“I’ve been replaying this moment over and over again for months and it’s so much better than I could have imagined,” said singer-songwriter Lauv from the main stage of Lollapalooza. It was a sentiment heard over and over again at the 2021 Music Festival, the first large-scale event to return to Chicago at full capacity in the era of the pandemic.
It is precisely for this reason that the festival has attracted an unprecedented level of national attention in recent years. Given the increased visibility, the performers were especially keen to do their best for their loyal fans while also seizing the opportunity to reach new ears by embracing the element of surprise.
It was a perfect weekend in Chicago, and between the star-studded lineup, refreshing iced Cupcake cocktails, sweeping Chicago skyline views and more, fans and performers were overwhelmed with unbridled optimism and treated to the cathartic return they had dreamed of.
New safety standards
This year marked Lollapalooza’s 30th anniversary, and with it came an unexpected opportunity. It all started in May, when Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced that the festival was planning to return to “or near full capacity”. The news was greeted with great skepticism. At the time, the vaccine rollout in the city was relatively new, and many were concerned about the festival’s ability to implement safety measures in the event of a large-scale pandemic.
Organizers have risen to the challenge head-on, effectively crafting the plan by which events of similar size can operate in the future. With several checkpoints in place, participants were asked to have their vaccine cards handy as security validated dates and signatures on all prints for vaccinated clients. Meanwhile, unvaccinated pass holders were required to present a negative coronavirus test upon entry and wear a mask on the grounds of Grant Park. The rapid test sites were easily accessible outside the gates for the four days.
Organizers reportedly turned back nearly 600 participants on the first day alone for inappropriate red tape. As Fox 32 Chicago reported, even Chicago Department of Public Health commissioner Dr Allison Arwady was arrested at the door while undercover due to her inability to initially produce appropriate documents. With lots of staff and multiple entrances, the multi-step check-in process proved to be effective without causing awkward bottlenecks for festival-goers.
A long series of surprises
With the cancellation of the 2020 edition of Lollapalooza, the gap between the 2019 and 2021 editions of the festival has felt particularly pronounced as a host of new trends emerge from both the studio environment and the media. social have started to translate on stage. TikTok is having a bigger impact than ever, punk rock is experiencing a massive resurgence and “Miss The Rage” by Trippie Redd and Playboi Carti is quickly becoming a festival favorite among DJs.
Added to the unpredictability was the large number of artists eager to create feelings of shock and awe. Considering that Lollapalooza was the first time many artists have returned to the stage in nearly two years, they were eager to go all out, and for audiences that meant special unannounced guests were waiting for them at every turn.
Steve Aoki kicked off the opening night by inviting Darren Criss on stage to perform their late 2019 dance cover of “Crash Into Me” by the Dave Matthews Band. But there was more in store with Aoki, who finally took 2000s punk rock favorites All Time Low to the stage to preview an unreleased track soon after.
The trend continued over the weekend with the Brownies & Lemonade All Stars featuring the godfather of the trap, Chicago legend YehMe2, for a surprise set that balanced his recent discography with classics he helped concoct. during his tenure as half of Flosstradamus. YehMe2 even compounded the surprise by providing a little help from the rapid-fire blacksmith Twista, who helped close the set with a bang.
SLANDER led to an explosive end on Saturday night with a live performance of “First Time” as well as “Love Is Gone” with Dylan Matthew, a heartbreaking single that hit TikTok. Meanwhile, Marc Rebillet was more unpredictable than ever on his own, hilariously delusional with his new status of “giga-vax”, which he defines as having received all the vaccines available on the market.
Electronic headliners make a triumphant comeback
Over the past decade, no genre has come close to the hegemonic expansion of dance music on the grounds of Grant Park. What was once a niche part of the festival – confined to a small tent and a handful of DJs – has since reached Grant Park’s third largest stage, the Solana x Perry stage, all within the span of a few years. . In more and more frequent cases, DJs have even transcended the electronic scene entirely to perform on one of the two main stages of the festival, and this year ILLENIUM and Marshmello, two veterans of the event, have been raised to this position.
In 2016, despite a midday time slot, Lollapalooza viewers arrived in droves early to catch Marshmello, an emerging EDM success story at the time. In 2018, ILLENIUM practically opened on the second day of Lollapalooza with a modest 12:40 p.m. time slot. This year, both returned as main attractions.
On the first night, ILLENIUM fans showed up decorated as swimsuits adorned with firebirds dotted the audience. Although they were placed at the same time as Miley Cyrus, ILLENIUM fans showed their loyalty by watching the producer play a significant part of his most recent album, Fallen embers. He came with extra firepower to amplify his most recent emerging shots. Said The Sky joined him to perform the cathartic “Crazy Times” while Iann Dior took the stage to perform the hip-hop and punk inspired “First Time”.
In some ways, the appearance of ILLENIUM was also a nostalgic reflection of the rise in popularity of dance music in Grant Park. The happy headbanger crowd particularly appreciated his willingness to release tracks from the select number of artists who had held the festival role before him, including the remix “Loyal” by ODESZA and the iconic “Promises” by Skrillex.
Marshmello received a similar love for his return statement. Despite some pre-performances nerves Due to the scale of the event, he came out with the confidence of an artist at the top of his game. Pulling on a Michael Jordan Bulls jersey, Mello took fans back to where his own meteoric rise to greatness began, with “Know Me,” before tasting something new and unheard of with his upcoming collaboration with Ray Volpe. The night was a crowning moment for Marshmello, who saw audiences sing every word of his greatest vocal hits including “Wolves”, “Friends” and many more.
From a production standpoint, the arduous hours of rehearsing paid off as the combination of pyrotechnics, cinematic-quality visuals, and changing stage set-up came together to create many explosive moments and sincere. Chief among them was the producer’s tribute to Chicago rapper Juice WRLD, who tragically passed away in 2019. “I want you to find your best friend now and give him a big hug,” Marshmello said as the Pop-rock riffs of “Viens & Go” came to fruition.
A memorable return
Overall, Lollapalooza 2021 was the stimulating comeback the music industry needed. On its 30th anniversary, the festival served as a much needed pressure relief valve for performers keen to make their return to the stage as memorable as possible, and the crowd was enjoying it every second.
Despite the mercurial restrictions, the leadership provided the premium festival products that festival fans have come to expect throughout Lollapalooza’s history, and they wrote the roadmap that could bring events to a similar magnitude to unfold safely in the coming months.