Lollapalooza has been many things over its near thirty years, from touring festival to stationary, cancelled & revived, underground to mainstream. Indeed, its changing nature has been key to its longevity, as other festivals stick to their guns and get stuck in the mud, or never happen at all (this year, the fiftieth anniversary of the most famous music festival of all time couldn’t get off the ground). But that very change also brings about criticism, of “not being what it used to be,” “following trends, not starting them,” and generally not being as good as it was when you were younger, even while younger fans are experiencing it for the first time.
The 2019 edition was, in many ways, the most mainstream Lollapalooza ever, the most leaning into today and least into yesterday or tomorrow, from all the Instagram moments to Spotify-ready line-ups. But it was also, in other ways, its most diverse, the lack of a focus becoming the focus itself, a chance to see everyone from celebrity DJs to aging rock stars to internet pop celebrities to crossover cultural phenomena, Thursday-Sunday, August 1st-4th.
The final day of Lollapalooza was overshadowed by the tragic mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas. Even for all of the talk of America becoming numb to mass shootings, two together hit hard. At Lollapalooza, the idea of a mass shooting at the mass festival comes right to the fore of one’s mind, particularly after both the Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting a week ago, and particularly the shooting two years ago at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas – and word that that shooter had initially planned on targeting Lollapalooza, but couldn’t get a hotel room that looked out over Grant Park. Country star Kacey Musgraves spoke out about the issue on Sunday at Lollapalooza, thanking the crowd for braving to go to a music festival, and urged the crowd to yell, “Somebody fucking do something!”
Also on Sunday, a twenty-four-year-old Lollapalooza attendee collapsed at the festival and was taken to hospital, where he died, the second year in a row that a Lollapalooza attendee has died.
A more sedate final day of Lollapalooza saw young Ryan Beatty at Bud Light Stage and (Sandy) Alex G sing through his clenched teeth at the Lake Shore Stage; the parenthesized Frank Ocean guitarist has new album House of Sugar coming out next month. Meanwhile, there were the smooth sound of NoMBe at a shady & packed Bud Light Dive Bar, with the performer going through the crowd to stand on the back bar, then back into the crowd, as his set’s end.
The American Eagle Stage saw the excitable Aussie pop of G Flip asking, “Why am I always acting stupid?” from her new song “Stupid”, and her own album About Us out at the end of August. Illiterate Light at the BMI Stage brought the guitar-and-drums rock duo to Lollapalooza, including the drummer right up front.
There was another internet star you’ve never heard of, but the kids most definitely have, at Lollapalooza ’19 in Joji. Once upon a time YouTube star ‘Filthy Frank’, he had a massive crowd at Lake Shore Stage for still in the hot afternoon, singing along from the start. Coming home was Chicago’s own DJ duo Louis the Child at the Bud Light Stage, though by this point, the young pair are old enough that their hometown high school buddies have graduated college & moved back in with their parents like every other millennial. T-Mobile Stage saw the nice country twang, without being too country, of The Revivalists, who dedicated a song to their long-time fans (because they ain’t some Gen Z internet personality…).
If Sharon Van Etten didn’t have as big an audience as Joji had at the Lake Shore Stage, it was still a respectable turnout for an artist more in line with older Lollapalooza, and years away from being the Brooklyn ‘it girl’ (as well as miles, as she recently moved to Los Angeles and even starred in Netflix cult series The OA). Playing off of this year’s wonderful Remind Me Tomorrow (QRO review), she not only rocked great songs like “Seventeen”, but even the wind chimes.
While the ‘rapper in jail’ controversy at the moment was A$AP Rocky in Sweden, it’s a bigger celebration that Meek Mill was playing the Bud Light Stage. He’d been in jail or on parole his whole adult life, but between recent overdue criminal justice reforms and his own high-profile advocates, he was able to travel outside of Pennsylvania to perform at Lollapalooza. He in particular paid tribute to those who were lost recently, including Nipsey Hussle, XXXTentacion, Lil Snoop, and Mac Miller.
A performer more in line with the smaller Midwestern city hard rock festivals was Slash featuring Miles Kennedy & The Conspirators on the Lake Shore Stage. But this is Slash, and you’ve always respected Slash, you’ve always wanted to see Slash, and this was your chance to without having to pay for Guns n’ Roses tickets. The seminal guitar god with the possibly the greatest one-name ever (sorry Bono & Madonna, but you don’t have your own key on the keyboard…), he most definitely can still shred & wail. And special props to Miles Kennedy – it’s a tough job being the singer for a guitarist-fronted act, but Kennedy did his best as semi-frontman.
Ariana Grande closed out Lollapalooza ’19 at the T-Mobile Stage, because this is the world we live in today (earlier this year, Miley Cyrus played Barcelona’s supremely artistic Primavera Sound – QRO recap). Were there people scoffing (and not just the photographers, who were all pissed because none of them were allowed to even look at the mega pop star)? Sure, but she had a giant crowd filling all the way up to the side stairs of the main stage. And Grande brought her full show, including expert dancers.
But if you wanted old school Lollapalooza, none other than founder Perry Farrell closed out the American Eagle Stage (note that he didn’t play his eponymous ‘Perry’s Tent’, because he reportedly doesn’t think much of the EDM acts that play there– indeed, a an act that would have fit Perry’s, electronic Flume act, closed out the Bud Light Stage in the unenviable task of headlining against Grande). The lead singer of Jane’s Addiction & more recently released his first solo album, Kind Heaven (QRO review), and brought his ‘Kind Heaven Orchestra’ to his festival. Farrell also played a surprise early set by Buckingham Fountain – hopefully the kids there knew who he was & what he’s done.