MP3 Takes: Lollapalooza Music Festival 2023
Welcoming MP3 TAKES, our in-depth review series, where we explore the rich tapestry of music festivals and live performances worldwide. Today, we journey to Lollapalooza 2023, Chicago’s premiere music festival boasting 115,000 attendees over four days.
Amidst several festival cancellations and postponements, Chicago’s iconic Lollapalooza stood strong, upping the daily attendance from last year’s 100,000 to 115,000 music enthusiasts. The Grant Park music festival entertained thousands from all over the world as headliners like Billie Eilish, Kendrick Lamar, Tomorrow X Together, Odesza, and Lana Del Rey graced the main stages.
Here are our MP3 MAG takes from Lollapalooza 2023:
“Lanapalooza” — Lana Del Rey’s Immaculate Performance
Sunday wasn’t called “Lanapalooza” for no reason. Numerous festival attendees dressed in red bandanas, referencing Lana’s Born to Die era, and white bows, calling to Chemtrails over the Country Club and her newest album, Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd, to stomp through the mud, hoping to secure a spot as close to the baroque, Americana, alt-pop star’s final day performance. Prior to Lana, alt-pop singer UPSAHL stunned the audience, debuting a new song, “0 or 100,” dropping on August 18.
Neil Frances and Lil Yachty prefaced Rina Sawayama‘s amusing, charged electropop extravaganza. As she does, Lana manifested on stage seven minutes late for a shortened version of lead single from Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd: “A&W.” Videographers zoomed in on the front row, where die-hard Lana fanatics let tears fall from their eyes, mouthing “I love you, Lana!” for the entire crowd to see.
Lana breezed through her catalog, dipping into older projects like Ultraviolence and Born to Die, paired with incredible backup singers and her gifted piano player Byron Thomas. As a true performer does, she took the time to descend the stairs into the audience and meet a few lucky fans before returning to the stage for impressive live serenades of “Candy Necklaces” and “Summertime Sadness.”
Near the finale of her set, the Manhattan-born singer joked she had 13 minutes left, and if she got dragged off stage, so be it. She asked the band how many more songs they could sing, following the crowd favorite “Video Games.” Once informed she only had time for one more song, the audience shouted their predictions, but Lana jumped in with the solemn ballad “hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have,” where she did indeed get dragged off the stage on a white sheet.
Kendrick Lamar — A Cultural and Musical Icon
Of course, when a festival books Kendrick Lamar, the crowd receives an artistic spectacle fit for the history books. Although Lamar has garnered a massive following, his fans seemed relatively calm as they piled in to secure a spot and enjoy some opening acts. Fans sporting DAMN. merch and hats emblazoned with lyrics from the Pulitzer Prize winner respectfully waltzed through security and sprinted to the T-Mobile Stage to wait for the brilliant wordsmith.
After a fashionable 15-minute late entrance, Lamar opened the set with an instrumental of The Heart Part 5, immediately justifying his delayed entrance. Once riled, Lamar grabbed a mic and performed N95, the second track from his latest album, Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers, rapping in front of Henry Taylor’s art.
The Crowd — Loud, Proud, and Definitely Wild
When fans begin lining up hours before the show, tensions run high, security struggles, and attendees tend to fight. On the first day, guests arrived at 3 a.m. to camp for Billie Eilish, and on Saturday, Tomorrow X Together Fans rushed the security entrances, toppling over the gates during the rainiest day of the fest.
Due to the heightened number of people floating anxiously in the massive sea of music stans, the energy broadcasted throughout the crowd energized the performers. Many stars paused for a moment to soak in the applause and acknowledge Chicago’s dynamic audience. Those callouts inflated the crowds’ spirits even more, contributing to a deafening roar of applause, a dream for any performer scheduled on a Lolla stage.
With 115,000 people in attendance, open areas like Chow Town (the designated food vendor area) and any smidge of open grass by either stage remained a sacred scarcity. According to social media discourse, guests found difficulty navigating the grounds because of the extra 15,000 daily capacity increase from last year.
For any music event, die-hard fans always show up hours in advance to cement their spot, and those who don’t show up early tend to push. This weekend, loads of people lined up respectfully to book it to the front, and bunches showed up minutes before headliners, stirring the pot and pushing droves of people away from their deserved location. But that isn’t anything new when it comes to concerts. It’s more of a class in concert etiquette that has nothing to do with the organizers and everything to do with the public.
For the most part, Lolla successfully scheduled similar artists on the same stage to dissuade unruly moshes and unwarranted pushing. Though, on Sunday, many early-rising Lana fans noted they had to evacuate the stage during Lil Yachty‘s set, and his music didn’t match the rest of the electropop/ alt-Indie performers scheduled on the stage.
The Venue — Is 8 Stages Too Much?
With over 300 acres, Grant Park is the perfect place to hold a major music festival. But for newcomers and seasoned festival-goers alike, attending a festival with eight stages is a daunting experience.
Lolla maintains adequate space between each stage. However, if one performer goes over the allotted time, the overlap bleeds into sets and could throw off schedules, resulting in delays. We noticed a bit of that during Tech House sensation Fred Again‘s T-mobile set and R&B luminary Jessie Reyez‘ hype, one-hour gig.
The layout of Lolla leaves little to be desired. Chow Town and Dessert Island dot the streets and grass unoccupied by musical stages, several restrooms pop up throughout the grounds, and for those needing a break from music, they can pop over to any sponsored partnerships and pick up a custom croc charm maker or free Dunkin coffee. For kids, Kidzapalooza offers family-friendly music, hair stylists, tattoos, and games tucked into the forest between the BMI and the Coinbase stages.
Long Live Lolla
Each year, Chicago’s biggest music festival provides a four-day oasis from the real world for endless entertainment and the best live music in the game. Merch lines wrapped around the grounds, asking for three-hour waits as guests hoped to buy a token illustrating their weekend, while others lined up to snap pictures of their beaming smiles in front of Grant Park’s Buckingham Fountain, its centerpiece display.
As other festivals dwindle in attendance and quality, Lollapalooza shows no signs of losing momentum or stacked lineups.