Before the COVID-19 pandemic, I felt mostly content curling up with a good book and away from other people. The obligatory bimonthly meet-up with friends brought me fulfillment, and I could spend the rest of my days alone at my leisure. But since the pandemic forced us all indoors and away from friends, I’m less interested in solitude now. I have a burning desire for a change of pace and scenery. I crave true social interaction for the first time in my life.
But I’m not just talking about kickbacks or even a small party. I’m thinking bigger. So big, in fact, it can’t be held indoors or in other conventionally small spaces.
I’m thinking Lollapalooza.
A year ago, the prospect of concerts and large events — especially music festivals — seemed otherworldly. In the middle of a deadly pandemic with, at the time, no end in sight, the idea of purposefully inserting myself into a pit of danger was the last thing on my mind. Now, with mass vaccination slowly but steadily inoculating the country, things have changed. And so have I.
So as soon as the lineup was announced, I purchased a ticket. As I did, I fondly recalled the Austin City Limits festival I attended just a few years prior. Excited once again to roam around a large field with outlandish concertgoers, I felt a wave of normalcy for the first time in almost a year and a half. I missed the collective feeling of togetherness I got from attending concerts. But the pandemic isn’t over just yet. I still feel slightly anxious about Lollapalooza and the massive crowd of people it draws. So, I did some reading.
The History of Lollapalooza
Similar to Bonnaroo, Austin City Limits or South by Southwest, Lollapalooza is a music festival held in Grant Park in Chicago. The festival runs over the course of four days, lasting from late July through early August. It features more than 150 artists, and the concerts are accompanied by local fare, games and giveaways. This year, seven stages will dot the park, allowing patrons to drift among them to artists they love, artists they’re curious about and artists everywhere in between.
Created in 1991, Lollapalooza started as a traveling concert featuring alternative rock, industrial music and heavy metal. Co-founder Perry Farrell wanted a venue for his band, Jane’s Addiction, as well as a safe haven for performers and patrons who didn’t favor the popular music featured on MTV at the time. Drawing inspiration from Britain’s Reading Festival, Farrell also wanted to do something more unorthodox. To accomplish that, he included spaces for things other than music, such as tents for art, virtual reality and food as well as booths that raised political and environmental awareness.
The event continued like this from 1991 to 1998 until it retired in the late ’90s as the counterculture scene declined. Later, Lollapalooza saw a brief revival of the touring concert in 2003 and eventually became its famous destination festival in 2005. Beginning as a two, three, then eventually four-day festival, Lollapalooza is now as mainstream as Bonnaroo or Coachella.
This year’s headliners include an abundance of popular and indie music, but rap artists certainly dominate the festival. Playboi Carti, Roddy Ricch, Jack Harlow, Dababy, Megan Thee Stallion and Tyler, The Creator all serve as headliners. Some popular but less mainstream artists such as Brockhampton, Jpegmafia and Rico Nasty will also be in attendance.
Lollapalooza will also cater to a few EDMers and oldheads. Illenium, Kaytranada, Marshmello, Foo Fighters, Journey and even Limp Bizkit will perform this year. Similar to Austin City Limits, Lollapalooza attempts to draw in listeners from all over the musical spectrum and encourage them to venture beyond their immediate listening choices.
Music festivals such as these are also great for propelling lesser-known artists into the mainstream. First-time performer Migrant Motel is one of many anxiously awaiting their turn on the big stage. As concertgoers aimlessly walk around waiting for their favorite artist to play, they can stop by stages showcasing smaller artists to pass the time. And from my experience, these artists are more likely to engage with the lighter crowd in a more personable way.
What About COVID-19?
Because Lollapalooza 2020 got canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s event will not only showcase a few artists scheduled to play at last year’s festival, but it’ll also reveal new COVID-19 regulations.
Along with the festival wristband, patrons must also bring a printed copy of their COVID-19 vaccination card or record. If they didn’t receive the vaccination, then they must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test conducted within 72 hours of attending the festival. This is in accordance with the city of Chicago’s requirements to ensure the safest experience possible for all concertgoers.
For patrons who experience any COVID-19 symptoms, Lollapalooza asks that they not attend the festival. The same rule applies to those who tested positive within the quarantine period of the festival. Individuals will receive a refund per these extenuating circumstances.
Just like the rest of us, Lollapalooza wants to continue some semblance of normalcy amid the (hopeful) end to this pandemic. Now that vaccines are widely available, those who have acquired them deserve to experience the same events that were taken for granted in the pre-pandemic past.
Since Lollapalooza is taking as many precautions as it can to ensure a safe festival experience, I feel relatively at ease in my attendance. For the first time since the pandemic began, I will let go of my reservations and live briefly in the moment as I did those few years ago at Austin City Limits. Vaccination record in hand, I will walk confidently to the front gates and remember what it’s like to be a person again.