Last year, there was a question whether music festivals would come back at all, after COVID struck them all down in 2020; would people want to head to large events, packed into massive crowds? Well, Lollapalooza proved that fests were coming back last year (QRO recap), and returned in 2022 for another big year, Thursday-Sunday, July 28th-31st – and looks to only get bigger in the future.
Ever since expanding to four days in 2016 (QRO recap), the additional Lollapalooza Thursday has long felt a little lighter, less big than the rest of the (very big) festival, with fewer one-day ticket-buyers, even some with full fest ticket-holders skipping the first day, and the headliner not quite so massive. Not so for 2022. Yes, the primary reason was the massive-with-a-capital-M headliner, but was true for the whole day. Yet Thursday also didn’t lose that ‘first day looseness.’
Take Sampa the Great on the Coinbase Stage. Coming on at 1:30 PM under the midday sun, they didn’t wilt – of course, perhaps it didn’t feel quite so hot & sunny for the first-ever Zambian act to play Lollapalooza (and Coachella, and Glastonbury), the family band that included siblings & a cousin (“We’re doing the Jackson 5 thing!”). Frontwoman Sampa was quite charming & energetic, both just what you wanted from some act you’d never heard of that early on the first day, and just what you’d want to do as an act few had heard of that early on the first day. On the flip side from the breaking-new-ground was Ireland’s Inhaler, going over ground at the Bud Light Seltzer Stage once trod by their forefathers – in this case, literal father, as Inhaler frontman Elijah Hewson is the son of none other than Bono.
While the alt-rock has long since declined from being Lollapalooza’s focus these days (it ain’t the nineties anymore…), it still has its place at the festival in ’22. Case in point was the Coinbase/T-Mobile Stage back-to-back of The Wombats and Manchester Orchestra. Neither are twentieth century holdovers, nor brand-new acts, both having played the festival before (QRO photos of The Wombats at ’18 Lollapalooza – QRO photos of Manchester Orchestra at ’14 Lollapalooza), yet have a wide enough alt-appeal to return, the right level of indie/mainstream for the festival. For The Wombats, it’s their rock/electro mix, from this year’s Fix Yourself, Not the World (QRO review) to old chestnuts like “Techno Fan”. For Manchester Orchestra, it’s their alt/hard balance from last year’s The Million Masks of God (QRO review) to emotional oldies such as “I Can Barely Breathe”.
The other side of Grant Park tilted more towards the young folks and their hyperactivity. There was Role Model beneath Tito’s Bandshell, while the beautiful Tove Lo has been wowing crowds for a few years now, and the Swede didn’t tone it down on the Bud Light Stage for Middle America with sexy songs such as “Talking Body” and “How Long” (and flashing her crowd). Meanwhile, 100 gecs brought their unique brand of so-of-the-moment-don’t-even-try-to-decipher-it hyper-pop to Tito’s, purple & yellow wizard costumes included.
The best-kept secret of Lollapalooza has long been the BMI Stage, and not just because it’s all in the shade. The hidden-by-those-shady-trees stage hosts up-and-coming acts, obviously some you might never heard from again, but also those who will be playing the big stages next time they come to Lollapalooza. For instance, there was Jesse Jo Stark, who came out to chants of “Jesse! Jesse!” like she was a headliner, with pieces such as “So Bad” and “Modern Love” from her upcoming album (word is that the goddaughter of Cher even had Lenny Kravitz watching from side stage).
There are always some slightly random acts at any Lollapalooza, one you might think don’t fit on any day, but are getting notice and know how to play. This year had the rising jam star Billy Strings on the big T-Mobile Stage, who himself seemed a little shocked. And he let the crowd know, “We’re gonna play some bluegrass for you,” just in case anyone was wondering. Meanwhile, the younger & more of-the-brand Remi Wolf played the smaller, shadier Discord Stage with “Sexy Villain” and “Disco Man”.
There are also quite a few acts at any Lollapalooza who have played many festivals that summer, who might feel a little over-exposed, but up there you can see why they’re recruited so much, such as this year with Ashnikko on the Coinbase Stage. Just her & a DJ, she had impressive stage command (aided by her latest great outfit), and a great conversational feel for the crowd – before she covered Avril Lavigne’s classic “Sk8er Boi”, she prefaced by admitting that every skater boy she’s ever been with has been “subpar in bed…”
But let’s face it: any day at a festival where Metallica headlines, the day is about Metallica. It’s easy to forget how amazingly successful they’ve been, and not as some sixties/seventies classic rock act, but as the very definition of “heavy metal.” Yes, they’ve had their misses (singer/guitarist James Hetfield asked the crowd to give 2003’s much-maligned St. Anger another try, because they’re so successful they’ve even got their go-to lemon – but what about Lulu (QRO review)?…), but they’re just such a reliable juggernaut in a world where so little big is reliable, let alone a rock act.
Indeed, there is a certain class of reliable festival headliner rock acts, and Metallica might be the pinnacle of it. They’re old enough to have a giant catalogue of songs, but not so old as to only appeal to old-timers. They’ve got their own set-up and draw, yet don’t only appeal to already-fans – it’d be hard to find someone at any Lollapalooza who didn’t always want to check out Metallica.
Yes, there were a lot of old-timers there, some bringing their kids in metal shirts that said things like “Kill ‘Em All” or were for Cannibal Corpse (note: you can’t accuse a kid of being a poser; that’s like getting angry at a baby in a Sonic Youth Goo onesie). This is a band who played Lollapalooza ’96! This is Beavis’ favorite band!
They had their own forward stage section, which even guitarist Kirk Hammett and bassist Robert Trujillo got to vogue on (they’re a rare act where the drummer, Lars Ulrich, might be the most famous member). Hetfield was in fine form, not just in vocals but other moments such as before suicidal “Fade To Black”, reminding the crowd (and viewers back home) that they’re not alone, please talk to someone.
Of course, Metallica has had a recent boom in popularity among the young & old thanks to a little show called Stranger Things, which after teaching a whole new generation about the amazingness of Kate Bush and “Running Up That Hill” earlier in its season, brought Eddie Munson out to rock the Upside-Down with the most metal moment ever, playing Metallica’s iconic “Master of Puppets”. The band not only closed with it, but had a video cameo from that seminal scene, and the actor Joseph Quinn (who admittedly has short hair now & has always been British) met with them backstage.
Note that if you weren’t up for the head-bang, Lollapalooza still provided two very different options for Thursday headliner. At the other end of the festival was rapper Lil Baby on the Bud Light Seltzer Stage with a more relaxed, yet still in control, set, while stuck in between at the smaller Discord Stage was the sweet Caroline Polachek, who, instead of the futile task of trying to compete with those big artists & volumes, slowed things down with pieces such as “So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings”.
After a big Thursday that was a little headliner-focused, Friday spread out the love more, from early on to late in the day, including high female representation that shouldn’t be news, but still is.
It can be easy to judge acts just based on what they look like in their promo photo, and what you’ve come to expect at Lollapalooza, but Del Water Gap on the Coinbase Stage sounded pretty country for a guy who looked like a teen pop star. Meanwhile, Brit Mahalia on the Bud Light Seltzer Stage engaged by telling girls that they don’t need to wear a bra, “No matter the committee, itty-bitty or big fuckin’ titties…” She also asked guys to talk more, noting the stigma with men & mental health.
It couldn’t be Lollapalooza without a buzz band, and ’22 got the buzziest band of right now, the Isle of Wight’s Wet Leg. They blew people away last year with songs like “Chaise Lounge” (QRO review), “Too Late Now” (QRO review), and “Angelica” (QRO review), and delivered earlier this year with their self-titled debut (QRO review). On the Discord Stage, Hester Chambers & Rhian Teasdale were as giddy as ever, noting that it was their first festival in the States (not counting the club gigs of SXSW – QRO photos). The big crowd at the small-ish stage (it was noted that their Empty Bottle after-show sold out in about thirty seconds) clapped along to “Supermarket”, screamed along with “Ur Mum”, and of course there was a big sing-along to the highly anticipated “Chaise” closer.
In addition to the small BMI Stage at Lollapalooza, there were also second sets by some artists at two even smaller, even more sponsored spots nearby, the Toyota Music Den and Bud Light Seltzer Sessions. For instance, BMI Stage Friday opening act Daisy the Great had another go, having fun at the tiny Toyota Music Den.
At Tito’s Bandshell, The Regrettes had the crowd crouching down & getting up, livening up their catchy pop-punk, including a cover of Lily Allen’s “Smile” (though too much smoke machine at the Bandshell, as it just looked like dust in the air). Also at Tito’s was Mikaela Straus, a.k.a. King Princess, celebrating the release of her new record Hold On Baby, while MUNA brought their own great new self-titled album (QRO review) to the Discord Stage.
As the day wore on, the bands & crowds got bigger. Glass Animals have been having a huge year, and had a huge audience at the T-Mobile Stage, their big electro-pop totally fitting modern day Lollapalooza. On the other hand, Norway’s girl in red brought more kick-ass girls playing to a loving crowd at the Coinbase Stage, great lesbian romantic woes story-telling.
Last year, rapper-turned-pop-punk superstar Machine Gun Kelly both played a surprise set at Lollapalooza (with now-fiancé Megan Fox on side stage), then co-closed out Chicago’s Riot Fest (QRO photos) with some choice words about the act on the other stage, Slipknot. That certainly kept him in the press (and angered a lot of hard rock fans), but this year he’s managed to play it straight and stay big, such as with his hit record Mainstream Sellout. His massive tour (QRO photos at Madison Square Garden) has included him coming out aboard a giant pink helicopter, so many wondered what his Bud Light Seltzer Stage headline set would include.
There was the pink helicopter, though it only sat on stage (even Lollapalooza can’t bring that kind of indoor rigging to Grant Park), but there was much else. He dove into the crowd for “Into My Arms”. He was the rare Lollapalooza ’22 artist with special guests, including Avril Lavigne (“Bois Lie”), iann dior (“Fake Love Don’t Last”), and Lollapalooza performer Glaive (“More Than Life”), the last the first time that they’d ever played “Life” together. Kelly had not only a speech against letting the internet control your life, but a whole video (blowing up a big TV man). If you’re gonna be big, do it big…
Also doing it big was Dua Lipa on the T-Mobile Stage, with a totally sexy, affirming headline set. And yes, she also had killer dancers, because of course she did. The only problem? The set wasn’t streamed on Hulu like other Lollapalooza ’22 performances, something her many fans around the world bemoaned online.
After all the action of the first two days, the proper weekend began a little slow at Lollapalooza ’22, with a bass-heavy Cochise at the T-Mobile Stage, then well-known collaborator Alexander 23 playing it relatively safe at Tito’s Bandshell (including covers of staple earworms “Everybody Wants To Rule the World” and “Since You’ve Been Gone”).
For any act playing early at a festival, under the hot sun, it can be a little tricky, with smaller crowds, and most of those there not knowing who you are. But it’s also a chance to really have fun, really enjoy just being able to play the likes of Lollapalooza, if you’re the likes of HINDS. The Madrid group had a lot of fun on the Coinbase Stage, including asking before one song if anyone in the crowd knew how to play it, basically expecting that no one would, only for a pink-haired fan named Darci to volunteer, brought up to play bass on “Garden”. If more charming than inspired, they were certainly very charming, including covering The Clash’s “Spanish Bombs” (okay, a little obvious, but they earned it), and their first original Spanish song, saying, “No Google Translate for our friends & family.” Meanwhile, the small BMI Stage had the excitable & colorful pop-punk of Meet Me @ The Altar, later on the sweeter GAYLE, who met with fans after her set (including writing out birthday wishes for one).
New Jersey’s FLETCHER is another artist who has played a lot of festivals in 2022, but you could see why on the T-Mobile Stage. She not only did her beloved hits “Undrunk” and “Becky’s So Hot”, but also debuted the new “Feel” and unreleased “You Ruined New York City For Me”, not to mention her own mash-up with Billie Eilish’s “Happier Than Ever” – and closing out by running through the excited crowd. On the other side of the musical age coin was the OG king of emo, Dashboard Confessional, playing nostalgia at the Coinbase Stage to folks who frontman Chris Carrabba admitted probably were too young to know the songs, but sang along anyway.
While the other stages at Lollapalooza vary in genre as much as the festival, Solana x Perry’s Tent is dedicated to EDM, usually home to kids & beats. But sometimes another act gets slotted in there (the DJs have pretty quick set-up & break-down times), such as Chicago rapper Lil Durk. Perry’s is wild at the lowest key of times, and this was not one of them, including cops & EMTs, and twice having to stop the set for the big screen behind him to ask (in bright red) for people to take a step back (though both times it was pulled off without much fuss). Though the toughest time might have been the rapper himself, as he was injured in the face by one of his many pyrotechnics, playing on & bandaged up afterwards.
Later on, Perry’s took another swerve, this time across the ocean with the K-Pop of Tomorrow x Together. They’ve already been billed as, “The next BTS,” and seem to be living up to it, if not at that global dominance yet. Indeed, their Lollapalooza set was kind of an introduction of them to America, with perfect dance moves and pop songs such as “Good Boy Gone Band” and “Valley of Lies”, the latter of which featured guest iann dior doing another Lolla ’22 guest appearance.
Modern alt-pop came through at the T-Mobile Stage with Hollywood’s Wallows, who include actors (of course), Dylan Minnette and Braeden Lemasters. For COIN at Tito’s Bandshell, this was the first festival this year where they’ve had pretty much their full production and played a longer set, brings songs like “Take the Stairs”, “Valentine”, and “Watering a Dead Flower” to a fest for the first time, with frontman Chase Lawrence diving into the crowd for “Into My Arms”.
One thing to note with rappers at festivals is they often stick to their usual script of having their DJ hype them up beforehand, like YG did with DJ Vision at the Coinbase Stage, which might have brought some sing-alongs and a white boy mosh pit, but also shrunk the time YG actually played. Yet the rapper still found time not only to demand, “More titties,” but also critique them. If Chelsea Cutler didn’t have as large a crowd later on at Coinbase, she still called it, “The best night of my life!”
The rhymes continued into the evening with Big Sean on the T-Mobile Stage, who brought out both YG and his quite pregnant girlfriend Jhene Aiko. And closing out Day Three at that stage was J. Cole, who improved upon his last time playing Lollapalooza (including bringing out his own guests in fellow Dreamville artists Bas and J.I.D), showing how an artist can grow over time as a performer.
Lollapalooza is a chance to catch acts that you’ve been hearing about, to see if they live up to the hype – even if they don’t. Admittedly, you & most everyone else in the Bud Light Seltzer Stage crowd at DJO were there because the band is fronted by Joe Keery, a.k.a. Steve Harrington of Stranger Things (as opposed to Things guitar-playing Eddie Munson, a.k.a. Joseph Quinn, who was backstage with Metallica on Day One). Keery does have some indie credentials, having been part of Post Animal until he had to leave when his acting career took off, and has stayed in the musical game with his own DJO. But the music was kind of psych-lite, not as notable as Keery the actor or even his not-Steve hair. Similarly, Goth Babe on the Coinbase Stage was another hyped, unimpressive act.
Living up to their hype was Italy’s Måneskin, the 2021 Eurovision Song Contest winner on the T-Mobile Stage. Usually those Eurovision acts are flashes in the pan, who never make it across the pond (give or take an ABBA), but the big hair & big glam rock of Måneskin has wide appeal, and the group has the right level of not taking themselves too seriously. Props given to singer Damiano David for giving props to the Active Sign Language interpreter (unsung stars of every Lollapalooza), the girl up front crying & singing along, and the nation of Ukraine (this year’s Eurovision winner). Guitarist Thomas Raggi went into the crowd, while bassist Victoria De Angelis wore pasties, because this was a party (you know drummer Ethan Torchio would have done his part if he wasn’t stuck behind that kit, but such is the way of the drummer…). Also having fun was Beach Bunny following on the Coinbase Stage, celebrating their great new album Emotional Creature (QRO review), with catchy & fun indie-rock, thanking their family, and asking for fans on shoulders.
Meanwhile, the Discord Stage had some special acts. Claire Rosinkranz had her viral hit “Backyard Boy” for all her fans. And despite losing his voice the night before, KennyHoopla hooped it up at the Discord Stage, with a full band – and a full mosh pit for “Hollywood Sucks”. And later on, Dominic Fike drew perhaps the stage’s biggest crowd over all four days, with songs of off Don’t Forget About Me Demos and even some more somber What Could Possibly Go Wrong tracks.
Despite its historic roots going back to the alt-nineties (or maybe because of them), Lollapalooza has never been a fest for reunions. Pixies might have started the twenty-first century alt-reunion trend at Coachella, and Chicago’s own Riot Fest might specialize in them, but Lolla has preferred the of-the-now & long-running acts. But it’s also still Perry Farrell’s festival, and for ’22 he brought about a reunion – not of his still-active Jane’s Addiction (see them on tour in the fall with The Smashing Pumpkins), but of his post-Jane’s nineties act Porno for Pyros at the T-Mobile Stage. Yes, sort of a random reunion (like Paul McCartney reuniting Wings, or Billy Corgan, Zwan), but that made it special – and they did have a notable MTV hit back when MTV still had alt-music hits (and still had music), “Pets”, which even Beavis & Butthead loved (another nineties reunion that just came back, heh-heh). It was clear that Farrell & co. (including wife Etty) were enjoying being back up on stage, he still a consummate frontman. Pumpkins’ own Billy Corgan joined them for a cover of “When the Levee Breaks” – Farrell had joined Corgan the night before Lollapalooza at a benefit for Corgan’s native Highland Park and the survivors of the July 4th attack there.
As Lollapalooza ’22 came closer to its end, there was still time for one more big dance number, thanks to BANKS on the Coinbase Stage. Admittedly, it was not the best timing for her, still in the summer sun, and between two nineties guitar guy acts on the T-Mobile Stage (if she’d played before Dua Lipa…), but the artist gave it her all, and you better believe she had a great dance crew. Meanwhile, though The Kid Laroi is best known for his work with others, such as Justin Bieber and the late Juice Wrld, he and his emo-rap stood on his own at the Bud Light Stage.
Even with the biggest veteran acts, there’s a question whether they’ll play with the kids at Lollapalooza. Green Day is as old as the festival, going back to the alt-nineties, yet Billy Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt, and Tré Cool have managed to not only stay together, but stay big, even stay kinda relevant. They found another connection with the youth in the aughts with their opposition to the Iraq War, and only last summer played ballparks on their ‘Hella Mega Tour’ (QRO live review). Indeed, just on Friday night of Lollapalooza, they played a special intimate after-show at The Metro that everyone was talking about, where they pulled out rarities.
Armstrong wore a Metro t-shirt as the band played big to close out Lollapalooza ’22. Yes, it was a big, fun show – including fireworks. Even the cops sent to patrol the festival were into it. Armstrong did great intros for everyone on stage, including their long-running tour guitarist Jason White and very own rock saxophonist Jason Freese (a resurgent job these days). He even asked for a fan, Abby, to come up and play guitar on their version of “Knowledge” by their Bay Area classic forerunner punks Operation Ivy – and then let Abby keep the guitar! They also covered the ultra-classic “Shout”, got fans & themselves to get down as it got “a little softer now” (band members literally lying down on stage at one point).
Okay, maybe they didn’t play anything later than 2009’s 21st Century Breakdown (QRO review), and you were having your most fun when they played off of 1994’s Dookie, but it was still a great, enjoyable, big finish to Lollapalooza ’22.
Of course, to certain folks, Lollapalooza ’22 ended, indeed even began, with J-Hope at the Bud Light Seltzer Stage. Singer from a little ol’ band called BTS, now that the globe-conquering K-Pop boy band phenomena has gone on hiatus, this was J-Hope’s chance to shine on his own. There were members of the fan BTS Army camping out for him from the start of the day (even before), to witness him make history as the first South Korean to headline a major U.S. music festival.
It would be easy to look at his booking as a simple lay-up for Lollapalooza, but it was still a big deal (and came in late), stretching where even the likes of Coachella or Bonnaroo haven’t. And J-Hope did deliver for his fans, whether with his newer, darker, even harder singles “More” and “Arson” from his new concept album Jack In the Box, or reliable BTS pieces such as “P.O.P (Piece of Peace), Pt. 1” or “Dynamite”. J-Hope admitted that many people there were seeing him for the first time, and certainly made his impressive stage presence known.
Before J-Hope’s closing performance, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced that the festival had made an agreement to be in the Windy City for another ten years. When so much has changed in recent times, it is reassuring to know that Lollapalooza will still be there for you, with the acts you know – and the acts you don’t – packed under the Grant Park sky.
-words: Ted Chase
-photos: Emily Richardson