Lollapalooza is, without a doubt, the biggest music festival in Chicago, and one of the biggest in the world, and instead of each year jealously watching concertgoers see their favorite artists live, eat amazing food, and be very, very drunk, we were grateful enough to have the opportunity to cover the festival! In order to commemorate such a great experience, we have each written up a min-review of many of the acts we saw that weekend. There were highlights, lowlights, and music – without further ado, let’s get into our thoughts!
Narkis: Beach Bunny was the first ever set I saw at Lollapalooza this year. This would definitely be the least sweaty and thirsty I would be all festival, and Beach Bunny’s lighthearted surf pop tunes were a great accompaniment to my health that would be declining shortly.
Highlight: Hearing the tiktok sensation “Prom Queen”
Lowlight: TikTok as a concept
Nate: I left work early just to see H.E.R., which, in hindsight, didn’t make much sense – I had listened to a few of her songs and liked them a lot, but wouldn’t be able to name more than three songs off the top of my head having only listened to her EPs a handful of times. Hell, I didn’t even know she won a Grammy. Yet, ditching work to see her turned out to be a great decision, and as the first performer I saw at Lolla, she was amazing. I had no idea how insanely talented she was, not just through vocal performance, but through the number of instruments she could play and play well. A soulful performance from an artist I need to pay more attention to.
Highlight: “As I Am.” Yes to this song. Yes.
Lowlight: I missed work and got in trouble to see her.
Narkis: She is part filipino, FORCING me to stan.
Nate: My girlfriend and I have a list of celebrities we are allowed to have sexual relations with without any consequences, and Hozier is at the top of hers (and mine). We have both seen him live twice before this festival, and being likely one of the biggest crowds he has played for yet, he definitely delivered. Hozier is one of those incredibly talented artists that somehow sounds better live, and with powerful visuals behind him on the screen, he delivered an amazing vocal performance backed by an incredibly talented band.
Highlight: “Nina Cried Power” is an amazing song and if you disagree, you are wrong.
Lowlight: He is too cute.
Nate: FKJ is just one of those artists you listen to and instantly feel good about yourself. His set was one of the most low-key sets of the entire event – just himself surrounded by a circle of instruments, playing them at will and making an amazing setlist in the process. He played some hits, he played some bits, he played saxophone – could you ask for any more than that?
Highlight: He BUSTED out a saxophone and had me in tears.
Lowlight: A lot of people there were waiting for Lil Baby and didn’t appreciate FKJ enough. For shame!
Narkis: After making the incredibly hard decision between seeing probably the most essential rock group of our generation or The Chainsmokers, we finally decided not to be literal garbage people and watch The Strokes. Julián Casablancas and co. put on an incredible performance, playing almost all of their hits.
Highlight: The elusive encore that pushed the festival ever so slightly past 10:00
Lowlight: Being able to hear The Chainsmokers ever so slightly
Nate: Where was “Under the Cover of Darkness” seriously that was my A N T H E M in 7th grade and now I am pissed.
Narkis: Other than Childish Gambino, IDLES was probably my most anticipated set. I was fully ready to get in the pits and get my semesterly dose of moshing. Equipped with durable (double knotted) shoes and flexible jeans, I braved the pits. Guitarist Lee Kiernan was regularly joining fans in the pits, and somehow maintained his composure enough to continue playing perfectly. Overall, I had a great time at the expense of my shirt, shoes, and the amount of dust I inhaled. The performance was just packed full of beautifully inclusive moments that reinforced why the band is so critically acclaimed for their strong messaging in their music. After reciting the line, “I kissed a boy and I liked it,” lead singer Joe Talbot reiterated, “I didn’t like it, I f***ing loved it.” The band’s approach to rebellion and activism through music is incredibly sincere and that really came through in this live performance. One of the most wholesome, inclusive environments I’ve ever had the pleasure of being in, and I’m so incredibly grateful for IDLES for that. There’s not a lot that I can say about IDLES that hasn’t been said by a lot of music journalists a number of different ways. I’m incredibly encouraged that we have artists like IDLES making incredible smart punk music that serves as social activism in modern music.
Highlight: Almost throwing up in the mosh pit
Lowlight: Almost throwing up in the mosh pit
Narkis: Swung by before Tierra Whack to hear Road Head. Cool.
Highlight: Road Head
Lowlight: Tito’s Stage was perpetually unbearably hot
Nate: That Highlight out-of-context… not good…
Nate: Let me tell you this: Tierra Whack enunciates every word she says, making her live performance all the more impressive. She did her entire album “Whack World” and a handful of singles during her set, all accompanied by unique, beautiful visuals of a Tierra Whack doll undergoing some horrific imagery (like bugs crawling of out her nose, being shoved into a can and being sold, being inflated like a balloon, etc. It was all great). Despite her DJ who was too high-energy (please stop screaming sir I just wanna hear Tierra Whack), her set was awesome and surely pleased her whackest of fans.
Highlight: She did the whole album so every song I liked was performed.
Lowlight: Her DJ needed to relax. He was like a wind-up toy you get when you go to your Grandma’s and turn sideways and it doesn’t know what to do so it just spins and jumps around a ton without any clear motive and direction and your mom is yelling at you to turn it off because it is annoying so you don’t know what to do so you throw it across the room and accidentally break your Grandma’s china she bought in the 50s and your mom tells you it’s really expensive china and you say you’re sorry but you know it’s your fault and now you can never visit China because of the PTSD.
Narkis: What he said
Narkis: Maggie played a majority of her material off her 2019 album “Heard It In A Past Life.” Her energy was contagious and her grateful dead inspired outfit was very dope. Also saw her come on during Hozier’s set to perform “Work Song” with him. That was weird.
Highlight: Maggie’s outfit
Lowlight: Technical difficulties during “Alaska”
Narkis: Being the biggest Childish Gambino fan I know, I was incredibly excited to see him perform again, and he was easily my most anticipated act of the weekend. Nathan and I had seen him previously in October 2018 and we were both absolutely blown away. While the set/visuals heavily mirrored what we had previously seen in October, it was abundantly clear that Donald Glover had spent the last year honing his skills and fine-tuning his performance. The entire duration of the 75 minute set, Donald Glover proved to the hoards of onlooking fans why many (including Nathan and I) consider him to be the most talented person in the world. Glover played an eclectic set comprised of unreleased material, recently released singles, and Childish Gambino essentials (nothing pre- Because the Internet, unfortunately). With his performance, Glover flexed his octuple threat status (singer, dancer, rapper, actor, writer, comedian, producer, Simba) and put on easily the best performance of the weekend.
Highlight: Between 8:45-10:00
Lowlight: Teased us with the Bonfire intro, but didn’t actually play it
Nate: “Being the biggest Childish Gambino fan I know” ok
Nate: I hadn’t heard of Jade Bird before Lolla, but my girlfriend said she knew a few of her songs (I later found out that was code for she heard one of her songs once because her mom sent her the song which doesn’t count as “knowing a few of her songs” at all) and wanted to see her. She was great, and even with her cover of “Walk Like an Egyptian” was able to show off her very unique sound. High energy, tons of bubbling excitement – it was great to watch.
Highlights: I have a new artist I get to listen to now.
Lowlights: I was hoping she would be an actual bird but sadly she’s just a human.
Nate: Yeah, I listened to Smino’s latest album a few times and liked it enough, but didn’t feel all too drawn to it after a few listens. I liked a few of his features on other songs, but always preferred other local Chicago artists to him, but went into his set with an open mind. My mind is closed now: sorry Smino, I am not a huge fan. The set was decorated in a very visually-pleasing way, but at the end of the day, his performance couldn’t save his mediocre songs / performances of said songs. Even my favorite songs on the album felt butchered live, and left me with a bitter taste in my mouth. Easily one of the more forgettable performances I saw.
Highlight: He brought out Chance the Rapper which was cool to see him.
Lowlight: Chance the Rapper then began to sing a song off “The Big Day,” making this the first ever double Lowlight.
Narkis: This wasn’t the WORST Chance the Rapper appearance of the festival, but it definitely wasn’t the best. Also Smino is not from Chicago, he is from St. Louis.
Narkis: One of the big decisions of the day was whether to go to Lil Wayne, or Tenacious D. Having seen Lil Wayne previously, and being completely enamored with the idea of hearing Jack Black tell me he wanted to “Fuck Me Gently,” I decided to go with Tenacious D. Jack and Kyle’s on stage theatrics definitely did not disappoint. From on stage possessions, exorcisms, band breakups, and reunions, the set was equal parts comedy, theatre, and rock concert. Tenacious D was easily one of the most enjoyable sets of the entire weekend.
Highlight: When Kyle rejoined the band 🙂
Lowlight: When Kyle left the band 🙁
Nate: Jack Black (the main guy on the guitar) is seriously funny – why has Hollywood not wanted to like, make a movie with him or something?
Narkis: Only was able to catch a little bit of Mitski before we headed off to Kacey Musgraves, but I was very pleasantly surprised at the crowd she drew. She sounded great and her vibe was well suited for the more relaxed vibes of the American Eagles stage.
Highlight: Mitski getting intimate with a table
Lowlight: It may have awakened something in me
(Sandy) Alex G
Narkis: Came early by myself to catch this set. The band walked out to Life Is a Highway by Rascal Flatts (which I have recently learned is not the name of the actual person, but the band) which felt oddly fitting for some reason The entire set was super relaxed that included a mix of older and newer material. I thought Lake Shore stage was a bit of a weird stage for them, as I thought their vibe would have fit with American Eagle or Tito’s much better.
Highlight: Rascal Flatts
Lowlight: An offensively neon green outfit I saw during the set
Nate: Wait… you thought Rascal Flatts, that name, was a person? Mr. Flatts?
Narkis: No comment
Nate: I’m not afraid to admit that JID has the potential to be one of the greatest rappers of his generation. I have loved him since the day “The Never Story” dropped and have loved him even more ever since. JID has some of my favorite songs of all time, including “Off Da Zoinkys” and “Workin’ Out,” and “NEVER” holds some of the best flows my ears have been graced with. I saw JID in Chicago at Reggie’s a year prior, a very small stage during a very emotional show (JID didn’t realize how popular he was at that time and seeing everyone sing every word to his songs was probably shocking). This time, however, the crowd was a bit more than 200 people crowded together at Reggie’s – we’re talking thousands upon thousands of people. JID’s energy was extremely high as he played his hits, but he almost seemed to cut himself down by bringing out so many guests and focusing so much on “Revenge of the Dreamers III,” an album I only feel so-so on. At the end of the set, while I still felt like JID was an amazing MC, I felt like I saw the “Revenge of the Dreamers III Lite” set rather than the JID one.
Highlight: JID went over all the samples he used on “DiCaprio 2” live, which was incredible. Also, JID can SPIT.
Lowlight: Too much ROTD III, too little JID. AND, why did he have to end the set nearly 15 minutes early?
Nate: I think Joji was definitely nervous to perform for a crowd of that size, but through his really corny jokes he made to introduce every song (I’m talking very corny jokes), his vocal performance definitely shined, especially towards the latter-half of his set as he got more comfortable. He was cute, he was edgy, he sang, and had fantastic visuals backing his performance up on the monitor.
Highlight: Watching Joji be so happy makes me so happy.
Lowlight: Where was Filthy Frank?
Narkis: Wish he did a live version of his 2015 classic, Hair Cake.
Francis and the Lights
Nate: Look, I do like Francis and the Lights’ music, but this performance was… hmm… interesting. A simple white backdrop with Francis just pacing back and forth on stage, not really looking up at the crowd, just singing songs without a ton of energy. It was the most dead I had seen a crowd thus far at the festival, and rightly so – it’s clear that Francis might be more of an artist and less of a performer. Even Chance the Rapper didn’t want to come out and perform a song off The Big Day with him during this set, and Chance came out literally three times during the course of Lolla, so…
Highlight: I saw Francis.
Lowlight: I did not see the Lights.
Nate: Right up with JID, Denzel Curry is another contender for the greatest of his generation. Denzel knows how to spit, and after hearing that his latest album “ZUU” was entirely freestyled made me want to see his set even more. But, just like JID’s, it left me wanting a bit more – while Denzel was great live and incredibly high-energy, I felt that he focused on actual rapping a bit less. Also, spending a whole 10 minutes of the set to honor XXX feels like a bit much.
Highlight: He played “ZUMO | SUMO” and I liked that.
Lowlight: Dancing to “Look At Me” by XXX. No. Stop that. Bad.
Nate: Ariana Grande or Flume? Ariana Grande or Flume? ARIANA GRANDE OR FLUME? Listen, we as a society have to stan Ariana Grande – not just to support her though all the horrible things she has had to go through recently, but because her last few albums have been absolute slappers. I think it was interesting to see the only performance at Lolla with everything being extremely choreographed and super high-production in this sense, and it definitely proved to be one of the more memorable acts of the festival. She even almost fell but saved it, making me have to stan her even more. From her earliest bangers to “Break Free” to her latest banger of “thank you next,” Ariana was a perfect way to close out the festival.
Highlight: “thank you next” and her playing a Mac Miller song before opening (Dang!).
Lowlight: I didn’t know some songs so I couldn’t sing them. My girlfriend did though so I just tried to blend in. Also, Narkis left halfway through her set.
Narkis: After being somewhat underwhelmed by Ariana Grande’s set on the T-Mobile stage, I decided to give Flume a shot on the opposite end of the festival. Having been also underwhelmed by most of his more popular releases, but incredibly impressed by his last record, I was slightly nervous he was going to cater to his more mainstream audiences. Fortunately, I was treated to a delightfully weird concert experience. Throughout the show, Flume communicated to his attentive audience through the robotic voice fans of his music have grown accustomed to. At some point, I watched as he smashed a printer with a sledgehammer, while the vast majority of the audience watched in confusion. Following this, “janitors” cleaned up the mess, while they bumped into each other as Flume walked in between his two DJ tables. Overall, while this set was not necessarily for the traditional EDM concertgoer, its weirdness was perfectly suited for me.
Highlight: Flume smashing a printer
Lowlight: People in the audience asking “why is Flume smashing a printer?”
Nate: Lollapalooza made me happy we are not trapped in a world like the one in “The Giver” where there is no color, music, or actual fun of any sorts. I ate some amazing deep dish while watching some of my favorite artists, something I don’t get to do most days of the year (really, ever). While some artists left much to be desired and I was incredibly tired by the final day (and in need of a clean bathroom and shower), I had a blast and made a ton of memories. 9/10
Narkis: Some final thoughts I have about Lollapalooza this year:
- The food was good and actually fairly reasonably priced!
- Drinks were somewhat expensive, but nothing too out there!
- Water was fairly easy to come by.
- While it was quite hot, shade was plentiful and easy to find (thanks American Eagle, no thanks T-Mobile and Tito’s).
- Turns out I hate rollerskating!
- Lots of jerseys.
- Fancy port-a-potty’s!
- Very glad I spent minimal time at Perry’s.
Overall, I had a great time and would gladly do it again (maybe single day passes). 8/10
Again, huge thank you to Lollapalooza- this was an amazing experience, and something we have already and still plan to continue to cover in greater detail on air at WIIT, 88.9 FM Chicago!