30 Years On—The Enduring Appeal Of Lollapalooza Continues

Since its inception in 1991, the now-legendary music festival founded by Perry Farrell has only grown in scope, cementing its status as a major summer event for musical artists, fans, and teens…so many teens. While scores of music festivals have come and gone over the years, Lollapalooza just wrapped another successful four-day run on Sunday August 6, drawing hundreds of acts and crowds upwards of 500,000, who descended on Chicago’s Grant Park for “an experience that’s not like anything else” according to festival goer Thomas Curry.

Taking over Chicago’s Grant Park with glittering views of the Loop skyline in every direction, Lolla 2023 featured a powerhouse lineup—Bille Eilish, Kendrick Lamar, Carly Rae Jepsen, The 1975, Odesza, Lana Del Rey, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, among others.

From Carly Rae Jepsen’s sparkling pop-fueled sunset dance party and Bille Eilish bringing down the house in a Michael Jordan jersey during her innovative solar-powered set, to Kendrick Lamar’s powerful Friday night set and Karol G’s groundbreaking performance as the first Latina to headline the festival—along with indie favorites like DEHD, Alex G, Ken Carson, Joey Bada$$, Peach Pit, Maggie Rogers, Neil Frances, the lineup spanned an increasing range of styles and genres.

While thousands of fans jumped and sang in unison to headliners on the large-scale T Mobile and Budlight stages, the smaller Bacardi, Coinbase, and Perry’s stages offered slightly more intimate viewing experiences that ranged from ecstatic sing-a-longs to muddy mosh pits after storms rolled in early Saturday—dampening the festival grounds but not the energy of the crowds.

The Lolla Experience

With general admission ticket prices starting at a hefty $385.00, event organizers have continued to expand offerings with a “beyond the music” series of branded experiences. This year, attendees were invited to check out branded happenings, like the The Liquid Death Country Club, a “premium country club experience” that offered airbrush tattoos and ‘Horrorscope’ readings, and the Coke Studio, where fans were able to transform themselves into a band, create unique album art, and record a music video. There was also the Adobe Art Garden, where designs from Chicago-based artists were on display as impressive 3D sculptures and a one-day activation called “Bunnyland” that was a collab with Spotify and the K-Pop girl group NewJeans.

As an Illinois Sustainability Award recipient, the festival is required to use sustainable festival practices on the grounds, behind the scenes, and in the preservation of the historic Grant Park. The commitment to sustainable practices was integrated into every area of the park, from recycling and composting to eco-friendly food service items. Attendees were encouraged to bring empty water bottles and use the festival’s Hydration Stations, which provided free filtered water.

One of the more innovative moves towards eco-friendly practices was Billie Eilish’s partially solar-powered set. In a partnership with environmental non-profit REVERB, Eilish’s set was partly fueled by zero-emissions battery systems that were charged via a temporary onsite solar farm.“We hope and believe this will be a watershed moment for the music industry,” says REVERB’s Adam Gardner. “By showcasing this technology with one of the biggest artists in the world, on one of the most revered festival stages, we’re accelerating the necessary transition toward a decarbonized future, for music and beyond.”

An ongoing addition to the festival is the lively Kidzapalooza area, a dedicated zone offering a family friendly lineup of musical acts and interactive experiences. This year, the Kidzapalooza stage welcomed kid performers from the School of Rock’s AllStar program—a rare opportunity for young music students from around the nation to perform in a gigging band at the same festival as Grammy-winning artists and music icons.

The frenetically beating heart of Lollapalooza continues to be the thousands of teens who flock to Grant Park, year after year, in their best festival fits, but the crowd this year also reflected the multi-generational evolution of the event—the result of 90’s-era teens returning to Lolla as middle-aged parents, no longer diving into mosh pits but still eager to take in the music, the people watching, and the festival experience. “I found the vibe incredibly cheerful and positive,” said festival goer Missy Bradshaw, who was in attendance with her wife and teen daughter. “I loved the body positivity and how into their outfits people got. I was moved to hear strangers complimenting each other on their looks.”

As Lollapalooza veteran Lydia S. noted, “crowds, heat, rain, mud, corporate-sponsored everything…it’s all part of the deal but it’s still a huge rush just being here. My first Lollapalooza was in ‘94 and it’s still fun…still inspiring.”

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