Walking into Grant Park on July 29th felt like entering some sort of reverse-quarantine. After a year and a half of relative isolation, the presence of such a large crowd was both thrilling and unsettling all at once. Still, with a vaccine or negative Covid test result required, nearly 400,000 people filtered through the gates into Lollapalooza Chicago 2021. The massive park contained seven stages, side attractions and an impressive, if overpriced, selection of local Chicago food stands to choose from.
Photographers are given only the first three songs of each set to shoot, a blessing in disguise that allowed me to jump around the festival and take a few needed breaks from the noise of the crowd and the 90-degree sun. Right off the bat, day one took me through seven acts at breakneck speed.
Playboi Carti’s Thursday set was met with a semi-rabid crowd, filling the entirety of the surrounding field shoulder to shoulder. A seemingly constant stream of medics entered and exited throughout the show, removing nosebleed after nosebleed from the dense group of people. The three song rule was a lucky break in this case, allowing me to make a quick exit early on and avoid getting punched by intoxicated teenagers.
My final stop for the night was Steve Aoki at the notorious Perry’s stage, known for it’s full day EDM lineup and concentrated rave culture located on the sandiest stretch of Grant Park. Six-foot-tall subwoofers kicked up dust while Aoki worked the crowd like a pro. At least three or four strangers in the front row asked me to hold their sunglasses while they danced to the floor-rattling bass and tracks sampled from “Crazy Frog”— what an honor, really.
Giveon and Jack Harlow were tasked with warming up Friday’s crowd for Tyler, The Creator in the hours before the headliner. By the time Harlow was halfway done, there was barely any room to move around the park before Tyler’s set; deepest apologies to anyone that I may have accidentally camera-whacked at this point in the night.
Tyler, The Creator’s headlining show singlehandedly drew a crowd of several hundred thousand to the T-Mobile main stage on Friday night. Armed with props, pyrotechnics and a full size moving boat, his performance was just as visual as it was musical. His recent album, “CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST,” had clearly built up plenty of anticipation, with fans camping out hours in advance to get close to the stage; it was exactly this energy that made his set a high point of the weekend by far.
Saturday’s especially star studded lineup brought a new energy to what would have otherwise been an exhausting third day. Despite being placed in the middle of the schedule, Megan Thee Stallion racked up one of the largest crowds of the weekend. The enthusiasm from her early performance carried strong through the rest of the night and left “WAP” stuck in my head for at least the next hour or two.
Later on, classic rock staple Journey had the unfortunate luck of conflicting with Post Malone’s set, and not even the promise of “Don’t Stop Believin’” could pull the younger audience away from waiting for Post’s show to begin. Still, the energy surrounding their performance was timeless and gave a lower-key alternative to what I imagine was happening across the park.
After speed shuffling through arguably the most middle-aged crowd of the festival, I was able to double up on headliners and make it to Marc Rebillet’s performance just in time. His comedy-rap act drew a smaller, but clearly very dedicated, fanbase to the Grubhub stage. Chants of “daddy” carried through virtually the entire show— Again, a very dedicated fanbase.
A slow and cloudy Sunday was the perfect break for a visibly worn out crowd and my own ever-growing farmer’s tan. I took the final day to sit and listen to some shows, grab an extra churro and wander aimlessly between stages to see what was good.
The band Surfaces gave a retro-surf inspired show that was heavy on audience interaction and filled with soft yellow lights that suited their specific brand of nostalgic pop. Lead singer Forrest Frank often crouched down level to fans in the front row, and met their screams with little personal moments throughout the show.
After Brockhampton made a last minute request to not have their set photographed, I finished the weekend with EARTHGANG at the smaller Grubhub stage. The rap duo played off of each other while putting on a memorable light show that closed out my time in Grant Park on a colorful note.
Summer Managing Photo Editor Becca Mahon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.