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Lollapalooza 2022

Lollapalooza 2022

by Tanya van Kampen | photos by Sean McCloskey

A lot can happen in 14 years… legalized cannabis, smartphone technology, streaming services, and the push to dismantle social constructs such as gender and body size are just a few things that come to mind. My last Lollapalooza experience also happened 14 years ago, and as I made my return this year, I reflected on how the festival has grown in so many ways and yet, at its core, remains unchanged.

In addition to covering the first four years of Lollapalooza in Grant Park, Chicago, I also attended the festival in 1994 in Miami, Florida as a teenager obsessed with music… and in 1994 it was all about Green Day. Unfortunately for me and my friend, Sean, Green Day’s show was canceled on our date due to some complications at their Woodstock show just days before. But we still had a blast watching The Breeders, Beastie Boys, and The Smashing Pumpkins.

Sean and I are still friends and when we heard Green Day was headlining Lollapalooza 2022, we knew we had to go.

I was glad to know that the festival was making its annual return to Grant Park throughout all these years. The park grounds are nestled snugly between downtown Chicago and the lakefront with the museum campus nearby. And for that I give kudos to Lolla for being a quality partner and steward of the city.

The mark of a solid festival experience is not just about the music… even if it is a music festival. Right away, I noticed how much Lolla improved in this aspect. I was absolutely thrilled to see the long row of local restaurants dubbed “Chow Town”. It immediately felt like Taste of Chicago meets Lollapalooza. There was a wide selection of sweet and savory offerings including vegan options. Bars were scattered everywhere in addition to cocktail lounges and a beer and wine garden. Prices were absolutely reasonable for both food and drinks but even better were the complimentary hydration stations scattered around the festival grounds.

There were plenty of things to do for fun for those bouncing between stages looking to kill some time. Just some of the things that caught my eye were a giant claw machine from T-Mobile, a glitter makeup bar from about-face, a hotel themed lounge by Hulu, the Toyota Music Den where you could build your intention word bracelet, and of course the Lolla Merch Shop. And for those that didn’t bring their own battery chargers, T-Mobile provided complimentary charging stations where phones could be locked up securely.

Festival goers also openly enjoyed their cannabis as recreational use became legal last year in Illinois. I would say that worked out well for Lolla and is an added value perk of the Chicago festival moving forward.

But what about the music?! With over 190 artists performing over the four days, there was plenty of music to take in but it was impossible to do it all. And so here is just a sampling of what I enjoyed.

A handful of acts on the smaller stages stood out to me. Taipei Houston, composed of the Ulrich brothers (yeeesss, that Ulrich), is a drum and bass two-piece with a raw but loud garage rock sound. Definitely check out the debut single “As The Sun Sets”. British female duo, Wet Leg, played their set of head-bobbing rock to an attentive crowd squeezing in some punny jokes in between songs. I added them to my Spotify for future listening. Alternative hip-hop artist, Genesis Owusu, was an absolute surprise with his set that brought a theatrical vibe including a bright red wardrobe and back up dancers. I expect to see more from him. Music from Willow, daughter of Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, blends influences from rock, pop, and hip-hop. Her natural stage presence was bubbling with energy… and her fan-filled audience was loving every moment.

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Set off to the side in a field of its own, the Solana X Perry’s stage featured electronic music throughout the four days attracting a steady stream of both onlookers and rave enthusiasts. Brooklyn-based musician EVAN GIIA was especially entertaining as she skillfully sang along to danceable beats expressing both excitement and gratitude while noting she was the only vocalist on a stage showcasing DJs. I also enjoyed sets from queer DJ Wreckno who put on a colorful performance that was both fun to watch and dance to as well as French DJ CloZee known for her bass heavy grooves.

There were plenty more global musicians that came out to play. There was some buzz and build up for Norwegian artist Girl in Red who had a warm welcome from a young and eager crowd. The all female rock group Hinds from Madrid, Spain was the big surprise for me. Playing an energetic show filled with banter and just good rock ‘n’ roll, I will definitely be keeping an eye out for them on their next return to the states. However, it was glam rock band Måneskin from Rome, Italy that came out swinging and absolutely put on a show. Lead singer Damiano David was a pro at hyping up the crowd and commanding the stage all while the audience was drawn in by the groove-heavy rock. They nailed it.

Other notable performances include pop-punk bands Hot Milk and The Regrettes, Irish rock band Inhaler (vocalist Elijah Hewson eerily sounds like his dad, Bono), hard rocking Royal Blood, electro rocker Glass Animals, emo darling Dashboard Confessional, indie rocker DJO aka Joe Keery aka Steve Harrington from Stranger Things, and of course Porno for Pyros who brought Billy Corgen of the Smashing Pumpkins on stage to play Led Zeppelin’s “Levee Breaks” with Billy on guitar. I do wish more recognition would have been given to Perry Farrell during his Porno for Pyros performance for all of his Lolla accomplishments and for just starting the whole damn thing.

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But let’s get to the headliners already… and there were some good ones. But with headliner acts also overlapping on far opposite ends of the park, decisions had to be made. Thankfully for me, the choices were easy ones.

Metallica was the obvious choice to watch on night one. It’s been a couple decades since I last saw them live and so I was ecstatic when they played a string of songs from the Black Album. Of course they had to close out with “Master of Puppets” during which they made a nod to Strangers Things with an image of Eddie Munson on the big screen… and the fans 100% loved it.

I was quite excited to see Dua Lipa on the second night and she put on a visually jaw dropping performance. The outfits, the dancing, the overall design of the show… I ate it up. She also sounded fantastic. I would undoubtedly go see her perform again.

To be honest, I wasn’t eager to see any of the headliners on Saturday night, but I settled for Norwegian DJ Kygo. He did not disappoint. His set was ethereal, well produced, and just an all-around good time. The DJ performed several of his popular covers such as “Hot Stuff” (Donna Summer) and “Higher Love” (Steve Winwood), and even brought out surprise guest Chance the Rapper for a few songs.

But on day four it all came down to Green Day. Here we were, Sean and I watching Green Day at Lollapalooza 28 years later… We came full circle. The band put on a stellar show playing hit after hit for an hour and 45 minutes. Fans sang along to all of them including a couple covers “Rock and Roll All Nite” (Kiss) and “Shout” (The Isley Brothers) which lead singer Billie Joe knocked out of the park. The band is known for giving away a guitar to a chosen young fan after inviting them to play on stage and they kept the tradition going at Lolla. Watching Green Day close out the festival on Sunday night was just perfect.

For those that couldn’t attend the festival in person enjoyed a first this year as Hulu streamed the festival live via two channels. While they couldn’t stream every single performance, the more popular acts were aired including all of the headliners. And if you can’t make it to Grant Park in 2023, Hulu will be Lollapalooza’s official streaming partner again next year.

One of the things that makes Lolla so special is the incredible diversity of the artists and their music. And what really struck me as I returned this year was how that diversity reflected in the crowd. Various races, ages, genders were all represented in the audience. I witnessed a kind of acceptance between individuals who were so clearly different. And that is the beauty and the coming together of music… and I believe it’s what Perry had envisioned all along.

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