Lollapalooza 2018: The Youth Shall Set You Free
As the Chicago-set music festival ages, its audience appears to be getting younger.
It was an exercise in stamina, patience and, above all, determination.
With large crowds and scorching heat, Lollapalooza 2018—the twenty-seventh iteration of the festival (and thirteenth in its current form)—tested the limits of attendees, and revealed both the main factor that could buoy a person throughout the weekend, as well as the theme that would define it: youth.
“If you were born any time before August 1, 1978, take your Lollapalooza tickets and smack yourself in the face with them repeatedly,” wrote Chicago Tribune columnist Rex Huppke in anticipation of the weekend, and while the emotion behind those words might be a little bit more intense than that of the actual environment of the festival, the sentiment still rang true. Lollapalooza, without any qualifications or asterisks, was a festival of the youth—an idea that, while not exactly revolutionary or profound, was, however, on full, blatant display.
Teenage and college-age attendees were at the center of all aspects of the festival—for better or worse. The event’s medical staff was seen constantly heading into the crowds, and, tragically, a sixteen-year-old was found unresponsive outside the venue on the final night of the festival, later passing away. With unforgiving heat and constant taxing conditions, the maxim of younger people believing in their own invincibility never rang more true.
The theme of the music itself was helped in no small part by a lineup that, while not exactly eccentric, differed from the homogenous lineups that have come to define the summer circuit. Overlaps and conflicts were moderately rare, with the main inconvenience coming from The Weeknd and Vampire Weekend playing against each other on Saturday night—a fact not lost on a bemused Ezra Koenig, who made note of it during his band’s set. The crowd around the Bud Light Stage, on which Vampire Weekend was playing, was airy and open, a stark comparison to the packed scene around The Weeknd’s set, a difference put on display each night due to the split demographics.
Travis Scott, playing on the festival’s opening night—and on the eve of his album drop—had people climbing poles for a glimpse, while Arctic Monkeys rocked out pleasantly on the other side. On Sunday night, people swarmed the tiny American Eagle stage, opting out of catching Jack White to instead turn up to Playboi Carti, who, despite uttering possibly less than three-hundred combined words the whole set, put on one of the most electric shows of the festival, closing out the weekend with a performance so frantic that the ground could be felt shaking on the outside edges of the stage, the crowd engulfed in a cloud of dirt and dust.
Perhaps the highest point of chaos was that of Lil Pump’s performance on Saturday. Placed on one of the smaller stages of the fest, the crowd was so packed that at one point, attendees at the front were immobilized, able to go limp and still be supported by the bodies surrounding them. Taking place at 4 p.m., with temperatures reaching ninety-six that day, the crowd was restless, especially after the seventeen-year-old took an extra twenty minutes to show up.
With those in the crowd fainting, health and safety concerns caused the festival to consistently have to shut off Pump’s microphone, leading to a fractured performance and frustration on both the part of performer and crowd. Several periods of booing, as well as “fuck Lil Pump” chants, rang out, with those on the outskirts leaving in annoyance, bitter over the waste of time. An exasperated Pump eventually came over the mic, pleading for those in the crowd to take several steps back from each other and promising that it was the powers that be, not him, that were infringing on the delirium that both parties were craving. In the end, the Miami rapper managed to get off a few of his most popular songs, moderately satisfying those who had stuck around with a taste of what the set could have been.
Though the havoc was also on full display during sets by Lil Uzi Vert, BROCKHAMPTON, and Gucci Mane, not all was frantic. Tyler, The Creator, once the posterboy for mayhem, delivered a set that channeled manic energy in a subdued manner, equally due to the heat, his asthma, and the focused new sounds found on Flower Boy. Rex Orange County played to a packed crowd on Sunday, a breeze blowing through the trees as he thrilled with his own airy vibes, setting the stage nicely for sets by Kali Uchis, Quinn XCII, and Jessie Reyez.
Lollapalooza stands in unique ground, reigning still as perhaps America’s premier festival. Coachella and Bonnaroo are making their case, but those two seem to focus more on curating an aesthetic, while Lolla appeals due to its larger existence. There is no “Lollapalovians” nickname given, there are no quirky names for stages: instead, over 100,000 humans are dumped into Grant Park and offered the opportunity to endlessly engage with music. Without no expectations other than “listen to this music,” attendees are free to create their own adventure—to sprawl. In these conditions, harsh and exciting and freedom-giving, the next generation claimed their own own space. FL
Oh, and hey—while you’re here, check out the 2018 FLOOD Festival Guide: