Just days before Chicago’s Lollapalooza takes over Grant Park, founder and frontman Perry Farrell announces that the touring festival is adding another country to its global agenda. But even with its sights set on India – and a growing list of stops including Paris, São Paulo and Berlin – the festival takes no prisoners when it comes to bringing the best of its counterculture energy to the scene at which Farrell first launched it. For four hot and clear days in Illinois, Lollapalooza Chicago attendees experience what many artists and locals already know: that the city is an unparalleled music oasis.
Backstage before their sets, acts such as Wallows, The Regrettes and MUNA sing the praises of Chi-town’s audiences, commending both the eclectic music scene and its avid fans. This year’s line-up pays homage to that diversity of sound, drawing acts from across the globe and musical spectrum for history-making sets. Remi Wolf delivers bedroom pop on the same stage rapper Maxo Kream takes later that day. Rising singer-songwriter Maude Latour plays a few short hours before heavy metal legends Metallica give the same stage a fiery send-off on the festival’s first night.
Hours into the event, it’s clear that Lollapalooza 2022 hits the mark so many other festivals aim for, but fail to. There are no allegiances to genre here; the question of who gets to play is determined by what resonates with fans. This means up-and-coming acts from Glaive to Gracie Abrams, whose TikTok followings rival the number of attendees even allowed on festival grounds, or Dylan, who takes the artist-breaking BMI stage on Sunday, during her first ever US tour, are just as welcome to Lollapalooza this year as frequent festival bill toppers J.Cole and Dua Lipa.
Though the weekend is full of highlights, none of the acts seem to be intentionally creating the trending moments most festivals are known to generate. Instead, there’s a deeper connection with fans being built. Sam Fender plays a solo cover of Bruce Springsteen‘s ‘Dancing In The Dark’ to eager fans, happy to provide backing vocals to the songwriter during a delay in his set. On Sunday night, Billie Joe Armstrong invites a fan on stage to join Green Day during a cover Operation Ivy’s ‘Knowledge’. After she plays with them, they send her home with the guitar. Joe Talbot of IDLES punctuates the space between dynamic tracks ‘Mother’ and ‘The Beachland Ballroom’ by taking the time to explain to the crowd why the word “lover” needs no romantic affiliation.
But it’s not just the festival grounds that become a sonic sanctuary over the weekend. The entire Windy City is in on it, with iconic music venues playing host to aftershows. On Thursday, Royal Blood cram their arena-ready sound into the 1000 cap Vic Theatre and, on Sunday, Turnstile transform the tight walls of Subterranean – made to serve 400 fans or fewer – into a living, breathing mosh pit. But the most iconic underplay comes on Friday, granting fans the opportunity to stand shoulder to shoulder on The Metro’s sticky floors while Green Day toss their set list away in favour of deep cuts and perform the likes of ‘Warning’ for the first time in more than two decades.
Much like Lollapalooza’s world domination strategy, the festival’s best performances also take a global leap this year, with Italian glam rockers Måneskin thrilling the Sunday crowd with a set that backs up their consecutive weeks on the top of US Billboard charts. The festival also takes on multiple first this year, with some of it’s most groundbreaking sets coming by way of k-pop.
On Saturday, Tomorrow x Together make history as the first K-pop act to perform at Lollapalooza, closing out their US tour on Farrell’s namesake, Perry stage. And on Sunday, BTS rapper J-Hope headlines the festival as a solo act, cementing himself as a global festival force. On the last night of Lollapalooza, the K-pop behemoth plays across the park from punk-rock heroes Green Day – and they both pull massive crowds. It’s proof positive that all genres, so long as they embody the rock’n’roll mentality the festival is known for, can and should co-exist in the park.
Farrell started Lollapalooza by chance back in ‘91, launching it as a Jane’s Addiction farewell tour, and taking Nine Inch Nails, the Rollins Band, and Ice-T across 20 cities across the US. Watching bands such as Meet Me @ The Altar, The Regrettes, KennyHoopla, and ericdoa carry that punk ethos banner on for another generation stands as a reminder of how the festival started, but also an optimistic nod to its future.
As Farrell says on his walk up to the festival’s main stage, shot glass in hand and his wife, friends, and crew follow closely behind as Porno For Pyros get ready to perform: “This is a family occasion.” The families that the frontman and founder refers to come in countless configurations over the weekend, from BTS’ ARMY ready to support J-Hope to the friends who’ve just met in person after chatting about meeting at the festival via Discord who crowd surf each other to the barrier at Turnstile’s set.
In a nod to the familial theme, Big Sean brings Jhené Aiko on stage during his performance, celebrating their baby on the way. There are also swarms of children in attendance, watching with their parents as frontman James Hetfield asks the “Metallica family” how they’re doing before the band pays homage to Stranger Things on the screens that flank their stage while they play ‘Master Of Puppets’.
Right before the first South Korean artist to headline a US festival makes history on the Budlight Seltzer stage, Farrell brings out Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot for an announcement. With the skyline backing her, Lightfoot tells the music lovers who’ve come near and far to hear their favourite artists that they’ll have another 10 years, at least, to continue experiencing this utopia. High on the adrenaline of the weekend, or perhaps the anticipation of BTS’ J-Hope performing ‘MORE’ right before their eyes, the crowd breaks into cheers, screaming at the top of their lungs, clearly beaming over the promise of another decade of Lollapalooza at Grant Park.