Lollapalooza 2021 Recap

Lollapalooza 2021 was massive in every sense....
Lollapalooza 2021 Recap
Lollapalooza 2021 Recap

It’s been forever since we’ve been to a music festival. Last year COVID knocked out everything after early March, and kept on keeping fests down into 2021. A few have happened, here and there, under modified circumstances, yet most have either moved to the fall or are waiting again, until 2022.

But not Lollapalooza! The veteran festival, celebrating its 30th year, actually celebrated it by throwing the full-on festival, on its regular time of year, last weekend of July/first weekend of August, Thursday-Sunday, this year July 29th-August 1st. Indeed, at one point Mayor Lori Lightfoot made a surprise appearance, declaring that this is the biggest music festival happening anywhere in the world in 2021.

Now, this isn’t your Gen X Lollapalooza, not even Millennial, this time seemingly going straight for Gen Z with very young-appeal acts (though no Kidzapalooza, since no parents were expected – replaced by a stage with DJs and drag stars). So, even if the ‘From the Vaults’ shots of acts like Body Count (1991) and Ministry (1992) were before your time, this wasn’t even the festival of the likes of Flogging Molly (2008).

And the young crowd was out in force, tube tops, shaved chests, bikini bottoms, glitter (girls & boys) and more (or rather, less…). It was still summer break even if you’d been doing Zoom homeschool, and this was a heavily vaxxed crowd (security did check your vax card, or at least COVID negative test, before entrance). Indeed, it was notable how not changed things felt, perhaps biggest ‘return to normal’ so far (that didn’t require MAGA-level denial that anything was ever wrong).

[note: If you didn’t want to brave the potential super-spreader event, you could catch Lollapalooza now live on Hulu, though there’s only one channel despite the many overlaps]

Lollapalooza 2021 - Day One Recap

Aly & AJ

Opening up the massive T-Mobile Main Stage at the start of Lollapalooza was the charming Aly & AJ with their big, country-touched pop. As is often the case with early-in-the-day sets, the crowd got bigger as they went on, particularly loving the sisters’ “Don’t Need Nothing”. MAX on the nearby Lakeshore Stage brought big electro-rock. There’s probably too much of the style, and it has no indie-cred, but the crowd was into it – including MAX’s cover of Outkast’s classic “Ms. Jackson”.

Migrant Motel

In addition to the bigger stages at both ends of Grant Park, there are the smaller ones in between. Toyota Music Den would have acts doing special second sets, and Migrant Motel brought a healthy audience for the space. Unfortunately, there was not so many people at the next door BMI Stage for Taylor Janzen – the stage should be billed as, “The stage with shade…” (Migrant Motel played it later)

Taylor Janzen

Then there’s Perry’s Tent – or rather “Solana x Perry’s”, as the cryptocurrency blockchain got added on as a sponsor at the last minute. That “Perry” is Perry Farrell, singer of Jane’s Addiction and founder of Lollapalooza, who bought the festival back and brought it back. Rumor is the music veteran isn’t actually that much of a fan of the EDM that’s spun at ‘his’ tent, but DJs like Justin Jay are very popular with the kids.

Orville Peck

One thing Lollapalooza is good for is seeing artists you’ve been hearing a lot about, and seeing if they’re worth all that hype. Orville Peck has gotten notice just for his outfit, as he always wears a cowboy hat and fringe mask, even before the pandemic, even during press tent interviews (but Clinic did the mask thing first…). He delivered deep-voiced country at the T-Mobile Stage, perhaps gothic-country – or mock-country. He covered “Born This Way” at Lady Gaga’s request, doing it as epic country.


It’s also great at Lollapalooza to see artists have excited crowds that you didn’t know they drew. LP brought grandeur to the Tito’s Handmade Vodka Stage, but also fun. And there was big reaction online to QRO’s grainy from-the-crowd photo of them, including from the likes of Mexico & Italy, showing that LP has grown from making hits for others (even singing on Cracker’s hidden track “Cinderella”) to star. Meanwhile, Flo Milli was able to own the smaller GrubHub Stage without the usual back-up dancers used to hype a crowd, and brought such a big audience of her “bad bitches” that security cleared out the photo pit after the first song.

Flo Milli
Black Pumas

Admittedly, Lollapalooza ’21 could make you feel old, and not just in a, ‘Your father let you out of the house dressed like that?!?’ way (though, that too – Matt Gaetz would love it…). Something for Gens A-to-Y were Black Pumas, smooth sounds and engaging on the T-Mobile Stage, like closing with their Target commercial-level hit “Colors”. But it was the college kids who recommended Kim Petras at the Lake Shore Stage, with her own great engagement, including killer back-up dancers.

Kim Petras
Steve Aoki & Billy Idol
Billy Idol & Steve Aoki

Usually, the press tent at any festival is not what civilians imagine it to be, as the artists have their own Artist’s Village (that press have to walk past and wish for as they head to steerage class Press Lounge), but occasionally you get great sights (and there is a happy hour). Thursday saw the surprise appearance of the iconic Billy Idol – and him meeting the legendary Steve Aoki! It was completely by chance, the two appearing on different closing stages (see below), but the two filled every photographer there’s wishes and chatted for a few moments, to many photos of their completely different hairstyles.

Steve Aoki

Aoki was there because he was headlining Day One of the Solana x Perry’s Tent, playing after Tchami. EDM DJs at festivals are still just mostly a guy behind a very raised table, but they will bring extras, especially this year. Tchami had some nicely timed smoke machine. Aoki brought out the likes of Sydney Sierota from Echosmith at his start, with other special guests such as Alex Gaskarth (All Time Low) and Darren Criss (Glee). And Aoki is just such an enthusiast for music, grin as big as his hair is long, that it’s infectious.

Sydney Sierota
Miley Cyrus
Miley Cyrus

But the undisputed headliner of Thursday was Miley Cyrus. When it was announced that she was playing Lollapalooza, it did signify how mainstream this year was going to be, but she turned out to actually be the one to bring back some of the old alt-rock of the past. Cyrus has been busy mastering cover after classic cover, not just one or two but entering into Replacements/Yo La Tengo also-an-amazing-cover-band territory (helped, of course, by having a highly skilled backing band). She brought on said Billy Idol for not just his “White Wedding” but also their collaborative “Night Crawling” from her Plastic Hearts (other guests this evening included Wiz Khalifa, Chicago’s own G Herbo and even Bulls mascot Benny the Bull…). She had the kids screaming for Blondie’s “Heart of Glass”. She even played Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind?”, plus Temple of the Dog’s “Say Hello To Heaven”, like old school Lolla! Cyrus also didn’t shrink from her own catalogue, mashing up her famed “Wrecking Ball” – with Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” (also known for Sinead O’Connor’s cover of it).

idol & Idol

Like other massive pop stars such as Kanye West and Taylor Swift, it’s easy to be snooty and look down on Cyrus – hell, she rose to fame as Disney star Hannah Montana! But more & more even the hipsters have been learning to love the big stars, whether it’s Swift working with Aaron Dessner of The National, or us all getting behind #FreeBritney (who Cyrus voiced her support for on this stage). And Cyrus has been able to do it her own way, no borrowed cred or deserved sympathy.

So, yeah, Miley Cyrus headlined Lollapalooza – and was quite good.

Miley Cyrus

Lollapalooza 2021 - Day Two Recap

Abstract Mindstate

Before heading to Lollapalooza for the day, your correspondent stopped off at a listening party for Abstract Mindstate. The rap duo were big in Chicago in the late nineties/early aughts, but never broke through, so broke up – until now, thanks to none other than Kanye West. The Chicago superstar got Olskool Ice-Gre and E.P. da Hellcat to get back together, producing their reunion record, Dreams Still Inspire (out August 6th). There’s also a documentary on the band coming up, We Paid Let Us In! (QRO documentary trailer review).

While there weren’t a ton of people at the event (no chance of seeing Mr. West, as we all know he’s living in Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium – of course it would be the Mercedes-Benz Stadium – working on finishing his Donda, which should come out the same day as Dreams), it was great to go to a Lollapalooza-adjacent event in a year seemingly without any (outside of official after-shows) – and yes, there were free drinks and free Chicago deep-dish.

Abstract Mindstate were there, greeting visitors (including press) and detailing the record. They talked about “flexing” their wordsmithing on “Expository Mode”, “Move Your Body” about the person you’re not into, and more. They described how West really produced, not just providing beats, such as suggesting guest singer Jonquia Rose open “Salutations”, overruling on “Social Media”, and bringing in his cousin/back-up singer Tony Williams for “Body”.

The pair also talked about inventing a new genre, “Adult Contemporary Hip-Hop”, or “ACHH”, that brings in more soul than say, trap. And that it’s not just for the old rappers like them, but even youngsters such as Joey Bada$$.

Black Pistol Fire

There’s definite commentary that rock is seemingly missing from Lollapalooza 2021, albeit mostly comments from aged rockers who’d only be there if they were chaperoning their kids. Yet you could find some head-banging at Grant Park, such as Black Pistol Fire at Tito’s Handmade Vodka Stage, who had the crowd at the end shouting “One! More! Song!” Jawny put on some funkier rock at the GrubHub Stage, including covering The Killers’ “When You Were Young”, because The Killers are veteran rockers at this point (they did headline Lollapalooza ‘17 – QRO recap). And on the T-Mobile Stage Grandson declared, “Rock’s back, baby!” Well, electro-heavy rock, but the singer demanded, “I wanna see more crowd-surfing, more people on people’s shoulders, cause it’s been too long…”

Mick Jenkins

But rap and R&B were on an equal footing with the ol’ guitars. Mick Jenkins was self-confident but also engaging at the Bud Light Seltzer Stage, asking people, “2020 sucked – hands up if you know 2021 will be better, but not that better…” Rising phenom Giveon had a long intro and big entrance to squealing teen girls that knew his smooth & seductive sounds. Yet there was also Polo G with just his DJ and recording on the Bud Light Seltzer Stage. He just rapped over it, not even an instrumental track, but rapped over the recording of him rapping, for an underwhelming appearance that also started late and ended early.

Polo G

Meanwhile, the EDM kids had Solana x Perry’s Tent – and it was for the kids. Even for Lollapalooza, even for Lollapalooza ’21, that stage drew the half-naked teens for record-spinners such as Riot Ten, Subtronics, and Jauz. How the artists did depend on how much you like raving, but there were those who did it all better, such as Subtronics calling upon his “Cyclops Army” in his big sci-fi intro, or Jauz bringing a well-fitting blend of other young-appeal stages (albeit playing other people’s songs).

White Reaper

And as the day went on, the crowds got wilder – as did the artists. White Reaper was doing their first show since COVID, bringing the kick-ass rock of The World’s Best American Band (QRO review) & more to the Lake Shore Stage that “Might Be Right”. The young people at T-Mobile Stage for Roddy Ricch were going absolutely nuts, and knew all his songs. There’s nothing quite like seeing teen girls in tube-tops & short-shorts rapping along…

Roddy Ricch

One issue with Friday was the weather – not that it was too hot, as we’d all feared in this summer of wildfires and ‘heat domes’, but that it was too cold, even threatening to rain. But a light drizzle didn’t damper the excited audience for Jack Harlow at the Lake Shore Stage, who shouted, “Daddy!” repeatedly when they waited for him to appear. He joked that security didn’t want him to jump into the pit, but he still did.

Jack Harlow
Tyler, the Creator

Some might have been surprised that Tyler, the Creator had moved up to headlining Lollapalooza, after playing it much earlier in the day just back in ‘18 (QRO photos). But he’s evolved in sound, style, and success, bringing a massive show to the T-Mobile Stage, complete with wilderness backdrop and numerous costume changes. He was in Chicago behind last month’s Call Me If You Get Lost, his first solo album in a decade, and has become a big-name artist. “They told me I was too weird, too niche, it was shock value and I’d last six months. But here I am headlining Lollapalooza now!”

Tyler, the Creator

Lollapalooza 2021 - Day Three Recap

All festivals have last minute schedule changes, artists dropping off & jumping on, but there were more than usual at Lollapalooza ’21 – though rather understandable, given the circumstances. Indeed, it was more surprising how stable the line-up was – and that the biggest change had nothing to do with COVID (see Sunday).

It’s tough to be one of those last-minute, early-in-the-day acts filling in, as nobody bough their 2021 Lollapalooza tickets to see a late-add like Monophonics at the Lake Shore Stage, but their big soul, horns included, is easy to enjoy. On the other hand, there was a big turnout for a special acoustic set by Tate McRae to start the Toyota Music Den that day, but she is charming.


If the feeling is that rock has been eclipsed at Lollapalooza ’21, then its back-in-the-nineties foundational indie-rock definitely has decreased – but is not gone. It was great to see the likes of Porches at Tito’s Handmade Vodka Stage, who were such a throwback they covered Nirvana’s “On a Plain” (hopefully the kids knew the original). Meanwhile, Michigander had more relaxed, but also energetic, indie-rock at the GrubHub Stage, including a song written in high school, “When I could only dream of playing Lollapalooza, and look where I am now…” (ironically, this crowd had more gray in their hair than most at Grant Park this year)


Every music festival deals with female underrepresentation, and Lollapalooza has probably done better than most, and not just with Miley-sized headliners. Even the notoriously male-heavy (leaning on toxic male-heavy) EDM field is getting more XX, like VNSSA bringing the good vibes to the Solana x Perry’s Tent. At the small & shady BMI Stage, Joy Oladokun did everything from folk to covering “Smell’s Like Teen Spirit” (yes, another Nirvana cover – at least a different song), not to mention speaking out against police violence, and for personal acceptance.

Joy Oladokun
The Backseat Lovers

There are also still some nice finds, and some judge-if-up-to-the-hype in indie at Lollapalooza ’21. Salt Lake City’s The Backseat Lovers brought a nice touch of wistfulness, even country, to their emo-indie at the T-Mobile Stage, the twenty-year-olds taking style cues from Almost Famous’ Stillwater. Already discovered was Mt. Joy at Tito’s Handmade Vodka Stage, with a massive, difficult-to-navigate crowd for their smoother alt-country, filled with spaces you’re not allowed to stand and kids navigating the bodies by holding hands and creating a chain (that messes with everyone else).

Mt. Joy
Cautious Clay

That ‘judging the hype’ only increases at the day goes on at Lollapalooza, as growing stars play the middle-of-the-line-up slots to big crowds. Cautious Clay delivered at the Lake Shore Stage, with smooth sounds and a full band. On the other hand, Trippie Redd just had his DJ and his album at the Bud Light Seltzer Stage. Much like Polo G the day before (see Friday), it wasn’t even an instrumental track devoid of vocals for Redd to rap over, but instead he just yelled over his own recorded voice.

Trippie Redd
Young the Giant

Young the Giant used to be a too little nice a listen, enjoyable yet not gripping enough, particularly live at a festival like this, but they have grown a harder edge when they want to, like “Something To Believe In”. And they haven’t forgotten about their breakthrough self-titled debut (QRO livestream review of Young the Giant), including starting at the T-Mobile Stage with “Your Apartment”, and playing original breakthrough single “Cough Syrup” – not at the end, but still dedicated to “old fans.” They even covered Nelly’s “Hot In Here”.

Freddie Gibbs

“Fuck COVID! I’ll get to ‘Fuck the Police!’ later…” Thus, entered Freddie Gibbs onto the Lake Shore Stage. His DJ played some classic tracks to hype up the crowd, like “Just a Friend” from the late Biz Markie (right after you’d finally gotten it unstuck from your head…) – which did mean that Gibbs himself came out ten minutes after his scheduled start time, a common issue with rappers at festivals. But the crowd was hyped, chanting “Freddie!” at the start.

Machine Gun Kelly

Lollapalooza does know how to get some hype for itself, pulling off a special intimate appearance by chart-topper Machine Gun Kelly at the tiny Bud Light Seltzer Sessions. Announced only an hour before, the crowd was probably twenty times what the beer tent was supposed to hold, spilling out to see Kelly closer than you probably ever could. And yes, his new girlfriend/old pin-up Megan Fox was there at the side, to witness Kelly climb the space’s rafters to close.

Limp Bizkit

And then there was Limp Bizkit. When the nineties rap-rockers were announced as part of the Lollapalooza ’21 line-up, those who didn’t say, “Who?”, said, “Why?” Admittedly, the band’s once-notoriety has been revived in recent weeks by the Woodstock ’99 documentary, and the part they played in that debacle. For some reason, they decided the return this year, and Lollapalooza was their coming-back party (which makes a certain degree of nineties sense – and you know they like the said product of their Bud Light Seltzer Stage).

Wes Borland

The day before, singer Fred Durst, maybe one of the most hated men of the alt-nineties, wiped his social media and posted a new pic with grey hair, and that was what he leaned into. He came out “Grampa style,” and announced he has a new album titled, “Dad Vibes,” t-shirts included. He joked around, particularly noting that Bizkit was playing the same time as Megan Thee Stallion (see below), and how the crowd should go see her (and he might too). After the last song, guitarist Wes Borland threw his guitar into the crowd, with a near ‘death match’ ensuing. Of course, it was destroyed, to chants of the band’s line (once again notorious thanks to Woodstock ’99), “Give me something to break!”

Megan Thee Stallion

One thing Durst was right about was that you should really see Megan Thee Stallion. When what festivals that are happening this year, and Thee Megan was on a lot of line-ups, it was noted that she seemingly was never listed as headliner. Well, she should from here-on-out, judging from the massive crowd she had at the T-Mobile Stage (at least she was put on the biggest stage). And she was in full form with her “hot girls” (both female fans & her own gravity-defying dancers), including calling out those who like girls, those who like boys, and those who like both. Even in today’s era of sex-positivity, there might not be anyone who does it as well as her (yes, she did “W.A.P.”).

Angels & Airwaves

While others seemed more random on the Lollapalooza ’21 line-up (see above & below), it was a particularly odd slot when Angels & Airwaves played the Lake Shore Stage. That was between Megan & Post Malone (see below) on the nearby T-Mobile Stage, and the band is the outfit of Tom DeLonge, formerly of Blink-182, now best known for being a UFO hunter (he fronted the group that got the recent government UFO files declassified). And they can rock – plus will not “Surrender”.


Solana x Perry’s Tent had a giant rig set up in the evening, which loomed over Oliver Heldens, even when he ended with a remix of the Tetris theme song. It was presumably there for stage headliner Slander, who did bring his fullest stage show (for a guy behind a table). There was also iann dior at the GrubHub Stage, and his electro-pop – or maybe it was rap?

iann dior

Rivaling Limp Bizkit for ‘random act playing Lollapalooza ‘21’ was Journey, the seventies rockers following the nineties rockers at the Bud Light Seltzer Stage. But it’s really not a massive festival if there isn’t one truly legacy act, someone from back in the day who are still delivering. Journey was revitalized by new singer Arnel Pineda, and he/they have kept at it since 2007, giving them a new energy. And you know they put on a show – plus played almost the longest of any artist at Lollapalooza ’21, because they’ve got that kind of catalogue, such as “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)”, “Don’t Stop Believin’”, Open Arms” and more. And bonus points to the active sign language interpreters, as this was kind of what they were made for.

Post Malone

The EDM DJs might have had their own special lighting rig, but Post Malone brought his own full scaffolding rig to T-Mobile Stage – even starting his headlining set from it. The rapper admitted he was rusty, but aren’t we all (he also got in a plug for his own Posty Fest in Dallas over Halloween). Of course, he had fireworks, and for “Tommy Lee” brought on that song’s guest star Tyla Yaweh. Thankfully, the megastar has a bit of humor about himself, as when he played “Stay” on acoustic guitar, told the crowd it would be the most boring part of the set, and they could take a bathroom break then if they wanted.

Post fireworks

Lollapalooza 2021 - Day Four Recap

The big news at the start of the final day of Lollapalooza ’21 was that DaBaby was kicked off his headlining slot – finally. After a homophobic & AIDS-phobic rant the prior weekend at Miami’s Rolling Loud, then doubling down with a non-apology and video, it seemed odd that Lollapalooza would keep him. Indeed, when Mayor Lightfoot spoke on Day One, she stated that Chicago & Lollapalooza “Don’t embrace hate” – yet DaBaby was still on the bill at that point. Perhaps she was giving the festival a nudge/shove, or at least covering herself from association with him. And it’s not simple to kick off an act, particularly a headliner, particularly that late. But Lollapalooza eventually did, moving Young Thug up to that headline slot, and adding Chicago’s own G Herbo in Young Thug’s slot.

[editor’s note: The day after Lollapalooza ended, both Governors Ball and Day N Vegas also dropped him from their line-ups. Then DaBaby made more of an actual apology]

[Billboard reports that DaBaby promised a true apology video before his Sunday set, and when it didn’t appear, was canceled]

Princess Nokia

It’s never easy to hype up the crowd early on the final day of a long festival, but Princess Nokia brought it to the T-Mobile Stage. She had a mosh pit, she crowd-surfed – but noted that, for her to properly surf, fans would have to put down their phones. She rapped about “My little titties and phat belly” on “Tomboy” and more, with a love for all body types, bringing dancers and bubbles.

G Herbo

Late adds have a tough time, but G Herbo showed how to do it at the T-Mobile Stage. Of course, he’s a Chicago local, and had even appeared on the first day thanks to Miley Cyrus (see Thursday). There was real appreciation by the locals, and discovery by visitors.

Brittany Howard

There are definite times & places one wants to sit at any festival, and usually then one ends far from the music, but not at the forested GrubHub Stage, and mxmtoon was a perfect fit for a shady sit. She brought charming songs about sad subjects like seasonal depression, and even a ukulele for “Feelings Are Fatal”. Meanwhile, Brittany Howard seemed less rocking, more soul-jazz, than her sound with the Alabama Shakes. If it wasn’t as electric as you wanted, she does still have a great voice & presence.

Sullivan King

After seeing Sullivan King spin his big sound & effects at the Solana x Perry’s Tent, your correspondent was in the press tent and randomly ran into Chloe Bennet, of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (and recently cast as Blossom in the upcoming live-action Powerpuff Girls). She seemed to be there with some musical act, though was also a pop singer in China before S.H.I.E.L.D. Your correspondent completely flubbed meeting her, after asking her if she was indeed from S.H.I.E.L.D. and she replied jokingly to name his favorite episode, “And I better have been in it,” before adding that she was in every episode.

Your correspondent blanked (the show ran for seven season & 136 episodes…), mumbled something about a scene with Stan Lee – that she wasn’t in. He also mumbled something about fellow star Clark Gregg and if the show is canon (a major topic of debate among MCU fans), with which she replied that it’s not (has probably been asked that a lot). Afterwards, of course, your correspondent thought of lots of good comments he could have made, from praising its longevity (no mere six-episode streamer like today’s Disney+ MCU) to how it evolved outside of the MCU shadow, but there’s a reason he doesn’t write about television & movies…

Modest Mouse

For the last evening of Lollapalooza ’21, the festival gave the alt-rock kids a chance to shine. Modest Mouse returned to live music on the T-Mobile Stage, behind last month’s The Golden Casket. This was only the band’s second show since everything shut down, so they were a little rusty, but for a large section of indie-rock fans of a certain age, they are the foundational band. Of course, they played breakthrough single “Float On”, but notably not as their closer.

Band of Horses

But Band of Horses did close with their own breakthrough, “Funeral”, at the Lake Shore Stage (to a sing-along). Ben Bridwell and co. were in fine spirits, Bridwell joking about going to his first Lollapalooza back in 1993 while in high school in Raleigh-Durham – and current Horses bassist Matt Gentling was playing it (as part of nineties should-have-been-big Archers of Loaf). Bridwell really appreciated the width & breadth of the festival, thanking founder Perry Farrell, as well as noting that Horses had also previously played Lollapalooza Brazil & Lollapalooza Chile. They were definitely having fun, including Bridwell joking that the tambourine he brought out for “The General Specific”.

Foo Fighters

And closing out Lollapalooza ’21 at the T-Mobile Stage were none other than Foo Fighters. The band has become one of the biggest and most reliable rock acts out there – whether you think they’re reliable great or reliably alright (or even if you still think of them as the ‘other band from Nirvana’s last drummer’…). They’ve risen to be a kind of massively wide-appeal rockers along the previous lines as U2 and Bruce Springsteen, even in today’s less automatically rock-tilted landscape; for instance, they recently post-pandemic reopened New York City’s iconic Madison Square Garden (QRO venue review) & Los Angeles’ The Forum, and have even trolled the likes of the homophobic Westboro Baptist Church & anti-vaxxers. ‘Good for them’ one has to feel, even if you’re not that into them (or more of a Krist Novoselic fan…).

Dave Grohl

“They only gave us two hours, motherfuckers,” frontman Dave Grohl remarked about playing the longest of any act at Lollapalooza ’21, and their enthusiasm is infectious right now (in all the right ways). From opener “Times Like These” on, they were on, fun-loving rock stars and all. This included putting on their ‘Dee Gees’ alter-ego to cover “You Should Be Dancing” (from their new Bee Gees cover album, Hail Satin), plus covering Queen’s “Somebody To Love”, with Grohl going back to the drums & drummer Taylor Hawkins singing, as well as X’s “Nausea” with vocals from Grohl’s daughter Violet.

If we were going to have Lollapalooza in 2021, if we were going to have this Lollapalooza in 2021, this is how it should finish, with a definite bang.

[plus, sometimes one must remember that enjoying all that giant stage success is iconic punk rock Germs guitarist Pat Smear, one of the sweetest late career booms in music ever]

Foo Fighters


There was a spectre at the fest, an 800-pound gorilla looming over Lollapalooza ‘21: COVID. Yes, we have vaccines readily available for pretty much everybody in America, supported by every level of government, business, and society that isn’t insane. This is not the summer of 2020, locked in our homes, wondering if we’ll ever get to go outside again. Yet this is also not the summer of 2019, for the worldwide pandemic is far from over. Indeed, between the Delta variant and anti-vaxxers, some places are experiencing their worst outbreaks to-date – mostly red states and poorer countries, but still.

Welcome to Lolla

Chicago is neither of those, and neither is Lollapalooza. Vaccinations were certainly promoted every step of the way, up to and including being spelled out in lights on a skyscraper that looked over Grant Park. Security did check your vaccine card, or negative COVID test, upon entry. And hand sanitizer was as readily available as water.


But many still said that Lollapalooza shouldn’t be happening at all. The sights of the massive crowds, almost entirely mask-less, in the press & on social media prompted lots of outsiders to condemn the whole enterprise, to curse it like it was the 2020 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally with Smashmouth, like it’s Governor Ron DeSantis’ Florida. It was interesting to go from being one who’s certainly denounced other super-spreader events from afar, to being inside and being on the receiving end of that criticism, which could come off as know-it-all & holier-than-thou, easy to judge in a second from an image scrolled by on Twitter.

Will there be a big spike in COVID from Lollapalooza ’21? Will it go down in history like an Amy Coney Barrett confirmation celebration? Will those who went, from Mayor Lightfoot down to your correspondent, regret their decision to be involved?


Or will Lollapalooza 2021 be the big kick-off to the return of live music that it was meant to be? That’s certainly what everyone attending was going for, from the crowds of teens who’ve been cooped up in homeschool to the acts itching to get back on the road. It was the big summer celebration that you remember, that you looked forward to, that you’d missed.

the kids

Yes, it was more mainstream than ever before, more popular wide appeal that brought fans you probably didn’t want to see, acts you didn’t care for, and genres you’d had enough of. But that also meant that there was something for everyone, from aged rockers to neon (barely) clad kids, not to mention new discoveries. There was even a livestream if you couldn’t/wouldn’t make it in-person. Hell, the active sign language interpreters singing/rocking “W.A.P.” was worth it alone…

active sign language interpreter

This may be the new normal, like the old but also different, sort of like the now Bud Light Seltzer Stage, or seeing cans of said new brew in beer helmets – on women (also saw some dorky kids with a smuggled in flask, like the Lollapaloozas of your correspondent’s youth…).

Maybe we’re healing, maybe we’re growing, maybe things won’t be like they were, but can still be great, like Lollapalooza ’21.

Lollapalooza '21

-photos courtesy of Lollapalooza, except BMI Stage photos from BMI, and your correspondent’s photos of Steve Aoki & Billy Idol, and Abstract Mindstate, from his iPhone