Lollapalooza Music Festival celebrated its 32nd edition this past weekend in Chicago’s historic Grant Park, and we were there to capture the festivities. With over 170 artists on 8 stages, it was impossible to see each performer. So we rounded up our favorites of each day. From well-known headliners like Lana Del Rey and The 1975 to up-and-coming artists like The Beaches and Friday Pilots Club, Lollapalooza is a festival with artists for every music taste.
In case you couldn’t make it to Lollapalooza this year or just want to relive it, here are our thoughts and favorite performances from the four-day festival.
The sun was beaming down as I made my way to Canadian four-piece The Beaches who were the first to play on the large Bud Light stage. I’ve been a fan of the band since they opened for The Aces last fall, and was excited to see them again now that I know the words to most of their songs. The band of sisters Jordan (lead vocals/bass) and Kylie Miller (guitar) with friends Eliza Enman-McDaniel (drums) and Leandra Earl (keys/guitar) opened with “Want What You Got “ and “Desdemona“ as the crowd sang along (including myself). You could see the pure joy on each members face as they took in the experience and smiled at each other throughout their whole set. The band is releasing their sophomore album Blame My Ex in September and played a few tracks from the album including “Everything Is Boring“ and “Blame Brett” – the later of which has been called “the breakup song of the summer” which they dedicated to the newly single Sophie Grégoire (ex-wife of the Canadian Prime Minister).
Another performance that took us to a tropical land was from Sofi Tukker, an EDM duo of best friends Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern. Currently making their rounds on the festival circuit after playing Coachella, The Governors Ball, and Summerfest earlier this year, I knew their performance would be one to see and it did not disappoint. The stage was dressed with a Grecian background of columns, contrasting with the playground setup of arched monkey bars, a merry-go-round, and a large swing. The duo incorporated the playground into their performance as they ran through their hits “Drinkee,” and “Treehouse” from 2018’s Best Friend, and “Original Sin” and “Summer in New York” from 2022’s WET TENNIS. Their performance was interactive not just on stage but with the crowd, giving them points on a giant scoreboard behind them for their participation vs points they gave to the Summerfest crowd. One of the most memorable parts of the performance was a mashup of their song “Matadora” with that of the theme song from the show White Lotus, creating an eerie and fascinating vibe as Sophie sat on the swing, surrounded by the dance crew Bob’s Dance Shop.
Isabel LaRosa’s dedicated fans lined up at the BMI stage barricade well before her evening set-time. A rising artist who first gained fame on TikTok, Isabel proved she is much more than a TikTok star during her 40-minute set time. Joined on stage by her brother, co-writer, and co-producer Thomas LaRosa, Isabel looked completely at home for her first-ever festival performance. Her setlist featured her viral TikTok track “HAUNTED,” followed by “Therapy,” “”Praying,” and “BABYDOLL.” Fans were screaming along as she sang “HELP” and “16 Candles” before tossing in a hard-rock cover of Katy Perry’s “I Kissed A Girl.” Isabel’s smile was infectious as she beamed and thanked her fans before ending with “eyes don’t lie” and “butterflies.”
One of the most anxiously awaited performances of the day from fest-goers was by K-pop group NewJeans. NewJeans fans known as Bunnies stood out from the crowd by wearing jeans despite the sweltering hot day, pairing their outfit with a light stick in the shape of a Bunny. The five-piece girl group of Minji, Hanni, Danielle, Haerin, and Hyein made history as they took the stage by being the first Korean girl group to play Lollapalooza. Despite an early set time of 5pm, the quintet drew in a near-headline sized crowd as they performed tracks “Hype Boy” and “Cookie” before introducing themselves and thanking their fans for being there. Their set covered their entire latest EP Get Up which allowed the group to show off their dance moves while inviting fans to dance along.
K-pop fans are dedicated – NewJeans collaborated with Spotify to create a pop-up for bunnies to make bracelets and take photos with the entrance line looping around the massive Buckingham Fountain at the center of Grant Park the entire day – never getting shorter until fans were turned away due to 10pm park close.
Another history making performance came from Columbian artist Karol G, the festivals first female Latin headliner. Karol G fans were just as easy to spot as NewJeans fans due to their colorful outfits, cowboy hats, and t-shirts with brightly-colored flowers. Karol G’s set matched that vibe, as the stage was decked out in massive flowers with bright cartoon smiles. Dressed in a Rolling Stones halter top, leopard-print bell-bottom pants, and pastel pink hair – Karol G’s outfit gave the opposite vibe of her stage set-up but somehow the two worked together. The reggaeton star opened with hits “TQG,” “BESTIES,” and “X SI VOLVEMOS” before addressing the crowd to say “I’m trying with my English, though I have to say that this is so amazing!” A large screen behind her took us on a tropical journey – from an enormous sun beaming down to dolphins jumping out of the ocean while she hit more songs from her latest album Mañana Será Bonito with “AMARGURA,” “MIENTRAS ME CURO DEL CORA,” AND “PROVENZA.” Karol G never ran out of hits and still left fans wanting more as she closed her legendary performance with “MAMIII” and “S91.”
The streak of warm weather continued on Friday for Japanese rock-band Band-Maid’s performance on the Coinbase stage. The 5-piece all female rock band is a wonderful contrast that definitely surprised fest-goers who had no idea what to expect. Dressed in Kawaii Lolita-style outfits inspired by the maid cafes of Japan, the quintet went hard with their blend of rock, nu-metal, and pop-rock opening with “From Now On” and “DOMINATION.” Celebrating 10 years as a band, Band-Maid released two new albums from which they performed tracks “Don’t you tell ME,” “alone,” and “FREEDOM” as singer Saiki Atsumi, guitarist’s Miku Kobato and Kanami Tōno, bassist Misa and and drummer Akane Hirose mesmerized the crowd before closing with “Manners” and “endless Story.”
The alter ego of musician Brittney Denise Parks, Sudan Archives brings a fresh take to the violin as she blends Celtic sounds, folk, R&B, and electronica. Her performance was one of the most riveting of the day as she opened with “Milk Me” from her latest album Natural Brown Prom Queen before launching into “Nont for Sale” and “Home Maker.” It was hard to take your eyes off her as she plucked and bowed her violin with a frenetic energy while commanding the stage. Sudan Archives showmanship never ceased during “Freakalizer” and “NBPQ (Topless)” and continued on through the rest of her set with “Traditional Irish Jig,” “ChevyS10,” and “Come Meh Way” before closing with “Selfish Soul” and “Homesick (Gorgeous & Arrogant).”
Former Disney Channel Star, Sabrina Carpenter, is now a pop sensation and drew one of the largest crowds of the day – so large that the stairs next to the stage were packed with people trying to get a good view. For reference, the stairs are never full until the headliner, and Sabrina played a 5:45pm slot. Donning a hot pink set and white go-go style boots, Sabrina opened with “Read your Mind” and “Feather” as she was joined by back-up dancers. Never staying still, Sabrina sauntered all over the stage as die-hard fans sang along from the massive crowd to “Vicious” and “Already Over” before she introduced “Tornado Warnings,” a track she wrote after an encounter with an old flame at a park when they both got tornado warnings on their phone, and took it as a sign they should not be together. Fans had plenty of chances to dance along with Sabrina as she covered “Lay All Your Love On Me” by ABBA before closing with “Paris,” “Fast Times,” and “Nonsense.”
British indie-rocker, Declan McKenna had his crowd dancing from the first note of “Why Do You Feel So Down” for his evening performance. Declan last played Lollapalooza in 2018, and found he had fans in his current audience that had been present for that set. Keeping the energy going, Declan played tracks “Beautiful Faces,” “You Better Believe!!!,” and “Twice Your Size” from his 2020 album Zeros while dancing around in a white suit, switching guitars for almost every song. A songwriter known for his important political and social commentary weaved into danceable tracks like “Brazil” (about corruption in the 2014 FIFA world cup) which he played at the end of his set, the British artist is currently on a 50+ date North American tour and had his stage performance down to a T. Declan closed his set with “British Bombs” (a track about the hypocrisy of the British arms trade) that got the audience screaming as he ran through the crowd before ending back onstage to bow and say goodbye to his fans.
The last time I saw The 1975 was at their debut Lollapalooza performance in 2014 on the Bacardi stage, and much has changed in those nine years. The British indie-rockers are still putting out hits, and frontman Matty Healy keeps getting himself into hot water with his offensive remarks. I’m here to focus on the music, and that’s exactly what The 1975’s set did. There was no elaborate set design, guest performers, or gimmicks like their recent sets at other festivals. Instead, The 1975 began their set with “Looking for Somebody (To Love),” “Happiness,” and massive hit “Chocolate.” The four-piece of Matty Healy on vocals and guitar, Adam Hann on guitar, Ross MacDonald on bass, and drummer George Daniel jumped around their discography with tracks from their 2013 debut The 1975 to 2018’s A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships and onto 2022’s Being Funny In A Foreign Language. While their set had a smaller crowd than I had expected (Kendrick Lamar was playing at the same time), the crowd that was there was enjoying every second, singing along with “Oh Caroline” and “About You” to “Robbers” and “It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You).” Matty did take time throughout the performance to speak to the crowd and say exactly what was on his mind – so much so that the people around me began to say “Matty stop talking!” worried that he would get himself into more trouble. Thankfully that did not happen, and the bands set ended simply with “Love It If We Made It” and “Give Yourself A Try.”
Our streak of beautiful weather was over Saturday morning as the clouds took turns downpouring, creating muddy fields in the massive park. Donning a poncho, I made my way to Chicago band Friday Pilots Club. Despite the early set time soon after gates and the pouring rain, the band had a great turnout. Originally a 2-piece with Caleb Hiltunen (lead vocals) and Drew Polovick (bass), the band has grown to five members after adding friends Eric Doar (drums), Sean Burke (guitar), and James Kourafas (guitar). The band reminded me of early Radiohead and Muse with their blend of pop and rock ’n roll with Caleb belting out the bands tracks “For The Wicked” and “End of It” as well as the live debut of “Pushing Daisies (Oh My My).” You could tell that the five-piece are close friends who were soaking up the experience the entire performance. After their set, I joined the crowd leaving the stage and heard nothing but compliments for the band.
The Linda Lindas prove that age is just a number. Comprised of sisters Mila de la Garza (drums, age 11) and Lucia de la Garza (guitar, age 14), their cousin Eloise Wong (bass, age 13), and long-time family friend Bela Salazar (guitar, age 17), The Linda Lindas are the new generation of riot grrrl. The L.A. band is garage punk at its finest and teach us that we can do whatever we want at any age. Currently on an arena tour supporting Paramore, The Linda Lindas embraced their hour-long Lollapalooza performance with “Magic,” “Monica,” and “Talking to Myself” as well as covers of The Go-Go’s “Tonite” and Bikini Kill’s “Rebel Girl.” Not much for chit-chat, the four-piece focused on the music and packed in more tracks with “Too Many Things,” “Resolution/Revolution,” and the song that launched their career “Racist, Sexist Boy.”
English actress, singer-songwriter and model Suki Waterhouse is a real-life rock star, not just one on TV (her most current role was in Daisy Jones & The Six). Suki drew a large crowd to the forested Bacardi stage, creating an intimate experience for fans as she danced her way through tracks from her debut album I Can’t Let Go and her EP Milk Teeth. Opening with “Bullshit on the Internet” and “Devil I Know,” Suki and her band kept the crowd at rapt attention before playing “To Love” “Nostalgia,” and “On Your Thumb.” Dressed in a lace one-piece and knee high boots, Suki glowed despite the clouds overhead. Fans did not mind when it started to rain again, and instead focused their rapt attention to covers of Mazzy Star’s “Fade Into You” and Taylor Swift’s “Lover” before Suki closed with “Good Looking.”
The dark, alternative-pop of New York native Ari Abdul is hauntingly beautiful. Growing up in Brooklyn, Ari was surrounded by music as her Ecuadorian mom loved Latin music, and her Costa Rican/Palestinian father introduced her to classic rock. She began releasing tracks in early 2022, and has only performed live a few times. Her inexperience with performing did not show as she played her debut single “BABYDOLL,” as well as “Bored” and new track “Make Me Cry” which was released on Friday. Inspired by the grunge movement of the 90’s, Ari’s tracks feature alluring melodies and emotional lyrics. Her set showed her that she is a born performer as she ran through more tracks “Sinners” and “Worship,” much to the delight of fans old and new in the audience.
Lollapalooza rarely (and I do mean rarely) have artists play two years in a row, and K-pop band Tomorrow X Together received that honor. The five-piece boy band began their highly anticipated set with a big clock counting down the seconds until the band took the stage. Fans, known as MOAs were screaming as soon as the countdown began, and the frenzy did not end until the very last song. From the start, the bands performance was a treat for the eyes with beautiful visuals and intense choreography as they opened with “0X1=LOVESONG (I Know I Love You” and “Dear Sputnik” before addressing the crowd to call their 2022 Lolla set one of their most memorable performances. The quintet of Yeonjun, Soobin, Beomgyu, Taehyun, and HueningKai never stopped moving, and neither did the fans as they danced along and waved their lightsticks in unison to “Can’t You See Me,” “Good Boy Gone Bad,” and “Lonely Boy (The tattoo on my ring finger).” Soobin, the groups leader later on spoke to the crowd to say [Lollapalooza] in 2022 was their “first festival in the U.S. and being on the stage for the first time was incredible. Now we are headlining the Bud Light Stage, it’s incredible.” The rest of the 21-song performance included tracks “Lonely Boy,” “Anti-romantic,” “Farewell” and “Happy Fools” during which they brought out special guest Coi Leray before ending the high-octane performance with “Do It Like That” and “Sugar Rush Ride.”
UPSAHL, known to fans as Lady Jesus, is an artist who is constantly experimenting. Opening her set with “Monica Lewinsky” and “People I Don’t Like,” the dynamic performer owned the massive Bud Light stage moving from end to end. Dressed in a white tracksuit, UPSAHL continued her set with “GOOD GIRL ERA (SIDE A)” from her recently released THE PHX (Phoenix) TAPES V2 followed by “Drugs” which got the whole crowd chanting along to the chorus “(Drugs), drugs, (drugs), drugs, (drugs) – I just came here for the drugs.” With addictive hooks and relatable lyrics, UPSAHL quickly gained fans as the crowd rapidly filled in during her 45-minute set as she continued with “Lady Jesus,” “Last Supper,” and “Into My Body.” Despite a sudden downpour halfway through, the crowd stayed in place with rapt attention as the Phoenix native closed with unreleased track “0 To 100,” “Notorious,” and “Lunatic.”
Rapper Joey Bada$$ had a long setlist that gave him time to shine. After beginning with “TEMPTATION,” “Righteous Minds,” and “Survival Tactics,” the Brooklyn native launched into “Brand New 911” and “Show Me” during which fans kept their hands in the air. The moniker of Jo-Vaughn Virginie Scott, Joey Bada$$ first played Lollapalooza in 2017 and told the crowd “the energy wasn’t nowhere near the energy right now.” Despite interruptions from the Bud Light stage across the way (fans waiting for Lana Del Rey were consistently told to back up from the barricade), the rapper kept his performance going with “Love Is Only A Feeling” and “Head High” before covering XXXTentacion’s “Infinity (888)” while pleading for love and positivity, saying there is too much hate in the world today. Despite having only 15 minutes left in his set, Joey Bada$$ brought out surprise guest and Chicago native Chance The Rapper for “No Problem” and “The Highs and The Lows” before ending with Best Coast cover “Distance” and his own hit track “DEVASTATED.”
New Jersey natives The Happy Fits are changing pop-rock with their innovative use of electric cello, guitar riffs and creative melodies. The trio consisting of Calvin Langman (vocals and electric cello), Ross Monteith (guitar), and Luke Davis (drums) first met in high school before forming the band. A decade later, The Happy Fits have established their bubbly yet electrifying sound. The band opened their Lollapalooza set with “Around and Around” and “Moving” followed by “She Wants Me (To Be Loved)” and “Mary.” Calvin had a red heart painted on his face as he jumped around with his cello strapped to his chest, and the band had wide smiles that never left their faces and quickly transferred onto the crowd. Their set hit other fan-favorites including “Mary,” “Do Your Worst,” and “Little One” which they dedicated to the LGBTQIA community. After four days of Lollapalooza I was definitely tired, and The Happy Fits joyous performance was the exact pick-up I needed to get through the rest of the day.
Rina Sawayama brought an entire theatrical production to the stage with five costume changes, live theater, dancers, and prop work. The performance had a storyline and script: starting with Rina gracefully dancing through “Hold The Girl” and “Hurricanes” before shedding her white gown for a black leather set for tracks “Dynasty,” “STFU!,”“Akasaka Sad” and “Frankenstein.” The British-Japanese artist is known for her fusion of 2000s pop and nu-metal which had the crowd dancing along as a new scene was set on the stage. Rina donned a black suit jacket as her dancers sat down, pretending to read a newspaper with the bold headline “Rina Sawayama: Does She Even Know Judo?” a nod to the lyric “don’t f*ck with me, hoe, take you down like judo” in her next track “Comme des Garçons (Like The Boys).” Rina’s final outfit change came at the end of her set for “Bad Friend” and “XS” where her dancers peeled off her clothes to reveal a red lingerie set that made the crowd go wild. Closing with fan-favorite “This Hell,” Rina added a cowboy hat, fringed skirt, and boots to the look before waving her fans goodbye.
Lana Del Rey closed out Lollapalooza with an ethereal headline-worthy performance spanning her entire discography. Dressed in a vintage-style white dress and a retro beehive hairstyle, the Americana queen sauntered on stage to “A&W” as her backup dancers joined her at the microphone to attach a train to her dress, transforming into a wedding gown; soon unfurling into a massive train for “Young & Beautiful.” Lana’s set was filled with emotion – both from her transfixing voice and the tears from the fans shown in the crowd on the large video screens. Lana’s performance featured multiple “scenes” from sitting at a vanity and crooning “Bartender” while a stage-hand placed butterflies in her hair and her dancers held red gymnastic balls to “Pretty When You Cry” where Lana and her dancers laid down in a languid mass while the camera panned above them – reminiscent of artistic swimmers performing a routine. Lana did not need special guests as her voice took center stage to perform early tracks “Ride,” “Born To Die,” and “Blue Jeans” before sitting atop a piano for “Norman fucking Rockwell.” During “Ultraviolence,” Lana made her way off-stage and into the crowd despite the mud that waited for her Mary Jane heels to greet fans who had been waiting over nine hours to meet her. She slowly made her way down the barricade, taking the time to speak with fans and take photos – all while the band stopped playing and Lana turned up her mic so we could all hear her fan interactions. The glamorous set continued with a choreographed dance to “Diet Mountain Dew” and “Summertime Sadness” before twirling on a swing covered in flowers for “Video Games.” The strangest part of the set came at the end for “Hope Is a Dangerous Thing for a Woman Like Me to Have – But I Have It” where Lana danced with three men who took turns picking her up and swinging in circles, before placing her on a white sheet and dragging her off-stage while the starlet crooned.
2023 was a year of change for Lollapalooza – there were more female artists on the lineup, an increase of artists in underrepresented genres including K-pop, Country, and Pop-punk, and an addition of 15,000 people – increasing capacity to 115,000 people. Despite the increase in capacity and a fest-ground packed with people earlier in the day, I was still able to enjoy each performance, and only felt the increase while walking from set to set.
The weather was not in our favor this year, with downpours on Saturday and Sunday creating a muddy mess resulting in people sliding, falling, and losing shoes. As for music, it was a historic year with the fests first Latina headliner Karol G, its first K-pop girl group NewJeans, and K-pop boy group Tomorrow X Together performing two years in a row. There was a larger focus on the country and folk genres with performers from Morgan Wade to Ingrid Andress and Pony Bradshaw to Noah Kahan. There was also an increase in pop-punk performances with Beauty School Dropout playing multiple sets, Sueco crowd-surfing, and Knocked Loose opening the largest pit Lollapalooza has seen in years.
As with past years, there is never a shortage of local food to try – from deep dish pizza to empanadas, hamburgers to potstickers. New this year was “Dessert Island” that featured vendors who only sold desserts – from churros to ice cream cones.
The four-day festival has much to see, hear, and experience. We had a great time in 2023, and are already looking forward to 2024!