Lolla: Urban Music Acts Builds More Diversity

It’s been over a week since hundreds of thousands descended on Grant Park to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Lollapalooza Music Festival. For the first time, the largest music festival in North America hosted four days of non-stop music, experimental branding areas, and an array of Chicago food vendors serving hungry millennial concert goers.

 With streets around Chicago’s beautiful Grant Park closed days leading up to the mega-festival weekend, an entire town was transformed just for Lolla temporary residents. After calling the Windy City home since 2005, a boatload of tax breaks, special amenities and bringing millions of revenue streams to the hospitality and tourism industry, it remains the reigning king of festivals.

 The sold-out festival has catered to young people from all over the country and without losing a beat — the diversity of music hasn’t always translated to the diversity of attendees. This year’s music line-up has showcased more Urban music acts than previous years, with Chicago artists getting some shine.

 The opening night featured J. Cole on Thursday night headlining on the Samsung stage, breaking up the monopoly of rock and electronic dance music with a serious dose of hip hop music.

 On Friday evening, a live performance by Future brought out Chicago’s Chance the Rapper to an exciting crowd on the Bud Light Stage with the stunning Chicago skyline as its backdrop. Directly afterward on the Pepsi stage, A$AP Ferg turned up a notch when West Side rapper Twista took the stage as a featured guest.

 The schedule was strategically planned as Major Lazer took over the Bud Light stage as the headliner wrapping up Day Two of Lolla.

 Although it rained, it didn’t stop people from coming out, and the preparation of festival organizers made sure to prevent a nasty ‘Woodstock-like’ muddy field — immediately throwing sand on wet spots throughout the park.

From the mini-style bodegas selling everything from sunscreen to deodorant, the State Farm air-conditioned locker hub for people to store personal belongings, as well as Samsung charging stations dispersed throughout the festival grounds, the branding experience was not lost.  Nor was the under-the-radar but not so undercover Secret Service, positioned at key areas and in plain clothes, and following Malia Obama — the first born of the first couple of the United States of America — President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama.

The 18-year old was spotted on several occasions as she hung out with friends, enjoying herself as she rocked out to her favorite artists each night. Captured by amateur and professional photographers, the Chicago native was briefly the center of attention as social media ran rapid. It didn’t matter because the kids’ focus was on the music, and many on the vices of partying. Over 250 festival goers suffered from alcohol and other substance-related illnesses, giving the Northwestern Hospital ER more work than expected.

A-List Performances

As the rain moved out, the heat made it easier to rock bikini tops, mini-dukes and shirtless young men. Day-three had the biggest day of A-list performances and headliners.

Tony Lanez killed the crowd with his high energetic concert — body surfing and at one point climbing a light pole taking a selfie with a fan in the middle of his performance. The Interscope recording artist has built a solid name for himself, bringing alive R&B cover songs fused with hip hop tracks. Across the field at the Bud Light stage, Leon Bridges and his band treated fans to an electric vocal performance of Southern Soul, blues and melodic rock as folks chilled on blankets and towels under the blazing sun.

OutKast fans had a chance to enjoy member and second half of the platinum duo–Big Boi join Sarah Barthel’s set as her featured guest.

Wrapping up Saturday night’s performances included Chicago’s own Vic Mensa with incredible performance with a message, London’s Disclosure combining both Garage and traditional Chicago House music into their set, as well as veteran rockers Red Hot Chili Peppers still showing that age is nothing but a number.

Family Fun

One of the favorite stand-out areas of the event was Kidpalooza, an area reserved for children under 10-years-old and their parents. Located just South of Buckingham Fountain under the shade and away from the intensity of heavy Lolla foot traffic, this was an ingenious idea by the organizers.  Lifeway provided family-friendly activities from live wall painting, coloring tables, a drum area to special sing-a-longs at the hip hop station to a live music stage.

Kidzapalooza gives parents and guardians a chance to enjoy the music festival experience with the children. Upon entry, each adult was required to fill out a form with their child’s name and their contact information — a bar code and numbered wristband was placed on the child’s wrist. This helped to assure wandering shorties leaving the area would be located. Downside:  Family friendly bathrooms for young toddlers were missing in the area. The long lines to the port-a-potties are just too much on an adult bladder, let alone a smaller one.

There were way more pros than cons when experiencing Lollapalooza especially if you’re a die-hard foodie. The festival’s Chow Town included over thirty Chicago food restaurants and vendors showing off their best quick-serve cuisine. Although, there were complaints at the lack of Black owned vendors after community activist and leader Rev. Pfleger called out organizers for not inviting back South Side restaurant–BJ’s Market for a 9th year–there was still a good mix of ‘food’ diversity.

Chow Town was a goulash of food that complimented and displayed the various palettes of Chicagoans from Harold’s Chicken, Graham Elliott’s famous lobster corn dogs, Vietnamese favorite Tank Noodles, West Loop’s The Purple Pig, Chicago’s original pizza maker; Lou Malnati’s to Hyde Park’s Mom & Pop Ice cream parlor; Kilwins Chocolates, Fudge & Ice Cream. The impressive two-booth per vendor operation moved lines along with an efficient military-style set-up without compromising good service.

The final day of Lolla was jam-packed full of performances and appeared to be more laid back as the weekend winded down. After 25 years of presenting a platform for rising and established musicians, look forward to seeing the music festival expand and diversify even more for years to come.

Check out Leon Bridges performing at the 25th Lollapalooza. Courtesy of Toyota.

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