have to for that one. There was also no shortage of the dancing Uzi that everyone has come to see at some point, although he didn’t stage dive. He didn’t take many breaks between songs because he isn’t “too good at speeches”, so he kept the party going.
Wrong Stage Maybe?: The one head-scratching placement I noticed over the weekend was Taylor Bennett taking over the EDM stage midday on Friday. The soulful rapper changed the vibe from what the stage’s attendees had been expecting and caused lots of fans to fizzle out during his performance. Taylor, who just released his debut project, rocked a Bulls jersey on stage, repping his hometown. Though he currently hides in the shadows of his brother, Chance the Rapper, Taylor will soon be breaking out and making a well-known name for himself outside of being referred to as “Chance’s bro”.
Though I was not there Thursday or Saturday in person, after observing the size of the Tito’s stage, having artists such as Lil Pump, Billie Eillish, and The Neighbourhood on the stage also seemed like a questionable decision from Lollapalooza, considering each artist’s current stance in pop music.
Overall, Lollapalooza 2018 was a year that accurately exemplified what has come to fruition in festival culture now. What used to be a culture over-saturated with rock, has become a culture that tries its best to diversify its crowds. Right now it’s doing a pretty good job of that, especially Lollapalooza, but the future of it is looking hip-hop and EDM straight in its eyes with a dreamy look.
Cover photo by Sydney Gawlik. Lollapalooza Day 2 2018.
Junior at Ball State University studying photojournalism.
Lover of music, travel, and photography.