Under hazy blue skies, Lollapalooza opened for its long weekend in Grant Park on Thursday, quickly becoming a small town within a city for young music fans. The first day of Chicago’s biggest music festival is sometimes said to be less crowded and low-key, but you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise inside the fence. Much of the crowd sported logos for Metallica, the night’s headliner. Outside near the main entrance at Ida B. Wells Drive and Michigan Avenue, a protest against Chicago’s curfew had the festival as a backdrop.
During the first day, there were the sort of concerns one would expect for a festival with a daily capacity of around 100,000 lakeside attendees: security concerns less than a month after a mass shooting during the 4th of July Parade in Highland Park. Fears over COVID-19 as local case counts remain stubbornly high.
More than 170 musical groups will perform on the eight stages of Lollapalooza during the four days of the festival. Along with main stages at T-Mobile and Bud Light Seltzer, Kidzapalooza returns this year for the first time since 2019. Other musical headliners include Lil Baby Thursday, Dua Lipa Friday and J. Cole Saturday, and Green Day is expected to wrap up the festival on Sunday evening.
On the front line in the North Entrance Falls, Caroline Mdo, Liz Sandoval and Helena Ruhnke, all from the Chicago area, waited for the gates to open.
“We just wanted to have a chance to check everything out on day one,” said 19-year-old Mdo. This summer was her second Lollapalooza and her friend Ruhnke’s first. Sandoval, 24, planned to do a bee line for the T-Mobile stage to camp out all day to see Metallica at 8:15 p.m. “I’ve been listening to them since I was 10,” she said – a fandom she inherited from her mother.
The trio had concerns about safety and security. Mdo said she was groped the last time she came, in a packed mosh pit. “In a crowd people grab you, sometimes it really happens,” she said. She knows that Lollapalooza has security on site to respond specifically to such incidents, but she said she thinks “they won’t arrive fast enough to do anything.”
Lollapalooza has a zero tolerance policy against harassment and asks anyone with a problem to contact a member of security or staff or come to one of the medical tents on the grounds.
The band’s other gripe had to do with the see-through bag policy that Lollapalooza and other major music festivals rely on to expedite entry. “You have to be careful, people can see your wallet or whatever is in it and go for it,” Mdo said. She approved of her friend’s strategy of carrying her bag on the front.
Also on Thursday morning, more than a few dozen people gathered outside the entrance to protest Chicago’s 10 p.m. curfew for minors enacted in May, following the fatal shooting of a teenager at The Bean. in Millennium Park.
“These curfews are disproportionately enforced against black and brown children,” said Kara Crutcher, a lawyer for Good Kids Mad City and Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, the organizations behind the protest.
She referenced a “Peace Book” order as an alternative to a curfew. The youth-led anti-violence ordinance was presented to city council in June, backed by Good Kids Mad City.
“As a young black man, I’m tired of being arrested and criminalized by the police,” said James Robinson, 18, of Good Kids Mad City. “They are already arresting us and searching us, but now they have another reason.” Others nearby snapped their fingers and nodded in agreement.
“Chicago has shown for over a decade … that they have not implemented any strategy to protect the young people of this city, especially black and brown young people,” said Camilla Williams, 36, mentor at Good Kids Mad City. “So the Book of Peace is something that will give them the opportunity to live. Live.”
Crutcher also spoke about what she implied was a double standard since ticketed events such as Lollapalooza, which ends at 10 p.m., are not subject to a curfew.
“Lolla’s backdrop makes it very clear who is allowed to be downtown and who is allowed to roam freely around her town without harassment, and who isn’t. Black and brown kids don’t have everything just not the same freedom and permission,” Crutcher said.
Inside the festival site, people dispersed to Chow Town and the stages once the doors opened – heralded by “Star Wars” theme music, as tradition dictates – a little after 11 a.m.
Kassidy Huelsbeck and Maria Lopez traveled from Wisconsin to attend their first Lollapalooza. They stood in front of the Solana x Perry stage while the pitch was still fairly empty. For Huelsbeck, this will be his very first concert.
“I’m hoping to find out what the concerts are like this weekend because I’ve never been there,” Huelsbeck said.
She added that she was very excited to see J-Hope on Sunday, especially since the South Korean rapper, who is part of the mega-popular boy group BTS, has just released an album. J-Hope is expected to be the first South Korean artist to headline a major US music festival.
Nichole Rintel and Teddy Kazmierski flew in from the Detroit area for Lollapalooza. Rintel sported elaborate cat makeup and said it was her third appearance at the festival. It feels huge to her every year, she said.
“There are about 100,000 people here,” she said. “You walk to the top of the hill and look down and think, this is a lot of people.”
The pandemic was not a priority, but, she says, “I will say that I was surprised to see no protocol.”
Lollapalooza, which is put on by C3 Presents, based in Austin, Texas, follows current standards of major music festivals and adheres to local COVID-19 guidelines for outdoor events, as established by the departments of Chicago and Illinois Public Health. Unlike last summer’s festival guidelines, it does not require a face covering or proof of vaccinations or a negative test for entry.
This week, all counties in Illinois, including Cook, were considered high transmission areas, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to the Chicago Department of Public Health, mitigation changes such as mask and vaccine requirements will be made based on Chicago’s hospital load, which remains low.
On the side of the T-Mobile stage, the smell of mulch and grass dominated the atmosphere as people gathered for Maude Latour’s 2:15 p.m. set.
To the chants of “Maude! Maud! Maud!” The recent Columbia graduate Latour raced onto the stage, full of energy and music. After singing the hits “Furniture,” “Walk Backwards,” and “Superfruit,” Latour addressed the crowd. How are we (expletive), Chicago?” she asked the crowd. The side seams of her shiny pants had torn from all her jumping. After singing her latest single, she took a moment to offer some dedications before singing “Lola”.
“I want to dedicate this song to protecting women, protecting their right to choose, protecting queer people, protecting trans people,” Latour said. “I want to dedicate it to protecting your friends and protecting strangers you don’t even know.”
This summer is the first time that New Yorkers Samara Lindberg and Cassidy Price, both 22, have come to Lollapalooza. And the first time they visited Chicago. They said they were delighted to see Tinashe and Ashnikko. Wearing all-black outfits — save for the sparkly, colorful stars on Lindberg’s shirt — the friends shared how they got ready for the festival.
“When we decided we could do these two days, I just looked up the different artists that I didn’t know and listened to their music and made a Lollapalooza playlist for us,” Lindberg said. . “So we walked through and listened and learned.”
People know the headliners, like Metallica and Dua Lipa, Price added. But small artists also receive one-hour sets. “Being here is like you can catch up on their new stuff, but also, like, little throwbacks,” she said.
WGN-TV reported Thursday that musician and Lollapalooza founder Perry Farrell told reporter Dean Richards that the festival had reached an agreement with Mayor Lori Lightfoot to extend his contract at the park for another 10 years; Lollapalooza had reached the end of his current contract. C3 Presents told the Tribune that no contract was in place yet.
“We don’t have a formal agreement, but we hope to have one as conversations continue,” spokesman Guy Chipparoni said.
Late in the afternoon, Still Woozy finished his energetic set on T-Mobile drenched in sweat. The musician, aka Sven Eric Gamsky, tirelessly bounced on his heels through his latest number, shouting, “Thank you, Lollapalooza, we love you!”
The prize for the most inexplicable hour of the day was awarded to 100 Gecs on the Tito stage in the evening. Chicago-area duo Dylan Brady and Laura Les put on a set featuring wizarding hats and heavy vocal distortion, singing hits such as “Mememe” to a cheering crowd. Their sound went from EDM to thrashing guitars and synthesizers to almost acoustic numbers.
“It’s unreal to play Lollapalooza,” Les said of the signing.
As night fell, the south end of Grant Park seemed to have room only for Metallica, the main attraction of the day. A heavy metal band that formed in California in 1981, the group have remained famous, keeping old fans and picking up new ones, and are currently in the spotlight thanks to their song “Master of Puppets” in the finale of the final season of Netflix’s “Stranger Things.”
Taking to the T-Mobile stage after a lengthy video opener, James Hetfield and company took to the stage and launched into “Whiplash.”