Image via Lollapalooza's Facebook
Chance the Rapper headlining Lollapalooza in 2017
This morning Lollapalooza announced the lineup for its four-day Chicago festival in August. Headliners are the Weeknd, Bruno Mars, Jack White, and the Arctic Monkeys.
Tickets went on sale yesterday morning, before the fest had named any of the nearly 200 acts scheduled to play Grant Park. That timing is the norm for Lolla, but unlike in previous years, general-admission passes are still available this morning—they usually sell out within the hour, though last year it took nearly two and a half. Sales could be slowing because Lolla has already asked all it can of its fans—$335 for GA is a lot of money (at least that price hasn't risen in a couple years), and eight stages of music for four straight days is a lot for the human body to endure. I know I'd have a hard time seeing enough to get my money's worth out of a four-day pass. Last year's ho-hum lineup
can't be helping this year's sales either—to my eyes, it featured one too many nostalgia-rock headliners who'd already played the festival.
I also see Lolla's struggles as part of a general downturn for music festivals, which might indicate that they've finally reached the saturation point. To pick some local examples, Reggae Fest Chicago cancelled its supposedly annual event in 2017 after debuting the previous year, and Common's on-again, off-again Aahh! Fest pulled its own plug last summer less than two weeks before it was scheduled to hit Union Park. The Aahh! Fest site currently asks visitors to save the date for September 15, 2018, but given that Mamby on the Beach just announced Common as a headliner, I suspect Aahh! Fest might stay gone for now. Earlier this month the Chicago Open Air Festival
, which debuted at Toyota Park in 2016, announced it was going on hiatus this summer.
Yesterday Lollapalooza's organizers took over an Orange Line train in the Loop to promote ticket sales. The "Lolla train" played music over its loudspeakers, providing clues about this summer's lineup to anyone whose work or school schedule allowed them free time between 10 AM and 2 PM to, well, ride a CTA train. Some of the names that Lolla "commuters" shared online were Scottish synth-pop trio Chvrches, Atlanta rap prince Playboi Carti, Brooklyn indie-rock veterans Vampire Weekend, and the self-described "best boy band since One Direction," Brockhampton.
Now that the lineup is confirmed, it feels underwhelming compared to past years. Three of the headliners are Lolla repeaters—this will be the Arctic Monkeys' fourth go-round since 2009. And while Bruno Mars can carry a Super Bowl halftime show, his catalog doesn't scream "festival headliner." Lolla has made some strides in booking women high on the bill, but this year's highest-ranking female-fronted acts—Chvrches and St. Vincent—appear three lines down from the headliners. Last year's Lolla was jammed with some of hip-hop's hottest names, but this year's bill is all over the place; when the top rap act is Travis Scott, whose biggest successes have been spots on other artists' great singles, something is awry.
Not that there isn't some
good on the bill. I rarely share Lollapalooza's taste, but I'm quite fond of D.C. rapper Goldlink, British R&B singer Jessie Ware, trap king Gucci Mane, and the aforementioned Brockhampton. And the novelty of seeing LL Cool J at Lollapalooza in 2018 might be worth a trip to Grant Park all by itself.
Fortunately, the local acts on the bill include some of the best and brightest in Chicago hip-hop, including G Herbo, Supa Bwe, and Femdot. Unfortunately, the Chicago artists are thin on the ground and relegated to the bottom half of the bill. From a city overflowing with talent, why did Lolla book Virgil Abloh, the cofounder of Wicker Park streetwear boutique RSVP Gallery, founder of fashion line Off-White, and Kanye West's creative director? Yes, he also DJs, but I doubt his musical skills are why the MCA will display a retrospective of his work beginning in June 2019. But at least Lolla had the good sense to bring in DJ Taye; if memory serves, he's the first footwork producer to play the festival, which corrects a long-standing travesty of omission.
Below is the full lineup, including links on artists' names that direct you to the most relevant piece of Reader
Lil Uzi Vert
Portugal. The Man
Tyler, the Creator
Walk the Moon
LL Cool J
Perry Farrell's Kind Heaven
Catfish & the Bottlemen
Greta Van Fleet
Rainbow Kitten Surprise
A Boogie Wit da Hoodie
What So Not
All Time Low
Rex Orange County
Cigarettes After Sex
Tank & the Bangas
Gang of Youths
Durand Jones & the Indications
London on da Track
& the Not Ready for Naptime Players
Aaron Nigel Smith
Lucy Kalantari & the Jazz Cats
School of Rock Allstars